Walgreens Boots Alliance exec talks plastic, packaging and COVID-19

March 1, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Walgreens Boots Alliance exec talks plastic, packaging and COVID-19 Deonna Anderson Mon, 03/01/2021 – 01:45 Walgreens is a fixture in the United States. About 78 percent of the U.S. population lived within five miles of a Walgreens or Duane Reade store as of August, according to the company. And the company has even more properties under the parent organization, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). WBA employs more than 450,000 people in more than 25 countries and during the fiscal year that ended in August, it had sales that added up to $139.5 billion. I recently spoke with Richard Ellis, vice president of corporate social responsibility (CSR) at WBA, via Zoom. At the time of our conversation in early February, one of the most pressing items on Ellis’ priority list was releasing WBA’s 2020 CSR report and tooting the company’s horn.  “Given all of the other things that companies need to communicate and want to talk about, we have perhaps missed a few tricks in the past in terms of the way in which we have told our people about what we have been doing, what we have been achieving,” Ellis said. He noted that the virtual release event had the potential to reach the 450,000 people that the company employs, much more than was typical at in-person releases in the before times. Ellis said he hoped the event would help those in attendance “feel really proud of the company that they work for.” During our conversation, we also discussed Ellis’ long-term CSR priorities, the company’s packaging goals and its partnership with Loop. Below is our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity. Deonna Anderson: I want to start with a level-setting question. Before doing research for this interview, I did not realize how big Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) is. You have retailers in the U.K. with Boots and Walgreens and Duane Reade in the U.S. and your wholesale business. With all of that in mind, how do you set your sustainability goals, and how these entities work together, if they do at all, to achieve your goals? Richard Ellis: In some respects, it goes back 20 years. Twenty years ago, I joined the Boots business when it was just a U.K. business. I joined Boots because it had come bottom in the first “Companies That Count” survey that an organization called Business in the Community had put together. And the company felt that that was wrong. So I spent probably four years putting together a program and a structure and a process that enabled Boots to become in the top three in the U.K. We then merged with Alliance UniChem, a European-based retailer and wholesaler. They quite liked the process that existed for Boots, so it was adopted by all of the Alliance UniChem companies that became the Alliance Boots business. When the Alliance Boots business then moved with Walgreens, [it] did not have a process, so they picked up and copied what Alliance Boots was doing. In a sense, the process has been 20 years in evolution rather than Walgreens, Boots and Alliance coming together and then the company searching for something to do.  If you go back 15 years, and you look at the first CSR report, then there are certain elements of it that have not changed in terms of the auditing, in terms of the following of a process that is laid down by the Global Reporting Initiative, etc. This agenda has been at the heart of the various iterations of the company. And now Walgreens Boots Alliance, employing over 400,000 people, it is a major company, and clearly this is an important agenda for any international business. Anderson: I wanted to talk through some of WBA’s sustainability ambitions. One of those is reducing plastics in Boots-owned brand packaging, in line with the UK Plastics Pact 2025 . How are you all doing that? How is it going so far? Ellis: When the Plastics Pact came along, it was formulating and putting in place a series of targets to capitalize upon work that we were already doing. So, when the Plastics Pact came out it was not something that was completely new to us. However, having a program [meant] there were targets we had to set up and start measuring and doing all these sorts of things. It is not one big thing but it is just a series of all of the actions that we take as a company to try to remove plastic from all of the things that we do and to try and then reuse what plastic we have in some way, shape or form. And basically, everything that has got plastic in it, we are looking and seeing how we can remove it. And that means that we have to collaborate with our suppliers and we have to educate our people internally in terms of the circular economy and how we recycle things. One of the things that we do is we backhaul all of the rubbish from the stores. A lorry [a large motor truck] makes a delivery to a store and it collects all of the waste from that particular store and it brings that waste back to a central recycling center, which is on the Nottingham side of the Boots business. This enables us to then segregate all of the different waste and then to recycle and then resell, reuse, all of those sorts of things. For argument’s sake, Christmas is an important time for Boots so they have lots of Christmas gifts, and this year we reduced the amount of plastic packaging that there was and other packaging by 270 tons. It is about the people in our marketing department understanding that perhaps it is not all that glitters is gold. In other words, they are removing some of the packaging to make the product more sustainable than perhaps using the packaging to make a product look slightly better. If you go into our distribution centers, there are seven different-colored waste bins and those waste bins enable us to segregate plastic.  It is not one big thing but it is just a series of all of the actions that we take as a company to try to remove plastic from all of the things that we do and to try and then reuse what plastic we have in some way, shape or form.  Anderson: One of WBA’s other sustainability efforts is related to rethinking consumption and waste management and trying to promote a circular economy. That reminded me of Walgreens’ partnership with Loop to sell products in reusable containers. How would you describe that partnership as fitting into WBA’s goals around packaging? Ellis: It is one of those initiatives that we are looking at because we are trying to learn all of the time. Loop has very much done in partnership with Kroger, who we have a collaboration with. I think the idea that you can buy refillable contents is something that interests us greatly. One of the things that we are experimenting with is people bringing in shampoo bottles and being able to refill them with the same product. Now, one of the problems that we have got is that because shampoo is a liquid, how do we improve the kind of lock and load where you twist the [top] or you affix the bottle so that you can refill it, so that it does not go everywhere, create a mess and cause lots of waste? If you look at the distribution centers in America, there is a project called Beyond 34 because no American city recycles more than 34 percent of the waste that it produces. Across our distribution center network, we have got that up to 98 percent, and that is all about reusing the packaging, reusing the totes, reusing the boxes, working with suppliers. This is all the circular economy in practice. And I think the big issue is that it is about collaboration. From our point of view, the work that we do with Unilever, with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), with Johnson & Johnson in trying to manage all of these issues shows that the big international businesses have woken up to the challenges, which exist and realized that they are not going to solve them on their own. Anderson: It is kind of impossible to solve them all alone as one company because the problem is huge.  I read a recap of a Reuters event where you spoke, and you mentioned that working together with other companies and through your supply chain will be necessary to increase climate action after COVID-19. How else has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your work at Walgreens Boots Alliance or the approach you feel your company should take moving forward with taking climate action? Ellis: I think COVID has forced businesses to look very carefully at the way that they operate. And people like myself who have been working from home would never have believed that we could work for a year without, for argument’s sake, me traveling to America. I used to spend half my time in Chicago and other points, but in the past year, I have not been once. But using Microsoft Teams, I have been able to keep in touch with all of the people that work for me and all of those other departments that I have engagement with. And I would never have believed that it would be possible to keep the agenda moving forward, but the technology has really come into play and has helped a great deal.  I think we are just coming to terms with how COVID-19 will change the businesses that we operate. I think that what we will see within the retail business is that there will be much, much more online shopping. I think people have, shall we say, graduated to online shopping. And I think a lot of people, because they have been in lockdown, because they have been worried about contracting the COVID virus, what they have done is they have battled with their tablets and they have actually gotten used to online shopping. And so, that, I think, is going to have a big role to play in the way that we operate as a business. Climate change will not be reversible in the same way that COVID will be — hopefully — by a vaccine. I can see that we will learn lessons and we will start to think about how we trade and how we operate. I think lots of retailers are closing outlets because people are finding alternative ways of shopping. And I think that COVID has acted as a catalyst and has really got people thinking differently about the way that they operate. And I think businesses like ours are having to really sit up and take notice and start to change their philosophies and the way in which they operate. And I think that the impact of COVID in terms of it is the first real crisis that has impacted the whole world since the end of the Second World War, and I think people can see that as climate change starts to take effect [that] climate change will be a much worse impact than COVID. And it will not be cured by a vaccine.  If you look at Phoenix, last year Phoenix [broke the record for days with] temperatures above 100 degrees . You cannot live under those conditions. And if the number continues to rise, then there will be a huge migration of people. Similarly, people will not [be able to] live in California where the forest fires are or in Florida where Hurricane Alley is. All of those things are starting to make people aware of climate change and how climate change will impact all of us, and that climate change will not be reversible in the same way that COVID will be, hopefully, by a vaccine.  Anderson: I want to switch gears a bit. Are there any lessons in the corporate social responsibility report that we have not talked about that you feel are important lessons for GreenBiz readers? Ellis: As you read through our report, it is littered with examples of how we have worked with different people, with different organizations, how we have worked by sharing best practice across our businesses, the fact that we are operating in 26 countries, and that we can learn from each other. The rules and regulations that exist in Europe are different to America, and what can we learn from that? Why is that? How can we create a better, more sustainable business because we are sharing that best practice, because we work collaboratively internally as well as externally? And I think that is what comes through within the report in terms of how do we create healthier communities, how do we create a healthier environment, how do we create a healthier workplace? What do we do to make our products more sustainable? And all of those things are happening because we are trying to innovate but we are also trying to learn from others who have greater expertise or who want to work with us. Anderson: That reminds me of one of my last questions, which is about Walgreens welcoming a new CEO soon , Roz Brewer . How do you anticipate working together with her to continue pushing forward WBA’s social responsibility efforts? Ellis: I am very much looking forward to working with her from what I have seen of Starbucks in terms of their commitment to fair trade with all of their coffee products, in terms of their packaging, and what is in the public domain about what Starbucks has done. There are very similar parallels between ourselves and Starbucks. I am looking forward to learning some of the lessons that she might have picked up from Starbucks and bringing those to play in what we do. Equally, I’m looking forward to explaining to her all of the things that we have been doing over the past 20 years to try and make our business more sustainable. Anderson: As you just mentioned, you have been in corporate social responsibility work for a while. What is your most important priority right now as the VP of corporate social responsibility at Walgreens Boots Alliance? Ellis: In the long term, it is climate change, climate emissions. I really think that we have got to continue on our path. If you look at the report, it shows that we reduced our carbon footprint last year by 7.9 percent. And really, what we have got to do is to work with our suppliers — and I do not just mean the Unilevers of this world; I mean a lot of the small-to-medium-size firms — and impress upon them the need to reduce their carbon footprint. And what we have got to do is help them understand the things that we have done over the past 20 years, which have enabled us year on year to reduce our carbon footprint because it is better for the world and we are saving money for the company. Pull Quote Climate change will not be reversible in the same way that COVID will be — hopefully — by a vaccine. It is not one big thing but it is just a series of all of the actions that we take as a company to try to remove plastic from all of the things that we do and to try and then reuse what plastic we have in some way, shape or form. Topics Retail Corporate Social Responsibility Collective Insight The GreenBiz Interview Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Walgreens Boots Alliance.

