The unmasking of Corporate America

June 15, 2020 by  
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The unmasking of Corporate America Joel Makower Mon, 06/15/2020 – 02:11 The past two weeks have seen an outpouring of concern and commitment by companies about racism in the United States. Pronouncements on company social media accounts often take the form of graphics — white type against a black background seems to be de rigueur in the current environment. It’s all a welcome sign but also treacherous territory. For one simple reason: Words, no matter how compelling, compassionate or committed, aren’t enough to undo the injustices and structural challenges employees and others face when it comes to race and equity. Companies are being asked to show, not just tell. And hypocrisy, or lack of action, is being called out. Consider the backlash already on social media. As companies post their support for Black Lives Matter and racial justice in general, activists are asking these companies to also post a picture of their leadership team and/or board of directors. Words, no matter how compelling, compassionate or committed, aren’t enough to undo the injustices and structural challenges employees face when it comes to race and equity. You can probably guess why: Corporate board and leadership teams are all too often overwhelmingly white and male. And while gender diversity has improved significantly over the past few years —  according to Institutional Shareholder Services , 45 percent of new board positions among the Russell 3000, representing 3,000 of the largest U.S.-traded stocks, were filled by women in 2019, up from just 12 percent in 2008 — racial diversity has not.  According to the 2019 Registry of Corporate Directors published by Black Enterprise magazine, there were just over 300 African-American board members among S&P 500 companies, out of nearly 4,500 board seats overall. That’s progress, but barely. (Full disclosure: GreenBiz Group’s six-person leadership team, four men and two women, is all-white.) Board seats and leadership positions are only one aspect of corporate performance on diversity and inclusion, but it’s a critical one, as modeling behavior starts at the top. Companies are responding in a range of meaningful ways: devoting tens of millions of dollars to racial justice initiatives (Apple, Google, NBCUniversal), establishing an internal committee to advance racial equity and justice solutions (Walmart), committing that black candidates are on the succession list for all senior-level positions (Estée Lauder), as well as pledging to direct more investment capital to minority entrepreneurs, publicly advocating for action at the state and local levels, and developing anti-racist workplace initiatives, among other things. But there are also corporate statements that risk being seen as window dressing. Take the Business Roundtable, a group of companies whose 2019 Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation has received copious press coverage. Earlier this month, the group tapped seven of its board members to form a committee on “racial equality and justice solutions.” As Politico reported : Critics pointed out that there are no specific benchmarks or funding. The committee is led by two black and five white executives from Eaton, Vista Equity Partners, AT&T, Marriott International, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase and Johnson & Johnson. Most of these companies have no more than two people of color on their boards. … A spokeswoman for the Business Roundtable said the group is “committed to taking thoughtful action on issues of racial injustice,” which includes “CEOs listening to their employees, customers and members of the communities they operate in, with the goal of strengthening unity and justice.” The spokeswoman also noted that 19 of the group’s more than 180 CEOs are people of color, while another 19 are women (just one of whom is nonwhite). Which begs the question, not just for the Business Roundtable but for all companies: What actually will change as a result of these statements and commitments? How will progress be measured and tracked? Who will be holding companies accountable? Probably not Wall Street. “Your standard research analyst is not going to ask, ‘Please articulate your efforts to become an anti-racist, multicultural organization,’” Erika Karp, founder and CEO of Cornerstone Capital and a Wall Street veteran, told me last week. “You’re not going to hear that on an analyst call.” She added: “But I think you should.” I asked Karp, whose firm published a 2018 research report, “Investing to Advance Racial Equity,” how she’d like to see companies judged, and whether company actions could be boiled down to the kind of environmental, social and governance metrics analysts are coming to expect from publicly traded companies. Instead, Karp pointed me to an undated, but presumably recent, matrix pulled from the psychoanalytic world: “Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist, Multicultural Institution.” It plots companies across six stages, from Exclusive (“a segregated institution”) to Fully Inclusive (“a transformed institution in a transformed society”). The continuum tracks companies from monocultural to multicultural to anti-racist to anti-racist multicultural. Most companies, from my perspective, can be found in the early stages of the continuum, such as Passive (“tolerant of a limited number of people of color with ‘proper’ perspective and credentials”) and Symbolic Change (“makes official policy pronouncements regarding multicultural diversity”). The tougher stuff is yet to come. Said Karp: “This came from the psychoanalytic world, but it might as well be from McKinsey.” In many ways, we’ve seen this movie before. The anti-racist continuum could be applied, with only modest modification, to corporate sustainability or social responsibility, from reactive and recalcitrant polluters at one end, to proactive and regenerative beacons at the other. And, as with sustainability, how a company is perceived on racial justice and equity is a delicate dance between showing and telling — that is, meaningful actions paired with stories, with great care given to not let the latter get too far ahead of the former. When the two are unaligned is when companies find themselves called out on social media and beyond. For most companies, having an open dialogue is a critical first step, but if things don’t progress from there, it will be more than a lost opportunity — it increasingly will become a risk factor. That’s a lesson of this moment: Be careful out there. Show, don’t just tell. I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote Words, no matter how compelling, compassionate or committed, aren’t enough to undo the injustices and structural challenges employees face when it comes to race and equity. Topics Leadership Marketing & Communication Diversity 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 Group

