Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

February 22, 2021 by  
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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations Elsa Wenzel Mon, 02/22/2021 – 01:30 A circular economy looks different within each industry, but its broad vision of healing the harm from the industrial economy’s extractive, polluting original sins is appealing more to a variety of businesses. A small number of influential large companies are creating internal funds to support sustainability goals specific to circular economy initiatives, such as designing out waste and recovering materials from products used internally or sold in the market. The eyes of traditional investors are widening to the landscape as well. It’s an early-stage, sometimes loosely defined space, where many solutions remain unproven, but the long-term payoffs in terms of sustainability and cost reductions could be enormous. That’s the hope of several early movers in circular economy investing, who shared their insights at the GreenBiz 21 virtual event in early February.  Nestlé and Microsoft are among the noteworthy corporations putting considerable investments behind circular programs involving products and services, in service of their sustainability targets and with an eye to spark broader change across their industries. “I would almost challenge people to not think of it as, ‘I have to set up a fund separate from,’ but it’s more of, ‘How do I set up our business to operate differently going forward?’” said Anna Marciano, head of U.S. legal sustainability at Nestlé USA. “If we’re going to make sure that we’re using more recycled content, if we’re going to ensure that we’re going to reduce carbon emissions, then we need to be tracking that. So then our procurement team needs to be monitoring that and they need to be held accountable for all of our ESG commitments.” If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. One goal of Closed Loop Partners (CLP), entering its ninth year, is to bring together institutional investors with strategic corporate investors who seek to build a circular economy for their supply chains while helping their sustainability goals. (CLP’s private-equity Closed Loop Leadership Fund , launched in 2018, counts Nestlé, Microsoft and Nuveen among its investors.) “I have heard more in the last few years, probably than ever before, companies talking about investing off their balance sheets to achieve some of these goals, which I think is new vernacular for a lot of companies,” said Bridget Croke, managing director at CLP. Nestlé’s circular recipe Also about one year ago, Nestlé launched its $2 billion sustainability fund , to support companies developing innovative packaging and recycling technologies through 2025. (The company’s first investment was in the Closed Loop Leadership Fund.) The producer of coffee, candy and cocoa also created a nearly $260 million venture fund in support of planet-friendly packaging technologies. Its broader sustainability targets include getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Nestlé’s circular plans include, by 2025, reducing virgin plastics in packaging by one-third and making all of its packaging reusable and recyclable. But goals aren’t enough without something to back them up, Marciano said. “If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories,” Marciano said. “And so it becomes really critical for this to be a mindset shift to say, yes, this is absolutely what we need to achieve.” Nestlé knew it had to invest in designing packaging for the future to meet its packaging commitments, so it established its Institute for Packaging Science in 2019 in Switzerland. One pocket-size result is new recyclable paper packaging for Smarties candies, popular in the U.K. “That’s really where the strong collaboration, the collective action of financial investments come into play,” Marciano added. ”So we’re really targeting investments to help transform the recycling infrastructure, so we could advance the circular economy at the end of the day.” Microsoft’s circular formula Similarly, as a corporate citizen, Microsoft aimed to look beyond the four walls of its own operations toward suppliers and customers, and other industries it touches, to enable circular markets to grow, said Brandon Middaugh, director of Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund.  Like Nestlé, Microsoft also looks at translating its goals into circular economy action in terms of designing out waste, reusing and recycling materials and products, and replenishing natural resources that it uses — three pillars reflected by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The investment strategy includes identifying and prioritizing the major areas of waste that apply to Microsoft’s own supply chains and operations, including its devices, cloud infrastructure and campus operations, Middaugh said. One new initiative is to build Microsoft Circular Centers  to further the reuse of computer servers and other hardware from the company’s data centers.  “We really recognized that it was not enough to set the operational goal and to do that work internally. We needed to be partnering externally and reaching outside into the market to try to be an advance team for the innovation in the industry,” she said. Microsoft is one year into its $1 billion, four-year Climate Innovation Fund . Carbon, water, waste and ecosystems are the core focus areas for the software juggernaut, which is aiming to carbon negative by 2030, removing all the carbon it has historically emitted by 2050. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? The fund, a joint finance-sustainability initiative, is one of three balance-sheet ESG funds at Microsoft, in addition to others around affordable housing and racial equity.  Middaugh said it’s useful to have a unified playbook toward a single goal, which may lean on products, operational investments, employee engagement and even advocacy, using partnerships in civil society. For Microsoft, the main points are about being carbon negative, water positive, zero waste — and building a ” planetary computer ” that harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend resource protection measures, tree by tree. Tangible examples of these include reducing electronic waste and packaging hardware without waste. “Then it’s also about giving the tools for traceability and transparency that we, our customers, need to be able to track circular economy themes,” Middaugh said. Those areas of strategic importance cascade to the investment strategy as well. How to prove circular success? For traditional investors, sustainability with a sound return on investment is key, according to David Haddad, managing director and co-head of impact investing at Nuveen , a subsidiary of TIAA. “We want there to be an economic viability, because our time horizon tends to be relatively shorter than many of these larger companies.”  And traditional institutional investors are challenged by the need to make a certain return within a relatively short time frame, maybe five or 10 years, which may not be enough for a market to mature.  Ways to reduce the risk around investments can include investing in research and innovation; proving that new business models are moving in a certain direction and integrating that into the business; and exploring longer-term contracts, according to Croke. Nestlé’s sustainability fund is already driving results, said Marciano, who is also division general counsel for Nespresso USA and International Premium Waters. “We have access to more recycled plastic already, we’re able to integrate it into our Stouffer’s business, into our Coffee mate business, into our water business,” she said. “So we see it working already. And it’s only been a few months in.” Middaugh noted that Microsoft focuses on metrics around the use of recyclable materials; landfill diversion in terms of solid waste and the construction and demolition waste at its campuses, and an overlapping focus on embodied carbon. “And in terms of how we integrate those with the rest of the decision process. It’s really around assessing the impact, assessing the risk and then looking for that impact and risk-adjusted return,” she said. For Nestlé, measuring circular economy success involves improving recycling rates beyond the company itself by spurring improvements in recycling infrastructure more broadly, encouraging consumers to recycle too. But that’s tricky. The question of measuring social impacts, not just the environmental ones most companies have prioritized, is another matter. Haddad noted that as an impact investor, there’s no cookie-cutter recipe, but Nuveen works closely with each young company to determine relevant metrics, and any failure to be able to report on those alongside financial performance will make it a no-go for funding. Croke agreed that limited tools for tracking certain metrics related to circular goals are difficult for companies or municipalities, but a bonus to working with large tech companies is being able to identify and address data gaps and useful technologies. Partnerships and collaborations are essential How does a sustainability advocate make the business case for investing toward circular, sustainable solutions? What’s the benefit of leveraging the company’s balance sheet or other capital? Early corporate movers may offer useful examples. Croke noted that some companies may find it hard to identify such investment opportunities and run up against limits to the size of deals they can take on. “And so the ability to invest through other funds helps sometimes open up opportunities to invest in things that might be too early-stage or small that need some de-risking,” Croke said. Partnerships with third-party leaders can help when trying to apply lessons to the rest of the business from initiatives around circular servers, recycling and reuse, Middaugh said. She, Marciano and Croke agreed that no organization should try to go it alone when addressing a systemic challenge as large as growing a circular economy. For example, it’s upon Nestlé to share its expertise in sustainable packaging, collaborating with other stakeholders to make sure it’s not introducing harmful materials into products. Such relationships can improve the wheel in multiple areas. And policy advocacy is another spoke of the wheel for Nestlé. Middaugh added that collaborations should involve early-stage innovations and pilots — such as sharing information with other companies exploring advanced materials — as well as later-stage infrastructure buildout. Microsoft is working with suppliers to update its supplier Code of Conduct to reflect its carbon and sustainability goals, also providing the tools to help its partners meet their goals.  The coming transition CLP draws connections across that ecosystem by backing circular efforts by municipalities, recycling facilities and material recovery facilities (MRFs). It has invested, for example, in Amp Robotics , which offers early-stage AI for recycling facilities, and PureCycle Technologies , whose technology turns polypropylene back into virgin-quality material. CLP started an innovation hub to support pre-competitive ideas. Croke agreed that data points around diversion of material and greenhouse gas impacts, to name just a couple, are relatively simple to understand. “What I think is sometimes more interesting, and a little bit harder to measure is the catalytic impact that’s being had, we’re all trying to completely transform a supply chain, the way that the supply chain works from being linear to being circular, and the linear supply chain is quite scaled,” she said. “The economics are very efficient today.” However, there’s going to be a lead-up time to building up the scale for new, circular models. In time, costs will expand for existing linear systems, becoming less attractive to newly affordable circular ones.  “But what we’re finding is that there are definitely specific investment opportunities today that are profitable, that makes sense for the institutional kind of partners make sense for our corporate partners, and hopefully create the levers that unlock, value and scale for the rest of the system,” Croke added. Haddad advocated for companies to recognize private equity firms as a force multiplier. “We can really bring capital to bear and our experience with boards and governance to scale those things,” he said. Marciano insisted that it’s not necessary to invest millions of dollars to get started. Pick up the phone and talk to people, and take other small steps to explore circular possibilities. “If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing?” she said. “Think of it that way, and really try to inspire others within your organization to take a chance … What’s the worst that could happen? You asked for the money and you’re told no or not yet. But at least you’ve already planted the seed, that you believe that the money is needed and could make a difference.” Pull Quote If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? Topics Circular Economy Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off  Illustration of circular economy in industry. Shutterstock MG Vectors Close Authorship

