These smart freezer sensors help Domino’s, 7-Eleven combat food waste

March 24, 2021 by  
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These smart freezer sensors help Domino’s, 7-Eleven combat food waste Jesse Klein Wed, 03/24/2021 – 00:05 As director of operations for 11 Domino’s Pizzas in Colorado, Bill Oliver has a unique anxiety that rattles around his brain — that one morning his staff will open the store and head back to the freezer section to start the day’s orders only to find the dough, vegetables and meats sitting there unfrozen.  Refrigerators, freezers and warehouses are vulnerable to malfunctions or human error issues that could result in spoilage and, ultimately, food waste. This link in the cold chain is part of the $161 million food waste problem in the United States. The Boston Consulting Group calculated that “deploying more-advanced supply chain solutions — including cold chain [technologies] in developing markets — could reduce the problem by $150 billion annually.”  Startup Therma , which recently raised $10.2 million,   hopes to be part of those more advanced supply chain solutions. The company has created a smart temperature and humidity sensor that’s mounted inside freezers to record real-time data and send alerts if temperatures rise above a certain threshold. Therma’s breakthrough is using long-range radio to send the signals through densely insulated material such as those used to construct freezers, refrigerators and warehouses.  “Refrigeration units or a walk-in-freezer or a warehouse often have iron or steel, and have historically blocked signals,” said Manik Suri, founder and CEO of Therma. “These densely insulated environments have been very hard for previous generations of internet of things protocols to penetrate.” Suri started building Therma in 2019. In 2020, he was able to scale the company to 831 sensors deployed over 29 unique customers in 119 locations, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, Burger King, 7-Eleven, Wyndham Hotels and, of course, Domino’s. Since the sensor works for temperatures between -40  and 257 degrees Fahrenheit, Therma is also starting to enter the health-care sector, another large portion of the cold chain market.  Therma uses a cascading alert system that escalates the alert higher up the management food chain the longer the freezer is operating above the threshold temperature, starting with employees on-site and ending with managers or owners. Using this system, restaurateurs, including Oliver, have been able to identify equipment failures and power outages. The technology also detects when people making deliveries or cleaning staff prop freezer doors open or improperly close them, as well as other small or large inefficiencies that lead to energy costs and food waste.  Therma can help businesses save between 5 and 10 percent in energy costs created by overcooling. According to Suri, quick-service and full-service restaurants reported an average of 0.6 failures per month per location. Therma’s customers have reported an average of 0.4 failure events per month that were caught and rectified by the sensor system before spoilage occurred, preventing 4.1 percent of food waste per location each month, or about $500 worth per location per month. According to Therma’s calculations, that’s almost 4,000 pounds of food waste yearly. Beyond food waste, Therma’s technology can help businesses save between 5 and 10 percent in energy costs created by overcooling, Suri said.  “Today, a lot of warehouse owner-operators overcool,” he said. “They just lower the thermostat by 5 or 10 degrees to accommodate for hot spots and prevent them from building up. That’s a really expensive way to avoid hot spots.”  And not very sustainable. Suri’s business offers a visualizer tool that uses Therma sensors to help warehouse operators find the hot spots and either rectify or avoid those areas, instead of cranking down the temp. Therma’s other tools, Predict and Insight, put historical data into the hands of operators so they can discover trends, identify defective equipment, determine likely human error and adjust for a more efficient future. Creating a greener freezer might feel like a sustainability perk that is divorced from the immediate needs of business owners. Therma’s selling point to Oliver was giving him peace of mind so he can sleep at night while also taking one more thing off his to-do list.  “A lot of it is peace of mind,” Oliver said. “We can see that the refrigeration was at a safe temperature for an entire day, therefore, without having someone to go in there and manually take the temperature of the unit four times a day. It’s a huge labor savings.”  Pull Quote Therma can help businesses save between 5 and 10 percent in energy costs created by overcooling. Topics Food Systems Energy & Climate Cold Chain Energy Food Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Therma’s sensors help restaurants owners monitor and improve their freezers and fridges to combat food waste. //Courtesy of Therma

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What you should know about new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

