It’s good to be back!
I’m extremely proud to share that one of my “CVS Effect” articles was picked as the top leadership article for “Best of 2014 in Sustainability.”
Five major brands have just made news for decisions that buck the bottom-line mantra. Could this be momentum for the “CVS Effect”? Take a look and see if you agree. And note too how brands are joining with allies on these issues, while one brand — Chipotle — is potentially breaking major new ground. Keep reading…
The American Sustainable Business Council’s (ASBC) third annual summit Nov. 13 and 14 in Washington, D.C. brought together 150 entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors and elected officials to discuss the state of play—and possibilities—for policies that advance a sustainable economy.Founded in 2009, ASBC is a national business advocacy policy organization representing over 200,000 businesses across the nation. ASBC works on a wide range of policy issues at the federal and state level, working to advance a sustainable economy by shifting markets and policies. ASBC raises up the voice, presence and power of business to create jobs, grow business and build a sustainable US economy.
“We invited our members here to Washington to discuss the business case and policies needed for a sustainable, just, prosperous, and vibrant economy,” said ASBC vice president and co-founder Richard Eidlin.
He explained that ASBC is a direct response to the presence of traditional business interests such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who spend hundreds of millions often advocating for policies that deter the economy from becoming more innovative, equitable and sustainable. While claiming to represent the will of American businesses, especially small companies, these entities do the opposite. ASBC is working to ensure that other important voices in the business community are heard in Washington and the media.
Among the attendees were representatives from sustainability-focused retailers Earth Friendly Products, Ecco Bella, Greyston Bakery and Eileen Fisher.
At a kickoff reception on Nov. 12, ASBC presented its Sustainable Policymakers Award, the “SUSTY,” for “exemplary leadership from members of Congress, administration officials and businesses.” This year’s awards went to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, and ASBC business member, New Belgium Brewing.
An overall theme that emerged over the summit was that the values at the core of a sustainably run business need to be reflected in the policies that govern how business operates, for workers, customers, and society as a whole. “This isn’t about the environmental case. This is about the business case — that the economy can be more sustainable and provide opportunity to a much greater array of Americans,” said ASBC co-founder David Levin in his opening remarks. “And in the process, a more prosperous economy is created. But it takes businesses speaking up to make that case,” added Levine.
Thursday’s mix of plenary and breakout sessions mirrored these priorities with discussions about pricing carbon, raising the minimum wage, supporting the growth of clean energy technologies, supporting the next generation of American farmers, tax reform, the growth of shared ownership business models like ESOPS and cooperatives, and a panel on conservative thought and sustainability.
In a broad-ranging, candid discussion about putting a price on carbon, the question seemed firmly on the side of when, not if. Emily Enderle, Chief Environmental Policy Advisor for U.S. Senator Whitehouse said that the Senator plans to introduce a carbon pricing bill in the next few weeks. Eidlin said that the ASBC will be advocating for a price on carbon going forward, citing that the “dialogue is beginning to shift.”
A panel on shared ownership business models included comments from U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah from Pennsylvania, who shared his support for employee owned businesses. B Lab’s policy director, Erik Trojian, noted that diversifying ownership is one way to ensure a company’s longevity. And in a measure of how embedded worker ownership is in the U.S. economy, “There are 29,000 cooperatives in the US – and many Americans belong to more than one,” said Michael Peck from Mondragon North America.
Another panel discussed the likelihood that movement on sustainable economic and environmental policy initiatives for the next two years is most likely to happen on the state and local levels. JR Tolbert, executive director of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators pointed out three places where there’s traction and broad support for sustainable business policy: chemical reform (such as on phthalates and toxic flame retardants), solar, and a price on carbon.
“Solar is an issue where the right and left come together around energy freedom. This is where citizens can decide where their energy comes from,” he said.
On Friday, the day started early with a Women’s Working Group breakfast session to set priorities for the coming year of interest to women members, including access to capital and workplace initiatives such as Leave Insurance. The entire summit group then attended a several-hours-long briefing at The White House and spent the afternoon on Capitol Hill meeting with over thirty elected officials and staffers from ASBC members’ districts.
Concurrent with the Summit, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced $3 million in small business funding for green technology and research in eight states. On a Nov. 12 press call before the Summit began, McCarthy reiterated the agency’s commitment to strengthening economic growth, supporting sustainable businesses, and combating the impacts of climate change.
Speaking about the summit overall, Eidlin said, “Our members are demonstrating by the way they act that business can be profitable, environmentally responsible, and care about workers and their communities. There is no contradiction.”
