IceWind demos new residential wind turbine in Texas

June 29, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Residential micro wind turbines may one day become a popular way for people to produce their own power at home. Over the Fourth of July weekend, folks in Port Aransas Beach, Texas will be able to see a new Icelandic turbine in action during a special demo. The Icelandic renewable wind power company IceWind has invented this new home energy product. Home builder Daryl Losaw, IceWind’s San Marco, Texas-based investor, is excited to demo the tiny turbine to Texans. “We have a great story and showing off the turbines is the best way to tell it,” Losaw said in a press release. Unlike the horizontal axis wind turbines one sees at wind farms, IceWind’s new residential model sports vertical axes. Related: Windwords proposal turns wind turbines into public art IceWind has turned a decommissioned coal power plant in Reykjavik into its headquarters. The company is now in the final stages of development. “The concept is simple: We’re taking time tested technologies and bringing them into the modern era,” said IceWind CEO Saethor Asgeirsson. “Using super-strong materials such as aerospace-grade aluminum, carbon fiber, and high-grade stainless steel, our turbines are built to withstand anything.” This includes Iceland’s furious winds, which regularly surpass 50 mph during the island country’s dark and chilly wintertime. “It’s actually quite funny,” Asgeirsson said. “We are the only people in Iceland who get excited when there is crazy wind in the weather forecast. While everyone else is hunkering down at home, we’re huddled around a computer, excitedly watching our data feed.” IceWind has two product lines currently in development. In addition to the micro turbine for homes, the company is also working on a model to mount on telecom towers that will work in extreme arctic conditions. They’re already selling turbines in Iceland and plan to expand into the European and North American markets later this year. “I am looking forward to showing potential customers a rugged, bird-safe, micropower generation method, that represents independence from fossil fuels over this appropriate weekend,” said Losaw of the Port Aransas demo. “Hopefully, it will inspire beachgoers to look at energy in a new way.” + IceWind Images via IceWind

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IceWind demos new residential wind turbine in Texas

Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data

June 19, 2020 by  
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Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data Jim Giles Fri, 06/19/2020 – 00:15 Parts of our food systems are so bewilderingly complex that attempts to answer even basic questions can result in hours of frustrated searching. If you can relate to this, I have some good news for you — not quite a fully-fledged solution, but certainly a step toward one. The genesis of this solution dates to around six years ago, when Lawrence Haddad, who leads the nonprofit Global Alliance on Improved Nutrition , was editing an article on nutrition. “The authors had so little data to go on they had to make crazy assumptions about food systems,” he recalled when we spoke this week.  Haddad and his co-editor, Jessica Fanzo of Johns Hopkins University, set about assembling the people and funding needed to fix that. Earlier this month, they unveiled the Food Systems Dashboard . “It’s very much something we built in our garages in evenings and weekends,” Haddad said. “Much to our surprise, it has gathered momentum. We now see the potential is huge.” The dashboard is a data smorgasbord that covers everything from food waste and greenhouse gas emissions to food security and agricultural productivity. In total, there are more than 170 indicators, culled from 35 sources and covering nearly every country. There are gaps in the coverage, which Haddad says the team is working to fix, but the dashboard looks likely to become a first point of call for questions about food systems.  It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions. Poking around it this week, for instance, I found it easy to check something I had been curious about: Are young people in the United States eating more vegetables? Sadly not. Consumption hasn’t changed much in a decade. Presumably, this is related to other data I came across in the dashboard: The quantity of vegetables available per person in the U.S. food supply has been trending slowly down over the past 20 years. Businesses also can benefit from exploratory analyses such as these, suggested Haddad. There’s data on food infrastructure, government regulations and the amount of money that families have available to spend on food, all factors that guide decisions about whether to move into an emerging market. “If this is only for researchers, we’ve failed,” Haddad said. “It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions.” To make the dashboard more useful, the team is working on adding subnational data for large countries and developing guides for specific types of users. The dashboard also likely will be used by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization as part of its 2021 Food Systems Summit .  If your organization has thoughts on data you’d like to see added to the dashboard, Haddad and the dashboard team invite you to drop them a line via the site’s contact form . As always, I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this project and other issues you’d like to see covered in Food Weekly. You can reach me at jg@greenbiz.com . This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Technology Data Featured Column Foodstuff 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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Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data

Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data

June 19, 2020 by  
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Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data Jim Giles Fri, 06/19/2020 – 00:15 Parts of our food systems are so bewilderingly complex that attempts to answer even basic questions can result in hours of frustrated searching. If you can relate to this, I have some good news for you — not quite a fully-fledged solution, but certainly a step toward one. The genesis of this solution dates to around six years ago, when Lawrence Haddad, who leads the nonprofit Global Alliance on Improved Nutrition , was editing an article on nutrition. “The authors had so little data to go on they had to make crazy assumptions about food systems,” he recalled when we spoke this week.  Haddad and his co-editor, Jessica Fanzo of Johns Hopkins University, set about assembling the people and funding needed to fix that. Earlier this month, they unveiled the Food Systems Dashboard . “It’s very much something we built in our garages in evenings and weekends,” Haddad said. “Much to our surprise, it has gathered momentum. We now see the potential is huge.” The dashboard is a data smorgasbord that covers everything from food waste and greenhouse gas emissions to food security and agricultural productivity. In total, there are more than 170 indicators, culled from 35 sources and covering nearly every country. There are gaps in the coverage, which Haddad says the team is working to fix, but the dashboard looks likely to become a first point of call for questions about food systems.  It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions. Poking around it this week, for instance, I found it easy to check something I had been curious about: Are young people in the United States eating more vegetables? Sadly not. Consumption hasn’t changed much in a decade. Presumably, this is related to other data I came across in the dashboard: The quantity of vegetables available per person in the U.S. food supply has been trending slowly down over the past 20 years. Businesses also can benefit from exploratory analyses such as these, suggested Haddad. There’s data on food infrastructure, government regulations and the amount of money that families have available to spend on food, all factors that guide decisions about whether to move into an emerging market. “If this is only for researchers, we’ve failed,” Haddad said. “It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions.” To make the dashboard more useful, the team is working on adding subnational data for large countries and developing guides for specific types of users. The dashboard also likely will be used by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization as part of its 2021 Food Systems Summit .  If your organization has thoughts on data you’d like to see added to the dashboard, Haddad and the dashboard team invite you to drop them a line via the site’s contact form . As always, I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this project and other issues you’d like to see covered in Food Weekly. You can reach me at jg@greenbiz.com . This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Technology Data Featured Column Foodstuff 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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Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data

