20 C-suite sustainability champions for 2021

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

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

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3 takeaways from Colgate-Palmolive’s 2025 strategy

December 23, 2020 by  
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3 takeaways from Colgate-Palmolive’s 2025 strategy Deonna Anderson Wed, 12/23/2020 – 01:15 When you think of Colgate-Palmolive, the first thing likely to come to mind is its eponymous toothpaste or dish soap. But the company also owns a lot of other brands that offer other consumer packaged goods such as deodorant (Speed Stick), body soap (Irish Spring) and other household cleaning products (Fabuloso). And what are those items packaged in? Most of the time, plastic . The company was the eighth biggest plastic polluter in 2019, according to the Changing Markets Foundation. But it recently made a commitment to eliminate a substantial chunk of its plastic waste by 2025.  Back in November, Colgate-Palmolive released details about its 2025 strategy, which centers on three key areas and a few goals with longer-term trajectories. Among areas it’s planning to address is preserving the environment. The commitment to eliminate one-third of its plastic waste by 2025 is part of its “preserve the environment” ambition, and it’s part of a goal that also includes transitioning to 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable plastic packaging by the same year. Shortly after the 2025 strategy’s publication, I spoke with Ann Tracy, chief sustainability officer at Colgate-Palmolive, about the specific commitments, how the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on its sustainability goals and why it held firm with the release schedule for the company’s recyclable toothpaste tube. “We didn’t slow down the implementation of our new recyclable tube,” Tracy said. “We’re continuing to invest and put even more resources, even hiring some resources around the plastic waste issue.” Here are three other major takeaways from our conversation. 1. Its plastic strategy focuses on three areas. Those areas are the possibility of using new materials; moving its packaging to be 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable; and developing other ways to deliver its products with potentially less packaging. For example, it’s exploring whether toothpaste really needs to be in a tube. “If you think about toothpaste, can it be in a different format other than paste to deliver the same, clean benefits for your oral health? So, can it be tablets? Can it be chewable?” Tracy said. “Things like cleaning products that are a little tablet that you just drop into a reusable container and add water so that it’s reducing the overall environmental footprint. Those are examples.” As of September, the company was testing a tablet cleaning product with its PLOOF Ajax line in France, according to a LinkedIn post from Greg P. Corra, director of packaging innovation and sustainability at Colgate-Palmolive. Companies already are taking a similar approach. For toothpaste , there’s Bite , Lush and Hello . For cleaning products, there’s Blueland , Seventh Generation and Amazon’s in-house product line Clean Revolution . Additionally, Tracy said, the company is studying what role it should play in driving better recycling infrastructure around the world. “Different countries have different levels of infrastructure. The U.S. itself, although we’re considered a developed country, we have a very disparate [system.]” In late June, Colgate-Palmolive was part of a group of consumer brands and corporate foundations to invest $54 million with Closed Loop Partners’ infrastructure fund to “support additional recycling infrastructure and spur growth and technological innovation around end markets for post-consumer materials across North America.”  2. The company is aiming to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in its global operations by 2040. To achieve this, Colgate-Palmolive has set goals that will build up to this one. One goal is to source 100 percent renewable electricity in its operations by 2030. “I like to call it the cousin target,” Tracy said, noting that the company recently launched its process to get to 100 percent renewable energy by engaging with its operations around the world. Colgate operates in more than 80 countries, with its headquarters in New York City and six divisions around the world including in Latin America, Europe and Asia. It has more than 50 manufacturing and research facilities globally and in 2019, it made $15.7 billion of worldwide net sales, according to the company’s website. To source the renewable electricity, Colgate plans to implement a multi-pronged strategy: buying green power; building solar farms; and negotiating power purchase agreements.  Tracy said Colgate is still working with outside partners to help it build a plan for how to get to net-zero carbon by 2040 but noted that the company considers purchasing offsets to be the last resort on its decarbonization journey.  “We don’t have a strategy around offsets yet other than we do believe they will play a role to close gaps at the end, but that’s what we consider them —  a gap closer, not a leading technology,” she said. “We’d like to see the offsets become a bit more standardized and accepted before we start building our strategy around that.” The company is also accessing how to address its Scope 3 emissions and beginning to work with its tier one suppliers to help “extend the carbon footprint reduction beyond [its] own supply chain.” 3. Its recyclable toothpaste tube took a lot of partnership — and will continue to. Tracy said the company developed a roadmap to convert every single tube it makes to the recyclable tube format over the next couple of years. During the first quarter of 2020, it launched its first recyclable toothpaste tubes with its Tom’s of Maine and Smile for Good lines. Colgate-Palmolive makes most of its own toothpaste tubes internally. To give a sense of how many toothpaste tubes it sells worldwide, in 2019, the Colgate toothpaste brand sold almost 80 million units in the United States, according to data on Statista. “It takes a lot of investment because we have to convert all our equipment,” she said. “I like to say half the job was the engineering and the technology to develop the tube, but the other half of the job was to work with the local recycling infrastructure to make sure it’s accepted into the mainstream. It takes a lot of partners.”  Right now, Tracy said, the company is “busy ramping up the Optic White line in the U.S., which is one of our biggest lines of toothpaste or brands of toothpaste in the U.S. So, we’re launching that very shortly here along with all our kids’ toothpaste in the U.S.”  She added that, in Europe, by the end of 2021, 80 percent of the tubes will be converted to the recyclable version. Colgate-Palmolive hopes to eventually convert all its tubes. It’s still early days for this effort, so the company doesn’t have many more learnings to share at this point but Tracy said it wants to make sure all its tubes are actually recycled. “Until we have scale, until other tubes convert to this recyclable technology, technically it’s not recycled,” Tracy said. “We’re working very hard with partners to make sure it’s accepted into the recycling industry.” Its partners include Recycling Partnership and the American Plastic Recycling Association, who are helping with its plastic waste reduction efforts. “We had to work with them to get the tube accepted and make sure it was recognized as recyclable,” Tracy said. “We could not have done this work without external partners, absolutely not.” Topics Commitments & Goals Plastic Plastic Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock monticello Close Authorship