Case in point is Naturepedic, a company that manufactures non-toxic, organic mattresses and bedding products in Ohio. David Anthony, director of corporate affairs, said, “As a small business, on our own we don’t have the money or the network to make effective change in Washington on the things that matter to us and our customers. So ASBC helps us have a seat at table to voice our concerns. Going to the White House and meeting with my senator is American democracy at its finest, made possible because we are associated with a strong group.”
Eidlin stressed the importance of making the voice of sustainable business heard in Washington and at the state level.
“The $4 billion spent in the recent election is a case in point. Most of the policies and programs pushed by that $4 billion were not in the interests of sustainable businesses and will not move the economy in a sustainable direction,” he said.
“When you show up as business leaders, that makes all the difference.” Too often, those who claim to speak for business think that profit and the single bottom line are the only thing that matters. That’s why we say, ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.’ It’s crucial that sustainable business leaders engage in policy, because if they don’t then someone else who doesn’t reflect their values will.”
NJ State Hazard Mitigation Plan: Long on Hazards, Short on Mitigation, Silent on Public Comment?
Public comments Open Until April 11 But Won’t Be Considered
Back on March 11, the NJ Office of Emergency Management (OEM) tweeted and posted some good news: the state’s new FEMA-required 2014 Hazard Mitigation Plan was ready—and open for public comment until April 11.
(Not that it’s going to matter, as you’ll see below, but here’s the link to submit your comments.)
This was really big, important news about NJ’s official “Disaster Plan,” since the last one was done in 2011 pre-Sandy.
An updated Hazard Mitigation Plan is not only a good idea to keep NJ citizens safe, but it’s also Federally-mandated every three years.
All states are required to have a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)- approved hazard mitigation plan in place to be eligible for disaster recovery assistance and mitigation funding.
The bad news? Hardly anyone heard the news.
I take full responsibility for missing Bill Wolfe’s ongoing coverage of this issue until today (Mar. 31). In my defense, I feel there was very little effort made on the State’s part to get my input. For one, the official press release for the Plan’s release didn’t include the start and end dates for the public comment period until I tweeted the error to them on Mar. 31.
It’s hard to read, but the second sentence says:
“The comment period will start (date) and end (date).”
That kind of says to me that the OEM office wasn’t all that interested in hearing anything the general public had to say. (I know I’m being harsh here about an obvious typo in a press release. But this issue is important.)
What’s more, Governor Christie didn’t mention the new Plan or the public comment period in any of his recent high-profile Town Halls. The March 11 OEM announcement was tweeted exactly once. To the best of my knowledge, there were no official events connected to the Plan’s release.
And here’s the kicker. NJ’s OEM needed to submit it to FEMA by the end of March. So any public comments received were never going to be used for the current plan. No, I’m not kidding.
As reported by the central New Jersey Suburban paper March 20, here’s OEM spokesperson Mary Goepfert:
For the first time, the state has also opened up the plan to public comment through April 11 to “increase transparency regarding proposed disaster risk reduction strategies.”
However, because the plan must be submitted to FEMA by the end of March, those comments will not have an impact on the currently proposed plan, Goepfert said.
Now, I applaud that the Plan includes climate change and sea level rise for the first time. I’m glad that many of the state’s climate experts participated in the process. And that a public comment period was added, even if it is meaningless.
But it’s just not good enough.
For one, without the checks and balances of public review and input, it’s only the Christie Administration’s version.
Another concern is that Plan is long on Hazards and might be short on Mitigation.
As NJ environmental activist Bill Wolfe writes:
The plan is studded with obligatory references to scientific findings on the effects of climate change but does not integrate that science into state planning or changes in building codes, project designs, regulations or plans to spend billions of federal aid dollars.
My layperson reading of the Plan backs up Mr. Wolfe’s observation.
I couldn’t find any specific policy recommendations in the Plan to mitigate flooding hazards.
We need a plan that not only says what’s potentially likely to happen, but also what we’re going to do to keep NJ citizens safe and our economy up and running.
This plan should put all the best science and data together for State officials, citizens, planners and policy makers to make better decisions about how our state should spend money and resources.
In my opinion, this plan doesn’t come close to what we need. And without the public’s input, it’s not likely to.
So take some time to read the Plan. Share it with your friends, especially those with expertise.
Submit your comments.
Check out this new two-page fact sheet on NJ and climate change: Understanding New Jersey’s Vulnerability to Climate Change.
