The Wild West of plastic credits and offsets

February 8, 2021 by  
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The Wild West of plastic credits and offsets Lauren Phipps Mon, 02/08/2021 – 01:30 This essay first appeared in Circularity Weekly , our free email newsletter. There’s a new kid on the block of sustainability claims being made by businesses: “plastic neutrality.” Thanks to the rise in plastics pledges, an emerging and undefined market for plastic offsets is just beginning to take shape. And, much like the market for carbon offsets, it’s messy.  Fortunately, two resources released last week — a position paper by WWF and a report by The Circulate Initiative (TCI) titled ” A Sea of Plastics Claims and Credits: Steering Stakeholders Towards Impact ” — have taken the first meaningful attempt to assess the landscape of plastic standards, certifications and credit programs — and caution against potential pitfalls as the market develops.  Here are five things to know about the emerging market for plastics credits:  1 . There is no industry standard or definition  WWF defines a plastic credit as a “transferable unit representing a specific quantity of plastic that has been collected and possibly recycled from the environment.” For example, a company that uses virgin plastic to produce PET bottles in California could purchase credits for the equivalent amount of plastic to be collected somewhere else in the world. The new term “plastic neutrality” is being used to convey that a company has offset its “plastic footprint.” Organizations such as rePurpose and The Plastic Bank, as well as third-party organizations such as Verra’s 3RI Initiative, are selling claims to plastics credits in exchange for a financial investment in initiatives to collect plastic from the environment or establish infrastructure to prevent further plastic leakage into waterways and oceans. In the same way that a company’s carbon credit may offset its U.S. emissions through the carbon mitigation associated with a forest planted in Rwanda or a direct air capture project in Canada, a plastic credit could go to paying waste collectors in Bangalore or expanding a plastic processing facility in Indonesia.  According to TCI, 32 plastics claims and crediting programs are in the marketplace. However, there is no formal or standardized definition for plastics crediting, and such claims are inconsistently defined and applied differently from organization to organization. Accordingly, no industry standard or framework exists to determine the credibility of these projects. 2. We’ve seen this movie before The plastics-credit conversation leaves me with a strong feeling of déjà vu. Sustainability practitioners have spent the past couple of decades defining and debating the role of carbon credits in the transition to a clean economy, and plastics credits are not fundamentally different. There’s a lot to be learned from the market mechanisms that carbon credits and renewable energy credits have taught us — both positive and negative — such as prioritizing additionality and focusing on social co-benefits of these projects. 3. The potential for greenwashing is high Plastics crediting schemes are based on the premise that recycling plastic and keeping it out of nature equals success, which is a problem. A laser focus on offsetting business-as-usual fails to account for the importance of source reduction, material standardization and everything else it will take to build a circular economy for plastics. In other words, the whole point is to reduce or eliminate plastic waste, not offset it. In the absence of project transparency, consistent reporting and industry standards, the potential for double-counting credits is high. WWF and CTI both highlight the potential risks associated with misleading claims and call for a focus on additionality to ensure that investments have real impacts (à la renewable energy credits).  [node:field-gbz-pull-quote:0] While the idea of “plastic neutrality” may sound compelling, it’s also important to think about the context. Consider carbon markets again. With the exception of a small handful of companies, such as Microsoft , most organizations that choose to offset their carbon emissions don’t take into account the debt of legacy emissions that they’ve pumped into the atmosphere for decades. The same is true for plastics: A company’s move to offset the production of sachets and bottles going forward doesn’t acknowledge the tons of packaging already in landfills, waterways and oceans.  4. It could drive necessary investment into communities and waste management systems If done right, plastic crediting systems will fund or invest in projects that address global plastic pollution, particularly in places without formal recycling infrastructure. That could bring in necessary investment in waste collection. In the absence of economics to drive market demand for the collection of plastics, the value that brands place in associated claims could help spur market development.  Many of these projects also have a social mission and could support local economic development such as providing fair wages for waste collectors and generating new job opportunities. However, these co-benefits are not guaranteed and it will be important for these projects to work within their local context to support local businesses, waste collector livelihoods and other ongoing initiatives rather than be in competition with them.  5. Plastic credits are not a long-term strategy  We won’t offset our way to a circular economy and plastic-free seas. A systemic problem requires a holistic set of solutions and companies must first prioritize the reduction of plastic waste. They must design out unnecessary materials, transition to using materials that are widely recyclable, use recycled content and prioritize reuse systems. Given that U.S. consumers care more about ocean plastics than they do about climate change, it’s no surprise that companies are seeking ways to claim and communicate their involvement in plastic recovery. And just as carbon offsetting plays a necessary role in the transition to a net-zero economy, so too will plastics offsetting in the transition to a circular economy.  I’ll be paying close attention to how companies fold plastic crediting into their broader packaging strategies — and, I hope, use them as a stepping stone rather than an endpoint.  Pull Quote 32 plastics claims and crediting programs are in the marketplace. However, there is no formal or standardized definition for plastics crediting, and such claims are inconsistently defined and applied differently … Topics Circular Economy Plastic Plastic Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Plastic collectors in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Plastic Bank

