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Follow the money.

Connect the dots.

Companies that think about how to be better today and are gearing up to be  ready for tomorrow are…more profitable.

That’s just good business.

This article presents evidence that Wall St. analysts are coming on board to Sustainability as a profitable business mindset.

Via Environmentalleader.com

Is Wall Street Beginning to ‘Get’ Sustainability?

Fortunately, however, evidence is emerging, not only that firms with highly visible and authentic CSR/sustainability programs actually perform better in financial terms than others (see Green Winners), but that analysts and bankers are slowly recognizing that these firms are deriving clear competitive advantage and tangible financial benefit from pursuing sustainability-based strategies.

… A rigorous academic study conducted by faculty members at the Harvard and London Business Schools. The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on Investment Recommendations suggests that analysts have gone from believing a few years ago that a focus on CSR and sustainability was a net negative influence on financial performance to believing now that the reverse is true, and are factoring it into their investment recommendations accordingly.

 

What’s In It for Me?

That’s generally what people want to know. Building relationships is all about agreeing on common goals and mutual benefit.

Like, say, with a company’s CFO.

BSR offers a short and sweet summary of how Sustainable Business practices directly map to six key business drivers.

  1. Business Model
  2. Markets
  3. Teams
  4. Resources
  5. Risk
  6. Revenue and Profit

Via BSR.org:

CFO and the CSO: Six Areas for a Lasting Friendship

“Beyond the dense words and pretty pictures, every business plan or annual report addresses a set of core issues that each company must face. The more CSR programs support these issues, the more concrete support they’ll likely receive from the CFO.”

Sustainability is not the driver: good business is.

Little kids should play on pesticide-free fields and schoolyards.

Seems so self-evident that you really don’t need to say it or legislate, right?

Truth is, many municipalities don’t apply pesticides hardly ever. (Including West Orange, NJ.)

But for safety’s sake, maybe you should put that “No Pesticides Where Kids Play” rule on the books.

Just to keep things clear.

That’s the idea behind the Safe Playing Fields Act that didn’t make it to a vote in the last New Jersey legislative session.

The bill is back on the Senate floor in Trenton.

The more people who know about this bill, the better. Public opinion can lend support to legislators for passing what is in really a common-sense law.

In a show of support, the  Montclair Environmental Commission voted recently to recommend that the Township Council support the Safe Playing Fields Act.

Via NorthJersey.com:

Pesticide-free fields for Montclair kids?

The municipal Environmental Commission wants the natural grass at Hillside Elementary School to remain safe for children.

Bill A2412/S1143 restricts the use of lawn-care pesticides at child care centers and certain schools, playgrounds, and recreational fields in New Jersey, except for an emergency response to an immediate threat to human health. The bill would also restrict child access to pesticide-treated areas for at least seven hours after its application.

 

 

The Zoning Board said no, but for good reasons.

Last night the Hamilton, NJ  zoning board voted 6-1 to reject a 20-megawatt solar-power farm proposal under their jurisdiction.

Back in March, I blogged about this proposed 20-megawatt solar-power “farm” on nearly 100 acres of privately held property currently zoned as farmland.

Read the post.

Months later, five zoning board meetings later, hours of testimony later, the project voted down.

In the end, the problem wasn’t what, but where.

Via NJ.com:

Hamilton Solar Farm Shot Down

Burgis said an approval of the application would have constituted a violation of the township’s master plan, which specifically aims to keep energy-generating facilities in areas zoned industrial.

This project offers great lessons for other municipalities grappling with the same issues of  how to best support growth while preserving property-owners’ rights.

Kudos to the Zoning Board members who had the unenviable job of deciding what’s good for the community today and for its future, and using the township’s master plan and ordinances to reach their decision.

This is how you do it.

Gather facts.

Inform citizens.

Listen to citizens.

Hold vote.

Sign bill into law.

Via ecopreneurist.com:

Hawaii Becomes First State in U.S. to Ban Plastic Bags

Following the City Council’s 7-1 vote in favor, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle signed SB2511, a bill banning plastic bags in retail stores yesterday across Honolulu County, which comprises the island of Oahu and Hawaii’s capitol city of Honolulu. What makes the bill’s passage extra significant is that Hawaii’s other counties had previously banned plastic bags, meaning that Hawaii has just officially enacted the first full statewide ban on plastic bags in the nation.