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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

Ocean-based sequestration heats ups

February 1, 2021 by  
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Ocean-based sequestration heats ups Jim Giles Mon, 02/01/2021 – 00:30 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . Over the past few years, as companies have come under steadily increasing pressure to tackle climate change, nature-based solutions have emerged as a particularly exciting method for shrinking corporate carbon footprints. Investing in forests can be a win-win that both sequesters carbon and regenerates nature. That’s why one recent survey recorded almost $160 million spent on forest offsets in 2019. And a newer option, soil carbon, also is generating investment from multiple corporate sectors . Yet another natural sink absorbs about as much carbon dioxide as our planet’s soils and forests combined: the world’s coastal and ocean waters. Until recently, ocean sequestration, also known as blue carbon, attracted little attention outside academic and think-tank circles. We might be at a turning point, however, because a handful of forward-looking corporations, conservation organizations and startups recently have accelerated efforts to store carbon in marine systems. Thanks to their work, companies of all sizes soon may be able invest in ocean sequestration. One pioneer in this area is Shopify, an e-commerce company that has committed to spending $5 million annually on innovative clean technologies. Shopify’s first round of investments , announced in September, includes Running Tide, a company based on the coast of Maine. Running Tide’s core business is oyster farming, but CEO Marty Odlin is planning on a new revenue stream: growing kelp and sinking his crop in the deep ocean.  “Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great,” Odlin told Fast Company . “So you can get at least 1,000 years of sequestration. More likely, it will turn into oil or sediment and be sequestered on the geologic timescale — millions of years.” Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great. At Running Tide, engineers will use the Shopify investment to build kelp-growing platforms, which they will launch into ocean current systems selected as having the right temperature and nutrients to support kelp growth. The platforms will be kept afloat by buoys designed to biodegrade once they reach the deep ocean, at which point the kelp will fall to the ocean floor, taking its carbon with it. Running Tide will measure the carbon sequestered in the process and sell credits on the carbon markets. Shopify also made a bet on Planetary Hydrogen , a startup that aims to produce “green hydrogen” while simultaneously capturing carbon and healing the ocean. The process begins with a twist on existing green hydrogen technology, in which renewable energy is used to power the production of hydrogen from water, a reaction that produces no carbon. The Planetary Hydrogen team adds a mineral salt to the process, leading to the creation of a waste product — a mineral hydroxide — that binds with atmospheric carbon dioxide. The final step involves adding the bicarbonate compound that results from this reaction to the ocean, where, because the substance is alkaline, it helps counter climate-caused ocean acidification. According to the company’s calculations, the process can capture and store 40 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of hydrogen produced. “Our fuel may be the greenest on Earth,” boasted Greg Rau, Planetary Hydrogen’s chief technology officer, at GreenBiz Group’s VERGE Carbon conference last fall.  The catch? Let’s start with costs. Green hydrogen costs two to three times as much as the conventional alternative, and Planetary Hydrogen’s fuel is even more expensive. In most markets that probably would be the end of the story, but the carbon-negative status of Planet Hydrogen’s product means that it could earn credits from schemes such as California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard — enough credits, Rau believes, to make it a cheaper option than other forms of hydrogen. Before that happens, his team will have to scale up the technology, which it plans to do using Shopify’s investment. A pilot plant should come online in 2022, according to Rau. Another challenge facing both Planetary Hydrogen and Running Tide is the issue of permanence. For a credit to be traded on carbon markets, an established certification body — Verra and Gold Standard are two leading examples — needs to sign off on the process used to store the carbon. Among other things, the certifier would assess how long the carbon is likely to stay sequestered. The biology and chemistry of the deep oceans suggest that kelp and bicarbonate could offer a better guarantee of long-term storage than, say, forests. But collecting the data needed to demonstrate that will be challenging given the vastness of the oceans and the fact that this is a new frontier for certification bodies. “We need to rethink the basis for calculating the carbon benefits of these projects,” Carlos Duarte, an expert in marine ecosystems at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, said at VERGE Carbon. Given the uncertainties, many companies will wait before investing in emerging ocean projects. But there are more established blue carbon options that are better understood. In 2018, for instance, Apple announced that it would back a project to protect and restore 27,000 acres of mangrove forest on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. According to Conservation International, one of the NGOs behind the project, mangroves and other coastal wetlands can store up to 10 times more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. Apple will purchase carbon credits generated by the project, generating a new income stream for the 12,000 local people whose livelihoods depend on the mangroves. Pull Quote Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great. Topics State of Green Business Report Oceans & Fisheries Carbon Removal Nature Based Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Forests of giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, commonly grow in the cold waters along the coast of California. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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Ocean-based sequestration heats ups