How on-demand food delivery apps could encourage low-carbon food

June 8, 2020 by  
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How on-demand food delivery apps could encourage low-carbon food Anna Zhang Mon, 06/08/2020 – 02:00 The COVID-19 crisis has affected most aspects of daily life, including how we get our food. Because the COVID-19 response has restricted restaurants to pick-up and delivery orders in many areas, business for on-demand food delivery apps such as DoorDash, Grubhub, Seamless and Uber Eats has increased dramatically.  Uber Eats claims to have experienced a tenfold increase in new restaurant signups, and some local restaurants say the percentage of orders placed through third-party apps has risen from around 20 percent to roughly 75 percent .  Even before the COVID era, food order and delivery apps were growing rapidly, and the sector was on track to more than double in value by 2025 — from $82 billion in 2018 to $200 billion by 2025. Projections showed that by 2023 about one-quarter of smartphone users , or 14 million Americans, will use these apps.  For the environmentally minded, the increased adoption of app-based food delivery services presents a unique opportunity to affect carbon emissions in the food supply chain. One of the leading climate change solutions is the widespread adoption of a plant-rich diet, particularly in countries with a more “Western” diet. Adopting these habits has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 66 gigatonnes CO2-equivalent, according to Project Drawdown. Compared to business as usual, choosing vegan options could reduce emissions by as much as 70 percent . Third-party food delivery apps offer a valuable opportunity to connect consumers to the knowledge they need to adopt a climate-friendly diet.  We believe that food delivery apps can implement some basic features to help consumers be more aware of the environmental impact of their food choices. While systematic change in food production at all levels is necessary to achieve goals for carbon emission reductions, influencing consumer behavior to shift towards low-carbon food options has the power to simultaneously encourage food producers up the supply chain to reduce the carbon impact of their offerings, while also empowering consumers to reduce their own personal carbon footprints. A recent study in Science magazine noted that “dietary change can deliver environmental benefits on a scale not achievable by producers.” However, a major roadblock is the lack of transparency surrounding the carbon impacts of food.  Many consumers recognize that animal products have some negative impact on the planet, yet most don’t truly know the extent to which meat consumption can drastically increase carbon emissions.  Indeed, according to a recent study by the Yale Center on Climate Change Communications, about half of surveyed Americans (51 percent) would be willing to eat a more plant-based, low-carbon diet if they had more information about how their food choices affected the environment. Through a six-week climate innovation program at Yale , we envisioned two ways that on-demand food delivery apps could empower their users to make more climate-friendly food choices. We based our idea off a successful project at Yale demonstrating the effectiveness of environmental impact ratings on consumers — in this case, students at Yale’s dining halls. Rate the Plate is an initiative designed by current Yale students through which dining halls display posters containing the calculated range estimates for the amount of carbon emissions from each available entree. After running both a small-scale pilot and then expanding to all Yale residential colleges, the organizers had students complete a survey to analyze the effectiveness of the posters and ratings. The results show that 62 percent of students had a positive response when asked if they reconsidered their food choices after seeing the ratings.  Additionally, when asked if they would like to continue seeing the environmental impact posters in the dining halls, more than 86 percent of students said yes.  The results of this project inspired us to consider other ways to empower consumers to make climate-friendly food choices. We believe that food delivery apps can implement some basic features to help consumers be more aware of the environmental impact of their food choices.  First, food order and delivery companies can create short monthly quizzes for users to test their knowledge about the carbon impacts of various food options. An interactive, visually appealing quiz can inform consumers about how their own food choices can affect the planet as a whole. Positive messaging alongside discounts or other incentives can encourage users to take the quizzes and act on the information they learn.  For example, online consignment retailer ThredUp already runs an online quiz that consumers can take to determine their environmental impacts in the apparel sector. Additionally, companies could implement carbon labeling within their order menu interface. There are various existing methods to estimate and label the carbon emissions associated with food dishes, but a simple number or range of carbon equivalents would allow consumers to compare meal options within the app.  Using color coding or symbols such as trees to indicate high- and low-carbon footprint items also would be a non-obtrusive way to represent the information. The methodology could be explained in one of the quizzes released each month so consumers feel that they have both easy-to-read and accurate data. Order and delivery apps could include discounts for consumers opting into low-carbon food selections. What’s in it for companies such as DoorDash and Snackpass?  Companies would be able to analyze the data on these strategies to fulfill internal corporate sustainability metrics on reducing GHG emissions, and such information could be advertised to demonstrate the company’s drive and success in sustainability compared to competing apps.  There is growing demand for sustainable business practices and purchasing options, especially among younger consumers . Being known as a climate-friendly option in the food-delivery ecosystem likely will be a selling point for many companies. If food delivery apps implemented these various features, tracking the environmental impact would be relatively straightforward because it relies on digital technology and data collection. By looking at the number of people taking the carbon-impact quiz every month, companies could get a sense of the reach of these efforts among their customers. Eventually, they also could use the consumer order data to look for significant shifts in the carbon impacts of dishes people order.  What’s the role for restaurants?  While the relationships between restaurants and food delivery apps sometimes can be contentious , restaurants could benefit from advertising themselves as a climate-friendly option.  Restaurants would provide information about the ingredients lists of their dishes, allowing food delivery apps to calculate carbon impacts. As previously mentioned, discounts are offered to consumers who take the food carbon quizzes, which can help restaurants draw in new customers as well as highlight some of their vegan and vegetarian options. Ideally, there would be a shift towards vegetable-based options and away from meat-heavy dishes after the carbon ratings and quizzes are implemented, which would demonstrate a positive impact on consumer decisions in terms of carbon emissions. This data from before and after the intervention also could be used to create a baseline to calculate how many kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions were avoided due to lower demand for meat-heavy dishes.  As food-delivery apps continue to gain popularity over the next decade, integrating information about the climate impact of food options has the potential to address the large impact the food-supply chain has on carbon emissions. This information gives consumers power in their food choices and allows food-delivery apps to demonstrate climate-friendly values. Pull Quote We believe that food delivery apps can implement some basic features to help consumers be more aware of the environmental impact of their food choices. Contributors Tracy Zhou Luke Browne Abbey Warner Topics Food Systems Innovation Technology E-commerce 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 on-demand food delivery apps could encourage low-carbon food

