BofA, BlackRock and State Street CEOs talk stakeholder primacy — and fall short

December 14, 2020 by  
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BofA, BlackRock and State Street CEOs talk stakeholder primacy — and fall short Sara Murphy Mon, 12/14/2020 – 01:45 Some of the world’s biggest asset managers have been talking a lot lately about sustainable capital markets, stakeholder capitalism and how improved environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure can contribute to more resilient markets. While these organizations are taking steps in the right direction, their companies’ actual behavior in the marketplace often falls short of their leaders’ proclamations, and those leaders’ visions for capital markets fail to rise to the increasingly urgent challenges that confront our society. At the recent 2020 Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Symposium , the CEOs of Bank of America (BofA), BlackRock and State Street provided their views on the role of the private sector in addressing societal challenges and why ESG integration is no longer optional. They led with their thoughts on stakeholder capitalism, a concept that has exploded since Aug. 19, 2019, when the Business Roundtable (BRT) updated its Principles of Corporate Governance to redefine “the purpose of a corporation to promote an economy that serves all Americans.” CEOs from 181 publicly traded companies — including those addressing the SASB Symposium — signed the principles, which purportedly signaled an end to Milton Friedman’s doctrine of shareholder primacy established in the 1970s, and the beginning of a new era of stakeholder capitalism. “The concept of just one stakeholder — shareholders — has evolved and changed,” said Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. He noted the need for businesses to work with their employees and clients, and in a globalizing world, to work with the societies in which businesses operate. We’re not looking for short-term blips as a shareholder but rather durability. “This creates some difficulties but companies that manage this set themselves up for long-term profitability,” Fink said. “We’re not looking for short-term blips as a shareholder but rather durability. In challenging cycles like the pandemic, those companies are the ones that make it through and endure. That’s how management and boards need to think about this.” Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan concurred, adding that a long-term focus on all constituencies helps to attract talent and customers. State Street Global Advisors CEO Cyrus Taporevala remarked that asset managers and owners are reacting to three trends: a growing correlation between ESG factors and investment risk; end investors wanting to see their ESG preferences expressed in their investments; and regulators around the world signaling an intention to require more around ESG criteria, reporting and investing. A clarion call to convergence All three CEOs repeatedly asserted an urgent imperative for the financial services industry to “coalesce” and “converge” around standardized disclosure of ESG information and data, perhaps unsurprising given that SASB — the symposium’s host — is a leading disclosure framework. Their general argument was that standardized disclosure is less burdensome for companies, which will enhance the quality of reporting and encourage smaller companies to participate. It allows for collection and analysis of large data sets that help investors, regulators and the public to assess and compare companies’ ESG performance, they said. In addition to SASB, the CEOs pointed to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) as a leading standard. Moynihan recommended convergence with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “If that’s what the world told us we need to do across 90 countries in 2015, then that’s what we should be aiming to achieve,” he said. The CEOs also emphasized the value of transparency. “We need people to say what they’re doing so they can be encouraged to do more,” Moynihan said. “When we [at Bank of America] make decisions about whom to lend to, we have the information, but the world may not. It’s a little behind the curtain. Standardized disclosure will cascade down the system, even to a middle-market private company where employees and customers will ask, ‘Where’s our disclosure?’” “Transparency reveals the good and the bad,” Fink said. “Better financial and sustainability disclosure forces management and the board to have laser focus. It lifts us faster, even if we’re embarrassed at times when we’re not moving as quickly as we should.” Too little too slowly And indeed, they’re not moving as quickly as they should, and the actions of these three companies are not entirely setting the examples these CEOs espouse. Bank of America is the world’s fourth leading financer of fossil fuels , even as the imperative to decarbonize the economy to stave off the worst effects of climate change grows more urgent by the day. In 2019 the company agreed to pay $4.2 million to resolve employment discrimination allegations brought by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Nevertheless, Bank of America maintains it is fulfilling its commitment to stakeholder primacy. Standardized disclosure will cascade down the system, even to a middle-market private company where employees and customers will ask, ‘Where’s our disclosure?’ Among 60 of the world’s largest asset managers, BlackRock was the fourth least supportive and State Street the 13th least supportive of shareholders’ efforts to promote better social and environmental stewardship among companies in their portfolios, according to a recent analysis by campaigning organization Share Action. Both companies’ own reporting and disclosure on their social and environmental stewardship lacks the sort of transparency and meaningful information they purport to champion in the marketplace. This may be because a pernicious tension is built into the entire stakeholder capitalism construct. A question of purpose and prosperity “We’re not trying to disrupt a company or destroy their footprint or business,” Fink said. “I know some people would like for us to do that, but that is not our fiduciary responsibility. Our fiduciary responsibility is to maximize profit.” “State Street Global Advisors is looking to get the best risk-adjusted return for investors, and we come at ESG from a perspective of value, not values,” Taporevala said. “It’s not up to us as a fiduciary to decide what the right values are.” Therein lies the conundrum: What’s best for the social and environmental systems on which our economy depends won’t always align with an individual company’s profit maximization. Companies, investors and shareholders will have to reckon with this reality. Rick Alexander, founder and CEO of The Shareholder Commons, expounded on this point in a February article : Most investors hold broadly diversified portfolios and rely on their job as their primary financial asset. They need a healthy economy and planet in order to have solid portfolio returns, decent wages and good lives. They know that some companies need to surrender shareholder value in order to preserve the critical systems we all rely on (think coal, oil, tobacco and, not coincidentally, large financial institutions that threaten systemic stability). A recent study determined that publicly traded companies create annual social and environmental costs of $2.2 trillion. While any given company may profit by ignoring costs that it can externalize, its diversified shareholders ultimately pay the price. Moynihan emphasized that the world’s problems cannot be solved without leadership from the private sector. He pointed to the SDGs, noting that all the charitable spending in the world doesn’t amount to the estimated cost of delivering on those goals. “You could go to governments, but they’re running huge deficits, and they don’t have the money,” Moynihan said. The three CEOs talked at length about the importance of coalescing around a common set of metrics and data, but that’s only a partial solution. If the objective is truly to assure our ongoing prosperity, then everyone involved in capital markets must prioritize the vital systems upon which a thriving economy depends, rather than profit margins at any one company. At the end of the day, only that approach will serve both shareholders and stakeholders. Pull Quote We’re not looking for short-term blips as a shareholder but rather durability. Standardized disclosure will cascade down the system, even to a middle-market private company where employees and customers will ask, ‘Where’s our disclosure?’ Topics Finance & Investing Reporting TCFD GreenFin Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off “The Fearless Girl” statue facing Charging Bull in Lower Manhattan, New York City (June 2017) Shutterstock Quietbits Close Authorship

