Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

October 28, 2020 by  
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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry Elsa Wenzel Wed, 10/28/2020 – 02:02 It’s probably fair to say that nobody expressly set out to devise a sunscreen to bleach coral reefs or a yoga mat to emit carcinogens. Yet toxic substances circulate in waterways and bloodstreams, leached out from all the consumables of everyday life. Shortsightedness and paltry data in the cycles of product design and engineering are partly to blame for this collateral damage of modern chemistry. Most product designers are unlettered in chemistry, and the practice of green chemistry remains in its early years. Even a basic count of all the industrial chemicals in use is scarce — somewhere over 80,000 , according to the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act Inventory, although the EPA total for recent output is less than 9,000 . It’s simply asking too much of most people formulating a consumer product only to include ingredients that are proven not to harm living systems. But what if design teams seeking safer ingredients didn’t have to know much about the molecules that comprise the stuff they’re making? What if they had a handy menu that graded each chemical? In theory, picking a less-toxic choice could be as simple as shunning an “F” or “C” ingredient for an “A” or a “B” on the list. We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. That’s the vision being advanced by ChemFORWARD, a mission-driven nonprofit backed by leading corporations with serious ambitions to accelerate safer chemistry. The effort is attracting pioneers in green chemistry, design and data to build a first-of-its-kind clearinghouse to help design teams and supply chains ditch hazardous chemicals for good. Leaders on board “We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry,” said Mike Werner, circular economy lead at Google, who serves on the nonprofit’s advisory board. The search giant pushes for safer chemistry and a circular economy on myriad levels , including within its office spaces, at its data centers and inside the devices it sells. “ChemFORWARD fits [into] this really big important puzzle toward making materials healthy and safe.” Google is among ChemFORWARD’s roster of “co-design” partners that includes Sephora, Target, Levi’s, HP, Levi Strauss, H&M, Nike, Steelcase and Method, each recognized for various leadership efforts toward safer chemistry. Last year, for example, Sephora became the first major cosmetics retailer to broadcast its policy on chemicals. Target’s Sustainable Product Standard came on the scene in 2013. Nike has its own Chemistry Playbook . Levi’s innovations include its recyclable Wellthread denim line. Other ChemFORWARD partners include the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.  ChemFORWARD’s technical advisory board is led by Art Fong, Apple’s green chemistry lead. Corporate scientists and chemists also come together via ChemFORWARD for regular meetings and peer reviews with third-party toxicology firms. The nonprofit is betting that teaming up with such pathfinders will help spark lasting industry innovation via its tool, in the process lowering the cost for even small companies to find safer chemical alternatives for their products. “Our intention is to reverse decades of negative impacts from the inundation of toxic chemicals that we find in our products, our economy, our environment and our bodies,” said ChemFORWARD Executive Director Stacy Glass, who has led the effort from a project within the  Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to its current iteration, housed within the Washington, D.C.-based Healthy Building Network , a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable building materials. “We need new solutions, new ways of thinking about things to have safe, circular products.” We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. ChemFORWARD seeks not only to display what chemicals not to use, but also what’s available instead. This aim progresses away from the longtime industry reliance on restricted substances lists that can leave product makers empty-handed, while liberating data that until recently has been trapped in various PDF reports or proprietary databases. ChemFORWARD seeks to stand apart from other data plays by building bridges in the supply chain with its “collaborative, harmonized” approach. “We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed,” Glass said. What’s inside However, ChemFORWARD is entering an area that’s already seeing a lot of activity. Multiple hazards assessment standards are available in increasingly usable formats to help companies identify problematic chemicals. The for-profit firm Scivera , launched in 2008 in Charlottesville, Virginia, offers a subscription database SciveraLENS, with color-coded grades for chemicals based on their inherent hazards. ChemFORWARD’s web-based software pools together data from some of the best-known chemicals assessment methodologies. A color-coded letter grade rolls up information from the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification , Cradle to Cradle (on material health) and the EPA SaferChoice Safer Chemical Ingredients List . That results in offering users more than 50 pieces of interpretation and over 20 human and environmental endpoints, such as around neurotoxicity