March 17, 2021 by  
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What you should know about new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Shaandiin Cedar Wed, 03/17/2021 – 02:00 According to a Wilderness Society analysis of U.S. Geological Survey data, life-cycle emissions from oil, gas and coal pulled from public lands and waters were equivalent to more than 20 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. If those emissions were attributed to a single country, it would rank fifth in life-cycle emissions, a sobering fact that exposes the need for bold leadership at the helm of historically slow-moving federal agencies. Early in his presidency, President Joe Biden made it a priority to select a diverse team proficient in climate work, and his cabinet appointment of Deb Haaland as Secretary for the Department of the Interior is no exception.  Born in Winslow, Arizona, Haaland spent summers with her grandmother in the Laguna Pueblo in Northwestern New Mexico and identifies as 35th generation Indigenous New Mexican with ties to the region dating back to the 13th century. Haaland was one of the first Native women elected to Congress, representing New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, and her appointment to the Interior makes her the first Native person to lead a U.S. cabinet agency. This breaks a 245-year record of non-Native leadership in a department directly responsible for managing the relationship with the nation’s 574 tribes and the 50 million acres of Native land held in trust by Interior bureaus. Haaland will oversee nearly 500 million acres of land — that’s one-fifth the land area of the U.S. and 70% of all public lands — and almost 700 million acres of natural resources that lay beneath it and its coasts. As Interior Secretary, Haaland will oversee nearly 500 million acres of land — that’s one-fifth the land area of the U.S. and 70 percent of all public lands — and almost 700 million acres of natural resources that lay beneath it and its coasts. The department is responsible for 422 national parks, 129 national monuments and 567 wildlife refuges, stewarding biodiversity conservation projects and protecting more than 1,000 endangered species. “It was in the cornfields with my grandfather where I learned the importance of water and protecting our resources and where I gained a deep respect for the earth,” Haaland said in her confirmation hearings, emphasizing that her experiences make her uniquely qualified to lead the Interior Department.  Climate advocates believe this is a significant turning point for the Interior, creating a pathway for private sector collaboration in the agency’s efforts to decarbonize and bolster federal production of renewable energy.  The Interior’s dirty fuel challenge  Given the sheer size of land and water under management, the Interior represents a valued powerhouse of domestic output and natural resource development. During Haaland’s confirmation hearings, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) pointed out that the agency “generates $12 billion for treasury, $315 billion to the U.S. economy and nearly 2 million jobs,” a statement made to underline the importance of the department’s current and future operations. In terms of resource development, Haaland inherits a department that produces the resources for 20 percent of U.S. energy , including 12 percent of its natural gas, 24 percent of its oil and 43 percent of its coal. Leases managed by the Interior hit a record 1 billion barrels in 2020 — a 23 percent increase from 2016 levels. By contrast, sites primarily consisting of Bureau of Land Management projects — an Interior-managed department — produce only 1 percent of the country’s wind and virtually none of its solar power. Fossil fuels development on public lands and waters is responsible for almost one-quarter of the country’s emissions, according to a 2018 U.S. Geological Survey report , making public lands a net emitter of greenhouse gas and the subject of priority review by the Interior’s new leadership. Public land-based solutions As a valuable carbon sink, America’s public lands and waters are an essential part of a successful federal climate strategy, writes Alison Kelly, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. U.S. federal forests and grasslands are a major carbon pool and a significant component of the national greenhouse gas inventory, encompassing 248 million acres estimated to contain more than 12 billion tons of carbon .  Currently, the country’s 154 national forests absorb about 10 percent of the nation’s total carbon emissions each year, and a U.S. House of Representatives Special Select Committee on the Climate Crisis report states that there’s potential for capacity increases if deforestation is prevented, new forests are planted and agencies bring new lands into federal ownership. There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed. According to the committee report, protecting and expanding federal “blue carbon systems” — those that include ocean and wetland ecosystems, including mangroves, seagrasses and marshes — are essential to offset department emissions since they store carbon at a faster rate than terrestrial forests, a finding likely to inform the Interior department’s emission reduction strategies. The Interior’s bold to-do list  Historically, the agency has adhered to traditional notions of energy development, and Haaland has been an outspoken critic of that strategy. She was an early sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the House and has said she’s “wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands.”  As Secretary of the Interior, Haaland acknowledges that the role primarily consists of following the law and directives from the White House, not making them. “I understand that [my] role, it’s to serve all Americans, not just my one district in New Mexico,” said Haaland in her confirmation hearings. To that point, while climate change has become a political tension point, Haaland has emerged as someone who can work effectively with colleagues across the aisle. During her first term in the House, she was named the most bipartisan freshman congresswoman, a trait seen as an asset in aiding efforts to transform the Interior department into a climate-positive entity and potential ally for private sector contractors in the renewable energy space. During her confirmation hearings, Haaland was diplomatic and realistic. “There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come,” she told the committee. “But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed.”  As Haaland settles into her new role, federal and private sector companies should look to the following key priorities for early indications on how business can expect to plug into achieving the administration’s ambitious goals.  1. Pausing new oil fossil fuel development As directed in the recent Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad executive order , the Interior has put a pause on new oil and natural gas leases pending the completion of a “comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices.” This is seen as a bold step to systematically quantify climate impact, using it to inform future leasing processes. 2. Doubling offshore wind by 2030 As Secretary of the Interior, Haaland said she is committed to finding the right balance between economic growth and investing in a clean energy future.  “As part of this balance, the Department has a role in harnessing the clean energy potential of our public lands to create jobs and new economic opportunities,” she said. “The president’s agenda demonstrates that America’s public lands can and should be engines for clean energy production.”  To this end, Haaland will be responsible for reviewing opportunities to increase renewable energy production on Interior lands and waters, with the goal to double offshore wind by 2030. Currently, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management — an Interior managed department — has 15 active commercial leases in various, early stages of development in the Atlantic which, if developed fully, have the potential to support more than 21 GW of energy generating capacity — enough to power almost 7.5 million homes On a national scale, offshore wind for the contiguous United States and Hawaii has a potential capacity of 2,058 gigawatts, or 7,203 terawatt-hours per year, nearly double the electricity consumption of the U.S., according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s 2016 Offshore Wind Resource Assessment for the United States report . 3. Creating jobs with the Civilian Climate Corps Within 90 days, the Interior will submit “a strategy creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs,” as directed by the executive order, and Haaland is fully onboard.  The creation of a Civilian Climate Corps “demonstrates that America’s public lands can and should be engines for clean energy production” and “has the potential to spur job creation,” Haaland said during her confirmation hearings. 4. Centering equity and environmental justice “Communities of color, low-income families, and rural and Indigenous communities have long suffered disproportionate and cumulative harm from air pollution, water pollution, and toxic sites,” states the Interior’s recently updated priorities list .  As a Congresswoman, and through her lived experiences with Indigenous communities, Haaland says she understands that negative environmental and social impacts are not evenly distributed in our society. As leader of the Interior, and a new member of the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, she will be held accountable for addressing environmental injustice in accordance with Biden’s executive order directing the Interior to provide a comprehensive justice strategy and performance metrics. A fierce new climate ally   With the confirmation of Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, government leaders, activists and businesses expect to see major disruptions to business-as-usual public lands management. Haaland will be tasked with preserving natural spaces for generations to come, reducing the department’s sizable environmental impact and reorienting a team of 70,000 employees. While her supporters expect her to be strong on climate action, her skeptics expect her to listen and work with them, something that she says she’s willing and able to do.  In an open letter to Senate leaders during Haaland’s confirmation hearings — signed by nearly 500 national and regional organizations representing Native communities, environmental justice groups and private sector businesses — Haaland was described as “a proven leader and the right person to lead the charge against the existential threats of our time: tackling the climate, biodiversity, extinction and COVID-19 crises and racial justice inequities on our federal public lands and waters.”  At the helm of the Interior, Haaland will play a central role in realizing the federal government’s promises to combat climate change, deploy clean energy and address environmental racism.  Pull Quote Haaland will oversee nearly 500 million acres of land — that’s one-fifth the land area of the U.S. and 70% of all public lands — and almost 700 million acres of natural resources that lay beneath it and its coasts. There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed. Topics Policy & Politics Social Justice Environmental Responsibility Equity & Inclusion Indigenous People 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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What you should know about new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

