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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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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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

May 29, 2020 by  
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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept Heather Clancy Fri, 05/29/2020 – 02:15 If your sustainability team has regular debates about how to label or describe its various initiatives, it’s not alone. The nuances of all the various adjectives and descriptors that are used to describe climate action — from “science-based” to “net zero” to “carbon negative” — are enough to make heads spin, especially for those who spend their professional lives worrying about how to communicate these concepts. The analysts and journalists of GreenBiz feel your pain. So, it was hardly surprising when literally thousands of GreenBiz community members signed up for the recent webcast about “Absolute Zero,” moderated by yours truly. It was one of the best-attended sessions in the history of our online events.  Technically speaking, the literal definition of absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature that’s theoretically possible. From the climate perspective, the phrase is used frequently by UK Fires, a research collaboration between the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath and Imperial College London — although it’s not all that common (yet at least) in North American circles.  So how does this idea apply to the world of sustainability? Here’s the first thing to understand about the concept of Absolute Zero as it applies to corporate climate action: It’s not all about you, and it’s not all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s just the table stakes. The reality, though, is that any individual company must use a combination of strategies to inch or leap toward that goal — and the combination of what an organization is able to use will depend a great deal not just on its industry sector but also on its financial clout and support from the C-suite.  It might, for example, buy carbon offsets to kickstart action in the short term without delay, then move on to supporting initiatives that directly affect its operations, such as installing new technologies for energy efficiency or clean energy. From there, the focus for many companies often progresses into its supply chain — the place many corporate sustainability teams spend a lot of their time today. The most ambitious plans (at least right now) are those seeking ways to enable reductions for others on top of all that. Some organizations never may reach the last stage. But those that can should try, according to the speakers on this month’s webcast. “In a world in which we know some companies will not be able to reach net zero, it’s absolutely imperative that others who can reach it go beyond,” said Charlotte Bande, climate strategy lead for sustainability consulting firm Quantis. Bande said Absolute Zero (a concept that the firm is socializing with its clients) is the long-term guidepost that businesses should navigate toward — it encourages companies to maximize their individual contributions toward the vision of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. “Absolute sustainability is about making sure that society operates within planetary boundaries while satisfying human needs,” Bande said. Included in that should be strategies addressing biodiversity, land use, freshwater consumption, the phosphorus cycle and the nitrogen cycle, she noted. How might Absolute Zero apply to your own strategy? During the next 10 years — a period the United Nations Global Compact has dubbed the ” Decade of Action ” — companies must focus far more on mitigating their impact not just within their own corporate boundaries but within their entire value chain, including suppliers and customers, according to the speakers on the GreenBiz webcast.  That means paying far more attention to issues related to sustainable development, such as child labor policies, community water abuses or gender equity issues, said Owen Hewlett, chief technical officer of Gold Standard, a Swiss NGO that issues carbon credits.  “We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time,” he said. Offsetting versus insetting Hewlett devoted part of his presentation to a discussion about ” insetting ,” which he and Bande defined as activities within a company’s supply chain that can be counted toward science-based targets even though they are technically outside a company’s direct boundaries — such as addressing the emissions of suppliers in tiers one or two of a company’s supply chain.  