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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Palm oil buyers cultivate Mexico’s ambition to grow a sustainable industry

October 22, 2019 by  
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Food companies Oleopalma and PepsiCo lead smallholder certification drive.

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Palm oil buyers cultivate Mexico’s ambition to grow a sustainable industry

Report Report: Blockchain, forests, sustainability goals and more

October 22, 2019 by  
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A round-up of recent reports on sustainable business and clean technology.

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Report Report: Blockchain, forests, sustainability goals and more

Build a better battery for wind and solar storage, and the energy sector will beat a path to your door

October 22, 2019 by  
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As demand for renewable electricity surges, so too does demand for efficient, safe and sustainable storage

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Build a better battery for wind and solar storage, and the energy sector will beat a path to your door

Low-carbon cities are a $24 trillion opportunity

October 22, 2019 by  
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From urban density to energy-efficient appliances, cutting emissions and making money has never made more sense.

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Low-carbon cities are a $24 trillion opportunity

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