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Sustainability

Will campus activism reach the C-suite?

Published on Greenbiz.com, 8/1/2013

By Georges Dyer

“Something’s brewing on college campuses that soon may affect corproate sustainability professionals in all industries.

“During the past year, a groundswell of action demanding that college and universtiy endowments sell their holdings in fossil fuel companies has brought environment, social and governance (ESG) issues to the fore. Driven in part by 350.org, the fossil fuel divestment movement has sprung up on more than 300 campuses and is spraeding to cities, faith organizations and beyond.

The latestes news: Sterling College – a small, private liberal arts college in Vermont – has completed its divestment from the fossil fuel industry. While Steriling is small, with only about 100 students and an endowment of approximately $1 million, it provides more evidence that divestment is pssible and relatively straightforward.

Do your homework

Common initial concerns about divestment include that it is costly, complicated and requires investors to sacrifice returns. To divest, Sterling College chose a fossil-free option that Trillium Asset Management has offered clients for over a decade. ‘Those who say divestment is not possible haven’t done thier homework,’ said Matt Patsky, CEO of Trillium.

Trillium’s fossil free option replaces screened companies with similar investment characteristics (e.g. similar beta and return on equity). The result is a fossil-free option that doesn’t sacrifice returns. Recent reports from Impax Asset Management, MSCI and Aperio Group support the claimt hat removing fossil fule investments from portfolios has a negligible impact.

Sterling is one of just six colleges to commit to divestment to date, along with Hampshire, Unity, Green Mountain, San Francisco State and College of the Atlantic. But many others are considering it.

Divestment highlights the moral hazard of our fossil fule based economy for institutions that understand the devestating implications of climate change, yet support fossil fuel production as shareholders. This is a particularly difficult challenge for college and university endowments, designed to benefit institutions and students over the long term, in perpetuity. How is it justifiable to risk the fundamental resilience of our society from climate change impacts in the name of potentially higher financial returns? (Particularly when the data suggest those higher returns are negligible, if they exist at all.)

A moral paradox

Divestment proponents recognize the fossil fuel companies are unlikely to stop mining and drilling because soem investors sold their shares – others will buy them. But the movement highlights this moral paradox. And even if no other schools divest, it has sparked conversations on campuses across the country about a range of other ESG investment strategies.

And this could have dramatic implications across all industries – not just the fossil fuel companies. Every company currently has some responsibility, in one way or another, for greenhouse gas emissions and a wide range of other sustainability challenges such as water use, toxic chemicals, and labor and human rights issues. But those that are proactively implementing strategies that help move society towards sustainability can avoid risks and seize opportunities for innovation, attracting top talent and enhancing shareholder value.

Increasingly, investors seek out companies creating sustainability solutions or driving best practices in social, environmental and governance realms.

‘More and more companies have been embracing the idea that sustainability principles are good for business and shareholders over time. WE’ve seen tremendous growth in this space.’ said Trillium’s Patsky. ‘The more they see interest from the investor, the more they will do about it.’

Companies that don’t make the cut from an ESG perspective risk limiting their pool of potential investors. Fewer buyers and more sellers can hurt stock performance, a key driver (for better or worse) of corporate decision-making. Investors influence corporate executives and directors.

There are many ways investor scrutiny on ESG issues can influence corporate sustainability practices, such as:

*ESG investors look to sustainability indices, such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices and MSCI’s ESG Indices, to benchmark and inform investment decision-making.

*As more asset managers incorporate ESG factors into their investment decision-making, and sell-side analysts do the same for their buy/sell ratings, companies increasingly will be judged on their sustainability performance.

*Asset managers (and their clients) that understand the benefits of ESG investing often engage directly with companies through various forms of shareholder advocacy, providing direct pressure to improve sustainability performance.

A recent survey from Oekom Research supports the idea that sustainability investing impacts corporate strategy: Nearly two-thirds of the companies said requests from sustainability rating agencies were a decisive factor in tackling sustainability issues. One-third said enquiries from sustainability analysts influence the overall strategy, and two-thirds said they influence their sustainability strategies.

Uncovering value

As college and university presidents, business officers and board investment committee members look more closely at these issues (thanks in large part to student pressure), they will realize that ESG factors are materials and can undercover hidden risk and value. By requiring traditional asset managers to step up their game on ESG factors, they will help drive more of the financial services industry to consider sustainability issues in all investments.

