VF Corp leans in to the circular economy and regenerative ag

December 16, 2020 by  
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VF Corp leans in to the circular economy and regenerative ag Deonna Anderson Wed, 12/16/2020 – 09:58 With about 20 brands such as The North Face, Vans and Timberland under its umbrella — including its recent acquisition of popular streetwear brand Supreme — VF Corporation is big. The company had approximately 48,000 employees at the end of its 2020 fiscal year, which ended on March 28, according to its most recent annual report , and revenue during that year was $10.5 billion.  With that much reach, VF Corp has the opportunity — and responsibility — to be intentional about how it manages the lifecycle of the garments it designs, produces and sells. “Because of our scale, we know it’s our responsibility to address textile waste and then overall be thinking about how to keep products in use for the long term, and to design out waste from the beginning,” said Jeannie Renne-Malone, who has served as the vice president of global sustainability at VF Corp since Sept. 2019. In November, I met up with Renne-Malone on Zoom to chat about how the apparel and footwear giant works with all its brands to zero in on opportunities to deepen their work toward the collective sustainability goals, how VF Corp is thinking about its 2030 science-based targets and its focus on improving how it sources its materials. For example, back in May,  Timberland announced that it planned to introduce a collection of boots using regenerative leather sourced from Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed ranches, which have 600,000 acres that have been transitioned to regenerative practices. “One of our biggest opportunities is regenerative agriculture,” Renne-Malone said. “We’re really looking at regenerative agriculture as a way to scale opportunities across all our brands, and then possibly partnerships with other industries as we move forward.” Following is a transcript of our conversation. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. Deonna Anderson: I want to talk about your science-based targets at VF Corp. You set those about a year ago now. Can share some insights about the process of setting the targets and if there’s been any progress working towards those in the last year? Jeannie Renne-Malone: It’s been a full year since we announced them. We took a couple of years to develop a really in-depth baseline. Our baseline is from 2017, and that covers our entire value chain. We collected data from across our Scope 1 and Scope 2 sources, all of our energy consumption and so forth. And then, for our Scope 3 emissions, which is our largest impact, we collected data from our contracted factories, from logistics and across our entire value chain. We worked [with] the consultant, the Carbon Trust, to develop our baseline and to develop the modeling used to help us set up the targets themselves. Because of our scale, we know it’s our responsibility to address textile waste and then overall be thinking about how to keep products in use for the long term, and to design out waste from the beginning. Since last December, we’ve continued to develop our roadmaps across all of our emission sources, and some of them, our Scope 1 and Scope 2, are really a small percentage of our overall impact, really only 1 percent. And we have clear roadmaps to how we will meet all of those targets for Scope 1 and 2. Those are easier, just generally speaking, across all sectors, all industries. Ninety-nine percent of our impact is in our Scope 3 emissions, and of that, we’ve identified that 42 percent comes from raw material extraction, production and manufacturing. And so that’s really where our focus has been over the past year: developing a vision around sustainable materials. At the time that we announced our science-based targets we also announced a bold new sustainable materials vision that by 2030, 100 percent of our top nine materials will originate from recycled, responsibly-sourced renewable or regenerative sources. So that’s really where we’ve been collaborating with the brands to identify some of the long-term innovations, short-term investments that we can make, [and] what kind of partnerships and collaborations we need to invest in to really move us towards that goal. We’ve looked quite a bit at regenerative agriculture… We’re looking at advanced recycling and just to find recycled polyester and different recycled materials. Across all of these different material types, we are working on developing a roadmap that will outline, first in the next two to three years, what we can do in the near term that will really move the needle to get us to that 2030 goal.  Thinking from an apparel perspective, we really only have 20 seasons until 2030 … So we’re thinking about it from that perspective — what material substitutions do we need to make in the next two to three years that will truly start moving that needle that we need to move towards 2030? Anderson: How does VF Corp work with its brands to work toward the collective sustainability goals? It sounds like you touch base with one another and figure out where the opportunities are.  Renne-Malone: Absolutely. Each brand has a sustainability lead, and we collaborate as we are developing both the enterprise-wide initiatives to make sure that the work that is being done at the brands and the strategies and initiatives and goals of the brands ladders up to the overall enterprise-wide strategy. We see VF as really enabling the brands to succeed with their sustainability strategies.  What we’re doing now is leaning in on sustainable raw materials. We’re also really focusing on circularity as one of our major opportunities, and one of our major strategic initiatives. When we think about take-back programs, or recycling infrastructure that needs to be in place to advance us towards our goals, we think about it collectively, of how we can create scalable, enabling opportunities for our brands to succeed in our individual goals. Anderson: Can share about the importance of VF Corp leaning into the circular economy, and why it’s important for an apparel brand, or a company that has a bunch of different apparel-related brands, to be doing that kind of work?   Renne-Malone: I think there’s a couple of reasons. Because of our scale, we know it’s our responsibility to address textile waste and then overall be thinking about how to keep products in use for the long term, and to design out waste to the beginning. From a responsibility perspective, we know that that’s part of our long-term sustainability goal and vision.  We also think about the emerging conscious consumer that not only wants to know where products are made, what was the environmental impact along the way, who made those products, but also what will be done with those products at the end of the day. So when we think about circularity, we think about it in terms of the materials that go into the product initially, the design of the product, designing out waste, and then what will happen to that product at the end of its life. Will it be put back into a re-commerce type of business model? That’s something that we’re testing out with some of our brands. Or can it be designed fully for recyclability?  Like our brand Napapijri was the first apparel brand to get Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold recognition for its circular jacket series . Some of our research shows that 67 percent of Gen Z and Millennials are already making purchasing decisions based on climate change, and that generation of consumers will comprise, I think, two-thirds of the apparel and footwear consumers by 2027. That’s only six years away, so we know that we need to be thinking about the materials, again, that go into our products and designing for circularity from beginning to end to really meet this emerging consumer need.  