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Walgreens Boots Alliance exec talks plastic, packaging and COVID-19

In stopping climate change, time is as important as tech

March 1, 2021 by  
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In stopping climate change, time is as important as tech Jonathan Foley Mon, 03/01/2021 – 01:30 This article originally appeared on the author’s personal blog, and was written in that capacity. Italics are the author’s. The only sure path to stop climate change is to zero out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. That’s it. As simple as this sounds, it’s going to be an  enormous  job,  requiring hard work  over the coming decades. But I find that most people don’t understand the time dimensions of the problem very well. A useful way to think about the effort and timescales required is to consider the ” Carbon Law ,” which was coined by my friend Johan Rockström. Despite the name, this isn’t a physical “law” of the universe but rather a set of recommendations. So, what does the Carbon Law say? It says to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the Paris Accords, we need to severely restrict the  total, cumulative amount of greenhouse gases  we release into the atmosphere moving forward. This idea is called the  “remaining carbon budget”  and refers to how much carbon dioxide (and other gases) we can still emit before warming the planet beyond a particular target. The more we burn, the warmer the planet gets. To keep within the remaining carbon budget for 2 degrees C, we have to cut our emissions drastically, reaching net-zero emissions as soon as possible. But cutting emissions takes time, so we have to find a balance between the severity and speed of these efforts. The Carbon Law outlines a possible path forward. It shows how we can limit the cumulative amount of greenhouse gases we emit in the future and quickly reach “net-zero” emissions. The path illustrated by the Carbon Law limits the warming of the planet to less than 2 degreesC while giving us some time to make the transition. But the speed and severity of the required cuts are still breathtaking. According to the Carbon Law, we need to peak greenhouse gas emissions roughly now — and then cut them in half in the 2020s. That’s not all. The Carbon Law says we need to cut them in half again in the 2030s. And then in half again in the 2040s. Alongside these deep emissions cuts, the Carbon Law suggests ramping up carbon removal projects , which will take many years to develop and deploy at sufficient scale, between now and 2050. Together, leading with steep emissions cuts early on, with carbon removal building up later, we can get to “net-zero” emissions around 2050, limit our cumulative emissions moving forward, and limit global warming to 2 degrees C. Let me illustrate how this might work with a simplified version of the Carbon Law. Historically, greenhouse gas emissions rose from about 27 Gigatons-CO2equivalent/year in 1970 to about 50 Gt-CO2e/yr in 2020. According to the Carbon Law, we need to stop this rise and hit peak emissions as soon as possible (Figure 1). Figure 1. Historical Greenhouse Gas Emissions. This includes all anthropogenic greenhouse gases, not just CO2. The total is expressed as an equivalent amount of CO2, using a single “global warming potential” for a 100-year window. Data from IPCC and the Global Carbon Project. Graphic by Jonathan Foley © 2021. Then we should cut emissions by about 50 percent in this decade, bringing them down to about 25 Gt-CO2e/yr around 2030 (Figure 2). Notice that this is a much steeper decline than the emissions rise that came before. It’s a  big  cut, no matter how you look at it. Figure 2. A simplified version of the Carbon Law, where we cut total emissions by ~50 percent in the first decade. (In the original Carbon Law paper, the authors considered energy & industrial emissions separately from land use. Here I combined them for simplicity. The general lesson is the same.) To achieve such rapid cuts in emissions, we need to deploy the fastest possible climate solutions. To me, this would include halting climate-destructive practices such as tropical deforestation, flaring and fugitive emissions of methane, and “black carbon” emissions from biomass burning, dirty cookstoves and other sources. These would have an immediate effect on the atmosphere. Other “quick wins” can come from rapid and cost-effective improvements in efficiency. There are  enormous  opportunities to be more efficient with electricity (especially in buildings and industry), food (where about 30–40 percent is wasted globally), industrial processes, transportation (higher fuel efficiency, more alternative transportation), and buildings (improved building envelopes, building automation and reduced refrigerant leaks). In addition, we will have to rapidly shut down fossil fuel energy sources and deploy renewable energy systems across the planet as quickly as possible. But given the enormous physical infrastructure and capital involved, this inevitably will take time. Even the most aggressive scenarios of this energy transition require the 2020s and 2030s to complete. We are in a race to stop climate change, and we will have to use the fastest solutions we’ve got. And those are usually the ones already on the shelf. After cutting emissions by about 50 percent in the 2020s, we have to keep going and cut emissions in half again in the 2030s and in the 2040s (Figure 3). Figure 3. And then we cut emissions by another ~50 percent in the 2030s and 2040s. I wish we could cut emissions to zero, period, before 2050, but this framework acknowledges that it may be very difficult to eliminate  all  greenhouse gas emissions by then. We’ll see. But if we assume that  some  emissions may continue in the 2040s, we will need to start relying on  carbon removal  — powered by nature (with trees, soil, or oceans) or technology. A lot of business and technology leaders are  very  enthusiastic about carbon removal right now. But don’t get too excited just yet. It’s going to take a  long time  to make a difference. In fact, the total sum of carbon removal projects done to date — whether with trees, crops, cattle, rock weathering, or technology —  isn’t even measurable in the atmosphere yet . Because carbon removal projects are still  very  small, the Carbon Law allows time for them to spin up between now and 2050 (Figure 4). In this scenario, carbon removal starts to take off in the 2030s and 2040s. Figure 4. As we cut emissions heavily in the first decades of the Carbon Law approach, we allow time for carbon removal projects to scale up by the 2040s, balancing out the remaining emissions. Together, the drastic cuts in emissions, front-loaded to the 2020s, with ongoing cuts in the 2030s and 2040s, combined with the ramp-up of large-scale carbon removal by the 2040s, would help us achieve net-zero emissions around 2050 (Figure 5). Figure 5. Together, the steep emissions cuts today and gradual increase in carbon removal later lets us reach net-zero by 2050. It’s important to stress this is  one possible way  we can stop climate change in the future. How we actually get there will likely be different. But the Carbon Law teaches us to focus on  deep and rapid  emissions cuts first, with continued cuts for decades, followed by the gradual build-out of carbon removal later. This sounds reasonable, but the most challenging part — that worries me the most — is that we have to  cut emissions   in half this decade. That’s a huge job, no matter how you look at it. To put this in perspective, the Carbon Law says we have to cut emissions more in this decade than emissions grew in the  previous five decades combined . Figure 6. A huge amount of the work we need to do today, according to the Carbon Law, is reduce emissions by 50 percent before 2030. How are we going to cut emissions in half in a decade? Simply put: We need to act  fast , without delay. We have to start with tools on hand, and not wait for new ones that may (or may not) appear in the future. This is important to remember. Time  is the most crucial parameter here, not whether we have the best possible tools. We have already squandered decades debating and denying climate change — a form of ” predatory delay ” that benefitted big polluters. But we’ve wasted all the time we can, and we cannot delay any longer. We will need to do everything we can to cut emissions in half during this decade. That means no more waiting. No more delays. Not even well-intended ones, including waiting for better technologies that can help reduce emissions a little better. We have to get started today and fold in any new tools that become available as we go along. As venture capitalist and entrepreneur  Ibrahim AlHusseini  likes to say,  “Now is better than new.”  And he’s right. I’d maybe add, ” Time is as important as tech.” Topics Climate Change Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Image by Shutterstory/BrAt82

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In stopping climate change, time is as important as tech