It puts all the most important scientific facts in one easy-to-read piece about the three biggest climate change threats facing our state.
This useful tool was developed by the Rutgers Climate Institute and the Georgetown Climate Center. You can share it with your local town council, environmental commission, and school science teams. Use it to write letters to your local papers, or to back up a discussion with a friend.
It’s important to remember that Global Climate change doesn’t cause any single, specific weather event like a hurricane or heat wave. But it does make weather events more likely to happen and more likely to be extreme when they do.
A simple way to think about it is that climate is your personality—who you are a person. And weather is your mood—how you feel on any particular day. If your personality changes, so do your moods.
In the case of our planet, the greenhouse gases that we’re dumping into the atmosphere are raising the earth’s temperature. In other words, we’re changing the earth’s personality. These changes from the generally consistent climate patterns we had for billions of years affect where, when and how weather happens. Those are the earth’s moods.
So here’s the deal: Climate change is making NJ stormier, floodier, and hotter.
1. Threats from Extreme Storms
“Power interruptions due to extreme weather, such as hurricanes, thunderstorms, and ice storms, are 10 times worse in New Jersey today than 20 years ago.”
“Heavy precipitation events in the Northeast have increased dramatically in the past two decades, occurring more than twice as often in recent year than during the past century.”
2. Threats from Rising Seas
“Scientists consider New Jersey a hotspot for sea-level rise, as waters along New Jersey’s coast are rising faster than the global average. Best estimates for sea-level rise along New Jersey’s coast show an increase of 10 inches by 2030 and by 1.5 feet by 2050.”
“Scientists are highly confident that future storms will have greater impacts because of rising sea levels. Storm surge combined with higher water levels will make severe coastal flooding more frequent in the future.”
3. Threats from Extreme Heat
“By mid-century, about 70 percent of summers in New Jersey will be warmer than the state’s warmest summer on record.”
“This extremely hot weather will increase health risks for the elderly and young children, stress rail lines and major roadways, and pose threats to agriculture.”
So now that we know—what are we going to do about it? That’s exactly what lots of people around the state are working on.
This accessible guide gives citizens, planners and policy makers another tool to make better decisions about how our state should spend money and resources.
We don’t have time to waste debating about whether climate science is 100% for-sure or merely 97% sure. It’s time to take action on the family, local, county and state levels.
New Jersey doesn’t have a statewide plan for keeping our people safe, our economy strong, and our businesses thriving when the next Sandy hits.
Every state around us does, or at least is far ahead of us. There’s boatloads of good work going on in our towns and counties, but nothing on the coordinated, resource-efficient State level.
Why not? I’d like to ask personally Governor Christie about the role that climate change plays in our hot summers, destructive storms, and rising sea levels. (I believe he’s a smart man and knows perfectly well the risks facing our state.)
As an update, here’s the latest ways that our neighbors are pulling way ahead of New Jersey to be ready for the next big storm.
1. In New York on Jan. 7, Gov. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $17 billion climate change resiliency strategy to keep the state’s citizens safe from future Sandy-scale events. It’s called “Reimagining New York for a New Reality.”
Last June, Mayor Bloomberg announced the “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” document with NYC recommendations for rebuilding post-Sandy and strengthening infrastructure and building citywide.
3. Low-lying Delaware’s Gov. Markell knows that his state is vulnerable to climate change and that it’s a state priority right now. In December, Markell attended the inaugural meeting of the White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness as a Presidential appointee.
Right now, in New Jersey we’ve got Bridgegate and the governor’s baffling pocket veto last week of a sensible law that would let the public know about raw sewage discharges into public waterways. (A law, by the way, that New York has had on the books since 2012.)
In the cold comfort category, at least we have Pennsylvania for company. Our neighbor to the west has a new climate action plan that doesn’t include specific targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
So who’s filling the state leadership gap?
This alliance of NJ-focused planning, development, and conservation groups are working together to create a climate change adaptation plan for New Jersey.
And on the citizen side, we can count on the good work being done by Citizens Climate Lobby to give our legislators support for reducing carbon emissions.
Also worth mentioning is North Jersey Public Policy Network that has a terrific spring lecture program lined up.
(Yale’s Geoffrey Feinberg speaks Feb. 20 on climate change communications.)
I care about our state, and want our state leaders to take the actions needed to prove they do too.
Can you think of any sane reason that our neighbors should be kicking our butts on climate action?
So check out these links and then tell your local and state legislators to get us stronger than the next storm.
New Jersey used to be clean energy and climate leader.
