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March 26, 2015

Indonesia defends deforestation for palm oil on economic grounds

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Clearing forests for palm oil plantations is a “technical” matter that should not get tied up with trade discussions, an Indonesian minister told a land and poverty conference.

Growing global demand for palm oil is fuelling rapid deforestation in Indonesia, at a faster pace than in Brazil’s Amazon region, making Indonesia a major contributor to global warming.

But Prabianto Mukti Wibowo, assistant deputy minister for forestry in the Economic Affairs Ministry, told a World Bank conference on land and poverty held in Washington this week that deforestation was a rich-country concern.

“We know that our primary customers are not concerned about deforestation,” he said.

Asian nations, led by India, China and Pakistan, buy 55 per cent of Indonesia’s palm oil exports, while Europe buys only 8 per cent, yet Europe puts much of the pressure on Indonesia not to cut down and burn forests to make way for plantations, he said.

Palm oil is important to Indonesia’s development because it reduces poverty by bringing roads, schools and other infrastructure to rural communities and generates five million jobs that benefit 15 million people, Wibowo said.

The pace of forest loss declined rapidly between 2009 and 2013, he said, even before last year’s New York Declaration on Forests called for an end to deforestation by 2020.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

March 26, 2015

How a greener trucking industry could save $40 billion per year

Helen Marks
Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 12:00am

The global trucking industry produces 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2 per year (PDF), making it responsible for 5.75 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Even when the rest of us are enjoying cheaper fuel, fuel remains the largest cost of operating a truck, costing more to a company than the driver. Heavy-duty tractor-trailers in the United States alone consumed 25 billion gallons of fuel in 2013. That’s around $105 billion at average 2013 prices.

With trucking predicted to grow by 2 percent or more each year, improving the fuel efficiency of this industry is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting profit margins in an increasingly regulated industry. Achieving an average fuel efficiency of 9 MPG — a 50-percent increase from the current level of 6.2 MPG — would save North American trucking $40 billion per year in fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent.

Identifying available solutions and market barriers to adoption
The good news is that there are options to make this happen. The adoption of numerous efficiency technologies makes economic sense for fleets and truck owners under current market and policy conditions.

“If 100 percent of the heavy-duty tractor-trailers in the U.S. invested in a set of aerodynamic devices by 2020, the fleet would avoid 50 million tons of CO2,” said Tessa Lee, an associate researcher at Carbon War Room. “This would save nearly $33,000 in fuel costs per truck over the five-year life of the truck, paying back the initial investment in just 14 months.”

Recognizing over 70 efficiency technologies available in the industry that offer cost savings and relatively quick return on investment, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) and Carbon War Room (CWR) began investigating why — with profitable solutions at-market in the industry — fleets weren’t lapping up the solutions. NACFE was launched in 2009 with the help of RMI, as an outcome of the Transformational Trucking Charrette and the NACFE inaugural meeting, both highly supported by the industry.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics

March 24, 2015

How packaging plays in the circular economy

Katherine O'Dea
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 1:00am

A circular economy business model revolution is underway in a number of industry sectors — apparel, building products, durable goods and electronics, to name a few.

One driving factor is cost savings. Another driver, of course, is the increasing recognition that economic growth must be decoupled from resource consumption or our planet's resources simply will run out.

In a circular economy business model, value is found in new uses of materials; it is about continuous material valorization. By design, circular economy business models enable companies to retain more of the value of the materials, energy and labor inputs that go into producing goods and services.

One of the earliest crusaders for a circular economy approach, circa 1992-1993, was Xerox Corp.'s Jack Azar, associate director of environmental products and technology at that time. Azar developed what he called Asset Recovery Management (ARM) programs or “managing products and inventory to minimize their environmental impact at all stages of the life cycle [which] entails reusing an asset either by remanufacturing to its original state, converting to a different state, or dismantling to retrieve the original components.”

He implemented the program by limiting production materials to recyclable and recycled thermoplastics and metals. When Xerox applied ARM, they got out of the business of selling copiers and went into the business of selling copies. Customers leased the machines and when the lease period expired, they got upgraded models and Xerox reclaimed the original resources for use in next generation machines.