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Inside Cargill’s experiment to pay farmers for carbon sequestration

June 15, 2020 by  
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Inside Cargill’s experiment to pay farmers for carbon sequestration Heather Clancy Mon, 06/15/2020 – 00:15 Over the past year, agricultural commodities giant Cargill stepped up its global sustainability initiatives substantially, with a series of programs created to support its science-based target of reducing supply chain emissions by 30 percent by 2030.  Like many other food companies, it’s dedicating resources to promoting regenerative agricultural practices among the farmers and seeking ways that farms can profit from their efforts to sequester carbon dioxide. That’s the backstory behind its relationship with the Soil & Water Outcomes Fund , a program intended to support farmers who design and implement initiatives aimed at improving water quality and mitigating flooding and runoff, increasing carbon sequestration, reducing emissions from on-farm operations, and creating or protecting habitat. These include practices such as planting cover crops, reducing tillage and preserving edge-of-field wilderness buffers or wetland. The effort, which includes close to 10,000 acres in the pilot phase this year across 15 farms in Iowa, is administered by the Iowa Soybean Association , promoting the idea with members and advising them on best practices; and investment firm Quantified Ventures , helping with cost-benefit analyses and other operational aspects of the effort, including fundraising. The goal is to include up to 100,000 acres in Iowa next year and expand into at least two more states, according to the companies managing the program. They come to us with a program. We analyze and pay them on a tiered approach depending on what they do. Progress against a farm’s individual carbon removal or water stewardship efforts will be measured using COMET-FARM , a carbon reporting and accounting system developed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Division and Colorado State University. “[Farmers] come to us with a program. We analyze and pay them on a tiered approach depending on what they do,” said Adam Kiel, director of conservation and external programs at Iowa Soybean. Farmers will be paid between $30 and $45 per acre this season, depending on the outcomes. The metrics for success are being defined by the fund in collaboration with local municipalities that feel the downstream effects of agricultural activities within their watersheds. To be clear, the program isn’t limited to soybean operations but it does require that the approaches being adopted are additive or new — farmers won’t be rewarded for regenerative practices that were already in place. The program started specifically to address water quality measures but evolved to embrace the broader carbon sequestration mandate.     Cargill’s role is twofold: Not only is it encouraging farmers to participate as way of helping address its Scope 3 emissions, it also will buy carbon credits through the fund on an annual basis. “The innovative nature of this program was compelling,” said Ryan Sirolli, director of row crop sustainability at Cargill. While Cargill is the only named company participating in the new fund, Mark Lambert, director of Quantified Ventures, said it is in discussion with other large companies. “We want a diversity of customers,” he said. “We see a variety of opportunities to support sustainability goals.” What does success look like? A program that touches “millions” of acres, he said. Given the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the global food system , it’s more important than ever to help farmers reap the financial benefits of investing in a more sustainable approach, Sirolli said. “Agriculture is getting absolutely hammered right now,” he said. Aside from this specific effort, Cargill is a founding member of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, which seeks to create a national marketplace by 2020. “We would love to see customers, competitors, others saying, ‘I would love to be in this space,’” Sirolli said. This isn’t the only carbon marketplace scheme in the works — and the model is raising questions about how actions are measured and verified. Startup Indigo Ag, backed by companies including recent investor FedEx , for example, is planning to pay farmers based on how much carbon they have stored in their soil — it collects soil samples to that end. Software company Nori, another rising player, is using blockchain to manage the transactions. An important actor Cargill’s influence on transforming to a more sustainable food system cannot be underestimated — it employs 160,000 people in 70 countries. The footprint of its sustainability activities, detailed in its latest sustainability report published in early June, is extensive. Among some notable highlights of its work: Using digital technologies and barcodes, the company can trace 50 percent of its “sustainable cocoa beans” supply from farm to factory; it’s also using mapping services, which will be important for identifying regions where forests are at risk. The company has reduced its “aggregated gross CO2 reduction” related to its maritime vessels — it owns an ocean fleet of over 600 vessels — by 800,000 metric tons. It’s also working closely with the Global Maritime Forum.  It’s “on track” to eliminate deforestation related to commercial palm concessions in its “third-party supply chain” by the end of 2020.  Cargill also has completed a Brazilian supply chain mapping exercise related to building “deforestation-free” supply chains for soybeans. Earlier this year at GreenBiz 20, Cargill CSO Ruth Kimmelshue acknowledged that progress to protect forests has been tougher within the soy supply chain than it has been for cocoa or palm oil. The company’s overall pledge has been to halve deforestation within its supply chains by the end of 2020 and to eliminate it entirely by 2030. Pull Quote They come to us with a program. We analyze and pay them on a tiered approach depending on what they do. Topics Carbon Removal Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Natural Climate Solutions Carbon Removal 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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Residential energy is becoming companies’ business