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BofA, BlackRock and State Street CEOs talk stakeholder primacy — and fall short

What is the role of gas efficiency in the time of building electrification?

December 10, 2020 by  
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What is the role of gas efficiency in the time of building electrification? Alejandra Mejia Thu, 12/10/2020 – 00:30 Transitioning most of our energy uses to clean electricity in an equitable manner is necessary to meet our 2050 climate goals. But what is the role of gas energy efficiency programs as we move to electrify America’s buildings? The short answer is there are still plenty of economic, climate and energy benefits to pursue as long as utilities and their regulators adhere to a few simple guidelines: Prioritize improving the efficiency of building “envelopes”; addressing the pressing needs of under-resourced (low-income) communities and communities of color; and eliminating incentives for building new homes that use gas.  For years, energy efficiency has been one of the energy sector’s silver bullets . Investing in efficiency improvements has held America’s energy use constant over the last 15 years despite a 33 percent increase in GDP, saved households an average of $500 each year on utility bills and created 2.4 million U.S. jobs. As we reduce the use of fossil fuels directly in our homes and buildings by installing appliances that can run on 100 percent clean electricity, efficiency still will be an important tool for avoiding unnecessary electric system costs in the future. Efficiency’s role in equitable building electrification To stabilize our climate and successfully transition to a thriving clean energy economy, we need to eliminate virtually all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the buildings where we live and work. This likely means replacing nearly every fossil fuel-burning appliance with one that can run on electricity generated from clean sources such as wind and power. Given the magnitude of this challenge , we must ensure that none of our energy investments are at cross-purposes to this goal. For efficiency funding that is not tied to a specific fuel — programs that don’t care whether a home uses gas or electricity — this means focusing on and fully funding the transition to efficient, all-electric technologies that are key to meeting our climate goals. It also means prioritizing the smooth, equitable transition of under-resourced and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPoC) communities that have disproportionately higher energy burdens off the fossil fuel system. If we do not prioritize the people who are least able to afford new all-electric equipment in this transition, we risk leaving them holding the bag on a system with a decreasing customer base and increasing costs. As more people transition to all-electric buildings, the costs of maintaining the gas system will rise for those still dependent on it. If we do not prioritize the people who are least able to afford new all-electric equipment in this transition, we risk leaving them holding the bag on a system with a decreasing customer base and increasing costs.   Focus on building efficiency for long-term success Gas efficiency programs are funded by gas utility customers. They commonly offer rebates for new efficient gas appliances and fund weatherization and other building efficiency upgrades. A recent American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) report makes several helpful recommendations for improving the efficacy and cost-benefit of those programs. In particular, we agree that “going forward, building shell improvements in existing buildings will be particularly important to reduce costs and emissions,” and that increased partnerships and cost-sharing between gas and electric utilities is necessary to fully realize the benefits of such an investment. However, the report does not suggest how to balance the short-term benefits of some efficient gas appliances with the reality that those appliances will operate — and produced GHG emissions — for 10 to 20 years. One way to strike this balance is to focus gas programs on improving the efficiency of the buildings, rather than on the appliances within them. That includes insulating buildings, reducing air infiltrations, improving ventilation and upgrading windows. Envelope efficiency helps homes and businesses stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and improve indoor air quality while reducing energy costs, regardless of the type of energy. Envelope upgrades improve the quality of life of residents, especially those living in housing that is in disrepair due to historic underinvestment, and make it easier and cheaper to switch those buildings and residents to 100 percent clean electricity when the time is right. Because continuing to install long-lived gas appliances is incompatible with meeting our climate and equity goals, gas efficiency funds no longer should go toward any fossil gas equipment unless there is a clear social, health or equity concern or crisis that cannot be effectively addressed with efficient all-electric solutions. All-electric equipment should be the preferred solution and all available efforts (including envelope efficiency) should be leveraged to make those clean electric options work for residents. How to avoid locking people into a polluting gas system Gas efficiency programs, like all clean energy initiatives, should prioritize the BIPoC and low-income communities that historically have been underserved . With regards to appliance rebates, this means first and foremost doing everything possible to help these residents move off the fossil gas system while saving money. However, in some cases, largely depending on local weather and electricity costs, providing immediate relief from disproportionate energy burdens and unhealthy living conditions may involve installing new, highly efficient gas appliances. The decision to install gas or electric appliances should be weighed carefully and be based on the following three key factors: The short-term cost to residents of electrifying home energy uses in areas with high utility rates.  A full accounting of the long-term costs of maintaining a safe and reliable gas delivery system. The risk that a new gas appliance will lead to higher energy costs in the future for the customer receiving that appliance.  Continuing to install gas equipment at the same time we’re working to reduce our dependence on all fossil fuels risks leaving the most vulnerable customers to pay the rising costs of an underused gas system. To prevent this, California consumer advocates recently asked regulators to investigate when efficiency programs reserved for low-income customers should sunset their gas appliance incentives in favor of clean electric options. We should be asking these questions about every energy efficiency program in every state and ensuring that BIPoC leaders are helping set and adopt the solutions for their own communities. Building clean from the start is more important every day Finally, we should not be investing any more of our energy efficiency funds on helping new buildings pipe for and install gas appliances. Most buildings that will house us in 2050 already have been built — which is why how we operate and upgrade those buildings today is so important to securing a stable climate future. But we will continue to build new homes and offices in the meantime, and it is vital that those buildings do not continue to further our dependence on polluting fossil fuels. Building efficient, healthy, all-electric buildings will mean lower energy costs from the start . This will be particularly important for affordable housing for under-resourced households as it ensures their energy costs are minimized from the get-go and that they are insulated from having to finance the rising costs of the gas system as electrification of existing buildings takes hold. Pull Quote If we do not prioritize the people who are least able to afford new all-electric equipment in this transition, we risk leaving them holding the bag on a system with a decreasing customer base and increasing costs. Topics Energy & Climate Electrification Energy Efficiency NRDC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Gas programs should focus on improving the efficiency of the buildings, rather than on the appliances within them. That includes insulating buildings, reducing air infiltrations and more. Photo by  Lisa-S  on Shutterstock.