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A new Swedish iron processing project could disrupt the global steel industry

December 17, 2020 by  
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A new Swedish iron processing project could disrupt the global steel industry Thomas Koch Blank Thu, 12/17/2020 – 00:20 A recent announcement by Europe’s largest iron ore producer, LKAB, may seem like a technical detail only relevant for metallurgists and steel nerds. However, the company’s plan to invest up to $46 billion over the next 15–20 years to expand into an emissions-free iron process being piloted in Northern Sweden is big news for Sweden, the global steel industry and future generations around the world. From a climate change perspective, steelmaking is considered one of the “hard-to-abate” sectors. Given that the industry contributes directly to 7 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, it is impossible to ignore it. But in contrast to other areas of our society — such as automobiles or power generation — technical solutions to replace conventional methods have seemed either quite expensive or simply unknown. However, this view has rapidly changed over the course of only a few years, and Swedish industry has played a pivotal role in this shift. The steel industry contributes directly to 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, the  HYBRIT project  was launched as a joint venture between utility  Vattenfall , iron ore producer  LKAB  and steelmaker  SSAB . Both Vattenfall and LKAB are owned by the Swedish state, while SSAB was privatized in 1994. And with the political backing and de-risking of the early stage of the HYBRIT project, it can be argued that HYBRIT is the outcome of a long-standing political intent to ensure a competitive basic industry sector in Sweden. Looking forward, with customers, investors and policymakers increasing pressure to adhere to the Paris Agreement, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a critical element of maintaining competitiveness. The process that HYBRIT is currently piloting in  Luleå , a small town in northern Sweden, holds the key to unlocking dramatic CO2-emissions reduction for steelmaking. By using hydrogen instead of coal as a “reduction agent” — to remove the oxygen from the iron in iron ore — the most critical step in the steel value chain becomes virtually free of carbon emissions. These steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. On Nov. 23, LKAB announced that it intends to integrate forward in the steel supply chain and start producing “sponge iron” as a value-added product from its current pellet product, using the HYBRIT process. This pivot in business strategy has major significance for the global steel industry. Steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. There are three reasons LKAB’s announcement is big news for the global steel industry as well as the economy at large: LKAB will single-handedly contribute to greenhouse gas reductions corresponding to more than 50 percent of Sweden’s total footprint by obviating the need for blast furnaces — many of which are in other nations The hydrogen required will significantly contribute to bringing down the cost of this zero-carbon fuel, which in turn can help the economy to address emissions from other sectors such as aviation or shipping While the process trials are still ongoing (the pilot plant is producing sponge iron, but its scaffolding has hardly been taken down) the confidence demonstrated by this announcement clears up any questions as to whether this technology will be commercially scalable   Implications for the global steel industry Sweden is a small economy that already has comparatively clean energy supply. However, LKAB’s stated strategy to over time integrate forward into primary steelmaking not only enables thousands of jobs with strengthened long-term competitiveness, it also reduces disproportionate amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. This will enable Sweden to punch significantly above its weight class. LKAB’s total production of 27 million tons of iron ore products corresponds to 18 million tons of crude steel. If that steel were produced in conventional blast furnaces, it would lead to emissions of 28 million tons of CO2 — more than 50 percent of Sweden’s total footprint of 52 million tons of CO2 equivalents. Steel production is only one of many potential uses for hydrogen. Indeed, other sectors that are technically challenged to reduce emissions likely will have to rely on cheap hydrogen. Today the cost of hydrogen for fuel cell trucks or buses, as well as using hydrogen (or ammonia) as an aviation or maritime fuel, is prohibitively high. Yet costs are expected to come down as the technology is deployed at scale. The sponge iron capacity that LKAB could build out corresponds to half a million large fuel cell vehicles, a significant step towards the “hydrogen economy” envisioned by the European Commission. The production of the hydrogen could require as much as 10 GW worth of electrolyzer capacity, a quarter of the total  EU target for 2030 . LKAB’s ambition to build a sponge iron plant as early as 2027, just one year after SSAB plans to retire its blast furnace in  Oxelösund , speaks volumes in terms of the technology confidence the joint venture already has established. