From the boardroom to Wall Street, ESG is crucial for financial resilience

February 18, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

From the boardroom to Wall Street, ESG is crucial for financial resilience Julia Travers Thu, 02/18/2021 – 00:45 The ongoing shift to center ESG is driven by multiple forces. Chief among them are a rising demand from the public for transparency and purpose in business and a growing awareness among corporations that sustainability is integral to financial health, according to participants at GreenBiz 21.  As diverse business stakeholders adjust to the climate crisis, social justice movements and a global pandemic, sustainable investing tactics are increasingly proven to benefit companies’ stability and profitability. In the first, COVID-stricken quarter of 2020, 89 percent of Morningstar’s ESG-screened indexes outperformed their broad market equivalents. And ESG-focused investment funds took in a record $347 billion in 2020. Among the many timely conversations during GreenBiz 21 were sessions that explored how boards can govern amid disruptive risks and the view of ESG from Wall Street. Both conversations framed ESG as crucial for financial survival and success. How boards can manage disruptive risk Two key takeaways from a discussion about board-level responsibility for ESG issues were that ESG fluency is an essential component of successful contemporary risk management for boards, and that, while boards have made some progress toward embracing sustainability principles within their purview, they still have a way to go. The speakers agreed more boards must recognize that ESG metrics and financial concerns are not disparate.  Veena Ramani, senior program director of capital market systems for Ceres, said “companies, particularly large companies, are really, really, really good risk managers. But the problem is, data out is only as good as data in — environmental and social issues are not being processed through the enterprise risk management systems, through scenario analysis. So obviously, the board is not going to get the analytics to make smart decisions. I hope people realize that they need to have a broader approach to risk management and broaden the scope of what goes up the board.”  I think the partnership with the CFO is incredibly important, the partnership with investor relations because sustainability goes to the heart of performance. To emerge from the pandemic and survive long term, ESG needs to be integrated into everything that a company is doing from a strategic and operational perspective, noted Douglas Chia, former executive director of The Conference Board ESG Center and now president of Soundboard Governance. Are boards ready to take on this task? Kathrin Winkler, a former CSO, CW Partners consultant and GreenBiz editor at large, asked, “Are boards ESG-literate?” “Largely, probably not,” responded D’Anne Hurd, independent trustee with Pax World Funds and former senior financial management executive at GTE and PepsiCo.  While Hurd has seen some progress in this regard, the first question she often receives from board members is, “What is ESG?” She said, “They better wake up,” mentioning that consumers, suppliers, employees and investors are pushing for greater ESG fluency and action.  Ramani said the Biden administration’s priorities will push ESG even further into the foreground. Both Hurd and Ramani pointed to a class offered by Ceres and Berkeley Law, “ESG: Navigating the Board’s Role,” as a relevant resource.  The view from Wall Street The importance of embracing the confluence of the ESG and financial realms is a trend Martina Cheung, president of S&P Global Market Intelligence and S&P Global, increasingly sees in her work. She noted in a GreenBiz 21 keynote interview: “Whether it’s climate risk, social equity governance and stronger representation from government … as we see that play out; the real effects of that on the markets, on companies’ performance, on sectors … our clients are turning to us and saying, ‘What information do you have that can help us as we have to make decisions, as we have to comply with regulations, as we look to raise capital?’” One important factor is the movement to standardize ESG reporting, according to Cheung. She thinks achieving a single set of standards is still a few years away but pointed to some promising convergences. Among them, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation’s proposal to develop ESG standards is “critical,” Cheung said.  One way sustainability professionals inside big companies can help investors traverse the ESG path is by spending more time collaborating with their peers in the corporate finance function, she said. “I think the partnership with the CFO is incredibly important, the partnership with investor relations because sustainability goes to the heart of performance.”  Pull Quote I think the partnership with the CFO is incredibly important, the partnership with investor relations because sustainability goes to the heart of performance. Topics Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy ESG GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Collage based on Unsplash images

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From the boardroom to Wall Street, ESG is crucial for financial resilience

PepsiCo CSO on embedding sustainability into ‘day-to-day business’