May 29, 2020 by  
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Residential energy is becoming companies’ business Sarah Golden Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:45 In this crazy upside-down world, the line between residential and commercial energy is getting fuzzy.  Everything changed so quickly, it makes sense that climate and energy teams have yet to figure out how to account for the shift. But as companies such as Mastercard , Facebook and Twitter look at long-term remote work policies, working from home (WFH) is adding a new dimension to corporate carbon accounting.  And it’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy.  It’s still early days for companies thinking about WFH energy usages as part of their own greenhouse gas footprint. Right now, commercial energy use is still high , and it’s not clear when or which workers will head back to the office.  It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. According to Noah Goldstein, director of sustainability at Guidehouse, there also aren’t great calculations for what the GHG impact of working from home would be. The guidance is that the company is only responsible for “additional” energy use, but that is hard to determine without baseline calculations.  “I can foresee some companies accounting for WFH in their 2020 or 2021 footprint, but very, very few in number,” said Goldstein in an email.  Five companies with residential energy programs for the COVID era With people hunkering down at home as we enter a hotter than normal summer , residential demand response will be critical to keep energy affordable and clean(er).  The pandemic began in a shoulder month — meaning a time of year where heating and cooling demands are low as most of the country experiences temperate weather. With restrictions on movement still in effect, grid operators are preparing for air conditioners alone to strain our energy infrastructure. Demand response is a promising solution. According to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie, residential demand response would unlock more than 10 gigawatts of additional energy capacity. This would help utilities and states stay on track for clean energy goals and reduce energy bills at a time when households are struggling more than ever to make ends meet.  Here are five companies with updated offerings tailored to the COVID-19 era, designed to make residential energy use smarter as our homes become our office (and bar and restaurant and concert venue and movie theater…) 1. Google Nest partners with utilities Google recently announced its partnership with Consumers Energy to bring smart thermostats to up to 100,000 households in Michigan. According to its release , those who receive a thermostat will be enrolled in the utility’s Smart Thermostat Program, which shifts energy use to off-peak hours.  The partnership is part of Consumers’ Clean Energy Plan, which is striving to reach net-zero carbon emissions. Shifting energy use during peak times is key to staying on track.  This is just the first in a series of Google Nest’s partnerships. The company is expected to announce three more utility partnerships at the start of June.  Google isn’t the only company teaming up with utilities to gamify demand response. Logical Buildings launched its GridRewards campaign last month to encourage residents to reduce energy usage at key times. Logical Buildings partnered with a consortium of municipalities in Westchester, New York.  2. OhmConnect launches AutoOhms Last week, OhmConnect announced AutoOhms , its newest program that offers cash incentives for “timely, smarter energy use.” AutoOhm will power down energy-intensive connected appliances in 15-minute increments during peak energy times. Customers will receive a text message when peak rates are about to kick in and can select appliances to power down through an app. Through this “gamified” experience, the customer can actively see their energy savings.  The program is available for customers of California’s three big investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric.  3. Tesla Energy discusses Autobidder Always a big dreamer, it comes as no surprise that Tesla’s energy division has its sights on becoming a distributed global utility.  Tesla has been deploying distributed energy assets (think solar, electric vehicles, Powerwalls) while investing in grid-scale energy and storage projects. Now the company’s vision is to control these individual assets as one beast on its platform Autobidder . According to the website, Autobidder allows anyone with energy storage assets — be they EVs, solar plus storage, a home battery, anything — to engage in real-time trading and make additional money from the energy asset.  Apparently, Autobidder already has been (quietly) around for a few years, operations at Tesla’s energy storage facility in South Australia. With Tesla talking about the software, the company is likely hoping for wider adoption.  4. Leap Energy develops a demand response marketplace Leap, a newer company in the world of demand response, is working to create a marketplace to better monetize energy resources. Its vision is to engage connected energy resources that aren’t currently participating in grid flexibility — which, according to its CEO Thomas Folker, is about 90 percent of energy assets. “We are an aggregator of other aggregators,” said Folker in a phone conversation last month. “We don’t physically control any hardware, we don’t acquire any customers. We just provide the software that allows for this all to happen.” The platform allows for end energy users to bid on resources and automatically facilitates the exchange. Its users are demand response companies — such as OhmConnect and Google Nest — and works to increase the value of distributed energy resources while providing flexibility to the grid.  5. Span turns homes into microgrids New on the scene with a fresh round of Series A finance, Span bills itself as a smart panel company that works to integrate a home’s solar, energy storage and electric vehicle. It’s kind of like using a home’s energy assets as a microgrid.  Span’s selling point is energy resilience. The system works to keep power flowing to where customers need it in the event of a power outage, which, the company points out in a release , is of growing importance as California is looking at a future where shelter in place could overlap with planned power outages. (The company is initially focusing on California and Hawaii as key markets.) This increased level of control and connected energy assets also means users can rely on their own resources when the grid has more dirty energy.  This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Energy Efficiency Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Google redefines what it means to be ‘100% renewable’