Native Wisdom in Land Management

February 9, 2021 by  
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Like all racial stereotypes, the “wise Indian” is best retired … The post Native Wisdom in Land Management appeared first on Earth 911.

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The ‘S’ in ESG gains currency

February 8, 2021 by  
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The ‘S’ in ESG gains currency Manjit Jus Mon, 02/08/2021 – 01:00 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . We have seen a rising emphasis on ESG issues in recent years, as customers, investors and other stakeholders look for more transparency on corporate strategies and their impact on society. Companies are making progress in disclosing their environmental impact and governance standards, but social factors have not been given the same attention — until now. Social factors include how a company manages relationships with its workforce, the communities in which it operates and the geopolitical environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed “S” into the spotlight by highlighting a range of problematic societal issues as millions of people around the world found themselves suddenly out of work with little protection. There are a lot of nuances with data on social issues, such as gender equality, human rights and labor standards. According to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, “The social element of ESG issues can be the most difficult for investors to assess. Unlike environmental and governance issues, which are more easily defined, have an established track record of market data, and are often accompanied by robust regulation, social issues are less tangible, with less mature data to show how they can impact a company’s performance.” Social sustainability factors are material issues for many industries, however, and their management is directly linked to a company’s reputation and brand equity. Companies are showing a growing awareness that good social performance can translate into improved business performance and better relationships with customers and local communities. The S in ESG is definitely gaining currency. Two important areas are gender equality and human rights. Gender diversity enhances corporate governance, talent attraction and human capital development — all important factors driving long-term competitiveness . Corporate policies promoting gender diversity are a reflection of a well-managed company that realizes diversity’s value in stimulating creativity and increasing productivity, in tandem with employee well-being. While progress is being made on diversity, we are not seeing enough equality in the ranks. According to the International Monetary Fund, women earn 63 percent less than men, and the resulting loss of economic output is staggering. It ranges from 10 percent of GDP in advanced economies to more than 30 percent in South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.  The latest data from S&P Global’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) underscores the fact that gender pay gaps are more pronounced in some regions and in some industries, and at different levels of hierarchy within organizations. Companies are showing a growing awareness that good social performance can translate into improved business performance and better relationships with customers and local communities. The CSA is an annual evaluation of companies’ sustainability practices, focusing on criteria that are both industry-specific and financially material. For the CSA, gender equality means not only equal pay for equal work and equal gender ratios, but also equal access and equal treatment for career-advancing opportunities and corporate support systems. This includes flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies that go beyond legal minimum requirements. Companies are asked a number of questions about their gender equality policies and practices in the annual survey. Findings suggest that companies with a more diverse and equal workforce are indeed better positioned to outperform. Additional research by S&P Global Market Intelligence pointed to evidence of the outperformance of female executives relative to their male peers. Results showed that female CEOs drove more value appreciation (defined as a decrease in the book-to-market multiple relative to the sector average) and improved stock price momentum for their firms. In addition, female CFOs drove more value appreciation, defended profitability moats better and delivered excess risk-adjusted returns for their firms. Clearly, an increased focus on both diversity and equality will be needed going forward. The social factor in ESG is also heavily populated with human rights-related elements. Drivers include internationally recognized standards, such as the U.N.’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), as well as the growing interest of asset owners and managers in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. As part of their responsibility to implement the UNGPs, companies must have systems and practices in place enabling them to know and show that they respect human rights. Crucially, this includes an ongoing risk-management process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how a company addresses any adverse human rights impacts. This human rights due diligence HRDD) includes four key steps: assessing actual and potential human rights impacts; integrating and acting on the findings; tracking responses; and communicating about how impacts are addressed. The CSA extended the human rights criterion by adding a section on HRDD. Since then, results have shown a growing interest by participants in tackling human rights issues, reflected in improved average scores for this criterion across all industries and regions. Based on CSA results over the past several years, companies are expected to continue to report more extensively on their human rights due diligence going forward. Greater transparency in this regard will provide important information for their corporate decision-making. The coronavirus pandemic has caused stakeholders around the world to take a closer look at how businesses handle human capital and related issues. There likely will be growing pressure on companies to consider social factors in their longer-term plans and goals for senior management and to disclose how they are performing year over year. As interest in ESG funds continues to grow, companies will need to be firing on all three cylinders to attract capital: E, G plus S. Pull Quote Companies are showing a growing awareness that good social performance can translate into improved business performance and better relationships with customers and local communities. Topics State of Green Business Report Social Justice ESG 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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The ‘S’ in ESG gains currency