And there’s also the conscious consumer that is really buying less stuff. We want to make sure that we’re designing with durability and also with providing options to sell on the re-commerce market such as our North Face Renewed platform. Designers from The North Face at a workshop at the Renewal Workshop in October 2019. Media Authorship The North Face Close Authorship Anderson: Pivoting a bit, I know you were on the2020 GreenBiz Badass Women’s List earlier this year. The mini-profile about you mentions the circular economy experiments that your brands are doing, your public policy efforts and the science-based targets, which we’ve already talked about. But I’m curious about what VF Corp’s public policy approach looks like. Renne-Malone: Our brands have been engaged with policymakers for some time. The North Face has been doing quite a bit around policy. And what’s exciting is more recently we’ve developed a set of guardrails at the VF level to really think through what kind of policies are under development or that we would like developed that we can use our voice to encourage that they move forward. And we’ve identified those that really align with our publicly-stated goals. We’re thinking about policies around sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, circularity, recycling infrastructure … what we would see as incentives to advance our programs across not just the U.S. but also in Europe. We see the EU New Green Deal as an opportunity to really see incentives for many of the programs that we’re advancing globally. And then, of course, there’s the side benefits of job creation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions …   We have an established government affairs program that engages with us to identify those opportunities for direct engagement but also to kind of keep tabs on what policies are emerging, and where we can lean in and we’ll use our voice to help hopefully this even come to fruition.  I would just add that overall what we’re really trying to do is help advocate for a climate-resilient recovery from COVID and just, moving forward, it’s so important in that we think that our advocacy efforts could really lend to that effort.  Anderson: That is a good segue to my next question, which is about the pandemic. How has the pandemic made an impact on VF Corp’s sustainability strategy? Renne-Malone: If anything, we see that it’s almost helped us accelerate our strategy, and we’re really doubling down on our commitment during and after the pandemic. And this is a result of a couple of things. One, we’re a people-first company, or a purpose-led company, and we’ve had a people-first approach to addressing COVID. And that’s actually caught the attention of investors.  There was a Barron’s most sustainable corporations list that was released in February, and we were 21 on the original list. And then they reissued it based on social factors. And then we ended up number one on the list after they reevaluated their criteria and their weighting. We were super excited about that, and I think it really lends to the fact that from a sustainability and ESG perspective our investors are really listening to us. That’s one stakeholder that I think has really caught the attention of what we’ve been doing through the pandemic. Anderson: You mentioned that VF Corp has a people-first approach. What does that look like in practice when it comes to your stewardship and social responsibility efforts? Renne-Malone: A couple of different things — we have a deep tie to the environment because of the nature of our brand. Having a set of outdoor, activewear brands really gives us that deep connection to the environment. And I think that’s really evident with our brands like The North Face and Timberland, for example, that all of them have a deep connection to ensure a sustainable future for next generations. And then I’ll add that we’re purpose-led and performance-driven, and what I mean by that is the better we perform as a company, the more resources we’ll have to activate our purpose, which creates value for our stakeholders. So I start there to kind of paint the picture that performance is super important to us too, and it all ties together.  We have a foundation that, over the course of the pandemic, has donated over $10 million to different organizations [focused on the] outdoors. We have a deep tie to the environment because of the nature of our brand. Having a set of outdoor, activewear brands really gives us that deep connection to the environment. And then we also have a program that’s primarily focused on our supply chain. It’s called the Worker and Community Development Program, where one of our colleagues leads an effort to identify projects that will benefit the workers and the communities around our contracted factories.  And so one example — which I love this one — it’s called Vision Spring. And it’s a program in India where we’ve identified a nonprofit that will give eye exams to factory workers and then provide eyeglasses if needed. And so that’s a real benefit improving a quality of life, not only for their work within the factory, but also overall when your vision is improved, it just improves your quality of life overall. So we really look at different opportunities to invest in our communities. Anderson: What do you feel is your most important priority as the vice president of global sustainability right now?  Renne-Malone: My scope of my work is really focused on environmental sustainability … but there is such a connection between people and planet that everything we do to address climate change and environmental stewardship really ties to creating benefits for people. And I just feel this sense of urgency — not to get on my soapbox, but we can’t ignore what’s happening around us in the middle of this climate crisis and an ecosystem crisis and a health crisis. I really think this is our opportunity and our responsibility to continue to amplify the work that we’re doing in an even more focused way, and to really look for opportunities for partnership, collaboration, innovation, not only within our own industry but across other industries.  I do think now it’s even more important to think about the intersection of the climate crisis, environmental justice, social equity, racial equality and health. I think the solutions we’ve identified will really address those issues as we are also trying to reduce our impacts. So as we’re thinking about circular economy, waste, regenerative agriculture, renewable energy, we know there are all these ancillary benefits to people along the way.  I guess overall I’m very passionate and focused on our action around climate change, and really it’s my own personal purpose to look at those intersections between the social responsibility and environmental stewardship. And so super-proud to work for a company that has a purpose of betterment of people and the planet. Pull Quote Because of our scale, we know it’s our responsibility to address textile waste and then overall be thinking about how to keep products in use for the long term, and to design out waste from the beginning. We have a deep tie to the environment because of the nature of our brand. Having a set of outdoor, activewear brands really gives us that deep connection to the environment. Topics Corporate Strategy Circular Economy Fashion Apparel Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Lambertt Close Authorship

