Green Business: Wal-Mart Joins Sustainable Agriculture Group

We all gotta eat.

As a common ground interest, growing healthy food for everyone brings a lot of people to the table.

So I was interested to read that the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart has joined the Field to Market alliance group.


Wal-Mart joins agriculture sustainability group

The world’s largest retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc has joined an alliance of other Fortune 500 companies, including Cargill and Kellogg Co, seeking to make agriculture more sustainable.

To start, what’s this about?

The Field to Market alliance was started three years ago by the non-profit Keystone Center to improve agricultural productivity and reduce the use of natural resources. It includes farm groups, grain handlers and food makers but Wal-Mart is the first retailer in the group and now its largest member.

The alliance’s members list include chemical giant Monsanto, environmental groups like World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, and Sustainability leader and candy maker Mars.

Quite a span of viewpoints and interests.

And The Keystone Group?


About us

Founded in 1975, The Keystone Center is an independent nonprofit organization that brings together public, private, and civic sector leaders. We provide mediation and facilitation services that incorporate innovative decision-making methods. The result: action-oriented, sustainable solutions to complex energy, environmental, and public health issues.

The Keystone Center maintains an unwavering position of independence, not advocating for any single position but rather providing all participants the opportunity to truly own decisions by working with shared-goal partners to find mutually agreeable solutions.

I’m interested in being listening to and learning from any conversation that’s tackling how to feed the world’s growing population healthy food, today and for future generations.

I’ll be following Field to Market and The Keystone Group with interest.



Green Shift: Finding the Climate Change Tipping Point

What’s it going to take for the private sector to move into action on global climate change?

We’re looking for levers to move conversation to catalyst.


The ecosystem services ‘tipping point’: how and when do we shift from theory to widespread practice in the private sector?

Let’s consider a few potential ‘tipping point’ scenarios that could dramatically affect corporate ‘uptake’ of ecosystem services concepts within business decision-making processes.

Worth a close read for author Sissel Waage’s suggestions, plus intriguing contributions in the comments section. Some of the possibilities include:

*Financial services community takes a leadership position. Launches proof of concept pilots and demonstrates success. Others follow.
*Public land managers apply a robust, new analytical framework worldwide.
*Civil society organizations including Occupy Wall Street join hands with 350.0rg, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists, and the Good Guide.
*Ecosystems services advocates launch new metrics that demonstrate valuation over payment.
*Behavioral economics experts share “Tipping Point” and viral phenomenon lessons.
*Environmental groups collaboratively partner with business communities.


Green Links: 8 Thought-Shifting Sustainability Articles

Sustainability measurement is counting what you care about.

That can take any number of forms.

What should get measured? Why, how, and for whom?

Here’s a link to eight articles that add new perspectives on the Sustainability conversation, and where the discussion might go from here.

I was happily in attendance for the talk mentioned in #6 on the convergence of business and biodiversity conservation and blogged about it here.


 8 Articles That Will Make You Rethink Sustainability

Short (except for #5) but powerful potential thought-shifters on or related to sustainability

My thanks to Matt Polsky for sharing the link. He is a sustainability consultant and Senior Fellow for Sustainability Innovation & Multidisciplinary Thought with the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (ISE) at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Green Business: Measuring Moka

Bathroom tissue is a great Sustainability topic. 

Because every American household and practically every business buys it.

I’m pleased to hear that major paper company Cascades is expanding its commercial line of 100% post-consumer, unbleached Moka bathroom tissue.

I blogged here about the company’s January 2012 tip-toe into this niche-offering for the “dark green” environmentally conscious consumer.

(For the record, I am pro-bathroom tissue, just better bathroom tissue.)

Based on favorable response and demand, Cascades is now offering Moka in larger rolls and large-dispenser formats.

Press release via

Cascades Tissue Group Expands Moka Line as Demand for Unbleached, 100 Percent Recycled Bathroom Tissue Increases

Since its official launch in January 2012, Cascades Moka bath tissue has also been made available to corporate and individual purchasers alike through Office Depot. It recently won the Novae Quebec Eco-design Contest, which recognizes the smartest sustainable design ideas. The interest and growth for Moka is an indication that customers are now willing to forgo their traditional white bathroom tissue for a greener option.