The potential for carbon-capture tech is captivating

February 4, 2021 by  
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The potential for carbon-capture tech is captivating Heather Clancy Thu, 02/04/2021 – 01:30 This week, oil giant ExxonMobil pledged $3 billion to the development of a carbon capture and storage business over the next five years — in a bid to manage its business risks associated with climate change. CEO Darren Woods noted in the company’s press release: “We are focused on proprietary projects and commercial partnerships that will have a demonstrably positive impact on our own emissions as well as those from the industrial, power generation and commercial transportation sectors, which together account for 80 percent of global CO2 emissions.”  Even Elon Musk is intrigued by the emerging market for carbon removal innovations, as his recent tweet promising $100 million for the “best carbon capture technology” well illustrates. The good news is that even without the pocket change the Tesla billionaire is promising, 2021 is shaping up as a potential tipping point for carbon removal solutions in the United States.  The biggest breakthrough came with the passage of a two-year extension to the 45Q corporate tax credit for carbon removal projects in the dying days of the Trump administration — projects now have until Dec. 31, 2025, to commence construction — along with the publication of guidance from the Internal Revenue Service about how it can be applied. The credit allows for a deduction of up to $50 per metric ton of carbon captured and sequestered, but many viewed the earlier timing window as too restrictive to really jumpstart the market.  In our view, DAC is feasible, available and affordable. “The final rule will provide long-overdue regulatory and financial certainty to incentivize private investment in economy-wide deployment of carbon capture, removal, transport, use and geologic storage across a range of key industries,” noted the Carbon Capture Coalition , an industry group convened by the Great Plains Institute that advocates the cause.  Like another industry group focused on advocating carbon removal solutions, Carbon 180 , the coalition has some suggestions for policies it would love to see the Biden administration embrace related to the nurture of carbon capture and storage approaches that go beyond planting trees.  One argument in favor of direct air capture (DAC) investments fits well with the new president’s climate-equals-job-creation mantra: A June analysis by the Rhodium Group suggests the industry has the potential to create at least 300,000 U.S. jobs. DAC technologies remove emissions from the atmosphere, then store them geologically or use the captured CO2 as a feedstock for something else, such as fuel, chemicals or construction materials.  The need for cost-effective carbon removal solutions is urgent. The International Energy Agency reports that around 30 carbon capture and storage projects have been approved since 2017 — the ones already in operation sucked up around 40 million metric tons last year. But that’s a teeny-tiny amount compared with the roughly 35 billion metric tons of carbon the industrial and agricultural worlds spit up annually. Some models figure we need carbon removal methods to draw down at least one-quarter of the current emissions in order to really address climate targets. It’s widely believed that the U.S. tax credit should make DAC more attractive to companies beyond the oil and gas companies, and power, chemical, cement and steel companies that typically have shown interest in the earlier projects. The list of examples is already growing. United Airlines in December said it would become a “multimillion-dollar” investor in 1PointFive, a joint venture between Occidental Petroleum and Rusheen Capital Management developing an industrial-sized DAC plant using technology licensed from Carbon Engineering (CE). E-commerce company Shopify was actually CE’s first corporate buyer ; it is investing in the Canadian company’s first commercial plant in Squamish, British Columbia, which should be up and running by August. Climeworks’ technology captures atmospheric carbon by drawing in air and binding the CO2 using a filter. The filter is heated to release the concentrated gas, which can be used in industrial applications, such as a source of carbonization for the food and beverage industry. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Julia Dunlop/Climeworks Close Authorship Other tech companies including Amazon, Microsoft and Stripe are talking up direct investments in carbon removal technologies. Last week, Microsoft announced an extensive portfolio of carbon removal projects as part of an update about its year-old carbon-negative strategy . In aggregate, the company reduced emissions by 6 percent in its first year. It also purchased the removal of 1.3 million metric tons of carbon from 15 suppliers, across 26 projects — including bioenergy, blue carbon, forestry and agricultural soil sequestration. Its nod to DAC includes a contract for 1,400 metric tons of CO2 captured by a plant being developed by Climeworks in Iceland .  “In our view, DAC is feasible, available and affordable,” says Steve Oldham, who as CEO of CE obviously has a vested interest in seeing the market move toward the mainstream.  The plant CE is planning to build in the Permian Basin of Texas, with construction scheduled to begin by the end of 2021, will be capable of removing 1 million metric tons of CO2 per year at a price of $95 to $250 per metric ton, according to Oldham. The ultimate price will depend on the financing the project receives — it will take two to three years to build it. For context, carbon capture costs easily can run $600 per metric ton. So, that’s a significant reduction. In Oldham’s view, DAC investments are necessary to “decarbonize in parallel” with renewable energy deployment. To those who suggest carbon capture schemes perpetuate fossil fuels extraction and production, he says it’s not feasible to transition cold-turkey and that it’s imperative to finance removal alongside new generation capacity. “One plus minus-one is also zero,” he says. As corporate climate types are aware, most strategies for carbon removal will include a portfolio or projects — including nature-based solutions such as regenerative agriculture or forests or blue carbon as well as the sorts of innovations that the DAC crowd is hoping to perpetuate. Research published in mid-January in the journal Nature Communications suggests that creating a “wartime” response to climate change by investing 1.2 to 1.9 percent of GDP in DAC innovation and deployments could stimulate the removal of 2.2 to 2.3 gigatons of CO2 per year. But it’s no silver bullet: Even “massive deployments” aren’t likely to start reversing concentrations until the 2070 timeframe, according to the researchers. Really, we have no time to waste, and the companies investing directly in projects are to be commended for being in the advance guard of action. Pull Quote In our view, DAC is feasible, available and affordable. Topics Carbon Removal Direct Air Capture Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021