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The Wild West of plastic credits and offsets

Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

January 28, 2021 by  
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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals Scott Breen Thu, 01/28/2021 – 01:15 Numerous companies have set 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging goals such as Colgate-Palmolive and Kellogg. Virtually all these companies, though, are not tracking whether their packaging is actually recycled and what new products their packaging becomes. Without this end-of-life tracking, they cannot determine the extent of the economic and environmental impact from how their packaging was recycled. Technical recyclability is only the first step of many questions to determine if your packaging works in today’s recycling system. Other questions include: Is the packaging collected in the vast majority of recycling programs? Can the packaging be easily separated from the rest of the single stream recyclables? Once baled with like materials, does the material the packaging was made of sell for an amount that pays for the cost to collect and separate it and, ideally, provide additional needed revenue to the material recovery facilities (MRF) that separate single stream recyclables? Is the packaging downcycled into a product unlikely to be recycled at its end-of-life?  These questions are harder to answer. Further, some companies may not want to look under the recycling hood. They might fear uncovering negative characteristics for a packaging type that they want to continue using because they’ve invested in it, it provides higher margins than other packaging, or consumers find it attractive. If companies are serious about fixing the U.S. recycling system, they need to go beyond a new willingness to fee-setting and long-term recyclability goals . They need to consider what inputs they are pumping into the recycling system. Material flows One way to answer some of the above questions is to use material flow analyses (MFA). MFAs show visually how materials flow through the waste management system. They make it easier to identify where material is being lost and whether there is downcycling or ” real recycling .” While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. Metabolic’s ” Recycling Unpacked: Assessing the Circular Potential of Beverage Containers in the U.S. ” has a beverage container MFA. One can see that a third of PET is lost during the mechanical recycling process and 40 percent of the glass material collected from single-stream recycling systems is used as landfill cover. The MFA also shows the best performer. It is aluminum cans with 82 percent of used beverage cans entering the U.S. recycling system able to be recovered for high-quality closed-loop recycling into another can, which easily can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Closed Loop Partners (CLP) also has conducted a detailed MFA for a variety of plastic resins. While the whopping 82 percent of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. End uses vary by resin. One of the top end-uses noted in the MFA is synthetic fiber, which typically is used for clothing. Most new clothing , regardless of if it is made with recycled material, will go to landfill unless nascent solutions are scaled. One extra revolution is far from true circularity. Also consider plastic polyethylene (PE) film in CLP’s MFA. The only PE film that is recycled is the small percent that goes to retail store drop-off and commercial direct bales. So, PE film is technically recyclable . Thus, some companies may count it towards their 100 percent recyclable goal, but it is far from being truly recycled in today’s system. It may be difficult for a company to do an MFA of just its products. Still, companies should look to MFAs of material types and packaging generally to get a sense of if there is ” real recycling ” with their packaging. Revenue source or cost for recyclers The more than 350 residential MRFs in the U.S. are struggling with incessant contamination and often pay more to separate recyclables than they earn selling them.  Companies should consider whether the packaging they put into the marketplace will help recyclers on the back end with added revenue. The consistent, relatively high revenue sources for MRFs are certain kinds of paper ( cardboard ), aluminum beverage cans and certain kinds of plastic ( HDPE ). In fact, one recent study by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton determined that without the revenue from used beverage cans, most MRFs wouldn’t be able to operate . Typically low or even negative value materials for MRFs include glass , mixed paper and cartons .  They also should consider if the material is easy to separate and bale to sell for the needed revenue. For example, steel cans are easy to remove from the rest of the single stream recyclables via a magnet . Artificial Intelligence , robotics and optical scanners help address materials being missorted . Nonetheless, many MRFs do not have this kind of technology, nor the capital to purchase it . Environmental impact of recycling In addition to the economic impact of recycling, companies should consider the environmental impact that comes with how their packaging is recycled. The amount of energy saved from making a product with recycled material versus virgin material differs. With plastic and glass, it’s about a third . In contrast, aluminum cans and steel cans save 90 percent and 75 percent , respectively. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Recycled content goals are certainly a step in the right direction toward building up domestic recycling markets and achieving the above environmental impact with greater displacement of virgin material. However, companies still should consider whether the materials in their packaging can loop numerous times. Plastic can be recycled only two or three times . Alternatively, glass and metal can recycle many more times as there is no loss in quality when they are recycled. When multiple loops from the same piece of material are considered , the environmental and economic impacts stack up . Packaging choice is critical to recycling system health The key to a thriving recycling system is either investing in the technology and infrastructure necessary such that all recyclable materials can be economically and efficiently recycled at scale or having more consumer goods companies choose packaging that recycles economically and efficiently in the current system. Neither is happening right now. Too much packaging dumped into the marketplace does not work in today’s recycling system. It’s worthless, multi-material, hard to separate and/or not easy to recycle into anything useful/recyclable. No wonder there are now calls for the chasing arrows symbol to be taken off all plastic packaging, and Greenpeace is suing Walmart for misleading recyclability labels on its plastic products and packaging. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Companies need to go beyond technically “recyclable” in the sustainability metrics they use to choose their packaging . Potential alternative metrics include some percent of all the company’s packaging is above a certain value per ton, some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily made of material that does not degrade during the recycling process and some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily recycled into the same kind of packaging or other useful, easy to recycle products. There’s an opportunity for a company to be the first mover in next level recycling metrics and packaging choice. Once many companies make the shift, the recycling system will thrive and the economic and environmental impact from recycling will multiply. Pull Quote While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Recycling Packaging Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash .

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

January 28, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals Scott Breen Thu, 01/28/2021 – 01:15 Numerous companies have set 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging goals such as Colgate-Palmolive and Kellogg. Virtually all these companies, though, are not tracking whether their packaging is actually recycled and what new products their packaging becomes. Without this end-of-life tracking, they cannot determine the extent of the economic and environmental impact from how their packaging was recycled. Technical recyclability is only the first step of many questions to determine if your packaging works in today’s recycling system. Other questions include: Is the packaging collected in the vast majority of recycling programs? Can the packaging be easily separated from the rest of the single stream recyclables? Once baled with like materials, does the material the packaging was made of sell for an amount that pays for the cost to collect and separate it and, ideally, provide additional needed revenue to the material recovery facilities (MRF) that separate single stream recyclables? Is the packaging downcycled into a product unlikely to be recycled at its end-of-life?  These questions are harder to answer. Further, some companies may not want to look under the recycling hood. They might fear uncovering negative characteristics for a packaging type that they want to continue using because they’ve invested in it, it provides higher margins than other packaging, or consumers find it attractive. If companies are serious about fixing the U.S. recycling system, they need to go beyond a new willingness to fee-setting and long-term recyclability goals . They need to consider what inputs they are pumping into the recycling system. Material flows One way to answer some of the above questions is to use material flow analyses (MFA). MFAs show visually how materials flow through the waste management system. They make it easier to identify where material is being lost and whether there is downcycling or ” real recycling .” While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. Metabolic’s ” Recycling Unpacked: Assessing the Circular Potential of Beverage Containers in the U.S. ” has a beverage container MFA. One can see that a third of PET is lost during the mechanical recycling process and 40 percent of the glass material collected from single-stream recycling systems is used as landfill cover. The MFA also shows the best performer. It is aluminum cans with 82 percent of used beverage cans entering the U.S. recycling system able to be recovered for high-quality closed-loop recycling into another can, which easily can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Closed Loop Partners (CLP) also has conducted a detailed MFA for a variety of plastic resins. While the whopping 82 percent of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. End uses vary by resin. One of the top end-uses noted in the MFA is synthetic fiber, which typically is used for clothing. Most new clothing , regardless of if it is made with recycled material, will go to landfill unless nascent solutions are scaled. One extra revolution is far from true circularity. Also consider plastic polyethylene (PE) film in CLP’s MFA. The only PE film that is recycled is the small percent that goes to retail store drop-off and commercial direct bales. So, PE film is technically recyclable . Thus, some companies may count it towards their 100 percent recyclable goal, but it is far from being truly recycled in today’s system. It may be difficult for a company to do an MFA of just its products. Still, companies should look to MFAs of material types and packaging generally to get a sense of if there is ” real recycling ” with their packaging. Revenue source or cost for recyclers The more than 350 residential MRFs in the U.S. are struggling with incessant contamination and often pay more to separate recyclables than they earn selling them.  Companies should consider whether the packaging they put into the marketplace will help recyclers on the back end with added revenue. The consistent, relatively high revenue sources for MRFs are certain kinds of paper ( cardboard ), aluminum beverage cans and certain kinds of plastic ( HDPE ). In fact, one recent study by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton determined that without the revenue from used beverage cans, most MRFs wouldn’t be able to operate . Typically low or even negative value materials for MRFs include glass , mixed paper and cartons .  They also should consider if the material is easy to separate and bale to sell for the needed revenue. For example, steel cans are easy to remove from the rest of the single stream recyclables via a magnet . Artificial Intelligence , robotics and optical scanners help address materials being missorted . Nonetheless, many MRFs do not have this kind of technology, nor the capital to purchase it . Environmental impact of recycling In addition to the economic impact of recycling, companies should consider the environmental impact that comes with how their packaging is recycled. The amount of energy saved from making a product with recycled material versus virgin material differs. With plastic and glass, it’s about a third . In contrast, aluminum cans and steel cans save 90 percent and 75 percent , respectively. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Recycled content goals are certainly a step in the right direction toward building up domestic recycling markets and achieving the above environmental impact with greater displacement of virgin material. However, companies still should consider whether the materials in their packaging can loop numerous times. Plastic can be recycled only two or three times . Alternatively, glass and metal can recycle many more times as there is no loss in quality when they are recycled. When multiple loops from the same piece of material are considered , the environmental and economic impacts stack up . Packaging choice is critical to recycling system health The key to a thriving recycling system is either investing in the technology and infrastructure necessary such that all recyclable materials can be economically and efficiently recycled at scale or having more consumer goods companies choose packaging that recycles economically and efficiently in the current system. Neither is happening right now. Too much packaging dumped into the marketplace does not work in today’s recycling system. It’s worthless, multi-material, hard to separate and/or not easy to recycle into anything useful/recyclable. No wonder there are now calls for the chasing arrows symbol to be taken off all plastic packaging, and Greenpeace is suing Walmart for misleading recyclability labels on its plastic products and packaging. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Companies need to go beyond technically “recyclable” in the sustainability metrics they use to choose their packaging . Potential alternative metrics include some percent of all the company’s packaging is above a certain value per ton, some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily made of material that does not degrade during the recycling process and some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily recycled into the same kind of packaging or other useful, easy to recycle products. There’s an opportunity for a company to be the first mover in next level recycling metrics and packaging choice. Once many companies make the shift, the recycling system will thrive and the economic and environmental impact from recycling will multiply. Pull Quote While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Recycling Packaging Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash .

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

Carbon marketplace hawks credits in businesses that store CO2 with their products