The shift to sustainability will be the result of the sum total of many companies, organizations, communities and individuals implementing bold, transformative strategies, through incremental step-wise actions. Institutional investors sit at a critical place to drive and accelerate this process. Imagine a virtuous cycle where Wall Street analysts, currently focused on short-term, quarterly earnings results, shift their attention to comprehensive ESG considerations. This will motivate corporate execs to improve sustainability performance to enhance their ratings and stock price, driving healthy competition and moving whole industries toward sustainability.

In recent months, a host of conferences, workshops, webinars and new initiatives have sprung up to help endowments understand these issues. This is just the beginning of what could prove to be the next big step in elevating sustainability as a core strategic issue for the C-Suite at companies in every industry.”

Source URL:  http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/08/01/campus-activism-c-suite

The Weather Company Confronts Climate Change Denial Head On

By Tina Casey; Published July 15, 2013, TriplePundit.com

Recently, some of the top business journalists in the U.S. went on record asserting that climate change denial is a form of political posturing that is not worthy of discussion in serious reporting on economic issues. If that doesn’t lay the whole climate change denial thing to rest, then hopefully this will:  The Weather Company has just endorsed the BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) Climate Declaration, which acknowledges the scientific consensus on climate change.

As the owner of The Weather Channel and related weather media platforms, The Weather Company already reaches a broad audience with reality-based information, so it’s in a good position to help bridge the political divide…or is it?

Communicating about climate science

Let’s start with the current state of affairs, which is the information gulf separating climate scientists and the lay public. Politics aside, a large part of the problem has to do with the nature of communication accurately about science in general. In many cases, it is impossible to reduce science into sound bites that can be absorbed during the course of daily life, especially in competition with the flood of other news in a media-saturated world.

Climate change poses an especially great communications challenge, because the hard evidence accumulates over long periods of time and cannot be seen with the naked eye, except in abstract form of a chart or graph.

The Weather Company and climate change

Public awareness is beginning to reach into new territory, even without the help of The Weather Company. In the past couple of years, more of the general population has had the misfortune to experience phenomena linked to climate change, namely, more frequent and severe storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires. That also includes people who live in areas that have not experienced extreme destruction in a generation or more, and now find their normally “safe” environment undergoing new threats.

In that regard, The Weather Company could help build these individual experiences into a tipping point. To see why, let’s go back a few months ago, when artists and researcher Nickolay Lamm used data from the non-profit organization Climate Central to create a series of arresting before -and-after images of East Coast landmarks affected by sea level rise. He had this to say about the project, which he called Sea Level Rise in Real Life.

“I’m surprised at the amount of people calling this a ‘liberal agenda.’ When I was making these illustrations, I based them off sea level rise maps from Climate Central, not someone’s wild imagination.”

Now Lamm has added a West Coast version to the project, and The Weather Company has picked up on it. In a July 12 article on weather.com, The Weather Channel posted Lamm’s West Cost images and video along with links to the East Coast version and to Climate Central.

The article also referenced NOAA and National Geographic, so consider that thrgough The Weather Company, reality-baseed information from Climate Central is now associated with some of the most trusted (and non-political) names in science information, all wrapped around a series of truly stunning, graphic images of what some of the most familiar icons in the U.S. landscape would look like under water.

For more of the article go <HERE>

 

Ben & Jerry’s Commits to Phasing out GMOs

From: TriplePundit.com, published June 21, 2013

By Lisa Marie Chirico

“Consumers searching for greater clarity in food labeling have reason to rejoice. Ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s, a division of Unilever, decided that more transparency was in order. The Vermont-based company, the first wholly-owned subsidiary to gain B Corp Certification, recently announced their plan to completely eliminate all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from their entire product line by 2014. According to the company, about 80 percent of their ingredients by volume are sourced non-GMO in the United States and Canada, and all their products made in Europe are already non-GMO. ‘We have a long history of siding with consumers and their right to know what’s in their food,” Ben & Jerry’s stated.