In that way, insetting is distinct from the more broadly used process of “offsetting,” a term often used to describe the process of supporting projects focused on carbon removal in order to receive credit for the reductions that it enables.  For many organizations, the distinction is elusive, but many companies use the process of offsetting to kickstart their corporate emissions reductions. The idea of insetting is often associated with natural climate solutions , although it can be accomplished by any verifiable activity that mitigates emissions related to a company’s value chain.  We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. “The real test is this question: What does it count towards? If it’s in boundary, you can report it against science-based targets. If it’s outside boundaries, then it should be considered enabling reductions [for others]. Often, it’s a bit of both,” Hewlett acknowledged. One example of insetting is a program that the petcare divisions of food company Mars created to help wheat farmers improve their productivity and measure the carbon sequestration impact of activities such as reducing fertilizer usage and using cover crops and manures.  Apple’s program to invest in renewable energy for some suppliers is another illustration of an initiative that could be considered an example of insetting. (This example wasn’t used on the webcast, but it helps illustrate what’s possible.)   Leadership is a constantly moving target Focusing on reducing Scope 3 emissions that are upstream or downstream in a company’s value chain is a growing focus for sustainability teams in sectors such as food and consumer packaged goods — as is focusing on the creation of products and services that help other organizations, particularly customers and suppliers, cut their impact more broadly.  During the webcast, one of several polling questions probed attendees about where they thought it was possible to “maximize the potential” of their sustainable business strategies. More than half of those who responded during the live session said “enabling others to reduce” was where their largest future impact lies. The idea that companies have a responsibility not just for their own emissions but also for those of their customers and suppliers is being embraced by a growing number of companies, including Microsoft.   In January, the technology company publicly embraced a “carbon negative” climate strategy that will see Microsoft begin to charge its different business units an internal carbon fee for their Scope 3 emissions — it also does this for Scope 1 and Scope 2 impacts. It also committed $1 billion in funding to new technologies, innovations and climate solutions, with the intent of taking responsibility for past emission. “We really zeroed in on what we’re doing not only in our own operations but in our value chain,” said Elizabeth Willmott, carbon program manager at Microsoft, on the webcast. In a sense, successful companies and industrialized nations should bear responsibility for the climate impact of their economic sense, she said. “What is exciting is that it embraces the idea of net zero, but goes beyond,” Willmott said. While Microsoft hasn’t used the phrase Absolute Zero to describe this strategy, the carbon negative nomenclature has been used by others, including retailer IKEA, which actually adopted a similar philosophy in 2018. (IKEA now uses the term ” climate positive ” to describe its policy, as does Intuit, which is teaming up with Project Drawdown for help.  Regardless what they actually call it, the aim is the same: These companies intend to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they produce — because they have the means of doing so.  Microsoft considers the future impact of its products — particularly its cloud software services — as a key motivator for its recent strategy shift. In that sense, its climate policy is increasingly being embedded into core business decisions, including future “co-innovation” with both retail and enterprise customers.  “What is a leadership move today won’t be tomorrow,” Willmott said during the webcast. Pull Quote We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. Topics Corporate Strategy Carbon Removal Offsets Natural Climate Solutions Collective Insight GreenBiz 101 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

