5 radical visions for a 2050 food system

January 15, 2021 by  
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5 radical visions for a 2050 food system Jim Giles Fri, 01/15/2021 – 01:30 Just over a year ago, the Rockefeller Foundation put out a global call for proposals for radical reform of our food systems. More than 1,300 teams from 119 countries responded. The pile of submissions was whittled down to 79 semifinalists and then, last week, to 10 “bold ideas for tackling some of the world’s most pressing food systems challenges.” Each winner was awarded $200,000 to pursue their vision for reform. The winning proposals cover a dizzying range of locations and issues — from food sovereignty on a Native American reservation to plant-based diets in metropolitan Beijing. But as I read them, the commonalities seem as prominent as the differences. Embedded in the ideas is an emerging consensus on the critical ingredients for food system reform, regardless where it takes place.  I encourage you to browse the final selection and see for yourself, but here’s my reading of that consensus: Food systems must connect to local communities. There’s a stunning example of this need in the proposal from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota . The reservation occupies almost 2,000 square miles, yet has just three grocery stores. There are plenty of local farms, but most grow commodity crops such as soybeans. The result is a food desert surrounded by fertile land. Technology is part of the solution. Agtech is often associated with highly efficient yet unsustainable practices, but the same tech can benefit sustainable approaches. In their vision of a holistic food system for the Netherlands , for example, Wageningen University researchers imagine farmers using drones to precisely target nutrient use. At the Stone Barns Center in upstate New York, the team wants to build a cold storage lab dedicated to extending the season for local crops . It’s got to be regenerative. Almost every winner made it clear that regenerative agriculture is central to their vision. That was predictable given that the foundation sought proposals for a “regenerative and nourishing food future,” but it nevertheless reflects the growing importance of regenerative ag in food policy. (And perhaps the waning importance of organic?) From linear to circular. Circular processes — the transformation of crop residues into compost, for instance — are a common feature of food system reform. But the Wageningen team ups the ante with a rallying cry for circular agriculture, circular cooking and circular chefs: “By 2050,” they write, “we have replaced the wasteful, linear model of our current food system with a circular one.” Among other things, this includes limiting livestock to numbers that can be supported on food waste and food byproducts. Which brings us to… Plant-based diets. No surprise to hear entrants from North American and Europe advocate for this: These are regions where a reduction in emissions from meat production is seen as an essential way to reduce the climate impact of food. Perhaps only because I know less about food debates elsewhere, I was interested to see entries from China and Nigeria that also placed alternative proteins at the heart of their visions.  Before I sign off, I’ll mention one other, more controversial, commonality. Many visions are either explicitly or implicitly pitched in opposition to Big Ag . I see where this comes from: Chemical inputs and monocultures and livestock farming have undeniable negative impacts. But Big Ag is more than that. It brings efficient land use, which prevents native ecosystems being converted to farmland, and sophisticated supply chains that provide year-round abundance at low prices. I don’t say this to gloss over the sector’s problems, but as we imagine a better system, we shouldn’t ignore the benefits of the current one. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off At the Stone Barns Center in upstate New York, the team wants to build a Cold Storage Lab dedicated to extending the season for local crops . Courtesy of Stone Barns Center Close Authorship

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5 radical visions for a 2050 food system

Adidas Outdoor line furthers brand’s push for sustainability

January 14, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

While many big businesses and brands cause overwhelming environmental problems, Adidas works to clean up its act. In a bold move last January, Adidas acknowledged its contribution to plastic waste, noting the waste’s negative impacts on the world’s oceans. The brand followed up this acknowledgment with plans to move forward with the environment in mind. Adidas’s new Outdoor line stays true to this environmental commitment with clear sustainable features. The Outdoor line includes shirts, pants, jackets, shoes and, of course, face masks. You can wear head to toe Adidas while still dressing sustainably. Adidas accomplishes this by using recycled materials and PRIMEGREEN technology. The company describes PRIMEGREEN as a “performance fabric” containing absolutely no virgin plastic. This fabric looks and feels good, all while helping Adidas work toward its goal to end plastic waste. But if the fabric contains no virgin plastic, what exactly is it made of? Hitting on the third R in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” trifecta, PRIMEGREEN contains 100% recycled polyester. Related: Adidas unveils lightweight hiking shoe made from ocean plastic Several products in the Outdoor line use these sustainable materials, but one that stands out is the MyShelter Parley RAIN.RDY Jacket. Using 100% recycled polyester and Parley Ocean Plastic made from recycled marine plastic waste, the MyShelter Parley RAIN.RDY Jacket exemplifies Adidas’s efforts to reduce plastic waste. You can grab this eco-friendly jacket along with vests, parkas and insulated hooded jackets in both men’s and women’s styles on Adidas’s  website . This line serves as just part of Adidas’s sustainability work. While the use of recycled polyester demonstrates Adidas’s work toward its commitment to shift to recycled polyester in all products by 2024, the brand has additional environmental goals in sight. As stated in an  article  from January 2020, Adidas plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% by 2030 and be climate neutral by 2050. An influential brand like Adidas making such strong strides toward sustainability encourages competitors to adopt green initiatives, too. Hopefully, this green trend can make a real impact on the world’s plastic waste problem. + Adidas Images via Adidas

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Adidas Outdoor line furthers brand’s push for sustainability

Q4 2020: Amazon, AT&T, McDonald’s and Starbucks lead the way as clean energy procurement matures

January 14, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Q4 2020: Amazon, AT&T, McDonald’s and Starbucks lead the way as clean energy procurement matures Sarah Golden Thu, 01/14/2021 – 04:11 After a strange year, corporate renewable procurement deals ended on a high note, with corporations inking some of the biggest, most complex transactions to date. The result was a blockbuster fourth quarter, with more than 7.3 gigawatts of contracts inked — more than any other single quarter since the start of the GreenBiz deal tracker .  The list includes familiar names: Amazon; Google; Starbuck; AT&T; McDonald’s among them. These corporations continued to innovate, inking bigger, more complicated and more holistic energy deals. The roster also included some fresh faces, including Crown and Kimberly-Clark.  Amazon inks largest renewable energy deal to date Web giant Amazon inked what it calls the largest corporate procurement deal to date: 3.4 GW spread over 26 projects across eight countries and four continents. Prior to this announcement, the largest comparable deal was Google’s 1.6 GW deal in September 2019. At the time, I called that jaw-dropping . Amazon just raised the bar substantially.  Among the dozens of projects within the deal is Europe’s largest offshore wind corporate power purchase agreement (PPA), according to the developer, Orsted. The offshore wind project is planned to be 900 megawatts, 250 MW of which Amazon will procure. Last quarter, Orsted inked what it called the largest corporate PPA from a single project: 920 MW of offshore wind in Taiwan. Amazon says it has overtaken Google as the largest corporate user of renewables, and the renewable procurement projects are in service of its climate pledge to reach net-zero carbon by 2040.  This deal also highlights how corporate climate trailblazers are bundling deals to make more of a splash. While the capacity procured here is huge, the average size per project is 130 MW — impressive, but not enough to get headlines on its own. The same could be said of Google’s announcement in 2019, which comprised 18 deals, meaning each averages at about 90 MW per project.     AT&T, Honda are lead offtakers in largest single U.S. solar development Corporations Honda, AT&T, McDonald’s, Google and Home Depot partnered with three Texas municipalities (Bryan, Denton and Garland) to be the offtakers in a massive 1.3 GW solar development. Developer Invenergy says, when complete, it will be the largest solar development in the United States.  AT&T is slated to take 500 MW, bringing the telecommunications company’s total procurements to more than 1.5 GW of capacity. Honda is the second largest offtaker, earmarking 200 MW, followed by McDonald’s with 160 MW.  The deal is an example of an aggregation project, where offtakers jointly shoulder the negotiations, risk and paperwork to streamline the offtake process. The model was spearheaded by Bloomberg, Cox, Gap Inc., Salesforce, Workday and developer BayWa r.e. at the start of 2019. At the time, the structure was unprecedented and inspired webcasts and case studies as others wondered if it could open up procurement opportunities to more types of companies. (The project came online last quarter .) While this new deal doesn’t include any companies new to the renewable procurement game, it reflects how the aggregation model can scale; this solar development is 10 times the size of the BayWa r.e. project.  Starbucks takes a holistic approach to procurements Starbucks announced its sustainability goals for 2030, which the company says puts it in line with becoming a ” resource positive company. ” The initiatives include components to address its carbon, water and waste.  Its fourth-quarter clean power announcement included four new investments in renewable energy, each using a different procurement strategy:  A supply chain virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) — a first for the company — in a move to reduce its Scope 3 emissions  Investments in 23 community solar projects in New York state to supply solar to its stores and the community  A VPPA and a virtual storage agreement (VSA) to provide energy to stories in California  An investment in a wind project in Washington state to power stores and the company’s roasting plant Starbucks does not provide a total procurement figure for the four investments. But the move reflects a trend noted in the Q3 2020 tracker : Corporations are beginning to think about renewable energy within their larger sustainability initiatives.  Notable mentions McDonald’s inked a deal for two wind farms and a portfolio of solar projects with a collective capacity of 1.13 GW . This massive deal is almost three times the size of the fast-food giant’s debut procurements in Q4 2019 , and it is in service of its broader climate and sustainability goals.  Two steel manufacturers made this quarter’s tracker: Evraz North America and Nucor Corporation. The procurement reflects the move for heavy industry to decarbonize on the eve of the Biden administration, which indicated decarbonizing steel as a climate priority.  Microsoft inked a tiny but important deal: its first peace renewable energy credit ( P-REC ), a clean energy deal with co-benefits that support the local community. The deal will directly finance the installation of streetlights in a recently electrified neighborhood in the Congo — and clears the way for more deals to consider energy access in their procurements. The move is in line with a trend identified in Q3 2020 , where companies are embedding social and environmental benefits into the renewable energy procurement process. The P-REC was executed with Energy Peace Partners, a VERGE Clean Energy Equity Showcase honoree . Home improvement giants made a strong showing this quarter, with Home Depot inking two deals (one an aggregation deal for 50 MW, the other a solar plus energy storage PPA for 75 MW) and Lowe’s inking a 250 MW solar deal. My hot take: The two are battling it out for the perception of climate leadership, and I am 100 percent here for this rivalry.  Topics Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements Corporate Procurement Collective Insight Clean Energy Deal Tracker Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of GreenBiz Group Close Authorship