Welcome to a new era of ESG and sustainable finance

January 21, 2021 by  
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Welcome to a new era of ESG and sustainable finance Joel Makower Thu, 01/21/2021 – 01:30 Adapted from the premiere issue of GreenFin Weekly, a free e-newsletter focusing on trends in ESG and sustainable finance. Subscribe using this sign-up page . What a moment to launch a newsletter on ESG and sustainable finance. The topic has become front and center in sustainability and finance circles and, suddenly, in Washington, D.C. A vast ecosystem is in play. Investors have awakened to the notion that how companies manage environmental and social issues is nearly as key to their risk profile and profitability as are financial fundamentals. Banks and insurers are factoring climate risk and social issues into their products and portfolios, accelerating a shift that’s been gearing up for years. Companies are warming to a world of deeper transparency and disclosure demands by investors, lenders, customers and others, and are trying to keep up with the dynamic world of standards and frameworks with which they’re being asked to comply. Oh, and it’s the dawn of a new U.S. presidential administration that sees virtue in assertive action on a range of social and environmental issues. We’re entering a new era, one in which companies are less able to hide behind their pronouncements and good intentions. We’re entering a new era, one in which companies are less able to hide behind their pronouncements and good intentions. Accountability is the new watchword. Action, not announcements, is the currency. The arrival of Team Biden itself promises to be a game changer. By the time you read this, we already may have learned about some of the incoming president’s first moves in this arena. Suffice to say that the new administration’s ambitions are significant — and the expectations could not be higher. After years of spinning wheels and grinding gears, there’s renewed hope for moving forward. All of this is bringing new players to the table — those inside organizations whose remit up to now hadn’t included such things as climate risk and human rights. Those in finance, investor relations, government affairs and risk management are grappling with new kinds of disclosure, increased investor scrutiny, new regulatory regimes and stepped-up activist pressures (not to mention media enquiries) around a host of nonfinancial issues. Investors, for their part, are similarly finding themselves swimming in uncharted waters. Even job seekers are starting to scrutinize the ESG data of prospective employers. We’ve been covering many of these topics for years on GreenBiz.com. Now, we’re stepping things up, elevating ESG and sustainable finance across our portfolio, starting with this newsletter and the GreenFin 21 conference in April as well as through webcasts, podcasts and many other things we do. Each week, a member of GreenBiz’s stable of journalists will take the helm of GreenBiz Weekly on a rotating basis, offering a fresh perspective on ESG and sustainable finance, and point to key stories from across the Web. We won’t cover everything — just the important things. Here are just a few storylines we’ll be following in this newsletter: The convergence of standards: This is No. 1 with a bullet. The mélange — some would call it a morass — of ESG standards and frameworks has been a problem for years. Now, various efforts to align these disparate approaches aim to create harmony from this chaos. But even these harmonization efforts are competing with one another. Which one(s) will win out? It’s an open field. The secret life of ESG data: How it’s compiled and deployed isn’t always clear. As such data is used for everything from assessing creditworthiness to determining where the next generation of talent wants to work, understanding the data itself — how it is compiled and used — will be critical. It’s time to bring ESG out of the black box. The growth of sustainability-linked finance: Another year, another record in the issuance of green bonds, climate bonds, sustainability bonds and others, as well as sustainability-linked loans. But issuing such bonds can be fraught with complexity. How are companies managing? We’ll take you behind the scenes. Investor expectations on DEI: As diversity, equity and inclusion issues have grown inside companies, investors are struggling to understand how to assess company actions. Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and other social movements are seen as both risks and opportunities for companies, and large institutional shareholders are starting to weigh in. Nature on the balance sheet: Biodiversity is an emerging area of investor interest and concern and is being integrated into ESG disclosures. What should companies be doing to prepare? The role of boards: Getting boards of directors on board with ESG issues is no small thing, and many boards aren’t prepared to provide adequate guidance and oversight. What are the competencies boards need to have? What are some key policies boards are adopting? That’s just a taste. As I said, it’s a fast-growing, ever-changing field. There’s no shortage of topics — and we’re just getting started. We look forward to joining you on this journey each week as we uncover and analyze new topics, interesting people, insightful reports, emerging trends and other useful resources to help you and your team move forward. To subscribe to GreenFin Weekly, published Wednesdays, click here . Pull Quote We’re entering a new era, one in which companies are less able to hide behind their pronouncements and good intentions. Topics Finance & Investing ESG GreenFin 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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Welcome to a new era of ESG and sustainable finance