or aquatic toxicity, for each chemical. A view inside a ChemFORWARD display of dimethyl phthalate, used in plastics. “The work that ChemFORWARD is doing and proposes to do will provide important additional information to a community of organizations seeking real-world data to better understand the safety implications of their materials choices,” said green chemistry trailblazer John C. Warner, a distinguished research fellow at synthetic biology startup Zymergen. Think of nearly any consumer-product chemical villain that’s dominated recent headlines for disrupting ecosystems or being linked to cancer or hormonal havoc. Chances are ChemFORWARD is building a collection of alternatives to it. These include ortho-phthalate plasticizers found in flexible toys, UV-blocking oxybenzone in sunscreens and halogenated flame retardants in electronics. ChemFORWARD has portfolios of alternative cleaning solvents , cosmetics preservatives and fragrance fixatives. The goal is for ChemFORWARD to scale up from about 200 to 2,000 safer chemicals in 2021. “The more technical person can see the technical data they need,” Glass said. “But most companies need, ‘Can I use it [or] can I not use it?’ for an answer.” More than skin deep ChemFORWARD is building clearinghouses for electronics and food packaging, but one of its earliest repositories coalesces data in beauty and personal care, with hundreds of safer alternatives. Someone shopping around to include a safer surfactant in a skin cleanser or an emollient in a moisturizing lotion can consult the tool for the green “A” or “B” options. Sephora, which is mindful of its many eco-conscious young customers and became a co-design partner with ChemFORWARD in March, recently took steps to advance beyond its restricted substances list. The company says 94 percent of all the products it sells eliminate potentially negative “high-priority” chemicals. The Clean at Sephora label for sustainable beauty care products in its catalog features goods from more than five dozen smaller companies, including BeautyCounter . “We knew the importance of creating a baseline expectation for all brands in terms of safety and the environment,” Carley Klekas, Sephora’s senior manager of product sustainability, said. “Sephora already had rigorous requirements in place, specifically with our in-house brand, Sephora Collection, that goes beyond EU regulations, but we also wanted to expand this even more across the brands we carry.” These chemicals used in cosmetics display letter grades according to safety. It teamed up with ChemFORWARD and EDF on a research project that prioritized four chemical categories common within beauty and personal care: preservatives; benzophenones; silicones; and ethanolamines. Sephora then sponsored chemical hazard assessments for the alternative ingredients named in the research. As a result of the partnership, safer alternatives have been assessed for 73 percent of Sephora’s high-priority chemicals — and made available to industry via ChemFORWARD. “We needed a credible and innovative resource to help us assess alternatives to chemicals within our policy, to ensure they were safe, and that we were avoiding regrettable substitution,” Klekas said. “We know this is important work to be done and will ultimately help showcase that there are safer alternatives to the high-priority chemicals we seek to reduce in our assortment, while also help the industry identify gaps where more innovation is needed.” The innovation puzzle Glass sees ChemFORWARD’s highest mission as its potential for furthering innovation. But that requires buy-in not only from retailers and product manufacturers, but also from the chemical producers themselves. The process of making chemical substitutions is only one step along the path to optimizing shiny, new, safer chemicals, which Glass hopes to help propel. Enter Pat Harmon, industry manager at chemicals powerhouse BASF. He’s been involved with ChemFORWARD for many years after meeting Lauren Heine through a Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (G3C) event. Heine was then executive director of the nonprofit Northwest Green Chemistry and had just joined MaterialWise, the early iteration of ChemFORWARD, where she’s now director of safer materials and data integrity. BASF’s sustainability strategy hinges upon developing chemicals that advance sustainability, called “accelerators,” which account for more than 25 percent of its sales. Ninety-five percent of BASF’s products have been evaluated for potential sustainability contributions. BASF has a history of involvement in collaborative assessments, and it quantifies the sustainability benefits of its products through life-cycle assessments and its Sustainable Solutions Steering methodology. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. Harmon aligned with Heine on the need for better third-party assessments for alternatives to troublesome ortho-phthalates, which are tied to multiple health problems. He also liked what she described of how the fledgling nonprofit chemical clearinghouse might lower the cost to companies of chemical assessments while moving away from “negative lists.” ChemFORWARD’s involvement with leadership brands and retailers, which are ultimately BASF’s downstream customers, also helped to elevate the case for BASF getting involved.  