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Converging crises call for converging solutions

November 20, 2020 by  
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Converging crises call for converging solutions Sarah Golden Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:45 In the words of President-elect Joe Biden, America is facing four historic colliding crises: the economy; a pandemic; systemic racism; and climate chaos.  These aren’t four separate asteroids all coincidentally headed our way at once. They’re intertwined and part of the same challenges; they’re the consequence of decades of actions and inactions that are boiling over and activating one another. It stands to reason that we couldn’t silo solutions.  Perversely, it is possible that economic crises will be the catalyst we need to address climate change. That’s because the problems have the same solution: the rapid deployment of clean technologies across the economy.  COVID, the economy and emissions As the world pressed pause this spring in an attempt to flatten the coronavirus curve, our emissions curve flattened, too. We conducted a science experiment on a historic scale: What happens to emissions when everyone (or a large majority of people) stands still?  As the year rounds to a close, the results are becoming clear: We’re on track to reduce carbon emissions from energy by 8 percent.  While significant, I am surprised that the emission reductions are so small. It reflects the limits of individual action; even if we all do everything we can, the built-in emissions to our economy still will bust our carbon budget. America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. More distressing is the projection of emissions as our economy recovers. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook , carbon emissions are set to rise through 2027, then decline 0.7 percent per year through 2050. That would put the world on track for 3.3 degrees Celsius of warming.  In order to have a chance at 2 C warming, emissions would need to decrease 10 times faster. If we’re striving for 1.5 C warming (and we are), emissions will need to drop fourteenfold faster.  We can rebuild the economy without ramping up emissions Historically, emissions and the economy are closely related. It makes sense; when people have more money, they tend to use more energy, travel more, buy more things. Likewise, the only three times emissions fell between 1975 and 2015 were during the recessions of the 1980s, 1992 and 2009. And when the economy rebounded, so did emissions .  Climate skeptics have weaponized this correlation to frame the economy and the environment as trade-offs.  But thanks to clean energy, this relationship is no longer true. In 2016, the International Energy Agency confirmed that emissions and economic growth have decoupled. For the first time in more than 40 years, global GDP grew in 2014 and 2015 — but emissions didn’t.  That’s great news for this moment; the work we need to do to decarbonize is the same work that can pull us out of a global recession. Building a new type of future  The concept of a Green New Deal predates the COVID crises. Yet the harkening to the New Deal, the massive federal effort to pull America out of the depths of the Great Depression, feels prescient as we reckon with the worst economy in a century.  And it may be the urgency to address the faltering economy that spurs the necessary policy alignment to reach true decarbonization.  The numbers are there. Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy released a report in September making the case for investment in clean energy R&D to create jobs and boost the economy, and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy commissioned a report to analyze the spillover economic gains from such an investment. Saul Griffith’s new organization, Rewiring America , shows how decarbonizing the economy would require around 25 million jobs in the U.S.  While the New Deal did wonders for the economy, it arguably had elements that lacked a strategic lens. Case in point: The Bureau of Reclamation damming every river it could in the west, regardless whether it was justified. Imagine what would be possible with a New Deal that has a guiding principle: rapid decarbonization.  America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Climate change, for reasons I don’t understand, proves to be a difficult unifier. But the economy — now that’s something Americans can get behind.  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Topics Energy & Climate Racial Issues COVID-19 Clean Economy Featured Column Power Points 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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How effective stakeholder engagement shaped Samsonite’s ESG strategy

