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Here’s my latest trend piece for Sustainable Brands.

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.

Feb. 28: Apple CEO defends doing the right thing — not just the bottom line

Last week at a shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook said that investors who don’t agree with the company’s commitments to renewable energy among other sustainability issues should divest.

Cook knew that he was on safe ground with this issue. A related shareholder proposal against pursuing renewable energy investment got less than 3 percent of the vote. And just two days earlier, Apple had announced that it had signed the Climate Declaration along with more than 120 other California companies.

I don’t know if these two issues occurred to or mattered to Cook before he spoke. But as a high-profile, profitable CEO, his stance creates more “safe ground” for other brand leaders to publicly talk about doing things because they are just and right, not just to make money.

Mar. 2: Disney stops Boy Scouts of America funding because of gay troop leader policy

According to CNN, Disney joins Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Major League Soccer, Merck, Intel, Alcoa, AT&T and UPS as companies that have ended partnerships with the Scouts because of its anti-gay policy. So, Disney wasn’t the first to make this move, but this is a noteworthy step because of Disney’s close brand identification with childhood and families.

Mar. 3: Kroger and Safeway say no to GMO salmon

This one is interesting because it’s about something that doesn’t exist yet. The FDA is currently considering whether to allow genetically modified salmon to be sold.

The US’s two largest grocery store brands — Safeway and Kroger — have joined other leading national retailers in saying they won’t carry the product if approved, which include Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s. Sure, this isn’t as big as CVS pulling tobacco off the shelf. But it still matters because it shows big companies saying “no” to a product that some customers might want, even if peremptorily.

Mar. 5: Chipotle names climate change as a material risk in its 10-K. As reported by Climate Progress’ Emily Atkins, last month Chipotle listed climate change as a risk for the company in its SEC filing and then downplayed it.

Atkins countered that it is a big deal, because, “The fact that Chipotle openly acknowledges climate change, even as a ‘routine risk,’ is news — as there are likely companies that wouldn’t mention the words ‘climate change’ if their business depended on it. And they do.”

Which leads to another reason why this is potentially a big deal.

It’s no secret that SEC disclosure requirements leave room for companies to be opaque about climate change risks.

Bill Russell, of Transitioning to Green (and a Green Accounting professor), noted that, “Chipotle taking this leading position on climate-change risk disclosure could allow shareholders of any competitor company to ‘demand’ that their company explain how climate change is not a material risk to their company. At any time in the future, should it turn out to be material and they had ‘demanded’ the question be addressed, they could potentially be set up for a shareholder lawsuit.”

While climate-change risk might still be a hard thing for some people to grasp, litigation risk sure isn’t. This is something that corporations are finely attuned to — and take action to prevent.

So with this move, Chipotle may have blown a transparency hole in climate-change risk disclosure for shareholders of other companies to climb on through.

I wrote earlier that I’m betting that forward-looking brands that make bold pro-health and pro-environmental choices will be rewarded by investors and consumers — and others will follow.

It’s just the “Diffusion of Innovations” theory in action. Innovators take the risk and go way out on the limb. Early adopters see it and spread the news. Then others follow it and it becomes normal.

As a whole, these announcements — as signs of changing times — were met at worst neutrally (Disney) and at best positively (Apple) in the press. I’m betting on more to come.

Great reporting with lessons for climate communications on #plastics, BPA & health http://t.co/ykg1OZIgia

Terrific green- ing ideas for your campus or facility by my friend Lew Blaustein http://t.co/zZW9DfZIox

Thoughtful essay on Congressional climate action from a Brown Universty http://t.co/0BRuMCY0g7

Bike-sharing on a roll: Great where-things-stand in U.S. cities by Marc Gunther http://t.co/bnbYxa2wME

Sounds like #flourishing! “We’ve stopped looking for more. We just want enough and better.”  http://t.co/9j1PKJttzL

Here’s my Storify for John Ehrenfeld’s “Flourishing” Mar. 5 Talk  http://t.co/BKWLlsQgFG

VIDEO: John Ehrenfeld, Fall 2013 real #sustainability as #flourishing lecture video http://t.co/EuaOxawov3

On pricing externalities by Gil Friend: The price is not right, and that’s a big problem http://t.co/2IZz9oKbyk

Great Climate March steps off to a beautiful start. http://t.co/rkTpQXe5dP

Kudos Tim Cook: ” “Many things Apple does because they are right and just” http://t.co/shLkRf8UuI

“CVS Effect” in motion? “Disney to pull Boy Scouts funding by 2015” bc it’s the right thing to do? More to come? http://t.co/ycFiuHFY0x

Microbeads: Helpful post w/beads product list & non-beady alternatives http://t.co/yAADskgh33

My latest for Sustainable Brands: Testing the ‘CVS Effect’ on Microbeads: Could L’Oreal & @Unilever Be Bolder? http://t.co/menwewKs7B

