February 26th, 2014

Keystone and Big Oil are Not the Problem

The blog originally published in the Valley News and is being re-published with the consent of the author, Mark McElroy.

Thetford Center, VT Critics of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline rightly point out that its construction will only add to the intensification of global warming. Even the U.S. government agrees with this. After all, anything that has the effect of facilitating a new generation of fossil fuel extraction and incineration can only be bad for the climate.

What some of us can’t understand, though, is why leading opponents to Keystone XL aren’t at least as vocal in their opposition to the use or consumption of fossil fuels as they are to their production- of not more so- especially when one considers the fact that is the burning of fossil fuels that is the proximate cause of global warming, not their supply. Why are opponents of the Keystone pipeline so quick to vilify the supply side of climate change, but not the demand side?

What is instead of focusing on narrowly on the supply of fossil fuels, advocates of reversing climate change were to focus on their use and incineration? In other words, what if instead of rising up in opposition to the producers of oil and gas, they were to concentrate their efforts on those who actually burn them, as in those directly cause climate change instead of merely facilitate it in some way?

Last year, we (the Center for Sustainable Organizations) led to a study in conjunction with Climate Counts, another non-profit next door in New Hampshire, in which we compared the emissions of 100 of the world’s largest corporation to science-based targets for reversing climate change. Included in our findings was the facts that 2 of the 3 Big Oil producers we looked at (BP and Chevron) scored sustainably in terms of their own emissions since 2005. Emissions at both companies, that is, have gone down, not up.

Of greater importance, perhaps, was our conclusion that most of the world’s GHG emissions have nothing to do with the activities or operations of oil companies, since more than 90 percent of them are attributable to other sectors. Commerce writ large, that is, is responsible for the vast majority of emissions on Earth, thanks to the combustion of fossil fuels by businesses in general, not just the extraction and sale of them by Big Oil. What we desperately need more than anything else, then, are reductions in emissions by industry as a whole, whether Keystone XL is completed or not.

Importantly, we also found that roughly half of the non-oil/gas-producing companies we looked at have been on track since 2005 to reduce their GHG emissions at levels prescribed by science for what it will take to reverse climate change. The demand side of the equation that is, is making progress, albeit nowhere fast enough, we agree.

Still, and with all due respect, I think opponents to Keystone XL, Big Oil, etc. would do well to at least balance their efforts by focusing on the behaviors of those responsible for 90-plus percent of the world’s emissions, instead of simply condemning those responsible for the other 10. Anything less just seems like gratuitous vilification and may not be helpful in the end.

Mark W. McElroy is executive director of the Center for Sustainable Organizations in Thetford Center, VT.

August 22nd, 2013

PLAN your back to school shopping with Climate Counts

So long summer beach days, and helloooo to a new semester. Believe it or not it’s already time to head back to school. Whether you’re a bookworm, an athlete or a fashionista, college students all have something in common: they feel the need to get geared up for another year in the trenches.  So this year, why not purchase those supplies from companies that are taking steps to reduce their climate impact?

Climate Counts is honored to share our 2013 Climate Counts Company Scorecard so that you can be a climate-conscious consumer. Whether you’re out shopping for new electronics or a fresh new wardrobe, Climate Counts has the scores you need to make informed decisions. You can also download the Climate Counts iphone app so you can have access to the latest scores while you’re on-the-go.

Another thing to have on your radar for this year, is the effort by our friends at the Post-Landfill Action Network (aka PLAN) to bring their Trash 2 Treasure program nationwide.  Launched by students at the University of New Hampshire, Trash 2 Treasure collects all of the forlorn items that college students have left behind the previous year (couches, desks, lamps, tables, etc.) and has a massive yard sale at the start of the new semester to help students get geared up, all while diverting massive amounts of waste from landfill.

Visit their IndieGoGo fundraising page here and find out how you can bring Trash 2 Treasure to a college campus near you!

Written by Anthony Albano
Communications Fellow
Climate Counts

August 19th, 2013

Join Climate Counts at VERGE San Francisco Oct. 14-17

As a proponent of unique solutions to complex issues, Climate Counts is supporting our partners at GreenBiz Group to bring you VERGE San Francisco, October 14 - 17.  The largest of the VERGE global conference series, VERGE SF brings together the most innovative business executives, entrepreneurs and leading public officials to illuminate the business opportunities created by efficiencies in energy, building, water and transportation technologies.

Watch the VERGE SF Video Preview!

