Warning: Parameter 1 to wp_default_scripts() expected to be a reference, value given in /services3/webpages/k/a/kayakmedia.com/public/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 579

Warning: Parameter 1 to wp_default_styles() expected to be a reference, value given in /services3/webpages/k/a/kayakmedia.com/public/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 579
Welcome to Delicate template
Header
Just another WordPress site
Header

This guest post is by my friend and colleague Matt Polsky.

Matt Polsky is a sustainability change agent, a Montclair State University professor and a Senior Fellow at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Institute for Sustainable Enterprise.

What I find immensely valuable about this post is Matt’s list of sustainable development successes and failures in our state.

The initiatives that are going well deserve our support.

The failures deserve our attention because most of them were great programs that failed because they weren’t in the right place at the right time–politically, economically, or because of a lack of vision.

I believe that all the hard work that brought them into being once can be re-vitalized once we’re in greener political, economic, and social pastures.

One specific example is the report Matt mentions that offers guidance and recommendations for a sustainable business-oriented economy.

It got shelved. And it can be un-shelved.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And we won’t be starting from scratch.

* * * * * *

A Look at Sustainable Development in New Jersey: How Have We Done & What Are the Opportunities–If We Want Them?

Part 1

By: Matt Polsky

“Achieving sustainable development is the overriding challenge of the 21st century,” according to the United Nations General Assembly President, Vuk  Jeremic, although to this day most have never heard of it or know little about it.  Here in New Jersey, we have had a blotchy past with it, with some success stories, but with many I’d have to say blown opportunities.

This may be due to a widely shared and thoroughly bi-partisan attitude: “There’s nothing new under the sun.”  This mindset precludes curiosity among policy-makers to learn about emerging global threats, as well as new ways to address them, such as green economic development.

It could be that the stream of always-ready-to-take-the-stage, attention-absorbing controversies such as “Bridge-gate;” the perceived need for continual updates to changing political horseraces; as well as some serious events like 9/11, the financial melt-down, and Sandy–by their nature, drown out more subtle and nuanced topics.

Or it could be that the growing number of citizens actually interested in and involved with sustainability have just given up on government and public policy as a means to get there, and prefer to work things out in quieter corners.

I offer this three-parter hoping we (government included) have it within ourselves to be able to break through the “we don’t know what we don’t know” mental trap,  are willing to tackle some serious longer term global and other difficult issues (and some no longer so long term) to which we’re not as immune as we might like to think, and take advantage of some of the beneficial properties offered by sustainability.

If we could at least suspend those cynical outlooks, find a little time to be reflective, and are willing to remember that most of us probably once enjoyed learning new things and being challenged, we just might find some useful directions for the future.

Benefits of a Sustainability Approach
Sustainability offers insights from newer fields with which we might not be familiar, including hybrids of traditional fields we tend to miss, such as social entrepreneurship; and the deepening convergence between the economic and environmental sides of what might seem the oxymoronic sustainable business sector.  We could take better advantage of promising ideas from around the world, and certainly could be more creative in encouraging and looking for new approaches in places where we might not think to find them.  But these are only available to us if we are willing to go outside our collective comfort zones.

This Series
Most of the rest of this piece describes the often one-step forward-one-step backwards pattern of our state’s historical involvement with sustainable development.

Part 2 will describe the emerging sustainable business field, a major part of and development within sustainability, with an increasing number of companies now ready to hear more than the constrained message: “I’m willing to do something sustainable but only if it saves me money.”  This supports this field’s larger potential, which could be taken advantage of and made the theme of our overall state economic development strategy.  But, as things stand, it won’t be.

The series will end in Part 3 with a discussion of the soon-to-to be publicly launched NJDEP Sustainable Business Initiative.  This Initiative, while improved from its early conception through stakeholder participation and a considerable willingness of agency staffers to listen, could be expanded further and made the centerpiece upon which to build this integrated environmental/economic strategy.

The Checkered New Jersey Past
A history lesson shows both the successes and self-inflicted failures of sustainability efforts in New Jersey.