According to the company’s website, although their goal is for all 80 flavors to be Fair Trade Certified and sources with non-GMO ingredients by the end of this year, the conversion will continue into 2014. Ben & Jerry’s cites complexity as the reason for this – a single flavor of their ice cream can contain almost 40 different ingredients.

The public outcry over GMOs continues to grow. According to a recent poll, 82 percent of Americans agree that foods containing GMOs should be sold with a label. The U.S. is currently the only industrialized nation lacking mandatory labeling for GMO foods. Although voters in the state of California did not approve the GMO labeling legislation Proposition 37, there are currently similar efforts underway in 20 other states, including Vermont, where the GMO labeling law recently passed by a vote of 99-42 and awaits state Senate approval. Concerns about GMO labeling have also begun to reach restaurant chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, who started labeling all ingredients, including GMOs, of their chains’ menu in March. According to the company’s spokesperson, the chain is also working to decrease the GMO content of its ingredients.”

For the rest of the story, go HERE.

 

Goodwill Donation Drive at ‘Move-Out’ Benefits People and the Environment

When student’s leave campus for the summer, typically not all of their belongings get packed into the car and often end up in a dumpster on the way to the landfill. This year, in partnership with Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, the Office of Residence Life and the Sustainability Office piloted a “Move-Out” donation drive. With student RAs helping distribute donation bags to each room/suite in all of the buildings in housing, students had the opportunity to fill up the bags with reusable items and drop them off at one of seven collection sites. Goodwill picked up several times during Finals week and will do one last pick-up early this week (May 20). Check back here to see the weight of items that will be sold through Goodwill to benefit people across North Central Wisconsin. Much better then ending up sitting in a landfill slowly decomposing over time!

Check out this video from CW14 on the donation drive!   http://www.cw14online.com/dpp/cw_14_star/my_video/Goodwill-and-UWGB-Move-Out-Donation-Drive-

Game On: Why Walmart is ranking suppliers on sustainability

Published on GreenBiz.com, April 15,2013

By Mark Gunther

“Since launching its sustainability program in 2006, Walmart has reduced energy consumption in its stores, installed solar panels on its rooftops, curbed emissions from its trucks and recycled millions of tons of its trash. Now that the world’s biggest retailer has streamlined its own operations, it is turning its attention elsewhere – actually, almost everywhere.

Since last fall, Walmart has rolled out what it calls a supplier sustainability index to thousands of suppliers, asking them pointed questions about their operations and prodding them to better understand and manage their own supply chains.

It’s Walmart’s most ambitious environmental project ever, and if all goes according to plan, it will change the way all kinds of consumer products – clothes, toys, electronics, food and beverages – are made. The typical Walmart stocks 125,000 to 150,000 products (!), and the environmental and social performance of most companies that make them soon will be rated and ranked in Bentonville, Ark.

So Walmart is asking lots of questions of its suppliers. Among them:

How can wheat be grown with less water and fertilizer? How can chemicals of concern by removed from toys? What mining practices were used to extract copper, gold and silver for computers or jewelry? What percentage of your televisions sold last year were Energy Star certified? Do the grapes in a bottle of wine come from a farmer with a biodiversity management plan? How much water was needed to produce those polyester pants?

A Fiendishly Complicated Undertaking

If this sounds like a massive and fiendlishly complicated undertaking, well, it is. It has been in the works since 2009, when Walmart unveiled The Sustainability Consortium, a nonprofit coalition led by the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University that was set up to provide scientific research to undergrid the effort. Since then, a few other retailers (Tesco, Kroger, Ahold, Best Buy) and dozens of consumer product brands (Coca-Cola, Disney, Kellogg’s, Mars) have signed on to the consortium.

Working with research produced by the consortium and its scientists, Walmart last year sent questions to suppliers in about 200 product categories. Hundreds more will be surveyed this year. The surveys will cover about half of the products sold in Walmart, which had revenues of $468 billion last year.

Walmart is ranking its suppliers, from best to worst in each category. The rankings will be shared with its buyers, who are known as ‘merchants’; theydecide what gets onto store shelves and play a vital role inside Walmart. The merchants, in turn, will be compensated in part based on the sustainability performance of their category.