Industrial decarbonization picks up steam

March 1, 2021 by  
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Industrial decarbonization picks up steam Sarah Golden Mon, 03/01/2021 – 01:00 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . The industrial sector is the backbone of the economy, producing the materials that build everything from cities to phones. It’s also a significant contributor to the climate crisis: Industrial processes — from the creation of raw materials to chemicals — are responsible for more emissions than any other sector, making up a third of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Increasingly, the stars are aligning for industrial emissions to take center stage, for three key reasons: demand for clean solutions is growing; technologies are maturing; and the conditions for policy solutions are ripe. The emissions associated with manufacturing and other heavy industries could broadly be divided into three categories : indirect energy (from purchased electricity and heat, responsible for about 44 percent of emissions); industrial processes (such as the use of chemicals that release greenhouse gases, 19 percent); and onsite combustion (37 percent, usually for heat processing). All three are in urgent need of innovations and deployments, but the last of those three — combustion — has, until now, received the least attention. Climate-conscious companies that depend on thermal processing — used to produce everything from food to ferrous metals — seek better solutions. Historically, these have been inadequate or unaffordable, but a new generation of technologies is promising to change that. For example, in 2019 L’Oréal USA announced that 14 of its factories were “carbon neutral,” and the beauty giant continues to look for renewable options for all of its thermal loads as part of its science-based targets. U.S. Steel Corporation had a goal to reduce its emission intensity by 20 percent by 2030, based on 2018 baseline levels. While a modest target, the commitment is an acknowledgment that the sector needs to make progress, as steel is one of the most emission-intensive sectors (together with cement and chemicals). Companies are banding together to reach breakthroughs faster. In 2019, General Motors, Cargill, Mars and L’Oreal USA formed the Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC), and since have been joined by more than a dozen other large energy users. Modeled after the success of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance , which brought together large energy purchasers to accelerate the availability and affordability of renewable power, the RTC provides a space for companies to learn best practices to decarbonize manufacturing. Climate-conscious companies that depend on thermal processing — used to produce everything from food to ferrous metals — seek better solutions. “These companies and other institutions are trying to send a signal to the marketplace: If people can produce renewable thermal technology that is cost-effective, there are buyers out there that want them,” said David Gardiner, a facilitator of the RTC, in an interview with GreenBiz . Companies are also pushing for industrial decarbonization outside their four walls. Apple, for example, last year announced a carbon-neutrality target throughout its entire supply chain . As more organizations follow suit, corporations can leverage their market influence to help accelerate the deployment of cleaner industrial processes. Finding renewable alternatives for industrial heat is a complicated business. Different applications require different working temperatures, which necessitate different solutions. Some applications — such as cooking, pressurizing and sterilization — require lower temperatures (150 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit), while chemical, concrete and steel processes require much higher temperatures (above 400 F). Today, most process heating in the United States is fueled by natural gas, which can be plugged into many technologies and which already enjoys a robust infrastructure. Globally, coal meets the majority of thermal fuel demands for both steel and cement. Renewable options, on the other hand, often require specialized equipment that is still early-stage and may require retraining or operational shifts, which add costs. While many consumer-facing brands want renewable options, most are price-sensitive and unwilling to pay a premium for these cleaner technologies, especially during a time of rock-bottom natural gas prices. Moreover, clean technologies are at different stages of innovation, feasibility and cost, all with their own constraints, including temperature, quality and flow rates. Key pathways to decarbonize thermal energy include: Efficiency. An oldie but a goodie, the promise of deep efficiency still has not been fully realized. According to energy-efficiency expert Amory Lovins , whole-system redesign today can yield 30 to 60 percent of energy savings in retrofits and 40 to 90 percent savings in new construction. Electrification. While innovations are emerging quickly for applications ranging from roasting coffee to alloying steel , the technologies are expensive and require specific equipment. Still, costs are falling quickly and experts anticipate wide-scale adoption of electric appliances for industrial applications in the coming decade. Green hydrogen. The perennial “fuel of tomorrow,” it has long tantalized experts, who envision that excess renewable power can be used to create hydrogen, which can be plugged into applications as easily as natural gas. However, because hydrogen molecules are much smaller than methane molecules, today’s natural gas infrastructure is too leaky to hold or transport hydrogen. Expect this to be in the R&D phase with limited deployment for onsite applications until midcentury . Biomethane. Capturing methane emissions from dairies, landfills and wastewater treatment facilities holds great promise. While seductive, the resulting fuel (sometimes called renewable natural gas, or RNG) has a limited supply (it could cover only 3 to 7 percent of natural gas used today) and issues with land use (large dairies impact surrounding, low-income communities). Meanwhile, natural gas utilities are overstating its potential to justify infrastructure investments, which runs the risk of slowing electrification of appliances that already have market-ready electric alternatives. Additional technologies include solar thermal, geothermal, nuclear, cogeneration and carbon capture and storage. All have economic and technical tradeoffs, and with corporations and policymakers backing the transition, innovators have a lot to gain by cracking the renewable thermal energy code. Robust policy support will be key to rapidly scaling the transition. Despite corporate commitments to decarbonize, emissions from heavy industry are on track to rise 0.4 percent annually through 2050 — at a time when they need to be dropping precipitously. According to 30 leading experts on energy and policy, high-impact policies to decarbonize industry include carbon pricing, government support for R&D, industrial process emissions standards and energy-efficiency support. It bodes well that decarbonization is seen as a boon for the economy. The good news is many of these policies align with components of President Joe Biden’s climate plan , which include financial support for innovation and deployment, boosting markets through federal purchase requirements, and workforce training and education. The new administration also has placed a specific emphasis on industrial heat needed for steel, concrete and chemicals. Policy also has an important role in supporting financing on these innovations. Given that new infrastructure development works on roughly 25-year cycles, policy direction now can help us avoid making climate-busting investments down the highway. While time will tell if the Biden administration will realize all its goals, it bodes well that decarbonization is seen as a boon for the economy. Rewiring America research shows how decarbonizing the economy can create around 25 million jobs in the United States alone. According to separate reports from Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and the Industrial Innovation Initiative (I3) , a coalition of industry, NGO and public sector players dedicated to decarbonizing industry, investment in R&D for clean breakthroughs will stimulate jobs and economic growth. Meanwhile, Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy commissioned a report that crunched the numbers to show that the spillover economic gains from such an investment would be significant — all of which bodes well for political action. Pull Quote Climate-conscious companies that depend on thermal processing — used to produce everything from food to ferrous metals — seek better solutions. It bodes well that decarbonization is seen as a boon for the economy. Topics Energy & Climate State of Green Business Report Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Image by Shutterstock/Nostal6ie Close Authorship

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A three-handed robot quickly and efficiently sorts recycling

February 15, 2021 by  
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Robots contribute to efficiency and productivity in businesses around the globe daily. So when Matanya Horowitz, founder of AMP Robotics, discovered how inefficient the recycling business had become, he put his company to work to develop a solution. The result is a three-handed robot that views, makes decisions and sorts recycling on the line. Industry studies have shown a huge amount of recycling waste. Although education and improvements in curbside recycling availability have increased the amount of recycling at the business and consumer levels, a huge portion of that is pulled off the recycling conveyor belt and ends up in the trash anyway. Additionally, the stricter purity specifications from international buyers, such as China, have created more of a waste stream. Related: Oil and plastic industry spent millions to mislead the public about plastic recycling “There’s a tremendous amount of value captured in paper, and plastic, and metal, that right now is lost at the landfill” Horowitz explained in a video. “The trouble is that the value of this material is really eroded by the cost of sorting it out in these recycling centers.” This tedious manual sorting can now be done by a robot that analyzes and sorts 80 plastic , metal and paper items of recycling per minute, which is estimated to be twice the rate of human sorters performing the same task. Plus, accuracy is rated at 99%; the company reported, “We can recognize and recover material as small as a bottlecap and as unique as a Keurig coffee pod or Starbucks cup that may require secondary processing to ensure they are recycled.” The robot uses the same “seeing” vision as self-driving cars, which allows it to analyze and make decisions about materials as they approach. It then either tells its suction cup ‘hands’ to pick an item up or allows it to float by. The system is also equipped with artificial intelligence that allows it to continuously improve accuracy, including the ability to identify squished or faded containers. With the improved speed and efficiency, this innovation could dramatically increase the amount of recycled and reused materials. In turn, this means a reduction in waste and carbon emissions at the landfill. “Globally, more than $200 billion worth of recyclable materials goes unrecovered annually,” Horowitz told Inverse. “A.I.-driven automation enables the efficient recovery of more material, which increases recycling rates and reduces human impact on the environment.” While the entire system is high-tech and sounds a bit sci-fi, the installation is easily mounted over conveyor belts in as little as 48 hours. Following a weekend installation, recycling centers can implement the robot for $6,000 a month for an estimated cost savings of 70%. However, AMP Robotics recognizes the cost of human job loss and encourages employee retraining programs. In the spring of 2020, AMP Robotics reported robot installations in more than 20 states, estimating a reduction of half a million tons of greenhouse gases . The company claims to have processed more than one billion individual items in the waste stream over a 12-month period. Robots are here to stay in nearly every aspect of our lives, from cars to vacuums to food delivery, an idea further supported by the fact that the company entered into a contract with one of the largest waste management companies in the country, Waste Connections, to install 24 robots on recycling lines last year alone. + AMP Robotics Via Inverse Images via AMP Robotics

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20 C-suite sustainability champions for 2021