Game on: New study shows which sports teams have the greenest fans

December 22, 2020 by  
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Game on: New study shows which sports teams have the greenest fans Kristen Fulmer Tue, 12/22/2020 – 01:00 Ever wondered which sports team has the most sustainable fans? From the perspective of a rights holder, this is becoming a critical question. The answers will drive business decisions for venue operations, fan engagement and brand partnership activation. For the green sports movement, the answers may be the key to solidifying the importance of integrating sustainability into sports.  A new report by Recipric, powered by Zoomph’s technology, helps us understand the answer. Recipric , an agency that represents sustainability and positive change within sports, leveraged Zoomph’s Audience Analysis Tool to help answer this question. Together, they co-published Sustainability in Sports , a report that ranks teams from various professional leagues — including baseball, football, basketball and soccer — according to which teams have the most “sustainability-minded” fans. The report also reveals which teams are most likely to have fans that are vegetarian, have an affinity for the outdoors, a particular stance on climate justice, and those most likely to follow Al Gore and Greta Thunberg.  It solidifies that sustainability can be enhanced through the power of sport because of the overlap between sports lovers and people that seek positive change. To reach these rankings, Zoomph’s platform started with about 342 million anonymized profiles. It developed the sustainability-minded audience by capturing a list of terms that someone interested in sustainability may use in their Twitter bio, or by tagging accounts that a climate activist may follow. From there, a segmented audience of more than 500,000 profiles was cross-referenced against Zoomph’s sports analytics platform to understand who this sustainability-minded audience may follow, including sports leagues, teams and brands.  To guide fan engagement strategies and to activate brand partnerships, sports teams often will poll their fan base to gain an understanding of their spending habits, their hobbies or even their passions outside of sports. While this may tell a story about the preferences targeted by a survey, Zoomph unpacks tendencies on social media without explicitly asking questions. This provides raw insights into a particular group of sports fans, but can tap into interests, brand endorsement and even behavioral data in a way that a survey question may not.  While it’s fun to see if assumptions line up with the results of the study, this data can be hugely impactful to the larger sports industry. Teams can look at this data to understand the specific interests of their followers, which can guide on-the-ground community engagement strategies that drive ticket sales or can tell them how to better leverage their brand partners. Brands can use this data to understand which team or even which league may provide the most engaged audience. Even agents could gauge the interests of their represented athletes’ followers to understand the value of a sponsorship deal.  An example from the report highlights U.S. pro sports teams most likely to have vegetarian or vegan followers. The shortlist shows the top five:  Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) New England Patriots (NFL) Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) Golden State Warriors (NBA) Boston Red Sox (MLB) While a casual fan may enjoy making assumptions about the stereotypical tendencies of each of these team’s fans, reasoning the list against demographic trends, or positing about various geographies, this list actually can mean big business for the rights holders and potential brands.  Not surprisingly, the Lakers and Beyond Meat launched an official partnership in 2019, and JaVale McGee, a Laker at the time, was named an official brand ambassador. However, the Lakers can continue to leverage these findings to identify additional vendors for the Staples Center, create a “Plant-Based Day” with incentives to support a local plant-based restaurant, or provide discounted tickets to plant-based fans. With the power of the analytics, a team can drive holistic positive change that engages their fans while taking climate action and improving health and well-being.  This study highlights the importance of sustainability-driven values for rights holders to engage with their fan base and to potentially tap into a larger audience. This drives revenue and is so critical to sustainability professionals charged with creating a data-driven strategy. It solidifies that sustainability can be enhanced through the power of sport because of the overlap between sports lovers and people that seek positive change. Pull Quote It solidifies that sustainability can be enhanced through the power of sport because of the overlap between sports lovers and people that seek positive change. Topics Marketing & Communication Sports Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Los Angeles Lakers and plant-based products company Beyond Meat launched an official partnership in 2019.

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Game on: New study shows which sports teams have the greenest fans

Electric tractors, agribots and regenerative agriculture

December 17, 2020 by  
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Electric tractors, agribots and regenerative agriculture Heather Clancy Thu, 12/17/2020 – 01:30 Without the benefit of their favorite search engine, I’m certain many readers would be hard-pressed to name the largest, pure-play agricultural equipment company in the world. But digging into innovations being advanced by that organization — AGCO, based in Duluth, Georgia — reveals much about the potential future of technology for cultivating regenerative and precision agriculture. With about $9 billion in annual revenue in 2019, AGCO is behind some of the best-known global brands in tractors, combine harvesters, balers and other farm equipment, including Massey-Ferguson, Fendt, Challenger and Valtra.  AGCO has made many, many acquisitions to amass this portfolio, including the buyout of Precision Planting from Monsanto (now Bayer) in 2017. With new CEO Eric Hansotia poised to step up Jan. 1 , AGCO is sowing the seeds for a global refresh of its mission — including electrified farm machinery, autonomous field robots that swarm through fields and smart tractor retrofits that provide farmers with insights into metrics such as the organic matter in their soil. AGCO is testing the battery-powered Fendt e100 Vario for a range of farming and municipal applications. “It has always been about the economic return for the farmer; now we’re trying to pull sustainability into that,” AGCO’s new (and first) director of global sustainability, Louisa Parker-Smith, told me when we chatted in early December. For perspective, the market for agricultural equipment was sized at $139 billion in 2018, and it’s expected to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 8.9 percent through 2025. Earlier this year, market research firm IDTechEx predicted $50 billion in sales of electric farm equipment during the next decade — some of these are updates to tractors and other big machinery but others are entirely new autonomous, robotic vehicles, such as agribots that can pick weeds or plant seeds. Parker-Smith, an eight-year AGCO veteran, said enabling sustainable farm production — using less energy and inputs — is a core tenet of future product design. Moving away from heavier equipment, for example, could help reduce soil compaction, allowing fields to absorb and sequester more atmospheric carbon dioxide. And, through its Precision Planting division, AGCO is developing more devices — many of which can be retrofitted to existing equipment from AGCO and competitors — that help farmers track organic matter or water metrics, among other data. “How do we allow a farmer to understand the potential of their field,” Parker-Smith said. One example of how the future looks on the ground is Xaver , a robotic approach to seed planting being developed and tested as part of the company’s Future Farm initiative . The robots, far smaller (maybe the size of a motorized tricycle) than a traditional piece of equipment, can be orchestrated via satellite positioning and a cloud-based software application. In one videos about the technology, AGCO estimates a “swarm” of six robots can cover roughly 7.5 acres in an hour. Parker-Smith notes that not only do the bots have a much lighter footprint, they use 90 percent less energy than a traditional tractor. AGCO is also electrifying some of its larger tractors, notably several from the Fendt division, although the weight of this equipment makes this a tough development challenge — it takes a lot of batteries to get to the horsepower required for certain farming tasks, such as plowing or tilling.  Parker-Smith’s new role is to help the entire company, from designers to dealers, rise to the occasion. “My focus is really to harness the energy of the entire organization. There’s a huge amount that is happening,” she said. “We don’t want just to be caught up with the risk management aspects of this. We are really looking at value creation from the customer perspective.”  Billed as the first fully electric driver-optional tractor, the Monarch will be available in fall 2021 at a pricetag starting at $50,000. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Monarch Tractor Close Authorship AGCO isn’t the only ag equipment provider, of course, that envisions a hybrid, electric future in agriculture. U.K. startup Small Robot Company is developing farmbots that can weed, plant and feed crops; and Japanese company Kubota is pitching an autonomous, electric tractor with four treads instead of wheels that can traverse all sorts of terrain. Just last week, another upstart, Monarch Tractor, introduced a fully electric, “driver optional” smart tractor that carries a pricetag of $50,000. It’s supposed to deliver the first models in fall 2021 and claims “hundreds” of pre-orders. The mammoth John Deere, which had close to $40 billion in 2019 revenue across farming, construction and forestry equipment, is also developing electrified farming equipment, including an autonomous, electric tractor .  It takes a long time for aging farm equipment to be put out to pasture permanently, so convincing farming organizations to invest in these emerging technologies — regardless of the potential benefits they might have for regenerative ag — is definitely a long-term proposition. But given how much the big food companies are banking on convincing their supply chains to invest in regenerative agriculture, it would be a mistake to overlook the role that electric, autonomous vehicles can play in the field. Topics Innovation Food & Agriculture Electric Vehicles Agtech Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off AGCO is testing electrified agricultural robots that can plant seeds, weed or handle other activities using less energy and causing less soil compaction. Courtesy of AGCO Close Authorship