The failures list is, unfortunately, more heavily weighted, and shows the sheer number of opportunities and initiatives we simply gave away.

At the risk of appearing negative, as I could get hit by a bus tomorrow it is important to generate this historical record for those becoming interested in sustainability, and possibly as a way to capture “lessons learned,” in order to accelerate the learning curves of any future do-overs.

For instance, I was recently asked by a Rutgers student for the lessons from a failed eco-industrial park project in Trenton several years ago. This is the idea, pioneered in Denmark, of a near-Zero pollution-generating cluster of co-located businesses, that link each participant’s waste with another’s raw material needs, in order to save at both ends.  While it was a little bitter to reflect on a “failure,” I was happy to be able to inform students how they might avoid some unanticipated and annoying problems should they wish to try again.  Perhaps even historical “failures” don’t have to stay that way.

Sustainability Successes
Probably the largest sustainability success story in New Jersey has been the involvement now of 410 municipalities in becoming certified by Sustainable Jersey, including emerging and now emerged stars such as Montclair, Woodbridge, Highland Park, and Morristown.

I was initially more skeptic than proponent, but they won me over by:

*their development of an increasing range of activities from which towns could choose in their pursuit of certification;

*the use of tiers to distinguish a minimum level of sustainability actions from the strivers;

*its unarguable immense popularity; and

*their reach-out to teach and learn from another country, Taiwan, demonstrating the feasibility of overcoming a common limitation of a sustainable communities mindset that only the local municipality is relevant to sustainability.

More recently, they displayed a willingness to go into the unknown and try to figure out what “Gold-level” certification would mean in practice.  That is, what would a truly sustainable municipality look like-a very difficult if necessary stretch if we truly take sustainability seriously.

There certainly have been some other successes, such as:

*the Dodge Foundation’s support of Sustainable Jersey;

*the longevity of, and green buildings manuals produced by, the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability, and some of its member college’s relatively new educational offerings;

*the cutting edge lectures on sustainable business ideas at my institution, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (ISE), and the occasional conferences by Ramapo College;

*the more localized efforts, such as Transition Jersey’s lectures in Newton;

*the growing number of farmer’s markets throughout the state;

*the interfaith group, GreenFaith’s, efforts to bring sustainability to houses of worship;

*the re-missioning of  Duke Gardens to become a showcase of sustainable practice;

*the efforts of some K-12 educators, architects and planners and their organizations to add their orientations to the field; and

*the better-known overall solar power performance of the state.

Sustainability Failures
The self-inflicted tragedies include:

*The demise of the pioneering Office of Sustainable Business within state government, which had begun to help very green businesses and develop policies to support them.

*A past NJDEP Administrative Order, and then a Governor’s Executive Order to make the agency’s, and then the State’s policies, consistent with sustainability.

*These led to a series of recommendations generated by staff and some outside stakeholders, and subsequently accepted by senior management, first within NJDEP, and then by all state agencies, for new or revised sustainability policies and actions.  These were published, but subsequently ignored by succeeding NJDEP Commissioners and Governors, respectively.  The press missed the story, and neither the Legislature or the environmental community showed any interest in their traditional roles of ensuring government accountability.

*The establishment of a Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers to guide state-wide sustainability thinking and issue updates of the state’s performance on a range of sustainability indicators, which Rutgers, for some reason, ended a few years later

*A White Paper and Report by ISE for state government which provided guidance and recommendations for a sustainable business-oriented economy, which have been ignored.

*My own Institute’s discontinuance of a new graduate Certificate program for managing sustainably lauded by the pioneering (as well as final) class.

*The near-ending of thinking about how New Jersey could be both a model for, as well as learn from worthy international sustainability actions, such as Netherlands-style covenants between government and businesses, which involved long term very ambitious environmental goal-setting, to which both  would mutually commit.

*Environmental/business partnerships, such as the Green and Gold Task Force, to try to cooperatively address some regulatory issues.

*State actions to mitigate climate change, itself with a looping start-stop-start-now stop historic pattern.