August 31, 2020 by  
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Carbon marketplace hawks credits in businesses that store CO2 with their products Gloria Oladipo Mon, 08/31/2020 – 05:00 As corporate interest in carbon removal options grows, Puro.earth , a startup from Finland, is offering a twist on carbon marketplaces. Instead of selling and trading credits related to nature-based solutions, its exchange features industrial businesses that store carbon dioxide in products such as biochar, timber construction and other building materials. Puro.earth co-founder Antti Vihavainen said that unlike other carbon markets that focus on one primary method of storing carbon, Puro.earth “[represents] a broad scope of carbon capture and storage methodologies.” The model is entirely voluntary versus “marketplaces such as the EU emissions trading system (ETS) [that are] compliance-based,” allowing companies to take initiative on their own terms when it comes to achieving carbon removal goals.  The fight against greenhouse emissions is still a challenge facing our world today. Scientists across the world agree that carbon removal coupled with strategies such as emissions reduction and carbon offsetting are necessary to keep global warming within manageable limits.   Puro.earth supports this initiative by gathering suppliers that remove carbon from the atmosphere using various methods. The removed carbon is measured and verified by an independent third party; the removed carbon is then turned into CO2 Removal Certifications, also known as CORCs. These CORCs are bought by companies seeking to offset the impact of their own operations. Buyers can cancel CORCs so they cannot be resold, and reference them in sustainability reporting or when creating carbon-neutral products.  Vihavainen pitched the idea of Puro.earth to Fortum, a leading clean energy company in the Nordics; following the pitch, Fortum set up a team led by Puro.earth’s other co-founder, Marianne Tikkanen. Following dozens of iterations, the business model of matching carbon removal properties with environmentally conscious companies was created and named Puro.earth.  “We initially worked with 22 companies that helped us develop and test our carbon removal marketplace, thus helping us create our minimum viable product,” Vihavainen commented. “Now that we are entering the scale-up phase, we have a funnel of over 100 supplier candidates.” Examples of those supplier candidates include Ekovilla, a company that provides carbon-neutral Finnish insulation, and the Finnish Log House Industry. Prices are show in euros on the Puro.earth web site. As an example, it costs €2,060 ($2,452 based on current exchange rates) to purchase CORCs to offset 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The growth of Puro.earth has been attributed to a growing environmental consciousness among companies, many of which are interested in reaching a net-zero carbon output.  One early customer of the marketplace is Swiss Re , one of the world’s leading providers of insurance, reinsurance and other forms of insurance based risk transfer. Swiss Re has committed its operations to be carbon-zero by 2030 and its business to be carbon zero by 2050.  “As an insurer, we are very concerned about risks and one of the major risks is the climate risk, which is slowly becoming bigger and bigger,” said Vincent Eckert, head of internal environmental management. “One of the issues is that if the climate risk is too big, it will make normal risks that we insure like drought or flooding too big or too often occurring, thus uninsurable.” To meet sustainability goals of net-zero emissions, Swiss Re has implemented a number of solutions, including supporting carbon removal projects such as Puro.earth.  “When we learned about Puro.earth … we immediately thought, ‘Well, this is interesting.’ People are starting to develop marketplaces for these products, a commodity that doesn’t exist that’s supposed to be common,” Eckert said. “We wanted to learn more about it. We immediately contacted them and decided that we wanted to participate in their first auction ever.” Since that first auction, Eckert said Swiss Re has decided to continue purchasing CORCs with Puro.earth. “We have been in contact with Puro. We’re a part of their network … we will continue to work on our carbon removal purchasing strategy that has several elements. Puro is definitely in the picture, and this is one of the options that we have.” In the face of more businesses participating, Puro.earth continues to innovate, including new forms of carbon removal as a part of its program. “These carbon removal methods will be added in the coming months and will include, for example, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage and other methods based on mineralization,” Vihavainen said.  Looking towards the future, Puro.earth has several plans to expand the presence of its business and reach more companies interested in carbon removal.  Vihavainen is confident in Puro.earth’s ability to expand by improving the marketplace to attract interested businesses. “Looking ahead, we work on a ‘if we build it they will come’ approach, and expect more suppliers to join us as customer demand to decarbonize businesses increases, and carbon net negative businesses attract greater government support and investment.” Topics Carbon Removal Innovation Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Ekovilla insulation is one of the products for which Puro.earth buyers can purchase credits. Courtesy of Ekovilla Close Authorship

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Carbon marketplace hawks credits in businesses that store CO2 with their products

GRI and SASB are collaborating. Is that good news for companies?