Perhaps it easier for Hawaii citizens to see the direct link between consumer choices and environmental impact than those of us who live in paved-over places.

Three levers:

1. Living on an island raises awareness of  how expensive it is to get things from there to here.

2. Tourism-reliant economy.

3. The daily presence of  jaw-dropping beauty can’t hurt either.

Who cares.

They chose environmental preservation over petrochemical consumption.

Cheers to Hawaii.

Who’s next?

NOAA Fisheries officials presented 2012 first quarter data on the status of U.S. fish stocks to Congress May 15.

Read the 2012 Status of U.S. Fisheries report.

Coverage of the congressional report comes via Gloucestertimes.com:

NOAA sustainability reports shows new gains

By Richard Gaines Staff Writer

NOAA made its annual report Monday to Congress on the status of the nation’s fish stocks, and noted that, in 2011 the so-called Fish Stock Sustainability Index — a kind of Dow Jones Industrial Average for 230 key fish stocks — continued improving for the 11th straight year.

The good news on top  is that progress is being made toward ending overfishing and rebuilding fish stocks, “due to the commitment of fishermen, fishing communities, nongovernment organizations, scientists and managers.”

Well enough.

But good enough, and more importantly, fast enough?

Probably not.

Here’s where things stand today with 2011 cod catch limits, and the forecast for next year:

Based on the 2011 assessment, the catch limit on Gulf of Maine cod for the 2012 fishing year that started May 1 is set at 22 percent lower than it was in 2011. But far more drastic cutbacks are expected from NOAA beginning May 1, 2013. The 22 percent cut is considered an interim measure.

It’s hard to stay positive about real, incremental positive improvement in recreational and commercial inshore stocks when offshore draggers are scraping the bottom of the Stellwagen Bank ocean clean of  fish. Read more on this.

How are these major commercial fishing operations getting away with this? By exploiting weaknesses in the Catch Share program rules. Read an article on some ways that draggers may be beating the rules.

It’s a very very complicated issue.

But at the end of the day, once the vastly diminished cod stocks are gone, they’re gone.

Ciao Cod.

Related article: If We Eat All the Fish, Whose Tragedy Is it?

 

Business magazine ZDNet reports that Sustainability is dead.

At least as far as being a corporate buzzword.

Couldn’t ask for better news.

Nothing lights a fire under most of us than the threat of losing our job.

So businesses are getting down to reducing carbon outputs, decreasing water use, cutting transportation costs, slimming supply chains, and reducing risks.

Via ZDNet.com:

Sustainability is Dead. Long Live Sustainability

Corporations around the world are emerging from an extended period of economic duress by aggressively taking strides to gain even the slightest edge over their competition. Tough times have left companies leaner than ever, and they’re getting meaner every day by keeping a cold eye on their own operations: no excess energy consumption, no silly shipping routes, no bottom line bullshit. This is a business, and it should operate like one.

These don’t sound like sustainability stories, but that’s the point. The electricity grid improvement could reduce energy consumption. The fragrance manufacturing example could remove excess inventory from the distribution center. The airline example could avoid a costly accident.

The Sustainability mindset is about acting today in ways that preserve vital resources and prepare for future business success.

The faster this gets adopted at all levels of all organizations, the better.

New Jersey’s newest solar farm is located on a 13-acre closed landfill in Kearny. From fallow to flourishing, the site is expected to power 500 homes.

A key success here in my mind–and hopefully a model for future development–is that this project required a lot of people with their own agendas and motivations to work together. It could not have been easy to coordinate this first-in-class project between a state-regulated public utility (PSE&G), a joint government/business  commission, private industry, and state government officials.

Via NJSpotlight.com and Tom Johnson’s reporting:

New Jersey’s Newest Solar Farm Is a Real Dump

Large-scale solar project built on former landfill in Meadowlands produces enough power for up to 500 homes

Public Service Electric & Gas and others yesterday dedicated a new 3-megawatt solar farm on 13 acres of the former landfill, producing enough electricity to power up to 500 homes.

The $17.8 million solar farm project, a joint effort between PSE&G, the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission, and SunDurance Energy, an Edison-based solar developer, is the first solar project built on a state-owned landfill.

Mr. Johnson, thank you for an informative article and a headline that made me smile.

Who owns our fish?

