Moving Beyond Commitments: Collaborating to End Deforestation

Deforestation can pose significant operational and reputational risks to companies, and we at EDF are seeing companies start to take action in their supply chains. Deforestation accounts for an estimated 12% of overall GHG emissions worldwide–as much global warming pollution to the atmosphere as all the cars and trucks in the world. In addition, deforestation wipes out biodiversity and ravages the livelihoods of people who live in and depend on the forest for survival.

Tropical deforestation in Mato Grosso do Sul, Pantanal, Brazil (Source: BMJ via Shutterstock)

Tropical deforestation in Mato Grosso do Sul, Pantanal, Brazil (Source: BMJ via Shutterstock)

Unfortunately, it’s a hugely complex issue to address. Agricultural commodities like beef, soy, palm oil, paper and pulp—ingredients used in a wide variety of consumer products—drive over 85% of global deforestation. Companies struggle to understand both their role in deforestation, and how to operationalize changes that will have substantive impacts.

When the drivers of deforestation are buried deep in the supply chain, innovative and collaborative solutions are required. In the past several years, we have seen many in this space make big commitments toward solving the problem, but gaining transparency into tracking against these commitments has been almost as difficult as gaining transparency into the supply chains themselves.  For many companies, the hope for making good on their promises may come in the form of powerful partnerships.

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Corporate Buyers Demonstrate Demand for Renewables. Now it’s Time for the Market to Catch Up.

Last month, twelve major corporations announced a combined goal of buying 8.4 million megawatt hours of renewable energy each year and called for market changes to make these large-scale purchases possible. Their commitment shows that demand for renewables has reached the big time.

We're proud that eight of the twelve are EDF Climate Corps host organizations:  BloombergFacebookGeneral MotorsHewlett PackardProctor & GambleREISprint and Walmart. The coalition, brought together by the World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute, is demanding enough renewable energy to power 800,000 homes a year. And while it's great to see these big names in the headlines, they're not alone in calling for clean energy: 60 percent of the largest U.S. businesses have set public goals to increase their use of renewables, cut carbon pollution or both.

Companies want renewable energy because it makes good business sense:  it’s clean, diversifies their energy supply, helps them hedge against fuel price volatility and furthers their greenhouse gas reduction goals. Renewables are now the fastest-growing power generation sector, and by 2018, they’re expected to make up almost a quarter of the global power mix. Prices of solar panels have dropped 75 percent since 2008, and in some parts of the country, wind is already cost-competitive with coal and gas.

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An Antidote to Plastic Addiction

Credit: Plastic Disclosure Project

Credit: Plastic Disclosure Project

Take a moment to think about the things you use and throw away every day that are made from plastic: an empty shampoo bottle, the container from your salad at lunch (and the little container for the dressing), that pen that won’t work. And what about those things you’re holding on to in the depths of your closet, inevitably destined for the dumpster? That overused pair of sneakers, your old broken flip phone, a keyboard that hasn’t been used in a decade?

Plastic has transformed the way we live and enabled innovation in countless sectors, but simultaneously has contributed to one of the largest waste problems facing the planet. The challenge right now is that it’s no one’s responsibility to track plastic. The material just gets passed from production, to building products, to consumers, and ultimately to waste facilities or worse, into ecosystems like the ocean.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has developed one initiative to tackling this enormous problem, called the Plastic Disclosure Project. The project’s goal is to encourage companies to track the amount and types of plastic used in their operations and supply chain in order to optimize and reduce the related environmental impact.

Why should companies take the responsibility of tracking their plastics? To answer this question, UNEP published a report in partnership with Trucost, which quantifies the full cost associated with plastic used in the consumer goods industry. That amount is more than $75 billion per year. Yes that’s billion with a "b," and per year.

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Four Lessons in Corporate Water Efficiency

by Susannah Harris, 2014 Climate Corps Fellow

I received quizzical looks from family and friends when I told them I was working on water efficiency projects at Verizon this summer. They paused, racking their brains about where water is used within the telecommunications industry. “Like in the bathrooms?” they’d ask.

Susannah Harris pictured here on site at Verizon headquarters in Basking Ridge, NJ

Susannah Harris pictured here on site at Verizon headquarters in Basking Ridge, NJ

The reality is that domestic telecom companies rely on billions of gallons of water per year to cool, clean and maintain the buildings and equipment that support their expansive networks. And because customers require networks to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, much of that equipment is running around the clock. From cooling tower adjustments to grey water recycling, there are a number of water-saving opportunities available for the telecommunications industry. Implementing these practices – thereby reducing municipal water, sewer and energy bills – can also make a noticeable impact on the company's bottom line.

As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, my job was to chart a path forward for Verizon’s water efficiency efforts. The company has already made significant strides to reduce its carbon intensity – by 37 percent through 2012 over a 2009 baseline. “Verizon is taking a deeper dive into water efficiency to save critical resources for future generations,” says James Gowen, Chief Sustainability Officer and vice president of supply chain at Verizon. “Reducing our utility bills and increasing the effectiveness of our assets is a win-win for our business and the environment.”

Here are some lessons learned from my time at Verizon, which I hope will help other professionals developing corporate water strategies. The key is to gain a better understanding of how and where your company uses water – a critical building block for an effective program:

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Can a Climate Change Film Be As Memorable As TERMINATOR?

by Alex Duff, Corporate Affairs Manager, Kingfisher – Net Positive

Can you tell a story about climate change that’s as memorable as Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, True Lies, Titanic or Avatar?  James Cameron, the acclaimed director of all of those blockbusters, clearly thinks it’s worth a shot given his involvement in a nine part docu-series that had its premier screening in London this week.  He’s not alone – a long list of movie stars, movie makers and many others have joined him in creating "Years of Living Dangerously" which has already been launched to critical acclaim in the USA.

