Green Business: Updated U.S. Gov’t “Green Guides”

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.

Green Politics: The Word Not Spoken (Yet)

Climate Change. Hasn’t come up in the debates.

Via ScientificAmerican.com:

Climate Change a No-Show at Presidential Debate, but Candidates Clash on Energy

Three debates down and one to go, and climate change has still not been addressed by the presidential candidates and their running mates in face-to-face confrontations.

I’m hoping there’s a “yet” at the end of that sentence. Hasn’t come up in the debates yet.

There’s one more chance on Oct. 22 for the top men on the ticket to grab the reins.

Will climate change will become a top national energy and security focus, or not?

If I were going to handicap the bet, I’d put my money on President Obama.

The 2012 Republican platform doesn’t even include the words “climate changes.”  (In a sharp contrast to the 2008 platform.) Hard to discuss something you don’t acknowledge.

President Obama’s 2012 Democratic platform speaks the word, and loudly:

2012 Democratic Platform

We know that global climate change [emphasis mine] is one of the biggest threats of this generation—an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.

Not that the future-looking business world needs any convincing.

Among the sustainable business community, climate change is a top 3 priority.

Via Environmentalleader.com:

Climate Change Among Top Sustainability Priorities for Business, Poll Finds

Human rights, workers’ rights and climate change are the top three sustainability priorities for companies in the coming year, according to a poll of 500 business leaders.

Tens of thousands of citizens agree and want to hear the candidates talk about climate change at the last debate. This is one of the many petitions circulating on social media.

We can’t afford to wait anymore for government to fully partner with business and civil society on climate change.

There’s precious little time left for “yet.”

 

Green Business: When “None” Is the Right Amount

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.

Green Business: NYC & NJ Sustainability Events

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

 

Green Business: Looking for Sustainability’s Tipping Point

Are we there yet?

Malcolm Gladwell taught us all to look for those moments when great ideas take off like a virus. Seemingly all of a sudden, the accumulation of small actions snowball into large-scale change.

He calls them tipping points in his book of the same name.

Have we reached the “tipping point” for when the Sustainability conversation swings past “optional” to “business critical and here’s how we are doing it”?

MIT Sloan Management Review skated close to it, but pulled the punch with Nears a Tipping Point” in its February 2012 report:

Sustainability Nears a Tipping Point

“The data suggest that the sustainability movement is nearing a tipping point, the point at which a substantial portion of companies are not only seeing the need for sustainable business practices but are also deriving financial benefits from these activities.

Almost a third (31%) of companies say sustainable business practices now contribute to their profits, and 70% say it’s now permanently embedded in their management strategy.

Some 70% of respondents who say their companies have put sustainability on the  management agenda say they have done so in the past six years–and from this group, 20% say it’s happened in the past two years.

(If you are just skimming, turn to page 3 for a bar chart that looks a lot–a lot–like the famous hockey stick graph describing our earth’s rising temperature.)

Since then, I’ve been keeping an eye on the increased buzz and a huge increase in corporate reporting and rankings.

Which Mark Gunther wrote about last week on Greenbiz.com:

Why Sustainability Rankings Matter

This has been a big week for corporate sustainability rankings, with the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and the Carbon Disclosure Project releasing news reports.

Greenbiz’s Heather Clancy wrote a really nice write-up on the CDP report. She pegs the pressures being brought to bear on businesses to take action in the absence of government leadership:

“The new ‘normal’ for businesses is a period of high uncertainty, subdued growth and volatile commodity prices. If the regulatory certainty that tips significant long term investment decisions doesn’t come soon, businesses’ ability to plan and act, particularly around energy, supply chain and risk could be anything but ‘normal’.”

So, more momentum, more actions by more organizations, more media attention.

All well and good, but is it enough?Are we there yet?

I’m not sure, and I’m not sure we’ll know until we’re on the other side.

If we are truly at a point where most businesses, worldwide, are acknowledging, planning for, and acting to mitigate their climate change impact, I’ll be a happy camper.

Government support and structure will also play a key role. (In the U.S., we’ll know more on that score on Nov. 7.)

Then we’ll have to make the same shift with American consumers.

Won’t it be something when responsibly and prudently conserving our world’s natural resources will be the norm?

I sure hope so. And soon.

Green Business: Obama Clears Energy Policy Roadblocks for Business Growth

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.

 

Green Shift: Finding the Climate Change Tipping Point

What’s it going to take for the private sector to move into action on global climate change?

We’re looking for levers to move conversation to catalyst.

Via ecosystemcommons.org:

The ecosystem services ‘tipping point’: how and when do we shift from theory to widespread practice in the private sector?

Let’s consider a few potential ‘tipping point’ scenarios that could dramatically affect corporate ‘uptake’ of ecosystem services concepts within business decision-making processes.

