Earth911 Podcast: Regenerative Farming Leads to Nutrition for Longevity

March 12, 2021 by  
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Earth911 talks with Jennifer Maynard, CEO and cofounder of Nutrition … The post Earth911 Podcast: Regenerative Farming Leads to Nutrition for Longevity appeared first on Earth 911.

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Earth911 Podcast: Regenerative Farming Leads to Nutrition for Longevity

General Mills, Danone pilots provide proof for regenerative agriculture success

February 23, 2021 by  
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General Mills, Danone pilots provide proof for regenerative agriculture success Jesse Klein Tue, 02/23/2021 – 01:30 A few years into Danone’s and General Mills’ regenerative agriculture pilots, one thing has become clear: It’s about data collection. Holistically changing our agriculture system to become more sustainable comes later.  “We really don’t have a great understanding of what happens when farmers make these transitions to regenerative systems,” said Steven Rosenzweig, senior soil scientist at General Mills. “This represents a way to get a better understanding of what’s really happening with these landscapes.” Danone recently completed a three-year pilot program for regenerative agriculture on 82,000 acres of farmland. According to Nicholas Camu, vice president of agriculture at Danone North America, the biggest reward of this pilot is the data and subsequent analysis to understand what’s going on in the fields.  The company’s project provided funding — through government grants and fund matching initiatives — to help farmers transition to no-till agriculture and crop rotation, plant cover crops and other regenerative practices. By the end of the pilot, Danone’s farmers planted cover crops on 64 percent of the total acreage and practiced no-till on 77 percent. The national average is 5 percent and 33 percent respectively. They also doubled the number of crop species to 32. By switching to these regenerative practices, Danone hoped farms would restore the soil, foster biodiversity, protect water systems, reduce greenhouse gases and sequester more carbon. But doing so in a significant way to combat climate change will take much more than three years, and probably closer to a generation. So getting the data on what worked and how well it worked is almost more important at this early stage. Danone worked with third-party verification organization EcoPractices to measure the decrease in emissions, decrease in erosion and increase in carbon soil sequestration on each farm. But the reports are not public and data has remained the property of each individual farm, so we don’t really know how the shift to regenerative agriculture practices performed.  But Danone did share that across the 82,000 acres in the pilot, 39,035 acres grew cover crops and 46,378 acres reduced till or practiced no-till. In aggregate, according to Danone, practicing regenerative agriculture in this program reduced more than 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and sequestered more than 20,000 tons of carbon into the soil.  Now with that data, Danone can use its “return on investment” tool to model what happens when farmers implement regenerative agriculture techniques and can use that to convince other farms it is worth the investment.  These pilots are about finding what actually works, and not every method works for every farm. “With this tool that we developed, we can say ‘OK, you need to buy a new tractor to reduce tillage. And we now know that at this farm, it will pay itself back in four years, which gives us the right arguments to talk to the farmers and convince them that this is the right investment and we will help you cover those costs for four years,” said Camu. “That’s all thanks to this data gathering that we can really make specific solutions for specific farms.” General Mills is only one year into its three-year program but it already has laid the groundwork for a massive data dump. The program involves 24 wheat growers in Kansas, 45 grain and oat farmers in Canada and three dairy farms in Michigan. The company took baseline samples in 2019 of the birds, insects and soil carbon levels at each farm and plans to come back each year to see progress. Its overarching sustainability goal is to expand regenerative agriculture practices to 1 million acres by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2025.  “Farmers want to learn from the scientists,” said Rosenzweig. “Showing them how they’re collecting the data and what they’re finding. There’s a huge educational opportunity to transfer that knowledge from the scientists to the farmers and vice versa. The farmers are also seeing lots of things that scientists might not necessarily catch.”  These pilots are about finding what actually works, and not every method works for every farm.  Through the program, General Mills learned that the best science-based intentions can fall flat when they bump up against reality. According to Rosenzweig, the weather is the biggest unexpected challenge faced by any farmer and last year there was a record-breaking dry climate in the summer and fall in Canada followed by a wet spring. The perfect breeding ground for grasshoppers. The increase in grasshoppers created huge yield reductions as the pests ate crops.  According to Rosenzweig, even though the farmers were trying to spray fewer pesticides as part of their regenerative agriculture plan, they had to give in to control the massive grasshopper influx.  “So while [the farmers] are working towards establishing a healthy ecosystem with predator populations and general insect diversity to control against these pest outbreaks, until you have a system that’s really humming, you are still vulnerable to a lot of these pest outbreaks,” he said. During its pilot, Danone also learned that no-till agriculture didn’t work for farms where the ground is tough and full of clay. According to Camu, it compacts too fast and makes it impossible to plant anything without tillage, so they had to dial back up the tillage at those specific farms. Regenerative agriculture isn’t a light switch. Danone’s and General Mills’ pilots and subsequent data gathering are to help farmers slowly start to turn the wheel and break the high barrier of entry to regenerative agriculture. Armed with good data and anecdotal evidence, Danone plans to expand its regenerative agriculture to 100,000 acres over the next two years. “It’s best to let your farmers do the talking for you to the other farmers,” Camu said. “You have to have the right arguments and some proof. Some take the leap of faith a little bit faster than others. But then when you have those, you always have farmers that follow.” Pull Quote These pilots are about finding what actually works, and not every method works for every farm. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Farmers Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The main take away from General Mills’ and Danone’s programs is testing the theories of carbon sequestration. //Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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General Mills, Danone pilots provide proof for regenerative agriculture success

Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

February 22, 2021 by  
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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations Elsa Wenzel Mon, 02/22/2021 – 01:30 A circular economy looks different within each industry, but its broad vision of healing the harm from the industrial economy’s extractive, polluting original sins is appealing more to a variety of businesses. A small number of influential large companies are creating internal funds to support sustainability goals specific to circular economy initiatives, such as designing out waste and recovering materials from products used internally or sold in the market. The eyes of traditional investors are widening to the landscape as well. It’s an early-stage, sometimes loosely defined space, where many solutions remain unproven, but the long-term payoffs in terms of sustainability and cost reductions could be enormous. That’s the hope of several early movers in circular economy investing, who shared their insights at the GreenBiz 21 virtual event in early February.  Nestlé and Microsoft are among the noteworthy corporations putting considerable investments behind circular programs involving products and services, in service of their sustainability targets and with an eye to spark broader change across their industries. “I would almost challenge people to not think of it as, ‘I have to set up a fund separate from,’ but it’s more of, ‘How do I set up our business to operate differently going forward?’” said Anna Marciano, head of U.S. legal sustainability at Nestlé USA. “If we’re going to make sure that we’re using more recycled content, if we’re going to ensure that we’re going to reduce carbon emissions, then we need to be tracking that. So then our procurement team needs to be monitoring that and they need to be held accountable for all of our ESG commitments.” If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. One goal of Closed Loop Partners (CLP), entering its ninth year, is to bring together institutional investors with strategic corporate investors who seek to build a circular economy for their supply chains while helping their sustainability goals. (CLP’s private-equity Closed Loop Leadership Fund , launched in 2018, counts Nestlé, Microsoft and Nuveen among its investors.) “I have heard more in the last few years, probably than ever before, companies talking about investing off their balance sheets to achieve some of these goals, which I think is new vernacular for a lot of companies,” said Bridget Croke, managing director at CLP. Nestlé’s circular recipe Also about one year ago, Nestlé launched its $2 billion sustainability fund , to support companies developing innovative packaging and recycling technologies through 2025. (The company’s first investment was in the Closed Loop Leadership Fund.) The producer of coffee, candy and cocoa also created a nearly $260 million venture fund in support of planet-friendly packaging technologies. Its broader sustainability targets include getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Nestlé’s circular plans include, by 2025, reducing virgin plastics in packaging by one-third and making all of its packaging reusable and recyclable. But goals aren’t enough without something to back them up, Marciano said. “If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories,” Marciano said. “And so it becomes really critical for this to be a mindset shift to say, yes, this is absolutely what we need to achieve.” Nestlé knew it had to invest in designing packaging for the future to meet its packaging commitments, so it established its Institute for Packaging Science in 2019 in Switzerland. One pocket-size result is new recyclable paper packaging for Smarties candies, popular in the U.K. “That’s really where the strong collaboration, the collective action of financial investments come into play,” Marciano added. ”So we’re really targeting investments to help transform the recycling infrastructure, so we could advance the circular economy at the end of the day.” Microsoft’s circular formula Similarly, as a corporate citizen, Microsoft aimed to look beyond the four walls of its own operations toward suppliers and customers, and other industries it touches, to enable circular markets to grow, said Brandon Middaugh, director of Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund.  Like Nestlé, Microsoft also looks at translating its goals into circular economy action in terms of designing out waste, reusing and recycling materials and products, and replenishing natural resources that it uses — three pillars reflected by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The investment strategy includes identifying and prioritizing the major areas of waste that apply to Microsoft’s own supply chains and operations, including its devices, cloud infrastructure and campus operations, Middaugh said. One new initiative is to build Microsoft Circular Centers  to further the reuse of computer servers and other hardware from the company’s data centers.  “We really recognized that it was not enough to set the operational goal and to do that work internally. We needed to be partnering externally and reaching outside into the market to try to be an advance team for the innovation in the industry,” she said. Microsoft is one year into its $1 billion, four-year Climate Innovation Fund . Carbon, water, waste and ecosystems are the core focus areas for the software juggernaut, which is aiming to carbon negative by 2030, removing all the carbon it has historically emitted by 2050. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? The fund, a joint finance-sustainability initiative, is one of three balance-sheet ESG funds at Microsoft, in addition to others around affordable housing and racial equity.  Middaugh said it’s useful to have a unified playbook toward a single goal, which may lean on products, operational investments, employee engagement and even advocacy, using partnerships in civil society. For Microsoft, the main points are about being carbon negative, water positive, zero waste — and building a ” planetary computer ” that harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend resource protection measures, tree by tree. Tangible examples of these include reducing electronic waste and packaging hardware without waste. “Then it’s also about giving the tools for traceability and transparency that we, our customers, need to be able to track circular economy themes,” Middaugh said. Those areas of strategic importance cascade to the investment strategy as well. How to prove circular success? For traditional investors, sustainability with a sound return on investment is key, according to David Haddad, managing director and co-head of impact investing at Nuveen , a subsidiary of TIAA. “We want there to be an economic viability, because our time horizon tends to be relatively shorter than many of these larger companies.”  