February 1, 2021 by  
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PepsiCo CSO on embedding sustainability into ‘day-to-day business’ Heather Clancy Mon, 02/01/2021 – 02:00 The number of companies proclaiming their intent to go net-zero by 2050 has expanded exponentially in the past 12 months, but the ones short-cutting that commitment by a decade are a rarer breed. In mid-January, PepsiCo joined that club with a strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent across its entire value chain by 2030 and to reach the elusive net-zero emissions status 10 years before it’s called for by the Paris Agreement. The latter commitment is one touted by members of The Climate Pledge, orchestrated by Amazon and Global Optimism, although PepsiCo isn’t a member of that campaign as of this writing. The same week that PepsiCo announced its new ambition, the company’s foundation extended the terms of its 14-year-long relationship with the Inter-American Development Bank — with initiatives including a fund meant to promote the inclusion of women in regenerative, sustainable agricultural models in Latin America. The extension will see $6 million more invested through 2026, initially in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Guatemala. Even though the foundation is a separate entity, there is a close link between its mission and the company’s sustainability goals, according to senior executives. These initiatives, for example, are thought of in terms of years rather than months. “We have to have the certainty that the community will invest the time and willingness to go on with a program for several years, and we need to create awareness,” said PepsiCo’s Latin America CEO, Paula Santilli, when I asked her about how communities are selected. “We choose mathematically and analytically and concentrate on those communities on the wrong side of the poverty line.” I’ve got history in sustainability, but I’m a business guy. In addition to Santilli, I recently chatted with PepsiCo Chief Sustainability Officer Jim Andrew about the link between sustainability and community development, as well as the strategy behind some other developments announced as part of its updated climate strategy — such as its new Sustainable from the Start product development philosophy and two new internal carbon pricing programs meant to embed climate-centric thinking into everyday business decisions. Andrew, an avid scuba diver who joined PepsiCo about 4.5 years ago after heading strategy and innovation at Royal Philips, took over as CSO after Simon Lowden retired last fall. “I think speed is of the essence, not just for PepsiCo, but for the whole world, for the planet and all the people in it,” Andrew told me when I asked for the motivation behind the accelerated goal. Following is a transcript of our discussion, edited for clarity and length. The Frito-Lay facility in Modesto, California. PepsiCo accelerates efforts to build a more resilient and sustainable food system, reducing absolute GHG emissions more than 4 percent by 2030 across entire value chain and pledging to net-zero emissions by 2040. Photo courtesy of PepsiCo Heather Clancy: The goals were finalized alongside the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Did that experience influence the final shape of the climate goals? Was anything adapted or reconsidered because of what was going on? Jim Andrew: Certainly COVID-19 has been a challenge for everyone on multi levels. But what I think it’s done, it’s really shone a light on the need to be even bolder and move even faster. What has it done? It has, I think, sharpened the focus on the need to move urgently. We all saw that the food system is probably more fragile than we thought. We saw that the need for a food system that is sustainable, that is regenerative, that is inclusive, it’s probably bigger than we thought. In that respect, it didn’t influence what we wanted to do, but it probably helped re-emphasize the need to be big and be fast. Clancy: You mentioned a couple of interim goals to the 2040 one. I’m just curious if you have other short-term milestones that we should expect or watch for. What should we watch for? And how will PepsiCo disclose them? Andrew: You should watch for transparency, consistency and regularity in our reporting. We are completely open in that. Any goal we set, believe me, there’s a lot of work behind coming up with those goals. We put as much work into ensuring transparent reporting because it helps us be accountable — both internally and externally, candidly — and also helps us track progress. We’re a company that likes to set a big objective out there and then go get it. One of the big parts of my job is mobilizing the organization. I’ve got history in sustainability, but I’m a business guy. I didn’t major in environmental science. I’m a business guy working to drive in partnership with our CEO, Ramon Laguarta, and the rest of my executive peers to really drive the organization forward. Having clear goals, having really good data integrity, is at the heart of all of our ESG reporting. That’s important because then we know how we’re doing. It also builds trust. That’s something that we take really importantly. So what are you going to see from us? We’re going to report our progress annually in our sustainability report. We have one coming up in a few months and will be happy to talk to you again, when that comes out. Anytime we can provide real-time updates, we will. All of the reporting entities, we’re in alignment with — the Global Reporting Initiative, the CDP, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. We just issued our first [TCFD] report. So, we are going to be transparent; you’re going see it on a regular basis. Our objective is set some bold goals, and then go get them and hold ourselves accountable. Clancy: Since you brought it up, how will you engage the PepsiCo organization to deliver, especially when we’re all in this new age of remote work? Andrew: It’s been incredibly exciting to me to see just in four months the level of excitement in our organization. We’re 260,000-odd people around the world, 200-plus countries and territories. We’re a big complex organization, but there’s a level of interest and excitement. People get it. You ask me, how am I going to engage? There’s three things that you’ve got to do. The first is you’ve got to excite people. With PepsiCo, when you announce an ambitious goal, like our climate goal, people get excited and they get energized. Honestly, a lot of our partners — our bottlers, our co-manufacturers, our suppliers — I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and say, “Hey, this is really exciting. How can we help? We’re in on it.” So the first thing you got to do internally and also externally is excite and a big goal does that. You know, make no small plans? I think that’s one of the real keys to make sustainability work. You got to embed it in the business strategy, the business processes and the actions everybody takes every day. The second is, there is a level of education that’s important. When we talk to people internally about regenerative agriculture, Scope 3 emissions, those are terms that to most people are new. So we need to introduce those terms. We need to educate people on why the goals matter, but most importantly, how are we going to achieve them. Because that’s what it’s all really about, and we’re doing that across the company. Because we’re Scope 3, it’s got to be across your whole supply chain. We’ve rolled out, as part of the climate goal, a really well-done employee training program specific to our employees