How on-demand food delivery apps could encourage low-carbon food

June 8, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

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How on-demand food delivery apps could encourage low-carbon food Anna Zhang Mon, 06/08/2020 – 02:00 The COVID-19 crisis has affected most aspects of daily life, including how we get our food. Because the COVID-19 response has restricted restaurants to pick-up and delivery orders in many areas, business for on-demand food delivery apps such as DoorDash, Grubhub, Seamless and Uber Eats has increased dramatically.  Uber Eats claims to have experienced a tenfold increase in new restaurant signups, and some local restaurants say the percentage of orders placed through third-party apps has risen from around 20 percent to roughly 75 percent .  Even before the COVID era, food order and delivery apps were growing rapidly, and the sector was on track to more than double in value by 2025 — from $82 billion in 2018 to $200 billion by 2025. Projections showed that by 2023 about one-quarter of smartphone users , or 14 million Americans, will use these apps.  For the environmentally minded, the increased adoption of app-based food delivery services presents a unique opportunity to affect carbon emissions in the food supply chain. One of the leading climate change solutions is the widespread adoption of a plant-rich diet, particularly in countries with a more “Western” diet. Adopting these habits has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 66 gigatonnes CO2-equivalent, according to Project Drawdown. Compared to business as usual, choosing vegan options could reduce emissions by as much as 70 percent . Third-party food delivery apps offer a valuable opportunity to connect consumers to the knowledge they need to adopt a climate-friendly diet.  We believe that food delivery apps can implement some basic features to help consumers be more aware of the environmental impact of their food choices. While systematic change in food production at all levels is necessary to achieve goals for carbon emission reductions, influencing consumer behavior to shift towards low-carbon food options has the power to simultaneously encourage food producers up the supply chain to reduce the carbon impact of their offerings, while also empowering consumers to reduce their own personal carbon footprints. A recent study in Science magazine noted that “dietary change can deliver environmental benefits on a scale not achievable by producers.” However, a major roadblock is the lack of transparency surrounding the carbon impacts of food.  Many consumers recognize that animal products have some negative impact on the planet, yet most don’t truly know the extent to which meat consumption can drastically increase carbon emissions.  Indeed, according to a recent study by the Yale Center on Climate Change Communications, about half of surveyed Americans (51 percent) would be willing to eat a more plant-based, low-carbon diet if they had more information about how their food choices affected the environment. Through a six-week climate innovation program at Yale , we envisioned two ways that on-demand food delivery apps could empower their users to make more climate-friendly food choices. We based our idea off a successful project at Yale demonstrating the effectiveness of environmental impact ratings on consumers — in this case, students at Yale’s dining halls. Rate the Plate is an initiative designed by current Yale students through which dining halls display posters containing the calculated range estimates for the amount of carbon emissions from each available entree. After running both a small-scale pilot and then expanding to all Yale residential colleges, the organizers had students complete a survey to analyze the effectiveness of the posters and ratings. The results show that 62 percent of students had a positive response when asked if they reconsidered their food choices after seeing the ratings.  Additionally, when asked if they would like to continue seeing the environmental impact posters in the dining halls, more than 86 percent of students said yes.  The results of this project inspired us to consider other ways to empower consumers to make climate-friendly food choices. We believe that food delivery apps can implement some basic features to help consumers be more aware of the environmental impact of their food choices.  First, food order and delivery companies can create short monthly quizzes for users to test their knowledge about the carbon impacts of various food options. An interactive, visually appealing quiz can inform consumers about how their own food choices can affect the planet as a whole. Positive messaging alongside discounts or other incentives can encourage users to take the quizzes and act on the information they learn.  For example, online consignment retailer ThredUp already runs an online quiz that consumers can take to determine their environmental impacts in the apparel sector. Additionally, companies could implement carbon labeling within their order menu interface. There are various existing methods to estimate and label the carbon emissions associated with food dishes, but a simple number or range of carbon equivalents would allow consumers to compare meal options within the app.  Using color coding or symbols such as trees to indicate high- and low-carbon footprint items also would be a non-obtrusive way to represent the information. The methodology could be explained in one of the quizzes released each month so consumers feel that they have both easy-to-read and accurate data. Order and delivery apps could include discounts for consumers opting into low-carbon food selections. What’s in it for companies such as DoorDash and Snackpass?  Companies would be able to analyze the data on these strategies to fulfill internal corporate sustainability metrics on reducing GHG emissions, and such information could be advertised to demonstrate the company’s drive and success in sustainability compared to competing apps.  There is growing demand for sustainable business practices and purchasing options, especially among younger consumers . Being known as a climate-friendly option in the food-delivery ecosystem likely will be a selling point for many companies. If food delivery apps implemented these various features, tracking the environmental impact would be relatively straightforward because it relies on digital technology and data collection. By looking at the number of people taking the carbon-impact quiz every month, companies could get a sense of the reach of these efforts among their customers. Eventually, they also could use the consumer order data to look for significant shifts in the carbon impacts of dishes people order.  What’s the role for restaurants?  While the relationships between restaurants and food delivery apps sometimes can be contentious , restaurants could benefit from advertising themselves as a climate-friendly option.  Restaurants would provide information about the ingredients lists of their dishes, allowing food delivery apps to calculate carbon impacts. As previously mentioned, discounts are offered to consumers who take the food carbon quizzes, which can help restaurants draw in new customers as well as highlight some of their vegan and vegetarian options. Ideally, there would be a shift towards vegetable-based options and away from meat-heavy dishes after the carbon ratings and quizzes are implemented, which would demonstrate a positive impact on consumer decisions in terms of carbon emissions. This data from before and after the intervention also could be used to create a baseline to calculate how many kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions were avoided due to lower demand for meat-heavy dishes.  As food-delivery apps continue to gain popularity over the next decade, integrating information about the climate impact of food options has the potential to address the large impact the food-supply chain has on carbon emissions. This information gives consumers power in their food choices and allows food-delivery apps to demonstrate climate-friendly values. Pull Quote We believe that food delivery apps can implement some basic features to help consumers be more aware of the environmental impact of their food choices. Contributors Tracy Zhou Luke Browne Abbey Warner Topics Food Systems Innovation Technology E-commerce 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 on-demand food delivery apps could encourage low-carbon food

Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

May 29, 2020 by  
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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept Heather Clancy Fri, 05/29/2020 – 02:15 If your sustainability team has regular debates about how to label or describe its various initiatives, it’s not alone. The nuances of all the various adjectives and descriptors that are used to describe climate action — from “science-based” to “net zero” to “carbon negative” — are enough to make heads spin, especially for those who spend their professional lives worrying about how to communicate these concepts. The analysts and journalists of GreenBiz feel your pain. So, it was hardly surprising when literally thousands of GreenBiz community members signed up for the recent webcast about “Absolute Zero,” moderated by yours truly. It was one of the best-attended sessions in the history of our online events.  Technically speaking, the literal definition of absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature that’s theoretically possible. From the climate perspective, the phrase is used frequently by UK Fires, a research collaboration between the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath and Imperial College London — although it’s not all that common (yet at least) in North American circles.  So how does this idea apply to the world of sustainability? Here’s the first thing to understand about the concept of Absolute Zero as it applies to corporate climate action: It’s not all about you, and it’s not all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s just the table stakes. The reality, though, is that any individual company must use a combination of strategies to inch or leap toward that goal — and the combination of what an organization is able to use will depend a great deal not just on its industry sector but also on its financial clout and support from the C-suite.  It might, for example, buy carbon offsets to kickstart action in the short term without delay, then move on to supporting initiatives that directly affect its operations, such as installing new technologies for energy efficiency or clean energy. From there, the focus for many companies often progresses into its supply chain — the place many corporate sustainability teams spend a lot of their time today. The most ambitious plans (at least right now) are those seeking ways to enable reductions for others on top of all that. Some organizations never may reach the last stage. But those that can should try, according to the speakers on this month’s webcast. “In a world in which we know some companies will not be able to reach net zero, it’s absolutely imperative that others who can reach it go beyond,” said Charlotte Bande, climate strategy lead for sustainability consulting firm Quantis. Bande said Absolute Zero (a concept that the firm is socializing with its clients) is the long-term guidepost that businesses should navigate toward — it encourages companies to maximize their individual contributions toward the vision of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. “Absolute sustainability is about making sure that society operates within planetary boundaries while satisfying human needs,” Bande said. Included in that should be strategies addressing biodiversity, land use, freshwater consumption, the phosphorus cycle and the nitrogen cycle, she noted. How might Absolute Zero apply to your own strategy? During the next 10 years — a period the United Nations Global Compact has dubbed the ” Decade of Action ” — companies must focus far more on mitigating their impact not just within their own corporate boundaries but within their entire value chain, including suppliers and customers, according to the speakers on the GreenBiz webcast.  That means paying far more attention to issues related to sustainable development, such as child labor policies, community water abuses or gender equity issues, said Owen Hewlett, chief technical officer of Gold Standard, a Swiss NGO that issues carbon credits.  “We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time,” he said. Offsetting versus insetting Hewlett devoted part of his presentation to a discussion about ” insetting ,” which he and Bande defined as activities within a company’s supply chain that can be counted toward science-based targets even though they are technically outside a company’s direct boundaries — such as addressing the emissions of suppliers in tiers one or two of a company’s supply chain.  In that way, insetting is distinct from the more broadly used process of “offsetting,” a term often used to describe the process of supporting projects focused on carbon removal in order to receive credit for the reductions that it enables.  For many organizations, the distinction is elusive, but many companies use the process of offsetting to kickstart their corporate emissions reductions. The idea of insetting is often associated with natural climate solutions , although it can be accomplished by any verifiable activity that mitigates emissions related to a company’s value chain.  