Going! Mar. 7 Tri-State #Sustainability Symposium! http://t.co/o558YTQL1O

Interesting petition, we need the same in the US: UK media should move #climate debate to response https://t.co/mCYipFC7pZ

From the always on-target @blindspotting: “So how do you change paradigms?” http://t.co/18HrjlzhK4

Simple advice for having more of what matters: You don’t need it. http://t.co/MpgSYDJk9h

Truth: “Climate change deniers have grasped that markets can’t fix the climate” http://t.co/6Wii7crdRr

ENJOYING Jeana Wirtenberg’s new “Building a #Culture for #Sustainability” book. Features 7 NJ business case studies. https://t.co/rS7k5EvmTw

MAY 2014 Classes Scheduled: Transitioning to Green’s NEW #Leadership for #Sustainability (grad myself) http://t.co/yHd0YjPtYy

Intriguing peek at an upcoming book — It’s All My Fault — here: http://t.co/M0laYHAFiy

All about NJ’s climate plan inadequacy: http://t.co/EhUbH1lvhr. And shorter by me: http://t.co/TlXq1ug3Bu 

Here’s hoping we’re at a tipping point where climate action becomes the norm for business-forward action http://t.co/garojSvH8v

Worthy and worth sharing: The “St. Francis Pledge”? http://catholicclimatecovenant.org/the-st-francis-pledge/

Laudable but wondering: Does microbead “phasing out” by 2017 signal consumers that green & climate action can wait? http://t.co/COUVKM5HEU

Appreciating Alex Steffen ‘s “attention philanthropy,” ie, the gift of pointing out something worthwhile http://t.co/Zm0Rn7aT38

On steroids & quarterly reports: short-term fixes can really screw up systems thinking http://t.co/OsIQAifXjJ

Nicely put on climate change denial http://t.co/V98v64IB8f

Score! Check out this post on climate change action & sports http://t.co/HDR1ZDxAr4

Maybe a boat instead? (tongueincheek) “Miami Luxury Condos Come w/Free Tesla” http://t.co/yz5BNXQ715

John Kerry warns on catastrophic  climate change http://t.co/ZOUYIaO4hL

Here’s my latest trend piece for Sustainable Brands.

February 14, 2014

Leaders Now Seeing Climate Change as Risk That Can Be Managed, Not Uncertainty That Can’t (New for Sustainable Brands)

Last month, a front-page New York Times story reported that global business leaders Coca-Cola, Nike, and others are factoring in climate change risks as threats to the bottom line. This news followed CDP’s December reveal that 29 major companies use a shadow carbon price in their finances for climate risk evaluation.

What do these stories have in common? Risk.

I’ve noticed a decisive pivot in business conversations about climate change impacts from uncertainty — as just cause for delay or inaction — to a core business competency: managing risk. For forward-looking companies, this pivot may signal a tipping point from academic discussion to business action that they can use to their advantage.

Simply put, this change moves the conversation from: “What if we’re wrong about potential climate change-fueled catastrophes?” to “What if we’re right? What do we stand to lose, and how can we manage those risks?”

As an example of how this conversation has shifted, look at how Talking Climate’s Adam Corner explored uncertainty versus risk as an academic finding in November 2012. Compare that to his forceful Jan. 31 Guardian piece calling for the framing of risk over uncertainty as a business imperative.

While this idea may be familiar to SB readers, it’s worth noting how fast and far the “risk rather than uncertainty” message is spreading to broader business audiences — and who is delivering the message.

Forward-thinking business leaders and influencers can leverage this momentum for action within their organizations, and with industry peers, supply chain partners, customers, government and civil society allies.

Here are 11 notable recent instances in which business conversations about climate-change impacts center on risk:

Sept. 9, 2013: Harvard Business School’s “Working Knowledge” site reports on shifting the debate about climate change from a political discussion to a practical conversation about risk and reward.

Oct. 3, 2013: Financiers Michael Bloomberg, Hank Paulson and Tom Steyer announce their year-long “Risky Business” initiative to measure U.S. economic risks from climate change impacts.

Oct. 24, 2013: Investors ask oil, coal and power companies for climate risk information.

Dec. 6, 2013: Climate scientist Tamsin Edwards reports her findings from a meeting called “Communicating Risk and Uncertainty around Climate Change.”

Jan 15: Ceres hosts the Climate Risk Investor Summit with 500 global financial leaders.

Jan. 23: Sustainability thought leader Bob Willard posts “Unleashing 3 Risk Arguments in the Climate Debate” article

Jan. 24: At the Davos World Economic Forum, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim calls for carbon pricing and climate risk disclosure by government, businesses and NGOs

Jan. 30: Citing fiduciary duty, 17 philanthropic groups pledge divestment from fossil fuels and investment in clean-energy technologies as a “prudent response to climate risks.”

Jan. 31: Bloomberg starts his new job as United Nations special envoy to help cities around the world prepare for climate-change risks.

Feb. 5: White House announces “climate hubs” to help farmers and rural communities respond to climate risk.