*Repeated efforts over the years to alert Legislators of both parties, including some of the environmental leading lights, succeeding Governors’ Offices and NJDEP Commissioners of the possibilities have been ignored-to this day. Most have not even responded.

*This lack of interest is unfortunately shared by the media (with very few exceptions, such as the “GrassRoots” section of The Daily Record), possibly not seeing any of this as newsworthy.

*Even the environmental community has not been overly interested in integrating green economy ideas into their work, or perhaps continues to see it as impossible. They have not, by and large, undertook the ambitious partnerships with businesses seen elsewhere, including working with companies to understand and value the latter’s economic dependence on healthy ecosystems, thus missing out on opening an entirely new front in protecting the environment.

I’m surely missing some in both the successes and failures columns.

In the next Part I will look at “something new under the sun” possibilities for a green economy, and discuss some opportunities that could still be seized-if that’s what someday we choose to do.

Regaining real leadership won’t be easy, will require rare vision, and won’t be feasible at all with fleeting attention spans.

Here’s my latest trend piece for Sustainable Brands.

In earlier articles, I asked whether consumers will back up brands that makes decisions “because it’s the right thing to do” over pure profit motives.

My bet is that these decisions will be rewarded by consumers as it become more normal for companies to make bold pro-health and pro-environmental choices. Here are five recent examples that point positively in that direction.

1. On April 1, Avon announced that it will stop using the antibacterial chemical triclosan in its products “based on the preferences expressed by some of our customers.” This move isn’t that surprising, since triclosan is already on the phase-out list for Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. But nonetheless, it’s a statement that some customers’ voices matter enough to stop selling products that other customers might still want to buy.

2. Two days later, on April 3, Nabisco’s graham cracker brand Honey Maid released a video called “Love” as a response to anti-gay comments about the brand’s March 2014 “This is Wholesome” commercial. That commercial, which shows gay and multi-racial families, had been blasted by conservative group One Million Moms as “promoting sin.”

We don’t know yet how the “Love” response video will impact sales. But with 3.5 million views and counting, I predict a graham cracker bump. On Twitter, the #thisiswholesome feed was awash with feel-good comments about wanting to make s’mores and one photo showing empty shelves.

3. Also on April 3, Mozilla’s new CEO Brendan Eich resigned after only two weeks on the job. He faced pressure to do so after online protests and a brief boycott campaign by OKCupid for his support of California’s anti-gay marriage law, Proposition 8, including a $1000 donation Eich made to the campaign in 2008. The OKCupid boycott caught eyeballs, but the real story, in my view, was about talent war pressure.

You can see that in Mozilla’s official corporate apology for Eich’s brief appointment, which cites an “organizational culture” that values “equality for all.” In other words, the most in-demand people want the best workplace. That increasingly assumes pro-equality and pro-environment policies.

The Eich resignation story is also notable for how fast it happened: his resignation was an about-face from his weather-the-storm stance just days earlier.

4. Then on April 6, restaurant brand Chili’s announced that it was withdrawing support for an autism-awareness group’s fundraiser, scheduled for the next day. Chili’s said it cancelled the event “based on feedback we heard from guests.” Others have noted that the autism awareness group’s website includes questionable statements about vaccination safety and the causes of autism. By responding fast to customer feedback, on a Sunday no less, Chili’s was able to extinguish a volatile public relations situation with a minimum of lost face.

5. And finally, on April 8, California lawmakers considered the so-called “Blackfish bill” that would ban keeping orcas in captivity. State assembly member Richard Bloom says that he wrote the bill after seeing the film Blackfish. Months of positive citizen support on social media surely helped, too.

The April 8 hearing attracted hundreds of people, but after testimony from the bill’s supporters and opponents, the committee declined to take up a vote. Instead, they sent the bill for further study, a process that could take up to a year.

For now, SeaWorld’s orca shows will go on as scheduled. I’m curious about what anti-captivity campaigners will do next, and if they will be able to influence ticket sales.

Together, what the first four examples show is that being a good business is good for sales. When customers speak up, and brands respond, everyone wins. Most of the time, at least.