to help them understand the role of us as a company, and then the role of them as individuals. What can they do to mitigate climate change? And then finally, it’s about engagement, it’s how do we take that excitement, take that education and then really engage people to drive real action. Because ultimately, it’s about action, it’s about results, it’s about moving the needle. And so that’s everything from, how do we give people the tools? How do we put it in their incentives? How do we talk about it on a regular basis? How do we measure it clearly, because what gets measured gets done, all those things. So: Excite, Educate and Engage. Clancy: How will the Sustainable from the Start Program be implemented, and which product divisions will be first to adopt it? Andrew: That’s a great question, because this is one of my real beliefs and one of my real emphases, which is how do you get sustainability not as something that happens “over there,” but that is really part of the day-to-day business, part of the day-to-day work. Because if it’s part of what we do every day, then it happens and that’s how you really drive action. So, we’re looking at where there are business processes where we can embed sustainability. New product development is a great example. Everybody, every part of the company is interested in and cares about what happens in new product development. So we started this program called Sustainable from the Start, and it really puts sustainability at the heart of product design and new product development, because what it does is it encourages, but it also enables product development teams to make environmental impact a part of their decision-making from the very beginning as they think about the whole product life cycle. We’ve rolled out some tools that really help, because you’ve got to make it simple. The less friction that we can introduce, the easier it’s going to be. So we gave people a set of tools, so that they can estimate, for example, the carbon and the water footprint of products and development, and what are the choices that they make early that are going to affect those footprints. And then they can compare that data to some best practice benchmarks that we’ve built in, so they know what good looks like and they can make more informed decisions. Things like recyclability impediments. If people don’t know, they will not be able to make the kind of decisions that they will if they’re informed. That gets back to the education point I was making as well. If they’re informed and they’re energized and they’re motivated, then they’re going to make decisions that will have big impacts as we move through the life cycle. A big focus of the Sustainable from the Start program is reducing GHG emissions, sure, but also things like discouraging the use of non-recyclable packaging, because that’s really important. So we’ve conducted life-cycle analyses, carbon footprints. We’ve done it for about a quarter of all of our brands now, and we’ve got plans to get all of them done. When you’re a company as big as PepsiCo, you’ve got a lot of brands, so it takes a little while to go through. We’ll have more to share on this — again, transparency, openness. But it’s a great business tool that we’re actively embedding, so that people are thinking about this, from the beginning, as a part of their day-to-day jobs. Because I think that’s one of the real keys to make sustainability work. You got to embed it in the business strategy, the business processes and the actions everybody takes every day. A farmer gives her livestock water in Cucungara, Peru. The success of infrastructure projects piloted by PepsiCo and the IDB in these rural communities has attracted additional support from international public sector partners that has been used to fund new infrastructure, including pipe systems and treatment plants. Photo courtesy of PepsiCo Clancy: Can you share more detail about the internal carbon pricing programs? Why are you embracing them now? Did they take effect? When will they take effect? Andrew: That’s another great example of where we’re trying to take environmental sustainability considerations and just put them in the normal flow of business. So, we’re going to have to collaborate and get employees involved, and also partners and suppliers and everything. There’s a couple that we mentioned. One is, how do we eliminate the carbon impact of employee business air travel? A lot of people travel; a lot of people may or may not fully understand what the implications are of that. What we have done is we have said that anytime any employee is going to travel by air for business, we’re going to put a price on that. And then we’re going to take that money, and we’re going to deploy it with a third party into our supply chain. It’s not something that’s out there, it’s put into our supply chain, to fully eliminate the impact of the emissions from that flight. And it’s flight by flight. And it allows every employee, every time they book a flight, to see that their choice has an impact and also that we as a company will do something. Again, it’s about how do you excite people because people get excited about, “Hey, I can do something.” It’s about how you educate them, because it’s right there, it’s going to be in the booking tool. We are programming it, as we speak. Then it’s ultimately about how you engage them, so they go do something. So that’s one. We’re rolling it out now. By the middle of this year, it’ll be up and running, full go. Then we’re also looking at how we build the carbon impact into carrier selection for third-party logistics. We’re working with our procurement team, so that the climate goals are a part of the consideration when they’re choosing carriers. Because what this will do is it will help you enforce, again, climate considerations and business decisions, which will help drive GHG reductions. And then we’re going to learn from these things, and we’re going to look for where can we continue to expand across other business processes, ways to just embed this into the everyday thinking in activities. Clancy: Those are great examples. Thank you for being so specific. Andrew: The carrier selection is being piloted right now. The employee air travel right now, obviously, we’ve got to do a little programming and not a lot of people are flying a whole lot right now. But the carrier selection program is being piloted right now. Clancy: The pandemic has underscored the fragility of the recycling infrastructure around the world, as well as the food system. What new investments is PepsiCo making to improve collection? And what steps are you taking to increase the use of recycled content in your packaging? Andrew: We have a very clear vision, and that’s a world where packaging never becomes waste. That is front and center for everything we do in packaging. There’s really three things that we have to [enforce that policy]. The first is reduce plastic use. The second is improve recycling, and the third is reinvent our packaging. Let me talk about those now and answer your question. To improve recycling, especially as you say, given some of the challenges, this is a systemic change that is necessary and it requires a lot of partnerships across the full value chain. It requires collaboration between the public sector and the private sector. And it really is how do we work together end-to-end for a circular economy for plastics? We set goals, and then we go and we work really hard to go achieve them. But you’ve got to be transparent along the way about what’s working, what’s not. Specifically to your question, in the last three