UK launches world’s largest ocean monitoring system

April 6, 2021 by  
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The U.K. government, under the  Blue Belt program , has announced its plan to install underwater camera rigs for monitoring ocean wildlife in its overseas territories. The entire project will be funded by the U.K., making it the largest ocean monitoring system in the world. The Blue Belt program covers over 4 million square kilometers of ocean space, which the U.K. government has pledged to protect. Today, only 7.65% of oceans are categorized as  protected areas . Unfortunately, most projects that target ocean wildlife protection only focus on major landmarks. According to Jessica Meeuwig, a professor at the University of Western Australia and co-creator of Blue Abacus, the project shifts attention from major landmarks to other areas of the ocean . Blue Abacus is a project partner and helped develop the technology known as Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS), which will be used to monitor marine life. Related: 30 new marine species found in Galapagos’ deep seas Meeuwig explained most people assume that ocean wildlife is okay just because they can’t see what’s happening. By installing a network of underwater cameras, she noted that it will help document changes that happen to ocean wildlife. A study carried out in January revealed that the  population of sharks and rays  has fallen by 71% since the 1970s. The main causes of population reduction have been identified as overfishing and climate change. Other studies have also raised alarm over declining species including yellowfin and bluefin tuna. More and more research shows the need for protecting our oceans. “The marine wildlife living along the coastlines of our Overseas Territories is some of the most spectacular in the world and we must do more to protect it,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “Cutting-edge technology, such as these cameras, will be vital in our crusade against climate change . Our marine experts are world-leaders in protecting our ocean and the myriad of species that live within it.” U.K. Minister for the Environment Lord Goldsmith said that the U.K. is committed to tackling global challenges such as ocean biodiversity loss and climate change, among others. He continued, “These UK-funded underwater video cameras will provide a wealth of information on the biodiversity in the seas around the Overseas Territories, including on globally threatened species of shark and migratory fish, like the bluefin tuna.” + Gov.uk Via Huffington Post Images by Marine Futures Lab, University of Western Australia via Gov.uk

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UK launches world’s largest ocean monitoring system

Leaking wastewater pond causes state of emergency in Florida

April 6, 2021 by  
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A leak in a wastewater pond caused a state of emergency in Manatee County, Florida last weekend. More than 300 homes were evacuated in case the reservoir at a former phosphate mine collapsed. If the 400 million-gallon reservoir were to totally collapse, residents could face a 20-foot wall of water in less than an hour’s time. To avoid a burst reservoir, authorities drained the untreated wastewater into surrounding waterways. Gov. Ron DeSantis reassured the public in a press conference Sunday that the water wasn’t radioactive. He said it was primarily salt water “mixed with legacy process water and stormwater runoff.” Related: Study finds US tap water is contaminated with dangerous chemicals If you’re wondering what “legacy water” is, you’re not alone. An article on legacy pollutants from the University of Southern Maine describes them as “contaminants that have been left in the environment by sources that are no longer discharging them such as an old industry that has since left the area.” (Such as a phosphate mine.) Officials are pumping out 33 million gallons of the reservoir water per day. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the drained water “meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen. It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern.” The state and governor plan to hold HRK Holdings, who bought the site in 2006, accountable for damages due to the reservoir emergency. But the trouble with the site precedes the current owner. In 2020, one article described the reservoir as “one of the biggest environmental threats in Florida history” and outlined controversies all the way back to the ‘60s. HRK filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after an expensive gypsum stack liner leak in 2011. “It could have been resolved two decades ago,” said Manatee County’s Acting County Administrator Scott Hopes, as reported by Huffington Post. “What I’ve seen in the past four days from the governor’s office is that all agencies and entities are now committed to a permanent resolution.” Via HuffPost and NPR Image via Jemzo

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Leaking wastewater pond causes state of emergency in Florida