Eventually, BASF shared details for ChemFORWARD about several of its plasticizer accelerators, including its ortho-phthalate alternatives Hexamoll DINCH and Palatinol DOTP . These are used in flexible PVC and in a broad range of applications including children’s toys, yoga mats, wiring cable, vinyl flooring and automotive interiors. A bridge? “Now, chemical suppliers have the option to market their safer alternatives and to validate their low-hazard claims through an independent, trusted platform,” Glass said. “In this way, we create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust.” Harmon sees ChemFORWARD as a useful tool for companies that ultimately use BASF’s chemicals as well as a resource that can help move safer chemistry forward in industry, demonstrating for BASF’s customers the value of the safer decisions behind their product formulations. And the involvement with CHEMForward may help BASF to identify potential market gaps in areas where the number of attractive chemical alternatives is slim.  “This is why the ChemFORWARD project is so important,” Harmon said. “It’s one of the ways to help understand that you’re making the right decisions to move to new substances. I would really like to see this approach be used more and more.” For example, what if ChemFORWARD could grow to include the broader area of plastics additives in addition to plasticizers, such as flame retardants and light stabilizers? That could bring more of the plastic industry onboard, he added. “If you make it broader for the whole plastics industry, then you have a lot of people who would have interest in using this type of tool,” Harmon said, optimistic that ChemFORWARD may help to advance plastics circularity longer term. For example, if it identifies safer plastics used, say, in medical equipment that’s currently discarded, then more IV bags or other consumables finally might be recycled without the possibility of circulating harmful chemicals into the marketplace and the environment, Harmon said.   Here’s a view of inherent hazards for benzophenone, known to damage coral reefs. It has been banned in sunscreens in Hawaii. ChemFORWARD’s small team hopes to encourage more chemical suppliers to get involved by providing them a means to bring forth their safer chemicals in a way that’s trustworthy, verified and peer-reviewed by a third party, also broadening the availability of their chemicals for certifications and reporting. Companies can use this information for marketing purposes, including for consumer labels, but it’s also critical for risk management and verifying internal claims about a product. “As we get more and more eyes on our platform, we’ll be able to make that case even more strongly that: ‘Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it,'” Glass said. “We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to not only stop unknowing toxic chemical exposure, but to empower those who are working to create a safe and circular future for all.” Data driven Glass spent a decade in green building, serving as VP for the built environment at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute , which shaped in 2016 the earliest version of ChemFORWARD. Research across industries, up and down supply chains, found that companies lacked information to use better chemistry. Good attempts by other nonprofits had failed to gain traction. Recognizing a larger industry need, the institute spun out the effort, which currently counts less than 10 staff members distributed across the U.S. and a network of toxicologists. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. “I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to, and the incredible tax this exposure is causing to society,” Glass said. “I’m not a chemist, I’m not a toxicologist — I said, we can fix this. I see the solution clearly. I’ll take any data solution, any scalable solution, that will get this information into the hands of designers and formulators so (they) can make safer decisions.” It’s possible ChemFORWARD ultimately could feed data into life-cycle analysis or supply chain management tools. It can’t hurt to have Google as a partner, and it’s worth noting that the advisory board’s latest addition is Kimberly Shenk, co-founder of the AI-driven supply chain transparency startup Novi. The movement, however, has a long road ahead. It’s still relatively cheap for companies to crank out new molecules, and the chemicals industry is a powerful economic engine and lobbying force. Nevertheless, ChemFORWARD and others pivoting away from the conventional focus in managing chemical risks and instead toward making decisions based on inherent toxicity is a huge paradigm shift, said Mark Rossi, executive director of Clean Production Action, who also created the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals hazard assessment method with Heine. “It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry,” he said. “All chemistry should be green chemistry, and how do you get there? This is all part of that movement toward making choices based on hazards.” Pull Quote We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. We create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust. Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Data Eco-Design BASF Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Industrial chemicals have proliferated exponentially since the time of this antique medical cabinet, and new ways of organizing them are sorely needed. Shutterstock Triff Close Authorship