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30% per year over 20 years. Furthermore, Göran Persson, chairman of the board and former prime minister of Sweden, claims that the investments shall be made without any government support, expecting it to be competitive without subsidies beyond the EU carbon price. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30 percent per year over 20 years, diminishing any doubt that the technology can be scaled fast. In the big picture, while this constitutes a significant step towards a decarbonized steel industry, the impact corresponds to less than 1 percent of the emissions from the global steel industry. But even though it’s unrealistic to expect that the whole steel industry will turn upside down to adopt this new technology given the scale of investment in existing blast furnaces, other iron ore companies can of course replicate LKAB’s forward integration. The main iron ore sources in the world, in Australia, South Africa and Latin America, have access to drastically cheaper renewable energy than Sweden. This makes for an even more competitive product using this highly electrified process. Indeed, in these locations  zero-carbon steel can be competitive with blast furnaces completely without subsidies . New challenges, new opportunities The leadership demonstrated by LKAB serves as a role model for the kind of outside-the-box and whole-systems thinking required for the global economy to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Change requires exploration of new concepts and solutions. Bold action both creates new opportunities and surfaces new underlying challenges. For example, adding 10 gigawatts (GW) of load, given Sweden’s current total installed generation capacity of 40 GW, will require significant investments in both renewable generation capacity and grid infrastructure. But for utilities, this opportunity is providing a much-needed headwind to achieve a zero-emission power system, as investing in a growing market is significantly easier than with stagnant demand. The fact that the impact on global emissions will not be credited to Sweden in the political protocols negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change underscores the value of corporate action. The private sector remains the most reliable engine for innovation in our economy. Graphic: Auke Hoekstra, TU Eindhoven. Technology disruption is by definition challenging to forecast. In the solar industry, the International Energy Agency (IEA) consistently has underestimated both near- and long-term capacity additions to an almost comical degree. Yet the private sector has managed to out-perform expectations, and this is true for LKAB and the HYBRIT team just as it has been for the solar industry. In comparison, the official position of  Jernkontoret, the Swedish Steel Association , that it will take “20-30 years until this technology can be introduced into large-scale industrial production” is conservative, to say the least. The  World Steel Association  is almost completely silent about the opportunity of both hydrogen-based reduction and other alternative technologies.  The association’s 2020 positioning paper  maintains a narrative around need for long-term R&D rather than rapid deployment support. But regardless whether the industry associations are acknowledging it, the snowball has started to roll down the slopes of the  Luossavaara  and  Kirunavaara  mountains (the L and K in LKAB) and the avalanche will hit the global steel industry within this decade. Survivors of the impact will re-emerge to ski in clean powder snow. Casualties will be buried under the masses, anchored down by strategically untimely investments in CO2-intensive technology. Pull Quote The steel industry contributes directly to 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30% per year over 20 years. Topics Emissions Reduction Chemicals & Toxics Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A view of the blast furnace of an old steel refinery in  Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, Duisburg, Germany . Photo by Aranka Sinnema on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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China plans to phase out single-use plastics by 2025