Matter of opinion: What the 2021 Earth Day polls reveal

April 6, 2021 by  
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Matter of opinion: What the 2021 Earth Day polls reveal Joel Makower Tue, 04/06/2021 – 02:11 For more than a decade, this has been the time of year — the run-up to Earth Day — when I’ve surveyed the public opinion polls, of which there have been many, to assess consumer and citizen trends on environmental issues, notably related to shopping. I started doing this in 2007 and, with a few exceptions, continued it annually through last year . This year, I’m changing it up, for several reasons. First, the number of polls has continued to dwindle. For whatever reason, pollsters, and those who commission them, aren’t as interested in understanding consumers’ green sentiments. Or, to the extent they are, they’re conducting these polls privately, not for public consumption. (That also suggests that fewer companies are interested in being seen as thought leaders on green consumer issues.) The second reason is that these polls rarely change, a drum I’ve been beating for decades . In general, a large swath of consumers — typically, two-thirds to three-fourths — claim they are ready, willing and able to make green choices at home and when they shop. The reality, of course, suggests otherwise. So, even when the surveys are new, the insights aren’t. (Is it any wonder that I once suggested that the whole green marketing thing may not be worth the effort?) Third, the pandemic has roiled just about everything. More shopping is done online, which can make green shopping habits easier (by enabling us to find and buy products not sold in our local shopping haunts) and harder (by creating barriers to inspecting products and scouring labels). For example, despite nearly every survey showing that a sizable majority of consumers want to reduce their own plastic waste, the pandemic has necessarily increased the use of single-serve and disposable products and packaging. It will be interesting to track how those habits shift as we enter the post-pandemic era, but for now consumers aren’t willing to trade their own health for that of the planet. Some of the more interesting survey findings come from groups who seem more credible than consumers — or, at least, have fewer incentives for virtue-signaling. Beyond all that, some of the more interesting survey findings come from groups who seem more credible than consumers in their opinions — or, at least, have fewer incentives for virtue-signaling. Economists, for example. Consider a recent global survey conducted by the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, focused on climate change risks and their related costs. Nearly three-quarters of the 738 economists around the world who responded said they agree “immediate and drastic action is necessary” to address the climate crisis. Fewer than 1 percent said climate change is not a serious problem. Of the economists surveyed, about three-fourths (76 percent) said the climate crisis likely or very likely will have a negative effect on global economic growth rates. And 70 percent said climate change will make income inequality worse within most countries, with 89 percent saying it will exacerbate inequality between high- and low-income countries. There’s good news for companies and policy makers here: 66 percent of economists agreed “the benefits of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 would likely outweigh the costs,” compared with just 12 percent who disagreed. As the report noted: “Costs are often cited as a reason to delay or avoid strong action on climate change, but this survey of hundreds of expert economists suggests that the weight of evidence is on the side of rapid action.” The people speak One citizen poll I found credible and intriguing, and without any apparent preconceptions or agendas. The Peoples’ Climate Vote , the largest survey of public opinion on climate change, polled 1.2 million people, including half a million younger than 18, across 50 countries, covering more than half the world’s population. The survey, conducted by the United Nations Development Programme and the University of Oxford, was distributed across mobile gaming networks in order to include audiences hard to reach through traditional polling. The results reveal a strong global appetite for climate action. For example, in eight of the 10 survey countries with the highest emissions from the?power sector, most respondents backed?more renewable energy. In four of the five countries ?with the highest emissions from land-use change, there was majority support for?conserving forests and land. Nine of 10 of the countries with the most urbanized populations backed?more use of bicycles or electric vehicles. Young people (under 18) are more likely to believe climate change is a global emergency than other age groups, but a substantial majority of older people still agreed with them. Nearly 70 percent of under-18s said climate change is a global emergency, compared to 58 percent of those over 60.  Of course, there can be a yawning gap between respondents’ stated desire for change and their willingness — and that of their political leaders — to implement said change. But political action starts with public demand (at least in theory), so it’s an encouraging sign. The corporate view And then there’s the global survey of business leaders conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Navex Global, a firm that provides risk and compliance management software and services. It found most corporate managers and executives say their companies are falling short when it comes to meeting their goals, objectives and commitments on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Although an overwhelming majority of respondents (81 percent) said their company has a formal ESG program in place, they did not express a high level of confidence their organization was following through as measured against its own standards. Only 50 percent said their company performs very effectively in meeting its environmental goals; only 37 percent rated their company’s performance as “very effective” on social issues. That feels like an honest appraisal, more so than most survey results by purportedly green-shopping consumers. And, as I’ve pointed out in the past, it once again raises the issue of who’s really greenwashing here — everyday consumers who swear they are engaging in responsible habits in their daily lives but aren’t, or companies that have set meaningful commitments, are measuring and reporting against them annually and are pretty candid about how they’re doing? Let’s just say that as yet another Earth Day approaches, there’s plenty of room for improvement on everyone’s part. I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote Some of the more interesting survey findings come from groups who seem more credible than consumers — or, at least, have fewer incentives for virtue-signaling. Topics Consumer Trends Public Opinion 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 photocollage  

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Matter of opinion: What the 2021 Earth Day polls reveal