years, we’ve pledged more than $65 million globally for recycling and collection. A little over a year ago we issued our first green bond. It was a $1 billion green bond. We’ve allocated just about half of that, I think it was $447 million, of the proceeds to projects that advance sustainability. Roughly $200 million of that was specifically to procure recycled PET in our North American beverage packaging. You want to talk about creating a market, that’s creating a market. We have brands, whole brands that are [using] 100 percent recycled PET in Europe. We’ve targeted 100 percent recycled PET in nine countries for our lineup of Pepsi-branded beverage bottles by the end of 2022. We’re working to both support the recycling infrastructure in partnership with other people in the supply chain, public entities, competitors, because this is something that we all have to work on. And then we’re also working at driving demand because if we drive demand and make clear what our commitments are, that helps support the investments that people need to make all along the chain. [Editor’s note: PepsiCo brands using 100 percent PET for their packaging include LIFEWTR, Tazo Tea and Naked Juice.] Clancy: The PepsiCo Foundation has invested considerably in cultivating economic growth and opportunities for women and disadvantaged communities around the world. How does the PepsiCo corporate sustainability team collaborate on those projects? How do they shape the execution of your strategy? How are they aligned? Andrew: We work very closely with the foundation. Again, this is a great example of where we work to use the scale and the reach that PepsiCo has to have a positive impact really across communities around the world, where we operate and to really show some leadership in helping to build a food system that’s sustainable, regenerative and inclusive, to your point. So what we’re always trying to do is work on both people and planet. The foundation and the business have very much those objectives. A good example of collaboration — in addition to the climate news we announced — was the announcement where PepsiCo, in particular our Latin American operations, with our CEO there, Paula Santilli, and the PepsiCo Foundation announced that they are expanding the social and environmental impact partnership that we have with the Inter-American Development Bank. We will go another five years through 2026. It’s a nearly $6 million investment. It builds on the heels of what has been a very successful investment in a partnership over the last 14 years. Over the last 14 years, we’ve supported about 19 million people across Latin America and the Caribbean, on five big pillars of things that are really, really important: water access; nutrition; sustainable agriculture; inclusive recycling; and disaster relief programs. There’s a great example of where the business, the foundation and third parties have been able to collaborate in ways that are more powerful. It’s one of those one plus one plus one equals probably seven. A lot of people have had been helped by a partnership that none of the organizations could do by themselves. Clancy: What’s on your mind right now that I haven’t asked about that you feel like we should talk about more? Andrew: This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. The challenges that the world is facing, when it comes to climate — again, go back to our recent climate announcement, which is top of mind — are challenges where no company, no government, no NGO can do it themselves. The need for collaboration, for partnership, for working together, has never been higher. These are difficult challenges. These are not things that can be solved by any one entity, and they’re not things that are there to be solved overnight. But they are also things that we can’t wait on. The science is clear, the need is clear; the time to act is now. All of us have to find partners to move forward. There’s going to be some mistakes, there’s going be some things that won’t work but together, we have to work together, find those areas of common interest and where we can complement each other, and then move forward with urgency. That’s why we looked and said: “We want big goals, we want goals that will motivate not only ourselves internally, but also other folks externally.” I’ve gotten a lot of calls from people saying, “Hey, great, how do we team up? I see you’re interested in this; how can we work together on that?” That’s what we need. I wake up every day, I wake up every morning, and I worry about what’s going on and sustainability and how PepsiCo is going to drive forward and meet our goals and move the needle on things. But I also think about, how can we do that with others? So, to me, that’s so important and I’m not sure that is fully appreciated by everybody who needs to work together. Clancy: There is a certain amount of skepticism about some of these big alliances right now. How do you keep them relevant and authentic? Andrew: You have to be open, transparent; you’ve got to build trust; and then you’ve got to show results. I think if those things happen, a lot of problems are going to take care of themselves. Back to the question you asked about milestones, transparency. We don’t set goals that we don’t think we can achieve. We don’t know always how we’re going to achieve them because they are big goals, and they’re bold, and they’re aggressive. But that’s what’s needed. But we don’t set ones just to get a headline or, as much as I love talking to you, we don’t set big goals just to be able to go do interviews. We set goals, and then we go and we work really hard to go achieve them. But you’ve got to be transparent along the way about what’s working, what’s not. How are we doing? Clancy: I just have one last question. What’s your most important priority as a chief sustainability officer at this time? Andrew: Oh, that’s easy. I’ve probably got the best job in the company because I get a combination of the chief sustainability role, and also some business responsibilities, which are all about sustainability. But the most important thing is easy, which is achieving the goals we’ve set. That’s hard to do, but easy to say. But that’s the priority. Ultimately it’s about how do we make the planet better for both the planet and for the people on the planet. How do we drive forward results around climate? How do we reduce emissions? How do we increase our renewable electricity to 100 percent globally? How do we end up at net-zero? That’s what is the most important part of my job. That’s what motivates me, because that’s what ultimately will show up and create real change. I need to work with a whole lot of people internally — 260,000 people have all got to be pulling in that direction. It starts at the top and goes all the way down to our frontline workers, but it also is true externally. But that’s my priority 1, 2, 3, working in every way that I can, with everybody to help us achieve the results that we know are necessary for the planet and the people on it. Pull Quote I’ve got history in sustainability, but I’m a business guy. I think that’s one of the real keys to make sustainability work. You got to embed it in the business strategy, the business processes and the actions everybody takes every day. We set goals, and then we go and we work really hard to go achieve them. But you’ve got to be transparent along the way about what’s working, what’s not. Topics Corporate Strategy Corporate Social Responsibility Net-Zero Carbon Pricing Collective Insight The GreenBiz Interview Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off PepsiCo CSO Jim Andrew