November 16, 2020 by  
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How effective stakeholder engagement shaped Samsonite’s ESG strategy Christine Rile… Mon, 11/16/2020 – 01:00 In March, Samsonite announced “Our Responsible Journey,” a new global sustainability strategy that outlines its commitments across four priority areas: Product Innovation; Carbon Action; Thriving Supply Chain; and Our People, including engagement, development, diversity and inclusion. Samsonite is proud of its 110-year history of industry leadership in the innovation, quality and durability of its products. With Our Responsible Journey, Samsonite strives to lead the lifestyle bag and travel luggage industry across key sustainability indicators, including the use of recycled materials in its products and packaging and achieving carbon neutrality across its owned and operated facilities. With strong support from the entire senior management team and especially from Samsonite CEO Kyle Gendreau, the company has embarked on this journey to make sustainability a key tenet of its brand promise. The goal is to keep the world traveling while staying true to Samsonite’s long-standing ethos, the “Golden Rule,” which guides how we treat each other and care for the world we live in. Our CEO and the Samsonite leadership team wholeheartedly supported the initiative and even encouraged us to up-level some key goals in order to truly lead the industry in sustainability. Samsonite first disclosed the state of its environmental, social and governance (ESG) journey with the publication of its first ESG report in 2016, a requirement for the company’s listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. When I joined as the company’s first global director of sustainability in December 2017, I was tasked with developing a global ESG strategy that would include attainable goals and the action plans that would enable the company to demonstrate continuous improvement and progress toward achieving those goals. We report our progress annually in Samsonite’s ESG report. From the very beginning, the Samsonite executive team empowered me to take the lead on developing an industry-leading approach. The team was directly involved in every phase of the project, including providing feedback, participating in interviews and dedicating resources from their respective regions and functional areas. With executive support, I engaged with Brodie, a London-based consulting firm, to co-lead our materiality assessment. Materiality assessments matter I am a firm believer in the value of materiality assessments, especially when a company is first developing a sustainability strategy. It enables you to identify and validate your issues objectively; educate your company and colleagues about your ESG efforts; effectively allocate resources for your ESG strategy and strengthen credibility with external stakeholders. As we progressed through the internal interview process, I was continually impressed by the number of initiatives already underway to increase the use of sustainable materials in our products and to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, Samsonite North America launched its first product made with post-consumer recycled PET fabric, in January 2018, one month after I started. And by the end of my first year, we already had diverted nearly 30 million PET bottles from landfills through our global use of post-consumer recycled PET fabric in our products. In addition, the company already had installed solar panels on its manufacturing facilities in Hungary and Belgium and had plans to install them on its manufacturing facility in India. It became clear that one of my primary responsibilities would be to identify and organize all of these existing efforts under a comprehensive, focused strategy. Based on the outcomes of the materiality assessment, we identified four key pillars focused on Samsonite’s products, carbon footprint, supply chain and people. One key learning ;from the materiality assessment was that when people thought about sustainability, they often defined it in the context of the environment. As a result, we realized we had to include a brief overview of the issues that fall under the umbrella of ESG so people would evaluate the business across a broader range of initiatives. We further identified two action platforms within each pillar that would allow the company to set goals and to communicate our progress. For example, one pillar focuses on product innovation because Samsonite’s ambition is to lighten the journey of its customers by creating the best products using the most sustainable and innovative materials, methods and models. Within that pillar, we have an action platform that focuses specifically on materials innovation to drive continuous improvement toward developing new, more sustainable materials and increasing the use of more sustainable materials in Samsonite products and packaging. The other action platform targets the product lifecycle and underscores the company’s efforts to continue to make products that are built to last, repairable and, eventually, recyclable. Goals that are specific, yet ambitious The next step was to articulate specific goals and, ultimately, we identified nine global goals with targets set for 2025 and 2030. One of Samsonite’s goals is to achieve carbon neutrality across its owned and operated facilities by 2030. Recognizing that the company’s impact extends beyond its own facilities, we also set a goal to estimate, track and support actions to reduce Scope 3 emissions — those emissions tied to Samonite’s business but outside our control. Our CEO and the Samsonite leadership team wholeheartedly supported the initiative and even encouraged us to up-level some key goals in order to truly lead the industry in sustainability. One of our original goals focused on developing a recyclable suitcase. The feedback was that this was too narrow in its scope. The final goal is more aspirational and states that the company will continue to develop innovative solutions to ensure the durability of its products, extend the life of products and develop viable end-of-life solutions to divert as many of its products from the landfill for as long as possible. The directive was to expand the company’s ambition and further incentivize continuous innovation. The resulting set of goals better reflect Samsonite’s vision and its ambition. Complementing this effort, we needed to establish a global carbon footprint across 1,500 retail, office, manufacturing and distribution facilities worldwide. Partnering with Industrial Economics (IEc), an environmental consulting firm, we collaborated with cross-functional leads worldwide. Specifically, we worked with individuals responsible for the equipment and operations at our owned and operated manufacturing and distribution centers; representatives from our IT and HR departments who source office equipment and train employees on energy-efficient behaviors; and employees from our retail and development teams who make decisions about lighting and real estate. We also worked with global finance teams to collect hundreds of utility bills to ensure an accurate and representative sample size. From all this data, we established a baseline using 2017 data. An extended dialogue While the process is relatively straightforward, Brodie, IEc and I did not do it in a vacuum. Critical to our success was engaging a wide-ranging group of internal stakeholders and subject matter experts. Samsonite operates using a primarily decentralized management structure across its four key regions: North America; Asia; Europe; and Latin America. With the strong support of our regional presidents, we formed a global sustainability committee and a global carbon reduction committee. Membership is varied across functional areas and included human resources, marketing, sourcing, facilities, retail, finance and product development. Participants are nominated by their regional president based on their contribution to the company’s sustainability efforts and/or their interest in the topic. Another way we engaged internal stakeholders was by holding extensive feedback sessions with representatives from different functional areas about the respective goals to ensure that they would be able to successfully implement initiatives and provide data that would be useful and practical when demonstrating progress. The directive was to expand the company’s ambition and further incentivize continuous innovation. The resulting set of goals better reflect Samsonite’s vision and its ambition. For example, when we first set a product-related goal, we recommended establishing a target percentage of sustainable materials across our product lines. As we engaged the design and sourcing teams, it became clear that the target percentage was distracting us from the intent of the goal to increase our use of sustainable materials. There were endless ways to define that number, and we would need to spend significant time determining how to measure it. Rather than significantly delaying the goal-setting process, we decided to develop the quantitative target as part of measurement process. Now that the goals have been announced, we are actively working with marketing, design and sourcing to clearly define how we will demonstrate progress against our goal to increase the use of materials with sustainable credentials in all our products and packaging to lessen our impact on the environment. The global carbon reduction committee was involved in the process of choosing the environmental consulting firm, reviewing proposals, meeting with the candidates and making a final recommendation to work with IEc. The individual committee members, along with others, also provided feedback on the data-collection process. We shared both the results and the credit with everyone who was part of the process. This extensive stakeholder engagement meant that the process took two years from launching the materiality assessment to announcing the strategy. I am proud Samsonite has a sustainability approach that everyone can feel ownership of, and ultimately all of us are invested in its successful implementation. The world has changed a lot over the past two years, and especially during the past six months. Sustainability is increasingly important to consumers as more and more, we recognize the impact of our behaviors and consumption habits on the environment. I am proud that Samsonite has developed an ESG strategy that aligns with my personal and professional commitments and with Samsonite’s ethos, the “Golden Rule,” which guides how we treat each other and care for the world we live in. Pull Quote Our CEO and the Samsonite leadership team wholeheartedly supported the initiative and even encouraged us to up-level some key goals in order to truly lead the industry in sustainability. The directive was to expand the company’s ambition and further incentivize continuous innovation. The resulting set of goals better reflect Samsonite’s vision and its ambition. Topics Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The interior of a Samsonite facility. Courtesy of Samsonite Close Authorship