Jeff Rice, who as senior director of sustainability at Walmart oversees the index, told me that it had four broad goals:

  • To improve the environmental performance of its most popular products.
  • To further integrate sustainabiltiy into Walmart by giving responsibility to the merchants.
  • To drive a productivity loop that reduce costs and ultimately benefits customers.
  • To increase customer trust in Walmart and its brands.

As always with Walmart, the opportunity is to drive change at scale. ‘We’re really trying to accelerate the scale of sustainability innovation, not just identify green niche products,’ Rice said.

Will it have an impact? It’s too early to answer that question with any certainty.

Several Walmart suppliers who were willing to talk – any many were not – told me that the index will help build a stronger business case for their own sustainabiltiy efforts. ‘The index challenges us to continually improve,’ said Kim Marotta, chief sustainability officer at Miller Coors, which is working with the farmers who grow its barley to reduce their use of water and pesticides. It also helps her make the case inside the company that ‘sustainability is very important to our business,’ she told me.

Dave Stangis, vice president of corporate responsibility at Campbell’s Soup, believes the index will make a difference. ‘The index validates people who are doing the good work. It’s a wakeup call to others,’ he said. Campbell’s, he said, is working with The Sustainability Consortiium to develop a mapping tool that will help buyers of agricultural commodities such as soybeans, sweet potatoes, or sugar beets avoid purchasing them from places with water risk, or where biodiversity is threatened. ‘We’re trying to be cognizant of the priorities that Walmart has, as well as those of our other customers,’ he said.”

To read more from companies that don’t think it makes a difference, the rest of the article is available HERE.

Final Results for RecycleMania are in!

2013 RecycleMania Results

The final numbers are in! Congratulations to everyone for a solid showing in this year’s competition. The results are cumulative over the entire 8 weeks of the competition. Keep your waste minimization and recycling habits going for the rest of the year!  

Grand Champion Results – 274 participants
College/University Rank Recycling Rate for 8 weeks of competition – %
University of Missouri – Kansas City 1 86.016
UW- Platteville 63 40.004
UW- River Falls 65 39.511
UW – Milwaukee 71 38.588
UW – Whitewater 103 32.411
UW – Stout 115 30.600
UW – Green Bay 137 28.277
UW – Madison 167 25.060
UW – Eau Claire 203 20.964
Wisconsin Technical College 211 19.316
UW – Oshkosh 273 5.422

 

Per Capita Classic – 361 participants
College/University Rank Recycled Pounds per capita
California State University – San Marcos 1 53.105
UW- Eau Claire 11 38.841
Lawrence University 15 34.944
UW- Milwaukee 75 17.066
UW – Platteville 78 16.398
Carroll College 123 12.872
UW – Green Bay 124 12.808
UW – River Falls 126 12.708
UW – Madison 138 11.824
UW – Whitewater 175 10.007
UW – Oshkosh 218 7.941
College Menominee Nation 241 7.071
UW – Stout 260 6.112
Western Technical College 331 2.774

 

Waste Minimization – 167 participants
College/University Rank Pounds of Waste Generated per capita
Valencia Community College 1 3.197
Western Technical College 19 14.363
UW – Stout 37 19.972
UW – Whitewater 55 30.875
UW – Milwaukee 98 44.226
UW – Green Bay 100 45.294
UW – Madison 107 47.183
UW – Eau Claire 167 185.280

 

RecycleMania Week 6 Results

Welcome back from Spring Break!

We’re in our last week of RecycleMania – so let’s make it a good one! When you’re emptying out your car of any road-trip trash – remember to recycle what can be recycled! Results are in for the first six weeks and we’re hanging in there. Our paper/cardboard compactors will be emptied this week, so that tonnage will be added to our totals and will help our overall recycling numbers. Stay tuned!

 

Week (Cumulative totals)

  6 7 8 Standing
Grand Champion weekly recycling rate, %) 2013

20.43

 

 

 

2012

29.25

28.73

31.33

 

Per Capita Classic (lbs/per person) 2013

6.85

 

 

 

2012

10.52

11.62

15.17

 

Waste Minimization
(lbs/per person)
2013

33.52

 

 

 

2012

35.99

40.45

48.41

 

 

Category National Ranking: Week 6 Wisconsin Ranking (participating schools)
Grand Champion 203 out of 266 8 out of 10
Per Capita Classic 181 out of 403 9 out of 13
Waste Minimization 105 out of 180 4 out of 7
Pounds of trash generated  27,120  
Pounds of recycling collected  8,260   

RecycleMania Week 4 Results

Week 4 Results are in! We’re holding our own –  middle-of-the-pack for the most part. One thing that will boost up our overall recycling rate is when our two 42 cubic yard paper/cardboard compactors are emptied/weighed toward the end of RecycleMania. All the paper/cardboard you recycle go into these compactors (one is behind the Union and one is behind IS, in case you wondered), so those materials are not reflected in our current numbers.