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Sustainable shopping is healthy, even amid a pandemic

December 15, 2020 by  
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Sustainable shopping is healthy, even amid a pandemic Diane Osgood Tue, 12/15/2020 – 01:45 As sustainability professionals, we’ve been talking for years about how consumers are increasingly influenced by values and sustainability.  We search the data for proof points that people would prefer to buy from a more sustainable company. Indeed, even when we find the proof points, we also find a large action gap  between what people say and what they do. We think the action gap is about to get smaller, due to a set of trends and the context of the pandemic. The pandemic has shaken the mental health and emotional well-being of people everywhere. It also has caused many people to consider more carefully what they value most: family; friends; health — and savings, if possible. As a result, consumers are paying increased attention to  companies that treated their customers and employees well during the pandemic . Against the backdrop of the pandemic,  we see important trends. Values matter, even now The importance people place on values in purchasing has increased. Even a global pandemic and economic trouble couldn’t push values out of people’s minds. As the pandemic surged around the world, stock-art giant Getty Images wanted to know whether it rendered everything else irrelevant. It  combed  its own vast customer database of more than a billion image searches, then commissioned a third-party survey of more than 10,000 people across 25 countries, conducted in more than a dozen languages. If sustainability’s importance to consumers and purchasers didn’t go away in the midst of a global pandemic, will it ever? Getty found that months into the pandemic, consumers still had attention for other issues, represented by four basic categories: sustainability; wellness; “realness” (authenticity); and technology. Sustainability was, they learned, trending upwards ” quite against expectation .” And for those respondents who are passionate about sustainability, they said they were willing to pay 10 to 15 percent more for products or services from companies that: use sustainable practices; are aligned with their values; have transparent business practices; and care about the well-being, safety and security of customers. In other words, even in times of enormous upheaval, people still have, and act on, personal values. Shoppers’ behaviors continue to change What’s more, it’s not all just happy talk. We have seen this in shoppers’ actual purchasing behavior during the pandemic. Evidence? NYU Stern Business School’s 2020 Sustainable Share Market Index shows shares of sustainability-marketed products grew significantly during the week of March 15, and continued to maintain that increased share through mid-June. We have to wait until the researchers release the data analysis for the second half of 2020 to see if the trend held. However, the period of March to June clearly indicates consumers were more frequently putting their money where their mouth is on sustainability. The same study found that sustainability-marketed products are responsible for more than half of the growth in consumer-packaged goods from 2015 to 2019. Businesses are changing, too What’s changed is not just consumers but also business purchasing. We see evidence of business-to-business purchasing teams applying sustainability criteria to supplier expectations. The biggest driver seems to be net-zero ambitions. Any company that has taken on net-zero commitments will be looking at its supply-chain partners to reduce its carbon emissions and switch to renewables in the next few years. Indeed, Apple already has set the bar for its major suppliers such as Foxconn. Foxconn committed to supply Apple’s iPhones from factories run on 100 percent renewable energy.  Other companies, such as IKEA, BT, Unilever, Ericsson and Telia, have launched a new net-zero initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions across their supply chains. The trend in B2B spending strikes us as an important lever to accelerate even more sustainable production. New cross-sector efforts to address corporate supply chains and purchasing will further expedite effective approaches. If sustainability’s importance to consumers and purchasers didn’t go away in the midst of a global pandemic, will it ever? Remember when U.S. automakers thought customers weren’t that concerned about quality because they bought largely based on style? One day, we’ll look back at the belief that sustainability doesn’t matter to customers, shaking our heads the same way. Pull Quote If sustainability’s importance to consumers and purchasers didn’t go away in the midst of a global pandemic, will it ever? Contributors Daniel Aronson Topics Consumer Trends Marketing & Communication Consumer Products 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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How 117-year-old Ford plans to curb carbon emissions by 2050