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PepsiCo CSO on embedding sustainability into ‘day-to-day business’

Episode 250: Sustainability leaders greet 2021 with conviction, renewed purpose

January 8, 2021 by  
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Episode 250: Sustainability leaders greet 2021 with conviction, renewed purpose Heather Clancy Fri, 01/08/2021 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (5:35). Big in 2021: American jobs created by EV companies 5 sustainable packaging developments to watch in 2021 2020 was a breakthrough year for climate tech, and there’s more to come in 2021 Features ‘The right to flush and forget’ (16:15)   Outtakes from this week’s interview with Catherine Coleman Flowers, who has dedicated her career and voice to the lack of water and sanitation infrastructure in rural American communities.  2021 reflections from sustainability leaders (22″45)   We feature the voices of our vibrant community in this episode. Sustainability professionals considered this question: What’s the most significant way that the events of 2020 changed your job or perspective as a sustainability professional? What’s your priority for 2021, as a result? Here are responses, many of them from our GreenBiz Executive Network. For revelations from 30 Under 30 honorees, listen to Episode 249 . Page Motes, strategy leader for sustainability, Dell (23:10) Jill Kolling, vice president of global sustainability, Cargill (25:12) Emilio Tenuta, chief sustainability officer, Ecolab (26:50) Margot Lyons, product and sustainability manager, Coyuchi (29:00) Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability, Johnson Controls (30:55) Alice Steenland, chief sustainability officer, Dassault Systems (32:50) Jim Andrews, chief sustainability officer, PepsiCo (34:12) Suzanne Fallender, director of corporate responsibility, Intel (36:30) *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Waiting for the Moment That Never Comes,” “Decompress,” “Not My Problem,” “I Bet You Wonder Why,” “More on That Later,” “Everywhere,” “Start the Day,” “Looking Back,” All the Answers” and “As I Was Saying” Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Deonna Anderson Topics Corporate Strategy Infrastructure Podcast Sustainability Water Recycling Environmental Justice Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 39:23 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 250: Sustainability leaders greet 2021 with conviction, renewed purpose

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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What Biden could do about plastics

