Welcome to Delicate template
Header
Just another WordPress site
Header

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

That seems to be exactly what 33 leading U.S. companies intend to do about about taking action on Climate Change.

Read the Climate Declaration.

Yesterday, in coordination with Ceres and  its Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) coalition,business leaders from dozens of  profitable, responsible, highly regarded companies issued a call to action.

The Climate Declaration is framed around a single statement of economic opportunity:

“Tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century.”

(and it’s simply the right thing to do.)

Hear that?

The Declaration isn’t about how mitigating climate change impacts will be easy. Or required by federal regulators (although that might be coming later.)
No, because it’s hard. And in that hardness lies opportunity and the potential to make a whole lot of customers happy.
All while ensuring that there will be a planet on which to have happy customers a few generations from now.  That’s where the right thing to do part comes in.)

Here’s IKEA US President Mike Ward on how his company is taking steps to lighten their global footprint. And how there is a right connection between those actions and bottom-line, profit-reaping, employee-growing results:To Fix the Climate, Think Like a Business

According to the Ceres’ announcement, the inaugural signatories “provide approximately 475,000 U.S. jobs and generate a combined annual revenue of approximately $450 billion.”
I signed on yesterday for my small business. I hope millions of others will too.

Pay your fair share.

You broke it, you bought it.

Simple enough concepts.

But until recently, natural resource costs and environmental impacts haven’t made it into a business’ bottom line.

Things like: how much do you owe to restore contaminated drinking water sources from your factory’s chemical run-off?

Or: what should you budget to maintain air quality for people who live near your factory?

What’s a forest worth? What’s the value of logging it versus keeping it intact? For whose benefit?

We know how to figure these costs out. It’s called Natural Capital Accounting.

And we really need to start using it. Because we’re running out of Natural Capital left and right. (To be clear, I’m talking about clean air, land and water.)

Greenbiz.com founder Joel Makower lays out the stark realities & challenges ahead here and in the newly released State of Green Business 2013 report.

He has a wowza of a topline finding:

If the global private sector had to pay outright the true cost of their companies’ environmental impacts, it would cut profits by 40 to 50 percent.

Let that one sink in for a second. Half of a company’s profits.

Greenbiz.com contributor Heather Clancy goes over the report in more detail.

Via Greenbiz.com:

The Case for Natural Capital Accounting

Few companies today account in their financial statements for the value of natural capital — resources such as clean water, tillable soil, breathable air and other resources that are often taken for granted or assumed to be free.

But if those costs were tallied globally, the liability would be considerably more than $1 trillion, according to a new index included in the sixth annual State of Green Business report published on Tuesday. Total natural capital costs related to U.S. firms are approximately $351.6 billion.

As an unrepentant optimist, I can’t help seeing the silver lining in this mess.

Natural Capital Accounting gives us a fuller, richer picture of what our actions cost, in terms of dollars, environmental impact, and how our choices hurt or help other people.

I like to believe that when people know better, they do better.

When you can’t afford not to do better, you figure out a way to do better.

Since we must do better, we will.

 

Change is hard. Unless you make it easy.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has issued revised, updated “Green Guides” to help U.S. businesses ensure that the claims they make about the environmental attributes of their products are truthful and non-deceptive.

In other words, to avoid green-washing.

Via FTC.gov:

FTC Issues Revised “Green Guides”

Will Help Marketers Avoid Making Misleading Environmental Claims

These guides provide sensible, practical, middle-of-the-road direction for businesses.

Helping to make the right (and legal) way simple to understand is a triple win for businesses, consumers, and the planet.

Sometimes being a big zero is a good thing.

Kudos to UK-based Waitrose food retailer for achieving its zero-food-waste-to-landfill goal ahead of its year-end schedule.

The chain’s 280 locations now re-purpose, donate, and recycle everything that would otherwise go into the trash.

Via Environmentalleader.com:

Waitrose Sends Zero Food Waste to Landfill

Waitrose has achieved its target of sending zero food waste to landfill two months ahead of schedule.

For everyone who says it’s “too hard” to achieve sustainability goals in a tight-margin business like food delivery, Waitrose shows it can be done.

Sports apparel maker Puma is giving leather the boot.