December 1, 2020 by  
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Effective action on climate change takes cooperation on all levels. From governments to the private sector to individuals, everyone must do their part to solve this collective problem, together. In the U.S., the biggest source of carbon emissions by sector is transportation, producing 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, according to the EPA . As such, any pathway to reduced greenhouse gases and a comprehensive response to climate change must involve stakeholders from the transportation sector — thankfully America’s best-selling automotive brand is stepping up. As a major global and domestic player in the auto industry, Ford has the potential to make a major impact — and the company is aiming high. By 2050, Ford aims to achieve global carbon neutrality. How can one of America’s best-selling automakers in one of the most carbon-producing sectors go completely carbon neutral in less than 30 years? Ford developed an ambitious but actionable plan, starting with support at the top of the company and extending to every employee and vendor across its global supply chain. “We were committed to setting aspirational goals to start moving the needle, to start having a positive impact,” says Director of Global Sustainability for Ford, Mary A. Wroten . “It’s like setting a New Year’s resolution. If you don’t have a goal, you’ll never steer yourself toward whatever that resolution is.” Though the 117-year-old company released its first sustainability report in 1999, Wroten suggests that founder Henry Ford laid down the roots for sustainability before the idea as we know it existed. A self-described environmentalist, he was famous for eliminating waste at Ford manufacturing facilities. “ He used the wood from shipping crates for the floor pans of early vehicles,” explains Wroten. “Any wood that was leftover was turned into briquettes for barbecuing, and he eventually started a charcoal company called Kingsford Charcoal.” Setting targets and sticking to them, no matter what Even today, sustainability at Ford starts at the top. “These aspirational goals are a way to harness all the executives within the organization to tackle these issues, get buy-in and drive change throughout the company,” says Wroten. After the goals are set, executives then go to work developing metrics and tools to hit targets, according to Wroten. Meanwhile, the company is ensuring every employee gets sustainability integration training. At Ford, sustainability is key to every aspect of the business. Understanding that sustainability is part of their role helps ensure employee buy-in, according to Wroten. The company’s long-term goals reflect a committed approach. When the Trump Administration announced the end of U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 and then announced a rollback of auto emissions standards in 2020, Ford didn’t waver on its sustainability targets — as of June 23 of this year, Ford is the only U.S. automaker committed to doing its part to reduce CO? emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and working with California for stronger vehicle greenhouse gas standards. “All of our decisions build upon each other,” Wroten says, noting that the Paris Climate Accords call for carbon neutrality by the second half of the century. “We continue to believe that this path is what’s best for our customers, our environment and both the short and long-term health of the auto industry,” she says. So what’s inside the plan moving forward? Ford, along with third-party consultants, advisors and auditors, determined that three areas make up 95% of its carbon emissions : vehicle use, supply base and company facilities. First up, let’s look at how Ford is changing the way we drive. The electrification of Ford vehicles Over the next year, Ford is rolling out two new fully electric vehicles in the US, the Mustang Mach-E and the E-Transit electric work van. And while the launch of new electric vehicles is exciting, it’s the launch of North America’s largest charging network that Ford hopes will truly shift the paradigm of driving to electric. “We can’t just release great products,” says Wroten, “we also need to provide a great charging experience so our customers don’t worry about range anxiety and other concerns consumers have about electric vehicles.” The FordPass ™ Charging Network — the largest public charging network in North America* — will feature more than 13,500 charging stations with more than 40,000 charging plugs. However, simply switching to electricity doesn’t necessarily make for the greatest reductions of carbon emissions — that electricity must also come from a renewable source. Ford is taking a well-to-wheel approach, meaning that the company is working to ensure that the electricity originates from renewable sources . “The energy that’s used to propel our vehicles is very much part of our plan to reduce carbon emissions,” adds Wroten, noting that a green grid is essential to hitting carbon targets. It’s an initiative the brand is spearheading in its own facilities. Manufacturing for today and the future Within its own manufacturing facilities, Ford is working closely with local collaborators to ensure that they are running on 100% renewable , locally sourced energy by 2035. This will account for 80% of the carbon output of Ford facilities says Wroten. The company is releasing a plan for the remaining 20% of carbon emissions in the next year. Meanwhile, beyond carbon, Ford is making its facilities even more sustainable. Over the next 10 years, Ford is eliminating single-use plastics from all operations , with a long term goal of achieving zero landfill waste across the company. Longer-term aspirational goals include zero water withdrawals for manufacturing and zero air emissions. Based on third-party audits, the data suggests Ford is well on its way to meeting carbon targets. In 2019, all Ford facilities across the globe combined produced as much carbon as one coal-fired power plant . Building a more sustainable supply base Cutting emissions from Ford facilities and vehicles isn’t enough, and the brand knows it. Ford works with a complex network of suppliers across the globe, which Wroten suggests accounts for some 15% to 17% of the company’s carbon emissions . For its domestic efforts to matter, their partners need to pull their weight, too. To reach carbon neutrality across the board, Ford is sharing its learnings and tools with certain suppliers in hopes of replicating sustainable practices. And over the next five years, Ford estimates saving over 680,000 metric tons of carbon — the equivalent of consuming about 1.57 million barrels of oil — thanks to the supply base approach. The automaker’s desire to extend its carbon-neutral strategy to suppliers underscores a larger issue around climate change and any environmental initiative: collaboration is essential for success. “We know we can’t do this alone,” says Wroten, “reaching carbon neutrality is a team sport.” From innovative electric vehicles to a widening green grid to bringing all stakeholders in on the mission, the approach Ford is taking is nothing short of comprehensive. * Based on original equipment manufacturers(OEM)/automotive manufacturers that sell all-electric vehicles and have publicly announced charging networks. Department of Energy data used. FordPass, compatible with select smartphone platforms, is available via a download. Message and data rates may apply. + Ford Images via Ford

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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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Chipotle reveals your Real Foodprint

November 2, 2020 by  
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For anyone who’s ever put a muffin back after seeing a posted calorie count in a restaurant, Chipotle’s new app helps further refine choices about what’s worth putting into your body. Real Foodprint tracks the environmental impact of adding a scoop of guacamole to your burrito bowl or saying no to the chicken. The new app assesses the impact along the lines of five metrics: savings in carbon emissions , measured in grams; water saved in gallons; soil health improvement in square feet; organic land supported in square feet; and milligrams of antibiotics avoided. Related: Chipotle debuts surprising new venture: sustainable clothing Independent research company HowGood is responsible for the data. HowGood drew on 450+ studies to compare conventional ingredients to the food available at Chipotle. This is the first time HowGood has partnered with a restaurant to provide the environmental tracking service. “Beyond asking people to make the right choice for the climate based on a carbon label, we are demonstrating the impact of our sourcing practices through data computed based on the ingredients in our guests’ orders,” said Caitlin Leibert, Chipotle’s head of sustainability, in a press release. “While our guests can make good choices for the planet by simply eating at Chipotle, the radical transparency provided by Real Foodprint also holds us accountable to improve our practices and source more sustainably over time. It is the combination of transparency for our guests and Chipotle’s commitment to higher standards that make Real Foodprint so impactful.” This is part of a trend among restaurants to provide customers with more environmental information. Panera recently started marking “Cool Food Meals” on menus, indicating choices with lower carbon footprints. Some parts of the app can be a little misleading. If you’re just going for a high score, you might choose Chipotle’s steak, which saves 150 milligrams of antibiotics compared to conventional meat. However, if you choose tofu — which doesn’t require antibiotics, conventional or otherwise — you won’t get those points. So customers still need to think a bit beyond the app about what’s really best for the health of their bodies and the planet. + Chipotle Via EcoWatch Images via Chipotle