We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. “The real test is this question: What does it count towards? If it’s in boundary, you can report it against science-based targets. If it’s outside boundaries, then it should be considered enabling reductions [for others]. Often, it’s a bit of both,” Hewlett acknowledged. One example of insetting is a program that the petcare divisions of food company Mars created to help wheat farmers improve their productivity and measure the carbon sequestration impact of activities such as reducing fertilizer usage and using cover crops and manures.  Apple’s program to invest in renewable energy for some suppliers is another illustration of an initiative that could be considered an example of insetting. (This example wasn’t used on the webcast, but it helps illustrate what’s possible.)   Leadership is a constantly moving target Focusing on reducing Scope 3 emissions that are upstream or downstream in a company’s value chain is a growing focus for sustainability teams in sectors such as food and consumer packaged goods — as is focusing on the creation of products and services that help other organizations, particularly customers and suppliers, cut their impact more broadly.  During the webcast, one of several polling questions probed attendees about where they thought it was possible to “maximize the potential” of their sustainable business strategies. More than half of those who responded during the live session said “enabling others to reduce” was where their largest future impact lies. The idea that companies have a responsibility not just for their own emissions but also for those of their customers and suppliers is being embraced by a growing number of companies, including Microsoft.   In January, the technology company publicly embraced a “carbon negative” climate strategy that will see Microsoft begin to charge its different business units an internal carbon fee for their Scope 3 emissions — it also does this for Scope 1 and Scope 2 impacts. It also committed $1 billion in funding to new technologies, innovations and climate solutions, with the intent of taking responsibility for past emission. “We really zeroed in on what we’re doing not only in our own operations but in our value chain,” said Elizabeth Willmott, carbon program manager at Microsoft, on the webcast. In a sense, successful companies and industrialized nations should bear responsibility for the climate impact of their economic sense, she said. “What is exciting is that it embraces the idea of net zero, but goes beyond,” Willmott said. While Microsoft hasn’t used the phrase Absolute Zero to describe this strategy, the carbon negative nomenclature has been used by others, including retailer IKEA, which actually adopted a similar philosophy in 2018. (IKEA now uses the term ” climate positive ” to describe its policy, as does Intuit, which is teaming up with Project Drawdown for help.  Regardless what they actually call it, the aim is the same: These companies intend to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they produce — because they have the means of doing so.  Microsoft considers the future impact of its products — particularly its cloud software services — as a key motivator for its recent strategy shift. In that sense, its climate policy is increasingly being embedded into core business decisions, including future “co-innovation” with both retail and enterprise customers.  “What is a leadership move today won’t be tomorrow,” Willmott said during the webcast. Pull Quote We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. Topics Corporate Strategy Carbon Removal Offsets Natural Climate Solutions Collective Insight GreenBiz 101 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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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

As sustainability becomes professionalized, all professions look for sustainability skills

May 4, 2020 by  
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GreenBiz’s 2020 State of the Profession report illuminates the hard numbers measuring career realities for sustainability leaders across all industries. Among other things, the data show shifts to more engaged CEOs, increased investor pressure and a boost in hiring of sustainability professionals among the surveyed companies. 

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As sustainability becomes professionalized, all professions look for sustainability skills

How to harmonize the sustainability reporting of your business unit with your parent company

April 22, 2020 by  
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Sponsored: Balancing parent company messaging with local CSR needs can be challenging. Here are some tips our energy company would like to share about sustainability reporting.

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How to harmonize the sustainability reporting of your business unit with your parent company

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