The commercial carpet industry has a more recent implementation of circular economy practices. Three industry leaders — Interface, Shaw and Desso — all provide the service of floor covering by leasing carpet, which they take back when worn, during a building renovation or when customers desire to change their floor covering. After recovering their material asset, old carpeting, they separate the backing material from the carpet fibers, reprocess both and use them to manufacture new carpet tiles.

These companies reduce their reliance on virgin resources and leverage existing material investments to produce new carpeting via take-back programs. By rethinking their linear model of material consumption and product delivery, they divert used carpet away from landfill and extend the utility and value of the materials. As a bonus, their customers avoid carpet disposal fees.

With both Xerox and carpet manufacturers, it's easy to visualize how the traditional business model of take, make, use and dispose is transformed from a one-way linear system into a resilient and restorative cycle.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics

March 23, 2015

We're all losers to a gadget industry built on planned obsolescence

Rosie Spinks
Monday 23 March 2015 07.00 GMT

It’s hard to deny that the smartphone has in part changed the world in favour of consumers. It helps us avoid expensive SMS costs thanks to online messaging apps, undercut taxi and hotel companies with the likes of Uber and Airbnb, and generally serves as a remote control to the sharing economy.

But when you shift the focus from what our devices help us access to how we access the devices themselves, the picture is less rosy.

Once we own a new device, we often can’t replace its batteries or take it to an independent repair shop for a simple fix. In fact, proprietary screws on Apple products often prevent us from opening Apple devices at all. It’s standard practice for companies to plan obsolescence into their products — including by introducing software upgrades that aren’t compatible with existing hardware (pdf) — and they simultaneously profit from the fact that the average laptop has a high likelihood of breaking within 3-4 years.

Equally, while the smartphone is a device that’s intended to be taken everywhere — the pub, the loo, on a run — it is fragile and desirable enough to be rendered useless with just a few drops of water or an opportunistic thief. All this leads collaborative economy expert Rachel Botsman to ask: why is it consumers who take on all the risk?

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

March 19, 2015

How businesses can engage consumers in their sustainability stories

Katharine Earley
Thursday 19 March 2015 17.51 GMT

Communicating simple, inspiring stories of efforts to tackle complex social and environmental issues is an ongoing challenge for today’s businesses. Somewhere amid the cacophony of sustainability communications, consumers are reaching information overload.

As the effects of corporate ‘greenwashing’, ethical scandals and climate change doom-mongering take their toll, a kind of apathy is taking hold. Globally, just 28% of people believes business is doing enough to protect the planet and contribute to society, according to Accenture and the UN Global Compact (pdf).

In 10 years, the pressure to deliver concrete proof of green claims will intensify. “We’ll see a push for radical transparency and increasing scrutiny of businesses by consumers,” says Futerra co-founder Ed Gillespie. “To make their sustainability stories stand out from the crowd, businesses will need to make a fundamental transition – to reconnect with a deeper sense of purpose. This must fit perfectly with their core business, capture how they add value to the world, and resonate with people emotionally and rationally.”

So how will businesses of the future communicate their sustainability stories effectively and, further, inspire people to take action?

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

March 16, 2015

Smart Buildings Reduce Owners’ Costs, Slash Resource Consumption

A UL study predicts disruption in the building market over the next five to 10 years as owners, operators and investors of buildings increasingly recognize the potential of innovation in building energy consumption, water usage and indoor air quality to positively impact their bottom lines.

In the white paper, The Dawn of the Building Performance Era, UL chief economist Erin Grossi describes the transition that is happening in the market from design-driven approaches to achieving sustainability goals to a greater focus on the actual performance of buildings on the operations side of the house.

“Access to more information about how efficiently buildings are being run can significantly reduce costs and slash consumption of resources for building owners.”