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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

October 28, 2020 by  
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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry Elsa Wenzel Wed, 10/28/2020 – 02:02 It’s probably fair to say that nobody expressly set out to devise a sunscreen to bleach coral reefs or a yoga mat to emit carcinogens. Yet toxic substances circulate in waterways and bloodstreams, leached out from all the consumables of everyday life. Shortsightedness and paltry data in the cycles of product design and engineering are partly to blame for this collateral damage of modern chemistry. Most product designers are unlettered in chemistry, and the practice of green chemistry remains in its early years. Even a basic count of all the industrial chemicals in use is scarce — somewhere over 80,000 , according to the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act Inventory, although the EPA total for recent output is less than 9,000 . It’s simply asking too much of most people formulating a consumer product only to include ingredients that are proven not to harm living systems. But what if design teams seeking safer ingredients didn’t have to know much about the molecules that comprise the stuff they’re making? What if they had a handy menu that graded each chemical? In theory, picking a less-toxic choice could be as simple as shunning an “F” or “C” ingredient for an “A” or a “B” on the list. We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. That’s the vision being advanced by ChemFORWARD, a mission-driven nonprofit backed by leading corporations with serious ambitions to accelerate safer chemistry. The effort is attracting pioneers in green chemistry, design and data to build a first-of-its-kind clearinghouse to help design teams and supply chains ditch hazardous chemicals for good. Leaders on board “We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry,” said Mike Werner, circular economy lead at Google, who serves on the nonprofit’s advisory board. The search giant pushes for safer chemistry and a circular economy on myriad levels , including within its office spaces, at its data centers and inside the devices it sells. “ChemFORWARD fits [into] this really big important puzzle toward making materials healthy and safe.” Google is among ChemFORWARD’s roster of “co-design” partners that includes Sephora, Target, Levi’s, HP, Levi Strauss, H&M, Nike, Steelcase and Method, each recognized for various leadership efforts toward safer chemistry. Last year, for example, Sephora became the first major cosmetics retailer to broadcast its policy on chemicals. Target’s Sustainable Product Standard came on the scene in 2013. Nike has its own Chemistry Playbook . Levi’s innovations include its recyclable Wellthread denim line. Other ChemFORWARD partners include the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.  ChemFORWARD’s technical advisory board is led by Art Fong, Apple’s green chemistry lead. Corporate scientists and chemists also come together via ChemFORWARD for regular meetings and peer reviews with third-party toxicology firms. The nonprofit is betting that teaming up with such pathfinders will help spark lasting industry innovation via its tool, in the process lowering the cost for even small companies to find safer chemical alternatives for their products. “Our intention is to reverse decades of negative impacts from the inundation of toxic chemicals that we find in our products, our economy, our environment and our bodies,” said ChemFORWARD Executive Director Stacy Glass, who has led the effort from a project within the  Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to its current iteration, housed within the Washington, D.C.-based Healthy Building Network , a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable building materials. “We need new solutions, new ways of thinking about things to have safe, circular products.” We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. ChemFORWARD seeks not only to display what chemicals not to use, but also what’s available instead. This aim progresses away from the longtime industry reliance on restricted substances lists that can leave product makers empty-handed, while liberating data that until recently has been trapped in various PDF reports or proprietary databases. ChemFORWARD seeks to stand apart from other data plays by building bridges in the supply chain with its “collaborative, harmonized” approach. “We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed,” Glass said. What’s inside However, ChemFORWARD is entering an area that’s already seeing a lot of activity. Multiple hazards assessment standards are available in increasingly usable formats to help companies identify problematic chemicals. The for-profit firm Scivera , launched in 2008 in Charlottesville, Virginia, offers a subscription database SciveraLENS, with color-coded grades for chemicals based on their inherent hazards. ChemFORWARD’s web-based software pools together data from some of the best-known chemicals assessment methodologies. A color-coded letter grade rolls up information from the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification , Cradle to Cradle (on material health) and the EPA SaferChoice Safer Chemical Ingredients List . That results in offering users more than 50 pieces of interpretation and over 20 human and environmental endpoints, such as around neurotoxicity or aquatic toxicity, for each chemical. A view inside a ChemFORWARD display of dimethyl phthalate, used in plastics. “The work that ChemFORWARD is doing and proposes to do will provide important additional information to a community of organizations seeking real-world data to better understand the safety implications of their materials choices,” said green chemistry trailblazer John C. Warner, a distinguished research fellow at synthetic biology startup Zymergen. Think of nearly any consumer-product chemical villain that’s dominated recent headlines for disrupting ecosystems or being linked to cancer or hormonal havoc. Chances are ChemFORWARD is building a collection of alternatives to it. These include ortho-phthalate plasticizers found in flexible toys, UV-blocking oxybenzone in sunscreens and halogenated flame retardants in electronics. ChemFORWARD has portfolios of alternative cleaning solvents , cosmetics preservatives and fragrance fixatives. The goal is for ChemFORWARD to scale up from about 200 to 2,000 safer chemicals in 2021. “The more technical person can see the technical data they need,” Glass said. “But most companies need, ‘Can I use it [or] can I not use it?’ for an answer.” More than skin deep ChemFORWARD is building clearinghouses for electronics and food packaging, but one of its earliest repositories coalesces data in beauty and personal care, with hundreds of safer alternatives. Someone shopping around to include a safer surfactant in a skin cleanser or an emollient in a moisturizing lotion can consult the tool for the green “A” or “B” options. Sephora, which is mindful of its many eco-conscious young customers and became a co-design partner with ChemFORWARD in March, recently took steps to advance beyond its restricted substances list. The company says 94 percent of all the products it sells eliminate potentially negative “high-priority” chemicals. The Clean at Sephora label for sustainable beauty care products in its catalog features goods from more than five dozen smaller companies, including BeautyCounter . “We knew the importance of creating a baseline expectation for all brands in terms of safety and the environment,” Carley Klekas, Sephora’s senior manager of product sustainability, said. “Sephora already had rigorous requirements in place, specifically with our in-house brand, Sephora Collection, that goes beyond EU regulations, but we also wanted to expand this even more across the brands we carry.” These chemicals used in cosmetics display letter grades according to safety. It teamed up with ChemFORWARD and EDF on a research project that prioritized four chemical categories common within beauty and personal care: preservatives; benzophenones; silicones; and ethanolamines. Sephora then sponsored chemical