July 13, 2020 by  
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GRI and SASB are collaborating. Is that good news for companies? Joel Makower Sun, 07/12/2020 – 17:56 For years, corporate reporters — those inside companies responsible for creating sustainability reports and reporting environmental, social and governance data to various other organizations — have been frustrated by what many refer to as an alphabet soup of standards and frameworks: CDP, GRI, IIRC, PRI, SASB, TCFD, UNGC and more. And while they grumbled at how those various organizations’ requests weren’t harmonized, they dutifully complied with their requests and mandates. Finally, help may be on the way. Today, two of those organizations — GRI, formerly the Global Reporting Initiative, and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, better known as SASB — are announcing a collaborative effort to help ease that confusion and, not insignificantly, position their standards as the most consequential. “Our basic SASB 101 pitch that we give to everyone we speak to talks about SASB and GRI as being complementary, but we never could break through into the public sphere with that message,” SASB CEO Janine Guillot told me. “It was always this conflict narrative, which was extremely frustrating.” The “conflict narrative” wasn’t without foundation. For years, the two organizations competed for attention and dominance among corporate reporters, NGOs and the mainstream investor community. Sometimes it got contentious. For example, at a sustainability reporting conference in Singapore last fall, the CEOs of GRI and SASB “traded barbs over whose was the superior standard,” according to one report  — a “showdown,” as sustainability reporting expert Elaine Cohen called it. For years, the two organizations competed for attention and dominance. Sometimes it got contentious. At the event, SASB’s then-CEO Madelyn Antoncic called GRI too difficult for investors to understand and for companies to compare their performance with peers. GRI CEO Tim Mohin pointed out that its standard is used by 75 percent of the world’s largest companies. “With those numbers, I don’t see how what SASB is saying can be true,” he said. But that was so last year. SASB has a new CEO — Guillot — who joined SASB five years ago after a decade on the investing side with Barclays and CalPERS, and who came to her CEO job with a strong working relationship with Mohin. Now, the two are in lockstep — baby steps for now — to help the customers of sustainability data “understand the similarities and differences in the information created from these standards,” according to a joint briefing document. The time may be ripe for such a collaboration, for several reasons. One is the growing focus on sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics by the mainstream investment community, creating a greater need for a set of dominant standards to emerge. If there was any question about this trend, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink cast away all doubts in his annual shareholder letter , which referenced SASB and TCFD, the reporting framework created by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. Such harmonized metrics are needed even within companies, where sustainability departments are communicating with far more stakeholders. “You’ve got a much broader base of people who are interested in talking about these topics, coming from a much broader array of disciplines,” said Mohin, including “an investor relations person, a corporate secretary, a general counsel, a financial controller, a marketing communications person and an HR person. All of a sudden, you’ve got to bring together these multidisciplinary teams within both companies and investors. And that goes all the way up to the board, since boards of directors are now interested in these topics.” Of course, outside the corporation is another small army of interested groups — customers, employees, regulators, etc. — seeking easily understood and comparable data about companies’ sustainability performance. And then there’s COVID. “If the COVID-19 pandemic has showed us anything, it’s that nonfinancial disclosure is very meaningful from a global financial standpoint, and that the concept of what is financially material and what is considered not financially material is a very dynamic thing,” Mohin explained. “We went from the issues that are important in a pandemic being sort of down the list to being front