We’re not anymore. But we can be again. (Newsroom!)
Here are 5 things that have changed since Governor Christie first took office in January 2010.
1. We used to have an office of Climate and Energy.
It was dismantled by Governor Christie soon after he was inaugurated in January 2010. But thanks to the Internet, we can see how Global Warming used to have a prominent role on the state government’s website, with links to the Office of Climate and Energy. See, the old page is still there.
Solution: Sign the “Create Office of Clean Energy” bill that was approved by both houses of our Legislature but pocket vetoed by Governor Christie on Wed, Jan. 22.
2. We used to be part of RGGI.
RGGI (pronounced “Reggie”) is a multi-state cap-and-trade system that creates jobs, brings clean energy investment to the state, and moves us closer to NJ’s mandated 2020 GHG emissions goals.
Its current members are the nine states that surround NJ: CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NY, RI, and VT.
And we used to make 10. Governor Christie pulled NJ out of RGGI in 2011 and has twice vetoed efforts to let the voters decide. We’re missing out on good jobs, cleaner air, and clean energy growth.
Solution: Let’s rejoin. The best move on the table right now is to sue, and that’s what’s happening.
On Jan. 8, three NJ appellate court judges heard testimony from Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council based on the lawsuit they filed in 2012.
Here’s a good article from Environment New Jersey on what’s at stake.
3. We could have been part of the NE “Clean Air” coalition.
The governors of our neighboring Northeastern states decided that it’s not OK for states West and South of us to spew their coal-plant air pollution our way.
So, the Governors of those states are asking the EPA for help to stop it: DE, CT, ML, MA, NH, NY, RI, and VT.
Gov. Christie decided that NJ didn’t need to be part of this effort so he didn’t sign on.
Solution: Come on. Let’s join all our neighbors in fighting for cleaner air.
4. We used to be #2 in solar installations.
Now we’re #6. That’s right, NJ was the #2 state for solar for several years behind gigantic, sunny California.
You want to know why solar is such a good fit for NJ’s clean energy needs? Because we have so many darned big flat roofs on our commercial buildings. Not to mention, a bevy of formerly-industrial brownfield sites that are perfect for solar arrays. And close to the all-important power distribution grid.
So what changed? It’s complicated but it has to do with how NJ set up financial incentives called SRECs, federal cash grants, state incentives, and the 2008 financial crisis. (This July 2012 Star-Ledger article will help.)
As well, Christie raided dedicated clean-energy funds to balance his budget. Like $1billion.
Solution: Let’s reestablish the Office of Clean Energy (See #1) and let them do their job.
5. Our Governor used to believe that taking action against human-caused climate change was a state priority for his office.
As recently as 2011, Governor Christie said: “In the past I’ve always said that climate change is real and it’s impacting our state.”
Not anymore. His equivocations around using the words Sandy and climate change in the same sentence are well documented. One long but well-worth-it read.
Solution: Governor Christie can step firmly and decisively on the right side of history and even be a leader for climate change action.
* * *
Remember the slogan “Trenton Makes, the World Takes?” That’s not just a slogan.
New Jersey has a proud history of getting the job done.
There’s no more important issue facing us today than preparing for climate change impacts. We can and should be doing it right now.
Want to be part of the solution?
Come to the Feb. 20 NJPPN event with Geoffrey Feinberg from Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communication and Climate Nexus. It’s called “America’s Future: Communicating with our Neighbors on Climate Change.”
Yesterday New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli used his office for good to help fight climate change. Among his many responsibilities, DiNapoli oversees the state’s pension fund. This includes keeping an eye on the companies that are in fund’s investments.
As the New York Times’ Diane Cardwell reports, DiNapoli helped craft an agreement to get a big electric company to take the first steps towards reducing its carbon emissions. This change will not only help make the air cleaner and healthier for people in the tri-state area, but also help our country overall.
Under Investor Pressure, Utility to Study Emissions
FirstEnergy, one of the countryâs largest electric companies, has agreed to work toward reducing its carbon emissions in response to pressure from shareholders including New York State and Connecticut pension funds, New York Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said on Tuesday.
The company, which operates in six states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, promised to study and report on what it could do to help meet President Obama’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
And I love the DiNapoli’s reasons for going after this agreement. He’s got a long-term view on how global climate change is going to impact businesses. And he sees his responsibility to make sure that the New York state pension fund takes those risks into account.
“Many of our energy holdings obviously have been very profitable for us in the short run,” he said. “What we’re trying to ensure is that in the long run that profitability is sustainable. We do see tremendous risk if issues of climate change are not incorporated into corporate strategy.”