January 11, 2021 by  
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20 C-suite sustainability champions for 2021 Elsa Wenzel Mon, 01/11/2021 – 02:15 The big stories of 2020 were not just about a pandemic, a reckoning on racial justice, an economic calamity and the ever-imminent rise of climate change impacts. If a crisis is the ultimate test of leadership, last year provided ample narratives about leaders stepping up. These 20 C-suite executives have steered their companies forward through much disruption, providing inspiration for the possibilities of advancing sustainability, social responsibility and circular business models — sometimes all at once. Often working from home themselves, they empathized with employees and other stakeholders, some refusing to issue layoffs. They sparked uncomfortable conversations about diversity and discrimination, some pledging many millions of dollars to address lingering inequities internally and in society at large. Many celebrated with their CSOs on meeting ambitious corporate targets for 2020, while setting audacious new goals for 2025, 2030 and 2050. Each of these individuals is playing the long game and is in a strong position to move their companies and industries into what could be a more hopeful period of reconciliation, recovery and repair. Many “firsts” are on the list, especially in terms of the number of women cracking the glass ceiling in their roles. Many leaders in this cohort happen to have climbed the ranks at one company for decades. Most support science-based targets and sit on multiple boards, collaborations and advocacy groups to further industry-level sustainability goals. Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors; Detroit LinkedIn | Company profile Raised in Detroit, as a teen Mary Barra worked as a co-op student at Pontiac Motor, where her father was a die maker. In 2014, the electrical engineer and MBA became the first woman to lead a U.S. automaker. As electric vehicles drive toward the mainstream, General Motors has come full circle as well. It mass-produced the first electric car in the 1990s, then literally crushed most of them in 2003. Now, in its eventual internal-combustion phaseout, GM can’t seem to make EVs fast enough, and 30 new models are lined up for the market for 2025. In November, the company said it will spend $7 billion more than initially planned on electric and self-driving vehicles through 2025, a total of $27 billion. Barra’s vision for General Motors includes bringing emissions, crashes and congestion down to zero while becoming the “most inclusive company in the world.” The automaker’s sustainability goals include sourcing energy only from renewable sources and getting at least half the materials in its vehicles from recycled, bio-based or renewable origins — by 2030 in the U.S. and globally by 2040. The company touts advancing responsibility for sourcing raw ingredients, such as cobalt, within its supply chain. Nearby in Flint, where at least 100,000 residents suffered exposure to lead-poisoned tap water, GM turned millions of water bottles into filler for coats for homeless people. To prevent additional layoffs as the pandemic dented sales, Barra took a temporary pay cut, and GM pivoted with partners to build ventilators and masks. Less advertised around that time, the company unveiled details about its new modular vehicle platform and Ultium batteries , designed to lower EV prices and allow a 400-mile range fully charged. Christophe Beck, CEO, Ecolab; St. Paul, Minnesota LinkedIn | Company profile Christophe Beck is brand-new as Ecolab CEO this month, taking over from retiring Doug Baker , an established advocate of the “virtuous cycles” of sustainability and profitability. In Beck’s mind, too , forwarding-thinking companies should look at natural resources not just as consumables but as recyclable goods, and then design systems and products in a way that eliminates waste. Nearly a century ago, Ecolab sold dishwasher soap with a dispenser described as its first effort to reduce waste. The next frontier is “connected chemistry,” extending the internet of things to “the internet of natural resources,” Beck said in 2019. The leader in water, hygiene and energy services sells to a diverse collection of institutions such as hospitals, food and beverage providers, as well as heavy industry including power plants and plastic manufacturers. Ecolab says it helped its customers save enough water in 2018 equivalent to the needs of 600 million people. The company, an early partner with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, has positioned water and carbon emissions as equally critical in the climate crisis. Last year, Ecolab set a goal for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, getting halfway there by 2030. Beck, trained in mechanical engineering and aerodynamics, worked at one time for the European Space Agency. Spending the past year as Ecolab’s president and COO, he joined as an executive vice president in 2008 after capping off 15 years as Nestlé’s head of corporate sales in Europe. Rosalind ‘Roz’ Brewer, COO and Group President, Starbucks Company profile Rosalind Brewer is the first African-American and woman to steer the company’s Americas operations as well its global supply chain, product and store development. Yet about six months in as president and COO at Starbucks, she was terrified in 2018 to hear that two Black men had been arrested needlessly at one of its Philadelphia stores. “This could happen to my son any day of the week,” she said. “I felt like it happened under my watch.” Starbucks ramped up its anti-bias training, closing 8,000 stores one day to do so — a prelude in 2018 to its response to the interconnected crises of 2020. In October, Starbucks announced it would ramp up hiring of people of color to at least 30 percent of the corporate workforce and 40 percent of retail and manufacturing by 2025. It’s also investing in professional mentorship for minorities and backing communities through $6.5 million in Neighborhood Grants. A chemist with a knack for analytics, Brewer has spoken of bringing her head and her heart to leadership. She was known for promoting diversity and inclusion while CEO and president of Walmart Sam’s Club. At Starbucks, that expanded focus also blends with its climate leadership initiatives. In 2019, it issued a $1 billion sustainability bond , the first corporation to do so. After learning of the outsize impact of dairy in its supply chain, it added more plant-based items to its menu. “I can’t even explain to you how much richer the conversations are when you have a diverse group of people in the room challenged against one problem, and how quickly you get to solutions,” she said in 2018. No doubt those conversations will be at play in Starbucks’ 50th year. As it expands by 800 stores annually, it also will strive toward a science-based, “resource positive” framework of halving carbon emissions, landfill waste and waste usage by 2030. Patrick Collison, CEO and co-founder, Stripe; San Francisco LinkedIn | Personal website It’s a prototypical Silicon Valley tale: Irish-bred Patrick Collison sold his first tech company for millions as a teen with brother John. Their next big project, payment service provider Stripe, has ballooned in its 10th year to a $36 billion valuation, just behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX among a few privately held unicorns. CEO Collison (John is president) has his eye on making an outsized climate impact by accelerating negative-carbon solutions. In May, Stripe named four young CO2-sequestration efforts it’s bankrolling with a combined $1 million, including Project Vestas (green-rock beaches) and CarbonCure (concrete). Natural carbon sinks, carbon mineralization and direct-air capture are early focus areas for Stripe’s 2019 Negative Emissions Commitment , which aims to spend at least double in these areas compared with what it pays for carbon offsets. Stripe Climate, launched in October, is an attempt to address a chicken-egg problem by driving up adoption for CO2-removal services that are, for now, prohibitively expensive for other companies. Online merchants can divert a portion of each sale toward carbon sequestration, and show that off to downstream shoppers at the point of purchase. Unlike with offsets, there’s no tit-for-tat estimate of how many GHG tons may be involved, which is intentional. The billionaire bibliophile has a side publishing effort, Stripe Press , which tries to further “ideas that we think can be broadly useful” toward shaping “the world of tomorrow.” João Paulo Ferreira, CEO, Natura &Co Latin America; São Paulo LinkedIn | Company profile From its cosmetics direct-sales origins in 1969, Natura &Co has matured to swallow up Avon, the Body Shop and Aesop. The Brazilian company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange one year ago, sells beauty and biodiversity as intertwined. Its mission: to offer products that “promote the harmonious relationship of the individual with oneself, with others and with nature.” Working under group CEO Roberto Marquez, João Paulo Ferreira’s Latin America CEO position has overseen the heart of the original business since 2016. The electronic engineer and MBA spent 19 years as a supply chain vice president at Unilever before joining Natura in 2009. In 2019, Ferreira urged Brazilian leaders to protect the fire-scarred Amazon rainforest, from which so much megadiversity — and Natura’s product base — derives. Ucuuba berries used in a moisturizer, for example, are more lucrative for local residents to collect and sell to Natura than chopping down the trees for timber. “But you have to do this in an orderly way that conserves the local culture, including traditional know-how, and adds value to the communities involved,” Ferreira has said. In the past decade, Natura has planted several hundred million dollars toward rainforest protection and sustainable development. Full traceability for palm oil, mica, paper, alcohol, soy and cotton is due in 2025. The company’s “Commitment to Life” vision for 2030 includes net-zero GHG emissions by 2030, and raising by 7.4 million acres the 4.4 million acres it protects in the Amazon. Natura, which issues a regular environmental profit-and-loss statement , went carbon-neutral in 2007 and became the first public B Corporation in 2014. Furthering fair wages and closing the gender gap is another goal, as is embracing circular principles. It’s throwing $100 million toward biotech solutions for repurposing waste and improving plastics; regenerative agriculture in deforested zones; and building up markets for biological ingredients. Beth Ford; President & CEO; Land O’Lakes; Arden Hills, Minnesota LinkedIn | Company profile Best known for its butter — and the Native American logo it retired last year — Land O’Lakes is also a 21st-century force in technology. Beth Ford is cultivating agtech at scale to optimize yields sustainably across the 150 million acres it touches in every state. Farmers are “the original environmentalists,” she said in July. “The way we think about sustainability is data-enhanced decisions.” Land O’Lakes is a cooperative owned by some 300,000 farmers, who were already struggling before COVID-19 upended supply chains. Toward its bid to accelerate regenerative agriculture and aid farmers, one acre and data point at a time, the company recently partnered with Microsoft on a multi-year effort to hasten innovation and boost rural broadband. Microsoft’s cloud architecture eventually will house Land O’Lakes’ data tools including Truterra , which tracks impacts on soil , air and water from no-till, cover crops and fertilizer management practices, as well as WinField United r7 software that uses satellite imagery and geolocated data. Raised in Iowa, Ford became the only openly gay Fortune 500 CEO in 2018. She came to the co-op from International Flavors & Fragrances in 2012 as supply chain and operations executive vice president and became COO several years later. Ford’s resume spans industries, including time at Mobil Oil, PepsiCo and Scholastic. Ford is on the board of directors at the Business Roundtable, Consumer Goods Forum and U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Logan Green, Co-founder and CEO, Lyft; San Francisco LinkedIn Logan Green has cited growing up with Southern California traffic and carpooling as a student in Zimbabwe for inspiring the launch of Zimride in 2007. He was fresh out of a business economics bachelor’s program in Santa Barbara and a stint as the youngest director on the local Metro Transit District board. Zimride merged into Lyft in 2013, its vehicles announced by a fuzzy pink “grill-stache.” By 2019, the company counted more than a billion total rides, with 2 million annual drivers in more than 650 U.S. and Canadian cities. In June, Lyft set a course to move toward 100 percent electric or other emission-free vehicles