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Q4 2020: Amazon, AT&T, McDonald’s and Starbucks lead the way as clean energy procurement matures

How the EU’s new ‘toxic-free’ vision could shape your safer chemicals strategy

January 14, 2021 by  
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How the EU’s new ‘toxic-free’ vision could shape your safer chemicals strategy Bob Kerr Thu, 01/14/2021 – 01:00 For the last two decades, the European Union has played a leadership role in tackling the risks hazardous chemicals pose to our health and environment. It has now proposed a new vision for a “toxic-free environment” and published a strategy for moving the EU towards that goal. Just as its current policies have inspired imitation, it’s likely that these new policies will drive significant changes in the U.S. and elsewhere. While EU chemical restrictions have gained limited traction in U.S. federal statutes and regulations, many state laws increasingly rely on the chemical hazard criteria and analyses from REACH (the principal European chemical regulation) and other EU laws and regulations. California legislation, for example, prohibits sale of electronic products that would be subject to the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive if amounts of cadmium, lead, mercury or hexavalent chrome in those products exceed EU RoHS limits . Many U.S. companies base their restrictions on hazardous chemicals on EU lists or restrictions such as the Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) under REACH — even where unregulated in the U.S. The EU plans to promote safer substitutes or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce. The EU chemical regulation footprint is also strong in the rest of the world. Several countries in Asia, including China, the world’s largest chemical producer, have developed national chemical regulatory programs strongly influenced by the EU’s design. As the EU moves toward adopting specific legal and regulatory measures to begin to realize its vision, government agencies in the U.S. will look closely at the potential for adopting elements of the new EU programs. Beyond the regulatory world, many leading companies already at the forefront of looking to provide safer chemicals — including Walmart , Apple and Ahold Delhaize USA  — are likely to move toward adoption of components of the new EU policies, with ramifications for supply chains and potential competitive benefits in the consumer marketplace. EU’s new chemical policy vision Despite the successes of its current regulatory framework, the European Commission has found that “the existing EU chemicals policy must evolve and respond more rapidly and effectively to the challenges posed by hazardous chemicals.” In October, the commission published ” Chemical Strategy for Sustainability: Towards a Toxic-Free Environment .” To meet that vision, the EU plans a fundamental change in how chemical regulations manage the production and use of chemicals.  As explained by Frans Timmermans, commission vice president responsible for EU’s Green Deal, the EU intends to move away from an approach to chemical regulation that depends primarily on tracking down substances that are hazardous only after they’re already being used in products, even when similar to previously restricted substances. Rather, it will focus on prohibiting their use in the first place: One of the first actions we will take is to ensure that the most harmful chemicals no longer find their way into consumer products. In most cases, we now assess these chemicals one-by-one — and remove them when we find out that they are unsafe. We will just flip this logic on its head. Instead of reacting, we want to prevent. As a rule, the use of the most harmful substances will be prohibited in consumer products. Further, the new EU chemical strategy identifies a wide array of initiatives for realizing its goal of a toxic-free environment. Some are specific to the EU, including EU support for development of innovative green chemistry materials. Others are measures with general applicability for government regulatory agencies or company sustainable chemistry initiatives. Among the key measures are: Extending hazard-based approach to risk management for consumer products: The goal is to ensure consumer products, such as toys, cosmetics, cleaning products, children’s care products and food contact materials, do not contain chemicals that may cause cancer, gene mutations, neurological or respiratory damage or that may interfere with endocrine or reproductive systems. Grouping of chemicals for assessment of hazards and restrictions: Under most regulations, both in the EU and U.S., chemicals are usually assessed and regulated one-by-one. The European Commission plans to address PFAS and other chemicals of concern with a group approach. New hazard categories: The commission plans to finalize a legally binding hazard definition of endocrine disruptors and, to address classes of chemicals recognized as posing serious environmental risks, introduce two new categories of substances of very high concern (SVHCs): persistent; mobile and toxic (PMT); and very persistent and very mobile (vPvM) substances. Accounting for combinative impacts of multiple chemicals on health: Increasing evidence points to the risks from simultaneous exposure to multiple chemicals. The commission plans to integrate requirements for information on the impacts of chemical mixtures more formally into chemical risk assessment requirements. These above approaches are in some leading corporate safer chemical programs and, with clarity from the EU, they should be considered by more companies. IKEA , for example, bans use in its products of some chemical groups (PFAS, organic brominated flame retardants) and hazard classes of chemicals (carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and any REACH SVHCs). Beyond its direct effects on protecting health of consumers and reducing toxic chemicals in the environment, the chemical strategy is a key component in the EU’s path towards a circular economy that conserves materials and reduces waste. A critical barrier to circular production models for many products and materials is contamination with hazardous chemicals — either inadvertently added during sourcing and processing or intentionally added to change the product. Through the chemical strategy, the EU plans to promote safer substitutes (the replacement of ortho-phthalates with non-hazardous plasticizers) or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce.  The EU has outlined a leading safer chemicals strategy that companies can begin to apply to their own operations. Tools such as the Chemical Footprint Project survey and other benchmarking tools can help support these initiatives. Companies that take the lead in adapting their planning to the EU strategy will be ahead of EU requirements, mitigate future supply chain and product risks and operate in the best interest of consumers and the environment. Pull Quote The EU plans to promote safer substitutes or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Circular Economy Policy & Politics European Union Collective Insight The Right Chemistry Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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GM’s electric delivery foray, plus other mobility trends headlining CES

January 13, 2021 by  
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GM’s electric delivery foray, plus other mobility trends headlining CES Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 01/13/2021 – 01:30 For the first time in its 54-year history, the world’s largest tech show — the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) — kicked off this week as an all-virtual event, cramming a week of keynotes, press conferences and over 1,000 exhibitor booths onto the screens of our laptops and from the comfort of our homes.  As a recovering tech reporter, who for years traversed the football field-sized ballrooms in Las Vegas to check out the latest and weirdest gadgets, I, for one, am glad not to be stuck in the scene of long taxi lines, awkward parties and rampant consumerism.  But virtual or not, CES continues to highlight what some of the biggest tech and retail companies in the world are prioritizing and building. And in recent years it has emerged as a place for automotive and mobility companies to make announcements, launch products and get attention. 2021 was no different in that respect.  Here are five mobility tech themes from the show to keep an eye on this year: Electric delivery:  The biggest mobility newsmaker from the show was General Motors , whose CEO, Mary Barra, delivered an hour-long keynote (check out our list of 20 C-suite sustainability champions such as Barra). GM announced it’s launching a new business unit called BrightDrop that will seek to electrify the goods delivery market. GM showed off images of an electric delivery vehicle called the EV600, as well as a pallet system called the EP1. FedEx Express announced it will be the first customer of BrightDrop. It will be the first company to receive the EV600s, which will have a 250-mile range, can carry 200 pounds of payload and will have 23 cubic feet of cargo space. GM’s logistics news comes amidst a massive growth in e-commerce during the pandemic. A couple of months ago, Ford, too, announced it plans to launch an electric delivery vehicle called the e-Transit, based on its popular Transit commercial vehicle.  GM is making a huge $27 billion push to electrify its product lines. GM also showed off a new electric Cadillac luxury vehicle and more details about its next-gen battery technology.  Of course, GM wasn’t the only automotive player that emphasized the electric transition at CES. Panasonic touted a new battery containing less than 5 percent cobalt that it’s working on, while LG and auto parts maker Magna provided more details of their joint venture to sell electric vehicle power trains. Mercedes-Benz showed off a sleek curved vehicle screen that will debut in one of its luxury electric vehicles.  The state of autonomous:  Due to the ever-present hype cycle and over-ambitious promises, autonomous vehicles have under-delivered on expectations. But make no mistake, they’re just around the corner. The CEO of Mobileye (owned by Intel), Amnon Shashua, did a long-ranging interview about the state of AVs, predicting robotaxis will be the first commercial application for true AVs, followed by consumer vehicles in 2025.  The commercial sector is already tapping into autonomous tech for business. Caterpillar highlighted at CES how it’s using autonomous vehicles in its mining vehicles on a mining site to save customers’ money and time.  Decarbonizing systems:  Sustainability doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with a huge convention hawking the latest ephemeral gadgets. But auto parts company Bosch used the digital CES to tout that the company has gone carbon-neutral this year, and now plans to go carbon-neutral across its supply chain, a particularly more difficult task. GM, likewise, emphasized the climate aspect of its electrification commitments. Data-driven user experience design: CES has long been the place for companies to emphasize their design and data-driven work on consumer experience and personalized experiences, whether that’s in-vehicle systems, gaming headsets or mobile screens. Of particular interest to Transport Weekly readers will be that a handful of companies such as Mercedes-Benz , Panasonic Automotive , mapping company HERE and Bosch also highlighted how data and design can be used to make the electric vehicle driving and charging experience better. 5G for connected cities:  The telcos always use CES to try to create buzz around their latest network investments. And a digital 2021 CES was no different. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg delivered a keynote that listed a series of new applications and experiences that 5G could help deliver. One of the most interesting was increased connectivity in cities that could lead to things such as reduced traffic. Meanwhile, UPS and Verizon announced that the companies are collaborating on testing drone delivery using 5G to a retirement community in Florida.  Beyond mobility trends, CES touted two major things you’d expect in a pandemic. First, technologies that make being stuck in your home easier, more fun and more comfortable. Think bigger screens, home robots, faster WiFi. Second: tools that can protect your health, such as over-engineered connected masks and air purifiers.  Sign up for Katie Fehrenbacher’s newsletter, Transport Weekly, at this link . Follow her on Twitter. Topics Transportation & Mobility Electric Vehicles Autonomous Vehicles Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off General Motors has created a new commercial business unit, called BrightDrop, with new electric vehicles to help businesses deliver goods efficiently. Courtesy of General Motors Close Authorship