After calculating the true, full end-to-end cost of including different materials in its products, Puma announced in June that it is phasing out leather from its products.

(I missed this news in the whole Rio+20 UN Sustainable Development conference media avalanche so I’m just catching up on it now.)

Puma is one of the few companies that has committed to publishing an environmental profit and loss statement. Its first report in November 2011 attaches monetary costs to the environmental impact of each step in its operations and supply chains.

To its credit, the company has decided that leather costs too much in environmental impact, so it won’t be used anymore.

Via ft.com:

Puma to kick leather into touch
Puma will have to stop using leather in its famous football boots and trainers because it is such an environmentally damaging product, the sportswear company’s executive chairman has said.

The measure showed the production and processing of raw materials was the biggest contributor to Puma’s environmental footprint, said Mr Zeitz, “with leather being the biggest impact driver”.

That is partly because cattle ranching soaks up water supplies and requires land to be cleared, which can affect plant and wildlife species, and also because of the chemicals and contaminants associated with leather tanneries.

But it’s important to remember that Puma isn’t really focused on “zero leather.”

Pulling leather out of the equation lets the company continue to produce goods, probably more goods, for increased revenues.

Just with a lighter carbon footprint overall.

As a society, in the pursuit of growth and enterprise, we as a society tend to go for “more.”

Reducing or ceasing consumption is not a popular topic of conversation, but it is an important one.

In the meantime, I think that efforts from companies like Puma to get to  “less” represent steps in the right direction to a more sustainable future.

Mark your calendars.

Here are upcoming NYC & Northern NJ events centered on Business Sustainability, Corporate Responsibility, and Social Enterprise.

Sept. 21
“Springing beyond Rio+20: Toward a True Global Compact for Sustainable Development”
Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Institute for Sustainable Enterprise
Madison, NJ
view.fdu.edu/default.aspx?id=5033

Sept. 21
GoGreenNYC
NYC
newyork.gogreenconference.net/program
@gogreenconf

Sept. 24-30
Climate Week NYC
www.climateweeknyc.org
@ClimateWeekNYC

Oct 2-3
COMMIT!Forum 2012
CR Magazine
www.commitforum.com
@commitforum

Oct. 3
2012 Innovation Summit: “Sustainability through Innovation”
FDU’s Institute of Enterpreneurship/The Institute for Sustainable Enterprise
Madison, NJ
view.fdu.edu/default.aspx?id=3712

Oct. 5
2012 Social Enterprise Conference
Columbia Business School
NYC
www.columbiasocialenterprise.org/conference2012/
@SEProgram

Oct. 15-19
After Rio+20: Moving Beyond 2015:Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties in a Post Rio+20 Future
Ramapo College Masters Program in Sustainability Studies
Mahwah, NJ
afterrioplus20.eventbrite.com

Nov. 9
Global Conference for Social Change: Making the Business Case for Sustainability
NYC Stern School of Business/Foundation for Social Change
NYC
www.stern.nyu.edu/experience-stern/news-events/global-conference-change-2012
foundationchange.org
@FoundChange

 

Shall we blame it on the rain?

Or maybe point at melting icecaps, rising ocean levels, tornadoes, tsunamis, and blistering drought?

Whatever the catalyst, many of the world’s biggest businesses are wide awake and moving on the climate change challenge.

They get that the world needs to slow down greenhouse gas emissions–pronto–or there won’t be nearly as nice a world for anyone who wants to run a business.

Not to mention live happily or raise kids.

That’s what I heard over and over yesterday from business leaders around the globe on Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) web conference.

CDP is a worldwide non-profit independent coalition of businesses committed to reporting and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable water use.

The call was timed to coincide with CDP’s latest climate change report on its S&P 500 members:  “Accelerating Change to a Lower Carbon Future”.

Everyone on this web conference is fully on board that Sustainability progress is explicitly linked to business success.  So no surprises there. But what did surprise me was the candor with which they spoke about everything else.

There was frank talk about U.S. consumption patterns and foot-dragging on energy initiatives, the need for developing countries to be able to grow, and sobering data about how close we are to the 2-degrees point of no return.

One question really caught my attention was this: How do we enroll leaders for change at companies who don’t stand to benefit in the short term? (The question didn’t get any answers on the call, but I’m not sure there is one other than a combination of incentive carrots and regulatory sticks from government.)