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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

Eco-Friendly Products and the Trickle-Down Effect

September 23, 2020 by  
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It’s easy to sit back and think, “I’m just one … The post Eco-Friendly Products and the Trickle-Down Effect appeared first on Earth 911.

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Maven Moment: Safe & Natural Baby Products

September 9, 2020 by  
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My mother-in-law Lucy had four children. They were born in … The post Maven Moment: Safe & Natural Baby Products appeared first on Earth 911.

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Ensuring Performance and Safety in Recycled Plastics

August 26, 2020 by  
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Ensuring Performance and Safety in Recycled Plastics As companies and consumer brands incorporate recycled plastic content into their products and as part of their circularity goals, product integrity becomes an important consideration. There are many ways to evaluate the performance and safety of recycled materials. This one-hour webcast will show you tools to evaluate these aspects and how brands like HP are increasing recycled content in their products and assessing performance and sustainability.  Topic include:  How regulations and brands are driving the use of recycled plastics The safety and performance considerations of recycled plastics How companies can develop mitigation strategies and reduce risk with testing and certification How to ensure that claims of recycled content are valid and to avoid greenwashing Moderator: John Davies, Vice President & Senior Analyst, GreenBiz Group Speakers:  Fred Arazan, Innovation & Partnerships Manager, UL Bill Hoffman, Corporate Fellow & Research Scientist, Environment & Sustainability Division, UL Ellen Jackowski, Chief Sustainability & Social Impact Officer, HP Inc.  If you can’t tune in live, please register and we will email you a link to access the archived webcast footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the webcast. taylor flores Wed, 08/26/2020 – 10:17 John Davies VP, Senior Analyst GreenBiz Group @greenbizjd Fred Arazan Innovation & Partnerships Manager UL Bill Hoffman Ph.D, UL Corporate Fellow, Research Scientist UL @ULdialogue Ellen Jackowski Chief Sustainability & Social Impact Officer HP Inc. @ellenjackowski gbz_webcast_date Tue, 09/22/2020 – 10:00 – Tue, 09/22/2020 – 11:00