And traditional institutional investors are challenged by the need to make a certain return within a relatively short time frame, maybe five or 10 years, which may not be enough for a market to mature.  Ways to reduce the risk around investments can include investing in research and innovation; proving that new business models are moving in a certain direction and integrating that into the business; and exploring longer-term contracts, according to Croke. Nestlé’s sustainability fund is already driving results, said Marciano, who is also division general counsel for Nespresso USA and International Premium Waters. “We have access to more recycled plastic already, we’re able to integrate it into our Stouffer’s business, into our Coffee mate business, into our water business,” she said. “So we see it working already. And it’s only been a few months in.” Middaugh noted that Microsoft focuses on metrics around the use of recyclable materials; landfill diversion in terms of solid waste and the construction and demolition waste at its campuses, and an overlapping focus on embodied carbon. “And in terms of how we integrate those with the rest of the decision process. It’s really around assessing the impact, assessing the risk and then looking for that impact and risk-adjusted return,” she said. For Nestlé, measuring circular economy success involves improving recycling rates beyond the company itself by spurring improvements in recycling infrastructure more broadly, encouraging consumers to recycle too. But that’s tricky. The question of measuring social impacts, not just the environmental ones most companies have prioritized, is another matter. Haddad noted that as an impact investor, there’s no cookie-cutter recipe, but Nuveen works closely with each young company to determine relevant metrics, and any failure to be able to report on those alongside financial performance will make it a no-go for funding. Croke agreed that limited tools for tracking certain metrics related to circular goals are difficult for companies or municipalities, but a bonus to working with large tech companies is being able to identify and address data gaps and useful technologies. Partnerships and collaborations are essential How does a sustainability advocate make the business case for investing toward circular, sustainable solutions? What’s the benefit of leveraging the company’s balance sheet or other capital? Early corporate movers may offer useful examples. Croke noted that some companies may find it hard to identify such investment opportunities and run up against limits to the size of deals they can take on. “And so the ability to invest through other funds helps sometimes open up opportunities to invest in things that might be too early-stage or small that need some de-risking,” Croke said. Partnerships with third-party leaders can help when trying to apply lessons to the rest of the business from initiatives around circular servers, recycling and reuse, Middaugh said. She, Marciano and Croke agreed that no organization should try to go it alone when addressing a systemic challenge as large as growing a circular economy. For example, it’s upon Nestlé to share its expertise in sustainable packaging, collaborating with other stakeholders to make sure it’s not introducing harmful materials into products. Such relationships can improve the wheel in multiple areas. And policy advocacy is another spoke of the wheel for Nestlé. Middaugh added that collaborations should involve early-stage innovations and pilots — such as sharing information with other companies exploring advanced materials — as well as later-stage infrastructure buildout. Microsoft is working with suppliers to update its supplier Code of Conduct to reflect its carbon and sustainability goals, also providing the tools to help its partners meet their goals.  The coming transition CLP draws connections across that ecosystem by backing circular efforts by municipalities, recycling facilities and material recovery facilities (MRFs). It has invested, for example, in Amp Robotics , which offers early-stage AI for recycling facilities, and PureCycle Technologies , whose technology turns polypropylene back into virgin-quality material. CLP started an innovation hub to support pre-competitive ideas. Croke agreed that data points around diversion of material and greenhouse gas impacts, to name just a couple, are relatively simple to understand. “What I think is sometimes more interesting, and a little bit harder to measure is the catalytic impact that’s being had, we’re all trying to completely transform a supply chain, the way that the supply chain works from being linear to being circular, and the linear supply chain is quite scaled,” she said. “The economics are very efficient today.” However, there’s going to be a lead-up time to building up the scale for new, circular models. In time, costs will expand for existing linear systems, becoming less attractive to newly affordable circular ones.  “But what we’re finding is that there are definitely specific investment opportunities today that are profitable, that makes sense for the institutional kind of partners make sense for our corporate partners, and hopefully create the levers that unlock, value and scale for the rest of the system,” Croke added. Haddad advocated for companies to recognize private equity firms as a force multiplier. “We can really bring capital to bear and our experience with boards and governance to scale those things,” he said. Marciano insisted that it’s not necessary to invest millions of dollars to get started. Pick up the phone and talk to people, and take other small steps to explore circular possibilities. “If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing?” she said. “Think of it that way, and really try to inspire others within your organization to take a chance … What’s the worst that could happen? You asked for the money and you’re told no or not yet. But at least you’ve already planted the seed, that you believe that the money is needed and could make a difference.” Pull Quote If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? Topics Circular Economy Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off  Illustration of circular economy in industry. Shutterstock MG Vectors Close Authorship