Worth a close read for author Sissel Waage’s suggestions, plus intriguing contributions in the comments section. Some of the possibilities include:

*Financial services community takes a leadership position. Launches proof of concept pilots and demonstrates success. Others follow.
*Public land managers apply a robust, new analytical framework worldwide.
*Civil society organizations including Occupy Wall Street join hands with 350.0rg, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists, and the Good Guide.
*Ecosystems services advocates launch new metrics that demonstrate valuation over payment.
*Behavioral economics experts share “Tipping Point” and viral phenomenon lessons.
*Environmental groups collaboratively partner with business communities.

 

Green Business: Looking for the Next Ray Andersons

Ray Anderson believed in doing well by doing good.

Before his untimely death in 2011, Interface founder Anderson pioneered the field of Sustainable Business.

His company doubled profits while slashing greenhouse gas emissions, waste, fossil fuel and water consumption.

What impresses me about his story is that his company was in the business of making acres of toxic-laden, waste-producing, petroleum-based commercial carpets.

Not what you would think of as a green company.

When he realized the impact his company was having on the earth, he took action.

Two books by Anderson to download or buy used:

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth

Mid-Course Correction. Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model

And the book by Paul Hawken that inspired Anderson’s business transformation:

The Ecology of Commerce Revised Edition: A Declaration of Sustainability

On the one-year anniversary of Anderson’s death, Greenbiz.com chairman and executive editor Joel Makower asks:

Why aren’t there more Ray Andersons?

Who today is the enlightened CEO picking up where Anderson left off?

Makower’s query to sustainable business experts brought one name to the top:

One name did come up repeatedly: Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever. For at least the past two years — since launching his company’s Sustainable Living Plan in 2010 — Polman has been presenting a bold sustainability vision for his company, one that at times rails against the status quo.

“He may be on track to surpass Ray,” says Jeffrey Hollender, the co-founder of Seventh Generation, now a speaker, activist, and consultant. “Unilever’s focus on accepting that the way their consumers use their products is part of its sustainability footprint, and that to reduce their negative impact they have to change consumer behavior, is revolutionary.”

But one more Ray is not enough.

Makower says that Anderson left behind “a vision for what sustainable leadership looks like.”

The qualities that Makower identifies as “What Made Ray, Ray” are attributes of transformational leaders : an entrepreneur’s vision, a passion for learning, and a willingness to risk big.

My take-away from Makower’s article is our energies are best spent not on finding the next Ray Anderson, but on encouraging and supporting business leaders to become the next Ray Anderson.

Green Business: “Context” is the Next Wave for Sustainability Measurements

Counting by itself is meaningless.

Learning that a company sent 30 fewer tons of trash to the landfill this year  doesn’t help you understand how a company is doing in the bigger picture.

But it’s a start.

The next step  is to put those numbers into context.

Like asking,  “Out of How Many?” and “Compared to What?”

In the above example, we might want to know what the total landfill tonnage is, and year-over-year change. How does this year’s reduction compare to how similar and nearby organizations perform?

Does this change represents a beneficial or harmful effect to the local economy and environment? What is the landfill’s capacity and status?

Where did that trash go instead of the landfill, and did that have a greater negative impact? And so on.

Mark MacElroy, founder and executive director at the Center for Sustainable Organizations, is one of the forerunners bringing Sustainability Context into the larger conversation.

A good starting point is his July 2011 Sustainable Brands article, Sustainability Context – What Is It?

From there, a new August 2012 article from Fortune writer Marc Gunther applies these principles to a comparison between how telecomm giants Sprint and AT&T report their sustainability metrics.

Via MarcGunther.com:

Sprint vs. AT&T: Metrics That Matter

It’s great that 3 million cell phones were collected for reuse or recycling, but how many cell phones did AT&T ship? Nice that 50.1 million pounds of scrap was kept out of landfill, but how much scrap, in total, did the company generate? 5,114 alternative-fuel vehicles sounds like a lot, but I’d be even more impressed if AT&T had a total of 10,000. If it has 100,000, or 300,000, I’m a lot less impressed.

Put another way, Gunther says, numbers without their context are “numerators in search of denominators.”

I think that’s a neat way to frame the initial steps of a complex issue.

If this sounds a lot like materiality, you’re right. Knowing what’s important, or material, about a company’s performance is chained to putting data into context for making better decisions.*

(*For more on this connection, McElroy, co-authoring with corporate sustainability architect Bill BaueGRI and Sustainability Context: Explain It Like We’re Four)

 

Green Blueprint: Proof That Sustainability Pays

Is Sustainability good for business?

Yes.

But where are the facts to back this claim up?

Here.

Sustainable Business consultancy Natural Capital Solutions has created an annotated report of studies that prove the business case for Sustainability.

Via NatCapSolutions.org:

“This document is a resource to help you understand how business leaders can profit by integrating sustainability into their strategy and value-chain while securing a competitive advantage.

This annotated list describes the ever-growing number of studies, most by conventional management consulting houses, academic institutions and similar establishment entities that prove this assertion.”

Sustainability Pays: Studies That Prove the Business Case for Sustainability

Many thanks to Natural Capital Solutions for a useful reference tool for Sustainability practitioners and students.