Residential energy is becoming companies’ business

May 29, 2020 by  
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Residential energy is becoming companies’ business Sarah Golden Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:45 In this crazy upside-down world, the line between residential and commercial energy is getting fuzzy.  Everything changed so quickly, it makes sense that climate and energy teams have yet to figure out how to account for the shift. But as companies such as Mastercard , Facebook and Twitter look at long-term remote work policies, working from home (WFH) is adding a new dimension to corporate carbon accounting.  And it’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy.  It’s still early days for companies thinking about WFH energy usages as part of their own greenhouse gas footprint. Right now, commercial energy use is still high , and it’s not clear when or which workers will head back to the office.  It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. According to Noah Goldstein, director of sustainability at Guidehouse, there also aren’t great calculations for what the GHG impact of working from home would be. The guidance is that the company is only responsible for “additional” energy use, but that is hard to determine without baseline calculations.  “I can foresee some companies accounting for WFH in their 2020 or 2021 footprint, but very, very few in number,” said Goldstein in an email.  Five companies with residential energy programs for the COVID era With people hunkering down at home as we enter a hotter than normal summer , residential demand response will be critical to keep energy affordable and clean(er).  The pandemic began in a shoulder month — meaning a time of year where heating and cooling demands are low as most of the country experiences temperate weather. With restrictions on movement still in effect, grid operators are preparing for air conditioners alone to strain our energy infrastructure. Demand response is a promising solution. According to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie, residential demand response would unlock more than 10 gigawatts of additional energy capacity. This would help utilities and states stay on track for clean energy goals and reduce energy bills at a time when households are struggling more than ever to make ends meet.  Here are five companies with updated offerings tailored to the COVID-19 era, designed to make residential energy use smarter as our homes become our office (and bar and restaurant and concert venue and movie theater…) 1. Google Nest partners with utilities Google recently announced its partnership with Consumers Energy to bring smart thermostats to up to 100,000 households in Michigan. According to its release , those who receive a thermostat will be enrolled in the utility’s Smart Thermostat Program, which shifts energy use to off-peak hours.  The partnership is part of Consumers’ Clean Energy Plan, which is striving to reach net-zero carbon emissions. Shifting energy use during peak times is key to staying on track.  This is just the first in a series of Google Nest’s partnerships. The company is expected to announce three more utility partnerships at the start of June.  Google isn’t the only company teaming up with utilities to gamify demand response. Logical Buildings launched its GridRewards campaign last month to encourage residents to reduce energy usage at key times. Logical Buildings partnered with a consortium of municipalities in Westchester, New York.  2. OhmConnect launches AutoOhms Last week, OhmConnect announced AutoOhms , its newest program that offers cash incentives for “timely, smarter energy use.” AutoOhm will power down energy-intensive connected appliances in 15-minute increments during peak energy times. Customers will receive a text message when peak rates are about to kick in and can select appliances to power down through an app. Through this “gamified” experience, the customer can actively see their energy savings.  The program is available for customers of California’s three big investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric.  3. Tesla Energy discusses Autobidder Always a big dreamer, it comes as no surprise that Tesla’s energy division has its sights on becoming a distributed global utility.  Tesla has been deploying distributed energy assets (think solar, electric vehicles, Powerwalls) while investing in grid-scale energy and storage projects. Now the company’s vision is to control these individual assets as one beast on its platform Autobidder . According to the website, Autobidder allows anyone with energy storage assets — be they EVs, solar plus storage, a home battery, anything — to engage in real-time trading and make additional money from the energy asset.  Apparently, Autobidder already has been (quietly) around for a few years, operations at Tesla’s energy storage facility in South Australia. With Tesla talking about the software, the company is likely hoping for wider adoption.  4. Leap Energy develops a demand response marketplace Leap, a newer company in the world of demand response, is working to create a marketplace to better monetize energy resources. Its vision is to engage connected energy resources that aren’t currently participating in grid flexibility — which, according to its CEO Thomas Folker, is about 90 percent of energy assets. “We are an aggregator of other aggregators,” said Folker in a phone conversation last month. “We don’t physically control any hardware, we don’t acquire any customers. We just provide the software that allows for this all to happen.” The platform allows for end energy users to bid on resources and automatically facilitates the exchange. Its users are demand response companies — such as OhmConnect and Google Nest — and works to increase the value of distributed energy resources while providing flexibility to the grid.  5. Span turns homes into microgrids New on the scene with a fresh round of Series A finance, Span bills itself as a smart panel company that works to integrate a home’s solar, energy storage and electric vehicle. It’s kind of like using a home’s energy assets as a microgrid.  Span’s selling point is energy resilience. The system works to keep power flowing to where customers need it in the event of a power outage, which, the company points out in a release , is of growing importance as California is looking at a future where shelter in place could overlap with planned power outages. (The company is initially focusing on California and Hawaii as key markets.) This increased level of control and connected energy assets also means users can rely on their own resources when the grid has more dirty energy.  This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Energy Efficiency Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Residential energy is becoming companies’ business

Starbucks Promises Resource-Positive Operations

May 1, 2020 by  
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In late January 2020, Starbucks announced a commitment to become … The post Starbucks Promises Resource-Positive Operations appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Starbucks Promises Resource-Positive Operations

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