The press release offers impressive statistics for their recycled paper products and then points readers to the Cascades “Sustain” site for more information.

Cascades Moka gets 80 percent of its pulp mix from post-consumer material and 20 percent from recovered corrugated boxes. The new pulp mix used in this product offers a reduction in overall environmental impact by at least 25 percent when compared to the pulp mix used in the Cascades 100% recycled white bath tissue – already regarded as a leading sustainable product. The product is also offset with 100 percent Green-e® certified renewable wind electricity; saving 2,500 pounds of CO2 emissions for each ton produced.

A projected 3.4 million1 tons of bath tissue are used annually in the U.S., 53 percent of which is made from virgin fiber sources2. Cascades estimates that if a complete conversion was made to their environmentally preferable 100 percent recycled Moka bath tissue, it would save 30.6 million trees and 68 million GJ of energy annually, which is equal to the annual consumption of 619,811 households3.

Non-virgin fiber sourcing, lower CO2 emissions, fewer chemicals–all good.

But how good? Here’s where Sustainability Context comes into play.

“How do these numbers fit into an overall bigger picture?”

For starters, each of these numbers, as a numerator, needs a denominator. See Marc Gunther’s Fortune article for more on this idea.

Out of how much: What percentage of Cascades’ overall production and revenues do Moka products represent? How many trees are farmed every year?

Compared to what: What similar products are available to North American customers? European customers?

Until when: Do the Moka line and other recycled paper products reduce Cascades overall energy consumption? Is the company moving towards defined, absolute energy and CO2 expenditure targets?

Show me the money: In what ways and by how much does the Moka line benefit Cascades’ business bottom line?

Much harder questions.

Sustainability metrics in context are relevant not only to business customers buying Cascades products, but also the company’s supply chain partners, stakeholders, investors, governmental connections, environmental groups, and competitors.

Not just for numbers’ sake, but to help purchasers at every step of the supply chain make better decisions.

A new study partnership is underway that will hopefully produce new tools for measuring Sustainability objectives in general, with a focus on the ubiquitous bathroom tissue and towel market.


What Companies May Gain from P&G Study on Sustainability Metrics

Proctor & Gamble and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced they’ve begun a collaborative research and development study that…will focus on metrics within corporations’ manufacturing facilities and their supply chains.

The Cincinnati-based consumer products giant is teaming up with researchers at EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL) in a five-year study that aims to develop a scientific approach to analyzing and measuring sustainability within its tissue and towel products division, said Annie Weisbrod, Ph.D., a principal scientist at P&G.

While 100% hundred percent recycled bathroom tissue is readily available for home use, putting unbleached and beige Moka on the supermarket shelf would be an additional, greener choice.

If it takes off, a product that’s better for the earth and our health can also be a cheaper choice.

What do you say, Cascades?

Green Business: Looking for the Next Ray Andersons

Ray Anderson believed in doing well by doing good.

Before his untimely death in 2011, Interface founder Anderson pioneered the field of Sustainable Business.

His company doubled profits while slashing greenhouse gas emissions, waste, fossil fuel and water consumption.

What impresses me about his story is that his company was in the business of making acres of toxic-laden, waste-producing, petroleum-based commercial carpets.

Not what you would think of as a green company.

When he realized the impact his company was having on the earth, he took action.

Two books by Anderson to download or buy used:

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth

Mid-Course Correction. Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model

And the book by Paul Hawken that inspired Anderson’s business transformation:

The Ecology of Commerce Revised Edition: A Declaration of Sustainability

On the one-year anniversary of Anderson’s death, chairman and executive editor Joel Makower asks:

Why aren’t there more Ray Andersons?

Who today is the enlightened CEO picking up where Anderson left off?