Extinction The Facts explores the global extinction crisis and its consequences

April 5, 2021 by  
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When Sir David Attenborough talks, we listen. That’s why we just couldn’t miss the March 31 premiere of “Extinction – The Facts” presented by PBS . Lifelong broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough talks viewers through the consequences of the global extinction crisis along with some of the world’s leading scientists and wildlife experts. The report not only reveals how serious the situation has become but also what it means for humans. For a more timely spin, the documentary goes into how global extinction can put us at greater risk for pandemic diseases like COVID-19. Most importantly, the documentary gives solutions as to what we can do to change the current course. Biodiversity loss Biodiversity refers to the variety of life found on Earth, including plants, animals and micro-organisms. Each of these species and organisms form unique communities and habitats, working together in various ecosystems to maintain balance. Related: The connection between coronavirus and wildlife exploitation The United Nations brought 500 international scientists together in 2019 to investigate the current state of our natural world, only to find that the planet was losing biodiversity at a rate never seen before in the history of humanity. The results were unexpected and unprecedented; there were at least 1 million plant, animal and insect species threatened with extinction at a rate 100 times faster than their natural evolutionary rate. The numbers are nearly split, between about 500,000 insects and 500,000 plants and animals, with populations growing smaller by the day. “Extinction is a natural process,” explained professor Kathy Willis, a plant scientist at the University of Oxford. “Things come, they grow, their populations get huge and then they decline. But it’s the rate of extinction; that’s the problem.” When scientists look at previous groups in fossil records, extinction happens over millions of years. Today, we’re looking at tens of years. Since 1970, vertebrate animals — such as birds and reptiles — have declined by a total of 60%, while large animals have disappeared from three-quarters of their historic ranges. Professor Elizabeth Hadly, a biologist at Stanford University, said one of the most concerning aspects of this decline is that it’s happening simultaneously around the world. “In the Amazon, in Africa, in the Arctic ; it’s happening not at one place and not with one group of organisms, but with all biodiversity, everywhere on the planet.” James Mwenda, a conservationist at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, is the caretaker for the world’s last two living northern white rhinos, a species that once numbered in the thousands throughout Central Africa. “Many people think of extinction being this imaginary tale told by conservationists, but I have lived it. I know what it is,” he said in the documentary. As a caretaker, Mwenda watched the northern white rhino population go from seven in 1990 to just two today, a mother and daughter named Najin and Fatu. A subspecies of the white rhinoceros, the northern white rhino was pushed to the critically endangered list due to hunting and habitat loss. “They’re here because we betrayed them,” he said sorrowfully. “And I think they feel it, this threatening tide of extinction that is pushing on them.” Losing entire portions of the planet’s individual species is tragic enough in itself, but the crisis encompasses much more than that. All of biodiversity is interlocked on a global scale, and the planet needs all parts of it to function properly. Humans are not outside of those ecological systems by any means. For example, a loss in insect species can put pollination at risk, which in turn puts food production at risk, affecting both humans and animals alike. Human influence The documentary also examines the ways that humans are driving biodiversity loss. Things like overfishing, deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade are the biggest contributors, but there are also less obvious threats like consumer-driven demand for products like clothes, which can cause pollution in their production. The illegal wildlife trade has become a multibillion dollar global industry over the last 20 years. Increased income in certain countries like China and Vietnam, where endangered animal parts may be seen as a status symbol or used for medicinal purposes, is one of the largest drivers. Pangolins, for instance, represent the most trafficked animals in the world, and the demand for their scales is directly responsible for their declining numbers. The scale of global overfishing has dramatically increased as well. In some parts of the world, limits on ocean catch aren’t regulated. Scientists have seen declines in larger predator fish as their food supply dwindles due to overfishing, so the impact on marine ecosystems is widespread. The link to pandemics The connection between the natural world and pandemic diseases is closer than most people might expect. History is full of them, from Ebola to SARS, and, of course, COVID-19 . Even worse, if biodiversity continues on its current path, we will see more (and possibly worse) epidemics in the future. After every pandemic, scientists look back to try and figure out where it came from and what could have caused it. According to Dr. Peter Daszak of Ecohealth Alliance, they’ve found that humans are directly or indirectly behind every one of them. In a press release for the special, Attenborough said that while hope is not lost, the time to act is now. When he visited the mountain gorillas of Rwanda 40 years ago, they were on the brink of extinction with just 250 individuals left. Thanks to decades worth of conservation from the local government and communities, however, there are now more than 1,000. “Over the course of my life, I’ve encountered some of the world’s most remarkable species of animals,” he said. “Only now do I realize just how lucky I’ve been. Many of these wonders seem set to disappear from our planet forever. We are facing a crisis and one that has consequences for us all, but it’s not too late. I truly believe that together we can create a better future, if we make the right decisions at this critical moment.” + PBS Images via PBS

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Extinction The Facts explores the global extinction crisis and its consequences

California farmers find ways to work with less water

April 5, 2021 by  
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Water scarcity due to persistent droughts in California’s Central Valley is forcing scientists and farmers to find innovative and sustainable ways of utilizing this precious resource. Through collaboration, the community has found ways of reusing water several times in a bid to fully tap into its benefits. The process of conservation and recycling starts just a few miles downstream of all major rivers and streams in the state. With the main source of water for the Central Valley being the Sierra Nevada snowpack, the community relies on a series of infrastructures to utilize the water every step of the way. Structures such as the Pine Flat Reservoir are vital to the plan of minimizing water use. Related: Is high-yield vertical farming the future of agriculture? The reservoir serves as a hydroelectric power station point, utilizing the speed of the free-falling water to turn turbines to generate electricity for the region. Given that hydroelectric power is a greener source of electricity, locals ensure that they have cut down reliance on fossil fuels. Further into the Central Valley, the same water is put to use by farmers who utilize technology to minimize water use. Famers collaborate with local institutions such as the Fresno State Center for Irrigation Technology to adopt sustainable irrigation methods. “So we have basically three essential functions,” said Charles Hillyer, director of Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology. “We do field testing and technology. We do research relating to agriculture specifically for irrigation, and then we have a laboratory that tests and certifies equipment for different research experiments that are all testing different aspects of water use efficiency. One is focused on a product that may reduce consumptive use of water .” Hillyer further explained that irrigation has become mandatory to all farmers in California because of droughts . As a result, they have to adopt methods of sustainable agriculture. “So irrigation matters to everybody who eats in California ,” Hillyer said. “That’s why sustainable production practices are important because this is how we’re going to continue to feed ourselves and the rest of the world.” From training irrigation managers to finding new, sustainable methods of irrigation, Central Valley farmers will have to adapt to the reality of climate change . But Hillyer noted that the future for sustainable water use is bright. “My hope is that this institution will continue as it has done in the past to generate research and pure science research that is useful not only to agriculture but other scientists,” Hillyer said. Via ABC7 Image via Mia S

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Loyola University

April 1, 2021 by  
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Loyola University taylor flores Wed, 03/31/2021 – 19:58

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It’s time to speed up the sustainability shift

