March, 2013

March 27th, 2013

On Climate Leadership, 15-year old trumps Average Yahoo; Tainted Apple

By Mike Bellamente Tim Cook Apple

This article first appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday, March 26.

A young girl with a unique name made headlines last week when 12,000 people signed her petition to keep climate change in the UK national curriculum.  For Esha Marwaha, a 15-year old west London student, climate change isn’t just an environmental cause; it is the unwelcomed burden of cleaning up after the crotchety old bastard who dumped trash on her lawn.   In her eyes, it would be illogical to leave the problem to fester unattended in hopes that her future children would one day properly dispose of it.

How is it that a teenager can be so clued in to a macro concept like climate change while government leaders and titans of industry remain blissfully impotent on the subject?

Last week, Apple applauded itself for reducing energy usage by 21.5 percent per dollar of revenue since 2008.  Meanwhile, the company’s absolute emissions rose 34 percent in 2012 alone.   As a wise man once said, if you’re heading toward a cliff and you reduce your speed from 100 km/h to 50 km/h, you haven’t done yourself much of a favor.

One might argue that Apple’s only sin is making investors incredibly wealthy by way of creating a universe of i-crazed gadget mongers.  Indeed, there is no crime in being profitable – the world needs stuff, just as people need jobs; Apple provides a great deal of both.

But the world also needs its most recognizable brand and modern-day mecca of innovation to demonstrate at least token leadership on a daunting societal challenge like climate change.

Four years after resisting initial shareholder calls to develop a company-wide sustainability report, Apple continues to defy trends toward transparency and corporate climate leadership by:

1) Refusing to disclose emissions performance to CDP (more than 80 percent of Global 500 companies currently disclose voluntarily);

2) Replacing its founding CEO Steve Jobs with Tim Cook who pledges eco-responsibility, yet remains mute in calling for federal carbon policy, and

3) Coming in last out of 15 technology companies on the 2012-13 Climate Counts company scorecard for having a less-than-stellar, company-wide carbon strategy

Leadership is a 15-year old who petitions her government, not a global behemoth that slinks down the hallway with his hands in his pockets.

So how does Apple compare to, say, the likes of Yahoo Inc. when it comes to addressing climate change?   Last year Yahoo made impressive strides on their 2014 goal to reduce the carbon intensity of their data centers 40 percent from 2009 levels.  The company also stood alongside Nike, Stonyfield Farm, and Levi Strauss, among others, to support the extension of a federal wind energy production tax credit in the U.S.

But Yahoo’s recent announcement to ban the practice of employee teleworking drew the ire of working mothers, pajama-wearing tech geeks and environmentalists alike.  Isn’t it considered a step backward for a hip, leading-edge internet company to force employees to endure rush hour twice a day?  Isn’t Yahoo’s own chief, Marissa Mayer, a freshly minted working mother?

To be fair, greenhouse gas emissions from employee commuting and business travel only accounts for about 55,000 metric tonnes of Yahoo’s greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the 370,000 metric tonnes needed to power Yahoo’s data centers (according to the most recent emissions data on CDP).  However, the move to eradicate employee telecommuting flies directly in the face of rational decision-making from both a cost and carbon management perspective.

Depending on the study, employee productivity is said to increase 10 – 50 percent from teleworking while companies save $10,000 per employee per year from reduced energy and office management expenses.  On the emissions side, with 3.9 million Americans working from home at least once a week, teleworking leads to nearly 840 million gallons in reduced fuel consumption – the equivalent of taking two million cars of the road each year.

But none of these numbers matter if the CEO lacks perspective, and, somewhere along the line, perspective on our little climate debacle became muddied by politics and abstraction.  Today, it isn’t enough to say that the burning of fossil fuels is disrupting the natural balance of our atmosphere and we need all leaders on deck – corporate leaders, government leaders, movies stars, porn stars, sports heroes, music icons and leaders of the Esha Marwaha variety– to stop it.  How can that be?  This isn’t about some no-name species of fish heading for extinction; this is about a massive upheaval of our earth’s ecosystem.

As with Apple’s Tim Cook, Marissa Mayer has a job to do that dictates her priorities as a leader; a job that is more apt to carry with it the mantra “stop the bleeding, right the ship” than the more utilitarian “move mountains, save the world.”

If Mayer is to fare better in her role as CEO than her predecessors (since 2005, Yahoo has had seven different CEOs), she’s faced with a short runway to gain the respect of employees and the confidence of shareholders.  Similarly for Apple, Tim Cook wants to show that a Steve Jobs-less Apple can make the same hay as its founder.  But should that preclude these highly visible members of society from personifying top-down leadership on climate change and sustainability?  Not in the least. In fact, it might be a welcome differentiator when it comes time to assess their legacies.