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Ensuring Performance and Safety in Recycled Plastics

Why e-commerce retailers should increase transparency about their products

August 21, 2020 by  
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Why e-commerce retailers should increase transparency about their products Deonna Anderson Fri, 08/21/2020 – 01:15 When shopping online, consumers are able to see a lot of information about a product. There’s the product description and specifications of an item. For a bottle of perfume, the listing would declare the fluid ounces and describe the scent. A piece of clothing would show the material makeup and available sizes. A page for a bookshelf would have information about the dimensions. And of course, all of these would display the cost. But even with so much information at the ready, it is still rare to see details about the impact the product has on the climate or the chemical makeup of an item. The Environmental Defense Fund is calling for change. “You have this greater real estate available to share this information about products right on the product page, just like you would the size of a product or colors or product reviews and you have the ability to tell more of the sustainability story, because you essentially have endless shelf space online,” said Boma Brown-West, senior manager of EDF+Business at the Environmental Defense Fund, the arm of EDF focused on corporate sustainability. In late July, EDF+Business released a report called ” The Roadmap to Sustainable E-commerce ” that pushes companies to do better by their customers and the environment by sharing more information about the products they offer. “We want to call attention to how the biggest environmental impacts and the biggest health impact of products is really due to the products themselves and the creation and the use of a product,” Brown-West said. As the COVID-19 crisis rages on in the United States, some people are relying on e-commerce retailers for their needs — from household goods to food. Making these goods and transporting them has a cost to the environment. And as my colleague Joel Makower wrote at the beginning of the pandemic, “This is exactly the right time to be talking about climate change.” The EDF+Business report outlines how the world’s biggest e-commerce retailers — such as Amazon, eBay and Walmart — could use their influence to benefit the environment and their bottom lines.  In addition to calling on e-commerce retailers to step up, the report outlines seven steps to do just that: Assessing chemical and carbon footprints of the products they sell. This would help e-commerce companies understand the prevalence of toxic chemicals in their product assortment as well as their contribution to global climate change. Setting ambitious goals to address footprints. This step could set retailers on the path to offer products with safer chemicals and reduce their climate impact. To improve their chemicals footprint, e-commerce businesses are encouraged to establish a chemicals policy with specific, time-bound goals that incentivize their suppliers to use safer ingredients in their products. Regarding retailers’ climate impact, the report suggests setting specific, time-bound goals that reduce their Scope 3 emissions. That could look like setting a waste goal that prioritizes eliminating single-use plastics or one that encourages the growth of reuse and recycling infrastructures. Align business operations with sustainability goals. E-commerce retailers would need to integrate sustainability goals into their organization and operations. Engaging product suppliers and sellers to meet goals. E-commerce companies should establish new expectations with their suppliers and incentivize them to lead. Help consumers make sustainable choices. This step could look like translating product data into compelling consumer terms. Measure progress and share it publicly. Companies should regularly report and share on their sustainability goals with employees, consumers and investors. In this effort, leaders should include both their successes and lessons learned in their reporting. Lead the industry forward on sustainability. By stepping up, e-commerce industry leaders can recruit other parts of the value chain to participate in relevant industry groups, commitments and coalitions. Some retailers already are doing this work, although not specifically in the context of e-commerce. For example, back in 2013, Target launched its Sustainable Product Index , which tasked vendors with assessing the sustainability of product ingredients as well as their health and environmental impacts.  “We definitely see some movement in [companies] trying to communicate to consumers some more information about environmental or health impacts of products,” said Brown-West, who authored the report. “But we haven’t seen a full, we haven’t seen the full experience.” Screenshot of a page from SustainaBuy, a prototype of an e-commerce website that shows how a company can display information about a product’s climate and chemical footprint Transparency from companies is key to ensuring consumers know about the work a company is doing to improve (or not improve) on its sustainability efforts, Brown-West said. In addition to the report, EDF+ Business launched SustainaBuy , a prototype of an e-commerce website that shows how a company can display information about a product’s climate and chemical footprint. EDF+Business envisioned SustainaBuy as a way to weave sustainability into the entire shopping experience, Brown-West said. There are numerous reasons for companies to employ this type of approach to transparency. For one, there is consumer demand for this type of information. The report notes a Nielsen projection that estimates consumers are projected to spend $150 billion on sustainable products by 2021. “Consumers want to buy sustainable products and e-commerce retailers can help them do so by sharing environmental and social data on their online platforms,” said Tensie Whelan, professor and director of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, and author of the report’s foreword, in a statement. “Whether companies choose to jump at this opportunity will determine their ability to cultivate the consumer and remain competitive over the long-run.” Brown-West noted that since releasing the report, EDF+Business already has started having conversations with some e-commerce retailers about how to improve their transparency, which is key for accountability of their sustainability goals. Topics Retail Transparency E-commerce Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit:  Jacob Lund