A highlights video of the 2-hour call hasn’t been made available yet, but in the meantime, he’s an excellent write-up by BusinessWeek senior editor and content chief Diane Brady. She also ably moderated the call.

Via businessweek.com:

Climate Change Becomes a Business Reality

The takeaway from the discussions today with a mix of business leaders and investors at the CDP Global Climate Change Forum, which I moderated from New York, is that growing private-sector efforts to reduce greenhouse gases simply can’t move the needle on its own.What’s needed is government action to curb emissions through everything from taxes, carbon caps, and credits that can be traded, as well as incentives to invest in projects and products that may not pay off for years.

Businesses understand that climate change is real, that it is irrevocably changing our planet, and that they hold significant responsibility to make it better. Fewer emissions. Less water. Decreased pollution. Restored ecosystems. Healthier workplaces and homes.

Now that it’s a becoming reality for the business world, we need to ensure that the U.S. government is on board as well. And in serious action.

That’s where we all come in as citizens.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Last night President Obama declared that tackling climate change is good for our country, our citizens, our economy and our planet.

Via the New York Times:

Obama Counterpunches “Climate Change is Not a Hoax”

“And, yes,” the president said, “my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future. And in this election you can do something about it.”

Not that he’s been sitting around. In spite of–and despite–Congressional energy policy gridlock, the Executive branch has been moving forward on energy independence, security and job creation.

Like this Aug. 30 Executive Order to clear roadblocks that have held back private sector innovation and investment.

Via Whitehouse.gov:

Aug. 30 White House Executive Order Signed by President Obama to Accelerate Energy Efficiency

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to promote American manufacturing by helping to facilitate investments in energy efficiency at industrial facilities, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Read this Greenbiz.com article explaining the Executive Order:

White House Efficiency Plan Will Up Output, Curb Emissions
The Executive Order aims to help address persistent regulatory, policy, and institutional barriers that have long-prevented proven efficiency technologies from being more fully utilized in the United States.

It also facilitates increased industrial energy efficiency investment through interagency coordination and convening of national and regional stakeholders.

For their part, business leaders aren’t waiting around either.

Via Insideclimatenews.org:

Major Corporations Aren’t Waiting for Washington to Reduce Emissions and Save Money

While Congress has halted work on federal climate legislation, many U.S. business are stepping up to reduce emissions.

With climate policy paralyzed in Washington, a number of leading U.S. corporations are going it alone, squeezing big reductions of climate-changing emissions from their operations and supply chains. With stakeholder criticism and other pressures building, more and more are also releasing rigorous climate data in their financial reports and enlisting third-party firms to make sure it is accurate.

Strong governmental, scientific, and public sector collaboration are a winning strategy.

 

So is NJ solar in better shape now, or not?

On July 23, Governor Christie signed a solar-saving bill that will prop up New Jersey’s solar industry.

Via NJSpotlight.com:

Christie Signs Bill to Help Stabilize Solar Sector

It took a lot longer than expected, but a much-debated bill to maintain and potentially enhance New Jersey’s efforts to develop solar energy in the state was signed into law yesterday by Gov. Chris Christie.

The bill (S-1925), a priority of the Christie administration with bipartisan support in the Legislature for more than six months, aims to ensure investments in solar do not dry up in New Jersey, which is second only to California in the number of solar arrays –with 16,000 systems installed here.

But in the same breath, the Christie administration announced plans to slash the funds that help businesses and NJ homeowners buy into the solar market.

Via NJSpotlight.com:

State May Slash Clean Energy Fund Almost by Half

The state is considering cutting its funding for new energy efficiency and renewable energy projects almost in half, a consequence of the Legislature’s and Christie administration’s decision to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from New Jersey’s clean energy program.

In a draft proposal circulated by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities last week, the budget for the clean energy program would allocate $339 million in new spending, a sharp reduction from the $651 million proposed by the agency last December.

The cuts are a result of the diversion of money raised from gas and electric customers to help homeowners and businesses find ways to reduce their energy use, and promote the development of cleaner sources of producing electricity, primarily solar and wind.