Grossi also addresses the issue of indoor air quality, which she refers to as a “sleeper issue” in the US. She finds a major cause of poor indoor air quality is the growing amount of chemicals in buildings, which can emanate from technology hardware, construction materials, furniture and furnishings, and cleaning products.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

March 13, 2015

New booking site ranks hotels on sustainability

A new online booking service operating out of Europe is the first to rank hotels based on green practices, and even offsets carbon emissions at no added cost.

“There are many green hotel certification labels with different focus, quality and credibility out there,” GreenHotelWorld founder Robert Boer said. “Our Green Rating algorithm helps the eco-conscious traveler to search and filter through these labels and select hotels based on their certified and verified green practices.”

Criteria that can be ranked include environmental protection, social responsibility, support for local economy and preservation of cultural heritage.

GreenHotelWorld has partnered with myclimate, a voluntary carbon offset company, to offset CO2 emissions of its users’ bookings.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

March 11, 2015

Blackrock, Unilever, PVH on sustainability from investors to boards of directors

Helle Bank Jorgensen
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 2:00am

When the world’s largest asset manager lays out the business case for a long-term sustainable strategy, others would be wise to listen.

BlackRock, the world's biggest investor with more than $4.3 trillion in assets under management, has very strong ideas when it comes to managing risk as part of a company’s sustainability blueprint.

“When we are looking at companies, one of the things we are concerned with is: are they taking a short-term risk that may bump earnings up in the near term, but at the expense of the long-term viability of the company?" said Chad Spitler, managing director and global COO of BlackRock’s Corporate Governance & Responsible Investment Team, during a recent webinar I hosted on Corporate Sustainability and Long-Term Thinking in the Board Room.

Spitler added: "When it comes to our views on sustainability and engaging with companies, we are looking for this kind of strategic thinking at the board level.”

That logic underscores the recurring theme of integrating sustainability into core business models. From an investor’s stand point, Spitler wants to see sustainability presented within the context of a business' key value proposition.

“What we don’t want to see are sustainability reports that are separate or unrelated to business growth or risk," he said. "What we really want to see is how sustainability principles are related to risk and opportunity for each business and how is the company managing that."

When major financiers assert that the "link between the business case and sustainability is exactly what we’re looking for," as Spitler said, it becomes increasingly hard to argue against the business case for sustainability.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics

March 10, 2015

Is the coffee pod craze brewing an environmental disaster?

By Vaidehi Shah / Tuesday 10 March 2015

A normal day at the office turns apocalyptic when a Godzilla-like monster made of coffee capsules invades a city, destroying property and crushing citizens underfoot. Alien spaceships bearing an uncanny resemblance to coffee pods shoot citizens and armies with capsules-turned-bullets.

These scenes from a video campaign called “Kill the K-cup” – the brand name for coffee pods made by American company Keurig – might be confined to the realm of fiction, but the waste footprint of these disposable pods is all too real.

In 2013, the number of coffee pods made by one company alone – America-based Keurig Green Mountain – was a staggering 8.3 billion, enough to wrap around the equator 10.5 times. Factor in the pods made by other companies and the number becomes mind-blowing.

The growing popularity of such pods in homes, offices, and even Michelin-starred restaurants worldwide has fuelled concerns about the amount of waste generated.

Read more at Eco-Business and Eco-Business Magazine.

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category : Topics

March 9, 2015

Post-it maker 3M unveils greener paper-sourcing policy

St Paul-based 3M Co, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and the maker of Post-it notes, will take new steps to ensure that its suppliers of paper, pulp and packaging provide materials that come from sustainably logged timber.

The new paper-sourcing policy, aimed at preventing the destruction of fragile forests, comes after pressure on 3M from environmental activists, who accused the company of outdated practices.

The company, which also manufacturers Scotch brand tape products, will now require some 5,000 direct suppliers, located in more than 70 countries, to provide data, including the source of their harvested wood fiber. The company says it may sever ties with suppliers that fail to meet its standards.