Feb. 7: A new Ceres report shows more companies reporting climate risk to CDP than to the SEC.

The scientific consensus on human-caused global climate change hasn’t changed that much in the past 10 years. In that time, there’s been very little climate action overall. But now that’s clearly changing.

It’s been said that, “When we change how we look at things, the things we look at change.” I’m encouraged that global leaders in business, finance, government and behavioral economics are shifting to talking about climate-change impacts as business risks that can be managed rather than uncertainty that can’t.

This is a powerful mindset we can use to help achieve broad, global sustainability gains at every level.

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.

(I’m indebted to Scott Dodd’s Nov. 2013 Slate and Katherine Bagley’s Dec. 2013 InsideClimate pieces. They connected a lot of the dots for me and provided important links in this post.)

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.

RSVP today.

Must-Read, Long:

Trusting Harvard: The Cost of Unprincipled Investing [$2.99 on Kindle], by Robert A.G. Monks & Marcy Murninghan http://amzn.to/1aw1iLP


Green Links:

At WEF14, Lord Stern says he wishes he’d been more fierce on climate action and recommends the @NewClimateEcon group. http://t.co/iuRsV9cEa2

NYT piece shows business catching up on climate change risks. http://t.co/OW4lUVUj2E

Phoenix is planning for 100F nights. And others cites are too, because it’s a lot less expensive to plan for resilience than pay for repair. “Federal taxpayers spent $6 on disaster cleanup for every $1 spent on community reliance” http://t.co/gGpprMRdcD

Trust Across America’s 2014 Top Thought Leaders. Some people I already look up to, and others I’m looking forward to learning from. http://t.co/XQ9br0H20d

Cogent explanation about why risk is “uncertainty that matters” and must be counted for sustainability decisions.

By me: 5 NJ Climate Change Resources That Are Completely Under the Radar and Shouldn’t Be. http://t.co/o06BwU8H2N

Word out of Davos is that businesses are realizing they can gang together for real climate action. http://t.co/dUVA6Pu6cR

Last week’s 4-hour U.S. Senate climate change hearing. http://t.co/H7MPDW2tA8 and http://t.co/Y8mASZq3X9

Sanity from Andrew Winston: If We Don’t Tackle #Climate Change, The Rest of Our Problems Are Moot. http://bit.ly/KWwEiQ

Masterful job by Elaine Cohen to explain GRI v. IIRC.v. SASB http://t.co/LJygdMj0GZ

Smart read from Thomas Kolster “Nobody cares about sustainability.” http://t.co/SMug8BKQmR

SUPER explanation of SRI investing: “Buy green. Sell stranded.” http://t.co/Ba1q28IsX6

Must Reads:

Grist’s Ben Adler asks: Why is Chris Christie silent on climate change, even as New Jersey is threatened by rising seas? Includes good background on how New Jersey used to be a leader for clean energy and climate action planning

New York Times front-pages leaked IPCC draft, highlighting mounting costs of climate inaction: http://nyti.ms/1asqoc3


Green links:

Four great (tree-free!) ebooks for your new-to-green friends & colleagues from Julie Urlab at Taiga Company http://t.co/6DcVe5pNsc

Pondering ways to connect the “Blackfish Effect” to climate action. Similar in cognitive dissonance? http://t.co/mMIhlMBGw9

Why storytelling matters. Required reading from Seth Godin for the sustainability and climate action worlds. http://t.co/aoFXqhxNSW

Great analogy for restoring & protecting: “broken windows” theory from Hudson Riverkeeper http://t.co/u47t5C6kbw

Just a super share from Susan McPherson on how to be your best on social media https://t.co/yRfnCK31RP

My take on NY Comptroller DiNapoli’s climate action win: http://t.co/TVJCuOXcFC

A solar car! Future-fiction or not-so-far-off? https://t.co/438krn5ZC0

Are your U.S. Sens on the Boxer/Whitehouse Act on Climate taskforce? Mine are. Thanks to Senators Booker and Menendez http://t.co/at5ImiqB7p

My “5 Things #Climate Skeptics are Right About” | Feb 20 event w/ Yale Center for Climate Change Communication’s Geoffrey Feinberg http://t.co/0bQ7KFcX4a

Terrific essay: The sociology of climate change http://t.co/bo1k7YuDc5

Check out this SRI blueprint from Marcy Murninghan and Bob Monk: Trusting Harvard: The Cost of Unprincipled Investing http://t.co/VGVmORLVhm

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 enviro@njppn.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.

Via cleantechnica:

Can Climate Hawks Beat Chris Christie To Let New Jersey Rejoin RGGI?

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.

Water is a limited resource.

Here is one assessment of the U.S. state of play from an International perspective.

The United State of Drought

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 2013 (IPS) – As the planet heats up and larger populations demand larger water supplies, the United States will be left high and dry if it fails to address a worsening water shortage.

By 2060, the gap between water supply and demand could grow to nearly four billion cubic metres per year – 10 times the amount of water used by the desert-bound city of Las Vegas.