That’s because what’s good for SeaWorld visitors, and good for sales, and good for California jobs, is really bad for these animals. Keeping captive orcas has been compared to spending one’s whole life in a small bathroom. SeaWorld has a huge opportunity here to be a world leader for truly responsible oceanic stewardship. It’s up to the company’s leadership to imagine — and create — that reality for its next generation of guests.

They won’t have to do it alone. As more customers speak up, there will come a day when SeaWorld says, “It’s wrong. So we’re stopping.” I plan to be a customer who supports them in that decision.

Here’s my book review of The Big Pivot on Sustainable Brands.

If you’ve ever thought of dropping a book on your boss’s desk, in the hopes of sparking a Ray Anderson-type conversion, here’s a tip. Don’t use the new IPCC report: It’s gloomy, terrifying and a muddle.

Try this instead: Andrew Winston’s business transformation book for the “new normal” of climate change-fueled disruption. It’s called The Big Pivot.

The strategist and Green to Gold author has written a practical, working handbook for teams, organizations and corporations to “recreate their operations to succeed within the scientific reality of a hotter, wilder, more radically open world.”

In the book, which launches April 9 (join us for the launch! See details below), Winston deftly manages a tricky balancing act: talking about humanity’s impending catastrophes while maintaining a rational, business-minded focus on solutions. I’m glad to say that he pulls it off.

And glad for the rest of us, too, because we need a Big Pivot. That’s what Winston calls the kind of rapid and radical business transformation needed to get from today’s normal of insufficient action to new low/no-carbon, climate-resilient practices and strategies.

To start, Winston briskly lays out the science: Failure is what awaits us if businesses don’t prepare for climate-change-fueled weather disasters, resource scarcities and a radically transparent global marketplace.

For sure, Winston is swinging for the fences by calling for “dramatic improvements in operational efficiency and cuts in material and energy use, waste and carbon emissions.” But only because climate science — not the boardroom — demands it.

Then onto examples: Winston knows The Big Pivot is possible because he’s seen and helped companies do it. He shares stories to show that change can come from decisive leadership rather just than the stick of regulation or crisis. These up-to-date case studies are perfect, sharable examples of what leading companies are doing today.

And finally, he offers 10 strategies for how your company can make big, bold moves for equally big returns on business stability and profitability.

Each strategy is stated as an action, such as “Fight short-termism” and “Set big, science-based goals.” And for each strategy, there’s a “How to Execute” section.

For example, one of the simplest (but hardest) things companies can do is to throw out their goal-setting processes that rely on internal or industry benchmarks. Instead, Winston says we have to peg our goals to meeting the true size of the planetary problem, with suggestions for doing that.

Overall, I appreciate Winston’s refreshingly blunt perspective on two points, both of which can mire sustainability work in problems rather than solutions.

The first is that climate change — as a human-caused, dangerous scientific reality — is not up for discussion. Readers who are grappling with climate denialism or its poisonous cousin, climate fatalism, in their workplaces will find Winston a good model for not engaging and getting on with things.

The second is to dismiss the stall tactic he calls “the increasingly absurd question [of], ‘What’s the business case?’” For readers who are genuinely uninformed about why the world’s businesses need to do things differently, the book’s appendix offers a crash course. Readers can also consult Winston’s earlier book, Green to Gold.

I find his use of the pivot metaphor to be really smart. For one, readers who aren’t comfortable with high-stakes sustainability goals might find themselves on more familiar ground by thinking about entrepreneurial pivots. Successful Start-Up 101 is all about trying one thing, then shifting deliberately to another, to find the right customers and positioning. Giving The Big Pivot an entrepreneurial cast, deliberate or not, may help draw in hesitant readers.

What Winston doesn’t talk much about, by necessity of brevity, are the specific people at leading companies who are making Big Pivot changes towards science-based goal-setting, heretical innovation and radical cooperation.

And that’s a shame, because they’re the real story of The Big Pivot — not companies or strategies or tools to get to zero.

I think that The Big Pivot starts with each of us thinking of ourselves this way. And more importantly, by thinking of our colleagues, partners, competitors and elected officials as capable people who are also up for the challenging of creating a better future.