by 2030. That’s in the vehicles that Lyft drivers own, as well as the company’s Express Drive rentals for drivers and its eventual Level 5 self-driving fleets. The ride-sharing brand positions this as a radical shift that will benefit communities, partly by reducing pollution. Working with the Environmental Defense Fund, Lyft predicts it will prevent the release of tens of millions of metric tons of GHG emissions and avert the consumption of a billion tons of gasoline. Lyft’s IPO filing in 2019 exposed contradictions between its goals to “redesign our cities around people, not cars,” and the traffic congestion its rides have caused. Among other challenges, Lyft’s scooter rentals mostly have flopped, but the company isn’t giving up on micromobility. And its LyftUp effort seeks to meet transportation needs in underserved urban communities. Ridesharing demand crashed with COVID-19, and Lyft became part of the frontline delivery and medical access infrastructure. With holes in the gig economy torn open, Lyft tried to keep some drivers working by partnering with Amazon, and paid some time off due to virus exposure. Although they laid off nearly 1,000 employees, Green and co-founder John Zimmer declined their own pay. The company has played the self-described “woke” foil to market leader Uber. “We care” is what sets Lyft apart, Green has said. Lyft’s first ESG report reaffirmed as much in July, also showing that working conditions for its diverse driver base top the list of stakeholder concerns, alongside community safety and emissions. Mauricio Gutierrez, CEO, NRG; Houston LinkedIn | Company profile After the contentious exit of David Crane , who was leaning hard into the disruptive power of renewables, COO Gutierrez became CEO overnight in 2015. The company has since whipsawed between its wholesale-energy legacy of fossil fuels and greener horizons. To mollify shareholders, NRG shed its renewables business and EVGo vehicle-charging infrastructure. However, like Crane before him, Gutierrez is wise to the macro trends that favor clean energy, and has called sustainability “the glue that keeps all of our stakeholders working together toward a common goal with purpose.” In 2019, Gutierrez issued a new goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, expecting to reach it halfway by 2025. NRG in December issued a $900 million sustainability-linked bond, which it called a first for a North American company. Motivated to decarbonize, digitize and customize, Gutierrez has been advancing an integrated-power strategy to bring generation and retail together. Rather than invest capital directly in renewable-energy projects, he wants NRG to provide long-term contracts that improve their financeability. Gutierrez joined NRG from Dynegy in 2004 as an energy portfolio director. The engineer holds master’s degrees in mineral economics and petroleum economics. An outspoken advocate for racial justice, Gutierrez has urged companies to take action on social issues that matter to stakeholders, and to be honest that the playing field is not level. “We cannot create equity value if we do not take care of our employees or if we don’t serve our customers and their communities,” he said in June. Helena Helmersson, COO, H&M Group; Stockholm LinkedIn | Company profile Helena Helmersson may be the first former CSO to ascend to the top job at a major corporation, signaling H&M’s designs to further stitch sustainability and equity into operations. She’s also the first woman, succeeding longtime CEO Karl-Johan Persson one year ago. Joining H&M in 1997 in the buying department, Helmersson wound her way through the company, moving from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Hong Kong to Stockholm. A vocal advocate for purpose in retail, she oversees 126,000 employees and 5,000 storefronts in 74 countries, with a complex supply chain network. The H&M model embodies some big contradictions. It helped define fast fashion, yet is in the vanguard of circular innovations in apparel. It strives to improve conditions for garment workers and improve transparency, yet still attracts activist ire. H&M seeks by 2030 to become fully circular, eliminating waste and adopting sustainable and recycled materials , and has partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation since 2018. Helmersson views engaging consumers as the key, and the company is working on the Higg Index with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to improve industry labeling. H&M is among the first apparel giants to enable product take-back for any garment and to prioritize reducing toxic chemicals in manufacturing. In 2019, customers returned 29,000 tonnes of worn clothes in exchange for 15 percent discounts, beating company expectations. Pure cotton and polyester can be downcycled into insulation and other things. H&M forged a five-year partnership in November with RenewCell to produce millions of pieces of clothing from Circulose, a pulp made from used cotton fabric. The H&M Foundation and CO:LAB venture capital arm share a focus on advancing textile recycling. More broadly, the company is moving toward a “climate positive” value chain by 2040, embracing science-based targets. It is already at 96 percent renewable energy toward the 2030 goal of 100 percent. Ilham Kadri, CEO, Solvay; Brussels LinkedIn | Company profile The first woman to lead a major European chemical company, Ilham Kadri has called chemistry “the mother of all industries.” Directing operations in 64 countries from the EU capital, she seeks to catalyze circular models and take Solvay far past its 1863 roots as a soda ash producer. “Without industry there is no reinvention and without reinvention there is no future,” the chemical engineer and physics-chemistry Ph.D. said in December . Kadri launched Solvay’s One Planet sustainability framework of “climate, resources and better life” last year, 11 months after becoming CEO. With some $12 billion annual sales, the company’s eclectic mix of products includes coatings, solvents and binders for electric car batteries; lightweight composites for airplanes; recycled polyamide for apparel and sustainable vanillin for chocolate. Solvay seeks to double revenues from renewable or recycled solutions and count 65 percent of its products as sustainable by 2030 — also closing the loop on energy and resources in its plants; extending life cycles and optimizing consumption within its supply chains. It uses blockchain to trace sourcing in India for guar, used in shampoos. The company is an Ellen MacArthur Foundation partner, including in a collaboration with Veolia to close the loop on lithium-ion EV batteries. Other circular approaches include making vanilla flavoring from discarded rice husks and reusing hydrogen peroxide for paper production. Solvay repurposes wastewater from dairy production in the United Arab Emirates to cool cows in arid fields. Kadri, raised in Casablanca, was previously CEO of hygiene tech company Diversey and counts management experience at Sealed Air, Dow and Shell. She brings an international perspective and an embrace of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and has worked in the U.S., UAE, Switzerland and France. Mark Mason, CFO, Citi; New York City LinkedIn | Company profile In May, Mark Mason flung open a door that’s rarely unlatched on Wall Street by publishing a wrenching company blog post against systemic racism. Its first words, 10 times repeated, were the last spoken by police brutality victim George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.” Unusual for a finance chief, the message is one that Mason felt necessary for Citi’s 204,000 employees and the world at large. Yet “words are not enough.” So Citi threw its heft behind a $1 billion, three-year Action for Racial Equity initiative supporting Black homeownership, entrepreneurship and professional development. Mason, who was raised in Queens, is one of the few senior Black executives in banking, at Citi since 2001 in a slate of leadership roles including CEO of Citi Private Bank. He also leads Citi Ventures Initiatives, which invests in efforts to “help people, businesses, and communities thrive.” Citi Impact Fund investments include waste-to-fuel company, smart water management and 3D printing companies. Startups in the area of “access to capital and economic opportunity,” for which $50 million has been earmarked, are “coming soon” on the website. Citi positions environmental sustainability and racial justice as intertwined, seeking to be the finance leader in low-carbon solutions, and Mason holds the purse strings. In 2019, it followed an inaugural €1 billion bond with a $1.5 billion U.S. bond. The bank recently added circular economy and sustainable agriculture focus areas for its $250 billion Environmental Finance Goal, which it expanded from the original $100 billion goal that it met four years early. Lisa McKnight; Senior Vice President, Global Head of Barbie; Mattel; El Segundo, California LinkedIn | Company profile The cultural impact of the Barbie doll is hard to overestimate. Whether seen as innocent or insidious, she’s a prism through which generations of girls have shaped their self-image and aspirations. About six years ago, Lisa McKnight’s team found the blonde bombshell falling out of favor with parents. She set out to redirect and reposition Barbie as “the original empowerment brand,” touching on the icon’s origins as the invention of a 1959 mompreneur. As a result, today’s kaleidoscope of Barbies includes 176 dolls with 94 hairstyles, 35 skin tones and nine body types. She is a chicken farmer, a zoo doctor, a firefighter, a polar marine biologist, a park ranger and a political candidate. One in five is Black. Barbie is Rosa Parks, David Bowie and Susan B. Anthony. Barbie may have a wheelchair, no hair or vitiligo. On social media, she describes baking banana bread during quarantine and ponders why women overuse the word “sorry.” Barbie annual sales are soaring beyond $1 billion. What does this have to do with sustainability? When the world’s second-biggest toy maker plants the seeds for more inclusive play, the fruit may feed SDG No. 5 on gender equality. Empowering girls and women offers a multitude of carbon-reduction benefits. McKnight, at Mattel for 22 years after leading marketing at Gap, is working within the 91-year-old company’s greater shift to environmental sustainability. Mattel seeks for all products and packaging to comprise recycled or recyclable materials by 2030, and in June it brought sugarcane-plastic toddler stacking rings to market. Most of Mattel’s paper-based packaging is Forest Stewardship Council-certified. The toymaker seeks to cut normalized carbon emissions in half by 2028. Vasant Narasimhan, CEO, Novartis; Basel, Switzerland LinkedIn | Company profile “Vas” Narasimhan views this moment as the best to be alive, partly because science promises to advance health by unlocking genetic mysteries that have built up over 3.7 billion years of evolution. No wonder he keeps an ammonite fossil in his bag. Addressing health equity is a special focus area for Narasimhan, who cut his teeth as a public health doctor addressing malaria and HIV in developing nations. With 103,000 employees and 800 million people using its products, Novartis is at the forefront of exploring genetic and cell therapies for human health. A subsidiary is involved in an early-stage, gene-based vaccine for the novel coronavirus. “We all have to speak up in defense of really rigorous, well-defined science,” Narasimhan said in December. “If we lose that battle, the world will give up a lot of the gains that we’ve had and perhaps many we could have in areas like environment and climate change.” With erudite Narasimhan in charge, Novartis is buckling down to embed ESG into operations. In September, the company issued healthcare’s first sustainability bond, priced at $2.26 billion. In November it became the first European pharmaceutical company to meet 100 percent renewables through virtual power purchase agreements. The Swiss firm aims to reach neutrality in carbon, water and plastic by 2030 across its supply chain, and phase out polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in medical packaging by 2025. The charismatic “unboss,” as he has called his role, has been at Novartis since 2007, with a stint at Sandoz. Raised in Pittsburgh and one of the youngest multinational leaders, Narasimhan is fond of sharing books that inspire him on Twitter. He serves on the National Academy of Medicine and on boards including African Parks. Patti Poppe, CEO, PG&E; San Francisco LinkedIn | Company profile Patti Poppe has a grounded, straight-talking style, an inclination to see opportunities in crisis, and an embrace of innovation to enrich the triple bottom line. It’s easy to see why Pacific Gas & Electric snapped her up in November from Consumers Energy in Michigan, where she was on track to fold its