VERGE SF is sporting a versatile and talented lineup of speakers including Lisa Jackson of Apple (62*), Mark Aggar of Microsoft (74*), John Fojut of Kohls (64*), and Joe Kava of Google (64*).

VERGE tracks include: New Energy Systems, Next-Gen Buildings, Resilient Cities, Smarter Logistics, Sustainable Mobility and the Food-Energy-Water Nexus.  Sign up today to customize your experience.

Discover the future of disruptive sustainability while networking with a unique audience of leaders from corporations, startups, cities, nonprofits, academia and public policy.

It’s a great opportunity to get out of your silo and see what happens when people, technologies, and ideas converge. VERGE SF will be hosted at the Palace Hotel in sunny San Francisco, CA.

Save 10% with our discount code VSFCC when you register here.

*Scores based on the 2013 Climate Counts Company Scorecard. The higher the score, the greater the company’s commitment to fighting global warming.

June 25th, 2013

Sustainability for Small Business

Follow the video link below to see Mike Bellamente, Director of Climate Counts speak about Sustainability for Small Business at the NHBSR Spring Conference. “You’re not just building a better world for you and you’re family, you’re building a better world for generations to come after.” Learn how you can be a leader and make a difference!

Video: Sustainability for Small Business by Mike Bellamente

Bellamente image

Learn more about Mike Bellamente and why he was named to Ethisphere’s list of 100 most influential people in business ethics in 2012.

June 21st, 2013

LG Turns Up the Volume on its Energy and Climate Strategy

When assessing the carbon footprint of a $45 billion electronics company, thoughts quickly turn to the environmental costs associated with developing, manufacturing and transporting a world’s worth of appliances and high-def televisions.

But what if that same company sought to transform an industry by making energy efficiency the centerpiece of its differentiation strategy?

Within the past 12 months, LG Electronics has transcended the usual company line on green hype to prove that energy conservation is hip, and that sustainability concepts need not come at the cost of product quality and price.

“As an organization, we’d like to see ourselves as more than just an electronics and appliance company,” says Christine Ackerson, sustainability and CSR manager for LG Electronics USA. “We’re striving to be a connection point for consumers to understand the link between energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change.”

Leading by example

At a time when all the world’s awash with green, many companies struggle to communicate environmental success without coming off as preachy or insincere. For LG, however, commitment to the natural world begins with Wayne Park, president and CEO of LG Electronics USA, and extends beyond the walls of the organization, thanks in part to a self-styled Korean management technique referred to as “Jeong-Do.”

With Jeong-Do, all decision-making activities first must pass a sniff test in ethics before being considered for implementation, thus navigating the road to success in the marketplace with a constant eye on sound social and environmental performance.

“Environmental sustainability is a core principle at LG, to the point that we consider the impacts of our business from a 360-degree perspective,” says Jacob Cho, LGE USA’s director of standards and environmental affairs, “from our supply chain and manufacturing processes, to energy efficient products and recycling programs.”

This universal approach to industrial ecology lies at the heart of LG’s decision in December to sign a broad memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This agreement pledges participation in EPA’s entire suite of corporate programs, including the Green Power Partnership, Waste Wise, WaterSense and Energy Star. Together, these efforts will drive LG to further enhance its clean energy portfolio, eliminate operational waste and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

For the second year in a row, LG also has joined the Team Energy Star campaign – an EPA initiative to educate youth and families on how to save energy and help protect the climate with educational activities and energy-saving measures at home.

Tapping increased demand

Investors would be quick to point out that corporate citizenship is a “nice-to-have” option, so long as shareholder returns are healthy and financial performance remains solid. Although LG’s stock was not immune to the recent financial crisis, the company has boasted a 16 percent return since May 2012, and projections for the future look promising.

The company also has seen increased global demand for its home appliances, mobile devices and electronics that embody energy efficiency. In 2012 sales jumped 75 percent for LG products that attained EPA’s “Energy Star Most Efficient” designation. According to EPA figures, the 750,000 LG products sold with this distinction will save consumers more than $150 million in utility costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 930 million pounds over the life of the products.

Stiff competition

While LG has set out to demonstrate sector leadership in environmental performance, it is by no means the only company betting on an increasingly eco-conscious marketplace. Constant reminders of climate change and natural resource depletion are slowly driving up the environmental IQ of the average consumer. And while price, quality and style still reign as primary buying determinants, sustainability is gradually pushing its way into the mainstream consumer psyche. Electronics companies are acknowledging this trend by striving to out-innovate each other on the sustainability front.