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Chemical footprinting comes of age

July 13, 2020 by  
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Chemical footprinting comes of age Meg Wilcox Mon, 07/13/2020 – 02:00 When the Chemical Footprint Project launched in December 2014, it aspired to become the next carbon footprint or the next widely used tool for measuring company performance on a critical sustainability concern — toxic chemical use in the manufacturing of products.  It’s made steady progress since then, with 31 companies, including Levi Strauss, Walmart and HP Inc., using the Chemical Footprint Project’s annual survey to inventory and report on their hazardous chemical use, as well as their progress towards safer alternatives.  Last month, however, the initiative scored a big win that just might bring it closer to reaching its lofty goal. Nearly 45 percent of TJX Companies’ shareholders voted in favor of a resolution calling on the discount retailer to report on its plans to reduce its chemical footprint (the “chemicals of concern” used to manufacture the products it sells in its stores).   “To get that kind of vote on this ask, that sends a message,” said Cherie Peele, program manager at the Chemical Footprint Project.  Investors, it seems, want more transparency from companies about how they are moving toward safer chemicals, to manage their risks and respond to consumer preferences. Socially responsible investors are further concerned about the environmental justice implications of the science linking hazardous chemical exposure to chronic diseases such as diabetes because communities of color bear the brunt of chemical production. This investor interest just may spur more companies to take up chemical footprinting, and particularly as they see their high-performing peers reap the rewards of consumer trust in their brands. The chemical footprint provides a way to not just say that we care about safer chemicals and green chemistry, but demonstrate it by measuring the process towards safer chemicals. The TJX vote was “a good demonstration that the E in ESG is not just about climate or water, it includes chemicals. It’s something that I hope companies take to heart,” said Boma Brown-West, senior manager of consumer health at EDF+Business.  The strong vote surprised the investors who filed the proposal, Trillium Asset Management LLC and First Affirmative Financial Network , because it was the first time such a resolution had been brought to a vote. Ordinarily, such first-time shareholder resolutions receive single-digit votes. That fact that it got over 40 percent is “an indication that some major institutional money managers voted in favor,” said Holly Testa, director of shareholder engagement at First Affirmative Financial Network. “It’s an indication that there’s widespread investor interest in this issue. It’s a mainstream concern.” “I think it’s going to set a precedent for future work on [chemical footprinting],” said Susan Baker, vice president of Trillium Asset Management. “I have to give credit to the leaders out there that have policies and are really listening to the changes in the marketplace. They’re gaining competitive advantage.” Roger McFadden, president of McFadden and Associates and former senior scientist at Staples for 10 years, said he sees corporate interest in chemical footprinting rising. Whereas in the past, “they were afraid their footprint wouldn’t be all that good,” or they feared they might not stack up well against their direct competitors, now, he says, “I think that’s the exact reason chemical footprinting is catching on. Enough companies are doing it that their competitors are beginning to pay attention to it.”  Brand value and competitive advantage A core advantage for companies participating in the chemical footprint survey “boils down to building trust, protecting your brand,” said McFadden, pointing to recent examples where companies have taken big economic and reputational hits when the health impacts of toxic ingredients in their products came to light — namely, the weed killer Roundup and baby powder.   “The chemical footprint provides a way to not just say that we care about safer chemicals and green chemistry, but demonstrate it by measuring the process towards safer chemicals,” he said.  Trillium filed the shareholder resolution with TJX in part because it saw the discount retailer lagging behind its peers. “There wasn’t evidence that they were taking a proactive approach in keeping abreast of regulatory changes and consumer preferences,” Baker told GreenBiz. “They really need to think about responsible sourcing, and how it impacts customer trust,” she added, pointing to retailers measuring their chemical footprints and moving toward safer alternatives. “Look at Target. They have all these private label brands that are attracting people into their stores. Their customers trust their brands.” TJX did not respond to GreenBiz’s request for comment; however, in its 2020 Proxy Statement it noted, “The company is already taking steps to better understand and appropriately address how the company manages its chemical footprint. … Developing and implementing a comprehensive chemical policy is especially complex in light of the company’s off-price business model,” which involves buying from a vast universe of vendors.  In response, Baker and Testa point to Dollar Tree, which has a similar off-price business model yet nevertheless participated in the 2019 Chemical Footprint Survey and has committed to eliminating 17 hazardous chemicals from products in its stores. COVID-19 spurs environmental justice concerns As evidence mounts that chemical exposure has effects on chronic disease, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease — and that individuals with those health conditions are more vulnerable to the coronavirus — socially responsible investors are wanting more disclosure and action from companies on chemical risks, Testa told GreenBiz. “The connections are becoming clearer…” she said, and “that has staggering economic and societal consequences.”  Research documents that the chemical plants that produce the chemicals used in everyday products are often sited in communities of color, in areas some call sacrifice zones . “If the brands and retailers can start a program of reducing these chemicals, it’s going to go upstream and reduce the impacts of air and water pollution to the most vulnerable in this country,” Baker said. The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia has been linking environmental justice and chemical risk concerns in its work with retailers such as Dollar Tree and oil and gas companies with stores or facilities in communities of color. “We are tying the pandemic, climate change, environmental justice and human rights. They’re very much linked to one another,” said Sister Nora Nash. Even just beginning the process is a leadership role. We’d like to think that anybody who’s participating, we see them in a leadership role. For companies such as Dollar Tree and TJX, it “hits both sides,” Testa added. Much of the companies’ products are made in countries with low standards for protecting workers from chemical exposure, and their consumer bases also have a high representation of lower income and minority communities purchasing their products. Such products may contain chemicals of high concern if the company is not assessing its chemical footprint.  The next carbon footprint? With just 31 companies reporting their chemical footprints, the initiative has a way to go before it becomes as widespread as the carbon footprint. Peele says that “we’re still in the process of socializing” the survey. The Chemical Footprint Project survey is also evolving every year as it works with companies on the challenges of collecting and reporting information that comes from many places within a company.  McFadden agrees that it takes time for a reporting scheme to become mainstream, noting that the carbon footprint had slow uptake initially because companies were unsure about it. And he notes that carbon is just one chemical, whereas chemical footprinting is thousands of chemicals.  Still he sees potential for the chemical footprint to become just as mainstream as the carbon footprint, particularly once companies get over the fear factor of “What am I measuring?” and “What if my grade makes us look bad?” To that Peele responds, “Even just beginning the process is a leadership role. We’d like to think that anybody who’s participating, we see them in a leadership role.” Ultimately, if investors don’t spur more companies to report their chemical footprint, consumers just might do the job.  “The next generation, my kids and grandkids, they’re not going to accept the things … that my generation accepted,” McFadden said. “They’re going to expect much more transparency and disclosure. Companies are going to have to recognize that. If they push back against that, they’re going to push back against their customers.”  Pull Quote The chemical footprint provides a way to not just say that we care about safer chemicals and green chemistry, but demonstrate it by measuring the process towards safer chemicals. Even just beginning the process is a leadership role. We’d like to think that anybody who’s participating, we see them in a leadership role. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Chemical footprinting comes of age

Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

June 25, 2020 by  
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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right Paolo Natali Thu, 06/25/2020 – 00:30 According to polls, it was  mid-March  when most of us in the United States understood the severity of COVID-19. At the same time, we collectively were searching for data to drive lifesaving decision-making. Close all business and keep people inside homes? Or allow some degree of freedom? What would be the exact growth curve of virus cases, and most important, how could we flatten it? By early April, a consensus had emerged around the role of accurate data, even if it could not help contain a first wave of infections. This lesson on the importance of actionable data did not go unnoticed for those of us working on industrial decarbonization. With growing consensus on the gravity of the climate crisis, countries and companies are adopting carbon reduction targets. If we are to learn from the pandemic, there’s one critical element for any effort to have a chance of success. Less catchy than a target reopening date, and perhaps more like an immunologist telling you to get tested: Do we have the right data to act upon? Pressure is growing to take action The question is relevant because there is mounting pressure to take action against the climate crisis. Pressure to make emissions visible has been around for a while: Consumers want to know how much carbon is embodied in the products they buy. Investors are concerned about the viability of long-term assets in high emissions sectors at risk of being hit by negative policy or market developments. For example,  one chocolate bar  could emit as much as 7 kilograms of CO2, equivalent to driving 30 miles in a non-electric car. Alternately, if the cacao is grown alongside agroforestry or reforestation, the same bar could have zero or even negative emissions via the trees removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If consumers knew the difference, would they pay a premium for the climate-smart chocolate? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. This year, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management company, made thundering news in his  annual letter to investors , touting, “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.” Since then, the asset manager  backed two proposals  at the annual general meetings of both Chevron and Exxon, related to the manner these companies conduct themselves in relation to Paris Agreement targets. Earlier in the year in Australia, investors at both Woodside Petroleum and Santos passed annual general meetings motions to  adopt a “Scope 3 ” (indirect emissions) reduction target. This trend of shareholder and consumer scrutiny has strengthened in recent months, and most S&P 500 companies — in fact, 70 percent of them — already make climate-related disclosures to the reporting platform CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). Translating demands into dollars Yet, to date, there is no way to exactly translate these demands for action into dollar figures. You walk around trade conferences (or, more likely these days, Zoom workshops) and everyone is asking: What’s the premium that a consumer is willing to pay for low-carbon products? Is a bank really willing to decline loans for an investment that fails to fulfill certain sustainability standards, for example as pledged by the 11 global banks that signed the  Poseidon Principles  for shipping finance in 2019? If the European Union agrees on a border price for carbon, what should it be? All of this pricing talk begs the question: How can we have such discussions without clear metrics that everyone can stand by? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. For a start, while financial accounts are reported via one of two standards — U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) — a variety of methods can be used for carbon accounting (CDP accepts 64 of them). While financials make the performance of a chemicals company comparable to an iron ore miner, the carbon accounting metrics differ in a way that is difficult to reconcile. This becomes a problem for an automotive company, which needs to combine the performance of both to make an accurate declaration about the carbon content of a product that has over 30,000 parts. It is also a challenge for a fund manager who needs to combine stocks of different sectors, and has a fiduciary duty to use financially material metrics to do so; or for a commercial banker who lends money to different asset classes, and needs to determine the amount of “climate risk” involved in each investment decision. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. Remember the core of the coronavirus debate: The number of confirmed cases are better known than the total number of cases. This uncertainty generates debatable data, upon which it is difficult to make decisions that will have an enormous impact on the destiny of societies. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. And if the cost of those gases to a community and ecosystem isn’t clearly visible, conversely, how can we measure good interventions so that investors feel confident to put their money toward them? This is particularly ironic because market demand for product sustainability creates a win-win situation for everyone involved: make a plan to increase product sustainability, shape the world to be a better place. In most cases, low-carbon technologies are either readily available, such as in the case of low-carbon electricity and carbon-neutral concrete, or less than a decade away, such as hydrogen-based trucking. But if it’s so easy, why isn’t it happening? And most importantly, what needs to happen? Harmonizing the efforts The current ecosystem of reporting is built on bottom-up efforts that are not harmonized. The previously mentioned CDP has a large database of disclosures. The Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has a widely adopted set of metrics that companies use to report (including to CDP). The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has — you guessed it — standards solid enough to guarantee “financial materiality,” that is, to allow the analyst in the above example to “buy with confidence” when making investment decisions based on sustainability. The Science-Based Targets Initiative promises to take all this to the next level and link carbon disclosures to the trajectories that companies need to undertake in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. Companies that need to report emissions lament that this is too complex or that it doesn’t allow apples-to-apples comparisons due to discrepancies in the way different methods prescribe calculations. Investors lament that they can’t base financial decisions on current metrics, because they aren’t reliable or standardized. Consumers still have to see eco-labels that are truly credible. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. As confusing as it sounds, the good news is that between existing methods, standards and platforms, the elements of a functional system do exist. Despite the gloomy portrait that we often read in the news, of a humankind sleepwalking toward climate disaster due to a selfish inability to act together, this ecosystem actually represents a wonderful testament to the ability of society to recognize a challenge and address it. The importance of climate alignment A few years ago, the Smart Freight Center introduced the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework, creating a common guidance for logistics companies to report in a unified manner. The GLEC Framework is a guidance that specifies how disclosures need to be made in each of the existing methodologies and platforms. Once a company discloses according to the GLEC Framework, analysts will be able to compare a disclosure made for different purposes using different methods, and trace back what it actually means. It is urgent that this expand to supply chains at large. It is also imperative that the emissions accounting focus shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. With unified and simplified standards, companies will be able to be easily ranked based on their actual and projected contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement, thus keeping climate change at bay. Why do this? To reap the benefits of being in sync with what stakeholders request more and ever louder. This is only wise, considering that not even a global pandemic and looming economic recession has silenced these requests. According to a recent Deloitte  report , 600 global C-suite executives remain firmly committed to a low-carbon transition. They are perhaps finding opportunity in shifting from risk and need clear data to make their decisions. Pull Quote A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. Contributors Charles Cannon Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Data Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute 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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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

Dow’s Jim Fitterling on tackling plastic waste and the company’s sustainability goals