and center overnight. And now we have the issues of racial justice and inequality front and center. We’ve seen how the events of the world can change that definition for a company very, very quickly, which I think is one of the very important messages here of why GRI and SASB need to work together.” The pandemic has put into sharper focus a number of aspects of corporate performance, including business contributions to biodiversity loss and the resulting increased potential for disease outbreaks; and the need for more resilient supply chains, especially for essential goods such as food and medicine, as Guillot pointed out recently on GreenBiz . Harmony and collaboration For now, the two organizations’ work together will focus on going into the marketplace with harmonized, complementary messages. One goal, Mohin said, is to “understand how the different standards are used by companies. And then take the next step, which is to show in practice companies that are using both standards.” Another goal is to “demonstrate with real live companies who are reporting to both sets of standards how the companies are doing it, why they’re doing it and what kind of information each provides for stakeholders,” Guillot said. She also suggested the possibility of doing some “mock disclosures,” pulling together best practices from across multiple companies. For now, the two organizations’ work together will focus on going into the marketplace with harmonized, complementary messages. Beyond that is a world of other collaboration possibilities, about which neither Mohin nor Guillot would speculate. Can the GRI-SASB hookup change the game? Mike Wallace thinks so. Wallace — who ran GRI’s North America operation from 2009 to 2014, and who remains laser focused on reporting standards and ESG ratings methodologies in his role as a partner at the consultancy ERM — believes that greater collaboration could especially help those just beginning the reporting “journey.” “It is a confusing space for new entrants when one considers the various options, requests and suggestions for how to address the growing demand for ESG information,” he told me, citing “at least a half-dozen disclosure options.” “We are regularly integrating a range of the frameworks, guidelines and standards together for clients,” Wallace added. “For those companies that are just getting started, the GRI and SASB collaboration will be greatly appreciated.” True, we’ve seen this movie before. The two organizations have long discussed the opportunities for collaboration. Two years ago, we reported on a Bloomberg-funded effort to bring the GRI and SASB standards “in line with each other wherever possible.” And then there’s the proposed reporting framework announced in January at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos. Created by WEF’s International Business Council in collaboration with the Big Four accounting firms and endorsed by the CEOs of 140 large companies, it recommends a set of core metrics and disclosures “to be reflected in the mainstream annual reports of companies on a consistent basis across industry sectors and countries.” But it doesn’t exactly see doing away with SASB, GRI and their kin. As reported by the Financial Times, the WEF framework “takes inspiration from existing disclosure frameworks such as SASB, the Global Reporting Initiative and the TCFD and will also include the EU’s new taxonomy that defines green instruments.” Confusing? It seems harmonization and simplification of corporate sustainability reporting may still be a ways off. Still, the SASB-GRI announcement is promising. Both organizations believe that transparency — and particularly performance metrics and comparable information — lead to improved societal outcomes. Said SASB’s Guillot: “If financial and nonfinancial stakeholders have access to information and can compare company performance on issues, then our theory of change is that companies will compete to improve performance and that at the end of the day leads to improved sustainability outcomes.” Which is, after all, the point. I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote For years, the two organizations competed for attention and dominance. Sometimes it got contentious. For now, the two organizations’ work together will focus on going into the marketplace with harmonized, complementary messages. Topics Reporting Finance & Investing ESG Transparency Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Group