hazard assessments for the alternative ingredients named in the research. As a result of the partnership, safer alternatives have been assessed for 73 percent of Sephora’s high-priority chemicals — and made available to industry via ChemFORWARD. “We needed a credible and innovative resource to help us assess alternatives to chemicals within our policy, to ensure they were safe, and that we were avoiding regrettable substitution,” Klekas said. “We know this is important work to be done and will ultimately help showcase that there are safer alternatives to the high-priority chemicals we seek to reduce in our assortment, while also help the industry identify gaps where more innovation is needed.” The innovation puzzle Glass sees ChemFORWARD’s highest mission as its potential for furthering innovation. But that requires buy-in not only from retailers and product manufacturers, but also from the chemical producers themselves. The process of making chemical substitutions is only one step along the path to optimizing shiny, new, safer chemicals, which Glass hopes to help propel. Enter Pat Harmon, industry manager at chemicals powerhouse BASF. He’s been involved with ChemFORWARD for many years after meeting Lauren Heine through a Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (G3C) event. Heine was then executive director of the nonprofit Northwest Green Chemistry and had just joined MaterialWise, the early iteration of ChemFORWARD, where she’s now director of safer materials and data integrity. BASF’s sustainability strategy hinges upon developing chemicals that advance sustainability, called “accelerators,” which account for more than 25 percent of its sales. Ninety-five percent of BASF’s products have been evaluated for potential sustainability contributions. BASF has a history of involvement in collaborative assessments, and it quantifies the sustainability benefits of its products through life-cycle assessments and its Sustainable Solutions Steering methodology. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. Harmon aligned with Heine on the need for better third-party assessments for alternatives to troublesome ortho-phthalates, which are tied to multiple health problems. He also liked what she described of how the fledgling nonprofit chemical clearinghouse might lower the cost to companies of chemical assessments while moving away from “negative lists.” ChemFORWARD’s involvement with leadership brands and retailers, which are ultimately BASF’s downstream customers, also helped to elevate the case for BASF getting involved.  Eventually, BASF shared details for ChemFORWARD about several of its plasticizer accelerators, including its ortho-phthalate alternatives Hexamoll DINCH and Palatinol DOTP . These are used in flexible PVC and in a broad range of applications including children’s toys, yoga mats, wiring cable, vinyl flooring and automotive interiors. A bridge? “Now, chemical suppliers have the option to market their safer alternatives and to validate their low-hazard claims through an independent, trusted platform,” Glass said. “In this way, we create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust.” Harmon sees ChemFORWARD as a useful tool for companies that ultimately use BASF’s chemicals as well as a resource that can help move safer chemistry forward in industry, demonstrating for BASF’s customers the value of the safer decisions behind their product formulations. And the involvement with CHEMForward may help BASF to identify potential market gaps in areas where the number of attractive chemical alternatives is slim.  “This is why the ChemFORWARD project is so important,” Harmon said. “It’s one of the ways to help understand that you’re making the right decisions to move to new substances. I would really like to see this approach be used more and more.” For example, what if ChemFORWARD could grow to include the broader area of plastics additives in addition to plasticizers, such as flame retardants and light stabilizers? That could bring more of the plastic industry onboard, he added. “If you make it broader for the whole plastics industry, then you have a lot of people who would have interest in using this type of tool,” Harmon said, optimistic that ChemFORWARD may help to advance plastics circularity longer term. For example, if it identifies safer plastics used, say, in medical equipment that’s currently discarded, then more IV bags or other consumables finally might be recycled without the possibility of circulating harmful chemicals into the marketplace and the environment, Harmon said.   Here’s a view of inherent hazards for benzophenone, known to damage coral reefs. It has been banned in sunscreens in Hawaii. ChemFORWARD’s small team hopes to encourage more chemical suppliers to get involved by providing them a means to bring forth their safer chemicals in a way that’s trustworthy, verified and peer-reviewed by a third party, also broadening the availability of their chemicals for certifications and reporting. Companies can use this information for marketing purposes, including for consumer labels, but it’s also critical for risk management and verifying internal claims about a product. “As we get more and more eyes on our platform, we’ll be able to make that case even more strongly that: ‘Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it,'” Glass said. “We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to not only stop unknowing toxic chemical exposure, but to empower those who are working to create a safe and circular future for all.” Data driven Glass spent a decade in green building, serving as VP for the built environment at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute , which shaped in 2016 the earliest version of ChemFORWARD. Research across industries, up and down supply chains, found that companies lacked information to use better chemistry. Good attempts by other nonprofits had failed to gain traction. Recognizing a larger industry need, the institute spun out the effort, which currently counts less than 10 staff members distributed across the U.S. and a network of toxicologists. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. “I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to, and the incredible tax this exposure is causing to society,” Glass said. “I’m not a chemist, I’m not a toxicologist — I said, we can fix this. I see the solution clearly. I’ll take any data solution, any scalable solution, that will get this information into the hands of designers and formulators so (they) can make safer decisions.” It’s possible ChemFORWARD ultimately could feed data into life-cycle analysis or supply chain management tools. It can’t hurt to have Google as a partner, and it’s worth noting that the advisory board’s latest addition is Kimberly Shenk, co-founder of the AI-driven supply chain transparency startup Novi. The movement, however, has a long road ahead. It’s still relatively cheap for companies to crank out new molecules, and the chemicals industry is a powerful economic engine and lobbying force. Nevertheless, ChemFORWARD and others pivoting away from the conventional focus in managing chemical risks and instead toward making decisions based on inherent toxicity is a huge paradigm shift, said Mark Rossi, executive director of Clean Production Action, who also created the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals hazard assessment method with Heine. “It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry,” he said. “All chemistry should be green chemistry, and how do you get there? This is all part of that movement toward making choices based on hazards.” Pull Quote We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. We create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust. Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Data Eco-Design BASF Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Industrial chemicals have proliferated exponentially since the time of this antique medical cabinet, and new ways of organizing them are sorely needed. Shutterstock Triff Close Authorship

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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

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