coal and nuclear operations by 2040. “There are ways to make this clean energy transition that are additive, that are extraordinary,” she said in 2019. “We’ve got work to do; there’s no time to stand on the sidelines and hope and holler and think that somebody’s gonna do something about this.” As the California utility crawls out of a bankruptcy and restructuring, the human and environmental toll left by the epic wildfires it caused remain incalculable. Can PG&E earn back the trust of its 16 million consumers? A clue may be found in Poppe’s approach to a crisis. Rather than asking if something is possible, she advocates for asking, “What has to be true to bring it to fruition?” Consumers Energy CEO since 2016, she was praised for preventing a bigger emergency two subzero Januarys ago, after a fire at a natural gas compressor threatened energy transmission. The company texted residents to turn down their thermostats, they responded, and nobody lost heat. As for the slower-moving climate crisis, Poppe grabbed the opportunity of a generation to replace fossil fuels and phase in “modular” renewables. The industrial engineer even made energy efficiency enticing at Consumers, in May teaming up with Google to give away Nest smart thermostats to 100,000 customers. Poppe said she won’t abandon her coworkers or their communities during the energy transition, describing how career employees at a shuttered coal plant stayed at the company. Before working in energy, the Michigander spent 15 years in plant management at General Motors. She’s the first woman to move from one Fortune 500 CEO office to another. Linda Rendle, CEO, Clorox; Oakland, California LinkedIn | Company profile One million Clorox wipes, prized during the pandemic, were rolling off the company’s assembly lines each day in 2020. The company cleaned up in sales, and it’s going on an advertising offense. It’s up to new CEO Linda Rendle how aggressively Clorox will lead its 8,800 employees on sustainability. Joining the America Is All In pledge supporting the Paris Agreement in December is an early indicator. One of Rendle’s tasks for 2021 will be to complete a 100 percent renewable electricity goal for Clorox’s U.S. and Canadian operations. Rendle is the first woman in the job as of September, and the 38th female CEO on the Fortune 500. Promoted from president, she has risen steadily over 18 years through a series of vice president titles in supply chain and operations. Rendle has shunned social media. Visa cited her strategy- and brand-building experience when it welcomed her to its board in November. In August, the 98-year-old company joined the U.S. Plastics Pact, and it aligned in 2019 with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy commitment. Clorox seeks to prevent plastic waste and pollution in packaging, pledging to halve its use of virgin plastic and fiber by 2030 while doubling PCR recycled plastic. By 2025, it wants to achieve 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging. (None of that addresses closing the loop on the synthetic wipes themselves.) The bleach and Brita filter maker is also phasing out PVC and supporting emerging refill models. Its recyclable Glad food bags and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing are available through the innovative Loop reusable packaging service. Clorox reportedly seeks to build on its legacy of “natural” products, burnished when it bought Burt’s Bees in 2008, and in its own formulation of the Green Works line of household cleaners. Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems LinkedIn | Company profile As CEO since 2015, Chuck Robbins has earned accolades for taking Cisco’s corporate responsibility to new heights while keeping the enterprise hardware brand nimble in the cloud computing era. In 2016, he issued an edict to positively affect 1 billion people by 2025. Last year, he set a new corporate purpose: “To power an inclusive future for all.” The company and its foundation have pledged more than half a billion dollars toward coronavirus relief. Cisco pledged $50 million in 2018 to address Silicon Valley homelessness and sponsors numerous programs and competitions to bridge digital divides and reward planet-positive technology innovations. Because Cisco’s technologies underpin many of the world’s “webscale” data centers, its advances enable a more energy-efficient, less emissions-intense internet. Its efficient $1 billion Silicon One architecture, for instance, squeezes more bandwidth out of routers. Since 2007, Cisco has reduced its GHG emissions by 55 percent since 2007. It has almost reached the goals for 2022 of 85 percent renewable electricity globally and 87 percent energy efficiency for its rack-mounted hardware. Robbins, who joined the company in 1997, also has led a top-down shift calling on the 75,000 employees to embrace circular principles such as modular designs in all products by 2025, building on Cisco’s seasoned product takeback and remanufacturing programs. He serves on the board of Ford Foundation, is a Business Roundtable member and has called himself “the ultimate optimist.” “OK, how is it that a kid who lived on a dirt road in Georgia has become CEO of a major tech company?” he said in 2019. “And I just realized that we have to run a good business, but there’s more to it. We need to take advantage of the power we’ve been given.” Ulf Mark Schneider, CEO, Nestlé; Vevey, Switzerland Company profile In 2020, Nestlé’s Haagen Dazs ice cream, Nescafé and Purina pet food flew off store shelves. The world’s biggest food company also created vegan “tuna” and tweaked its plant-based Sensational burger. In September, the Coffee mate maker opened an R&D test kitchen for sustainable dairy products and vegan “meats.” Ulf Mark Schneider, CEO since 2017, likes to boost markets in areas he’d like to accelerate. The German-American MBA sees the bottom-line benefit for “Creating Shared Value” and improving livelihoods across 2,000 brands in 189 countries. Last month, Nestlé announced it will sweeten its climate-mitigation efforts with $3.6 billion toward regenerative agriculture into 2025. Working with farmers supports the company’s goals to eliminate its environmental impact and slash emissions in half by 2030, reaching net-zero by 2050. “This is a time when people increasingly look towards business as a force for good and making something happen, so this is our part and we are fully committed to playing that part,” Schneider said in September. As for closing the loop, Schneider is leading Nestlé toward 100-percent recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025. The CPG giant in 2019 created its Institute of Packaging Sciences and joined the New Plastics Economy as a core partner. Nestlé last year released Nespresso pods with 80 percent recycled aluminum. The bottled water seller knows that whether an item actually gets recycled is at the mercy of regional infrastructure, so it’s funding efforts to improve recycling technologies for vexing materials such as films, bags and bubble wrap, including a pilot effort with a curbside-pickup recycling plant in Pennsylvania. Here too, Schneider seeks to nurture an early market, buying 2 million metric tons of food-grade recycled plastics at a premium of close to $2 billion. Harmit Singh, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Levi Strauss & Co. LinkedIn | Company profile Long an influencer in style and sustainability, Levi Strauss pioneered low-water techniques to finish and weather jeans, and its Screened Chemistry program led to removing hazardous chemicals from its supply chain. Then it open-sourced these innovations for the benefit of wider industry. “At Levi’s, it’s not only important what we make but how we make it,” Harmit Singh told GreenBiz in 2017, describing how sustainability was first embraced to mitigate risk and since has become core to the fabric of Levi Strauss’ values. After joining Levi’s in 2013, Singh visited its factories in Turkey and India. “How companies conduct themselves — if they are committed to clean water, if they treat workers well, if they are good stewards of natural resources — means a great deal to those communities,” he said in 2019. “The visit cemented my sense of how important this work is.” Thirty years after Levi’s launched its supply chain code of conduct to support apparel workers’ well-being, the company is moving toward circular models across design, sourcing, manufacturing, use and reuse. The new, recyclable fabrics it has developed include single-fiber nylon and recyclable denim for its Wellthread line of jeans. From the New York Stock Exchange podium, Singh cheered on the company as it went public in March 2019 for the second time. Espousing Levi’s tagline of “profit through principles,” he helped to establish the U.S. chapter of Accounting for Sustainability. Singh joined the denim maker after driving growth as CFO at Hyatt Hotels in Chicago and Yum! Brands and Pizza Hut in Dallas, with previous work in Singapore and Delhi. Bob Swan, CEO, Intel; San Jose, California LinkedIn | Company profile Bob Swan describes 2020 as the most important year yet in Intel’s history, as COVID-19 drove a “digital transformation on steroids.” In May, he issued three sweeping global challenges for technology to meet, which require outside collaboration and come with measurable benchmarks: revolutionizing health and safety; boosting social inclusivity; and making computing carbon-neutral. The more people analyze, capture and process data, the more the company must advance transistor density — a fitting challenge, given that Moore’s law began in the mind of Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. Intel seeks to build the world’s most efficient computer, neutral in carbon, water and waste. It has boosted manufacturing waste recovery and reuse by 275 percent over the past three years. “It’s very important for us that purpose isn’t something that goes on the wall and social responsibility isn’t something that goes in a report; so they’re one and the same,” Swan said in December, entering his third year as CEO. Bringing his ample CFO experience from Intel, eBay, GE Lighting and even Webvan, Swan underscores how integrating sustainability and carbon neutrality benefits customers, investors and communities. Intel’s RISE acronym covers responsibility, inclusion and sustainability — the “e” being its enabling technologies. The company met most of its 2020 goals along those lines, reaching global pay equity, keeping a workforce whose gender and minority makeup reflects that of the greater labor market and raising spending with diverse suppliers to $1 billion. Next up: doubling the number of women and minorities among its leadership by 2030. Applying artificial intelligence and cloud technologies, Intel is establishing a Global Inclusion Index open standard for hiring across industries. Intel AI for Youth seeks to bridge the digital divide in STEM education. Also ahead: Intel seeks to become net-positive in water by 2030, also achieving 100-percent renewable power, zero waste to landfill and net-positive water. Carol Tomé, CEO, UPS; Atlanta LinkedIn | Company profile Imagine leaving retirement just in time to guide UPS through a pandemic. Carol Tomé became her industry’s first female CEO on March 12. Nine months later, she oversaw the company’s first shipments of the earliest Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, which must be pampered at close to negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Tomé’s talk of putting people first jibes with the UPS position of linking sustainability with social responsibility. (Its foundation backed nonprofits with several million dollars following spring’s racial justice crisis.) Tomé spent 24 years as Home Depot CFO, sometimes working the night shift in the retail stores, and continued to give store workers bonuses during the 2008 Great Recession. “To impact people, help them get to their highest potential,” Tomé told Fortune in October. “I view that as job No. 1. Job No. 2 is to get the stock price moving.” Under her guidance, UPS is moving forward on an ambitious partnership with London-based Arrival for 10,000 purpose-built modular electric vehicles — a sharp turn from UPS’s fleet history that began with a used Model T. The companies, which already had worked together in Europe on a pilot project, soon will be sited only several hours apart. UPS Ventures also made a minority investment in the Arrival, which seeks to build micro-factories to speed production.UPS has aligned with other sustainability innovations recently, such as its exclusive partnership on the 2019 launch of Loop , the zero-waste service for goods delivering groceries and other packaged goods. Topics Leadership 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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Closed Loop Partners teams with Walmart, CVS, Target to take on the plastic bag