Sony, for example, has a “Road to Zero” strategy to achieve net-zero environmental impact of its product lifecycle and business activities by 2050. Samsung, meanwhile, recently has adopted a “Planet First” mindset which considers the comprehensive environmental impact of its products from design to development.

With regard to how well Sony, Samsung and LG stack up on their overall commitment to climate change, the Climate Counts 2013 annual scoring report shows Sony with a “Soaring” score of 85 out of 100 points, while both LG and Samsung both have “striding” scores of 83 and 75 respectively (Full disclosure: LG is a member of the Climate Counts Industry Innovator (i2) partner program).

Where to go from here?

LG is fundamentally invested in the concept of sustainability – of that there is little doubt. Its management philosophy informs the organizational directives to reduce environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions across the value chain. But in the spirit of continuous improvement, where does LG go from here?

It would seem that LG has a unique opportunity to further distinguish itself as a corporate leader through consumer engagement. This is not to say that LG should become the flower child of environmental activism, but rather to be more robust at the product level on how it connects with consumers on the company’s sustainability progress (see Timberland’s nutrition label).

Another way that LG can break away from the pack would be by reaching out to U.S. policymakers as they’ve done in other parts of the world to express support for carbon legislation — the first step of which would be to sign BICEP’s non-partisan climate declaration.

As part of an industry dependent upon electricity to power its products, opportunities abound for companies like LG to take the idea of corporate citizenship to the next level. After all, “Life’s Good” should be the mantra for future generations as much as it is for ours.

June 20th, 2013

Webinar: What is the Climate Declaration?

Register Here for the Climate Declaration Webinar

On April 10th, over 30 major brands came together to launch the Climate Declaration in Washington, DC.  The Declaration is an ongoing effort driven by Ceres’ BICEP program to bring members of the business community together with Members of Congress to address the need for proactive climate and energy policy in the U.S.

On Thursday, July 18th at 2:00 PM EDT there will be a free one-hour webinar for corporate sustainability professionals hosted by Climate Counts and BICEP. This webinar has been designed to offer companies with piqued curiosity the chance to learn more about the declaration in a private, peer-to-peer session where questions and discussion are strongly encouraged.

Mike Bellamente, Climate Counts (Moderator)
Anne Kelly, BICEP
Jim Hanna, Starbucks

We will begin with a broad overview of the initiative before drilling down into specifics tied to the following:

1)  What are the primary benefits to signing companies?
2)  How are companies garnering internal support for this initiative?
3)  Are there any formal obligations expected of signatories?
4)  Are there existing media buys/communication strategies that joining companies can sign on to?
5)  What are the risks to signing?

We look forward to hearing your perspectives on the Climate Declaration and we hope that you’ll join us in taking corporate climate leadership to the next level.

Follow this link to register for the meeting and learn more about the presenters. Don’t have time for the webinar but want to sign the Climate Declaration?

May 14th, 2013

20% Discount to Sustainable Brands Conference

If you’re interested in learning what major brands are doing to reduce their environmental
impact, our partners at Sustainable Life Media are offering a 20% discount to friends of Climate Counts for the annual Sustainable Brands conference June 3 - 6 in San Diego, CA.

The 4-day conference, promises a schedule packed with compelling speakers and events, while attracting bona fide leaders in the sustainability field. Listen to and mingle with chief sustainability officers from companies like BMWFordUPS and many more. Find out what leading companies are doing to stay ahead of the competition as sustainability becomes an unavoidable operational metric.

Click here to register, and use the following code for a 20% discount on registration: NWccountsSB13

April 13th, 2013

Companies Unite in Call for U.S. Climate Change Policy

This article first appeared on April 11th in the Huffington Post.

Leaders from the business community made one thing clear when they came together on Wednesday toBetsy Blaisdell, Timberlandannounce a 100-day corporate campaign in support of climate change policy: This is not a right or left issue. It is not about appealing to a base of liberals or conservatives. According to signers of the campaign, it is about tackling one of the greatest economic challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

“The longer we wait, the higher the risks will be to our business, to our consumers and to society as a whole,” said Betsy Blaisdell, Senior Manager of Environmental Stewardship at Timberland. “We’re motivated to see progress made on the issue of climate change, and it will take everyone to get it done.”

Timberland is just one of more than 30 companies that have signed on to the Climate Declaration; an effort spearheaded by Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, or BICEP, which, in turn, is quarterbacked by Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors and public interest groups.

When asked “Why now?” BICEP director, Anne Kelly, responded, “The president has made it clear that climate change is on his second-term agenda, and, honestly, we think it’s important for Members of Congress to recognize that business leaders are wholly supportive of comprehensive climate policy.”