April 24, 2020 by  
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The company’s new carbon-intelligent software can switch loads between its data centers depending on the availability of clean power.

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Google redefines what it means to be ‘100% renewable’

Why I am doubling down on digital for water

April 24, 2020 by  
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One word, resilience

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This vision of the post-pandemic food system looks a lot like a microgrid

April 24, 2020 by  
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Redundant, distributed, resilient, smaller scale and locally powered, yet connected to the larger world in ways that benefit it when safe.

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This vision of the post-pandemic food system looks a lot like a microgrid

We need a Project Drawdown for conservation

April 24, 2020 by  
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The organization Project Drawdown has done a great job of identifying and sharing the most viable solutions to climate change. We need to do the same thing for biodiversity.

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Q1 2020: Google, Amazon show creativity in new renewable deals as COVID-19 slows the market

April 21, 2020 by  
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But this may be the last stretch of typical clean energy procurement activity in a while.

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Q1 2020: Google, Amazon show creativity in new renewable deals as COVID-19 slows the market

How to celebrate Earth Day virtually in 2020

April 17, 2020 by  
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With social distancing in full force this Earth Day , the 50th anniversary of this environmental movement is certainly one for the history books. Just because you can’t go outside in large groups this year doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of inventive ways to celebrate Earth, though. The Earth Day 2020 theme is “climate action,” and while we aren’t able to come together physically this year, technology is presenting some unique opportunities to show your love for the Earth virtually. Learn the history The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans (about 10% of the U.S. population at that time) took to the streets and college campuses to protest environmental ignorance and promote environmental awareness. The movement, now recognized as the world’s largest civic event each year, launched the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Related: How Earth Day began and how it helps the planet Take a virtual tour Because many of us are now homeschooling kids, Google has created 360-degree tours of 113 different national park sites, including monuments, historic sites and shorelines. The Nature Conservancy also features a series of virtual field trips designed for grades 5-8. Live webcams have also gained popularity since social distancing began. People may be staying indoors for the most part, but animals are still keeping up with their daily routines. Check out live feeds of marine animals at Monterey Bay Aquarium or a series of different feeds, from remote locations throughout Africa to rescue animal facilities around the world, with Explore.org . Earthx , in partnership with National Geographic, is streaming everything from speaker series to film festivals to student activities via its website. Participate in a running challenge A healthy running challenge that raises awareness for the environment is a win-win to celebrate this year’s Earth Day. The 2020 Earth Day Run presented by The Virtual Run Challenge encourages participants to spend the month of April (though you can start anytime) to collectively run the distance of the equator — 24,901 miles. Log your running and walking miles every day and connect with others for a common goal; participation is free. Related: Orca Running offers a Social Distance Run Virtual Strides is celebrating Earth Day by hosting the 5K/10K/Half-Marathon Earth Run virtually. After runners (or walkers) finish their course, they can upload results and photos to the website. Registration isn’t free, but a portion of the proceeds from the race (around $4 from each registration) will be donated to EarthShare, a non-profit that supports critical environmental causes. In the past, the organization has raised more than $300 million for programs benefiting air, land, water, wildlife and public health. Download the Earth Challenge 2020 app By downloading the Earth Challenge 2020 app , you’ll help gather critical environmental data near your area, providing scientists and other “citizen