I’m inspired by Winston’s call for businesses to buck the short-term safety of a quarterly profits-obsessed status quo. It’s time to pivot to a focus on long-term, science-based realities. With a certain climate-challenged future ahead of us, The Big Pivot gives us a realist’s path to making sure it’s a prosperous one, too.

 

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.

Here’s a screen grab of the press release before the OEM office fixed it on Mar. 31. (Click to embiggen.)OEMMarch31

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.

And tell Governor Christie and your State representatives how you feel about it.

First of many, I’m afraid. Telling the stories of climate migrants. http://bit.ly/1ftaGMF

Congrats to friend Eric Hanan of  BeeBoldApiaries for his great beekeeping advice in the New York Times http://t.co/y2duN6es88

Must-read. American Association for Advancement of Science on climate report. VERY clear language. http://whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts/

Evocative: Zadie Smith’s climate elegy in the New York Review of Books http://t.co/jrng4R22yv

Great NJ court decision: Gov. Christie’s RGGI removal ruled illegal. NJDEP has 60 days to respond. http://t.co/YJ4E0tsyLU

Highly rec’d: Readable share for catching up on “stranded assets” carbon bubble idea http://t.co/VmDKAQgE9G

Pleased to guest lecture at a friend’s Intro to Sustainability Science class this Monday. http://bit.ly/1g7IRZX

Little-better isn’t going to cut it. Nor will less-than-last-year.

No. If businesses want to survive the changes coming down the pike from climate change, it’s time for something bigger.

Here’s my review of Andrew Winston’s new book:

The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World (Hardcover)

* * *

It’s quite the balancing act to talk about humanity’s coming catastrophes with a rational, business-minded focus, but strategist and author Andrew Winston pulls it off.

That’s because he knows what he’s talking about. As he and others have said, “Business can’t succeed in a world that fails.”

To start, Winston briskly and clearly lays out the science. Failing is what awaits us if businesses don’t start getting ready for climate-change fueled weather disasters, resource scarcities and a radically transparent global marketplace. What’s needed is for businesses to make The Big Pivot to low/no-carbon, climate-resilient practices and strategies.

Then, on to examples. Winston knows The Big Pivot–rapid and radical business transformation–is possible because he’s seen and helped companies do it. He shares stories to prove that change can come from decisive leadership rather than just the stick of regulation or crisis. These up-to-date case studies are perfect, sharable examples of what leading companies are doing today.

And finally, he offers 10 strategies that show why and how your company or organization can make big, bold moves for equally big returns on business stability and profitability. I’m inspired by Winston’s call for businesses to buck the short-term safety of a quarterly profits-obsessed status quo. It’s time to pivot to a focus on long-term, science-based realities.

With a certain climate-challenged future ahead of us, The Big Pivot gives us a realist’s path to making sure it’s a prosperous one too.

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

Here’s my latest trend piece for Sustainable Brands.

February 20, 2014

Recent commitments from L’Oréal, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and P&G to phase microbeads out of their products by (or before) 2017 is laudable and a good step forward. This news responds to scientific research linking the tiny, polystyrene balls to Great Lakes pollution.

Meantime, “ban the bead” laws are taking shape in California and New York. Like the manufacturers’ phase-outs, it will take years for the ban law, if passed, to go into effect.

Together, these news items have me wondering:

  • Could our sustainability and government leaders be doing more, faster?
  • And if companies do decide to act faster, with some short-term financial hit, will investors and consumers support them for doing the right thing in the long-term?

We could call it the “CVS Effect” — playing off the drugstore chain’s “no smokes” decision — and the burgeoning “Blackfish Effect” sparked by the anti-Sea World film.

I think these questions deserve a closer look because of the bigger picture. The answers can either support — or hinder — climate action that’s getting underway by the Obama administration and leading U.S businesses.

These questions come from a place of examining what’s possible for forward-looking brands that are already committed to sustainability. It bears repeating that all of the brands in the microbead discussion already are sustainability leaders in their industries. Obviously, global manufacturing supply chains can’t be turned off overnight. But when necessity demands it, such as the 1982 Tylenol recall, things can happen very quickly.