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How Biden’s election could kickstart U.S. adoption of zero-emission vehicles

November 11, 2020 by  
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How Biden’s election could kickstart U.S. adoption of zero-emission vehicles Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 11/11/2020 – 00:15 Relief. Most of us in clean economy circles are feeling it after the historic and protracted win by America’s President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris over the weekend.  The industries that make up the zero-emission vehicles sector — infrastructure providers, automakers, mobility startups — are one of the sectors that could gain the most from the Biden win. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and a Biden administration that takes the threat of climate change seriously will make it a priority to tackle transportation emissions.  Here are five things I’m watching for in a Biden bump that would accelerate ZEVs across the U.S.: Trump’s weakening of the auto emissions standards is toast: Earlier this year, the Trump administration officially weakened the federal auto emission standards that the Obama administration had enacted. The Trump administration called for just a 1.5 percent increase in carbon emissions standards per year through model year 2026, while the Obama plan called for a 5 percent yearly increase.  Expect a Biden administration to not only revert back to the Obama-era emissions standards but potentially strengthen them considerably, moving more aggressively toward zero emissions. California also sued the Trump administration, attempting to protect its right to set stricter auto emission standards than the weakened one. You can expect this battle, too, to die on the vine as the Biden administration is not likely to challenge California’s clean air waiver.  The U.S. could follow California’s ZEV mandates: If the federal government follows California lead, it already could use enacted ZEV mandates and incentives as a model for the U.S. The World Resources Institute’s Dan Lashof advocates that the Biden administration should set a clean car standard that models California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently enacted executive order to ban new gas car sales by 2035. The U.S. also could implement zero-emission commercial vehicles through legislation such as the Advanced Clean Truck Rule, WRI notes, that would set timelines to convert trucks and buses to zero emissions. Aggressive? Yep. But we can hope! Look for new transportation and clean air leadership: With a new administration comes new leaders that will have a dramatic effect on the shape of building back climate and environmental regulations. Politico has a great rundown on some potential Biden appointees. The ones that sustainable transportation advocates will be most interested in: California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols told GreenBiz at VERGE 20 last month that she’d say “yes” if Biden called on her to help rebuild the EPA. She’s supposedly the front-runner. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is reported to be the leading candidate for Transportation Secretary. Garcetti has committed to moving Los Angeles to zero-carbon transportation by 2050. Ernie Moniz and Arun Majumdar , two former Department of Energy leaders, are reported to be in the running for top spots in the DOE.  Watch for a ZEV infrastructure build-out: Earlier this year, the Biden administration revealed a $2 trillion climate plan that specifically calls out investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help build back the economy. On Biden’s transition website , the administration says it will create millions of new jobs funding new infrastructure and investing in the future of a domestic auto industry. The administration says it also will fund zero-emission public transit in cities — from light rail to better bike infrastructure to buses.  Anne Smart, vice president of public policy for EV charging company ChargePoint, said: “In his campaign platform, President-elect Biden called for the deployment EV charging stations across the nation. Now we have the opportunity to turn this promise into action through legislative initiatives such as the Clean Corridors Act , which will drive significant investment in EV charging and create jobs across the country.”   Non-profit Veloz, focused on electric vehicle advocacy in California, said it hopes to see a Biden administration overcome the three remaining barriers to the electrification of transportation; upfront cost; building out charging infrastructure; and increasing public awareness. Hope for stimulus for EV buses: If the federal government were able to provide stimulus incentive money for cities to convert their bus fleets to electric, it could be an effective stimulus strategy, noted WRI’s Lashof in a call with media Monday. Why? EV buses already can save cities money on fuel and maintenance costs, and also reduce air pollution, but it’s just the upfront cost of the EV bus that’s the barrier. If stimulus money can eliminate the extra cost between a diesel bus and an EV bus — the way incentives do in some states such as California — the ZEV transition could happen more quickly. What do you think? How do you think a Biden administration could kick start the zero-emission vehicle revolution? Drop me a note: katie@greenbiz.com . Topics Transportation & Mobility Carbon Policy Zero Emissions Electric Vehicles Public Transit EV Charging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off President-elect Joe Biden walking with supporters at a pre-Wing Ding march from Molly McGowan Park in Clear Lake, Iowa, in May 2020. Shutterstock Pix Arena Close Authorship

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If people will believe in QAnon, why won’t they believe in climate change?