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VF Corp leans in to the circular economy and regenerative ag

Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice?

December 16, 2020 by  
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Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice? Julia Rosen Wed, 12/16/2020 – 01:30 Growing up in North Richmond, California, Denny Khamphanthong didn’t think much of the siren that wailed once a month at 11 a.m. every first Wednesday. The alarm is a test of the community’s emergency warning system, which has alerted residents to numerous incidents over the years at the nearby Chevron oil refinery. One accident there —  a 2012 fire  — sent a cloud of black smoke billowing over San Francisco Bay and left thousands of local residents struggling to breathe. Now, when Khamphanthong explains the sound to his young nieces, he sees the fear in their eyes. “I forget that this isn’t normal,” he says. Nor is the fact that Khamphanthong and most of his childhood friends carried inhalers. Richmond, a diverse, industrial city where housing prices and incomes have lagged behind its Bay Area neighbors, has poor air quality and some of the highest rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease in California. “There’s a lot of beautiful things that happen out of [Richmond],” says Khamphanthong, a community organizer with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network whose family emigrated from Laos in the 1980s. “But at the same time, when you look at the reality of it, it is sad.” Pollution, poverty and race collide in many other disadvantaged communities across California — and the country — and some argue that the state’s climate policies haven’t helped. While California already has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent since their peak in 2004, many residents still suffer from high levels of air pollution — much of it produced by fossil fuels. In particular, controversy has dogged California’s cap-and-trade policy , which took effect in 2013 and regulates roughly 450 entities accounting for 85 percent of California’s emissions. The system works by setting a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gases released by refineries, power plants and other large emitters, and requires polluters to obtain permits to cover their share. The overall “cap” lowers every year, forcing polluters to reduce their emissions or purchase allowances from others who do. Environmental justice activists say the cap and trade program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. Economists, environmentalists and policymakers — many of them white — tout cap and trade as a cost-effective way to cut emissions while generating money for other climate initiatives. But environmental justice activists say the program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. In their eyes, it doesn’t do enough to address climate change and allows emitters to continue polluting the air in the meantime. For example, state records suggest that the Chevron Richmond Refinery, one of California’s largest emitters, released more greenhouse gases in 2017 and 2018 — the last years for which data are publicly available — than it has since 2008. And in several recent years, it emitted as much or more of certain air pollutants . It also dramatically has increased the volume of gas flared off as waste — another source of harmful compounds . (Representatives from Chevron said that flaring was related to a new hydrogen plant coming online, and that the refinery has made significant investments in reducing emissions of air pollutants over the past 40 years.) To many, cap and trade highlights a contradiction. “You’re hearing all this great stuff about how amazing your governor and your state is on climate leadership,” says Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director at the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy . But “it doesn’t feel like anything is changing.” As the United States reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. But seven years on, researchers, regulators and activists are still arguing about how California’s most famous climate policy has affected its most vulnerable residents — and how to do better. The air Climate change is usually seen as a global problem. But its effects are profoundly local, and often refract through long-standing patterns of inequality and racism. In the U.S. and elsewhere, low-income residents and people of color shoulder an outsized share of the climate burden. They face greater risks from heat waves , floods and other climate-related impacts. And they have suffered collateral damage from the harmful pollutants produced by using fossil fuels. As the U.S. reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. These pollutants, which include particulate matter, nitrogen and sulfur oxides, and toxic substances such as benzene, have been linked to health problems ranging from respiratory disorders to reproductive problems to cancer. Numerous studies show that polluting facilities and their emissions tend to concentrate in disadvantaged communities. “Me and my five cousins, we all have asthma,” says Abe Francis, 15, of Sacramento. When Francis was young, doctors prescribed him medication because they feared he might stop breathing in his sleep. He still struggles to catch his breath when he plays basketball at the park. “It’s incredibly scary for me,” says Francis, who is African American. According to CalEnviroScreen , the system the state uses to identify at-risk populations, his neighborhood falls in the highest fifth of pollution-affected communities in California. It ranks in the 94th percentile for poverty and roughly 90 percent of residents are people of color. Chemical plant in Wilmington, a city in California’s Los Angeles County. Shutterstock Angel DiBilio Close Authorship   In Wilmington, a predominantly Latino community in south Los Angeles, Dulce Altamirano says her children and grandchildren suffer from headaches, rashes, nosebleeds, and respiratory problems caused by pollution. “The air quality is very bad,” 45-year-old Altamirano says in Spanish, with a sigh. “I personally have many problems with breathing, with my throat. … There have been times when my husband wanted to call the paramedics.” The city sits among numerous refineries, oil wells and storage facilities, shipping ports and high-traffic roads, and some neighborhoods rank in the top 10th of CalEnviroScreen scores. Climate policies present an opportunity to address these issues because greenhouse gases and harmful air pollutants often come from the same sources, such as industrial smokestacks and vehicle tailpipes. In fact, when California passed its landmark 2006 climate law  — which directed the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020 —  supporters claimed that it would save thousands of lives through improved air quality alone. But environmental justice advocates grew concerned that these benefits would not be equally distributed when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) decided to adopt a cap-and-trade program as part of its strategy to implement the law. CARB turned to cap and trade in part because it had broad support from both environmental groups and industry players, and was already in use by a coalition of East Coast states and the European Union to tackle greenhouse gases. (In 2014, Quebec joined California’s market and several other states and countries have considered or adopted their own versions in recent years.) However, community activists worried that the system would allow companies to find ways