July 24, 2020 by  
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Closed Loop Partners teams with Walmart, CVS, Target to take on the plastic bag Deonna Anderson Fri, 07/24/2020 – 01:15 Single-use plastic shopping bags are a real problem. They take decades to break down but nearly 100 billion of them are used in the United States every year to cart away goods from retailers. Fewer than 10 percent of those are recycled  — often winding up in landfills and waterways because many recyclers don’t accept them . Now, Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy is partnering with Walmart, CVS Health and Target to address that problem. Their $15 million joint Beyond the Bag Initiative  — similar to a previous collaboration focused on redesigning cups — will focus on creating solutions that reinvent shopping bags and that more effectively divert single-use plastic bags from landfills.  “By coming together to tackle the problem, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation and the commercialization of sustainable solutions,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer for Walmart, in a statement. “We hope the Beyond the Bag Initiative will surface affordable, practical solutions that meet the needs of customers and reduce plastic waste.” Together these companies and others — Kroger and Walgreens, along with Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy as environmental advisory partners — make up the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. By coming together to tackle the problem, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation and the commercialization of sustainable solutions. “A main focus of what we do at the center is bring together corporations, nonprofits, industry groups, and others to create unexpected partnerships of competitors, to bring them together to collaborate on challenges that really no one organization can solve in isolation,” said Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. The consortium’s goals include diverting single-use plastic bags from landfills and scaling solutions that would serve the same function and replace the retail bag, through this three-year partnership. It plans multiple approaches. The first approach, which Daly named as a backbone of the initiative, centers on reimagining the design through an Innovation Challenge with OpenIDEO. That effort, which will begin accepting applications Aug. 3, will seek innovative ways to “reinvent” the retail bag. It’s open to all sorts of solutions from students, scientists and companies of all sizes, because Daly acknowledges that there will be no one silver bullet solution that will solve the plastic retail bag problem.  “Some of those [solutions] might be new material, others might be entirely new approaches to transporting what we purchase from stores to our home,” Daly said. “There might be tech-enabled or AI-enabled solutions that we haven’t learned about yet.”  Once the search ends, the group will select about a dozen winners to join the Beyond the Bag Circular Business Accelerator, which will involve mentoring, capital investment, testing and piloting. Whichever solutions win and become scalable, Daly said, “It’s really important that these options be accessible and inclusive to all the different communities across the United States.” The retail partners, which have locations across the United States, should be able to make that happen. Back in 2018, the center — along with founding partners McDonalds and Starbucks — launched its NextGen Cup Challenge, which had the goal to reduce disposable coffee cup waste. Daly said the center is taking lessons learned from that effort into this new challenge.  One of those learnings was that extensive testing is critical. For the NextGen Challenge, Daly said the group asked questions such as, “Does [the cup] hold liquids up to a certain temperature Fahrenheit? Can you comfortably hold the cup? Does the lid work with the cup? Does the coating stay on the cup? Does the coffee leak through the bottom?” For the bag reinvention, it will ask similar questions centered on identifying potential performance issues, such as: “Does the bag break?” And if it’s a new, bagless way of transporting goods, “Does it effectively prevent any sort of breakage or leaks?”  It’s really important that these options be accessible and inclusive to all the different communities across the United States. In addition to performance, the consortium plans to do environmental testing on the types of materials being used across all applications, ensuring that the materials used for a given solution — even if it’s reusable — can be recovered through recycling infrastructure. That brings us to another approach the consortium is exploring with the Beyond the Bag initiative: investments in recovery infrastructure. Daly said the group wants to ensure that the solutions — no matter which form they take — align with the recovery options at their end of life. In addition to the design and infrastructure approaches, the consortium already has started learning more about consumer behavior when it comes to plastic bags — this is another of its four approaches. It’s been asking customers about their pain points and preferences when getting their goods from a store to their homes. “We know how important it is to bring our customers along on our sustainability journey, keeping in mind that most are looking for convenience with minimal environmental impact,” said Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president for corporate social responsibility and philanthropy and chief sustainability officer at CVS Health, in a statement. As they continue their journey, the consortium partners share a sense of urgency in addressing the issue of plastic bag waste — that’s why these unlikely collaborators are working together and acting as a collective. “We see the importance of sending a unified market signal as being really critical if you’re going to have systems-level change, and address long-standing environmental challenges,” Daly said. “The nature of bringing competitors together can help reframe the issue beyond short-term fixes and alternatives to long-lasting, systemic solutions that really take a holistic approach from production to use to reuse to recovery.” Pull Quote By coming together to tackle the problem, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation and the commercialization of sustainable solutions. It’s really important that these options be accessible and inclusive to all the different communities across the United States. Topics Circular Economy Plastic Plastic Waste Innovation Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Source:  Emilija Miljkovic Shutterstock Emilija Miljkovic Close Authorship