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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

February 22, 2021 by  
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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations Elsa Wenzel Mon, 02/22/2021 – 01:30 A circular economy looks different within each industry, but its broad vision of healing the harm from the industrial economy’s extractive, polluting original sins is appealing more to a variety of businesses. A small number of influential large companies are creating internal funds to support sustainability goals specific to circular economy initiatives, such as designing out waste and recovering materials from products used internally or sold in the market. The eyes of traditional investors are widening to the landscape as well. It’s an early-stage, sometimes loosely defined space, where many solutions remain unproven, but the long-term payoffs in terms of sustainability and cost reductions could be enormous. That’s the hope of several early movers in circular economy investing, who shared their insights at the GreenBiz 21 virtual event in early February.  Nestlé and Microsoft are among the noteworthy corporations putting considerable investments behind circular programs involving products and services, in service of their sustainability targets and with an eye to spark broader change across their industries. “I would almost challenge people to not think of it as, ‘I have to set up a fund separate from,’ but it’s more of, ‘How do I set up our business to operate differently going forward?’” said Anna Marciano, head of U.S. legal sustainability at Nestlé USA. “If we’re going to make sure that we’re using more recycled content, if we’re going to ensure that we’re going to reduce carbon emissions, then we need to be tracking that. So then our procurement team needs to be monitoring that and they need to be held accountable for all of our ESG commitments.” If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. One goal of Closed Loop Partners (CLP), entering its ninth year, is to bring together institutional investors with strategic corporate investors who seek to build a circular economy for their supply chains while helping their sustainability goals. (CLP’s private-equity Closed Loop Leadership Fund , launched in 2018, counts Nestlé, Microsoft and Nuveen among its investors.) “I have heard more in the last few years, probably than ever before, companies talking about investing off their balance sheets to achieve some of these goals, which I think is new vernacular for a lot of companies,” said Bridget Croke, managing director at CLP. Nestlé’s circular recipe Also about one year ago, Nestlé launched its $2 billion sustainability fund , to support companies developing innovative packaging and recycling technologies through 2025. (The company’s first investment was in the Closed Loop Leadership Fund.) The producer of coffee, candy and cocoa also created a nearly $260 million venture fund in support of planet-friendly packaging technologies. Its broader sustainability targets include getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Nestlé’s circular plans include, by 2025, reducing virgin plastics in packaging by one-third and making all of its packaging reusable and recyclable. But goals aren’t enough without something to back them up, Marciano said. “If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories,” Marciano said. “And so it becomes really critical for this to be a mindset shift to say, yes, this is absolutely what we need to achieve.” Nestlé knew it had to invest in designing packaging for the future to meet its packaging commitments, so it established its Institute for Packaging Science in 2019 in Switzerland. One pocket-size result is new recyclable paper packaging for Smarties candies, popular in the U.K. “That’s really where the strong collaboration, the collective action of financial investments come into play,” Marciano added. ”So we’re really targeting investments to help transform the recycling infrastructure, so we could advance the circular economy at the end of the day.” Microsoft’s circular formula Similarly, as a corporate citizen, Microsoft aimed to look beyond the four walls of its own operations toward suppliers and customers, and other industries it touches, to enable circular markets to grow, said Brandon Middaugh, director of Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund.  Like Nestlé, Microsoft also looks at translating its goals into circular economy action in terms of designing out waste, reusing and recycling materials and products, and replenishing natural resources that it uses — three pillars reflected by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The investment strategy includes identifying and prioritizing the major areas of waste that apply to Microsoft’s own supply chains and operations, including its devices, cloud infrastructure and campus operations, Middaugh said. One new initiative is to build Microsoft Circular Centers  to further the reuse of computer servers and other hardware from the company’s data centers.  “We really recognized that it was not enough to set the operational goal and to do that work internally. We needed to be partnering externally and reaching outside into the market to try to be an advance team for the innovation in the industry,” she said. Microsoft is one year into its $1 billion, four-year Climate Innovation Fund . Carbon, water, waste and ecosystems are the core focus areas for the software juggernaut, which is aiming to carbon negative by 2030, removing all the carbon it has historically emitted by 2050. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? The fund, a joint finance-sustainability initiative, is one of three balance-sheet ESG funds at Microsoft, in addition to others around affordable housing and racial equity.  Middaugh said it’s useful to have a unified playbook toward a single goal, which may lean on products, operational investments, employee engagement and even advocacy, using partnerships in civil society. For Microsoft, the main points are about being carbon negative, water positive, zero waste — and building a ” planetary computer ” that harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend resource protection measures, tree by tree. Tangible examples of these include reducing electronic waste and packaging hardware without waste. “Then it’s also about giving the tools for traceability and transparency that we, our customers, need to be able to track circular economy themes,” Middaugh said. Those areas of strategic importance cascade to the investment strategy as well. How to prove circular success? For traditional investors, sustainability with a sound return on investment is key, according to David Haddad, managing director and co-head of impact investing at Nuveen , a subsidiary of TIAA. “We want there to be an economic viability, because our time horizon tends to be relatively shorter than many of these larger companies.”  