November 4, 2020 by  
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If people will believe in QAnon, why won’t they believe in climate change? Suzanne Shelton Wed, 11/04/2020 – 00:15 In 2017, 65 percent of Americans believed that climate change was occurring and that it was caused by human activity. According to our latest Eco Pulse polling, that number is down to 55 percent. Now, what I regularly tell people about this seemingly distressing news is that the number of actual climate deniers — Americans who believe climate change isn’t occurring at all — stands at only 17 percent, right where it was in 2016. I regularly say, “We need to stop focusing on whose fault it is. If your kid calls you and says he or she has just been in a car wreck, your first question is, ‘Are you OK?’ not, ‘Whose fault was it?’ So, in our messaging let’s just focus on the fact that there’s a widely acknowledged problem and we should all do something about it.” I do still think that’s the right approach. But as noted in my blog post a couple of weeks ago , I think those of us in the sustainability community have something to learn from the Disinformation Machine. And I’ve found myself pondering the question in the headline of this piece a lot. To me, the QAnon conspiracy theory doesn’t even seem like a viable plot for a Hollywood blockbuster. Imagine the pitch to an A-list star: “So, half the politicians in Washington, and many in the entertainment industry, are leading a Satanic cult, kidnapping children and forcing them into a shadowy underworld of sex trafficking. These terrible villains sometimes kill the children to extract their adrenaline in order to make themselves younger and more powerful. You’re the president of the United States, recruited specifically to run for president so that you can destroy this evil plan. Many people in this terrifying cult will try to stop you — accusing you of courting foreign interference in your election, trying to impeach you, even throwing a pandemic your way. But you will not be stopped!” I can see three things the QAnon story has going for it that we need to figure out in the land of sustainability communications. Can’t you picture any star going, “Um, neat. And no.” It just sounds too far-fetched, right? How could that possibly be a plausible story? Of course, that’s how some people feel about climate change. As in, “Really? You expect me to believe in some unseen force that’s going to destroy life as we know it, and I’m supposed to give up fossil fuels and meat to save us all? Come on …” I can see three things the QAnon story has going for it that we need to figure out in the land of sustainability communications: 1. Save the children. That’s a QAnon rallying cry that looks to be pretty effective in pulling more mainstream moms into the fold. Most moms, myself included, are instinctively wired to protect children in peril. This is why it’s imperative that we stop talking about climate change as something that’s going to affect “future generations.” Who the heck are those people? And how am I supposed to have personal feelings about a generation? No, frame the message as “your children and grandchildren.” Co-opt the idea of “save the children” to use it to move people to take action against climate change. 2. Evil/the Devil. I recently finished the seventh Harry Potter book with my daughter. If you’ve read it — or even just heard about it — you know the entire series is about Harry ultimately saving the wizarding world from Voldemort, the incarnation of evil. We get how awful Voldemort is, and we desperately want Harry to win. That same idea has been played out over and over in books, movies and even in country-building — Nazi Germany horrifyingly positioned an entire group of people as evil. QAnon is doing the same thing (and many parallels have been drawn to anti-Semitic tropes). The trick, then, is how do we create an evil target to fight against to move people to action on climate change? Perhaps climate change itself is the evil? Perhaps it’s Big Oil? We need a villain to make our narrative more powerful. 3. Somebody people want a reason to hate. One thing I think is particularly nefarious and powerful about the QAnon narrative is that it holds up celebrities that many in America may want a reason to hate as perpetrators of the atrocities. It’s unpopular to hate Oprah Winfrey or the Pope. But say you actually don’t like them, for whatever reason. QAnon gives you a reason to justify your hate. And the whole Hillary Clinton “lock her up” thing that’s really old news? QAnon gives you a reason to bring it back and erase any lingering worries about the fact that Trump didn’t win the popular vote. “Who cares if she won the popular vote … she’s evil!” I don’t know who the equivalent is, but the “fight climate change” narrative needs more than a villain — we need a villain that people love to hate. Pull Quote I can see three things the QAnon story has going for it that we need to figure out in the land of sustainability communications. Topics Marketing & Communication Climate Change Collective Insight Speaking Sustainably Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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If people will believe in QAnon, why won’t they believe in climate change?

Hauser & Wirth gallery, where adaptive reuse and art thrive

November 3, 2020 by  
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New York’s West Chelsea neighborhood has a distinct character that residents have worked to preserve over the years. The neighborhood is full of historic buildings and architecture that showcases America’s design past. But West Chelsea has also become a home for innovation, art and culture. The new Hauser & Wirth building in West Chelsea celebrates this culture by preserving the community’s history and allowing art to flourish all in the same space. Selldorf Architects designed the space, which resides in the West Chelsea Arts District. Working in collaboration with Hauser & Wirth, Selldorf Architects has created multiple adaptive reuse projects in New York. The new Hauser & Wirth building has a contemporary facade composed of concrete blocks and zinc panels. The concrete blocks were sustainably sourced and partially made with recycled waste glass and aggregate. Additionally, glazed openings fill the interior spaces with light. Big, open spaces inside provide plenty of room for art installations. Gleaming polished concrete runs throughout the building, and walls of white plaster provide a bright, clean background for bold, imaginative art displays. The ground floor’s 16-foot glass door can be folded and opened up completely, giving the world outside a view of the amazing art within. The second floor has 12-foot glass doors that open up the same way. Another opening, a glazed roof hatch, resides on the fifth floor. This hatch serves two purposes: to bring natural light into the space and to allow large artworks to be lifted by crane into the building. A bar and event space on the second floor hosts artist appearances and public gatherings. Appropriately, the first project displayed in the building was called “Artists for New York.” Artists donated pieces to help raise funds for a group of 16 non-profit visual arts organizations in New York impacted by COVID-19. + Hauser & Wirth Images via Hauser & Wirth