to keep emitting, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods. “Anytime to you have that kind of pay-to-pollute scheme, the communities that already were being sacrificed — that becomes a business decision,” Zucker says. Some evidence suggests that these fears have come true. A 2018 study led by Lara Cushing , now at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that more than half of the facilities covered under cap and trade actually increased their in-state emissions during the first three years of the program. These facilities were also more likely to be in disadvantaged communities. (In-state emissions were offset by purchasing cleaner power and carbon credits from other projects that reduced emissions elsewhere.) A 2019 report by the environmental group Food and Water Watch found similar results for the East Coast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a cap-and-trade program that regulates the power sector. However, a new analysis by economists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, paints a slightly brighter picture in California. The researchers used a model to simulate how pollution spreads in the atmosphere to study how emissions translate to exposure. Like others, they found glaring disparities between disadvantaged communities and their whiter, more prosperous neighbors. But while this so-called environmental justice gap increased in the years before cap and trade took effect, it fell by 20 to 30 percent afterwards in the areas where facilities were covered by the program. The California studies, which took different approaches, do not offer a clear answer about whether cap and trade has helped or harmed disadvantaged communities in the state. Both had to wrestle with outside factors that affected emissions, such as the Great Recession and California’s other climate policies. But activists say that an even more important question mostly has gone unasked: What would have happened if California had adopted a different policy altogether? Many feel that their communities would have seen greater progress if the state had regulated emitters directly, says Katie Valenzuela . She grew up in Oildale — a town in a major oil-producing region in California’s Central Valley — and previously served as policy and political director for the California Environmental Justice Alliance . In March, Valenzuela was elected to Sacramento’s City Council District 4, representing midtown and downtown Sacramento and South Land Park. In recent years, state regulators have tried to tackle inequalities in air quality. But Valenzuela says that officials have leaned on cap and trade instead of embracing more aggressive climate policies — often at the expense of vulnerable communities: “It’s been 14 years, and we’ve still never had a meaningful discussion about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.” The money By the time California’s cap-and-trade program came up for renewal in 2017, environmental justice advocates had united against it. They felt ignored by state officials and abandoned by mainstream environmental groups. The final reauthorization bill , which extended the program until 2030, only compounded their sense of betrayal: Among other provisions, it exempted many polluting facilities from extra regulation by local air districts. This souring of relationships was particularly disastrous given that many saw California’s original climate law as an explicit effort to advance environmental justice. It was “integral to the design,” says Michel Gelobter , a social entrepreneur and environmental justice advocate who helped shape the bill when he was executive director of Redefining Progress, a sustainability think tank. The law directed state officials to consider the impacts of climate policies on “communities that are already adversely impacted by air pollution.” It also mandated that the state convene an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to oversee its climate efforts. Even the cap-and-trade program, while far from perfect, had equitable ambitions, Gelobter says. He and other economists note that traditional environmental regulations often raise the cost of goods and services, which disproportionately harms low-income people. And the extra money that consumers pay goes into the pockets of polluters, Gelobter says. Thus, to him, the most just climate policies are those that impose a price on carbon and use the revenue to blunt the economic blow on the most vulnerable members of society. California has done exactly that. Every quarter, the state auctions off emissions allowances to polluters (some are also distributed directly to industries) and by law, 35 percent of the money raised must be spent in disadvantaged communities. In practice, however, the state has delegated far more — almost 60 percent, or roughly $3 billion in total since the first funds were released in 2014. Phil Serna , a member of the California Air Resources Board, sees this as a powerful counterpoint to critiques that cap and trade is unjust. “How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities,” says Serna, also a Sacramento County supervisor. How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities. Some cap-and-trade revenue goes directly to California residents , to offset the increased cost of electricity and natural gas caused by the state’s climate initiatives. The rest of the money goes toward projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or improve water quality. In disadvantaged neighborhoods, that might mean expanding public transit, increasing access to renewable energy and building efficient, affordable housing. Some feel uncomfortable about the source of these funds, because they often come at a cost to community health. “We would prefer it if there was no money coming from the cap-and-trade system because there was no pollution coming from our economy,” says Alvaro Sanchez, director of environmental equity at the nonprofit Greenlining Institute . But from an investment point of view, he says, “the money picture feels fairly positive.” In the San Joaquin Valley, cap-and-trade funds have helped low-income residents purchase clean cars. Most of the valley ranks in the upper third of CalEnviroScreen scores and the region has the worst air quality in the nation . Bakersfield leads the country in particulate pollution, and Fresno ranks second. But here, the leading culprits are  agriculture and traffic  — not the large industrial facilities covered under cap and trade. (The program regulates transportation indirectly by forcing fuel distributors to buy emission allowances.) Under an initiative called Drive Clean in the San Joaquin , residents can get up to $9,500 to trade in their old car for a hybrid or electric vehicle. So far, Drive Clean has replaced 3,000 cars and saved customers hundreds of dollars a month in gas and maintenance costs, says Tom Knox, executive director of Valley Clean Air Now , which runs the program. One of those vehicles went to Sokunrith Nop, who emigrated to the U.S. from Cambodia 41 years ago and lives in Stockton. He replaced his 1995 Honda Civic with a fully electric 2017 Fiat 500e. “I love it. It suits me perfectly,” says Nop, who needed something reliable to drive his child to school. He likes saving money on gas. And he wants to help the environment. “Everybody should drive a car like that where we don’t pollute,” Nop says. He only wishes the program could help more people like him: “Those cars are expensive.” The rub Cap and trade isn’t the only way to put a price on carbon, and it’s not the only one that raises environmental justice concerns . Such