In our hyper-paced world, constant noise provides good cover for those who aren’t willing to stand and be counted.   Perhaps someday, when Esha Marwaha is CEO, this will no longer be the case.

March 6th, 2013

Industry Innovator LG Electronics Named as EPA Energy Star 2013 Partner of the Year

LG ElectronicsMarch 6, 2013 /3BL Media/ - LG Electronics, a global technology leader in consumer electronics and home appliances and member of the Climate Counts Industry Innovator program, has been named 2013 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  This is the second year in a row that LG has earned this coveted award for its efforts to manufacture and promote energy-efficient products to consumers.

“Environmental sustainability is a core principle for LG. As a long-time ENERGY STAR partner, LG is committed to delivering innovative energy efficient products to the market as quickly as possible and helping educate consumers on how ENERGY STAR products can save them both energy and money,” said Wayne Park, president and CEO of LG Electronics USA. “We are extremely honored to be recognized by the EPA as an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year and look forward to continuing our industry leadership role through our environmental initiatives.”

The 2013 Partner of the Year Awards are given to manufacturers and retailers that successfully promote and deliver ENERGY STAR qualified products, saving consumers money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Award winners are selected from the nearly 20,000 organizations that participate in the ENERGY STAR program. LG’s accomplishments will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on March 26.


Over the last 20 years, with help from ENERGY STAR, American families and businesses have saved more than $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA.

In 2012, LG increased its total number of products available for sale in the United States that earned the ENERGY STAR Label – the government-backed symbol of energy efficiency – by more than 140 percent and increased its total sales of ENERGY STAR qualified products by more than 15 percent, compared with 2011.

LG also embraced the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient program, the groundbreaking new EPA initiative that recognizes the most energy-efficient products in their categories among those that have earned the ENERGY STAR label. More than 60 LG products – including the most refrigerators and washing machines in the industry – earned this coveted recognition for 2012. American consumers purchased more than 1 million LG products awarded the 2012 Most Efficient designation.

LG also invested in programs designed to change consumer behaviors, activities driving increased sales of ENERGY STAR-qualified products and enhanced employee and sales training, and technology leadership.

In 2012, LG reached more than a billion consumers with a nationwide public education and community outreach campaign about ENERGY STAR, designed to help consumers change behaviors.  A key component of this effort was LG’s support of EPA’s new Team ENERGY STAR campaign — a Lorax-themed educational initiative designed to engage youth to get involved in cutting their energy use at home. The company collaborated with EPA and DoSomething.org on the “Team ENERGY STAR Challenge,” in which nearly 500 youth submitted energy-saving stories for a chance to win prizes from LG.


LG offered consumers nearly 1,000 ENERGY STAR qualified models in 2012 across consumer electronics, home appliances and commercial air conditioning systems.

As a company that thrives on innovation and is committed to enhancing consumers’ lives, LG strives to develop the most energy efficient products possible, while ensuring that consumers don’t have to sacrifice performance or style. Examples of energy efficient products that LG introduced in 2012 include:

  • Mega-Capacity TurboWash™ Washer: Recognized as ENERGY STAR Most Efficient 2012, this washer is the industry’s largest capacity washing machine* designed to save consumers a full 20 minutes per load** – addressing American consumers’ desires for saving time and energy.
  • French-Door Refrigerator: Received the top rating by a leading consumer magazine for its features as well as being recognized as ENERGY STAR Most Efficient 2012 due to the design of its linear compressor.
  • 3D Smart TVs: Earned the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient 2012 designation by combining smart energy-saving features such as Intelligent Sensors and power-saving modes with a cinema-quality 3D experience and the advanced interactivity of LG Smart TV.


LG’s ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year recognition is in line with other LG sustainability initiatives, including LG’s corporate campus project in Englewood Cliffs as its new state-of-the-art North American headquarters designed to be a showcase for environmentally friendly design, promoting energy efficiency, water conservation and reducing carbon emissions.

The new green corporate campus is expected to be certified under the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings Program, and LG is aspiring to achieve LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The new headquarters is also integral to helping LG achieve its industry-leading pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its U.S. operations by 50 percent by 2020 (from a 2007 baseline).

About LG Electronics USA

LG Electronics USA, Inc., based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is the North American subsidiary of LG Electronics, Inc., a $49 billion global force and technology leader in consumer electronics, home appliances and mobile communications. LG Electronics, a proud 2013 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year, sells a range of stylish and innovative home entertainment products, mobile phones, home appliances, commercial displays, air conditioning systems and solar energy solutions in the United States, all under LG’s “Life’s Good” marketing theme. For more information, please visit www.lg.com.