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Hauser & Wirth gallery, where adaptive reuse and art thrive

Impossible Foods is testing revolutionary plant-based milk

October 26, 2020 by  
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What Impossible Foods has done for veggie burgers — created something that looks, tastes and bleeds like meat — the food technology company is now doing for milk. Impossible Foods has unveiled that it is developing a plant-based milk that mimics the taste, texture and functionality of dairy milk. When plant-based milks already fill multiple shelves in health food stores across America, why do we need more? “The plant-based alternatives that are out there are inadequate,” said Impossible Foods CEO Patrick O. Brown, as reported by CNBC . “The reality is that if they weren’t, there wouldn’t be a dairy market.” Consumers want milk that doesn’t separate when stirred into hot coffee. The new Impossible Foods plant-based milk won’t separate, as demonstrated by the company’s food scientists in a press conference. Related: Impossible Foods debuts plant-based pork at CES That dairy market is shrinking, while plant-based products are on the rise. Last year, non-dairy milks brought in $1.8 billion. But Brown won’t rest until there’s no meat or milk market left at all. His goal is to substitute plant-based alternatives for all animal-derived foods by 2035. Brown has called animal agriculture “the world’s most destructive technology” and is on a mission to save the world from global warming by providing faux products to please mainstream tastes. Because as we all know by now, people aren’t going to change their habits just because they’re destroying the planet. A launch date has not yet been announced for the product, which is still in the development stage. Since its founding in 2011, Impossible Foods has raised $1.5 billion in investment capital. Its next R&D goals include creating life-like fish, steak and bacon. Brown is not skimping on a smart workforce. In a press conference last week, he invited engineers and scientists to join the company’s Impossible Investigator Project. “Whatever else you may be doing, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the impact you can have here with our project,” he said. “Leave your stupid job and come join us.” + Impossible Foods Via VegNews and CNBC Image via Pixabay

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Parsing Panera’s plan to nudge consumers toward low-carbon meals

October 23, 2020 by  
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Parsing Panera’s plan to nudge consumers toward low-carbon meals Jim Giles Fri, 10/23/2020 – 01:00 Something changed recently in America’s fast-casual restaurants. It involved only a single company, but it could herald the start of a fundamental shift in the choices that diners make. I’ll get to what happened in a minute, but first take a step back and consider the information available when you buy food. At the grocery store, you’re bombarded with labels: organic and its new extension, regenerative organic; various competing fair trade standards; certifications relating to animal health and so on. Notice that these widely used labels tell you nothing about the climate change impact of your choices. If you’re eating out, you might find calorie information on menus and, typically at more boutique restaurants, notes on where ingredients were sourced from. Again, you’re unlikely to see anything relating to climate. This matters, because the greenhouse gas emissions generated by different kinds of food vary widely. Here’s a useful summary, courtesy of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan: The reluctance of brands to use climate labels may be partly because it isn’t clear what consumers would do with emissions information. In 2007, for instance, PepsiCo added a label to its Walkers potato chips noting that each bag generated 80 grams of carbon dioxide . A few years later, the label was gone. “With consumers not having enough points of comparison to make the label a useful tool at the time, it was discontinued,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told me. There’s been little progress since, but 2020 looks to be the year when things started to change. In June, Unilever announced ambitious plans to attach carbon labels to its products . Now restaurants are acting, too. The change I referred to earlier is happening at Panera Bread, where many menu items now have a “Cool Food” badge attached to them.  The label, developed by the World Resources Institute , indicates that the emissions generated by the item are in line with the institute’s recommended dietary carbon footprint. This is 38 percent smaller than the U.S. average, a cut that WRI research has found is needed by 2030 to help avoid the worst impacts of climate change. There are two reasons why I think this could be the start of something meaningful. First, the Panera Bread brand isn’t built around environmental values, as you might expect from an early mover in this space. Panera and the WRI seem to have recognized this by making it easy for consumers to make low-carbon choices. Contrast that with the Walkers experiment: PepsiCo deserves credit for being ahead of its time, but the information consumers saw on the chips — 80 grams of carbon dioxide — wasn’t meaningful to anyone aside from climate experts. (For experts and anyone else who wants more details on what qualifies as a Cool Food Meal, Panera has provided a breakdown of emissions associated with each menu item .) It’s also critical that Panera is not going it alone. The badge is based on extensive WRI research and builds on work that the institute has been doing with foodservice operators. The hope is that other restaurants will adopt the badge, making it easier for people to find climate-friendly options whenever they eat out. One quick aside before sign off. I described Panera as an early adopter, but the first mover here might be the Just Salad chain, which introduced carbon labels last month . After I mentioned the Panera announcement a couple of weeks back, Just Salad emailed to argue that items on its menu generate less carbon than comparable offerings at Panera. I’d like to dig into this in the future, but for now, I’ll just note that it’s awesome to see chains competing on carbon.  Topics Food & Agriculture Food & Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Quality HD Close Authorship

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Parsing Panera’s plan to nudge consumers toward low-carbon meals