issues arise whenever policies rely on market forces to drive down emissions — because markets are famously unconcerned with equity. “It’s all about finding efficiencies,” says Kyle Meng , an economist at UCSB and co-author of the study on the environmental justice gap. Still, activists and researchers have proposed numerous ways to make California’s program fairer. For instance, regulators could require that emissions in disadvantaged communities decline at least at the same rate as the overall cap, rather than setting a statewide goal, says James Boyce , an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Officials also could impose geographic restrictions on trading to ensure that the pollution benefits accrue more locally, or force emitters to go through local air permitting processes. California’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee repeatedly has called on regulators to reduce the number of available allowances and do away with offsets — a cost-containment measure that allows polluters to buy added emissions credits from outside projects that reduce carbon emissions, such as planting trees or protecting them from logging , often in other states. Alicia Rivera , a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment in Wilmington, says that she struggles to explain the concept of offsets to residents breathing unhealthy air. “The refinery gets credit, but in Wilmington, they haven’t reduced anything,” she says. (CARB has not banned offsets; however, starting in 2021, companies won’t be able to use as many, and at least half must benefit the state.) Some say that California’s program would produce more equitable results if it had a more ambitious emissions target, and thus higher carbon prices. (By the state’s own assessment , cap and trade deserves little credit for its progress so far.) Others say that it has received too much attention. Danny Cullenward , a climate policy expert at Stanford University, argues that cap and trade “claims to be able to do anything you want … while the politics frustrate any efforts to dial it up to do that.” Stanley Young, director of communications at CARB, says that cap and trade serves as a backstop for the state’s other climate policies, such as efforts to increase renewable energy use and clean up traffic pollution. He says that it works as advertised. It helps lower greenhouse gas emissions and forces companies to factor in the cost of carbon.  The program raises money, too, and California has made good on its obligation to invest the resulting funds in hard-hit communities, but some say it still could do better. Certain programs that ostensibly benefit disadvantaged communities may not actually do so; for example, a recent study by Cushing and others found that some of the state’s clean vehicle rebate programs serve more well-off Californians than low-income residents. Sanchez, of the Greenlining Institute, says that the most disadvantaged communities often lack the means to access cap-and-trade revenue. When they do, state agencies are sometimes reluctant to give control to community-based organizations, says Simeon Gant, executive director of GreenTech , a workforce training program in Sacramento whose students include teenager Abe Francis. As a result, he says, “they never get to the people they’re targeting.” Indeed, many Californians never have heard of cap and trade and remain unaware that it produces money for their benefit. Khamphanthong and others say the state should do a better job of engaging with community members to figure out what they need most. In Richmond, Khamphanthong would like to see support for green jobs that treat employees well and benefit the community. “Why not just work with us to figure out a solution?” he asks. The future In recent months, California’s cap-and-trade program has encountered problems. At the beginning of the pandemic, the spring auction brought in a fraction of the expected revenue. Over the summer, the head of California’s Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees CARB, released a letter stating that he would work with the board to reevaluate the state’s dependence on cap and trade going forward. Whatever California decides, it has to put equity first, says Jackie Cole of Veritable Good, a consulting firm that specializes in environmental justice. “If that is not the central lens through which you are developing solutions, then those communities will always be left out,” she says. New York may offer an interesting model. Last year, activists celebrated the passage of a climate law that sets even more aggressive emissions reductions goals than California. Environmental justice groups championed the bill, and they are hopeful that the state will steer clear of cap-and-trade policies (they have long fought the East Coast’s regional market). Instead, activists support imposing a polluter fee to raise money, on top of strict mandates to cut emissions. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50% by 2030. Back in California, CARB passed a resolution  — “almost a constitution,” says Serna — reaffirming its commitment to social and racial justice in October. “I have every expectation that that will eventually find its place into everything that we continue to do at CARB,” he says, including managing cap and trade. (In September , Black employees at CARB wrote an open letter and proposed an action plan to address concerns about systemic racism within agency culture.) The state already has taken steps to address air pollution in disadvantaged communities, including issuing new regulations for vehicles  — a major contributor. After Francis participated in a recent CARB panel on environmental justice, the agency offered to install low-cost air monitors at his home as part of a pilot program. Francis said they already have helped his family members stay safe on unhealthy days. The state also has begun implementing a 2017 law , passed alongside the cap-and-trade extension, that creates a community-focused system for tackling harmful emissions in the most affected neighborhoods. Along with Richmond, one of the first cities to participate is Wilmington, together with neighboring Carson and West Long Beach. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials, and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50 percent by 2030. The final plan , released last year, also includes provisions to reduce pollution from traffic and oil wells. Rivera, the community organizer, says the refinery agreement represents a victory — albeit hard-won and too late for many. But Altamirano, the Wilmington resident who served as a member of the community steering committee in the negotiations, isn’t quite as hopeful. She lives close enough to a refinery to hear valves pop open and to smell the noxious fumes that seep out. Sometimes, flares illuminate the night sky above her house. And she says she’s still waiting to see change. ” Solo hablan, pero no se hace nada ,” she says. “Just talking and then doing nothing.” Listen to Public News Service’s audio version of this story. This report was made possible in part by the Fund for Environmental Journalism of the Society of Environmental Journalists . Pull Quote Environmental justice activists say the cap and trade program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. As the U.S. reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50% by 2030. Topics Carbon Policy Environmental Justice California YES! Magazine Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Signage from a mass mobilization at the Chevron Oil Refinery in Richmond on August 15, 2009. Flickr planet a. Close Authorship