Parsing Panera’s plan to nudge consumers toward low-carbon meals

October 23, 2020 by  
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Parsing Panera’s plan to nudge consumers toward low-carbon meals Jim Giles Fri, 10/23/2020 – 01:00 Something changed recently in America’s fast-casual restaurants. It involved only a single company, but it could herald the start of a fundamental shift in the choices that diners make. I’ll get to what happened in a minute, but first take a step back and consider the information available when you buy food. At the grocery store, you’re bombarded with labels: organic and its new extension, regenerative organic; various competing fair trade standards; certifications relating to animal health and so on. Notice that these widely used labels tell you nothing about the climate change impact of your choices. If you’re eating out, you might find calorie information on menus and, typically at more boutique restaurants, notes on where ingredients were sourced from. Again, you’re unlikely to see anything relating to climate. This matters, because the greenhouse gas emissions generated by different kinds of food vary widely. Here’s a useful summary, courtesy of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan: The reluctance of brands to use climate labels may be partly because it isn’t clear what consumers would do with emissions information. In 2007, for instance, PepsiCo added a label to its Walkers potato chips noting that each bag generated 80 grams of carbon dioxide . A few years later, the label was gone. “With consumers not having enough points of comparison to make the label a useful tool at the time, it was discontinued,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told me. There’s been little progress since, but 2020 looks to be the year when things started to change. In June, Unilever announced ambitious plans to attach carbon labels to its products . Now restaurants are acting, too. The change I referred to earlier is happening at Panera Bread, where many menu items now have a “Cool Food” badge attached to them.  The label, developed by the World Resources Institute , indicates that the emissions generated by the item are in line with the institute’s recommended dietary carbon footprint. This is 38 percent smaller than the U.S. average, a cut that WRI research has found is needed by 2030 to help avoid the worst impacts of climate change. There are two reasons why I think this could be the start of something meaningful. First, the Panera Bread brand isn’t built around environmental values, as you might expect from an early mover in this space. Panera and the WRI seem to have recognized this by making it easy for consumers to make low-carbon choices. Contrast that with the Walkers experiment: PepsiCo deserves credit for being ahead of its time, but the information consumers saw on the chips — 80 grams of carbon dioxide — wasn’t meaningful to anyone aside from climate experts. (For experts and anyone else who wants more details on what qualifies as a Cool Food Meal, Panera has provided a breakdown of emissions associated with each menu item .) It’s also critical that Panera is not going it alone. The badge is based on extensive WRI research and builds on work that the institute has been doing with foodservice operators. The hope is that other restaurants will adopt the badge, making it easier for people to find climate-friendly options whenever they eat out. One quick aside before sign off. I described Panera as an early adopter, but the first mover here might be the Just Salad chain, which introduced carbon labels last month . After I mentioned the Panera announcement a couple of weeks back, Just Salad emailed to argue that items on its menu generate less carbon than comparable offerings at Panera. I’d like to dig into this in the future, but for now, I’ll just note that it’s awesome to see chains competing on carbon.  Topics Food & Agriculture Food & Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Quality HD Close Authorship

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Parsing Panera’s plan to nudge consumers toward low-carbon meals