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EIT Food Marketplace disrupts the industry with additive-free beverages, veggie milk and more

October 16, 2019 by  
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Earlier this month in Munich, new trends in sustainable food were featured at the annual Food Marketplace event hosted by the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) . The future of food appears to emphasize clean, sustainable eating that boosts personal and planetary health. The EIT Food Marketplace serves as a venue for innovators to pitch their game-changing or disruptive ideas in front of investors and corporate partners to accelerate market entry. The recent event hosted 25 invited startups from across Europe. New ideas that were proposed by these startups included a new vegetable milk , a software that targets healthier nutrition and diets for hospital patients as well as fruit chips for breakfast cereal made from discarded bananas. Related: Climate fears affecting meat, bottled beverage and plastic production industries Ultimately, this year’s winner was “Air up Gmbh” for its innovative bottle, from which mineral water is sipped through a straw. “Taste” is given to the mineral water by aromatic sponges in the lid that provide a “pretend” taste, free of artificial flavors. As Air up Gmbh CEO and founder Jannis Koppitz explained, “While you suck through the straw and drink at the same time, our palate communicates the mix then as the taste. Thanks to the replaceable aroma sponges, this can be anything from mango to lime to cucumber.” In other words, with this method, drinks of the future will need no additives nor sugar, thereby providing a revolutionized, healthier beverage to quench one’s thirst. “In terms of healthy nutrition and new techniques, we want to offer a platform with a lot of publicity to young junior researchers. It is the responsibility of EIT Food, on behalf of the EU and as a transformer, to make the food system fit for the future with the help of innovations,” said Dr. Georg Schirrmacher, director of EIT Food in Germany. “ Sustainability , healthy nutrition and new ways of training at universities are crucial factors. But each and every one of us can help transform the food system worldwide with well-considered decisions on what to buy and what to eat.” Thanks to this year’s successful Food Marketplace, another is scheduled for next year. EIT Food, after all, strives to achieve its strategic agenda of “creating consumer-valued food for healthier nutrition, enhanced sustainability through resource stewardship and supportive food entrepreneurship” by integrating education, business creation and innovation. + EIT Food Image via Aline Ponce

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EIT Food Marketplace disrupts the industry with additive-free beverages, veggie milk and more