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Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

January 12, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Green

The U.K. government is reversing a ban on a dangerous pesticide. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and British Sugar lobbied hard to get a product containing neonicotinoid thiamethoxam sanctioned for emergency use on sugar beets. Not only is this chemical thought to kill bees, but rainwater will wash it from fields into rivers. Last we heard, fish weren’t requesting neonicotinoid thiamethoxam any more than were insects, many of which already face serious declines. Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the conservation group Buglife, was one of many environmentalists unhappy with the decision. “In addition, no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet,” Shardlow said . “Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment .” Related: Flea treatments are poisoning England’s rivers Beet yellows virus is carried by aphids and has a ruinous effect on sugar beet crops. The U.K. has tracked this disease with national surveys since 1946, charting the effects of chemicals, farm hygiene and other factors on the changes and developments in virus yellows disease. Treating sugar beet seeds with neonicotinoid thiamethoxam is one approach used to control this disease . “Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorization is desperately needed to fight this disease,” said Michael Sly, chairman of the NFU sugar board. “It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.” He emphasized that pesticides would be used in a limited and controlled way. In 2018, the EU decided to protect bees by banning outdoor uses of thiamethoxam. But now 11 countries, including Spain, Denmark and Belgium, have signed emergency authorizations to use this controversial chemical. Via The Guardian and Pest Management Science Image via Kurt Bouda

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Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

What’s in store for the future of commuting?

January 12, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

What’s in store for the future of commuting? Marian Jones Tue, 01/12/2021 – 01:00 Despite being in a global pandemic, essential low-wage workers, healthcare providers, knowledge workers and many others have continued to work. However, since the start of lockdowns in March 2020, some 42 percent of the U.S. workforce has been from working home full-time . The continued progression of COVID-19 has required many businesses to postpone their back-to-the-office dates to protect their workers and assuage their health concerns. Of the 42 percent of the workforce able to work remotely, some 73 percent would prefer not to go back due to fears over the disease’s spread. From Twitter to Amazon, major urban businesses have rolled out a variety of different commuting policies as they contemplate going “back to the office.” Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Shopify have shifted to permanent work from home arrangements for some, and Google will be working remotely until at least summer 2021. Environmental researchers have warned that the unprecedented low-carbon levels due to stay-at-home orders could be followed by a surge in car usage as white-collar workers in densely populated urban areas attempt to evade public transportation. Climate scientists expect private vehicle usage to surpass pre-pandemic levels. In May 2020, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) issued an outright ban on public transportation , telling employees they had to take private cars to work. It was an appalling proposal, based on the false impression that public transit spreads coronavirus, and overturned just three weeks later. NYSE is still providing employees with reduced prices on parking , but the stock exchange hasn’t conducted any studies or investigations of what increased car usage might have on Lower Manhattan . Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards, employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. Elsewhere, Bloomberg Media offers large reimbursements for commuting into work — up to $75 per day, or up to $1,500 in a given month. It’s a perk likely meant to encourage the use of private cars. Policies that favor driving to work over mass transit show a disregard for congestion, air quality and cities’ overall livability. If every New Yorker consistently used private cars to commute to work, the city would be unlivable. An expanding number of businesses, seeing no harm to their profitability from remote work, have arranged to switch to permanent work from home. Lilac Nachum, a professor of international business at Baruch College, told me in an interview that it’s the knowledge and innovation-based industries that actually have the least to gain from working from home permanently. While many components of these jobs are the most straightforward to do online and could remain remote, a significant amount of creativity and innovation is lost without face-to-face interaction. As Nachum notes, “what we’ve seen is that the knowledge economy has given a huge boom to the growth of cities. This interaction of people creates the necessary conditions for innovation, exchange of ideas, and creativity. So for those kinds of industries, I think that it is extremely important to get back to work.” Considering that even the knowledge-based industries that on the face of it work remotely need to bring people together, few industries can do well working entirely remotely. “I think we’re left with a small number of jobs that can effectively be implemented remotely, which means companies basically have to prepare, should prepare for returning to the office. Fortunately, the vaccine is just around the corner,” Nachum said. Indeed, the knowledge industry has long been aware of the benefits of sustained in-person collaboration. Pre-pandemic, tech companies, including Google and Facebook, developed plans to create onsite housing at their campuses. Merging offices and housing has been hailed by some as the ultimate perk, a new type of “factory town,” and a green solution to urban transportation problems by alleviating the burden of commuting. However, these new company towns have led to new issues and exacerbated inequality. Under the current status quo, large tech companies have a habit of taking over their immediate areas by driving housing up, spurring gentrification, driving out long-time residents, and increasing homelessness rates. This was the case in Seattle when Amazon moved its headquarters to the city with many of their workers living in close proximity and local businesses reliant on their more affluent workers’ patronage. Regardless of whether or not such company towns benefit the environment by cutting back on commutes, although fraught with other political problems, the issue is relatively moot since creating a company town is not an option for the vast majority of firms. By fall, most workers could be returning to traditional offices . Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards , employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. This year, public transit utilization in New York City has dipped as low as 80 percent . Many of us are less than enthusiastic about resuming our old commutes by bus and subway. Even though mass transit creates far fewer emissions per individual per kilometer than cars, people think subways and buses are major carriers for the disease even though there is no evidence to support this. Cars cause congestion, increase commute times for all and lead to urban sprawl. Companies concerned with climate change could increase the appeal of transportation alternatives by developing new initiatives to discourage private vehicle use. Under this scenario, our badly under-used public transit might begin to come back from our fiscal deficit. Public, mass forms of high-density transportation are the future our climate relies on. Now more than ever, we need free, comfortable, and easily accessible public transit to help us recover from both this health crisis and the climate crisis. Pull Quote Assuming the COVID vaccine eventually becomes widely available this spring or at least distributed at a pace more in line with global standards, employers and employees could have more freedom to set the terms of their return. Topics Transportation & Mobility Social Justice Employee Engagement Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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20 C-suite sustainability champions for 2021