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Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice?

These were 10 key sustainable transport trends of 2020

December 16, 2020 by  
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These were 10 key sustainable transport trends of 2020 Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 12/16/2020 – 01:00 Have you ever been more ready for a year to be over? In a little over two weeks, this dumpster fire of a year will be relegated to history. And while the world will be dealing with COVID-19 for many more months into 2021, something just feels so good about leaving 2020 behind.  Many books will be written about 2020 as a turning point in — you name it: American power. China relations. Democracy. In my corner of the universe, I think 2020 was a pivotal year for organizations, policymakers and the financial community to start to take sustainable and electric transportation more seriously as an emerging and powerful market — and as a key piece to tackle climate change. Here are my picks for the 10 most important sustainable transportation trends of 2020: 1. Gas car bans make it big: While some cities around the world have been adopting gasoline-powered car bans and phaseouts for a couple of years, California was the first U.S. state to adopt such an important, and jarring, measure. Just three months ago , California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to halt the sales of new gas cars within just 15 years. Newsom signed the order as a direct response to California’s historic and tragic wildfire season and as an effort to try to ratchet up his administration’s levers to decarbonize transportation in the battle against climate change. 2. Amazon remakes e-logistics: More than any other company, Amazon has been changing how the electric truck market operates. For years, slow-moving OEMs have failed to make the kinds (and volumes) of electric trucks that commercial businesses need to move goods and people. Amazon’s answer to this problem was to partner at the ground level with startup Rivian and to place an order that turns heads: 100,000 EVs. Amazon Director of Global Fleet Ross Rachey told us at VERGE 20 : “We realized we needed to take an active role in accelerating the products and the technology.” Now Amazon is working on deploying its first Rivian electric trucks by the end of 2021. 3. Ride-hailing looks to electrify: Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft made big pledges this year to move to all-electric vehicles. Lyft took the plunge first, announcing it would move to all EVs for both its owned vehicles and driver-owned vehicles by 2030. Uber followed that up with its own plans to move all its vehicles to electric in the U.S., Canada and Europe by 2030 and the rest of the world by 2040. The moves show the policy pressures on these companies from cities and states to clean up their emissions, as well as the changing economics that EVs can be cheaper to operate by eliminating gasoline.  4. Fleets decarbonize with low carbon and electric: Fleet managers of public and commercial vehicle fleets are buying new electric trucks and buses and switching out diesel fleets with low-carbon fuels such as renewable diesel. These organizations are being pushed by a combination of regulations, sustainability goals and customers. While the electric truck and bus markets are young, they’re becoming increasingly competitive for certain types of vehicles running certain routes, such as last-mile delivery.  5. Tesla and Elon defy gravity: While many car companies faltered in the wake of the pandemic, Tesla continued to soar and soar. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is the second richest man in the world based on his Tesla shares, and the company plans to join the S&P on Dec. 18. The Silicon Valley-born electric car company has remade the auto industry, pushing the big car companies to chase its success into EVs, copy its online sales and promotions and mimic its over-the-air software systems.  6. Slow streets show what’s possible: 2020 saw the emergence of the slow-streets trend, where U.S. cities including Oakland, California, and Seattle blocked off miles of neighborhood streets to through traffic in a response to shelter-in-place measures. The slowed streets opened up possibilities for bikes, pedestrians and micromobility devices to move more safely, and reduced vehicles and air pollution in neighborhoods. The movement also gave city planners new tools to engage with residents and showed how cities can remake public spaces away from cars and towards humans.  7. The transport SPACs: An unusual financial tool — the Special Purpose Acquisition Company, or SPAC — emerged as the go-to choice for electric and autonomous transport companies to raise money and go public this year. It works like a reverse merger, where the company merges with a newly created entity and lists on an exchange, raising funds in the process. Why did these emerge this year? Going public via an IPO can take years, but opting for a SPAC can take mere months. Some new transport SPACs are speculative and pre-commercial, but many are legitimate companies with years of revenue and even profits. 8. Climate tech heats up: Venture capitalists and investors are increasingly interested in funding what the cool kids call “climate tech” today, and what we called cleantech in the mid-aughts. The new interest is coming from investors across the board, including old-school firms, brand-new climate funds and corporate arms ( a great resource here ). Entrepreneurs see growing markets, opportunities to work on world-changing solutions and more partners to buy energy, transport and carbontech. Is climate tech becoming so hot that there will be a bubble and bust? Probably. That’s the way Silicon Valley works.  9. Biden puts an end to the Trump darkness: While not strictly a transport story, the U.S. election of Joe Biden could be a major kickstart for the domestic electric vehicle and zero-emission vehicle industries. The president-elect could oversee the deployment of a massive ZEV infrastructure buildout and could quickly reverse the weakening of the auto emissions standards. His administration also will bring in new leadership that will prioritize decarbonizing transport and hopefully will set the bar even higher with new ZEV regulations.  10. Public transit moves into a crisis: mThe most disturbing transport story of 2020 is the crisis facing public transportation with the drop in ridership over safety concerns and COVID. Transit agencies across the U.S. are pleading with the federal government for help covering budget shortfalls, but even if tens of billions of dollars of help is approved, it likely won’t be enough. Many transit agencies will have to cut back on service, reduce staff and undermine the most climate-friendly source of transportation out there.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets Public Transit Electric Vehicles Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rivian made headlines in September 2019 when Amazon (one of its investors) announced its plans to purchase 100,000 of the automotive startup’s all-electric delivery trucks.