January 21, 2021 by  
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5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021 Pamela Gordon Thu, 01/21/2021 – 01:40 Amongst the many dramatic challenges global businesses faced in 2020, one that had been simmering for years bubbled up and promised to stay at a high boil in 2021 is ESG: Environment, Social, Governance.  Signs that ESG expectations were becoming more ubiquitous included the establishment of global ESG standards published by the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council in September and BlackRock’s call for a globally recognized framework for investors to understand individual company risks.  Despite years of progress by leading corporations toward ESG, corporate social responsibility (CSR), environmental health and safety (EHS) and sustainability goals, the reality is that board members overseeing these companies are still trying to discern how all of this applies to them. In fact, in PwC’s annual Corporate Directors survey , which includes responses from more than 600 public board directors, only half (51 percent) say their board fully understands ESG issues impacting the company. That same study shows, however, that in 2020, 45 percent of directors say that ESG issues are a regular part of the board’s agenda, which demonstrates an increase from 34 percent in 2019. Time for training How can boards (public and private) improve their efficacy in ESG oversight for long-term value? As ESG experts, Presidians and members of the Athena Alliance (community of female corporate board directors and executives), we set out to help boards to become ESG-ready .  To start, we uncovered board members’ keenest ESG-education needs by surveying sitting board members at public (39 percent) and private (61 percent) companies, generating annual revenues of less than $50 million to $3 billion. They look to ESG to realize the following areas of corporate success: Source: Presidio Graduate School survey, October through December 2020 Then, we developed an ESG training for board members, along with the following five recommendations for board members to get ESG-ready for 2021. 1. Understand why boards need to be ESG-ready In our survey, 47 percent of directors believe ESG is important for brand equity and reputation, 24 percent cited both customer and investor pressure, and 18 percent pointed to risk management and board pressure. One sitting board member said that ESG is “an inherent part of the business model.” Board oversight includes advising the management team on the company strategy, and ensuring improved long term value for all stakeholders. Directors must understand how ESG issues can affect that strategy, and be in a position to assess and address both challenges and opportunities. To get started, align the board on why they should care, in light of demands from stakeholders such as customers, employees, investors, communities and suppliers. Invite an ESG expert to convey how ESG is material to your particular company.  2. Add ESG to your next board meeting agenda When asked what level of importance their boards put on ESG, 76 percent of our survey respondents said “important” or “very important,” yet only 47 percent said their companies report on ESG, and 35 percent said their board provides ESG oversight. Compare that to the 45 percent stated by public companies in the PwC survey, and we are still looking at less than half of company boards addressing ESG even as investors and other business stakeholders demand it. Add ESG to your next board agenda, even if only to start the conversation with the management team. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that somewhere in the organization people have been working on ESG initiatives and have been waiting for the conversation to reach the board. Risk and reputation are two of the most fundamental aspects of “duty of care” for sitting board directors. Corporate leaders who take a broader view of their long-term strategy, including how they will meet ESG demands, will be better positioned to address new risks and opportunities.  3. Select an ESG oversight structure that aligns with your company More than half (52 percent) of our survey respondents serve on the Nominating and Governance committees of their boards, with 20 percent stating they sit on a specialized ESG/EHS working group or committee. Some companies split the elements of ESG between committees, with “social” sitting with the compensation committee for example, as they typically manage diversity, equity and talent initiatives. Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated. A recent article by the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance offers an excellent guide on how to address ESG and corporate governance within the board committees, noting most importantly, “Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated.”  4. Arm yourself with expertise In the PwC survey, respondents agreed that ESG issues are playing a larger role in their board discussions, and should be included in determining the company strategy. In fact, 67 percent of directors said the company should include climate change, human rights and income equality in the company strategy, a 13-point increase over 2019. Interestingly, female directors were more likely (60 percent) to see the link between ESG and company strategy than their male counterparts (46 percent), and agreed in higher percentages (79 percent vs. 64 percent) that climate change and human rights issues should be part of forming the company strategy.  As your board recruits new directors or replaces sitting directors, consider adding a director with ESG expertise, supplemented with an independent ESG consultant for a broader and future view. 5. Get educated When asked from which aspects of ESG education their boards would most benefit from, respondents prioritized: 1) diversity, equity and inclusion, 2) ESG/CSR reporting, 3) products’ environmental footprint/impact, 4) company operations’ environmental footprint/impact and 5) climate and renewable energy. Most prefer a half-day training, with some wanting a customized training for their entire board and others wanting to join training comprising individual board members representing diverse companies. Having interviewed board members over the years for materiality assessments, PGS Consults analysts note that board directors acknowledge their limited understanding of ESG and are genuinely open to learning more. The COVID-19 lockdown in March created a dramatic shift in board member interest in ESG — from polite inquiry to a more urgent need to know. Pull Quote Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated. Contributors Leilani Latimer Topics Corporate Strategy ESG Collective Insight Thinking in Systems Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Freedomz Close Authorship

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5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021