So if CVS is truly a game-changer for health reasons, it opens the door for other forward-looking brands to take faster, bolder action for environmental and natural capital reasons as well. Making the decision to phase out an ingredient, while important, doesn’t stop the clock on the harm being done. The longer we wait, the more microbead pollution will go through wastewater treatment facilities, enter waterways, affect that water body’s ecology, and be consumed by fish, then by people. Each of these steps arguably has some amount of harm associated with it.

It strikes me that change can only happen today. That’s true for any choice we make as individuals, as citizens, and as business owners, to protect and restore the environment. So why not start stretching the bounds of what’s possible, sooner, as a better way of doing business?

For now, it remains to be seen how consumers and investors will respond to CVS’ “no smokes” announcement, and if any other retailers will follow their lead. And on the microbead side, how will consumers respond to the news? Will they shift to a brand’s other products that don’t contain the beads? Would they be open to guidance from manufacturers to do so?

I’m betting that, as it become more normal for companies to make bold pro-health and pro-environmental choices, these decisions will be rewarded by investors and consumers. I’d back this up by pointing to cross-sector collaborations such as the Net Positive group, the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance and Sustainable Apparel Coalition — they’re finding that working together with industry and nonprofit peers, for bigger global benefit, is good business, too.

Our responsibilities in life and business don’t end at the factory wall. That’s where they begin. It’s time for big sustainability actions to be the norm for business-forward action, instead of the exception.

Here’s hoping the CVS Effect is just getting started.

When consumers hear an end-date of 2017 for the tiny problematic beads, does this tell them that crucial environment and climate actions can wait?

L’Oreal’s (and others’) announcement that they are phasing out the use of microbeads in their skin cleansing products by 2017 is laudable and a good step forward. There’s new scientific research linking the tiny, polystyrene balls to Great Lakes pollution.

Meantime, a new “ban the bead” law is shaping up in the New York state legislature. But like the manufacturers’ phase-outs, it will take years for the ban law, if passed, to go into effect.

But these announcements have me wondering:

*Does a multi-year “phasing out” or ban of this problem ingredient inadvertently send a signal to consumers that there’s time to wait on other important environmental and climate change actions?

*Is this the best that our sustainability and government leaders can do? Could they be doing more, faster?

*Are the full costs of the environmental harm being done to the Great Lakes today, and repair, being priced into these companies’ phase-out plans? If not, why not?

*And if companies do decide to act faster, with some short-term financial hit, will investors and consumers support them for doing the right thing in the long-term?

We could call it the “CVS Effect”—playing off the recent news of the drugstore chain’s decision to no longer sell tobacco in its stores—and the burgeoning “Blackfish Effect” movement sparked by the anti-Seaworld film.

These questions deserve a closer look. Here’s why: the answers will either support—or hinder—important climate action steps finally getting underway by the Obama administration and leading businesses.

These questions come from a place of examining what’s possible for forward looking brands that are already committed to sustainability. It bears repeating that all of these brands already are sustainability leaders in their industries. I’m completely aware of the reality that global manufacturing supply chains can’t be turned off overnight. But when necessity demands it, such as in a case like the 1982 Tylenol poisonings, things can happen very quickly.

It strikes me that change can only happen today. That’s true for any choice we make as individuals, as citizens, and as business owners to protect and restore the environment. So why not start stretching the bounds of what’s possible, sooner, as a better way of doing business?

Forward-looking brands can be leaders in this movement, by taking faster, bolder action that takes natural capital into account, as well as the bottom line.

Our responsibilities in life and business don’t end at the factory wall. That’s where they begin. It’s time for sustainability actions that have global impact to be the norm for leading companies, instead of the exceptional.

It remains to be seen how consumers and investors will respond to CVS’ “no smokes” announcement, and if other retailers will follow their lead. One encouraging trend is the collaboration we’re starting to see among leading brands across industries.

Here’s hoping that the CVS Effect is just getting started.