And traditional institutional investors are challenged by the need to make a certain return within a relatively short time frame, maybe five or 10 years, which may not be enough for a market to mature.  Ways to reduce the risk around investments can include investing in research and innovation; proving that new business models are moving in a certain direction and integrating that into the business; and exploring longer-term contracts, according to Croke. Nestlé’s sustainability fund is already driving results, said Marciano, who is also division general counsel for Nespresso USA and International Premium Waters. “We have access to more recycled plastic already, we’re able to integrate it into our Stouffer’s business, into our Coffee mate business, into our water business,” she said. “So we see it working already. And it’s only been a few months in.” Middaugh noted that Microsoft focuses on metrics around the use of recyclable materials; landfill diversion in terms of solid waste and the construction and demolition waste at its campuses, and an overlapping focus on embodied carbon. “And in terms of how we integrate those with the rest of the decision process. It’s really around assessing the impact, assessing the risk and then looking for that impact and risk-adjusted return,” she said. For Nestlé, measuring circular economy success involves improving recycling rates beyond the company itself by spurring improvements in recycling infrastructure more broadly, encouraging consumers to recycle too. But that’s tricky. The question of measuring social impacts, not just the environmental ones most companies have prioritized, is another matter. Haddad noted that as an impact investor, there’s no cookie-cutter recipe, but Nuveen works closely with each young company to determine relevant metrics, and any failure to be able to report on those alongside financial performance will make it a no-go for funding. Croke agreed that limited tools for tracking certain metrics related to circular goals are difficult for companies or municipalities, but a bonus to working with large tech companies is being able to identify and address data gaps and useful technologies. Partnerships and collaborations are essential How does a sustainability advocate make the business case for investing toward circular, sustainable solutions? What’s the benefit of leveraging the company’s balance sheet or other capital? Early corporate movers may offer useful examples. Croke noted that some companies may find it hard to identify such investment opportunities and run up against limits to the size of deals they can take on. “And so the ability to invest through other funds helps sometimes open up opportunities to invest in things that might be too early-stage or small that need some de-risking,” Croke said. Partnerships with third-party leaders can help when trying to apply lessons to the rest of the business from initiatives around circular servers, recycling and reuse, Middaugh said. She, Marciano and Croke agreed that no organization should try to go it alone when addressing a systemic challenge as large as growing a circular economy. For example, it’s upon Nestlé to share its expertise in sustainable packaging, collaborating with other stakeholders to make sure it’s not introducing harmful materials into products. Such relationships can improve the wheel in multiple areas. And policy advocacy is another spoke of the wheel for Nestlé. Middaugh added that collaborations should involve early-stage innovations and pilots — such as sharing information with other companies exploring advanced materials — as well as later-stage infrastructure buildout. Microsoft is working with suppliers to update its supplier Code of Conduct to reflect its carbon and sustainability goals, also providing the tools to help its partners meet their goals.  The coming transition CLP draws connections across that ecosystem by backing circular efforts by municipalities, recycling facilities and material recovery facilities (MRFs). It has invested, for example, in Amp Robotics , which offers early-stage AI for recycling facilities, and PureCycle Technologies , whose technology turns polypropylene back into virgin-quality material. CLP started an innovation hub to support pre-competitive ideas. Croke agreed that data points around diversion of material and greenhouse gas impacts, to name just a couple, are relatively simple to understand. “What I think is sometimes more interesting, and a little bit harder to measure is the catalytic impact that’s being had, we’re all trying to completely transform a supply chain, the way that the supply chain works from being linear to being circular, and the linear supply chain is quite scaled,” she said. “The economics are very efficient today.” However, there’s going to be a lead-up time to building up the scale for new, circular models. In time, costs will expand for existing linear systems, becoming less attractive to newly affordable circular ones.  “But what we’re finding is that there are definitely specific investment opportunities today that are profitable, that makes sense for the institutional kind of partners make sense for our corporate partners, and hopefully create the levers that unlock, value and scale for the rest of the system,” Croke added. Haddad advocated for companies to recognize private equity firms as a force multiplier. “We can really bring capital to bear and our experience with boards and governance to scale those things,” he said. Marciano insisted that it’s not necessary to invest millions of dollars to get started. Pick up the phone and talk to people, and take other small steps to explore circular possibilities. “If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing?” she said. “Think of it that way, and really try to inspire others within your organization to take a chance … What’s the worst that could happen? You asked for the money and you’re told no or not yet. But at least you’ve already planted the seed, that you believe that the money is needed and could make a difference.” Pull Quote If you’re going to use more recycled content, you’re going to use alternative materials for packaging, you have to be ready to make the capital investment needed in your infrastructure in your factories. If you are not going to invest, what’s the cost of not investing? Topics Circular Economy Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy GreenBiz 21 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off  Illustration of circular economy in industry. Shutterstock MG Vectors Close Authorship