5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021

January 21, 2021 by  
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5 steps boards can take to be ESG-ready for 2021 Pamela Gordon Thu, 01/21/2021 – 01:40 Amongst the many dramatic challenges global businesses faced in 2020, one that had been simmering for years bubbled up and promised to stay at a high boil in 2021 is ESG: Environment, Social, Governance.  Signs that ESG expectations were becoming more ubiquitous included the establishment of global ESG standards published by the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council in September and BlackRock’s call for a globally recognized framework for investors to understand individual company risks.  Despite years of progress by leading corporations toward ESG, corporate social responsibility (CSR), environmental health and safety (EHS) and sustainability goals, the reality is that board members overseeing these companies are still trying to discern how all of this applies to them. In fact, in PwC’s annual Corporate Directors survey , which includes responses from more than 600 public board directors, only half (51 percent) say their board fully understands ESG issues impacting the company. That same study shows, however, that in 2020, 45 percent of directors say that ESG issues are a regular part of the board’s agenda, which demonstrates an increase from 34 percent in 2019. Time for training How can boards (public and private) improve their efficacy in ESG oversight for long-term value? As ESG experts, Presidians and members of the Athena Alliance (community of female corporate board directors and executives), we set out to help boards to become ESG-ready .  To start, we uncovered board members’ keenest ESG-education needs by surveying sitting board members at public (39 percent) and private (61 percent) companies, generating annual revenues of less than $50 million to $3 billion. They look to ESG to realize the following areas of corporate success: Source: Presidio Graduate School survey, October through December 2020 Then, we developed an ESG training for board members, along with the following five recommendations for board members to get ESG-ready for 2021. 1. Understand why boards need to be ESG-ready In our survey, 47 percent of directors believe ESG is important for brand equity and reputation, 24 percent cited both customer and investor pressure, and 18 percent pointed to risk management and board pressure. One sitting board member said that ESG is “an inherent part of the business model.” Board oversight includes advising the management team on the company strategy, and ensuring improved long term value for all stakeholders. Directors must understand how ESG issues can affect that strategy, and be in a position to assess and address both challenges and opportunities. To get started, align the board on why they should care, in light of demands from stakeholders such as customers, employees, investors, communities and suppliers. Invite an ESG expert to convey how ESG is material to your particular company.  2. Add ESG to your next board meeting agenda When asked what level of importance their boards put on ESG, 76 percent of our survey respondents said “important” or “very important,” yet only 47 percent said their companies report on ESG, and 35 percent said their board provides ESG oversight. Compare that to the 45 percent stated by public companies in the PwC survey, and we are still looking at less than half of company boards addressing ESG even as investors and other business stakeholders demand it. Add ESG to your next board agenda, even if only to start the conversation with the management team. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that somewhere in the organization people have been working on ESG initiatives and have been waiting for the conversation to reach the board. Risk and reputation are two of the most fundamental aspects of “duty of care” for sitting board directors. Corporate leaders who take a broader view of their long-term strategy, including how they will meet ESG demands, will be better positioned to address new risks and opportunities.  3. Select an ESG oversight structure that aligns with your company More than half (52 percent) of our survey respondents serve on the Nominating and Governance committees of their boards, with 20 percent stating they sit on a specialized ESG/EHS working group or committee. Some companies split the elements of ESG between committees, with “social” sitting with the compensation committee for example, as they typically manage diversity, equity and talent initiatives. Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated. A recent article by the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance offers an excellent guide on how to address ESG and corporate governance within the board committees, noting most importantly, “Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated.”  4. Arm yourself with expertise In the PwC survey, respondents agreed that ESG issues are playing a larger role in their board discussions, and should be included in determining the company strategy. In fact, 67 percent of directors said the company should include climate change, human rights and income equality in the company strategy, a 13-point increase over 2019. Interestingly, female directors were more likely (60 percent) to see the link between ESG and company strategy than their male counterparts (46 percent), and agreed in higher percentages (79 percent vs. 64 percent) that climate change and human rights issues should be part of forming the company strategy.  As your board recruits new directors or replaces sitting directors, consider adding a director with ESG expertise, supplemented with an independent ESG consultant for a broader and future view. 5. Get educated When asked from which aspects of ESG education their boards would most benefit from, respondents prioritized: 1) diversity, equity and inclusion, 2) ESG/CSR reporting, 3) products’ environmental footprint/impact, 4) company operations’ environmental footprint/impact and 5) climate and renewable energy. Most prefer a half-day training, with some wanting a customized training for their entire board and others wanting to join training comprising individual board members representing diverse companies. Having interviewed board members over the years for materiality assessments, PGS Consults analysts note that board directors acknowledge their limited understanding of ESG and are genuinely open to learning more. The COVID-19 lockdown in March created a dramatic shift in board member interest in ESG — from polite inquiry to a more urgent need to know. Pull Quote Because ESG strategy should align with business strategy and focus on material risks and business drivers, the full board will want to understand the ESG messaging and how those risks are being mitigated. Contributors Leilani Latimer Topics Corporate Strategy ESG Collective Insight Thinking in Systems Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Freedomz Close Authorship

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What Biden could do about plastics