Love trees? Prioritize wildfire restoration and fighting deforestation

October 22, 2020 by  
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Love trees? Prioritize wildfire restoration and fighting deforestation Heather Clancy Thu, 10/22/2020 – 02:00 Back in my former life as a tech journo, my coverage was informed by the infamous ” hype cycle ” phrase coined by research firm Gartner to describe the arc of emerging technology adoption from the spark of innovation to mainstream adoption. Lately, I’ve been mulling that framework a great deal in the context of a much-ballyhooed nature-based solution for removing carbon emissions: planting trees. Heck, even the climate-denier-in-chief loves the idea . Right now, we are clearly in the “peak of inflated expectations” phase of the tree-planting movement, with new declarations hitting my inbox every week. Pretty much any company with a net-zero commitment has placed tree projects at the center of its short-term strategy, often as part of declarations related to the Trillion Trees initiative.   As a verified tree-hugger, I’m encouraged. But, please, it’s time to refine the dialogue: While tree-planting events in parks or schoolyards make for great photo opps, we should devote far more time to acts of restoration and conservation. That’s where we really need corporate support, both in the form of dollars and any expertise on the ground your team can provide.  That’s the spirit of the Wildfire Restoration Collaborative launched this week by the Arbor Day Foundation along with AT&T, Facebook, FedEx, Mary Kay, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and Target. The first order of business: digging in to support the restoration of 8,000 acres in the burn scars of the 2018 Carr and Camp Fires. Projects in Australia, Canada and other affected U.S. forests are on the future agenda. This translates into roughly 8 million trees. Wildfire restoration is more important than ever, given the intensity of blazes fueled by climate change in the form of hotter, drier weather, according to Arbor Day Foundation President Dan Lambe. It’s critical for rebuilding forest ecosystems and watersheds.  “What we’ve seen lately is tree seed source being destroyed by usually hot and long-burning fires, making it difficult for forests to fully regenerate,” he told me in written remarks. “Meanwhile, shrubs and brush are being left behind to act as fuel for the next megafire. Our local planting partners help determine the species, number and space of trees to promote regeneration while preventing fires of this drastic severity in the future.” P&G actually has partnered with Arbor Day on wildfire restoration since 2019, when it became the lead support for the foundation’s activity in Northern California. So far, the Family Care division of the consumer products giant has planted 50,000 trees there and 25,000 in Saxony, Germany, where forests are being damaged by storms, drought and beetle infestations. A P&G spokeswoman said this is a long-term commitment, because restoration takes years, and the company is prioritizing sites near its operations. (One of P&G’s Charmin and Bounty paper plants is in Oxnard, California.) The replanting for these two fire sites will take place over four years. In written responses to my questions, Tim Carey, vice president of sustainability at PepsiCo Beverages North America, which has provided a $1.5 million grant to support restoration, pointed to water replenishment as a key benefit. “Our investment will not only reforest the burn scars, it will result in 458 million gallons of water being replenished annually — which will be desperately needed as wildfires continue to ravage California,” he wrote. “This grant is just one of our many commitments to reforestation and water replenishment. Our goal is to replenish 100 percent of the water we use in manufacturing operations in high-water-risk areas by 2025 — and ensure that such replenishment takes place in the watershed where the extraction has occurred.” When I asked Arbor Day Foundation’s Lambe how the collaborative will prioritize restoration in the future, he said it will be a combination of factors: the damage done; how difficult it will be for the forest to regenerate on its own without intervention; how restoration might help prevent future fires. Just as important is the role the forest plays in human lives. In the months to come, I’d love to see the trillion-trees get far more sophisticated: lasering in on the vitally important nature of this restoration work, as well as importance of encouraging regenerative forestry practices.  And here’s a challenge: I’d love to see every company that jumps onto the tree-planting hype train double down on their strategy for authentically fighting deforestation. As I reported back in February, big business has a terrible track record on deforestation. Very few companies that embraced a strategy actually have accomplished that goal.  A few weeks back, Mars stepped out as a rare exception, declaring a “deforestation-free” palm oil supply chain. It managed this by cutting hundreds of suppliers, which makes me wonder where those businesses are selling their wares, and by requiring the ones that are left (just 50 by 2022, down from 1,500) to commit to specific environmental practices.  I can guarantee you institutional investors are paying more attention than ever, especially as deforestation maps directly to horrific human rights abuses all over the world — from the Amazon to Indonesia. Banks, on other hand, have fallen way short on scrutinizing deforestation risks, as I reported in February. That needs to change. Rant over, I promise. Want an early view into my weekly rants? Subscribe to the VERGE Weekly newsletter, and follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady . Pull Quote What we’ve seen lately is tree seed source being destroyed by usually hot and long-burning fires, making it difficult for forests to fully regenerate. Topics Carbon Removal Forestry Wildlife Deforestation VERGE 20 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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Love trees? Prioritize wildfire restoration and fighting deforestation

Despite record oil price fluctuations, circular plastic strategies prevail

August 27, 2020 by  
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Despite record oil price fluctuations, circular plastic strategies prevail Jesse Klein Thu, 08/27/2020 – 01:45 The coronavirus pandemic threw almost every market into a tailspin, including the notoriously sensitive oil market. And when crude oil prices fell into negative territory in April, the recycled plastic industry experienced a reckoning. Would corporations still invest in relatively expensive circular plastic commitments if virgin plastic prices, closely tied to the petroleum industry, nosedived? So far, most big companies seem to be standing by their pledges. “Our strategy hasn’t changed,” Yolanda Malone, vice president of global foods packaging at PepsiCo, told a digital crowd at GreenBiz’s Circularity 20 event this week. “We aren’t letting the oil prices and the fluctuations in the market sway us from our long-term vision. Our strategy needs to be strong enough to weather it.” Shifting the focus away from everyday volatility and instead emphasizing the long-term benefits of an overarching and durable circular packaging plan can help brands avoid reacting to oil price dynamics and enable them to ignore the small short-term benefits — such as lower virgin plastic prices — in favor of long-lasting ones, according to Malone and other speakers who addressed the topic during the online event. We aren’t letting the oil prices and the fluctuations in the market sway us from our long-term vision. “One thing we did was to remind our associates and merchants that you can’t claim something is recyclable if it doesn’t actually get [turned into] recycled content,” Ashley Hall, lead for sustainable packaging at Walmart, said during the session. “That was a really important ah-ha moment for our clients and reaffirmed their commitment to get past these low prices and reassess moving forward.” But like good businesswomen, Malone and Hall are ready to adapt to a changing landscape, and the market volatility that occurred during the early days of the pandemic has prompted some soul-searching. According to Malone, her team is working on ways that ensuring Pepsi’s tactics can support a circular plastic initiative even amidst dropping oil prices — even if that means some tactics might need to change, such as shifting conversations away from cost savings associated with circular initiatives and instead turning the focus to consumer purchasing trends, the value of having a qualitative lifecycle assessment and the potential for refillable containers. Taylor Price, global manager of sustainability at packaging company Aptar, suggested that shifting to refillables rather than focusing almost exclusively on recycled content could be one way for companies to combat the effect of sinking oil prices on their packaging strategy.  “What we’ve seen as a packaging company is it’s not really an either/or,” she said. “Refillable solutions, for us, are really a co-strategy.”  Hall agreed that strategy diversification is important: “One solution won’t solve our issues. We need to work on all of them.” The consensus among the panelists was that a sustainable, circular packaging plan that includes a variety of levers to pull and different types of projects would be best suited to survive changing oil prices and other shifting market dynamics.  “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” Hall said. “Pull from existing resources. And on the other side, share not only what works but where you’ve had troubles. And by doing that you can help other people avoid making some mistakes that you [have] made along the way so we can all move forward.” Pull Quote We aren’t letting the oil prices and the fluctuations in the market sway us from our long-term vision. Topics Circular Economy Circularity 20 Circular Packaging Plastic Circularity 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off As oil prices fall, recycled plastic initiatives have a new obstacle. //Unsplash