January 11, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

20 C-suite sustainability champions for 2021 Elsa Wenzel Mon, 01/11/2021 – 02:15 The big stories of 2020 were not just about a pandemic, a reckoning on racial justice, an economic calamity and the ever-imminent rise of climate change impacts. If a crisis is the ultimate test of leadership, last year provided ample narratives about leaders stepping up. These 20 C-suite executives have steered their companies forward through much disruption, providing inspiration for the possibilities of advancing sustainability, social responsibility and circular business models — sometimes all at once. Often working from home themselves, they empathized with employees and other stakeholders, some refusing to issue layoffs. They sparked uncomfortable conversations about diversity and discrimination, some pledging many millions of dollars to address lingering inequities internally and in society at large. Many celebrated with their CSOs on meeting ambitious corporate targets for 2020, while setting audacious new goals for 2025, 2030 and 2050. Each of these individuals is playing the long game and is in a strong position to move their companies and industries into what could be a more hopeful period of reconciliation, recovery and repair. Many “firsts” are on the list, especially in terms of the number of women cracking the glass ceiling in their roles. Many leaders in this cohort happen to have climbed the ranks at one company for decades. Most support science-based targets and sit on multiple boards, collaborations and advocacy groups to further industry-level sustainability goals. Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors; Detroit LinkedIn | Company profile Raised in Detroit, as a teen Mary Barra worked as a co-op student at Pontiac Motor, where her father was a die maker. In 2014, the electrical engineer and MBA became the first woman to lead a U.S. automaker. As electric vehicles drive toward the mainstream, General Motors has come full circle as well. It mass-produced the first electric car in the 1990s, then literally crushed most of them in 2003. Now, in its eventual internal-combustion phaseout, GM can’t seem to make EVs fast enough, and 30 new models are lined up for the market for 2025. In November, the company said it will spend $7 billion more than initially planned on electric and self-driving vehicles through 2025, a total of $27 billion. Barra’s vision for General Motors includes bringing emissions, crashes and congestion down to zero while becoming the “most inclusive company in the world.” The automaker’s sustainability goals include sourcing energy only from renewable sources and getting at least half the materials in its vehicles from recycled, bio-based or renewable origins — by 2030 in the U.S. and globally by 2040. The company touts advancing responsibility for sourcing raw ingredients, such as cobalt, within its supply chain. Nearby in Flint, where at least 100,000 residents suffered exposure to lead-poisoned tap water, GM turned millions of water bottles into filler for coats for homeless people. To prevent additional layoffs as the pandemic dented sales, Barra took a temporary pay cut, and GM pivoted with partners to build ventilators and masks. Less advertised around that time, the company unveiled details about its new modular vehicle platform and Ultium batteries , designed to lower EV prices and allow a 400-mile range fully charged. Christophe Beck, CEO, Ecolab; St. Paul, Minnesota LinkedIn | Company profile Christophe Beck is brand-new as Ecolab CEO this month, taking over from retiring Doug Baker , an established advocate of the “virtuous cycles” of sustainability and profitability. In Beck’s mind, too , forwarding-thinking companies should look at natural resources not just as consumables but as recyclable goods, and then design systems and products in a way that eliminates waste. Nearly a century ago, Ecolab sold dishwasher soap with a dispenser described as its first effort to reduce waste. The next frontier is “connected chemistry,” extending the internet of things to “the internet of natural resources,” Beck said in 2019. The leader in water, hygiene and energy services sells to a diverse collection of institutions such as hospitals, food and beverage providers, as well as heavy industry including power plants and plastic manufacturers. Ecolab says it helped its customers save enough water in 2018 equivalent to the needs of 600 million people. The company, an early partner with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, has positioned water and carbon emissions as equally critical in the climate crisis. Last year, Ecolab set a goal for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, getting halfway there by 2030. Beck, trained in mechanical engineering and aerodynamics, worked at one time for the European Space Agency. Spending the past year as Ecolab’s president and COO, he joined as an executive vice president in 2008 after capping off 15 years as Nestlé’s head of corporate sales in Europe. Rosalind ‘Roz’ Brewer, COO and Group President, Starbucks Company profile Rosalind Brewer is the first African-American and woman to steer the company’s Americas operations as well its global supply chain, product and store development. Yet about six months in as president and COO at Starbucks, she was terrified in 2018 to hear that two Black men had been arrested needlessly at one of its Philadelphia stores. “This could happen to my son any day of the week,” she said. “I felt like it happened under my watch.” Starbucks ramped up its anti-bias training, closing 8,000 stores one day to do so — a prelude in 2018 to its response to the interconnected crises of 2020. In October, Starbucks announced it would ramp up hiring of people of color to at least 30 percent of the corporate workforce and 40 percent of retail and manufacturing by 2025. It’s also investing in professional mentorship for minorities and backing communities through $6.5 million in Neighborhood Grants. A chemist with a knack for analytics, Brewer has spoken of bringing her head and her heart to leadership. She was known for promoting diversity and inclusion while CEO and president of Walmart Sam’s Club. At Starbucks, that expanded focus also blends with its climate leadership initiatives. In 2019, it issued a $1 billion sustainability bond , the first corporation to do so. After learning of the outsize impact of dairy in its supply chain, it added more plant-based items to its menu. “I can’t even explain to you how much richer the conversations are when you have a diverse group of people in the room challenged against one problem, and how quickly you get to solutions,” she said in 2018. No doubt those conversations will be at play in Starbucks’ 50th year. As it expands by 800 stores annually, it also will strive toward a science-based, “resource positive” framework of halving carbon emissions, landfill waste and waste usage by 2030. Patrick Collison, CEO and co-founder, Stripe; San Francisco LinkedIn | Personal website It’s a prototypical Silicon Valley tale: Irish-bred Patrick Collison sold his first tech company for millions as a teen with brother John. Their next big project, payment service provider Stripe, has ballooned in its 10th year to a $36 billion valuation, just behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX among a few privately held unicorns. CEO Collison (John is president) has his eye on making an outsized climate impact by accelerating negative-carbon solutions. In May, Stripe named four young CO2-sequestration efforts it’s bankrolling with a combined $1 million, including Project Vestas (green-rock beaches) and CarbonCure (concrete). Natural carbon sinks, carbon mineralization and direct-air capture are early focus areas for Stripe’s 2019 Negative Emissions Commitment , which aims to spend at least double in these areas compared with what it pays for carbon offsets. Stripe Climate, launched in October, is an attempt to address a chicken-egg problem by driving up adoption for CO2-removal services that are, for now, prohibitively expensive for other companies. Online merchants can divert a portion of each sale toward carbon sequestration, and show that off to downstream shoppers at the point of purchase. Unlike with offsets, there’s no tit-for-tat estimate of how many GHG tons may be involved, which is intentional. The billionaire bibliophile has a side publishing effort, Stripe Press , which tries to further “ideas that we think can be broadly useful” toward shaping “the world of tomorrow.” João Paulo Ferreira, CEO, Natura &Co Latin America; São Paulo LinkedIn | Company profile From its cosmetics direct-sales origins in 1969, Natura &Co has matured to swallow up Avon, the Body Shop and Aesop. The Brazilian company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange one year ago, sells beauty and biodiversity as intertwined. Its mission: to offer products that “promote the harmonious relationship of the individual with oneself, with others and with nature.” Working under group CEO Roberto Marquez, João Paulo Ferreira’s Latin America CEO position has overseen the heart of the original business since 2016. The electronic engineer and MBA spent 19 years as a supply chain vice president at Unilever before joining Natura in 2009. In 2019, Ferreira urged Brazilian leaders to protect the fire-scarred Amazon rainforest, from which so much megadiversity — and Natura’s product base — derives. Ucuuba berries used in a moisturizer, for example, are more lucrative for local residents to collect and sell to Natura than chopping down the trees for timber. “But you have to do this in an orderly way that conserves the local culture, including traditional know-how, and adds value to the communities involved,” Ferreira has said. In the past decade, Natura has planted several hundred million dollars toward rainforest protection and sustainable development. Full traceability for palm oil, mica, paper, alcohol, soy and cotton is due in 2025. The company’s “Commitment to Life” vision for 2030 includes net-zero GHG emissions by 2030, and raising by 7.4 million acres the 4.4 million acres it protects in the Amazon. Natura, which issues a regular environmental profit-and-loss statement , went carbon-neutral in 2007 and became the first public B Corporation in 2014. Furthering fair wages and closing the gender gap is another goal, as is embracing circular principles. It’s throwing $100 million toward biotech solutions for repurposing waste and improving plastics; regenerative agriculture in deforested zones; and building up markets for biological ingredients. Beth Ford; President & CEO; Land O’Lakes; Arden Hills, Minnesota LinkedIn | Company profile Best known for its butter — and the Native American logo it retired last year — Land O’Lakes is also a 21st-century force in technology. Beth Ford is cultivating agtech at scale to optimize yields sustainably across the 150 million acres it touches in every state. Farmers are “the original environmentalists,” she said in July. “The way we think about sustainability is data-enhanced decisions.” Land O’Lakes is a cooperative owned by some 300,000 farmers, who were already struggling before COVID-19 upended supply chains. Toward its bid to accelerate regenerative agriculture and aid farmers, one acre and data point at a time, the company recently partnered with Microsoft on a multi-year effort to hasten innovation and boost rural broadband. Microsoft’s cloud architecture eventually will house Land O’Lakes’ data tools including Truterra , which tracks impacts on soil , air and water from no-till, cover crops and fertilizer management practices, as well as WinField United r7 software that uses satellite imagery and geolocated data. Raised in Iowa, Ford became the only openly gay Fortune 500 CEO in 2018. She came to the co-op from International Flavors & Fragrances in 2012 as supply chain and operations executive vice president and became COO several years later. Ford’s resume spans industries, including time at Mobil Oil, PepsiCo and Scholastic. Ford is on the board of directors at the Business Roundtable, Consumer Goods Forum and U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Logan Green, Co-founder and CEO, Lyft; San Francisco LinkedIn Logan Green has cited growing up with Southern California traffic and carpooling as a student in Zimbabwe for inspiring the launch of Zimride in 2007. He was fresh out of a business economics bachelor’s program in Santa Barbara and a stint as the youngest director on the local Metro Transit District board. Zimride merged into Lyft in 2013, its vehicles announced by a fuzzy pink “grill-stache.” By 2019, the company counted more than a billion total rides, with 2 million annual drivers in more than 650 U.S. and Canadian cities. In June, Lyft set a course to move toward 100 percent electric or other emission-free