Monday, April 26, 2010

Earth Day 2010: The Business of Green

The first Earth Day was in 1970, it was a grass roots movement by people seeking to protect our environment. Now many leading environmental advocacy organizations accept sponsorships from corporations and these partnerships are helping to change social behavior.

On Earth Day, businesses large and small play varying roles supporting the transition to more sustainable commerce.

Many companies are using Earth Day day as a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services. Businesses are using Earth day as an opportunity to inform their customers about their environmentally friendly initiatives but the business community is also increasingly leading the way in environmental innovation.

The Earth Day Network and Proctor & Gamble are collaborating on social networks. With the launch of the Billion Acts of GreenTM Facebook and iPhone applications, friends, family and followers are being asked to issue pledges of at least one "act of green" and share it with their Facebook network.

Greenpeace is working with technology giants like Cisco and Google to disseminate information on technologies like videoconferencing and "cloud" computing that can reduce a company's carbon footprint.

With the help of PepsiCo. NYC is reducing its impact on the environment in partnership with Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit organization, that is introducing "dream machines," recycling kiosks. These machines are meant to increase the recycling rates for beverage containers, which is estimated at only about 36 percent nationwide.

Other smaller enterprises are also taking part. Fore example, across the US gardening businesses went into schools to encourage children to grow vegetables or plants as part of the Earth Day celebrations.

Most businesses are keeping an eye on the demand for environmental offerings. Smart businesses are responding to those seeking greener poducts and practices.

Although we still have a far way to go, increasingly consumers and business are being drawn together by the kind of free market capitalism that will build a more sustainable world.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reigning in Irresponsible Oil Giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil

Big Oil is increasingly under scrutiny as the world is seeking cleaner sources of energy. The Obama administration is working on several fronts to reduce emissions and provide much needed oversight and regulation. Important financial and chemical reforms are being sought by US lawmakers and the EPA has put forward new mileage guidelines.

Although President Obama has denied any direct link, the SEC's fraud charges against Goldman Sachs are part of a new political climate and this is a reflection of the strength of the President's convictions.

In the context of this environment, social media based efforts are also underway to help reign in a couple of the many injustices of the oil giants.

Chevron is responsible for a catastrophe in Ecuador's rainforest known as the "Amazon's Chernobyl." Over the course of twenty-six years of oil drilling in Ecuador, Chevron deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the rainforest, leaving local people suffering a wave of cancers, miscarriages and birth defects.

Within the next year, the outcome of a court case sixteen years in the making will be determined by a court in Ecuador. Chevron has pledged that even if it is found guilty in court the company will not pay to clean up the site or provide health care, potable water and compensation to affected communities.

To demand that Chevron take responsibility for its actions in Ecuador, is circulating a petition intended for Chevron CEO John Watson telling him to clean up his toxic legacy in Ecuador.

The well know environment destroyer and denier supporter, ExxonMobil made a profit of $19.28 billion last year and avoided paying federal income tax by exploiting foreign tax shelters and taxpayer-funded giveaways.

Tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry make it harder for renewable sources of energy to compete in an open market. Sierra has organized a petition that asks Congress to phase out subsidies and tax breaks to Big Oil.

Our dependence on oil puts us in the dangerous position of being beholden to questionable regimes and powerful oil interests that have a proven track record of environmental degradation and political manipulation.

Through determined political leadership and a broad spectrum of social action we can encourage investment in renewable energy and begin the process of weaning ourselves off oil. Renewable energy can create green jobs, grow a sustainable economy, reduce our reliance on foreign oil and contribute to a cleaner environment.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Peak Oil

The world's oil supply is finite and many credible sources are counting down to the moment when demand exceeds supply.

As indicated in the CNA report "Powering America's Defense," there is a strong relationship between climate change, energy dependence, and national security. The report clearly states that continued reliance on fossil fuels creates “an unacceptably high threat level from a series of converging risks.” These threats include conflicts over fuel resources, destabilization driven by ongoing climate change, and threats to critical infrastructure. According to the report, dependence on foreign oil weakens international leverage, jeopardizes the military, and entangles the US government with hostile regimes.

In February 2010, the IISS held a workshop on climate change and energy security. Their discussion included a review of some direct threats due to climate change. Although participants were divided, some of those present put forth the idea that we could surpass ‘tipping points’ that could lead to rapid, dangerous changes.

The US Army is the biggest single user of oil in the world and according to a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years. Serious shortages are expected by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact. "By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report.

In February 2010, Ibrahim Sami Nashawi, Adel Malallah and Mohammed Al-Bisharah from the College of Engineering and Petroleum at Kuwait University, published a study on global oil supply using a multi-cycle Hubbert model. The original Hubbert model in 1956, accurately predicted that oil production would peak in the United States around 1970.

Although widely accepted, the Hubbert model has been criticized because it does not consider factors like technological innovation, political events, social tensions and economic considerations. The Kuwait study methodology is a multi-cycle approach that incorporates elements ignored by the Hubbert model.