June 17, 2020 by  
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Dow’s Jim Fitterling on tackling plastic waste and the company’s sustainability goals In a conversation with GreenBiz Executive Editor Joel Makower, Dow CEO Jim Fitterling details strategy for the company’s latest sustainability commitments — including being carbon neutral by 2050. “That includes looking at Scope 1 through 3 emissions. And also taking a look at some of the positive benefits our products bring to society,” Fitterling said, pointing to energy-efficient housing and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that that creates. Its other commitments are related to protecting the climate, stopping waste and closing the loop. Fitterling noted that the company is currently putting together a consortium of partners that would help come up with an index that allows it to measure, account and verify its work as it progresses toward its goals. taylor flores Wed, 06/17/2020 – 00:00 Featured On

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Dow’s Jim Fitterling on tackling plastic waste and the company’s sustainability goals

Unilever unveils climate and nature fund worth more than $1 billion

June 16, 2020 by  
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Unilever unveils climate and nature fund worth more than $1 billion Cecilia Keating Tue, 06/16/2020 – 00:30 Unilever has announced it will invest €1 billion (about $1.12 billion based on exchange rates this week) over the next decade in efforts to tackle climate change and deliver on a new goal to ensure net zero emissions across its value chain by 2039. The consumer goods giant unveiled its new Climate and Nature Fund on Monday as it set out a raft of fresh sustainability goals, which include plans to end deforestation in its supply chain and communicate the carbon footprint of every product it sells. The new 2039 target builds on existing sustainability goals to reach carbon neutrality across its operations and halve its value chain emissions by the end of the decade. Unilever CEO Alan Jope emphasized the company intended to eschew a sustainability strategy that focused on emissions alone and instead take a holistic approach. “Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity — all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously,” he said. “In doing so, we must also recognize that the climate crisis is not only an environmental emergency; it also has a terrible impact on lives and livelihoods. We, therefore, have a responsibility to help tackle the crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands.” To reach its new value chain emissions goal, Unilever said it would prioritize partnerships with suppliers committed to science-based climate targets and work with partners across the value chain to drive lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Under the plan, the Anglo-Dutch company said it intends to set up a new system where suppliers are required to declare the carbon footprint of the goods and services while invoicing. It also outlined its intention to work with other businesses and organizations to standardize emissions data collection, sharing, and communication. The new fund will support a raft of initiatives, including landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation projects, the company said. While it’s critical to address the impact that our products have at the end of their life, it’s just as important to continue to look at the impact they have on the planet at the start of their life … The firm also confirmed that it is aiming to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023. As such it pledged to increase traceability and transparency by using emerging digital technologies — such as satellite monitoring, geolocation tracking and blockchain systems — to enhance oversight, accelerate smallholder engagement and improve its approach to derivates sourcing. Marc Engel, chief supply chain officer at the company, said that empowering farmers would deliver a “step change” in regenerating nature. “If we want to have a healthy planet long into the future, we must also look after nature: forests, soil biodiversity and water ecosystems,” he said. “In most parts of the world, the economic and social inclusion of farmers and smallholders in sustainable agricultural production is the single most important driver of change for halting deforestation, restoring forests and helping regenerate nature. In the end, they are the stewards of the land.” Unilever also has committed to step up its efforts to preserve water, with plans to make all its “product formulations” biodegradable in order to minimize their impact on aquatic ecosystems. It also said it would implement water stewardship programs for local communities in 100 locations by the end of the decade. Jope concluded that the suite of new initiatives would complement the company’s ongoing mission to curb its reliance on virgin plastic. “While it’s critical to address the impact that our products have at the end of their life, it’s just as important to continue to look at the impact they have on the planet at the start of their life — in the sourcing of materials — as well as in their manufacture and transport,” he said. “We will reduce the impact that our products and our operations have on the environment, and we will do our part to bring the planet back to health.” Last year, the company pledged to halve its use of virgin plastic and ensure it collects and recycles more plastic packaging than it sells. The announcement came the same day as the publication of an open letter to governments from leading green businesses and NGOs, calling on policymakers to prioritize nature restoration projects as part of their imminent coronavirus economic stimulus packages. Pull Quote While it’s critical to address the impact that our products have at the end of their life, it’s just as important to continue to look at the impact they have on the planet at the start of their life … Topics Corporate Strategy Supply Chain Natural Climate Solutions Carbon Removal BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Early evening view of Unilever office The Bridge in Feijenoord neighbourhood in Rotterdam

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Unilever unveils climate and nature fund worth more than $1 billion

To the Point: Pens and Pencils Offer Eco-friendlier Features

May 20, 2020 by  
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If you’re a shopper who evaluates environmental facets of products … The post To the Point: Pens and Pencils Offer Eco-friendlier Features appeared first on Earth911.com.

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To the Point: Pens and Pencils Offer Eco-friendlier Features

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