January 21, 2020 by  
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As the world’s most populous country, with close to 1.5 billion denizens, China also produces the largest quantity of plastic . In fact, the University of Oxford-based publication Our World In Data (OWID) has documented China’s plastic production rate at 60 million tons per year. To mitigate the resulting plastic pollution , the Chinese government is set to enact a plastic ban, phasing out the production and use of several single-use plastic items by 2025, thanks to a detailed policy directive and timeline from the country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). Three avenues are currently available for plastic waste disposal: recycling , incinerating or discarding. Only an estimated 20% of global plastic waste is recycled, 25% incinerated and a whopping 55% is discarded, according to OWID. The more shocking statistic is that only 9% of 5.8 billion tons of plastic no longer in use has been recycled since 1950. Related: Ireland plans to ban single-use plastics Interestingly, of all the regions across the globe where mismanaged plastic is prevalent, East Asia and the Pacific alarmingly outrank all regions at 60%, followed distantly by South Asia at 11%, Sub-Saharan Africa at 8.9%, the Middle East and North Africa at 8.3%, Latin America and the Caribbean at 7.2%, Europe and Central Asia at 3.6% and North America at 0.9%. Discarded plastic accumulates in landfills, but some also enters the oceans, threatening marine life and ecosystems. OWID explained, “Mismanaged plastic waste eventually enters the ocean via inland waterways, wastewater outflows and transport by wind or tides.” Thus, China’s new initiative to curtail single-use plastic production might help substantially in solving the Pacific regions’, and by extension the planet’s, crisis with plastic waste. The plastic ban calls for several components, including a ban on China’s production and sale of plastic bags that are less than 0.025 mm thick; a ban on plastic bags in major cities before 20201, then all cities and towns by 2022 and all produce vendors by 2025; a ban on single-use straws in restaurants before 2021, and a reduction of single-use plastic items by 30% in restaurants by 2021; a phase-out of plastic packaging in China’s postal service; and a ban on single-use plastic items in hotels by 2025. Via BBC , EcoWatch and Our World In Data (OWID) Image via Lennard Kollossa

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China plans to phase out single-use plastics by 2025