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Nestlé and Microsoft on financing circular innovations

Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system

November 13, 2020 by  
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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system Jim Giles Fri, 11/13/2020 – 00:14 Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Imagine stepping into an elevator and realizing that the man next to you is President-elect Joe Biden. You have 30 seconds to urge him to focus on a particular issue. What would it be? Earlier this week, I invited leaders from food and agriculture to play that game. Specifically, I asked them what Biden’s administration should do to accelerate progress toward a more sustainable food system. I got more responses than I can share in a single newsletter, so I’ll be rolling out answers weekly until the end of the year. Here are three — spanning farm spending, technical support and farmers of color — to get the conversation started. No need to wait for Congress One of the most encouraging responses emphasized that there’s a lot Biden can do without additional support from Congress.  “The U.S. Department of Agriculture can take advantage of tools and money it already has to help farmers transition to more climate-friendly practices that can also lead to improved farm economic resilience in the long term,” said Chris Adamo, vice president of federal and industry affairs at Danone North America. “Via the Farm Bill, the department spends approximately $6 billion annually on conservation practices. As part of its conservation funding, the USDA could prioritize soil health through cover crops, crop diversification and other regenerative practices, and partner with the private sector to leverage resources.” Adamo added: “The current administration has also spent over $30 billion compensating farmers for COVID and trade-related losses. However, many farmers may not be in a better situation in the short term. If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind.” Boots on the ground The federal government also can help support ongoing private sector projects in food and ag, where many companies are already working to cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to regenerate farmland and waterways.  “To support this transition, the USDA should boost farmer and rancher program service delivery through more boots-on-the-ground technical assistance,” said Debbie Reed, executive director of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium . “There continues to be a real need for technical assistance to transfer knowledge, outcomes and benefits to working farmers and ranchers.” If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Particularly when it comes to conservation programs, this support needs to recognize that different farmers have different needs, Reed added. In practice, this means it needs to be place-based and flexible enough to allow farmers and ranchers to improve environmental impacts without incurring excessive risk. One way to deliver this, suggested Reed, would be to rebuild the ranks of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which have fallen dramatically over the past two decades. Protect farmers of color Black farmers sometimes refer to the USDA as “the last plantation” due to the agency’s long history of discriminating against farmers of color. The results of this lack of support have been devastating. A century ago, there were a million Black farmers in the United States. Now just 45,000 remain, each earning, on average, one-fifth of what white farmers do.  That history is why Leah Penniman, co-director and manager of Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, is urging Biden to enact protections and support for farmers of color. These include expanded access to credit, crop insurance and technical assistance; independent review of farmland foreclosures; and debt forgiveness programs where discrimination has been proven. (If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, Penniman helped create Elizabeth Warren’s policy proposals in this area , which remain some of the most ambitious.) What would you say to Biden during your shared elevator ride? Let me know at jg@greenbiz.com . I’ll include as many responses as possible in Food Weekly during the transition period. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Topics Food & Agriculture Policy & Politics Social Justice Regenerative 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 Biden-Harris supporters gather at a farm market in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for a “get out the vote” event on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. Shutterstock Ben Von Klemperer Close Authorship

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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system