According to the findings of the Kuwait study, the world production is estimated to peak in 2014 at a rate of 79 million barrels/day. OPEC has a remaining reserve of 909 barrels, which is about 78% of the world reserves. OPEC production is expected to peak in 2026 at a rate of 53 million barrels/day. On the basis of 2005 world crude oil production and current recovery techniques, the world oil reserves are being depleted at an annual rate of 2.1%.

Due to its environmentally harmful effects and dwindling supply we must prepare for a world without oil. Clean energy production is not only a sensible strategy to meet shortfalls in energy demand, it is the most sustainable way to replace existing demand.
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Climate Counts: Businesses Combating Climate Change

Climate Counts is a non-profit group that was launched over three years ago to help business leaders combat the climate crisis. Despite an abundance of irresponsible enterprises, some businesses are distinguishing themselves through laudable efforts to engage the serious problem of climate change.

Climate Counts brings consumers and companies together in the fight against global climate change. The Climate Counts Company has developed a scorecard with criteria chosen for their effectiveness at solving the global climate crisis. Since 2007, Climate Counts researchers have used these criteria to rate the climate actions of nearly 150 companies, representing approximately 3,000 brands, in 16 industry sectors.

Late this winter, Climate Counts launched its Industry Innovators (i2) project. Climate Counts created i2 to help companies investing in real climate solutions deepen their market impact. The six charter companies (Amtrak, Ben & Jerry's, Clif Bar, Recreational Equipment, Shaklee, and Timberland) went through the rigorous Climate Counts i2 scoring process. Each of the six charter members earned Climate Counts' top designation.

The Climate Counts scoring ranks companies on criteria in four key areas: Measurement of climate impact; reduction of climate impact; support for public policy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and external transparency and clarity on climate actions - to spur greater corporate climate responsibility.

Companies interested in getting a Climate Counts company benchmark can use the i2 site go through a process of self-evaluation and follow it by requesting Climate Counts' own review of the company to determine a final, public score.

The i2 program applies to companies whether they are beginning the process of going green or more deeply involved in the process of developing sustainable practices. Companies looking into a more sustainable approach can use the i2 scoring process to get a roadmap for the work ahead, while others may want a score on their marketing communications efforts for consumers and stakeholders.

One of the charter members is Amtrak and they have adopted a mission that is ”Safer, Greener, Healthier." They have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from diesel locomotives by 6 percent from 2003 to 2010.

"We believe business has a responsibility -- not only to be a part of meaningful climate solutions, but also to communicate their efforts transparently to stakeholders. We're honored to be among the charter companies for Climate Counts' Industry Innovators project because we believe it seeks to establish corporate environmental accountability which leads, importantly, to climate action." said Roy Deitchman, Vice President of EHS, Amtrak.

"The Climate Counts scorecard provides a continuous improvement process and is a useful tool in identifying next steps on the climate action continuum. While we have tracked our climate impacts since 2000, making our emissions data and reductions efforts transparent will continue to help us improve our own performance while also serving to raise awareness about and grow markets for innovative solutions to climate change." said Jil Zilligen, Chief Sustainability Officer, Shaklee Corporation.

REI is pursuing business-based solutions where financial performance and social/environmental benefits are mutually reinforcing. "We find that when we look at environmental metrics, we identify new opportunities and risks. In many ways we're just getting started, but we've already seen real business benefits. Pursuing our aspiration of being climate neutral is helping us deliver on the expectation of both financial and environmental performance for our co-op members," said Kevin Hagen, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, REI.

"True climate solutions that can also boost the economy and our jobs outlook demand innovation and action from businesses, and our charter companies have shown they are committed to making climate action a competitive advantage," said Climate Counts Executive Director Wood Turner.

The charter members of the i2 project are boldly showing leadership with sustainable positioning that betters their bottom line.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Koch Industries' Environmental Crimes

The Koch companies have a notorious environmental record. According to Greenpeace, in the last 15 years they have amassed an impressive rap sheet that includes everything from environmental violations to negligence causing death.

In 2009, the US Justice Department and the EPA announced that Koch Industries' Invista subsidiary would pay a $1.7 million penalty and spend $500 million to fix environmental violations at facilities in seven states.

In May 2001, Koch Industries paid $25 million to settle with the US Government for the company’s long-standing practice of illegally removing oil from federal and Indian lands.

In late 2000, the company was charged with covering up the illegal release of 91 tons of the known carcinogen benzene from its refinery in Corpus Christi. Koch eventually cut a deal with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to drop all major charges in exchange for a guilty plea for falsifying documents, and a $20 million settlement.

In 2000, the EPA fined Koch Industries $30 million for its role in 300 oil spills that resulted in more than three million gallons of crude oil leaking into ponds, lakes, streams and coastal waters.
In 1999, a Koch subsidiary pleaded guilty to charges that it had negligently allowed aviation fuel to leak into waters near the Mississippi River from its refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota, and that it had illegally dumped a million gallons of high-ammonia wastewater onto the ground and into the Mississippi.

In 1996, two people where burned alive in their vehicle due to a poorly maintained Koch pipeline that had leaked flammable butane into a residential Texas neighborhood.