vehicles by 2030. That’s in the vehicles that Lyft drivers own, as well as the company’s Express Drive rentals for drivers and its eventual Level 5 self-driving fleets. The ride-sharing brand positions this as a radical shift that will benefit communities, partly by reducing pollution. Working with the Environmental Defense Fund, Lyft predicts it will prevent the release of tens of millions of metric tons of GHG emissions and avert the consumption of a billion tons of gasoline. Lyft’s IPO filing in 2019 exposed contradictions between its goals to “redesign our cities around people, not cars,” and the traffic congestion its rides have caused. Among other challenges, Lyft’s scooter rentals mostly have flopped, but the company isn’t giving up on micromobility. And its LyftUp effort seeks to meet transportation needs in underserved urban communities. Ridesharing demand crashed with COVID-19, and Lyft became part of the frontline delivery and medical access infrastructure. With holes in the gig economy torn open, Lyft tried to keep some drivers working by partnering with Amazon, and paid some time off due to virus exposure. Although they laid off nearly 1,000 employees, Green and co-founder John Zimmer declined their own pay. The company has played the self-described “woke” foil to market leader Uber. “We care” is what sets Lyft apart, Green has said. Lyft’s first ESG report reaffirmed as much in July, also showing that working conditions for its diverse driver base top the list of stakeholder concerns, alongside community safety and emissions. Mauricio Gutierrez, CEO, NRG; Houston LinkedIn | Company profile After the contentious exit of David Crane , who was leaning hard into the disruptive power of renewables, COO Gutierrez became CEO overnight in 2015. The company has since whipsawed between its wholesale-energy legacy of fossil fuels and greener horizons. To mollify shareholders, NRG shed its renewables business and EVGo vehicle-charging infrastructure. However, like Crane before him, Gutierrez is wise to the macro trends that favor clean energy, and has called sustainability “the glue that keeps all of our stakeholders working together toward a common goal with purpose.” In 2019, Gutierrez issued a new goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, expecting to reach it halfway by 2025. NRG in December issued a $900 million sustainability-linked bond, which it called a first for a North American company. Motivated to decarbonize, digitize and customize, Gutierrez has been advancing an integrated-power strategy to bring generation and retail together. Rather than invest capital directly in renewable-energy projects, he wants NRG to provide long-term contracts that improve their financeability. Gutierrez joined NRG from Dynegy in 2004 as an energy portfolio director. The engineer holds master’s degrees in mineral economics and petroleum economics. An outspoken advocate for racial justice, Gutierrez has urged companies to take action on social issues that matter to stakeholders, and to be honest that the playing field is not level. “We cannot create equity value if we do not take care of our employees or if we don’t serve our customers and their communities,” he said in June. Helena Helmersson, COO, H&M Group; Stockholm LinkedIn | Company profile Helena Helmersson may be the first former CSO to ascend to the top job at a major corporation, signaling H&M’s designs to further stitch sustainability and equity into operations. She’s also the first woman, succeeding longtime CEO Karl-Johan Persson one year ago. Joining H&M in 1997 in the buying department, Helmersson wound her way through the company, moving from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Hong Kong to Stockholm. A vocal advocate for purpose in retail, she oversees 126,000 employees and 5,000 storefronts in 74 countries, with a complex supply chain network. The H&M model embodies some big contradictions. It helped define fast fashion, yet is in the vanguard of circular innovations in apparel. It strives to improve conditions for garment workers and improve transparency, yet still attracts activist ire. H&M seeks by 2030 to become fully circular, eliminating waste and adopting sustainable and recycled materials , and has partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation since 2018. Helmersson views engaging consumers as the key, and the company is working on the Higg Index with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to improve industry labeling. H&M is among the first apparel giants to enable product take-back for any garment and to prioritize reducing toxic chemicals in manufacturing. In 2019, customers returned 29,000 tonnes of worn clothes in exchange for 15 percent discounts, beating company expectations. Pure cotton and polyester can be downcycled into insulation and other things. H&M forged a five-year partnership in November with RenewCell to produce millions of pieces of clothing from Circulose, a pulp made from used cotton fabric. The H&M Foundation and CO:LAB venture capital arm share a focus on advancing textile recycling. More broadly, the company is moving toward a “climate positive” value chain by 2040, embracing science-based targets. It is already at 96 percent renewable energy toward the 2030 goal of 100 percent. Ilham Kadri, CEO, Solvay; Brussels LinkedIn | Company profile The first woman to lead a major European chemical company, Ilham Kadri has called chemistry “the mother of all industries.” Directing operations in 64 countries from the EU capital, she seeks to catalyze circular models and take Solvay far past its 1863 roots as a soda ash producer. “Without industry there is no reinvention and without reinvention there is no future,” the chemical engineer and physics-chemistry Ph.D. said in December . Kadri launched Solvay’s One Planet sustainability framework of “climate, resources and better life” last year, 11 months after becoming CEO. With some $12 billion annual sales, the company’s eclectic mix of products includes coatings, solvents and binders for electric car batteries; lightweight composites for airplanes; recycled polyamide for apparel and sustainable vanillin for chocolate. Solvay seeks to double revenues from renewable or recycled solutions and count 65 percent of its products as sustainable by 2030 — also closing the loop on energy and resources in its plants; extending life cycles and optimizing consumption within its supply chains. It uses blockchain to trace sourcing in India for guar, used in shampoos. The company is an Ellen MacArthur Foundation partner, including in a collaboration with Veolia to close the loop on lithium-ion EV batteries. Other circular approaches include making vanilla flavoring from discarded rice husks and reusing hydrogen peroxide for paper production. Solvay repurposes wastewater from dairy production in the United Arab Emirates to cool cows in arid fields. Kadri, raised in Casablanca, was previously CEO of hygiene tech company Diversey and counts management experience at Sealed Air, Dow and Shell. She brings an international perspective and an embrace of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and has worked in the U.S., UAE, Switzerland and France. Mark Mason, CFO, Citi; New York City LinkedIn | Company profile In May, Mark Mason flung open a door that’s rarely unlatched on Wall Street by publishing a wrenching company blog post against systemic racism. Its first words, 10 times repeated, were the last spoken by police brutality victim George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.” Unusual for a finance chief, the message is one that Mason felt necessary for Citi’s 204,000 employees and the world at large. Yet “words are not enough.” So Citi threw its heft behind a $1 billion, three-year Action for Racial Equity initiative supporting Black homeownership, entrepreneurship and professional development. Mason, who was raised in Queens, is one of the few senior Black executives in banking, at Citi since 2001 in a slate of leadership roles including CEO of Citi Private Bank. He also leads Citi Ventures Initiatives, which invests in efforts to “help people, businesses, and communities thrive.” Citi Impact Fund investments include waste-to-fuel company, smart water management and 3D printing companies. Startups in the area of “access to capital and economic opportunity,” for which $50 million has been earmarked, are “coming soon” on the website. Citi positions environmental sustainability and racial justice as intertwined, seeking to be the finance leader in low-carbon solutions, and Mason holds the purse strings. In 2019, it followed an inaugural €1 billion bond with a $1.5 billion U.S. bond. The bank recently added circular economy and sustainable agriculture focus areas for its $250 billion Environmental Finance Goal, which it expanded from the original $100 billion goal that it met four years early. Lisa McKnight; Senior Vice President, Global Head of Barbie; Mattel; El Segundo, California LinkedIn | Company profile The cultural impact of the Barbie doll is hard to overestimate. Whether seen as innocent or insidious, she’s a prism through which generations of girls have shaped their self-image and aspirations. About six years ago, Lisa McKnight’s team found the blonde bombshell falling out of favor with parents. She set out to redirect and reposition Barbie as “the original empowerment brand,” touching on the icon’s origins as the invention of a 1959 mompreneur. As a result, today’s kaleidoscope of Barbies includes 176 dolls with 94 hairstyles, 35 skin tones and nine body types. She is a chicken farmer, a zoo doctor, a firefighter, a polar marine biologist, a park ranger and a political candidate. One in five is Black. Barbie is Rosa Parks, David Bowie and Susan B. Anthony. Barbie may have a wheelchair, no hair or vitiligo. On social media, she describes baking banana bread during quarantine and ponders why women overuse the word “sorry.” Barbie annual sales are soaring beyond $1 billion. What does this have to do with sustainability? When the world’s second-biggest toy maker plants the seeds for more inclusive play, the fruit may feed SDG No. 5 on gender equality. Empowering girls and women offers a multitude of carbon-reduction benefits. McKnight, at Mattel for 22 years after leading marketing at Gap, is working within the 91-year-old company’s greater shift to environmental sustainability. Mattel seeks for all products and packaging to comprise recycled or recyclable materials by 2030, and in June it brought sugarcane-plastic toddler stacking rings to market. Most of Mattel’s paper-based packaging is Forest Stewardship Council-certified. The toymaker seeks to cut normalized carbon emissions in half by 2028. Vasant Narasimhan, CEO, Novartis; Basel, Switzerland LinkedIn | Company profile “Vas” Narasimhan views this moment as the best to be alive, partly because science promises to advance health by unlocking genetic mysteries that have built up over 3.7 billion years of evolution. No wonder he keeps an ammonite fossil in his bag. Addressing health equity is a special focus area for Narasimhan, who cut his teeth as a public health doctor addressing malaria and HIV in developing nations. With 103,000 employees and 800 million people using its products, Novartis is at the forefront of exploring genetic and cell therapies for human health. A subsidiary is involved in an early-stage, gene-based vaccine for the novel coronavirus. “We all have to speak up in defense of really rigorous, well-defined science,” Narasimhan said in December. “If we lose that battle, the world will give up a lot of the gains that we’ve had and perhaps many we could have in areas like environment and climate change.” With erudite Narasimhan in charge, Novartis is buckling down to embed ESG into operations. In September, the company issued healthcare’s first sustainability bond, priced at $2.26 billion. In November it became the first European pharmaceutical company to meet 100 percent renewables through virtual power purchase agreements. The Swiss firm aims to reach neutrality in carbon, water and plastic by 2030 across its supply chain, and phase out polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in medical packaging by 2025. The charismatic “unboss,” as he has called his role, has been at Novartis since 2007, with a stint at Sandoz. Raised in Pittsburgh and one of the youngest multinational leaders, Narasimhan is fond of sharing books that inspire him on Twitter. He serves on the National Academy of Medicine and on boards including African Parks. Patti Poppe, CEO, PG&E; San Francisco LinkedIn | Company profile Patti Poppe has a grounded, straight-talking style, an inclination to see opportunities in crisis, and an embrace of innovation to enrich the triple bottom line. It’s easy to see why Pacific Gas & Electric snapped her up in November from Consumers Energy in Michigan, where she was