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Green isn’t always what it seems.

AT&T claimed to be the “World’s Record” holder for recycling phones, and paid Guinness for the right to say so.

Fact is, Sprint is far ahead of them, but missed the boat on telling their customers.

What’s the harm? Well, greenwashing erodes customer trust.

Greenwashing makes consumers feel tricked and less likely to believe genuinely green claims that might positively influence their choices.

Hat tip to Marc Gunther for his reporting.

Via SustainableBusiness.com:

Sorry, Wrong Number: AT&T’s Recycling Claim Doesn’t Add Up

AT&T says it collected 3 million cell phones for reuse and recycling in 2011. Sprint says it collected 11 million in 2011–an average of more than 200,000 a week, easily topping AT&T’s so-called record.

Gunther uses this example as an opportunity to talk about how businesses can do a better job of assessing, counting and reporting on their environmental impacts.

What’s needed here are common metrics and better transparency, as well a concept called sustainability context. Sustainability context that seeks to put corporate claims in the context of what the planet’s limits are when it comes to greenhouse gas reductions, water usage and the like.

Context is a fascinating development that brings absolute limits and thresholds into the mix.

“How many?” leaps beyond “Out of how many?” to the real question we face: “How much can the planet handle?”

Now things are getting interesting.

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 CSRwire.com:

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.

Via Greenbiz.com:

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?