March 23, 2021 by  
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It’s time to speed up the sustainability shift Katie Thompson Levey Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:45 “I am discovering a whole new respect for chief sustainability officers,” I texted the facilitator of Leading the Sustainability Transformation . I was general manager of a mock company, Rio Negro Bioproducts, with the express goal to transform it from a traditional business to a sustainable one — economically, environmentally and socially — over a 20-year period compressed into a 10-week virtual simulation.   Powered by leadership readiness firm, WholeWorks through the University of Victoria, the simulation teamed me up with global counterparts, ranging from leaders at Griffith Foods and Plant Tech Alliance to designers, consultants and a former Airbnb executive. We assumed the roles you would expect at a manufacturing site designed to supply a global market — supply chain, operations, HR, marketing, sales, IT, EHS — as well as the roles sometimes considered “fringe” but that are in reality critical success factors such as government officials (a local mayor) and civil society (an NGO leader). We strove to adhere to Rio Negro’s vision and meet aggressive triple bottom-line targets as major systemic issues hit its operations — geopolitical tensions and natural disaster brought on by climate change. We did this all while facing, relentlessly, shareholder demands for their expected return on investment. Companies are under immense public and competitive pressure to change — to positively contribute to problems that seem nearly impossible to solve including climate change, racial inequity, an increasing cultural divide and the global pandemic. Where should a business begin?  The Leading the Sustainability Transformation is an opportunity to experiment with sustainable transformation — and accelerate the implications — both the good and the bad. Here are my lessons learned. 1. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation — embrace the mess A common cultural expectation of managers is to know the answer in advance, to be confident and ready to move. Researcher Brene Brown has long pointed out vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. If it’s genuinely uncomfortable, why embrace it? Real innovation requires walking into the unknown — sometimes alone, sometimes with others. It requires you lead by acknowledging what you don’t know and inviting others along with you.  Sustainability is about aligning different departmental agendas and incentives, for which you have varying degrees of subject matter knowledge, to create a cohesive strategy. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable — to take risks — can open up business opportunity. Build an environment where individuals can introduce unproven or partial ideas that may not even make sense yet but have the seeds of something great.  But how do we create the conditions for this kind of environment? Applying the idea: Ask questions, rather than answer them. One person doesn’t need to have all the answers, and together with the knowledge of those around you, solutions can emerge that aren’t immediately obvious. When facing a particularly thorny problem, slow things down. Give people a chance to dwell more, instead of racing to the answer. 2. There are no absolutes — hypothesize, learn and adjust When approaching systemic problems, you’re heading into a situation that’s naturally messy. It’s not quite clear where you’re going with it, so by definition, there cannot be one right universal or pre-determined answer. In some ways, the answer is the path you forge with the unique communities or stakeholders you’re working with to do that. “Systemic problems affect people in so many different ways, there’s no one way to frame or define it. You can’t say at the onset this is one way to do it and we will know the solution when we’re done,” points out Matt Mayberry, Whole Works founder and designer of the LST curriculum. This principle of always starting from a place of acknowledging uncertainties was an ongoing refrain throughout the course. At times, I thought something was absolutely the right answer, only to be reminded through the experience of my colleagues that I could see only one part of the whole picture. Even when I served in the most senior team role of senior vice president, blind spots were not in short supply. While perception often seems like hard facts, in reality, it’s often a subjective set of assumptions. Applying the idea: Frame activities as experiments. Be upfront about your assumptions, uncertainties, and potential blind spots. This accelerates learning.   Move in shorter, faster intervals. What’s the easiest experiment you can do to test if what you think is aligned with where things really are?  3. Have the courage to fail and take personal responsibility for it Fail fast, learn and adjust. It’s a popularized notion, but it takes courage to fail. A less popular concept? Failure doesn’t feel good! Who wants to be in a high stakes situation and fail? Individuals and teams, for the most part, want to achieve their goals. Yet it’s inevitable: To create something that hasn’t been done before, you will fail along the way. At one point in our simulation, I, along with a couple of others, made an operational call early on that took us a hypothetical decade to recover from. Those of us who made the decision said, “We feel awful about this, but we made this decision and these are the impacts.” The decision cost a lot of money. Thankfully, it was hypothetical. Taking responsibility for the failure helped us move through it, learn and adjust. At one point, we thought our team wouldn’t recover. By acknowledging it in a provenly safe environment, our team helped others quickly learn from our failure. Applying the idea: Build an environment where individuals feel safe enough to acknowledge when an activity doesn’t meet expectations. Model taking personal responsibility by doing so if you experience failure. This sets the stage for others to do so. 4. Lead by asking what works Cross-functional teams perform better when they focus on peak experiences and best practices compared to teams that focus on problems and gaps. Groups initially characterized by dysfunction and defensiveness can be revitalized and energized through an approach called Appreciative Inquiry.  The Appreciative Inquiry approach asks what gives life to a system, what keeps it most healthy and alive. Ask questions about what’s working well and what are the possibilities of building on that. This creates a different frame than asking what is broken, who or what is causing it, and how it can be fixed. This approach does not suggest blindly ignore problems. It means leading by observing what is already giving healthy life to a system. “When we focus on problems, we start from a hole that we must crawl our way out of” was a key principle pointed out by Mayberry during the course. “Unfortunately, when working with a group, creating a shared negative view of the world tends to lead us to dig ourselves even deeper. This is not an inspiring place to be if you’re trying to imagine a better future and think of creative ways to make it a reality.” Applying the idea: When a group is faced with a difficult challenge, ask questions about what’s working well, what might be, and what should be? Frame an opportunity in a way that opens things up to a collaborative approach. Include the whole system in the room. Include stakeholders outside your immediate sphere of sight, such as those on the “fringe” — the poor, weak, isolated, non-legitimate and non-human (other species). This is part one of a two-part series. Keep an eye out for the next installment about strategy. The next Leading the Sustainability Transformation Professional Certification takes place April 19-June 27, with registration due by April 12. Learn more here. Topics Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Whyframe Close Authorship