Timberland invests in regenerative leather ranches

June 19, 2020 by  
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Timberland invests in regenerative leather ranches Deonna Anderson Fri, 06/19/2020 – 02:45 Regenerative agriculture practices have received a lot of attention in recent years, and much of the focus has been on food production. But more companies outside of the food space are figuring out how they can invest in or use regenerative practices in the supply chain for their products.  One of those companies is Timberland, which in late May announced a new partnership with the Savory Institute, a nonprofit focused on the large-scale regeneration of the world’s grasslands. The move comes on the heels of Timberland’s announcing a collaboration with Other Half Processing , which sources hides from Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed regenerative ranches, to build a more responsible leather supply chain. The new partnership with the Savory Institute is two-pronged. One of those prongs is Timberland’s move to co-fund the Savory Institute’s ecological outcome verification (EOV) programs on all ranches within the Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed network, made up of early adopter regenerative ranches across the United States. The investment is part of a larger sustainability strategy at Timberland that is focused on three pillars — better products, stronger communities and a greener world.  This offers an opportunity to actually source in a way that can help restore the environments that we sourced from, and actually have a net positive effect of giving back more than we take. “What’s so exciting about the regenerative agriculture opportunity is basically that it’s a way that we can hit on all three of those pillars with one project,” said Zack Angelini, environmental stewardship manager at Timberland, the outdoor apparel and footwear manufacturing company, which uses leather for much of its outdoor wear. “This offers an opportunity to actually source in a way that can help restore the environments that we sourced from, and actually have a net positive effect of giving back more than we take.” The funding, which Timberland shares with Thousand Hills, will help the EOV program collect data about the ranches with helping them continually improve their regenerative practices and outcomes. The program collects information about soil health, biodiversity and ecosystem function, which is related to water cycle, mineral cycle, energy flow and community dynamics. Additionally, the funds will support network ranchers with resource development and getting more trainers trained, as well as covering typical administrative and marketing costs to help explain the message of what regenerative is and why it matters. The second prong of the partnership is the opportunity for Timberland to test and learn and build a new supply chain from the ground up. This fall, Timberland plans to introduce a collection of boots using regenerative leather sourced from Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed ranches. Angelini said this effort will serve as a proof of concept that can show what can be done.  “But definitely our long-term vision is to really get to the wide-scale adoption of these materials, both in our own supply chain, but also getting it to be industry-wide,” he said. Scaling up and reaching critical mass Chris Kerston, chief commercial officer for the land-to-market program at the Savory Institute, said that around the time the institute was reaching critical mass in its food work — where consumers are able to access options that were produced regeneratively at similar price points and with similar quality as conventional options — it decided to start working with apparel companies. For the apparel industry, critical mass would look like mass adoption of using natural materials and natural fibers. “So much of what we wear, if we think about it, is really just repurposed oil,” Kerston said. “And I think that the next generation, the millennials and [Gen Z] are saying, ‘Is that really what we want?’” “We think we have a big opportunity in front of us to … bring this to the mainstream and help drive towards that tipping point,” Angelini added, noting that this work has been in the pipeline for Timberland for over a decade. So much of what we wear, if we think about it, is really just repurposed oil. “It actually dates back all the way to 2005 [when] Timberland co-founded a group called the Leather Working Group (LWG), which basically was formed to address the impacts of the tanning stage of leather production,” Angelini said. Through the working group, Timberland was able to revolutionize the sustainability of the tanning of its leather by going down to that stage in the supply chain. LWG also helped to bring other players in the industry along. Now a not-for-profit membership organization that has developed audit protocols to certify leather manufacturers on their environmental compliance and performance capabilities, LWG counts other apparel brands such as Adidas, Eileen Fisher and VF, Timberland’s parent company, as members.  Now, Timberland hopes to move the industry forward even further. “We’re kind of excited about this next opportunity to basically help change the industry again, but this time, I’m going a step even further down the supply chain to the farms [where] the leather actually comes from,” Angelini said. Pull Quote This offers an opportunity to actually source in a way that can help restore the environments that we sourced from, and actually have a net positive effect of giving back more than we take. So much of what we wear, if we think about it, is really just repurposed oil. Topics Supply Chain Regenerative Agriculture Fashion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Cattle on a Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed ranch, Courtesy of Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed Close Authorship

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Timberland invests in regenerative leather ranches

Why Nature’s Path went ‘regenerative organic’

May 21, 2020 by  
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Why Nature’s Path went ‘regenerative organic’ Heather Clancy Thu, 05/21/2020 – 00:46 The term “regenerative agriculture” has become two of the biggest buzzwords in nature-based climate solutions. But how many farms and food companies can say they follow both regenerative and organic practices? Canadian cereal and snack company Nature’s Path — the largest organic breakfast and snack company in North America — hopes to get more agricultural organizations focused on the nuances of those adjectives.  In March, its 5,000-acre Legend Organic Farm in Saskatchewan became the largest yet to be certified as part of the Regenerative Organic Certified program, organized by the Regenerative Organic Alliance . It’s one of just 30 farms operating with that label. The company created a limited edition oatmeal to draw attention to the certification, which it started selling on Earth Day. Because Legend follows organic farming principles, it already practiced many processes often mentioned as regenerative. The main change the farm made over the past two years to receive Regenerative Organic Certified recognition was stepping up its planting and investments in cover crops such as legumes to improve soil fertility and carbon capture, according to Nature Path founder and chairman Arran Stephens.     The idea, at least in part, is to set an example that other farms can follow. “My hope is our farm will become highly successful and will spawn others that want to get in on it,” Stephens told me in late April.  Nature’s Path made the decision to seek the Regenerative Organic Certified designation two years ago, both to enrich its soil for the future and to continue differentiating its brand.  My hope is our farm will become highly successful and will spawn others that want to get in on it. Legend is the only farm that the company owns outright; it is supplied by hundreds of independent farms, who should be able to command a premium from customers such as Nature’s Path for following these practices in the future, according to Dag Falck, the company’s organic program manager.  “It’s a great way to communicate that your organization is practicing on the highest level of organic,” he said. Some investments it took While it takes just one growing season to earn the Regenerative Organic Certified label — unlike the core organic certification, which takes three years to earn — a series of steps are required to participate, notably expanded soil testing capabilities. As part of the program, farms are required to measure levels of Soil Organic Carbon, Soil Organic Matter and Aggregate Stability. Nature’s Path is testing for all of those metrics, along with Active Carbon, Total Soil Carbon and the Microbial Respiration of CO2. While organic farming shuns the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, it doesn’t preclude the use of new technologies or tools. Indeed, Nature’s Path is using a number of new information technologies as part of the program that could offer ideas for others. Among the tools that are playing a role: Tractors that are autosteered using global positioning satellite (GPS) data Satellite maps to monitor growth through the growing season Farming implements such as tine weeders and rotary hoes that help with weeding in preemergent phases while keeping the life within the soil; this allows the farm to reduce its tillage frequency and intensity A new recordkeeping system that can track specific crops back to the field; this is part of the traceability requirements for the certification The company doesn’t currently use precision agriculture technologies, but it eventually could play a role in mapping its soil carbon results, according to the company. According to the World Economic Forum, the average soil carbon level of most farmland is just 1 percent — far below the 3 percent to 7 percent levels they nurtured before being cultivated. It estimates that raising those levels to the low end of that range could sequester 1 trillion tons of CO2. Nature’s Path hasn’t disclosed its current soil levels, but is using this first season to establish a baseline. “We can’t say at this point what we have achieved,” Falck said.  Currently, soil has to be sent to a lab for test — a “fairly costly” process, Falck said, that can take from five to 10 days. The hope is to make more accurate in-person testing available as quickly as possible. Nature’s Path, based in Richmond, British Columbia, was founded in 1985 and became the first organic cereal production in North America five years later. The company is on track to achieve climate neutral status by September.  Pull Quote My hope is our farm will become highly successful and will spawn others that want to get in on it. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Organics GreenBiz Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off One requirement of the Regenerative Organics Certified label is a series of tests to gauge soil carbon content. Courtesy of Nature’s Path Close Authorship