Hollywood glamour

Whilst we weren’t at the Leicester Square Odeon, there was no red carpet and not a Hollywood movie star in sight, for those of us in sustainability more familiar with finding our stories knee-deep in a peat bog or skip-diving, the London premier held at the Soho Hotel certainly provided more than a glimpse of Hollywood glamour.  Perhaps more importantly though, it served as a powerful reminder of how clever interventions and effective storytelling can reach an audience beyond (excuse the pun) "The Usual Suspects."

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Private Equity Interest in EDF Climate Corps at All-Time High

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CC 2012 fellow Sarah Stern presents her work to CD&R's Daniel Jacobs, left, and Thomas Franco, right

Summer at EDF is always an exciting time as EDF Climate Corps fellows fan out and begin their placements at organizations across the country. This year we're thrilled to see a dozen fellows working with private equity firms and their portfolio companies, the highest number of such placements in a single summer. In total, EDF has now placed 44 EDF Climate Corps fellows in the private equity sector to date.

Managing investment dollars equivalent to roughly 8 percent of U.S. GDP, the private equity sector is critical to sharing, replicating and advancing corporate environmental best practices, so it's gratifying to see the level of activity continue to build. New hosts this year include portfolio companies Associated Materials, Avaya, Floor & Décor, Philadelphia Energy Solutions and Taylor Morrison. Private equity firms KKR and Warburg Pincus are also hosting fellows this year, as they have previously.

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The Benefits of Stringent Trucking Standards

by Kate Rack, marketing & communications intern

The Obama Administration is developing new fuel economy standards for trucks, and last week, Ceres and Environmental Defense Fund hosted a webinar outlining how implementing strong federal standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks would be truly a win-win situation.

Our organizations, along with other leaders, are calling for strong standards that cut fuel consumption by 40%. A recent analysis of such standards shows that they would reduce both greenhouse gas emission levels and expenses to ship goods via freight.

EDF helps freight logistics professionals on the journey to greener freight

Why make truck efficiency a priority?

Currently in the U.S., the trucking sector is the fastest growing single source of greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. businesses spend $650 billion a year on freight trucking services, which equates to over half a billion tons of GHG emissions. It is essential that as fuel efficiency standards for cars becomes more stringent, trucks follow suit, especially since 70% of tonnage shipped within the U.S is by truck. In particular, retail and consumer products are the largest consumers of trucking in the United States. Chances are, the computer screen that you are using right now to read this blog post was brought to you on a truck!

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In New Report, KKR Deepens Commitment to Tackling ESG Concerns

Too often, environmental performance gets labeled as the responsibility of one team within a company – whether that of a dedicated sustainability staff, external or public affairs, legal or compliance, etc. As a result, a company’s staff can often think of environmental and social governance (ESG) issues as what Douglas Adams once famously termed an SEP – Somebody Else’s Problem.

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With the release of its 2013 ESG and Citizenship Report, private equity firm Kravis Kohlberg & Roberts (KKR) shows it’s taking a different approach:  KKR has adopted a new global policy that makes identifying and addressing ESG risks in both the pre-investment and investment phases, for its staff, everyone’s problem.

Notably, KKR’s private equity investment professionals are being integrated into the ESG risk assessment process: first, in assessing risks during the diligence phase, and second, working with portfolio companies, consultants and subject matter experts to set performance goals and measure against them during the typical five to seven years a company remains part of its portfolio.

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Transparency Makes for Good Neighbors in Port Communities

By: Christina Wolfe, Ports and Transportation Analyst

Green Marine logo

Source: green-marine.org

Day-to-day operations at ports are often associated with negative impacts on public health. For example, heavy-duty equipment and on road trucks play a critical role in the movement of cargo around the globe, but they also emit diesel exhaust, a known carcinogen. There is certainly room for improvement, and some ports are making efforts to be good neighbors by increasing transparency with respect to their environmental performance.

I had an opportunity to learn about these leading ports at the Green Marine GreenTech 2014 conference, held in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. The purpose of Green Marine’s conference is to share both environmental successes and challenges, as well as to recognize participants (ship owners, ports, terminals, and shipyards in the US and Canada) for their leadership in the voluntary Green Marine environmental program. This program provides a framework for participants to identify specific environmental goals, establish baseline environmental metric values, self-report progress that is verified by a third-party, and earn recognition for their efforts. I wanted to share two notable examples of how some ports are opening their lines of communication and sharing their environmental performance.

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Join EDF and Ceres Experts for “Truck Talk”

As July 4th fades away, grills cool down and the remains of fireworks are swept away, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to work. In my case, I’m preparing for a webinar Ceres’ Carol Lee Rawn and I are holding this Wednesday, sharing the findings of our recent report on how strong medium- and heavy-duty truck standards would cut freight costs and emissions.

It’s a topic we’re both passionate about – and think you should be too —  and with good reason: U.S. businesses spend $650 billion a year on freight trucking services, which account for over half a billion tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions a year, the fastest growing single source of GHG emissions. Fuel is the single largest cost of owning and operating a heavy-truck, accounting for 39% of total costs.

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Our report finds that new, bold fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty trucks could end up reducing the cost of moving freight by 7% and owners of tractor-trailer units could save $0.21/mile, an annual savings potential in excess of $25 billion given that class 8 trucks in the US logged 120 billion miles in 2013.

The Obama Administration is in the process of developing new fuel economy and GHG standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and its determination will affect both your company’s freight costs and GHG emissions.  Join us on July 9th for this webinar, where we’ll walk through the savings associated with strong standards and how you can help ensure that stringent standards are adopted.

Register now for the webinar!