WilkinsonEyre gets green light for giant geothermal-powered biodome in Iceland

July 23, 2019 by  
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London-based practice WilkinsonEyre has just been granted planning permission for the Aldin Biodomes, a massive biodome complex that will showcase a rich tropical environment and local food production techniques in Iceland’s Reykjavik region. Designed for local consultancy firm Spor í sandinn, the ambitious development aims to be the “world’s first geo-climate biodome” that will also be carbon-neutral . Powered by Iceland’s abundant geothermal energy, the greenhouses are envisioned as a major city landmark in the same vein as Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, also designed by WilkinsonEyre. Spanning approximately 48,000 square feet, the Aldin Biodomes will consist of a Main Nature Dome and a Tropical Dome. Elevated on a hilltop, the domes are designed to be seen from the city skyline and will catch the eye with undulating forms and glittering glass facades. The complex will be located on the edge of the outdoor recreational area Elliðaárdalur in the center of the Capital region, where it will serve as a new gateway to the largest green area closest to Reykjavik. The domes are oriented toward the northwest for guaranteed views of Iceland’s midnight sunsets during summer and the Northern Lights in wintertime. Related: These beautiful desert biodomes will be 100% self-sustaining The geothermal-powered Aldin Biodomes are envisioned as a year-round attraction offering more than just a welcome escape into a tropical environment during the harsh winters. In the lush Tropical Dome, visitors can enjoy a rich showcase of exotic plants as well as the Farm Lab, an educational environment on local food production. The Main Nature Dome will house a multifunctional space with a reception, an information area, a specialty restaurant, a visitors’ shop and a marketplace that emphasizes Iceland’s fresh products. “The unique and thought-provoking environments of the Biodomes are eye-catching visual landmarks on the city skyline,” said a statement on Spor í sandinn’s website. “Close attention is paid on the choice of materials, their aesthetic qualities and sustainability . Each structure catches and reflects the ever-shifting play of light from day to day and season to season — similarly to the burgeoning plant-life within. Striking colors, forms and textures of the vegetation, and the bustling throngs of visitors, will create a world of magic and a feast for the senses and the imagination.” + WilkinsonEyre Images via WilkinsonEyre

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WilkinsonEyre gets green light for giant geothermal-powered biodome in Iceland

Cyclo is the packable and sustainable helmet made from recycled plastic

July 23, 2019 by  
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Study after study shows that wearing a helmet saves lives and reduces injuries during an accident, yet some statistics detail a usage rate as low as 17 percent. Users report that a contributing factor to not wearing a helmet is the bulk and inconvenience of packing it around. Fortunately, the next generation of helmet is here, and the construction brings style, safety and a compact, portable design. Currently trending on Indiegogo, the Cyclo helmet was created by a few people who have been in the design realm for a while, with notable careers as engineers at Aston Martin and Boeing. The Cyclo offers users packability never before seen in a helmet. That’s because of the unique design that allows the rounded upper portion to flip over into the lower part of the helmet frame. Released with a durable clip, the movable parts stay securely in place during use. The helmet is built to exceed all U.S., European and Canadian standards. Related: DIY device emits a distinctive sound to keep cyclists safe While packability was a significant goal during the design phase, co-founders Josh Cohen, CEO, Dom Cotton, CMO and Will Wood, design engineer, felt the pull of corporate responsibility . With sustainability becoming a hot topic in every industry, the team decided to incorporate recycled materials into the helmet. By partnering with Plastic Oceans U.K., Cyclo supports efforts to clean up significant plastic pollution in the ocean. As a result, each helmet represents 20 water bottles removed from marine ecosystems. Sparked by a helmet-less ride Cohen experienced while cycling in London, the helmet is aimed at convenience to encourage a higher user rate. Environmentally responsible, portable and safe, the Cyclo can be worn when riding scooters, skateboards, bikes or segways. With the compact design, it easily slides into a backpack, gym bag or work bag. “Josh’s experience of riding in London highlighted a clear gap in the market,” Cotton said. “Helmets are really important but can be inconvenient, especially for urban riders. We’ve created something that will help more people to ride more often and protect themselves and our planet in the process.” Cyclo is currently offering a discount through the Indiegogo campaign , which is ending soon. The team is taking orders now with production set to begin in early 2020, and the first product shipments going out the following spring. + Cyclo Images via Cyclo

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Cyclo is the packable and sustainable helmet made from recycled plastic

Ecolab’s Doug Baker on the future of circular water

July 3, 2019 by  
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The host of Marketplace Tech, Molly Wood, and Ecolab Chairman and CEO Doug Baker have a conversation about the state of the world’s water and how industry can serve both the environment and the bottom line by getting smart about water.

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Ecolab’s Doug Baker on the future of circular water

Best Buy’s Alexis Ludwig-Vogen: Plugging into the circular economy

July 3, 2019 by  
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Alexis Ludwig-Vogen, Best Buy’s Director of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability shares how Best Buy has built the circular economy into its business model.

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Best Buy’s Alexis Ludwig-Vogen: Plugging into the circular economy

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