scientists” with research to help maintain a cleaner planet. Users measure air quality and plastic pollution where they are and add each reading to a global database. Related: Earth Day 2020 goes digital For example, Earth Challenge 2020 launched its monarch butterfly project on April 1 with a goal to fill 1 billion data points before the month’s end. When users launch the app, they are able to snap pictures of insects that they see, submit them to be verified and allow scientists to better understand the distribution of butterflies and migration patterns. This kind of knowledge is essential to identify the different regions that need habitat restoration. Take action From April 20 to April 25, more than 100 speakers from five continents will participate in the largest online climate conference ever held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Topics ranging from climate finance and agriculture to circular economy and politics will be discussed and can be viewed virtually via the partnership program We Don’t Have Time . Sign up with the official Earth Day website volunteer database for the latest resources and information on at-home or online activities as well as ways to spread the word to your friends. You can also create your own “act of green” and share it with the rest of the Earth Day community. The official Earth Day website also has a planning guide to help get people inspired and organized; check the map for ideas and to see how other people around the world are celebrating. Spread the word Digital tools are making it easier than ever to connect, especially through social media. You can bring your friends, teachers and family together to raise awareness and do their own part for the environment. Utilize Vote Earth to take the pledge to vote for climate candidates . The global initiative has already mobilized millions of people who wish to show their concern for the Earth and demand change at the polls. Sign up on the website to pledge to vote for candidates who support sustainability in your next election, and you’ll have the option to receive automatic email reminders to vote. + Earth Day Images via Carl Heyerdahl , University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability , Arek Adeoye , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region

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Tour 5 national parks from home

March 19, 2020 by  
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As people social distance and shelter in place, they may feel the walls closing in on them. Fortunately, the National Park Service has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to offer free virtual tours of five beloved parks. Of course, the online experience isn’t quite like being there, but these tours are pretty cool and may inspire dreams of post-pandemic travels . The five tours feature Kenai Fjords in Alaska , Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Hawaii Volcanoes, Bryce Canyon in Utah and Dry Tortugas in Florida. Each virtual tour is led by a National Park Service ranger. The varied terrains and activities help entertain viewers. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment The tour of Kenai Fjords lets you climb down a slippery, icy crevasse in Exit Glacier — much easier done virtually than in real life. In Carlsbad Caverns, viewers get a bat’s eye view to help them learn about echolocation. Hawaii Volcanoes features a walk through a lava tube and a trip up volcanic cliffs. Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park consists of 1% Fort Jefferson and 99% underwater. Join a ranger for a virtual dive into this diverse ecosystem, including a swim through a coral reef and an exploration of the Windjammer shipwreck. As the Bryce Canyon tour points out, two-thirds of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their backyards. This tour highlights Bryce Canyon’s dark skies and allows viewers to tap around to check out constellations while listening to night sounds like owls and crickets. At press time, many National Park Service units are still open with reduced services and closed visitors centers. But this may change as the coronavirus situation progresses. “The NPS is working with federal, state and local authorities, while we as a nation respond to this public health challenge,” NPS deputy director David Vela said in a press release. “Park superintendents are assessing their operations now to determine how best to protect the people and their parks going forward.” So before setting out on that big drive to camp in a park, consider sitting tight on your couch and taking a virtual tour. + National Park Service and Google Arts & Culture Images via Wikimedia Commons

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