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China’s new frontier for VOC regulations

March 23, 2021 by  
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China’s new frontier for VOC regulations Shuying Xu Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:15 As the global economy reawakens after the COVID-19 shutdown, air emissions and VOC enforcement in China remain a hot topic. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) combine with nitrogen oxide to create ozone, a key precursor to smog. Over the past several decades, public health and environmental concerns have made controlling smog a top national policy goal in China and enforcement an increasingly critical issue for companies to navigate. Industries getting particular focus when it comes to VOC management in China include electronics, packaging and printing, pharmaceuticals, petrochemical, chemical, industrial coating, oil storage and transportation. In March 2020, for example, China’s State Council announced four national requirements for VOC content in adhesives, coatings, inks and cleaning agents widely used in the electronics and electrical industry; the stringency and implementation of these mandates may have a significant impact on production and business risk moving forward. Implementation of these standards is scheduled to start in April. For any company operating in or with significant supply chain exposure to China, building an understanding of the national and local regulatory landscape and best practices related to VOC mitigation recently has become a vital step to reducing the risk of business interruption arising from environmental enforcement that began in 2016 . Air emission reform in China More than a decade ago, national policies laid the groundwork for reducing air emissions in China. In 2010, the Central Government of China integrated the “Guideline on Strengthening Joint Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution to Improve Air Quality” into its 12th Five Year Plan. This enshrined into law China’s first air emissions management plan and formalized an approach to regional collaboration. The Law on Prevention and Control of Air Pollution, also known as the ” Air Law ,” was updated in 2015 (and again in 2018) to direct local governments in key regions to form emergency response plans for heavily polluting weather conditions. When energy use surges in the autumn and winter seasons, particulate matter and ozone increase to  dangerously high levels. Strategies include tackling large networks of smaller companies, which emit up to 60% of VOCs in China, and penalizing non-compliant companies by lowering their ‘social credit’ rating. The 2018 Three ? Year Action Plan for Winning the Blue Sky Defense Battle narrowed the scope of air emission management by focusing on the rectification of key regions and industries and establishing a goal of reducing 15 percent of emissions by 2020 (Chinese) , compared to 2015 levels. Strategies include tackling large networks of smaller companies, which emit up to 60 percent of VOCs in China , and penalizing non-compliant companies by lowering their “social credit” rating. For the past 15 years, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) has collected and analyzed publicly disclosed environmental quality and pollution source records from hundreds of local governments and corporations across China. IPE’s online data analysis tool shows that while the total number of regulatory violations in China decreased across industries between 2016 and 2020, the proportion of enterprises with air emission issues, including VOC violations, has increased year over year. The overall decline in total violations across industries has been attributed to increased transparency among local governments and a 2016 spike in factory inspections (and shutdowns) that took place across China: The 2016 wave of enforcement actions resulted in renewed effort by companies that hadn’t been shut down to take regulatory concerns more seriously since then. Targets for regulation The unique regulatory demands and opacity of local governments, which can insist on short-term, emergency action to reduce emissions, can be a challenge to navigate. Yet, a predictable pattern gradually has emerged in how authorities determine non-compliant behavior. First, industries that emit or consume large quantities of VOCs are prioritized. Companies from such key VOC-emitting industries will be honed in on regardless of specific processes, consumption rates or volume of emissions. Second, authorities focus on specific companies within these industries that are large emitters and key industrial processes (coating, painting, printing, etc.) at those companies. Third, regional and local governments adjust reduction measures according to a factory’s environmental performance level. For example, if a total emission reduction goal of a region or city can be achieved, the least polluting companies may take reduction measures voluntarily (and not necessarily fully in accordance with regional guidelines) — while all others will be required to strictly follow reduction requirements Local governments maintain and, in many cases, publish lists that rank factories according to their performance level. Factories with substandard performance are required to monitor emissions and make the results available to the public, not dissimilar to the U.S. The contents of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and National Pollution Discharge Permit (PDPs) also may be used to determine