San José’s bold new plan for climate-friendly transit

October 13, 2020 by  
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San José’s bold new plan for climate-friendly transit Elizabeth Stampe Tue, 10/13/2020 – 00:22 San José is rolling out the green carpet for biking, thanks to the city council’s unanimous passage of the Better Bike Plan 2025 . With the plan’s adoption, the city commits to building a 550-mile network of bike lanes, boulevards and trails to help thousands more people ride safely. The plan is realistic about the past, acknowledging San José’s sprawling 180-square-mile spread, its car-oriented layout and its inequitable history of transportation decisions, which continue to shape people’s lives. But the plan also looks ahead, aiming to create a city where anyone can comfortably bike to any neighborhood.  The planned network includes 350-plus miles of protected bike lanes, 100 miles of bike boulevards and 100 miles of off-street trails. Already, the city has built over 390 miles total.  First, make it safe The numbers are impressive. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.  With this plan and its creation, the city lays out a thoughtful approach to who feels comfortable biking, who doesn’t and how to invite more people out onto bikes. Many cities have been finding creative ways to help their residents get around safely, healthily and affordably. For too long, bike lanes — not just in San José but nationally — have been created for the few people who feel fine biking on a street full of fast traffic, protected by only a line of white paint. The new plan acknowledges that’s often not enough for people to feel comfortable, instead offering “the evolution of a bike lane,” first by just widening that painted lane into buffer to create more separation from traffic, then putting parked cars between bikes and traffic when possible, and then building a whole raised curb between cars and the bike lane. Sometimes, instead of adding miles, it’s important to go back to make existing miles of bike lanes better and safer. The plan emphasizes that many of San José’s quiet residential streets can connect to create a “low-stress” network of “bike boulevards,” along with safe ways to get across the big busy streets. To create the plan, city staff talked with residents. They also partnered with community-based organizations such as Veggielution , Latinos United for a New America (LUNA) and Vietnamese Voluntary Foundation (VIVO). At meetings and focus groups in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as English, city staff and partners asked residents: What would help make them more likely to bike?  Paramount across communities was concern for safety.  Build quick, aim high  The city already has shown that it can move quickly. With its Better Bikeways project and with the assistance of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, San José will have built 15 miles of protected bike lanes between 2018 and 2020.  The “quick-build” model is impressive. A few of us from the Climate Challenge got to tour San José’s downtown by bike last year with Mayor Sam Liccardo and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). We pedaled along new green lanes, protected by sturdy green posts and complete with ingenious bus islands that are wheelchair-accessible and allow bus riders to cross bike lanes safely. The green posts that protect bikers look reassuringly solid but they’re actually plastic, making them low-cost, easy to install yet imposing enough to form a kind of low wall between bikes and car traffic. It felt safe. Now the trick is to build out from downtown, connect to neighborhoods and get more people using them.  The city has set ambitious goals for “bike mode share,” which means the percentage of all trips people take in the city by bicycle. San José’s current General Plan aims for 15 percent bike commute mode share by 2040, and its Climate Smart plan seeks to reach 20 percent by 2050.  These are tall orders. Today, just 1 percent of commute trips in the city are made by bike, although a city survey found that 3 percent of people reported biking as their primary way of getting to work and even more residents using a bike as a backup mode of transportation. Of commute trips to downtown, 4 percent are by bike. These numbers might sound small, but it’s important to consider that bike commuting is on the rise: Between 1990 and 2017, San José saw a 28 percent increase in commute trips made by bike. But not all trips are commute trips; in fact, in San José, only one in five trips are to and from work. That’s especially true in these teleworking times. Encouragingly, the plan notes that 60 percent of all trips people make in the city are less than 3 miles long. Those short trips, combined with the city’s mild climate and flat terrain, make biking a good option, creating the opportunity for the city to achieve its bold goals. The Better Bike Plan 2025 includes a five-year action plan of prioritized projects to implement and coordinates with the city’s paving program to save money. It offers a range of costs to make these changes, from quick and temporary to more permanent, that total roughly $300 million.  The prioritized projects listed in the plan — the list of streets where bike improvements will go — were chosen with three aims: Increase biking mode share: Areas where bicycle trips are most likely, based on factors such as population, employment and connections to transit, downtown and the existing bike lane network. Increase safety: Projects that will fix “high-injury” streets where collisions are most serious and frequent. Increase equity: Low-income and historically underserved neighborhoods, also called “Communities of Concern,” especially just to the south, east and north of downtown. People living in these neighborhoods are likely to have fewer transportation options, less access to a private car and may be essential workers, required to show up at a job in person every day. More safe, healthy, affordable transportation options are needed, and soon. What comes next: A time for action In this difficult year, many cities have been finding creative ways to help their residents get around safely, healthily and affordably. Biking nationally has boomed . San José has launched an Al Fresco program that repurposes streets for outdoor dining. In March, nearby Oakland launched the nation’s first and most ambitious “Open Streets” program along its planned bike network, acting quickly to make those streets safer by discouraging most car traffic. Oakland’s Open Streets program also creates more safe outdoor areas for people in neighborhoods with less access to open space, reduces crowding at Lake Merritt and other parks and frees up more space for social distancing than sidewalks typically offer. Oakland recently released a report to help cities in the Bay Area and beyond learn from its example.  San José has a less dense footprint than Oakland, but its residents still have a great need for safe, affordable transportation in these times. The city can take its thoughtful Better Bike Plan as a starting point to act quickly, and rebuild its streets to bring safe biking to all. Pull Quote Many cities have been finding creative ways to help their residents get around safely, healthily and affordably. A city survey found that 3 percent of people reported biking as their primary way of getting to work. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility NRDC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A shark appears in a San Jose bike lane, a nod to the local ice hockey team. Shutterstock Anna MacKinnon Close Authorship

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