Climate fears affecting meat, bottled beverage and plastic production industries

September 16, 2019 by  
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The growing apprehension surrounding climate change is altering consumer behavior. Kantar, a data analytics firm, recently published a report documenting that environmental conscientiousness is shifting consumption choices, particularly on sales of meat and single-use plastic items. Of the 65,000 people surveyed in 24 countries across Asia, Europe and Latin America, one-third expressed worry about the environment. Roughly half of those people, or 16 percent of total respondents, actively take steps to decrease their environmental impact . “We’re already seeing small reductions in spending on meat , bottled drinks and categories such as beauty wipes,” Kantar revealed. “As markets get wealthier, the focus on issues of environmentalism and plastics increases.” Related: Germany proposes a meat tax increase to improve animal welfare and curb climate change The poll further disclosed that Western European respondents were more engaged in reducing environmental impact compared to their Asian and Latin American counterparts. Austrian and German shoppers ranked as the most ‘eco active,’ followed closely by British consumers. But 37 percent of the Chilean respondents proved to be eco-conscious, thus making Chile the environmental nonpareil of Latin American countries. Kantar asserted, “Our study shows there is high demand for eco-friendly products that are competitively priced and readily available.” Just last month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conveyed the urgency that global meat consumption must decrease to help reverse global warming . Furthermore, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions can be accelerated by the rise of plant-based food consumption and production. Consequently, there has been market expansion in plant-based protein and other alternative offerings to meat. Companies like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and even London-based Moving Mountains Foods have become more mainstream with many of their flexitarian , vegetarian and vegan products appearing on restaurant menus as well as wholesale and retail grocery store shelves. Because meatless protein is still a fledgling industry, competitors are likely to emerge in the near future as a response to the call for cutbacks to meat and dairy. Meanwhile, recent legislative bans against single-use items such as bottles, straws, carrier bags and other plastic packaging have helped. Surging global awareness of the environmental damage wreaked by plastic has hiked restrictions, in turn, denting demand for their production. With recycling efforts and sustainability initiatives gaining momentum in today’s world, both the meat and plastics industries are being called upon to adapt to the changing consumer landscape. + Kantar Via Reuters and TreeHugger Image via Beth Rosengard

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Climate fears affecting meat, bottled beverage and plastic production industries

The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

September 13, 2019 by  
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The rate of world deforestation continues to accelerate, despite governments’ promises to reverse it. Now, the world loses 64 million acres a year of forested land, which is equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom, according to a new study by Climate Focus . Thirty-seven governments as well as many multinational companies, NGOs and groups representing indigenous communities have signed the New York Declaration on Forests since it sprang from the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in 2014. This declaration pledged to cut the deforestation rate in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030. Unfortunately, this feel-good, non-legally binding declaration has been hugely unsuccessful. Since the declaration was penned, tree cover loss has skyrocketed by 43 percent, while tropical primary forests have been slashed. The world is now in worse shape than when the well-intended pledge was made. Some countries are making an effort. Indonesia slowed its rate of deforestation by a third between 2017 and 2018. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, Mexico and El Salvador, are determinedly planting trees. But these attempts are overshadowed by deforestation in much of Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Major forests in these regions saw marked decreases in tree cover between 2014 and 2018. Latin America lost the most forest by volume, but Africa experienced the greatest increase in the rate of deforestation. Of course, the recent Amazon wildfires are bringing deforestation to a whole new level. Climate scientists worry about feedback loops, where climate change makes trees drier, leading to increased flammability and more fires and carbon dioxide, which in turn makes things drier, hotter and even more flammable. “Deforestation, mostly for agriculture, contributes around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” Jo House, an environmental specialist at the University of Bristol, told The Guardian . “At the same time, forests naturally take up around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This natural sink provided by forests is at risk from the dual compounding threats of further deforestation and future climate change . The continued loss of primary forests at ever-increasing rates. despite their incalculable value and irreplaceability, is both shocking and tragic.” + Climate Focus Via The Guardian Image via Robert Jones

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The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