As author Margaret Shaw notes in a blog post for CSRwire.com, the rapidly diminishing deep ocean fish stocks that lie outside national jurisdictions are out of sight, out of mind and beyond legal recourse.

Call it the tragedy of the oceans.

If no one owns them, can I take them all?

Who can stop me?

Is that fair? Is that right?

Does it even make sense for me to do that?

A new UN panel convened May 8 to discuss a new program that will tackle these questions and others regarding global fish stocks.

Via CSRWire.com:

Fisheries up for Grabs: Who Owns our Fish?

“At the United Nations yesterday, a Program on Global Sustainable Fisheries Management and Biodiversity in ABNJ was introduced to protect the biodiversity of this area, which some consider to be the last global “commons” on Earth.

A new program that will devote $44 million to manage the long-term health of this frontier which is depreciating rapidly. Throughout history, it’s been “every man for himself” out there beyond the watchful eyes of citizens, giving way to total anarchy dominated by highly sophisticated $10 billion dollar/year fishing operations equal to 6.3 million tons caught per year.

With millions of tons of fish brought to market each year, it’s a fair question to ask why this level of harvesting is a problem:

No deep-sea bottom trawl vessels or fleets have demonstrated that they can fish deep-sea species sustainably and prevent damage to deep-sea ecosystems.

On the table for Rio+20 next month, though not without conflict, is an end to government fishing subsidies, considered to be as damaging as fossil fuel subsidies. No agreement has been reached here, nor has a proposed phase-out of all deep-sea bottom-trawl fishing on the high seas by 2015.

And, what remedies and solutions could be enacted to help achieve sustainable goals:

Also at the negotiating table is a call for labeling, and for seafood buyers and retailers to only buy and sell fish from deep-sea fisheries that have clearly demonstrated no harm to deep-sea ecosystems.

Today, as global fish stocks decline, seafood becomes an increasingly expensive item for the rich and a rarity for the poor. With the world population expected to reach 8.2 billion by 2030, the planet will have to feed an additional 1.5 billion people, 90 percent of whom will be living in developing countries many of which depend on local fisheries.

When we over harvest fish beyond sustainable levels, there are inevitable downstream impacts. For one thing, eventually you won’t be able to catch any more fish yourself.

In the bigger picture, overfishing means less for people who depend on local fish for their survival.

I reject the Tragedy of the Commons thesis that individuals, acting from self-interest, will inevitably overexploit resources even when it’s cleanly not in our best interests to do so.

I believe this because humans have sustainably stewarded resources for millenia.

Farmers know to replenish their fields. Hunters know to leave the does. Fisherfolk know to release breeding lobsters back to the sea.

It’s only in the past few hundred years that technology has allowed us to take beyond Nature’s ability to replenish.

Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.

 

 

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to our health.

This is especially true for kids and adults with asthma.

On days with poor air quality, people with asthma and other respiratory conditions can take care of themselves better by limiting outdoor air exposure and limited exertion.

So why not help communities keep their citizen informed? Like, say, by flying brightly colored indicator flags over schools and municipal buildings.

Sort of like how beaches post “Rough Surf” warning flags to advise swimmers of  dangerous conditions.

That’s where the EPA is going with their School Flag Program. This initiative is designed to help children, parents, school personnel and the community be aware of daily air quality conditions using brightly colored flags.

Each day, a flag is raised in front of participating schools that signals the level of air pollution for that day. By comparing the colored flags to the Air Quality Index (AQI), members of the school and the surrounding community can tell what the daily air quality is, and adjust their activities to reduce their exposure to air pollution. Green indicates good air quality, yellow is moderate, orange means unhealthy for sensitive groups (like children and those with asthma), and red signals unhealthy air for everyone.

But let me ask you…would your town go for it?

Could your public officials and business community stand the sight of a daily reminder of whether the air in your town is safe to breathe?

Especially if you lived in a town near an incineration plant or chemical refinery?

Your officials might well care, and care deeply, but feel limited in their ability to do anything about it.

Pardon the pun, but my cynical Jersey-native nose says this program doesn’t pass the smell test.

I wonder how many NJ schools participate in this program?

I hope I’m wrong and learn that this program is being well-received and helping communities work for better, clearer, safer air everyday.

I’ll update once I hear back from the EPA coordinator.

Learn more: EPA School Flag Program