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Despite record oil price fluctuations, circular plastic strategies prevail

Sustainable fleets are at an inflection point

August 12, 2020 by  
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Sustainable fleets are at an inflection point Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 08/12/2020 – 00:15 Companies and cities are increasingly adopting lower-carbon fleets — including trucks and buses that run off electricity, renewable diesel and renewable natural gas — according to a new report from the research team at Gladstein, Neandross and Associates (GNA).  It’s still early days for many of these markets, and sustainability goals remain one of the top drivers for fleets to buy these vehicles. But the metrics that fleet managers care about —  total cost of ownership  — are becoming more competitive for these lower-carbon vehicles, the GNA report found. I read the analysis, which also covers diesel efficiency, natural gas and propane, and picked out these points that I thought were particularly interesting: Renewable diesel is winning fans:  Fleet managers report satisfaction with the performance of renewable diesel, which can be dropped into diesel trucks and buses and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent. The amount of renewable diesel used in California tripled between 2015 to 2019 to 620 million gallons. However, fleet managers say the market is constrained by supply outside of California and Oregon. Diesel still dominates:  GNA predicts diesel vehicles will continue to dominate fleets for at least a decade, especially in heavy-duty applications such as long-haul trucking. Thus efficiency tools — such as aerodynamic packages, anti-idling and driver education — are still important. Natural gas trucks are big but slowing:  There are already 53,000 registered natural gas vehicles in the U.S., and 85 percent are used for heavy-duty applications such as garbage collection, transit and utility trucks. But natural gas trucks only reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel trucks by 11 percent, and regulators such as the California Air Resources Board have pushed the state’s fleets to adopt zero-emission vehicle options, such as electric. Renewable natural gas is growing fast:  Renewable natural gas (RNG) can lower greenhouse gas emissions from fleets compared to diesel by between 60 and 300 percent depending on the source (yes, that’s carbon negative). Between 2015 and 2018, the consumption of renewable natural gas by natural gas fleets grew by 475 percent, and in 2019 in California, 80 percent of the natural gas used for transportation was renewable. But RNG constraints are real:  Because the costs are high to capture and process renewable natural gas, the market essentially has been created by California’s low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS). States that want to create a similar market need to create their own LCFS. Don’t overlook propane:  Propane is being used to power school buses that carry 1.2 million students in the U.S., although propane only reduces greenhouse gas emissions over diesel by 20 percent. The industry has been developing renewable propane, which is really only available in California. Electric trucks are moving forward:  Thanks to big commitments by companies such as Amazon, FedEx and PepsiCo, U.S. deliveries and deployment of electric trucks are supposed to double between 2021 and 2022. Today, more than 20 automakers produce over 90 electric truck and bus models. But EV infrastructure challenges remain: Early market challenges include expensive upfront costs for vehicles, complicated and a lack of charging infrastructure and limited range. Fleets also can face both higher or lower costs of electricity in comparison to diesel, so most need to work with partners and use smart charging tools to make sure they’re charging during low cost times of day. I’ll be highlighting zero- and low-carbon fleets during our upcoming VERGE 20 (virtual) conference , which will run the entire last week in October (Oct. 26-30). This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A UPS compressed natural gas fueling station fills up a UPS natural gas-powered truck. Courtesy of UPS Close Authorship

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BP walks away from three U.S. trade groups over carbon pricing

March 2, 2020 by  
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From Apple to Unilever to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, more big companies are partings ways with industry associations that support policies at odds with corporate sustainability goals

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BP walks away from three U.S. trade groups over carbon pricing

How using biodiversity indicators can improve conservation effectiveness

March 2, 2020 by  
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Data can help companies make decisions about their conservation initiatives — and improve outcomes.

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