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These were 10 key sustainable transport trends of 2020

Sustainability and the never-ending battle against burnout

July 20, 2020 by  
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Sustainability and the never-ending battle against burnout Chris Gaither Mon, 07/20/2020 – 01:04 I felt sure I’d put burnout in the past. I’d quit my high-stress job at Apple, started my own executive-coaching business and found balance in my life. Then, with shame burning my face, I had to cancel a GreenBiz workshop I was leading about how to take care of yourself. Why? Because I hadn’t taken care of myself. That’s the thing about burnout: It creeps back in as soon as you stop paying attention. I began discussing burnout with GreenBiz leaders in early 2019. Yes, my own, which came at the end of four years helping Apple become a model of environmental sustainability. But also the debilitating exhaustion of so many sustainability professionals who wear themselves down in service of this crucial work. “Sustainability is a challenging field,” an attendee of the GreenBiz 19 forum wrote in a post-event survey. “Many think we’re crazy, the news about the environment is typically negative, and all major ecosystems are still in decline. It can be depressing and sticking with the fight can be hard. How can we keep ourselves energized?” I eagerly agreed to lead a session called ‘Human Sustainability: Maintain Your Energy to Pursue What Matters.’ I’d failed to do that plenty of times in my life. I eagerly agreed to lead a session about this at GreenBiz 20 in Phoenix. We called it, “Human Sustainability: Maintain Your Energy to Pursue What Matters.” I’d failed to do that plenty of times in my life. As I recounted in the first article in this series, my 20-year career had left me with a desperate case of burnout. My tank was empty. Depression, fatigue and physical pain overtook me. So, I took a mid-career break to recuperate. I slept. Underwent chronic-pain counseling. Got in shape. Drove my son’s soccer carpools. Volunteered at my local food bank and in underserved schools. Read more than 120 books. Took creative writing classes. Walked in the woods. Reflected. Slowly, I began to diagnose what had gone wrong. My life was badly misaligned. Don’t get me wrong. Of course I was proud of being a director on Apple’s Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives team (and very grateful for the Apple shares that accompanied the title). I loved learning from my incredible boss, Lisa Jackson, leading huge projects with talented colleagues and championing our environmental stewardship. I’d gotten what I thought I wanted. But I realized that, in my early 40s, my values were coming into much sharper focus. Family, community, health, creativity — those are the things that light me up, give me meaning. When I examined where I actually focused my time, attention and physical energy, though, there was a huge disconnect. I was working nonstop, missing important family moments. I commuted three to four hours a day between my Oakland home and One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, Apple’s headquarters. I made little time for exercise or personal creative projects. And as I moved up the corporate ladder, I delegated much of the hands-on work that had brought me joy. In the huge gap between my values and my activities, pain and misery grew like a weed. My body and spirit were trying so hard to tell me that I was off the rails. I vowed to find alignment. I trained as a coach and started my own leadership practice. I’ve landed clients at big companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, Levi Strauss, Airbnb and Mars, as well as startups and nonprofits. I help them lead with purpose while not sacrificing their own human sustainability. The work lights me up with meaning, joy and energy, and constantly reminds me to rejuvenate myself. I was excited to help GreenBiz 20 attendees explore how they, too, could maintain their own sustainability. I’d booked my flight. I’d thought hard about the impact I wanted to have: to help these sustainability professionals avoid, or recognize and repair, the kind of burnout I’d faced. I’d spent weeks designing the workshop. Then I got overwhelmed. And sick. I overlooked the signs that I was out of alignment again. It began with a mild cold, just before Christmas. It stuck around and flared up hard after I made a 24-hour work trip, between San Francisco and Orlando, to please a new corporate partner. I felt awful. Hard coughing. Nasal congestion. Achy sinuses, ears and muscles. This was before COVID-19 swept the globe, so I tried to ignore my symptoms. I kept moving ahead: negotiating the legal aspects of my divorce, co-parenting our adolescent son, running leadership development workshops, coaching almost 20 clients. My symptoms, especially my cough, got worse. In late January, just a few days before GreenBiz 20, I found myself in radiology. The chest X-ray came back clean for pneumonia, but my doctor diagnosed me with a respiratory infection. What will help me make the long-term difference I want to bring to the world? It became crystal clear: I would honor my health. I told him I needed to travel to Phoenix to run a workshop. Environmentalists struggling with burnout were counting on me. He gave me antibiotics. They didn’t help. The Phoenix trip was drawing closer and closer. I couldn’t imagine suffering through a flight and energizing a roomful of people while feeling so crummy. I also couldn’t imagine canceling. I’d have to admit — to the organizers, to myself — that I’d failed to live up to the rejuvenation message I planned to deliver. I’d taken on too much, plowed past the warning signs my body was trying to send me and put the needs of other people above my own wellbeing. I panicked. I fretted. I asked friends for advice, hoping someone would decide for me. Then, I slowed down and coached myself. I asked, What’s most important right now? How do I want to be? What will help me make the long-term difference I want to bring to the world? And it became crystal clear: I would honor my health. To authentically deliver this message of human sustainability, I needed to live it. I had to take care of myself so I could take care of others. I canceled my session, stayed home and replenished the energy I need to do the work I love. GreenBiz 20 went just fine without me. The relapse was a painful and important reminder that finding balance isn’t something you do once. You do it each day, by aligning your values with your activities. And when you get it wrong, like I did, your body and spirit will tell you, unequivocally. Pull Quote I eagerly agreed to lead a session called ‘Human Sustainability: Maintain Your Energy to Pursue What Matters.’ I’d failed to do that plenty of times in my life. What will help me make the long-term difference I want to bring to the world? It became crystal clear: I would honor my health. Topics Leadership 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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Sustainability and the never-ending battle against burnout