The clean energy fund has helped propel New Jersey to be a leader in promoting clean energy, a status underscored by the fact that is second only to California in the number of solar installations.

The cuts aren’t certain. Michael Winka, director of NJ’s Clean Energy Program is requesting stakeholders and citizen comments on the proposal.

I expect he’ll be getting a lot of mail in coming weeks.

 

 

Materiality is coming up a lot in the Sustainability conversation.

Including at last month’s Responsible Business Summit USA in New York City.  TriplePundit.com contributor Raz Godelnick just posted an article recapping some of the CSR executive conversations about reporting.

Let’s talk about this word “materiality.”

In the accounting and finance worlds, materiality means how important an amount, transaction, or discrepancy is to the business.

When you talk about materiality in financial statements, you are asking about all the things that have to go into the report that really, truly matter. Reporting on all material aspects gives you the best possible view of  what or how a business is doing.

Materiality is about measuring and accounting for all the actions that positively or negatively impact a business’ growth or success.

Even though most of us don’t produce 10-K forms and hold shareholder earnings calls, I’d hazard that anyone who has owned or operated a small business  intrinsically understands this evaluative process.

As a simple example, what’s material–most important–about investing in a dog boarding and walking business?  To properly evaluate the business, you need to know how much the business costs to run.  How much are employees paid? You’ll want to see records of how client dogs are fed, watered, and exercised on a specific schedule. You might also add other measures such as the age and experience of employees, specific training, or criminal background checks. These are the essential, or “material,” elements you measure to make a decision.

While it might not have mattered as much 10 years ago, today you might also want to know about the energy and environmental impacts related to the business. These might include gas consumption for getting to and from clients, or what chemicals are used to keep the facility clean and sanitary. How do these “green” issues positively or negatively impact the business’ success?

(In case you’re wondering, there are several “green” dog-walking and boarding businesses out there, including this one.)

That’s what’s happening large-scale in the business world. As the Sustainability field grows from a sidebar conversation to front-and-center discussions,  Sustainability practitioners are finding new opportunities to materially contribute to business success.

One way to make this happen is through collaboration with business colleagues to mesh corporate responsibility initiatives with strategic goals. Here’s a great article about how Dell’s Sustainability team is doing exactly that.

Via MIT Sloan Management Review:

How Dell Turned Bamboo and Mushrooms Into Environmental-Friendly Packaging

Sustainability as a domain is moving in the direction of “materiality” — information that is relevant or “material” from the point of view of stakeholders and investors. And Dell, the computer and technology company, is working to make itself well-positioned to make the link between its initiatives and outcomes.

How? Against the trend of Sustainability teams moving under the CFO, Dell’s Sustainability team resides in a surprising place:

“We report into the global marketing organization,” says John Pflueger, principal environmental strategist for Dell. “That may sound weird to some people, but I actually think it’s a fantastic place for a sustainability organization to sit.”

The rest of the article is well worth a read for how the Dell team leverages its organizational positioning to positively impact packaging innovation:

At Dell, the sustainability team, working with suppliers and recyclers, has developed new compostable packaging materials made from bamboo and mushrooms. As John Pflueger, Principal Environmental Strategist, says, “It’s absolutely amazing.”

They experimented with the material, and they actually found a way to use bamboo as a raw material for manufacturing packaging. Now, I don’t think we use it on any of our big systems, but right now, 70 percent of notebooks ship in bamboo. Its structural strength makes it great for shipping our high-tech products.

These creative solutions are easy to see as “green” or environmentally friends. But more importantly, they grew out of several material concerns that have to do with bottom-line costs and supply chain security:

This followed a few high-level principles that we wanted to put into place. One, he wanted packaging material to be sourced near the point of use because he didn’t want to spend a lot of time and effort or fuel moving cardboard or some other packaging material across the world. Two, he wanted a material that was easy to replace.

How much does it cost to make and ship packing materials?

What materials will be available today and for the foreseeable future?

And only then, as a third priority, does the outwardly “environmentally friendly” aspect of the solution show up to reduce waste and carbon impact at the end of the packing material’s life cycle:

And three, he wants something that’s recyclable and compostable.

By linking Sustainability initiatives to outcomes on the executive dashboard, Dell is proving the case for how environmental stewardship materially contributes to a company’s success.