This win shows that shareholder activism can work for broadly positive changes. DiNapoli is using his overseer role for the New York pension fund, and his ability to broker partnerships across state lines, to get businesses moving towards a lower-carbon future and more sustainable business practices.
And it tells me that climate change is no longer political kryptonite, which is an incredibly good thing. Government and businesses have to work together for climate change action.
The timing is not accidental. Just yesterday, the SRI investing coalition called CERES asked energy companies to give themselves “stress tests” to see how well prepared they are (or not) to deal with a lower-carbon future. Again, from the Times:
In the case of FirstEnergy, Mr. DiNapoli and his partners filed the proposal as part of a larger effort with Ceres, a coalition of environmentalists and investors, to make companies more environmentally responsive. The New York State pension fund owns 1,205,383 shares of FirstEnergy, according to the comptroller’s office, worth about $38 million at the market’s close on Tuesday. More than half of the power sources for the utility are coal, according to its website, but it says it has been working to reduce emissions and pollution over the last two decades by closing plants and installing more emissions-control equipment.
In his position as New York Comptroller, DiNapoli has a big stick for climate change action. And he’s using it.
Sure, carrots are nice too. But in a world where businesses can continue to sit on their hands and claim that their top job is returning shareholder value, I say let’s use the sticks we’ve got.
In the best cases, like this most recent one, it’s only the threat of a stick. With this agreement, the pension fund will withdraw its shareholder resolution. Everybody wins. Healthy pension fund. Cleaner air for millions of people. Stronger energy company.
As a result, Mr. DiNapoli, the State of Connecticut and As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group, agreed to withdraw a shareholder resolution they had filed for First Energy’s annual meeting this year.
(And this isn’t the first time that DiNapoli has used his office to help the environment. In March 2013, he got Dunkin Donuts to move towards more sustainable palm oil.)
DiNapoli’s leadership shows that shareholders, investors, government officials and businesses can work together to make a more sustainable future for all of us.
I’m all-in for climate change action.
But there are plenty of people who don’t agree with me about climate change and what we should do about it (and I count friends among them).
Honestly, this completely baffles me. How can we be so far apart on such an important issue?
Instead of throwing up my hands, I decided to write out the things I’m absolutely, positively sure they are right about. Here’s my list:
5 Things That I Completely Agree on With Climate Skeptics
1. Climate science is complicated and scary
2. We’re all worried about our job/kids/house
3. We all really hate having the same argument over and over
4. No one likes being told what to do/not to do/can’t buy/should think
5. We can and *will* figure it out
This list reminds me that there’s plenty of common ground. From astronomical property taxes to job growth to rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy, we definitely agree on many of the things that need fixing. It’s the how-to-fix-it part where I get stuck. So the first step for me is to learn how to listen better and understand more about where people are coming from.
That’s why I encourage you to bring your friends to North Jersey Public Policy Network’s Feb. 20 event, especially the ones who aren’t sure about climate change or are fed up with it.
It’s called “America’s Future: Communicating with our Neighbors on Climate Change.” It will be a guaranteed friendly, flame-free evening with one of the country’s best-informed researchers on why climate change is so incredibly hard to talk about.
No judgments, no blaming.
The night will start with small group discussions about climate change conversations run by Climate Nexus. And then we’ll hear from Geoffrey Feinberg of Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communication and other panelists. Dr. Feinberg studies the different ways that Americans think and feel about themselves and climate change. There will also be time for your questions and comments.
NJPPN is hosting this event with the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
I’m committed to bringing 4 friends who don’t feel the same way about climate change and politics that I do. I’m not planning on changing anybody’s mind. But I do hope to hear and understand more about what they’re thinking and why.
The event is free. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NJ’s not in RGGI.
But it should be.
RGGI is a multi-state cap-and-trade system that creates jobs, brings clean energy investment to the state, and moves us closer to NJ’s 2020 GHG emissions goals. (That are mandated by the state’s 2007 Global Warming Response Act.)
Governor Christie pulled NJ out of RGGI in 2011 and has vetoed efforts to let the voters decide twice.
The only move now is to go around him.
Next stop is a Jan. 8 hearing on the matter by three NJ appellate court judges.
Two developments this month, one in the state legislature and the other in the state court system, have re-opened the debate on New Jersey’s participation in RGGI’s cap-and-trade program and raise the possibility it can continue decarbonizing power generation while earning millions in clean energy investment.