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Closed Loop Partners teams with Walmart, CVS, Target to take on the plastic bag

Pharrell Williams debuts The Pebble, a recyclable dining kit

July 22, 2020 by  
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Pentatonic, a circular economy company focused on removing single-use plastic products from the marketplace, partnered with acclaimed singer and outspoken opponent of single-use plastic Pharrell Williams to launch a portable dining kit made from  recycled materials.   Better known for his “Happy” music, Williams is equally passionate about finding alternatives to  single-use plastic , which is on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the estimated 20-35% increase in single-use waste, Williams has ignited the i am OTHER brand by joining forces with Pentatonic to bring The Pebble by OTHERWARE to the market.  Related: This sleek, reusable cutlery set can fit right inside your pocket The idea is simple and effective: a mobile dining kit that includes a fork, knife, spoon, straw and chopsticks. The entire set easily folds away into a compact egg or pebble that fits into a purse, backpack or briefcase for reuse,  eliminating waste . Utensils can be washed by hand while backpacking or added to the dishwasher at home. “Our team has been super concerned about the seemingly unstoppable flow of single-use plastics, especially around  food and drink . So we decided to get together with Pentatonic to do something about it, in a fresh, creative and relevant way. The goal is that the pebble makes it easy for people to take their first step towards eliminating single use plastics,” said Darla Vaughn from i am OTHER. The Pebble uses entirely recycled materials, including CDs, a nod to Williams’s other industry, and polypropylene from used food packaging. At the end of the kit’s life cycle, it can be recycled. Pentatonic will trade back the product and repurpose the materials into another product for a full zero-waste circle. While Williams brings a recognizable name to the collaboration, Pentatonic boasts noteworthy accomplishments too. The company reports that it “is the world’s leading circular economy company, which focuses upon removing the single use from consumption. It designs and manufactures high quality products as a standalone brand and in collaboration with a broad range of partners including Starbucks , Snarkitecture, Burger King, New Era, The Science Museum and Heron Preston.” And now, Pentatonic can add Williams to the list. The newly launched collection features a limited-edition yellow colorway to support YELLOW, INC., a non-profit foundation established by Williams. All i am OTHER proceeds from OTHERWARE sales will be donated to YELLOW, INC. + Pentatonic  Images via Pentatonic

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Pharrell Williams debuts The Pebble, a recyclable dining kit

Transform to Net Zero: Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks team up on corporate climate alliance

July 22, 2020 by  
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Transform to Net Zero: Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks team up on corporate climate alliance Cecilia Keating Wed, 07/22/2020 – 00:20 A clutch of major multinational corporates including Microsoft, Danone, Nike, Unilever, Starbucks and Mercedes-Benz together have launched a new forum dedicated to sharing resources, tactics and strategies aimed at speeding up the business community’s transition to net zero.  The Transform to Net Zero initiative launched Tuesday will see members of the coalition — which also include Danish shipping giant Maersk, Indian information technology company Wipro and Brazilian beauty company Natura & Co — collaborate on research, guidance and roadmaps to help businesses slash their carbon emissions in line with a 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming trajectory. The group, which expects to complete its work by 2025, aims to encourage businesses around the world to adopt science-based climate targets that address the environmental impact of their full value chains, sometimes known as Scope 3 emissions. They also have committed to share information on investing in carbon-reduction technologies and to collectively push for public policies that accelerate the net zero transition. Microsoft president Brad Smith said that the initiative would help companies at all stages of their decarbonization journey turn climate commitments into “real progress” towards net zero. The business world of the future cannot look like it does now. “No one company can address the climate crisis alone,” he added. “That’s why leading companies are developing and sharing best practices, research, and learnings to help everyone move forward.”  The nonprofit business network BSR is serving as the initiative’s secretariat and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is also assisting with the initiate as the single non-corporate member. EDF president Fred Krupp said that the initiative held “huge potential” to address growing disparities between corporate talk and action on climate change. “The new initiative holds tremendous potential for closing these gaps,” he said. “Especially if other businesses follow in the coalition’s footsteps, leading by example and using the most powerful tool that companies have for fighting climate change: their political influence.”  The founding members confirmed that they would make all findings public and encouraged other companies to sign up over the weeks, months and years to come. Many founding members of the Transform to Net Zero initiative already have set their sights on achieving net zero emissions. Consumer goods giant Unilever has committed to achieving net zero across its value chain by 2039 while Microsoft has committed to an industry-leading goal of becoming “carbon negative ” by 2030, replacing more carbon into the atmosphere that it generates.  Meanwhile Unilever CEO Alan Jope also welcomed the launch of the new forum. “The business world of the future cannot look like it does now; in addition to decarbonization, a full system transformation is needed,” he said. “That why we’re pleased to join other leading businesses as a founding member of Transform to Net Zero so we can work together and accelerate the strategic shift that is needed to achieve net zero emissions.” Pull Quote The business world of the future cannot look like it does now. Topics Commitments & Goals BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Illustration of a smokestack Shutterstock cubicidea Close Authorship

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Transform to Net Zero: Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks team up on corporate climate alliance

COVID-19 disrupts recycling programs across the US

July 7, 2020 by  
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The pandemic is impacting yet another part of our world: recycling programs. The recycling industry is being riddled by budget shortfalls, an increase in single-use items and a shortage of centers open to receive reusable items. Since people have become more cautious about person-to-person transfer of COVID-19, single-use items are increasing. Many stores have banned reusable bags, and places, like Starbucks, aren’t refilling customers’ personal coffee cups. Restaurants have upped their use of plastic takeout packaging. Related: Starbucks suspends personal cup use because of coronavirus But most people are staying home, where they generate more garbage . The Solid Waste Association of North America noted a 20% average increase in solid waste and recycling in March and April, and some cities have reported even higher increases. Chicago’s waste has gone up by almost 50%. People are suddenly finding it harder to recycle and reuse. Spring cleaning became a popular pandemic activity, but charity stores weren’t open to accept donations of household goods. Meanwhile, many municipalities responded to severe budget shortfalls by axing their recycling programs. The U.S. recycling problems predate the pandemic. Since 2018, when other countries stopped buying poorly sorted recyclables and dirty food packaging from the U.S., recyclers have been strapped for customers. China used to buy up to 700,000 tons of scrap from the U.S. every year. Compounding that, oil prices are at the lowest they’ve been in decades, pushing the cost of virgin plastic down and making it less profitable to recycle plastics like PET (#1) and PE (#2 and #4). COVID-19 has also changed waste collection. Waste companies have come up with new procedures to protect workers from disease exposure while handling trash and recyclables. Recycling requires hands-on sorting, because machines aren’t as skilled as people at making sense of the collection stream. As companies try to minimize germ contact, they’re slowly improving automation. While recycling is down, the full picture of the pandemic and waste is not yet clear. “Historically, waste output from the commercial and industrial sectors has far outweighed the municipal stream,” co-authors Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland, a professor of materials science and engineering and a PhD candidate in macromolecular science and engineering, respectively, wrote on EcoWatch . “ With many offices and business closed or operating at low levels, total U.S. waste production could actually be at a record low during this time. However, data on commercial and industrial wastes are not readily available.” Via EcoWatch Image via Manfred Antranias Zimmer

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COVID-19 disrupts recycling programs across the US

Appalachian Trail spared from Atlantic Coast Pipeline

July 7, 2020 by  
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Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. have canceled the controversial 600-mile-long Atlantic Coast Pipeline that the companies planned to build under the Appalachian Trail. The  energy  giants called off the $8 billion project “due to ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty which threaten the economic viability of the project.” This news comes as a win for the environmentalists who have spent years fighting this disruption to the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The pipeline’s route was supposed to start in the gas fields of Harrison County,  West Virginia , then travel southeast through Virginia, ending in Robeson County, North Carolina. This route would have crossed both the Appalachian Trail and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway. Related: Dakota Access Pipeline placed under environmental review Anti-pipeline activists took their battle to the Supreme Court, striving to preserve nature and protect local  endangered species . In June, the court ruled in favor of the utility companies. So, the pipeline cancellation announcement came as both a surprise and cause for celebration. “Its effective defeat today is a huge victory for  Virginia’s  environment, for environmental justice, and a testament to the power of grassroots action, the hundreds of driven, determined, frontline advocates who never stopped fighting this misguided project,” Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. Greenpeace also weighed in. “Duke and Dominion had hoped to carve up beautiful mountains, ignore catastrophic climate change, and delay a just transition to renewable energy to build this pipeline, but, thanks to the courageous activists who stood up to them, they have failed,” the organization said. But not everybody was rejoicing. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued a statement of regret, insisting the pipeline would have been safely constructed and that the surrounding areas would have been protected. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce also lamented that the estimated 17,000 jobs the  pipeline  project would have created will not come to fruition. “Unfortunately, today’s announcement detrimentally impacts the Commonwealth’s access to affordable, reliable energy,” the chamber said in a statement. “It also demonstrates the significant regulatory burdens  businesses  must deal with in order to operate.” + Huffington Post Images via Fibonacci Blue

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Appalachian Trail spared from Atlantic Coast Pipeline

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