December 14, 2020 by  
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What Biden could do about plastics Lauren Phipps Mon, 12/14/2020 – 01:00 Most environmentally oriented eyes on the Biden administration are focused — appropriately — on mitigating climate change, creating jobs and transitioning to a clean energy future. Count me among them. So, I’m not holding out hope for a federal circular economy policy any time soon (I’ll let the EU take the lead on that front). However, I will pay close attention next year to the administration’s stance on everyone’s favorite entry point into the circular economy: plastics. More specifically, the potential to weave together or harmonize our current patchwork of city- and state-level regulations into a coordinated federal effort to chip away at the U.S.’s outsized plastics footprint . The most ambitious bill that could come across Biden’s desk is the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act , introduced earlier this year by Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-California). The sweeping legislation would establish a nationwide container deposit system (a.k.a. extended producer responsibility); set post-consumer recycled content minimums for plastic packaging that gradually would increase to 80 percent in 2040; and ban a number of single-use items including plastic bags, polystyrene foodservice containers and disposable utensils and straws. It’s controversial, to say the least, with predictable divisions between industry lobbying for voluntary commitments and activist groups demanding regulatory action and accountability.  This week, a coalition of 550 environmental groups, including many of the bill’s supporters, released the Presidential Plastics Action Plan , a proposed framework for the president-elect to reduce plastics entering the waste stream and regulate their management — with or without the support of Congress. Here’s what makes me optimistic: Plastic pollution has become a bipartisan issue. Although Biden’s emphasis on infrastructure, climate and environmental justice feels perfectly poised for an intersectional challenge such as plastic pollution, I’m not feeling confident that this is where Biden will spend his political capital with executive action, at least any time soon. But I’m hoping to be surprised. On the international stage, I’ll be tracking two major opportunities for the Biden administration: a global treaty on plastics pollution and the Basel Convention, a United Nations treaty that regulates the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous waste, amended in 2019 to regulate the global plastic waste trade.  More than two-thirds of United Nations member states have declared they are open to a new agreement to tackle plastic waste and harmonize policy efforts among signatories, akin to a Paris Agreement for plastics. And while the U.S. has remained predictably silent on the treaty, WWF, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Boston Consulting Group recently released a manifesto calling for businesses to support such a treaty, garnering early support from major global brands including Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo, among other top global plastic polluters , signaling potential for broader support to enter into negotiations.  Although the U.S. is not a party to the Basel Convention, come next month, many shipments of plastic waste from the U.S. to other countries will be prohibited or complicated , increasing the strain on domestic recycling markets.  I’m not wildly optimistic that the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act will become the law of the land while the president’s ambition for environmental action is tempered by Republican control of the Senate. I’m also not filled with confidence that the U.S. quickly will become a global leader in the fight against plastics pollution.  But here’s what makes me optimistic: Plastic pollution has become a bipartisan issue.  If the historic influx of recycling legislation in Congress over the past few years tells us anything, it’s that recycling and materials management are on the national agenda. The education-focused RECYCLE Act and infrastructure-oriented RECOVER Act both received some bipartisan support before stalling amid the pandemic. And President Donald Trump signed the updated Save Our Seas 2.0 Act recently passed by both chambers of Congress. Among other things, it will provide $55 million in funding each year through 2025 to improve “local post-consumer materials management,” including municipal recycling programs (which could use the additional support these days). That’s a pittance compared to what’s needed, but we’ll take it. Indeed, when it comes to solving the plastics waste problem, these bills are woefully inadequate. They underscore the key distinction between tackling plastic pollution and addressing the problem at its root: Are we turning off the plastics tap, or bailing out the bathtub with a thimble? However insufficient, some federal action is certainly better than none.  Pull Quote Here’s what makes me optimistic: Plastic pollution has become a bipartisan issue. Topics Circular Economy Recycling Plastic Waste Plastic Featured Column In the Loop Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Person searches through plastic trash in a waterway near the Las Vegas Strip.  Shutterstock John Dvorak Close Authorship

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Morgan Stanley will measure CO2 impact of loans and investments

July 27, 2020 by  
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Morgan Stanley will measure CO2 impact of loans and investments Michael Holder Mon, 07/27/2020 – 00:15 Morgan Stanley has become the first major U.S. bank to commit to measuring and disclosing the climate impact of its loans and investments, announcing last week that it has joined a multi-trillion dollar group of global financial institutions developing a standardized method for carbon accounting. The U.S. bank has become the latest financial firm to join the Global Carbon Accounting Partnership (PCAF), a growing coalition which first began in the Netherlands in 2015 and now boasts 66 formal members from around the world representing more than $5.3 trillion in assets. In addition, Morgan Stanley also has joined the PCAF’s steering committee alongside founding members Amalgamated Bank from the United States; Dutch banks Triodos, BN AMRO and ASN Bank; and the Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). As a steering committee member, Morgan Stanley will “lend insights and expertise” to help PCAF develop the global accounting standard, as well as committing to measure and disclose its own financial emissions, according to industry coalition. The announcement marks a major coup for the PCAF and is a landmark green move for Morgan Stanley, one of the world’s largest and most recognizable private banking groups, which from 2016 to 2019 invested more than $91 billion n fossil fuels, according to the Rainforest Action Network . Wall Street is driving the climate crisis, and if banks want to be part of the solution, they have to start by being transparent about the extent to which they’re currently part of the problem. “We are excited to join PCAF and to support the important work they are leading to build a methodology for global banks’ efforts to track and measure climate change risks,” said Audrey Choi, Morgan Stanley’s chief sustainability officer and CEO of the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. Launched globally only last year, PCAF describes itself as as a collaborative effort from financial institutions to develop “a harmonized approach to the assessment and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions financed by loans and investments” for use by asset owners, asset managers and banks. It is a separate initiative from the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFDs), although the two can complement each other, according to the PCAF. Whereas the TCFDs offer a voluntary framework for assessing and disclosing physical and transitional climate risks, the PCAF aims to develop a formal carbon accounting standard for the financial sector, potentially enabling for more detail and consistency in reporting. PCAF said the measurement of the emissions associated with loans and investments — the financial sector’s Scope 3 emissions — would provide crucial data to help banks and financial firms to assess climate risk, manage impact, meet the disclosure demands of stakeholders and customers, and assess progress towards climate goals. The industry coalition’s carbon accounting methodology “will soon be published as a global methodology” and “has been the work of a core team of financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley,” it explained. “We are very excited about Morgan Stanley’s leadership in sustainability and believe they will bring an important voice to our management group,” said Giel Linthorst, executive director of the PCAF secretariat. “As we work towards COP26, and a critical year ahead in aligning the finance sector with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, we believe that PCAF and member financial institutions will play an important leadership role in that work.” It comes as banks and financial institutions face growing pressure from campaigners, policymakers, regulations and investors to account for and take action against the sizeable climate risk in their investment portfolios. Ben Cushing, senior campaign representative at U.S. environmental NGO Sierra Club, hailed the move as “a major step in the right direction” for Morgan Stanley, and said all banks claiming to support the goals of the Paris Agreement also should follow suit. “Wall Street is driving the climate crisis, and if banks want to be part of the solution, they have to start by being transparent about the extent to which they’re currently part of the problem,” he said. “Measuring and disclosing their impact is important, and now the critical next step will be to mitigate this impact by committing to an aggressive timeline to phase out their funding for climate-polluting fossil fuels altogether.” Pull Quote Wall Street is driving the climate crisis, and if banks want to be part of the solution, they have to start by being transparent about the extent to which they’re currently part of the problem. Topics Finance & Investing ESG Banking BusinessGreen 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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Why the private sector needs to invest in conservation agriculture right now