if and how many VOCs will be generated when a factory completes a construction project or when a factory is fully operational. In a PDP, the maximum volume of VOC emissions that a factory can emit is stated. This number is calculated based on EIA documents, periodic factory monitoring and online monitoring data of a factory. Environmental capacity Local authorities have the ability to not only implement emergency restrictions during heavily polluting weather conditions but also may apply controls if total annual emissions by factories surpass regional emission caps. The Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), a United Nations advisory body, describes the concept of environmental capacity as “a property of the environment and its ability to accommodate a particular activity or rate of an activity … without unacceptable impact.” Environmental capacity is widely used in China to define acceptable limits for the amount of pollutants produced or discharged into the atmosphere. Each region has its own capacity and local governments determine quotas for each factory. If no quota is available for a factory to construct, rebuild or expand the operation, they are generally prohibited from proceeding. Examples of best practices Once companies are identified and included in a governmental list, authorities can require industries and factories to set up online pollutant monitoring that is connected to the local authority’s supervisory system. Such systems are typically designed to capture instantaneous VOC emission data. While some multinationals with operations in China — such as Toyota and General Motors — have begun to establish VOC reduction goals comparable to their GHG emission reduction goals, efforts to address VOC emissions within industrial supply chains and operations remain varied and limited. Companies from key VOC-emitting industries will be honed in on regardless of specific processes, consumption rates or volume of emissions. Innovative practices often can be found at the local level. The municipality of Shanghai, China’s largest city, is often a leader in this regard. Shanghai offers an example of a municipal government that has established a long-term protocol for VOC emission management, aligning with the goals of the national Blue Sky Defense Battle. As part of its “One Factory, One Control Plan” (Chinese), Shanghai provides a comprehensive list of methods (and projected timelines) for reducing VOC emissions across 29 diverse industries, ranging from ink and adhesives to PVC and synthetic fiber production. Two industries that emit significant quantities of VOCs and have extensive supply chains in China are the electronics and cleaning agent industries. Shanghai outlines specific governance tasks for reducing VOC emissions along various stages of production. Selected examples of required and recommended actions include: For electronics production: Use powder or water-based coatings and UV curing processes. Use electrostatic spraying. Use automated and intelligent spraying equipment in place of manual application. Adopt processes in which coatings, thinners and cleaning agents are prepared, used and recycled within sealed storage and production spaces. Transport coatings, thinners and cleaning agents in closed pipelines or containers. Collect and treat wastewater in a closed process. For cleaning agent manufacturing: Specify limits on the use of chemicals such as methylene chloride, trichloromethane, formaldehyde, benzene and toluene and xylene, among others. Replace solvent-based cleaning agents with water-based and semi-aqueous alternatives. Reduce airflow around cleaning equipment; reduce the flow of liquid from items that are being cleaned. Designate rooms specifically for cleaning, exhaust air collection, and treating cleaning exhaust. Recycle cleaning solvents. Use activated carbon absorption; record the temperature, regeneration period and replacement amount of activated carbon. While this article provides select examples of steps being taken by companies and municipalities, corporate industry goals and action plans for VOC reduction remain unclear and inconsistent. The requirements and policies of VOC management in China are dynamic and growing more stringent both nationally and locally. Part of the challenge for global companies is understanding and interpreting requirements, identifying the potential for high-risk interruption and determining economical and environmentally responsible actions that can mitigate or avoid these risks. Furthermore, unique policy is being formulated according to the needs and specialties of different regions, industries and factory conditions. Companies that have responsibility for facilities and supply chains in China can benchmark against these to better understand their regulatory and business interruption risks. Pull Quote Strategies include tackling large networks of smaller companies, which emit up to 60% of VOCs in China, and penalizing non-compliant companies by lowering their ‘social credit’ rating. The 2016 wave of enforcement actions resulted in renewed effort by companies that hadn’t been shut down to take regulatory concerns more seriously since then. Companies from key VOC-emitting industries will be honed in on regardless of specific processes, consumption rates or volume of emissions. Contributors Christopher Hazen Topics Chemicals & Toxics Policy & Politics COVID-19 China Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A regenerative thermal oxidizer unit in China. Image courtesy of Greenment