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Why Nature’s Path went ‘regenerative organic’

Ecological footprint accounting and its critics

August 5, 2019 by  
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While sustainability can’t and shouldn’t be defined by a single number, it is still necessary that human demand be within the regenerative capacity of the planet.

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Ecological footprint accounting and its critics

Patagonia donates its $10 million in tax cuts to save the planet

December 4, 2018 by  
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Last year, President Trump said that his tax bill would be an incredible Christmas gift for millions of hard-working Americans, but it also resulted in billions of dollars of tax savings for businesses — especially those in the oil and gas industry. But one outdoor retailer has opted to donate its tax savings to the planet instead of putting it back into the business. Patagonia announced last week that it would be giving away the $10 million the company made as a result of the Republican tax cut. “Based on last year’s irresponsible tax cut, Patagonia will owe less in taxes this year — $10 million less, in fact. Instead of putting the money back into our business, we’re responding by putting $10 million back into the planet,” CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a LinkedIn blog post . “Our home planet needs it more than we do.” Related: Patagonia strikes back at Trump over public lands policies Marcario also wrote that taxes protect the most vulnerable in our society as well as our public lands and other resources. In spite of this, President Trump still initiated a corporate tax cut that threatens those services at the expense of the planet. In addition to cutting taxes for individuals and businesses, the bill also lifted a 40-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Patagonia will donate the money from its tax cut to various conservation organizations. The money will also go toward the regenerative organic agriculture movement, which, according to the company, could help slow or reverse the climate crisis. Marcario cited the recent National Climate Assessment Report, compiled by 13 different federal agencies and 300 scientists. The report found that climate change is impacting people all over the globe and will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars. She wrote that far too many people have suffered from the consequences of global warming, and the political response has been “woefully inadequate.” Patagonia has been a long-time champion of grassroots environmental efforts, and the company has also been vocal in its criticisms of the Trump administration. + Patagonia Via EcoWatch Images via Yukiko Matsuoka and Monica Volpin  

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Patagonia donates its $10 million in tax cuts to save the planet

Striking home in Greece uses bioclimatic features to be energy-efficient year-round

December 4, 2018 by  
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Tucked into a sloping hillside looking out over the Aegean Sea, the TRIF House designed by Sergey Fedotov boasts a gorgeous, contemporary design with massive floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the breathtaking sea views. In addition to its striking aesthetic, the private residence also includes a number of passive features that insulate the home and reduce energy use throughout the year. Located in Porto Heli, Greece, the massive home, which spans over 3,800 square feet, sits on a naturally sloped landscape spotted with olive trees. To appreciate the gorgeous sea views, the front facade is a series of frameless, floor-to-ceiling windows that can slide open and shut at just the push of a button. The glazed exterior not only creates a seamless connection between indoors and out but also allows for natural sunlight to illuminate the interior. Related: A modern, energy-efficient home is built around a beloved madrone tree Alternatively, the home’s north facade was embedded into the natural slope of the hillside. Burying part of the house into the landscape was another passive feature that helps provide the structure with a strong thermal envelope. The main floor houses a kitchen, dining and living room, all of which open up to an expansive veranda with a swimming pool. The top floor, which is enclosed in a large white rectangular volume that cantilevers just slightly over the ground floor, is home to the master bedroom and two guest rooms, all of which enjoy stunning panoramic views. The interior boasts a minimalist design with custom-made furniture. Surrounding the home, the landscape was left in a natural state. Large olive trees and shrubs dot the sloping hillside, which has various walking paths that wind through the home’s beautiful surroundings. + Sergey Fedotov Via Archdaily Photography by Pygmalion Karatzas via Sergey Fedotov

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Striking home in Greece uses bioclimatic features to be energy-efficient year-round

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