The U.S. has long been seen as slow to act when it comes to embracing climate change legislation. In 1997, President Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol, a global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but the Senate refused to ratify it, citing potential damage to the U.S. economy. Now, in somewhat ironic fashion, it is major economic contributors like Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss & Co., Intel, and eBay that are rallying Congress to enact legislation.

Of particular note about the Climate Declaration itself, however, is the absence of hot button issues like the Keystone XL Pipeline, carbon taxes and hydro-fracking that congressional leaders may find repellent. Wood Turner, Vice President of Sustainability Innovation at Stonyfield Farm and one of the key drivers behind the Declaration, attributes this to not wanting to detract from the message by incorporating prescriptive

elements into the text. “We realize the path toward climate policy will not one without compromise,” says Turner, “but we must first all come to the table with the understanding that it is simply the right thing to do.”

While addressing climate change may indeed be seen as a moral obligation, signers of the initiative are quick to point out the direct economic consequences associated with extreme weather.

“As a global company, L’Oreal has a vested interest in the markets we serve,” says Pam Alabaster, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Sustainable Development and Public Affairs for L’Oreal. “We’re seeing impacts on our business in North America as a result of climate change, and we’d like to see policy that adequately addresses the issue.”

To be sure, L’Oreal isn’t the only global company that is pressing U.S. policymakers to push the issue back onto the national agenda. Of the corporations that are currently signed on to the Climate Declarati

on, at least six are headquartered outside the United States, including Adidas, IKEA, Unilever, Nestlé, Swiss Re, and L’Oreal.

But, when asked to crystallize why companies would make an overtly public appeal for domestic climate policy, it was someone representing a U.S. company (albeit one that is owned by Unilever) who said i
t best. Quoting Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, the company’s activism manager, Chris Miller, put the world in the context of ice cream by saying, “If it melts, it’s ruined.

April 9th, 2013

The Benefits of Energy Efficiency

Guest Post By Cory Lowe of Whirlwind Steel Buildings, Inc.

Nowadays, we have come to rely on energy for many different things. From providing us with light and warmth to powering our vehicles, energy has become an essential part of our lives. However, our use of energy has grown way out of control. As such, it is important for us to support energy efficiency.

Cleaner Air

There are many benefits to becoming more energy efficient. However, perhaps the best benefit is that conserving energy can help to provide us with cleaner, healthier air. Nearly half of the electricity used in the U.S. is generated from power plants that burn fossil fuels to produce energy.

When these fossil fuels burn, harmful gases are released into the air. These gases can be quite damaging to your health and the health of the environment. In fact, air pollution is a serious concern when it comes to the ecosystem. Furthermore, pollutants can linger in the air for extremely long periods of time and travel for miles before dissipating.

Less Chance of Diseases

Being more energy efficient can actually reduce your chances of becoming ill as well. When you keep your appliances clean and well-maintained, you will help them to work properly and prevent them from becoming a breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria. Additionally, when appliances work properly, air will circulate better reducing the possibility of diseases.

Save Money

Choosing to use energy efficient products and appliances can help you save money on your utility bills. Some of the products that can help you save cash include energy-saving heating and air units, light fixtures, refrigerators, hot water heaters and televisions. Low-voltage light bulbs can help as well. Since they have a longer life span, you will not need to replace them as often.

Leave a Good Impression

If you have a business, you can make a good impression by being energy efficient. When you care enough to try to help save energy, you are in a sense telling your clients that you care about our environment as well. Even if you do not have a business of your own, being energy-conscious at home, sets a good example for your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews.

What Can You Do?

There are many steps you can take to help conserve energy. This includes installing energy efficient windows, programmable thermostats, energy-saving heating and air units, and better insulation. You can also consider purchasing energy efficient refrigerators, hot water heaters, televisions, stoves, light bulbs and light fixtures.

Look for ENERGY STAR certified products when shopping for electronics and appliances. In this way, you can be sure that you are buying the most energy efficient products available. When shopping for vehicles, make sure you find out about the fuel efficiency information for the car or truck you are considering.

You Can Make a Difference

In closing, changing some of your behavior patterns can help save energy as well. Simply turning off lights, computers and office equipment when you are done with them can help a lot. These are just a few of the steps you can take to becoming more energy efficient, saving our resources and saving money.

Whirlwind Steel is a manufacturer of metal buildings and components. As part of their commitment to reducing the impact of building construction on the environment, they produce energy-efficient metal roofing that is cost efficient and durable.

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.

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