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China’s new frontier for VOC regulations

Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change?

March 23, 2021 by  
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Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change? Terry F. Yosie Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:11 Unresolved debates about the past frame choices about who owns the future. America has arrived, once again, at another momentous inflection point to try and resolve some of the most contentious issues the nation has faced and largely failed to resolve — the narrative of American history and culture, the persistence of systemic racism, and continuing debates over women’s empowerment, personal freedom and sexual orientation. The ability to reconcile these significant challenges into a workable and equitable societal consensus will require many additional decades, but many institutions and individuals are implementing partial solutions. Among the most prominent are initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. Diversity is expressed through a variety of identities such as age, race, religion, sexual orientation and disability. Equity aims to provide everyone with access to opportunities and recognizes that advantages and barriers exist, while making commitments to address this imbalance. Inclusion results in individuals (and groups) with different identities feeling respected, accepted and valued. For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. In recent years, DEI has emerged as a distinctive field in governance and public policy that provides a key set of performance measures for economic and social progress. While originally separate from environmental sustainability, they now share common values to applying human capital towards resolving society’s most vexing inter-generational challenges, including access to health care, educational opportunities, and protection from toxic exposures and climate change. Evaluating DEI practices and performance Author Pamela Newkirk, in her comprehensive analysis “Diversity, Inc.,” has identified a core set of best practices within and beyond the workplace. They include: expanding recruitment through international outreach; identifying and removing hiring and promotion barriers; strengthening professional development opportunities; providing fair and equitable compensation; building an inclusive climate and culture; and applying business practices and accountability. Many companies already have grasped the significance of integrating DEI within their business strategies, governance, employee relations, operations, customer relations and engagement with external stakeholders. The range of their programs and initiatives vary considerably, a reflection of their market sectors but also of variable leadership commitments and inconsistent performance metrics. Leaders (as measured by Forbes and other surveys) currently include BlackRock, Duke University, HP, L’Oreal, Novartis, SAP and a variety of banking and healthcare companies. Even more striking than examples of corporate DEI leadership is information from lagging and failing companies and business sectors. The Wall Street Journal reviewed more than 160 annual reports filed by S&P companies for 2020. Only a third provided diversity disclosures. More specifically, GE reported that approximately 76 percent of its U.S. workforce was white as was 81 percent of its leadership. PwC declared that 60 percent of its employees were white. Sectors that are particular DEI laggards include academia, environmental organizations, fashion, journalism, museums, professional football and technology companies. Why has so little progress been achieved despite decades of implementing civil rights legislation, philanthropic activities, and more than $20 billion spent each year on DEI programs, conferences, consultants, surveys and training sessions? For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. Workforce composition may be insufficiently diverse to respond to DEI dynamics, thus limiting bottom-up pressures upon management (in contrast to much stronger employee engagement in environmental sustainability). Across many institutions, the motivation for maintaining even modest DEI activities stems from a desire to avoid legal risk from potential discrimination cases, or to communicate that “we care” about the issue. Beyond the issue of leaders and laggards remains the question of whether DEI, as presently designed and implemented, significantly advances racial and social justice. Dennis Kennedy, founder and CEO of the National Diversity Council, argues that the current focus of many DEI initiatives is unlikely to yield comprehensive commitments to social justice. His argument is that: DEI as presently constituted does not sufficiently explore the roots and explanations of systemic and institutional racism; bias training, diversity consulting and other initiatives were purposely implemented to avoid legal risk and public scrutiny and not to achieve social change; and DEI was introduced within public, private and non-profit institutions that provided limited authority, resources and power to effectuate change. Expanding the boundaries Through the political process, the marketplace and social dynamics, several factors have converged to motivate greater awareness and scope of DEI activities going forward. They include activities of: Government. At the national level, the Biden administration has expanded the scope of DEI initiatives: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced on February 24 that it will review public companies’ disclosure requirements on race and gender diversity and strengthen guidance on boardroom diversity. The acting chair noted that the results of the SEC’s voluntary program for companies to submit diversity self-assessments were “disappointing.” This follows an August 2020 SEC mandate that requires companies to begin disclosing information about their “human capital resources” that includes employee turnover rates and training programs. Companies already privately report diversity data to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and are under increasing pressure to make such information public. The White House has announced that disadvantaged communities will receive 40 percent of overall benefits from public investments in clean energy and infrastructure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking added funding for environmental justice initiatives to reduce the high exposure to unsafe drinking water supplies, toxic air pollution and hazardous waste from industrial facilities to low income communities and indigenous peoples. Investor community. Some trading houses and institutional investors are advocating that companies provide better information on workforce diversity, and they’re beginning to include such data in their assessments and rankings. Prominent examples include: On December 1, Nasdaq filed a proposal with the SEC to implement new rules that would require all listed companies to publicly disclose consistent, transparent data that measure board gender and racial diversity. It would require companies to have two diverse directors (including a female or one who self-identifies as LGBTQ+), or explain why this rule is not attainable. On December 20, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, announced that, beginning in 2021, it will seek expanded ethnic and gender diversity data for company boards and workforces. BlackRock stated that it will vote against company directors that fail to adequately respond to this expectation. State Street Global Advisors and Goldman Sachs also announced diversity measures for their clients. Talent recruitment and retention. Millennials and Generation Z employees and job seekers are increasingly utilizing Glassdoor (a leading social media platform about jobs and companies) and LinkedIn to evaluate current and prospective employers on their DEI performance. In September 2020, a Glassdoor survey reported that 76 percent of employees and those looking for jobs said a diverse workforce was important to their evaluation of companies and employment offers. Nearly half of Black and Hispanic workers and job seekers said they had quit a company after witnessing or experiencing discrimination at the work place. The bigger questions By 2045, white Americans are projected to comprise less than 50 percent of the population, and the labor force will become more diverse and older than at any other time in the nation’s history. These anticipated facts alone have intensified the “fear of losing advantage” for an already existing movement of hard core white nationalists and others sympathetic to their cause. In its present form, DEI represents a set of modest efforts for legal and institutional reforms but nothing close to a mass movement capable of resolving the widening crevices of American society and politics. Some major unresolved challenges for DEI proponents and all citizens and civil society institutions include: Will leaders across the spectrum of American institutions collaborate with the commitment, urgency and scale necessary to preserve the American democratic experiment in the coming decades? Do companies operating in America believe that a dysfunctional democracy and growing societal disharmony can provide clear and consistent rules necessary for their economic success? Can they become engines of egalitarianism and more equitable social mobility rather than of inequality? xCan public policy develop remedies to systemic racism that have historically impeded access to educational opportunity, environmental protection, health care, unbiased law enforcement, living wages and resource allocations for lower-income populations? Can white Americans be reassured that their constitutional freedoms will be preserved even as their relative size and influence diminishes in a growing multiracial, multigender society? Absent an ability to act with confidence and sustained urgency to achieve demonstrable progress in the next few decades, America will become increasingly bewildered about its own purpose and values. It will begin to hear, once again, the “fire bell in the night” that awakened and terrorized Thomas Jefferson early in the 19th century as he feared for the preservation of the Union. Pull Quote For many organizations, a direct DEI connection to their mission has not been made by leadership whose inattentiveness or nonreceptivity cascades downwards into the culture. Topics Leadership Diversity and Inclusion Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Diversity, equity and inclusion: Incremental reform or systemic change?