on track to fold its coal and nuclear operations by 2040. “There are ways to make this clean energy transition that are additive, that are extraordinary,” she said in 2019. “We’ve got work to do; there’s no time to stand on the sidelines and hope and holler and think that somebody’s gonna do something about this.” As the California utility crawls out of a bankruptcy and restructuring, the human and environmental toll left by the epic wildfires it caused remain incalculable. Can PG&E earn back the trust of its 16 million consumers? A clue may be found in Poppe’s approach to a crisis. Rather than asking if something is possible, she advocates for asking, “What has to be true to bring it to fruition?” Consumers Energy CEO since 2016, she was praised for preventing a bigger emergency two subzero Januarys ago, after a fire at a natural gas compressor threatened energy transmission. The company texted residents to turn down their thermostats, they responded, and nobody lost heat. As for the slower-moving climate crisis, Poppe grabbed the opportunity of a generation to replace fossil fuels and phase in “modular” renewables. The industrial engineer even made energy efficiency enticing at Consumers, in May teaming up with Google to give away Nest smart thermostats to 100,000 customers. Poppe said she won’t abandon her coworkers or their communities during the energy transition, describing how career employees at a shuttered coal plant stayed at the company. Before working in energy, the Michigander spent 15 years in plant management at General Motors. She’s the first woman to move from one Fortune 500 CEO office to another. Linda Rendle, CEO, Clorox; Oakland, California LinkedIn | Company profile One million Clorox wipes, prized during the pandemic, were rolling off the company’s assembly lines each day in 2020. The company cleaned up in sales, and it’s going on an advertising offense. It’s up to new CEO Linda Rendle how aggressively Clorox will lead its 8,800 employees on sustainability. Joining the America Is All In pledge supporting the Paris Agreement in December is an early indicator. One of Rendle’s tasks for 2021 will be to complete a 100 percent renewable electricity goal for Clorox’s U.S. and Canadian operations. Rendle is the first woman in the job as of September, and the 38th female CEO on the Fortune 500. Promoted from president, she has risen steadily over 18 years through a series of vice president titles in supply chain and operations. Rendle has shunned social media. Visa cited her strategy- and brand-building experience when it welcomed her to its board in November. In August, the 98-year-old company joined the U.S. Plastics Pact, and it aligned in 2019 with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy commitment. Clorox seeks to prevent plastic waste and pollution in packaging, pledging to halve its use of virgin plastic and fiber by 2030 while doubling PCR recycled plastic. By 2025, it wants to achieve 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging. (None of that addresses closing the loop on the synthetic wipes themselves.) The bleach and Brita filter maker is also phasing out PVC and supporting emerging refill models. Its recyclable Glad food bags and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing are available through the innovative Loop reusable packaging service. Clorox reportedly seeks to build on its legacy of “natural” products, burnished when it bought Burt’s Bees in 2008, and in its own formulation of the Green Works line of household cleaners. Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems LinkedIn | Company profile As CEO since 2015, Chuck Robbins has earned accolades for taking Cisco’s corporate responsibility to new heights while keeping the enterprise hardware brand nimble in the cloud computing era. In 2016, he issued an edict to positively affect 1 billion people by 2025. Last year, he set a new corporate purpose: “To power an inclusive future for all.” The company and its foundation have pledged more than half a billion dollars toward coronavirus relief. Cisco pledged $50 million in 2018 to address Silicon Valley homelessness and sponsors numerous programs and competitions to bridge digital divides and reward planet-positive technology innovations. Because Cisco’s technologies underpin many of the world’s “webscale” data centers, its advances enable a more energy-efficient, less emissions-intense internet. Its efficient $1 billion Silicon One architecture, for instance, squeezes more bandwidth out of routers. Since 2007, Cisco has reduced its GHG emissions by 55 percent since 2007. It has almost reached the goals for 2022 of 85 percent renewable electricity globally and 87 percent energy efficiency for its rack-mounted hardware. Robbins, who joined the company in 1997, also has led a top-down shift calling on the 75,000 employees to embrace circular principles such as modular designs in all products by 2025, building on Cisco’s seasoned product takeback and remanufacturing programs. He serves on the board of Ford Foundation, is a Business Roundtable member and has called himself “the ultimate optimist.” “OK, how is it that a kid who lived on a dirt road in Georgia has become CEO of a major tech company?” he said in 2019. “And I just realized that we have to run a good business, but there’s more to it. We need to take advantage of the power we’ve been given.” Ulf Mark Schneider, CEO, Nestlé; Vevey, Switzerland Company profile In 2020, Nestlé’s Haagen Dazs ice cream, Nescafé and Purina pet food flew off store shelves. The world’s biggest food company also created vegan “tuna” and tweaked its plant-based Sensational burger. In September, the Coffee mate maker opened an R&D test kitchen for sustainable dairy products and vegan “meats.” Ulf Mark Schneider, CEO since 2017, likes to boost markets in areas he’d like to accelerate. The German-American MBA sees the bottom-line benefit for “Creating Shared Value” and improving livelihoods across 2,000 brands in 189 countries. Last month, Nestlé announced it will sweeten its climate-mitigation efforts with $3.6 billion toward regenerative agriculture into 2025. Working with farmers supports the company’s goals to eliminate its environmental impact and slash emissions in half by 2030, reaching net-zero by 2050. “This is a time when people increasingly look towards business as a force for good and making something happen, so this is our part and we are fully committed to playing that part,” Schneider said in September. As for closing the loop, Schneider is leading Nestlé toward 100-percent recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025. The CPG giant in 2019 created its Institute of Packaging Sciences and joined the New Plastics Economy as a core partner. Nestlé last year released Nespresso pods with 80 percent recycled aluminum. The bottled water seller knows that whether an item actually gets recycled is at the mercy of regional infrastructure, so it’s funding efforts to improve recycling technologies for vexing materials such as films, bags and bubble wrap, including a pilot effort with a curbside-pickup recycling plant in Pennsylvania. Here too, Schneider seeks to nurture an early market, buying 2 million metric tons of food-grade recycled plastics at a premium of close to $2 billion. Harmit Singh, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Levi Strauss & Co. LinkedIn | Company profile Long an influencer in style and sustainability, Levi Strauss pioneered low-water techniques to finish and weather jeans, and its Screened Chemistry program led to removing hazardous chemicals from its supply chain. Then it open-sourced these innovations for the benefit of wider industry. “At Levi’s, it’s not only important what we make but how we make it,” Harmit Singh told GreenBiz in 2017, describing how sustainability was first embraced to mitigate risk and since has become core to the fabric of Levi Strauss’ values. After joining Levi’s in 2013, Singh visited its factories in Turkey and India. “How companies conduct themselves — if they are committed to clean water, if they treat workers well, if they are good stewards of natural resources — means a great deal to those communities,” he said in 2019. “The visit cemented my sense of how important this work is.” Thirty years after Levi’s launched its supply chain code of conduct to support apparel workers’ well-being, the company is moving toward circular models across design, sourcing, manufacturing, use and reuse. The new, recyclable fabrics it has developed include single-fiber nylon and recyclable denim for its Wellthread line of jeans. From the New York Stock Exchange podium, Singh cheered on the company as it went public in March 2019 for the second time. Espousing Levi’s tagline of “profit through principles,” he helped to establish the U.S. chapter of Accounting for Sustainability. Singh joined the denim maker after driving growth as CFO at Hyatt Hotels in Chicago and Yum! Brands and Pizza Hut in Dallas, with previous work in Singapore and Delhi. Bob Swan, CEO, Intel; San Jose, California LinkedIn | Company profile Bob Swan describes 2020 as the most important year yet in Intel’s history, as COVID-19 drove a “digital transformation on steroids.” In May, he issued three sweeping global challenges for technology to meet, which require outside collaboration and come with measurable benchmarks: revolutionizing health and safety; boosting social inclusivity; and making computing carbon-neutral. The more people analyze, capture and process data, the more the company must advance transistor density — a fitting challenge, given that Moore’s law began in the mind of Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. Intel seeks to build the world’s most efficient computer, neutral in carbon, water and waste. It has boosted manufacturing waste recovery and reuse by 275 percent over the past three years. “It’s very important for us that purpose isn’t something that goes on the wall and social responsibility isn’t something that goes in a report; so they’re one and the same,” Swan said in December, entering his third year as CEO. Bringing his ample CFO experience from Intel, eBay, GE Lighting and even Webvan, Swan underscores how integrating sustainability and carbon neutrality benefits customers, investors and communities. Intel’s RISE acronym covers responsibility, inclusion and sustainability — the “e” being its enabling technologies. The company met most of its 2020 goals along those lines, reaching global pay equity, keeping a workforce whose gender and minority makeup reflects that of the greater labor market and raising spending with diverse suppliers to $1 billion. Next up: doubling the number of women and minorities among its leadership by 2030. Applying artificial intelligence and cloud technologies, Intel is establishing a Global Inclusion Index open standard for hiring across industries. Intel AI for Youth seeks to bridge the digital divide in STEM education. Also ahead: Intel seeks to become net-positive in water by 2030, also achieving 100-percent renewable power, zero waste to landfill and net-positive water. Carol Tomé, CEO, UPS; Atlanta LinkedIn | Company profile Imagine leaving retirement just in time to guide UPS through a pandemic. Carol Tomé became her industry’s first female CEO on March 12. Nine months later, she oversaw the company’s first shipments of the earliest Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, which must be pampered at close to negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Tomé’s talk of putting people first jibes with the UPS position of linking sustainability with social responsibility. (Its foundation backed nonprofits with several million dollars following spring’s racial justice crisis.) Tomé spent 24 years as Home Depot CFO, sometimes working the night shift in the retail stores, and continued to give store workers bonuses during the 2008 Great Recession. “To impact people, help them get to their highest potential,” Tomé told Fortune in October. “I view that as job No. 1. Job No. 2 is to get the stock price moving.” Under her guidance, UPS is moving forward on an ambitious partnership with London-based Arrival for 10,000 purpose-built modular electric vehicles — a sharp turn from UPS’s fleet history that began with a used Model T. The companies, which already had worked together in Europe on a pilot project, soon will be sited only several hours apart. UPS Ventures also made a minority investment in the Arrival, which seeks to build micro-factories to speed production.UPS has aligned with other sustainability innovations recently, such as its exclusive partnership on the 2019 launch of Loop , the zero-waste service for goods delivering groceries and other packaged goods. Topics Leadership Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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20 C-suite sustainability champions for 2021