June 6, 2020 by  
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Why the private sector needs to invest in conservation agriculture right now William Ginn Sat, 06/06/2020 – 02:00 This is an excerpt from ” Valuing Nature ” by William J. Ginn. Copyright 2020 William J. Ginn. Reproduced here with permission from Island Press, Washington, D.C.  Resistance to change is universal. For example, despite more than 30 years of good science and best practices that support conservation agriculture in the United States, less than 5 percent of U.S. soy, wheat, and corn farmers use cover crops, and only 25 percent have adopted crop rotation and conservation tillage practices, even though the country is losing more than 10 billion tons of soil each year as well as more than $50 billion in social and environmental benefits. One challenge is the increasing percentage of farms owned by investors who lease land year to year to the highest bidder, which gives farmers little incentive to invest in conservation practices that might take years to be fully realized. Nevertheless, [The Nature Conservancy (TNC)], along with a consortium of farmers’ groups and a contingent of seed and fertilizer companies, has set a goal of getting half of the country’s wheat, soy, and corn crops into conservation tillage by [2025] (PDF). To achieve this goal, the same kind of incentives, extension services, and creative financial mechanisms being advocated for in the developing world are going to be needed in the United States too. Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. Although big-picture interventions are often understood in theory, the capacity of farmers to implement these solutions on the ground is often quite limited. Nearly everywhere these challenges exist, we need to dramatically increase the number of intermediaries who can help farmers through the difficult but necessary transition to new cropping and livestock-raising systems. It is all high-risk business, and as such, it is not always successful. Several years ago, TNC entered into an agreement with an agricultural consulting company in Argentina with the objective of helping farmers improve sheep-grazing practices. Years of overgrazing had left the region’s grasslands substantially degraded; in fact, at one point in the early years of Patagonia’s colonization, more than 45 million sheep roamed free. Today, the region is home to between 5 million and 8 million sheep, but even that number may be too many. Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. The restoration plan, called the Patagonia Grassland Regeneration and Sustainability Standard, or GRASS for short, incorporated conservation science, planning, and monitoring into the management plans of wool producers. The idea was not new: rather than grazing sheep in one place continually, they are moved in and out of different pastures depending on the conditions of the grasses. This practice encourages more diversity of native grass species and expanded yields from the revitalized pastures. Done well, ranchers, sheep, native plants, and animals can thrive together. But what motivates ranchers to make these investments in better management and fencing? The basic business idea of GRASS was to improve management practices on ranches and produce a certified wool product that would attract buyers willing to pay more for sustainably grown wool. The program attracted two early adopters, Patagonia, Inc ., a brand committed to sourcing their raw materials sustainably, and Stella McCartney , a high-end clothing manufacturer and daughter of Paul McCartney. Prior to this venture, both companies had been buying their wool primarily from Australia and New Zealand, but for Patagonia in particular, a shift to sourcing from Argentina provided a nice opportunity for alignment with their brand. Dozens of ranches signed up to participate, and many saw measurable yield improvements, even though the initial wool purchases were small. Despite the program’s early successes, the program became unraveled when the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released video footage of alleged animal abuse occurring at some of the ranches. As chief conservation officer of TNC at the time, I can say that I was not very happy with these practices, but I thought some of the allegations were overblown. For example, PETA considers docking tails of sheep to be inhumane, yet it is long-standing practice that arguably improves the health of animals. Nevertheless, both Patagonia and Stella McCartney abruptly ended their contracts with GRASS, and without a market partner, the program has failed to scale to a commercial model. Although any improvement in grazing is useful, the expected impact across the landscape now seems a distant objective. Because feeding the world is an absolute imperative, farmers, investors, and aid organizations continue their quests for new models of sustainable intensification that will both feed more people and restore the soils and hydrological systems that are essential to agriculture. Providing capital in a way that reaches the hundreds of millions of small farmers across the globe as well as the necessary skills and technical expertise is a challenge that will remain for years, but business opportunities abound. Our shared natural assets — soil, water, and a stable climate — will only increase in value as the world demands more food. Pull Quote Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. Topics Corporate Strategy Food & Agriculture Biodiversity Books Food & Agriculture Conservation Conservation Finance Collective Insight GreenBiz Reads Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Flock of sheep in Patagonia, Chile. Shutterstock gg-foto Close Authorship

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