New study sheds light on Antarctic sea ice mystery

June 24, 2020 by  
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By now, most people have heard about polar ice melting due to  global warming . But the coming and going of the sea ice surrounding Antarctica still leaves scientists puzzled. Recent research has shed light on changes in sea ice. Antarctica is known for its dynamic  sea ice , which contracts and extends seasonally, yet unpredictably. The drop in sea ice from 2015 to 2016 was staggering — 463,322 square miles, about twice the size of France. The following year, a Netherlands-sized hole melted within the sea ice. Geologists call this unfrozen expanse of open water within ice a polynya. Related: New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow So, what is happening to Antarctica’s sea ice? Recently,  Geophysical Research Letters  published new satellite research paired with data collected from ocean-faring floats. This research suggests that extremely powerful  storms  in the Weddell Sea whipped up warm winds, which lashed the icepack and brought on the 2015-2016 France-size melt. Storms started in September 2015, and the heat continued, causing the region’s hottest November on record. This weather created Antarctica’s first polynya in almost forty years. The polynya’s dark water absorbed more solar heat, leading to more melting. Then, another storm struck in December, further shrinking the ice. On March 24, 2015,  Antarctica  experienced its then-highest ever recorded temperature of 63.5 degrees. This February, the icy continent broke that record when it hit 65 degrees. “Variability in Antarctic sea ice extent is very large, and detecting an anthropogenic signal is going to be difficult,” said John Turner, a climate expert with the British Antarctic Survey, as reported by  Earther . “The increase up to 2014 was a surprise, considering the ice loss in the Arctic, and the rapid drop in 2016 added to the long list of questions about Antarctic sea ice. It’s unclear whether the sea ice extent will recover to 2014 values or if this the start of the long-term decline expected as  greenhouse gas  concentrations increase.” + Earther Images via Pexels and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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New study sheds light on Antarctic sea ice mystery

The future is uncertain: planning for the long term in a short-term world

April 29, 2020 by  
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One silver lining: corporate sustainability professionals are comfortable with complexity and change, and our modus operandi is to plan for the long term.

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The future is uncertain: planning for the long term in a short-term world

6 resources to help navigate the COVID-19 crisis

April 29, 2020 by  
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Because everyone can use some extra help and additional perspective right now.

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6 resources to help navigate the COVID-19 crisis

What past disruptions teach us about reviving supply chains after COVID-19

April 14, 2020 by  
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In the long term, the need for visibility into supply chain data, and ability to provide services digitally across borders, whether for telehealth or education, is clear.

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What past disruptions teach us about reviving supply chains after COVID-19

This tech breakthrough could revolutionize lithium extraction

April 14, 2020 by  
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One huge potential benefit: reduced production costs for electric vehicle batteries.

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This tech breakthrough could revolutionize lithium extraction

The Problems With Pesticides

March 31, 2020 by  
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As we collectively begin to consider the long-term impacts of … The post The Problems With Pesticides appeared first on Earth911.com.

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The Problems With Pesticides

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