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January 11, 2021 by  
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Fighting deforestation should be a top priority for 2021, and here’s how it can be Heather Clancy Mon, 01/11/2021 – 02:00 One of the biggest stories of 2020 was the rise of the corporate tree-planting movement, with dozens of multinational businesses from virtually every industry pledging millions of dollars to one of nature’s most effective carbon sequestration solutions.  Now, NGOs and investors are urging consumer goods and food companies and financial institutions to devote more resources to addressing the root cause of shrinking forests, deforestation.  Many companies have promised to address deforestation related to their business activities for years, but few have fully delivered on those plans — and an astonishingly high number of companies don’t have an explicit commitment to ending deforestation.  A confluence of factors as we move deeper into the “Decade of Action” is raising the stakes: deepening global concerns over the loss of species habitat and biodiversity; an environmental justice awakening that has more of us attuned to systemic human rights issues, including encroachment of Indigenous communities, as well as child and slave labor; and a heightened awareness among the investment community about the long-term ecosystem and financial risks associated with deforestation. As 2021 begins, more companies are seeing their strategies for addressing deforestation deep down into their supply chains scrutinized.  “We need companies to make commitments that are specific to how they are addressing their supply chains,” says Jessye Waxman, shareholder advocate with Green Century Capital Management, which has so far engaged dozens of businesses encouraging them to improve their “no deforestation” policies and practices. Among those it has targeted: food service operator Aramark, meat company Tyson Foods and consumer products maker Procter & Gamble.  Green Century’s latest shareholder proposals related to deforestation were filed in late December with two of the world’s largest grain traders, The Archer-Daniels Midland Company and Bunge . Both companies already have commitments to eliminate deforestation, but the investment firm would like to see them become even more aggressive with members of their soy supply chains. “There is definitely increasing urgency around this issue,” Waxman says. Palm oil plantation at the edge of a rainforest. Many promises, limited followthrough Here’s what we’re up against. More than 1 million acres of forests have been lost since 1990, leaving the global stock at near 10 million acres, according to a July report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). While the rate of annual deforestation slowed to about 25 million acres between 2015 and 2020, the trendlines in several regions — especially countries in Africa and South America — aren’t moving in the right direction. Brazil, for example, recently recorded its highest rate of deforestation since 2008 during the period from August 2019 to July, an increase of 9.5 percent.  The vast majority of that destruction (up to 80 percent) is linked to commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, and pulp and paper. Cattle-rearing practices in Brazil are of particular concern among multiple NGOs. Yet, many companies hugely reliant on these resources aren’t actively fighting deforestation , according to data from research organizations including CDP and Global Canopy.  What’s more, of the companies that have made commitments, many have failed to deliver or to set deadlines — with some continuously pushing dates into the future or changing the rules by which they judge progress, according to both organizations. CDP’s recent ” Zeroing In on Deforestation Report ” urged consumer products and food companies to devote more energy to this issue. It found, for example, that the supply chains for cattle and soy are particularly opaque — the largest meat processor in the world, JBS, fares “very poorly.” Food and consumer products companies that buy meat from organizations such as these need to become far more engaged in tracing the regional origins of the product they’re buying, says Ling Sin Fai Lam, lead analyst on the report. “CPG companies are going to find it harder to meet their own goals if they don’t seek collaboration from people closer to the ground,” she says.  While new forest strategies have been declared in recent months — Tyson Foods published its forest protection standard in November after a lengthy assessment by nonprofit Proforest — the dialogue around deforestation was relatively muted last year, when compared to the tree-planting movement.  “Are there more companies with stated strategies? Generally, yes, we have seen a few more commitments and improvements,” notes Sarah Rogerson, research associate at Global Canopy and lead researcher for its Forest 500 report , which evaluates corporate deforestation strategies. “But not a step change over what we have seen in previous years. There hasn’t been an obvious gearup. We were hoping [2020] would be a big year for forests and nature.” (The next edition of the Forest 500 is due in late January; here’s last year’s coverage .) Progress takes root There were some hopeful signs over the past 12 months. Cargill, which has been evolving its deforestation policy for decades, reported in June that it was on track to “eliminate deforestation in all commercial palm oil concessions in its third-party supply chain by the end of 2020.” After being contacted for an interview for this story, the company provided several written updates about its soy sourcing strategy including these highlights: More than 95 percent of the soy it purchased in Brazil for the 2018-2019 crop year was “deforestation- and land-conversion free” It had mapped 100 percent of its Brazilian soy supply chain by early 2020 It continues to develop a certification program in Brazil and Paraguay, in order to provide a “large market” for soybeans grown via verified methods Aramark was praised by Green Century in mid-November for its ” prompt progress ” on its no-deforestation policy . Within one year of publishing the strategy in December 2019, the company already has shifted to sourcing 100 percent of its soy and 99 percent of its palm oils from regions with no deforestation risk. So far, 60 percent of the beef it sources is “deforestation-free,” according to Aramark. In written responses to questions submitted for this story, Aramark Vice President of Sustainability Kathy Cacciola noted that Aramark’s biggest challenge in delivering on the strategy is its position of influence in the value chain for the covered commodities.  “For example, we do not source any raw palm oil, but it is present in tiny amounts of a vast number of products that we purchase, thus our ability to influence producers is limited,” she wrote. “Moreover, although our supplier partners are always willing to provide us with the information we ask for, they do not always have full visibility to where their raw commodities are coming from.”  We’re seeing the end of the commodity era, where materials are sourced from largely unknown origins and bought purely for price on a transactional basis. Mars also generated plenty of headlines in 2020 with its claim of a “deforestation-free palm oil supply chain,” an initiative related to the Palm Positive Plan it adopted in September 2019. Getting there required a drastic reduction in the number of mills that the company uses to source palm oil — to fewer than 100 this year, compared with 1,500 previously. It plans further reductions by 2022, according to the press release Mars issues to trumpet this achievement.  In written responses to questions submitted for this article, Kevin Rabinovitch, global vice president of sustainability for Mars, said simplifying the company’s supply chain through longer-term contracts and fewer suppliers was crucial for helping it verify that partners are meeting environmental, social and ethical standards and for laying the foundation for collaborative engagement. “We’re seeing the end of the commodity era, where materials are sourced from largely unknown origins and bought purely for price on a transactional basis,” he wrote. “That model doesn’t address some key elements of the world we want tomorrow. The future will leverage sourcing from known farms, with price, human rights and sustainability impacts evaluated side by side.”  As of this writing, there has been no independent verification of the Mars palm oil claim. Mars is also part of the new Forest Positive Coalition , launched in September by a group of 17 companies belonging to the Consumer Goods Forum — including Danone, General Mills, Nestle, P&G, PepsiCo, Unilever and Walmart. The group has pledged support of collective, systemic efforts to “remove deforestation, forest degradation and conversion from the key commodity supply chains of palm oil, soy and paper, and paper, pulp and fiber-based packaging.”  Another coalition of companies — including ADM, Bunge and Cargill — is working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to improve the traceability of soybeans grown in Brazil’s Cerrado region, one of the least-protected regions in the country, which is experiencing higher rates of deforestation than the Amazon. So far, the Soft Commodities Forum has engaged with about 121 producers, according to a December update .  “Only by bringing producers to the center of the quest for solutions will we be able to contribute to a world without commodities-driven conversion, balancing environmental outcomes with resilient and prosperous rural communities,” said Tony Siantonas, director of the Scaling Positive Agriculture initiative for WBCSD, in a statement.  Soybean production and cattle raising activities are linked to deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado region. Engagement seen as central to effective strategies That sentiment was echoed by a number of companies that have devoted considerable time and resources to the evolution of their policies for addressing deforestation, including food companies Cargill and Mars, food services firm Aramark, restaurant chain McDonald’s and fashion company Kering.  “I think the headline would be: Don’t work alone,” Yoann Regent, biodiversity and animal welfare specialist with Kering, told me in an interview. “Map your sourcing. You can’t do anything if you don’t know where to do it.” But the companies interviewed for this article have differing strategies for how to handle suppliers that don’t comply with their mandates. As already mentioned, Mars made the decision to pare down its partners to root out those with possible connections to deforestation. Kering also takes a relatively hardline approach, one that’s sewn into its contracts.  “Any leather suppliers that have a link to deforestation, especially in the Amazon, would be terminated,” Regent says. “There are so many other alternatives.”  Kering uses tools from NGOs, such as the Forest Mapper from Canopy, and certification information from the Forest Stewardship Council to guide decisions. It’s also planning to embrace an emerging resource from Textile Exchange called the Leather Impact Accelerator , which uses benchmarks to trace animal welfare and deforestation/land-conversion issues at the farm level. Other companies shy away from outright termination and advocate the notion of big companies using their buying power to inspire and demand change deep down into supply chains. Once you sever ties with a supplier, you lose leverage when it comes to convincing them to change business practices, they say.  “Fortunately, all of our suppliers for the relevant commodities are already working on ensuring that deforestation is happening in their respective supply chains,” writes Aramark’s Cacciola. “We focus on continuous improvement, so we engage with our suppliers to make improvements where relevant. We also expect quick and decisive action from suppliers if they do identify issues.”  “We don’t need to boycott, we need to choose the sustainable commodity,” observes Dan Strechay, global outreach and engagement director for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil , which represents more than 4,000 members of the palm oil supply chain with standards focused on sustainable production. “It’s time for everyone to uphold their sourcing policies. We need to implement the policies and reward the growers that we’ve asked to take these steps.”   And, companies need to act with more urgency, he urges: “Don’t take the policy you missed and kick it five years down the road. Make it count in the next two to three years.” Traceability transformed through technology The social distancing requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic have made the already complicated task of tracing and verifying supply chain claims related to forest degradation more difficult — and underscored the critical role that digital technology can play in supporting successful “no deforestation” strategies. Kering is looking to solutions such as isotope tracking, genetic mapping and laser markings as a means of verifying that materials meet health and sourcing requirements, Regent says. McDonald’s is also looking to advanced technologies, notably satellite-mapping, to define its approaches to addressing deforestation. For example, it is working with agtech company AgroTools and Proforest to trace the origin of all Brazilian beef used in McDonald’s restaurants, notes Rachael Sherman, director of global sustainability for McDonald’s, in response to questions submitted for this article. “After determining risk level based on sourcing location, we use a combination of satellite imagery of the farm area and data analysis to assess whether deforestation has taken place and/or is projected to take place,” Sherman wrote. “This enables our suppliers to implement continuous improvement plans with farms that don’t comply with our policy.” McDonald’s is expanding this resource to other regions and has shared it with The Tropical Forest Alliance to encourage broader use, according to the company.  Elsewhere, Cargill is increasingly using a combination of GPS information and satellite imagery to pinpoint where forest degradation is taking place, specifically as part of its cocoa sourcing practices in the Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Bar-coding technology helps trace cocoa to individual farms.  “All of this tracking, mapping and ranking leads us to the most crucial step for making change: partnering with farmers and farmer organizations,” wrote Cargill’s vice president of global sustainability, Jill Kolling, in a GreenBiz article about the project . “The insights we collect can help Cargill determine precisely where to invest resources and how to tailor its farmer engagement initiatives to prevent new deforestation.” The integral role of Indigenous communities Indeed, the companies, NGOs and others contacted for this article echoed a similar conviction: That it will take active, authentic and at-the-ground-level engagement with the communities affected by deforestation — particularly Indigenous peoples — to deliver real progress in eliminating deforestation.  “We’ve seen a big movement in jurisdictional approaches, multi-stakeholder collaborations that include governments, NGOs and smallholder companies,” notes CDP’s Lam. She points to two programs that might serve as models for other initiatives. The first, the forest management program nurtured by paper company UPM, works with landowners to help diversify their revenue sources by co-locating activities such as cattle raising and agriculture alongside sustainable eucalyptus production. The partnerships currently cover more than 296,000 acres of lands — about 30 percent of the wood requirements for the UPM Fray Bentos pulp mill. UPM commits to timber purchases and helps with technical skills and seedlings.  I think the headline would be: Don’t work alone. Map your sourcing. You can’t do anything if you don’t know where to do it. The second, focused on the Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia , is coordinated by the Earthworm Foundation and funded by a who’s-who list of multinationals including The Clorox Company, Colgate-Palmolive, The Hershey Company, Nestlé, Mars and Reckitt Benckiser, among others. It relies on a satellite system to hone which local communities should be priorities for engagement. Within the communities, the focus is on helping local farmers and mill owners secure their economic livelihoods in harmony with conservation practices. “Engagement is very, very important and that is why these multi-stakeholder collaborations are important,” Lam says. A crucial voice in these initiatives should be Indigenous communities, according to the executives and researchers who contributed insights for this article. “You can’t go in with your idea of what sustainability is. … You can’t bring your own perceptions about what will work,” says RSPO’s Strechay.  In particular, businesses should be more diligent about integrating the concept of ” free and prior informed consent ” into their supply chain engagement practices, if they want to take meaningful action on fighting deforestation, notes Global Canopy’s Rogerson.  By considering these rights upfront, companies can surface potential development issues at a much earlier stage. This should be a priority for 2021, Rogerson says, but “far fewer companies have policies for this [than for deforestation], even though these issues are intertwined.” Sustainability teams that feel they are too far removed from those actors to make an impact should engage with organizations that do have those connections, says Kering’s Regent. “Rely on local NGOs, scientific communities,” he says. “They might challenge you, but that is part of the game. Otherwise, you may address the program from the wrong angle.” Rabinovitch of Mars notes that the most important thing a company can do is grasp the reality of the challenges it will face.  “By fully understanding the scale of your carbon footprint and the systemic issues in your value chains, you’ll be able to set science-based targets to guide strategies leading to transformational, not incremental change,” he said. “It certainly isn’t easy work, and you won’t be able to do it alone, so finding partners who share your values and can help you identify achievable goals means your business can make a measurable, meaningful difference.” Pull Quote We’re seeing the end of the commodity era, where materials are sourced from largely unknown origins and bought purely for price on a transactional basis. I think the headline would be: Don’t work alone. Map your sourcing. You can’t do anything if you don’t know where to do it. Topics Supply Chain Forestry Deforestation Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Fires in the Amazon, photographer from space. Close Authorship