Weekly climate disasters give new urgency to resilience

July 9, 2019 by  
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Somewhere in the world, there is a climate disaster unfolding every week. According to the leading disaster risk reduction adviser for the United Nation’s secretary general, climate related disasters are affecting thousands of people every week, whether or not they get media coverage. The U.N.’s adviser, Mami Mizutori, told reporters that governments need to adjust their policies to not only prioritize but mandate disaster-resilient infrastructure immediately. According to Mizutori, a 3 percent budget increase for all new infrastructure projects could cover the additional cost of making such projects resilient to storms, floods and other climate-related crises. That 3 percent rise in spending equates to a total of $2.7 trillion USD by 2040. While anything in the trillions might seem like a lot of money to the average person, when it is spread around the world’s nearly 200 countries across 20 years, the price tag is actually quite modest. In comparison, the U.N. estimates that these climate disasters cost the world at least $520 billion USD every year, so it seems logical to invest a little into reducing not only that cost but also the loss of lives. Related: Disaster-resilient housing saves lives and dollars “Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for,” warned Mizutori. “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not been doing enough.” Most of the discussion about climate change at the international level revolves around reducing carbon emissions per nations’ Paris Climate Agreement commitments. While mitigation is important, curbing future emissions to reach a target and limit global warming does nothing to reduce the suffering of those impacted yesterday and today. According to the World Bank, there will be 143 million people displaced by climate-related incidences by 2050, and that’s only counting those from Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Low-cost, nature-based adaptation strategies are promising, such as restoring mangrove forests that protect coastal residents from sea-level rise, erosion and flooding. In order to adequately address the scale of these disasters though, a combined natural and built infrastructure approach will be necessary. According to Mizutori, these resilient solutions will require not only international collaboration but unlikely partnerships within governments as well. For example, most governments have separate departments for the environment and for infrastructure, but progressing toward resilience will require unprecedented collaboration at a scale that matches the unprecedented threat of climate change. Via Eco News and The Guardian Image via Jim Gade

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Weekly climate disasters give new urgency to resilience

New sweet potato dye spares bugs and pleases vegans

March 11, 2019 by  
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Cochineal beetles are rejoicing this month as the Hansen sweet potato proves a viable alternative for producing the carmine color crushed beetles have long added to foods and cosmetics . Chr. Hansen, a bioscience company based in Denmark and founded in 1874, developed and commercialized the Hansen sweet potato™ Ipomoea batatas . “For the first time, we’ve created a whole new variety of vegetable to create the natural color our customers are asking for,” said Jakob Dalmose Rasmussen, vice president of commercial development at Chr. Hansen Natural Colors. Vegetarians have long wanted an alternative to this common coloring, but the sweet potato took time to develop. “Over 10 years ago, we discovered a promising pigment in a root vegetable’s tuber, but the plant’s pigment content was on the low side. We took this plant and embarked on a process of selective breeding using traditional, non-GMO methods. The result is a plant-based , brilliant red that gives our customers a natural alternative to carmine and synthetic colors,” said Dalmose Rasmussen. Related: California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics Chr. Hansen launched its FruitMax® line of concentrates to provide a variety of red coloring options. “Strawberry red is a popular shade for food products — from cakes to confectionery to milkshakes,” noted Dalmose Rasmussen. “But until now it has been nearly impossible to make a fire-engine red color with no risk of off-taste without using carmine.” Cochineal beetles live on cacti in Latin America. Their color comes from carminic acid, a substance which deters predation and makes up almost a quarter of the insects’ weight. The Incas and Aztecs both used the beetle for dye. Once Spaniards arrived in the New World, they quickly discovered that the cochineal beetle dye was far superior to anything they had in Europe, and dried bugs became the second most valuable export after silver. It’s still big business. In 2017, Peru exported more than $46 million dollars’ worth of carmine. Over the centuries, people have used the beetles to dye everything from cardinals’ robes to modern lipsticks. As the Hansen sweet potato gains popularity, perhaps the cochineal beetles will be able to relax on their cacti. While some studies indicate that plants also feel pain, the legless tuber could neither run nor be reached for comment. + Chr. Hansen Via Food Navigator Image via Aunt Masako