Koch's crimes are not limited to spills of oil, ammonia, aviation fuel, benzene, and butane. A recently released Greenpeace expose uncovered Koch industries' connections with climate denial front groups.

Next: Koch Industries Financing Climate Denial

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Koch Industries Destroys the Environment and Funds Climate Denial

Koch Industries is the second largest privately held company in America and as revealed by Greenpeace they are guilty of crimes against the environment as well as being a leading supporter of climate denial groups.

Koch industries has a dismal environmental record and to add insult to injury, they are pouring almost $50 million dollars per year into climate denial misinformation.

Koch Industries is a conglomerate of more than twenty companies with $100 billion in annual sales, operations in nearly 60 countries, and 70,000 employees. Their diversified holdings are a virtual top ten list of the most environmentally destructive sectors of the economy, they include petroleum refining, fuel pipelines, coal supply and trading, oil and gas exploration, chemicals and polymers, fertilizer production, ranching and forestry products and cattle.

In addition, Koch Industries has held multiple leases on Alberta's polluting tar sands as well as pipelines that carry tar sands crude from Canada into Minnesota and Wisconsin where Koch's Flint Hill Resources owns oil refineries.

Koch Industries work to delay policies and regulation aimed at stopping global warming. As revealed by Greenpeace's successful campaign against Trader Joe's, the public will no longer countenance environmentally insensitive businesses. Koch Industries' ownership of Lycra and Stainmaster carpets are just two of their holdings that are vulnerable to social action.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Overwhelming Logic of Sustainable Business

Steady consumer demand and the rapid growth of green industries, makes sustainable business very appealing. Sustainable strategies and best practice are an increasingly important part of basic business planning.

Those businesses that showed leadership in the early years are reaping the benefits. The companies that broke into the green market first are now leading the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

Today green is not just about adding cache, it is increasingly a matter of survival. Using less energy per unit of output, reducing waste, and using less water are all part of efficiency efforts that decrease costs and contribute to the bottom line. Many of the world's most successful business owners recognized the value of efficiency long before it was fashionable.

Numerous consumer and industry reports are corroborating the ongoing growth of the green market. According to Mintel, US consumers are still willing to pay more for green products despite the recession. In the recently published paper “Going Green to Be Seen: Status, Reputation, and Conspicuous Conservation,” Griskevicius and co-authors find that people will forgo luxury and comfort for a green item.

Despite a decline in venture capital due to the recession, clean energy continues to grow and in 2009 it accounted for 12.5 percentage of total US venture capital investments.

According to a report entitled Clean Energy Trends 2010, the three major clean energy sectors, solar, wind power, and biofuels, grew world-wide to almost $140 billion in 2009, an 11.4% increase over 2008 revenue numbers.

The report also indicates that wind power is projected to expand from $63.5 billion in 2009 to $114.5 billion in 2019. Last year's global wind power installations reached a record 37,500 MW. China, the first-time global leader in new installations, accounted for more than a third of new installations, with 13,000 MW.

The same report indicates that solar photo voltaic (PV) sector is expected to grow from a $30.7 billion industry in 2009 to a $98.9 billion industry by 2019. New installations reached almost 6 GW worldwide in 2009, a nearly six fold increase from five years earlier.

The global solar PV and wind power industries together currently account for a total of more than 830,000 jobs worldwide. By 2019, global industry growth will push the total to more than 3.3 million jobs.

There are many economic inducements to go green, while ignoring climate change is expected to result in unacceptable costs to life and property. One study claims that global warming already is causing 300,000 deaths and $125 billion in economic losses annually.

Sustainable businesses are more efficient and more competitive, they provide jobs, and generate economic activity while reducing the impact on the environment. The logic is overwhelming and unavoidable, becoming more sustainable just makes sense.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Social Action Driving Businesses to Adopt Sustainable Practices

Some businesses have seen the wisdom of going green ahead of public pressure, others are being cajoled out of their complacency by an increasingly concerned public. The following account is a cautionary tale for businesses that ignore responsible practices.

Greenpeace is one of the prominent groups that uses sustainability scorecards to assesses businesses. In one of these scorecards Greenpeace singled out seafood supermarket chain Trader Joe's. For months Greenpeace publicly pressured Trader Joe's to adopt sustainable seafood purchasing policies.

Trader Joe's was subject to an online campaign including Greenpeace’s mock website. Pressure also took the form of phone calls, in-store demonstrations and questions to store managers from activists and shoppers across the country.

As a consequence of relentless pressure from Greenpeace activists, Trader Joe's agreed to adopt sustainable practices. Trader Joe's removed red-listed seafood and the store committed itself to working with third-party, science-based organizations to establish responsible practices and strong, lasting guidelines for ocean protection throughout their entire seafood operation.

One of the most significant aspects of this deal is Trader Joe's agreement to use their buying power to leverage change in their supply chains and throughout the seafood industry.

The capitulation of Trader Joe's proves that social action is a powerful force that can push even national chains to adopt sustainable practices. It also demonstrates that the public is increasingly coalescing around well coordinated campaigns that target irresponsible businesses.