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5 circular economy questions for 2021

January 11, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

5 circular economy questions for 2021 Lauren Phipps Mon, 01/11/2021 – 01:00 As I begin to think about the year of content and coverage ahead, I thought I’d start things off by sharing some big questions I’ll be asking in 2021 — plus some predictions on how they might be answered.   1. Will companies align circular economy initiatives with climate goals, or continue to treat these as discrete initiatives?  Prediction: To date, only a handful of companies (and countries) have meaningfully harmonized circular strategies and climate commitments, presumably given the newness of these programs and the complexity of calculating impacts of new models on carbon emissions. I foresee an increase in the research, tracking and reporting on environmental impacts of circular business models (resale, repair, rental, product-as-a-service), and an increased focus on leveraging circular strategies to achieve climate goals.   2. What role will communities and justice play in the conversation about the circular economy? Prediction: A lot. Building on the foundation of environmental justice work in communities across the world, equity and impact will be at the center of how companies and cities alike consider the opportunities of a circular economy. For cities, circular economy initiatives will be used to drive economic equality and create jobs; and for companies, the same scrutiny used to assess upstream supply chains will be applied to downstream value chains.  3. What role will bioplastics and other bio-based materials play in the shift away from nonrenewable materials for packaging and products?  Prediction: Biomaterials will be a hot topic in 2021 as companies seek alternatives to virgin plastics and race towards 2025 goals. A polarizing subject , biomaterials will be assessed through a more holistic lens and will scrutinize upstream implications including food security, deforestation and petroleum-based fertilizers — plus end-of-life management woes. A greater emphasis will be placed on the distinctions between biomaterials and appropriate use cases for each.  4. Will companies scale reuse models, or focus on smaller-scale pilots?  Prediction: As I shared in my 2020 reflections , reuse continues to gain momentum and attention — and for good reason. I foresee a continued rise in reusable packaging models, although more so in numbers of players than in scale of their programs. More localized, smaller-scale startups will jump on the scene, although truly comprehensive models at scale will remain elusive.  5. Will the incoming Biden administration have any impact on progress towards more circular systems?  Prediction: Given last week’s news, I’m more optimistic than ever about the possibility of federal action on plastic pollution and an increased investment in recycling infrastructure — but I’m not holding my breath on sweeping legislation on plastics production in 2021. However, independent of federal policymaking, compliance will play a growing role in corporate action on materials as NGOs hold companies accountable for state-level shortcomings.  What questions are you asking and answers are you seeking in 2021? I invite you to drop me a note at laurenp@greenbiz.com with questions or proposed answers for the year ahead.  Topics Circular Economy Featured Column In the Loop Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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