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New sweet potato dye spares bugs and pleases vegans

We could avoid 3.3 million cases of dengue fever each year if we limit global warming

May 29, 2018 by  
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Climate change: it’s not just about rising oceans. According to new research from the  University of East Anglia (UEA), action on climate change could help avoid millions of cases of dengue fever . If we limited global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — a Paris Agreement target — we might be able to avoid around 3.3 million cases annually of the tropical disease  in the Caribbean and Latin America alone. There are around 54 million cases of dengue fever, caused by a mosquito -spread virus, in the Caribbean and Latin America every year, and approximately 390 million people are infected worldwide. But by around 2050, in a 3.7 degrees Celsius warming scenario, this number could increase by 7.5 million additional cases a year. While dengue fever is only fatal in rare cases, a specific treatment does not exist, and symptoms include headaches, muscle and joint pain, and fever. Related: Climate change could reverse all reductions in child mortality over the last 25 years But if we take action against global warming , we might be able to prevent millions of cases, according to UEA’s research, which drew on computer models and clinical and laboratory-confirmed reports of dengue fever in Latin America. Keeping warming to two degrees Celsius could lower cases by as many as 2.8 million per year by 2100, and keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could see an extra drop of half a million cases a year. Lead researcher Felipe Colón-González of UEA said, “While it is recognized that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would have benefits for human health , the magnitude of these benefits remains mostly unquantified. This is the first study to show that reductions in warming from two degrees Celsius to 1.5 degrees Celsius could have important health benefits.” Co-author Carlos Peres of UEA said, “Our economic projections of the regional health costs of climate change show that developing nations will bear the brunt of expanding arbovirus infections, so a preventative strategy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions sooner rather than later is the most cost-effective policy.” The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the research this week; researchers from Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso in Brazil contributed. + University of East Anglia Image via Depositphotos

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Giant curtain built in Peru to study climate change in the cloud forests

January 5, 2018 by  
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Biologist Dan Metcalfe is leading a study that seeks to understand how climate change may impact the cloud forests of Peru and elsewhere by using a giant curtain to affect the local environment. A professor at Lund University in Sweden, Metcalfe describes his unprecedented plan as “an experimental approach where we actually physically try to remove clouds from a portion of the forest.” Cloud forests are unique ecosystems, which, although small in land area, provide enormous regional ecological benefits. Despite their importance, there has been little research on how climate change may impact cloud forests. Metcalfe’s study will test how the forest reacts to reduced cloud and moisture cover in hopes of understanding what is in store for these precious habitats. At only 1 percent of the world’s total forested area, cloud forests are well adapted to mountainside locations near the equator between 500-4,000 meters (1640-13,000 feet) in elevation. Cloud forests function as moisture banks for rivers and lowland habitats, storing water in its spongy soil and releasing it when needed down below during a dry spell. Many species of plants and animals are endemic to cloud forests and may face threats to their habitat due to climate change. Scientists suspect that clouds will form further uphill, leaving the forest to deal with decreased levels of moisture. Metcalfe’s experiment intends to observe what effects this change might have on the forests and those who call it home. Related: Fly through Ecuador’s cloud forest on a human-powered sky bike! After earlier curtain designs proved impractical, Metcalfe salvaged a damaged tower not longer suitable for climbing to rig up a ten-story tall curtain. Even after reaching a final plan, Metcalfe’s project continued to endure delays and obstacles. A key team member became sick, essential gear was destroyed by fire , and Metcalfe’s wife gave birth to two children, limiting travel to Peru. After four years of work, the curtain is almost finished and extensive data on the cloud forest and climate change will soon be arriving. Via the Guardian Images via William Ferguson/Wake Forest University ,  Dan Metcalfe/Lund University , and  Caroline Granycome/Flickr

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Giant curtain built in Peru to study climate change in the cloud forests

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