Your customers say there is a climate emergency and want you to act

March 23, 2021 by  
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Your customers say there is a climate emergency and want you to act Diane Osgood Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:00 The largest opinion poll on climate change found two-thirds of people around the world believe we are in a “global emergency.” Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between what people believe and what they do. As explored in this series of blogs, the intention-action gap creates an opportunity for brands and sustainability professionals to act. Here are some insights from the UN Development Program (UNDP) poll of 1.2 million people in 50 countries, representing more than half of the world’s population. The survey was conducted between October and December. (See graph below.) Strikingly, the study found that in every country surveyed, most people are very concerned about climate change. The U.K. and Italy came in at the top with 81 percent, the U.S. and Russia in the middle with 65 percent. Only one country scored below 55 percent: Moldova, with 50 percent. The intention-action gap gives rise to the opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers do better. The key finding is that the belief we’re in a climate emergency holds true across all countries: during the pandemic, across generations globally, and most strongly for individuals with post-secondary education. The poll results show that a generational divide exists, but it isn’t large. Younger people showed the greatest concern, with 69 percent of those aged 14 to 18 saying there is a climate emergency, while 58 percent of those over 60 agreed. A person’s level of education is the single most profound socio-demographic driver of belief in the climate emergency and need for climate action. Young or old, if your target market has post-secondary education, the majority seek climate action. I compared the UNDP findings to those of a just-released study in the U.S. by Brands for Good and the Harris Poll . While the two studies have different objectives, comparing the results provides useful insights. The UNDP study seeks public opinion on climate change and policy solutions. The study asked about specific potential government policies, not about what individuals do in their day-to-day lives. The Brands for Good–Harris Poll survey seeks to understand consumer intentions and actions towards sustainable lifestyles. It looks at nine indicators for sustainable living. It asked respondents specifically about the frequency of actions individuals take, rather than the level of their concern. Looking at the two survey results, the first thing that is obvious is that actions lag concern. UNDP found that 65 percent of Americans say we’re in a climate crisis, yet Brands for Good/Harris Poll found only 29 percent to 45 percent, depending on age range, saying they always or often try to behave in ways that protect the planet, its people and its resources. Clearly this large concern-action gap needs to be closed. How? By increasing the likelihood of citizens taking regular actions for a more sustainable, climate-friendly lifestyle. The comparison of the two polls shows that education is a key variable. UNDP found the respondent’s level of education to be the most profound driver of public opinion on climate change. In the U.S., the UNDP study found that 66 percent of people with post-high school education think we’re in a climate crisis. Brands for Good/Harris Poll determined that 42 percent of respondents with a four-year college degree will act more frequently in ways that “protect the planet, its people and its resources.” This compares with 34 percent of respondents who have a high school degree or less. The two studies also compared age ranges. Brands for Good/Harris Poll found the most responsive age for taking action is 25 to 44, whereas UNDP found their younger peers are slightly more concerned. Mind the gap The two studies confirm that citizens around the world share a strong interest in addressing climate change. But at least in the U.S., there is a major disconnect between concern and action. Looking at the U.S. data, UNDP found 65 percent of Americans saying they are very concerned about climate change, yet Brands for Good and Harris Poll found only 34 percent to 45 percent of most age groups regularly take action. Furthermore, Brands for Good and Harris Poll found gaps between respondents’ intentions and actions across all nine indicators. This means that an average of 20 percent to 30 percent of Americans are concerned we’re in a climate crisis but not actively addressing climate change and sustainability concerns in their daily lives. This supports results from earlier survey work we’ve undertaken and covered in this blog series. This gap gives rise to the opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers do better. Here are three examples of how brands help close the action gap. 1. Design low-carbon products and communicate clearly about what actions your brand is taking. Sneakers are a good example, with many brands making low-carbon shoes. For example, Ecoalf , Spain’s first B-Corp fashion brand, proudly uses recycled plastic and nylon in almost all of its designs and tells the customer exactly what goes into each product. Ecoalf reminds the wearer with a subtle stamp on the shoes and T-shirts, “Because There Is No Planet B.” At a slightly larger scale, Nike invites customers to follow its journey, step by step, towards net-zero emissions. Nike brings home the message by eloquently linking sports and climate change , enabling its customers to see themselves in the climate change equation. Evocative, smart, effective. 2. Help your customers use your products and services in the most energy-efficient, material-minimizing way as possible. Often, the largest part of a product’s carbon footprint occurs post-sale. It’s how customers use the product that matters. This is not a new approach. For example, 19 years ago Levi’s launched its “Care Tag for Our Planet” campaign, which included changing the care instructions to recommend cold wash, promote line drying and donate garments when they are no longer needed. The Care Tag saved unimaginable amounts of energy to heat water. Other clothing brands followed Levi’s lead. 3. Show your customers the carbon footprint of the product. With this information, customers can make better decisions. For example, at the retail level COOP DK, the Danish cooperative grocery chain, provides customers with carbon estimates for their purchase as a way to help nudge better decisions. COOP DK is no small fry in Denmark — it represents a third of the nation’s grocery market. At the product level, forerunner Oatly applies a carbon label as part of its brand positioning . Leon Restaurants announced a carbon-neutral veggie burger. They’ll soon be joined by Unilever, which committed to carbon labeling all 70,000 of its products. Carbon footprint labels are relatively new, and too few products carry such footprint information to enable apples-to-apples comparisons. It is too soon to know how much disclosing product-level information will affect consumer decision-making. I expect more brands will embrace product carbon labeling. I look forward to testing the effectiveness of this disclosure in changing consumer behaviors. What can your brand do? Join me in the conversation, in the comments below or at diane@osgood.com . Pull Quote The intention-action gap gives rise to the opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers do better. Topics Consumer Trends Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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