While other companies have also set conservation standards for their suppliers, 3M’s action is expected to have broad ripple effects, because of the size of its supply network, said Todd Paglia, executive director at ForestEthics, a forest and climate advocacy organization.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

March 6, 2015

Academics probe built-in obsolescence of fridges, notebooks

Researchers at the Öko-Institut and the University of Bonn found that consumers were replacing their fridges, flatscreen TVs and notebooks more and more frequently. But how much of that is down to "built-in obsolescence" is still unclear.

“Today, more electrical and electronic devices are being replaced even if they are still functioning,” said Rainer Griesshammer, a member of the Öko-Institut’s Executive Board.

In many cases, technological advances are the trigger, Griesshammer said. “We see this happening a lot with televisions,” he noted, pointing to consumer’s cravings for cutting-edge technology.

But he also remarked that an increasing share of white goods – fridges, washing machines and dryers – were being replaced within five years of their purchase “because of a technical defect”.

Various reasons
So do manufacturers deliberately shorten the lifespan of their products? To find out, the researchers collected statistics on various types of household goods, consumer electronics and IT products, for the period 2004-2012.

But the answer for the time being is unclear, the academics admitted.

“The shortening of appliance first-use duration has varied reasons,” said Maria Krautzberger, president of the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA), which commissioned the study.

For flatscreen TVs, more than 60% were being replaced because consumers wanted an upgrade, while a quarter (25%) of purchases were made to replace a faulty product.

Read more at EurActiv.com.

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March 5, 2015

Palm oil certification body purges membership

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has purged membership of a number of companies and organizations that have failed to comply with reporting requirements. The move could be a sign that the certification body is getting more serious about enforcing its standards, says WWF, one of the founders of the initiative.

On Thursday, the RSPO announced that 15 members had been expelled for failing to submit mandatory annual reports for three straight years. 62 others had their memberships suspended for failing to report for two consecutive years. The reports are meant to measure progress toward certifying palm oil operations or purchasing certified sustainable palm oil, according to WWF.

Most of the terminated members are small palm oil processors or traders. Three are consumer goods manufacturers in France.

The suspended members included a broader range of entities, from the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific, an NGO, to Seventh Generation, an American company that sells "green" products. Some of the terminated and suspended members may not be in compliance because they've ceased operations or no longer source palm oil. For example, the membership of Asian Plantation Ltd, a palm oil producer that no longer exists after it was acquired by Malaysian Felda Global Ventures last year, was on the suspended list.

Read more at MONGABAY.COM.

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March 4, 2015

The natural refrigerant set to reduce supermarket energy use

Terry Slavin
Wednesday 4 March 2015 15.28 GMT

Could the sugar you have in your morning coffee help prevent global warming?

Sainsbury’s thinks the answer is yes and is putting the question to the test in its Portishead store in Somerset, where it is using a refrigerant derived from waste sugar beet in its fridges and freezers.

Not only does the CO2-based refrigerant, called eCO2, have a global warming potential of one – 3,922 times less than R404A, the refrigerant most commonly used by supermarkets – it is also derived from a more sustainable source than other CO2-based refrigerants, which are often derived from hydrocarbons or ammonia.

Paul Crewe, head of sustainability for Sainsbury’s said he was interested in eCO2 when he found out that British Sugar, Sainsbury’s main sugar supplier, derives the CO2 for the refrigerant from waste sugar beet in its refinery in Norfolk.

“One of the things we are very keen on is real life examples of circular economy, putting every single product in our supply chain to good use. This is an opportunity for CO2 from a product that goes into Sainsbury’s [sugar] being deployed into one of our refrigerant systems to prove that it does the same job as other derived sources of CO2,” said Crewe.

New EU rules
So far 200 Sainsbury’s stores have refrigeration systems that use CO2, but it is far from alone. A survey of north European supermarkets by Carrier Commercial Refrigeration found 65% of respondents had begun to opt for non HFC refrigerants, with CO2 the choice for 83% of those who had already converted.

This has been driven, to an extent, by new EU regulations on the use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The EU wants to cut F-gas emissions (fluorinated greenhouse gases) by two-thirds by 2030 (pdf) and the use of R404A, which is one of the worst offenders, will be banned in new commercial equipment from 2020.

Read more at The Guardian.

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