ENERGY STAR was introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 as a voluntary market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through increased energy efficiency. Today, ENERGY STAR offers businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions to save energy, money, and help protect the environment for future generations. Nearly 20,000 organizations are ENERGY STAR partners committed to improving the energy efficiency of products, homes, and buildings. For more information about ENERGY STAR, visit www.energystar.gov or call toll-free 1-888-STAR-YES (1-888-782-7937).

*Model WM8000. Based on ENERGY STAR qualified, front load residential washers as published by the DOE January 30, 2013 and manufacturers’ published specifications.

**20 minute savings based on AHAM HLW-1-2010 test protocol, Cotton / Normal or comparable cycle at default settings, 8lb load, front load washer only. Excludes other LG manufactured products. Excludes quick wash or other comparable cycles intended for small lightly soiled loads only.

SOURCE LG Electronics USA, Inc.

March 4th, 2013

NASDAQ and Walmart offer a Dose of Reality at the New York GreenBiz Forum

Mike Bellamente- Climate Counts DirectorThis article first appeared February 26th on Huffington Post

If you’re an optimist about the state of green business, don’t read this.

Shit. You’re still here.

To put it bluntly: it’s not working. That’s the rose-colored takeaway of last week’s GreenBiz Forum in New York City.

We’ve succeeded in building an entire industry of sustainability professionals, individually doing yeoman’s work to further the cause, but collectively falling short in how we validate our work beyond our bubble. When Sandy Frucher, Vice Chairman of NASDAQ, says that adopting sustainability reporting standards by the world’s stock exchanges is the “right thing to do,” it insinuates that such practices don’t lead to higher returns. Mr. Frucher admits as much when he notes that, until one investment analyst poses a single question about a company’s sustainability performance, we should be content with relying on corporate goodwill as a driver of sustainability – not because operating sustainably mitigates risk, but because of the warm fuzziness of taking the moral high road.

When Jeff Rice, Senior Director of Sustainability at Wal-Mart, confesses that consumer response to their progressive environmental strategy is virtually non-existent, the reality becomes clear that, more than 10 years into the modern sustainability movement, we are pedaling uphill, against the wind.

To echo the thoughts of another conference goer, “We’re all getting really good at operationalizing sustainability and filling out surveys, but at the end of the day, we’re just a small universe, talking amongst ourselves.” What really drove this home is when, upon my return to the office, I discovered a flyer for the upcoming FUSE event in Chicago on brand strategy and packaging. The word ‘sustainability’ appeared not once on the agenda. In fact, I would bet my mule that sustainability doesn’t even get uttered at FUSE.

So, where do we go from here? To borrow from Timothy Westbrook, the quirky, undeniably talented low-impact artist-in-resident at the posh Pfister Hotel, we need to turn our paradigm on its head. More so than looking at a Coke can and seeing a pair of aluminum shoes, we need to blow up our tidy little world of “green bizzers” and explore more effective ways of becoming inclusive of the everyday Joe. Joe Marketer, Joe Consumer, Joe Investor, Joe the Plumber… all the Joe’s and all their female, inter-racial, socially-conservative, LGBT counterparts.

To start, we need to take Amy Harzler’s advice from Free Range Studios and become sustainability “mythmakers.” If we’re spending millions of the company’s money on low-carbon energy solutions, we need to be a hell of a lot better at framing it with a compelling story, replete with sexy men and women, little puppies and all the other surefire ways of getting people’s attention. It needs to go beyond the enterprise, down to the brand and product level. And, as much as we enjoy seeing our initiatives represented in the traditional CSR media outlets, these things need to be Super Bowl ad-worthy.

During their sneak preview of the latest Ernst & Young/GreenBiz Group survey results on sustainability risk management, Brendan LeBlanc and his band of EY consulting dudes contended that the increasing materiality of resource scarcity and extreme weather is steadily growing the demand for environmental risk management, which, in turn, is driving the inclusion of the CFO as a stakeholder in the sustainability discussion. This is good because it helps to sell upper management on the business case for the next solar project, but it does little to get consumers to join us as a dance partner in saving the world.

Outside the fraction of light and dark green consumers who shop on eco-values, the rest of society still shops on price, quality, fashion, taste, etc. Understanding this to be true, it’s time we up our game, pool our resources and begin telling people the story of not just how green we are, but what’s in it for the consumer, what they should do about it (see Amy Harzler’s piece on empowerment marketing).

It can be argued that a corporate sustainability program will only go as far as its meager budget allows. How can we be asked to change how consumers behave and investors invest? Compared to the folks in marketing, the annual corporate spend on sustainability is a mere drop in the bucket. But as someone so wisely quoted of David Mitchell at the forum, “What is an ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

Mike Bellamente is the director of Climate Counts, a consumer outreach organization that rates corporations on how well they measure, reduce and report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In February 2012, Bellamente was named to Ethisphere’s 2011 list of 100 most influential people in business ethics.

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