Makower’s query to sustainable business experts brought one name to the top:

One name did come up repeatedly: Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever. For at least the past two years — since launching his company’s Sustainable Living Plan in 2010 — Polman has been presenting a bold sustainability vision for his company, one that at times rails against the status quo.

“He may be on track to surpass Ray,” says Jeffrey Hollender, the co-founder of Seventh Generation, now a speaker, activist, and consultant. “Unilever’s focus on accepting that the way their consumers use their products is part of its sustainability footprint, and that to reduce their negative impact they have to change consumer behavior, is revolutionary.”

But one more Ray is not enough.

Makower says that Anderson left behind “a vision for what sustainable leadership looks like.”

The qualities that Makower identifies as “What Made Ray, Ray” are attributes of transformational leaders : an entrepreneur’s vision, a passion for learning, and a willingness to risk big.

My take-away from Makower’s article is our energies are best spent not on finding the next Ray Anderson, but on encouraging and supporting business leaders to become the next Ray Anderson.

Green Business: “Context” is the Next Wave for Sustainability Measurements

Counting by itself is meaningless.

Learning that a company sent 30 fewer tons of trash to the landfill this year  doesn’t help you understand how a company is doing in the bigger picture.

But it’s a start.

The next step  is to put those numbers into context.

Like asking,  “Out of How Many?” and “Compared to What?”

In the above example, we might want to know what the total landfill tonnage is, and year-over-year change. How does this year’s reduction compare to how similar and nearby organizations perform?

Does this change represents a beneficial or harmful effect to the local economy and environment? What is the landfill’s capacity and status?

Where did that trash go instead of the landfill, and did that have a greater negative impact? And so on.

Mark MacElroy, founder and executive director at the Center for Sustainable Organizations, is one of the forerunners bringing Sustainability Context into the larger conversation.

A good starting point is his July 2011 Sustainable Brands article, Sustainability Context – What Is It?

From there, a new August 2012 article from Fortune writer Marc Gunther applies these principles to a comparison between how telecomm giants Sprint and AT&T report their sustainability metrics.


Sprint vs. AT&T: Metrics That Matter

It’s great that 3 million cell phones were collected for reuse or recycling, but how many cell phones did AT&T ship? Nice that 50.1 million pounds of scrap was kept out of landfill, but how much scrap, in total, did the company generate? 5,114 alternative-fuel vehicles sounds like a lot, but I’d be even more impressed if AT&T had a total of 10,000. If it has 100,000, or 300,000, I’m a lot less impressed.

Put another way, Gunther says, numbers without their context are “numerators in search of denominators.”

I think that’s a neat way to frame the initial steps of a complex issue.

If this sounds a lot like materiality, you’re right. Knowing what’s important, or material, about a company’s performance is chained to putting data into context for making better decisions.*

(*For more on this connection, McElroy, co-authoring with corporate sustainability architect Bill BaueGRI and Sustainability Context: Explain It Like We’re Four)


Green Government: Olympian Sustainability

London shows the world how to host a greener, more sustainable Olympics.


Sustainability at the heart of the Games- ‘from brown to green’

From the outset of the project, the Olympic Park has set new standards in sustainability, including the delivery of lightweight venues, the recycling or reuse of waste materials, using concrete with a high recycled content, and delivering materials by rail or water. We have achieved new standards for a project of this size and scale and have raised the bar for the industry.

Via Environmental News Service:

London Olympics Clears Sustainability Hurdles

LONDON, UK, July 31, 2012 (ENS) – The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games has met the vast majority of its sustainability targets, says the United Nations official in charge of helping Olympic Games host cities produce events that protect the environment and make smart use of their resources.


London’s Temporary Olympic Stadium, Built for Change

The whole environmental sustainability agenda is incredibly important for these buildings,” [architect] Sheard says. Forty percent of the 80,000-seat venue’s concrete is recycled aggregate, and the stadium is one of the lightest of its size. “If you build less, you’ve got a smaller carbon footprint,” the architect says. Built with just over 10,000 tons of steel, the stadium is far lighter than similarly sized buildings, which normally require five to ten times as much.