Keep up your recycling and waste minimization efforts!

Category National Ranking: Week 4 Wisconsin Ranking (participating schools)
Grand Champion 195 out of 257 7 out of 10
Per Capita Classic 174 out of 335 9 out of 13
Waste Minimization 100 out of 159 4 out of 8
Pounds of trash generated 25,785  
Pounds of recycling collected 7,560  

 

 

Week (Cumulative totals)

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Standing
Grand Champion weekly recycling rate, %) 2013

15.34

17.91

19.87

20.55

 

 

 

 

 

2012

20.94

20.26

20.29

20.34

29.48

29.25

28.73

31.33

 

Per Capita Classic (lbs/per person) 2013

0.87

2.04

3.389

4.62

 

 

 

 

 

2012

1.27

2.41

3.58

4.76

9.51

10.52

11.62

15.17

 

Waste Minimization
(lbs/per person)
2013

5.65

11.40

17.05

22.49

 

 

 

 

 

2012

6.06

11.90

17.67

23.41

32.26

35.99

40.45

48.41

 

RecycleMania Week 3 Results

Here’s the standings as of last Friday - Keep up those recycling and waste minimization efforts! And come by tonight’s “Go Green” women’s basketball game – booths with info and lots of recyclin’ will be going on!

 

Category National Ranking:

Week 3

Wisconsin Ranking (participating schools)
Grand Champion 193 out of 250 7 out of 8
Per Capita Classic 169 out of 402 8 out of 11
Waste Minimization 99 out of 178 5 out of 6
Pounds of trash going to the landfill   25,785
Pounds of recycling collected   7,560

 

 

Week (Cumulative totals)

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Standing
Grand Champion weekly recycling rate, %) 2013

15.34

17.91

19.87

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

20.94

20.26

20.29

20.34

29.48

29.25

28.73

31.33

 

Per Capita Classic (lbs/per person) 2013

0.87

2.04

3.389

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

1.27

2.41

3.58

4.76

9.51

10.52

11.62

15.17

 

Waste Minimization
(lbs/per person)
2013

5.65

11.40

17.05

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

6.06

11.90

17.67

23.41

32.26

35.99

40.45

48.41

 

RecycleMania Week 2 Results

Week 2 is in the books (or recyling center and lanfill, in this situation). Our efforts are improving but we still have a lot of room to do better. Less is more if you’re talking about recycling – less in the landfill and more in the recycling bin, so make the effort to recycle what you can! Less is less if you think about what you need to buy in the first place – have a reusable water bottle and that’s one less plastic bottle to be recycled.  It’s all about the choices you make!

The results in the tables below are cumulative – every week counts.

 

Week (Cumulative totals)

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Standing
Grand Champion weekly recycling rate, %) 2013

15.34

17.91

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

20.94

20.26

20.29

20.34

29.48

29.25

28.73

31.33

 

Per Capita Classic (lbs/per person) 2013

0.87

2.04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

1.27

2.41

3.58

4.76

9.51

10.52

11.62

15.17

 

Waste Minimization
(lbs/per person)
2013

5.65

11.40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

6.06

11.90

17.67

23.41

32.26

35.99

40.45

48.41

 

 

Category Overall Ranking: Week 1 Wisconsin Ranking (participating schools) Overall Ranking: Week 2 Wisconsin Ranking (participating schools)
Grand Champion 179 out of 208 6 out of 6 185 out of 228 6 out of 7
Per Capita Classic 179 out of 208 8 out of 9 179 out of 400 8 out of 10
Waste Minimization 86 out of 136 3 out 4 97 out of 181 5 out of 5
Pounds of trash generated 29,355   28,020  
Pounds of recycling collected 5,320   7,840