Strong Efficiency Standards Needed to Bring New Generation of Trucks to the Road

One of the best things about getting back to the office after a week of travel is having a full mailbox.  Not the electronic kind – which must still be managed from the road; but the old-school one for, you know, actual mail. Greeting me the other morning was my weekly edition of Transport Topics. It has a great overview of the fuel efficiency efforts of Walmart.

The effort of the company’s logistics group has been widely reported. What jumped out at me in this article was how Walmart evolved in its focus in greening its freight.

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Join EDF, Walmart and Guardian Sustainable Business for a Live Chat about the Sustainability Index

Walmart is by far the world’s largest retailer. Its annual revenues exceed those of Kroger, Target, Costco, Home Depot and Walgreens combined. It is also the world’s largest customer, doing business with over 100,000 suppliers from across the globe.

That’s why Environmental Defense Fund has spent seven years on the ground with Walmart, driving sustainability initiatives from within.  The company’s unique place in the global supply chain could raise the bar for environmental performance across the board, providing EDF with a powerful lever for achieving global environmental results.

With the introduction of Walmart’s supplier Sustainability Index, environmental outcomes truly worthy of Walmart's scale seem achievable for the first time: Major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Improved efficiency across supply chains and sectors. Improvements in water quality and human health. The list goes on.

Please join EDF Managing Director Elizabeth Sturcken for a discussion on the Sustainability Index. We’ll explore new initiatives, successes to date and areas where EDF hopes to see improvement. Details below.

Live chat

Join the chat here at noon ET on Wednesday, October 30.

The direct link is: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/walmart-supply-chain-sustainability-index.

Submit your questions in the comments or on Twitter @GuardianSustBiz.

Panelists

Jeff Rice, director of sustainability at Walmart

Elizabeth Sturcken, managing director of the Environmental Defense Fund

Marc Gunther, editor-at-large for Guardian Sustainable Business

Oak Hill Capital Partner’s first ESG report blazes a trail for the middle-market

This week, Oak Hill Capital Partners (Oak Hill) became the first U.S. middle-market private equity firm to publically report on its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance.  Another first for Oak Hill and an extension of the ESG trend kicked off by industry leaders – including Carlyle and KKR – over the past few years.

Just last year, Oak Hill and EDF teamed up to demonstrate that opportunities to improve environmental performance were not limited to the mega buyout firms.  We worked together to create a methodology that mapped environmental management opportunities across Oak Hill’s portfolio based on potential environmental impacts, financial results, and management’s readiness to act.

Oak Hill’s new report discusses the firm’s work to expand its ESG efforts and shares its progress to date.  Last December, EDF released a new ESG management tool for the private equity sector.  The Tool is informed by our work in the private equity sector over the past five years and defines the practices needed to build a successful ESG management program.  Many of these best practices have been embedded in Oak Hill’s approach to ESG management and are evident in the firm’s first public report including:

1) Commitment from the top:  Successful ESG initiatives require strong commitment from the top. Oak Hill’s Responsible Investment Policy, ESG related trainings for the firm and its portfolio companies, and the commitment to publically report annually underscore the support for the firm’s leadership and commitment to make ESG management a core part of the way Oak Hill does business.

2) Integrating ESG into due diligence:  Collaborating with BSR to understand the key ESG risks and opportunities of potential investments is admirable, but it’s also smart business.  Just as we’ve seen in our partnerships with other leading private equity firms, integrating ESG into the due diligence process results in opportunities to reduce risks, increase efficiency, and improve performance.

3) Engaging with the right stakeholders leads to results: Private equity firms are increasingly building relationships with key stakeholder groups to gain new insights and improve operations.  Competing private equity firms take notice; three of Oak Hill’s portfolio companies have hosted EDF Climate Corps fellows.  EDF Climate Corps trains graduate students to quickly understand and improve the way organizations use energy by identifying lasting solutions with long-term financial and environmental benefits.  To date, over 30 private equity firms and portfolio companies have tapped in to this program to reduce energy use, cut greenhouse gas pollution, and save money.

In the past few years the private equity sector’s approach to ESG has evolved rapidly and we’ve been hearing from more and more players in the sector, including both asset managers and owners, about how to improve ESG performance.

Oak Hill is continuing to lead the charge in the middle-market.  The secret to Oak Hill’s successful ESG strategy is that there is no secret.

Any private equity firm can do this if they dedicate time and resources to the effort.  Luckily, the next firm to stand up to the challenge will have Oak Hill’s report as a blueprint.

A Hacker, a Hipster, and a Hustler Walk Into A Bar…

O.K. not a bar, but into the Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom for the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. Never heard of a Hackathon?  Well, until recently, I hadn’t either. It’s an event where teams of coders compete over a very short period of time to develop an app. As I learned, the “Hacking Dream Team” is to have a Hacker to do the guts of the app, the Hipster to focus on the look and feel of the app, and the Hustler to hold the project and team together. According to the event organizers, this was the best attended Hackathon TechCrunch has sponsored yet. Over 160 teams of coders competed to develop apps in less than 24 hours.

Attending the Hackathon was like getting a glimpse into the future and included demonstrations of 3-D printing and drones. Hundreds of coders hunched over their keyboards to crank out apps that ranged from the whimsical—such as the music app Game of Tones to the practical—like an app to help you with your job search called Career Hound—to those that combined the whimsical/practical such as RoboKeg.

Addressing Chemicals of Concern to Human Health and the Environment

Regrettable substitution. Informed substitution.

The first sounds like a problem – and it is. The second is the way you avoid the first.

In the world of consumer products made from mixtures of chemicals – baby lotion, shampoo, cleaners, laundry soap – chemists seek ingredients that are effective and feasible. What they too often don’t also consider are the hazardous properties of the chemical and its risk to people.  This is in part because most chemists are not trained in toxicology.  Further, many of the biological interactions between us and the ingredients in everyday products we use on our bodies and in our homes are only now being understood.  As our understanding has grown, groups such as EDF have called for the removal of some of the more concerning chemical ingredients from store shelves.

KKR's Green Portfolio Program Reaps More than $900 Million

This week, KKR announced impressive results from the firm's five-year Green Portfolio Program: more than 1.8 million metric tons of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and $917 million in combined cost savings and new revenue for portfolio companies since 2008.

The Green Portfolio Program 's powerful trajectory stands as an example of the great things that can come out of a long-term partnership between a nonprofit like the Environmental Defense Fund and an innovative investment firm like KKR. We applaud KKR's continued commitment to increasingly make environmental, social and governance (ESG) management a central part of the firm's investment practices, strategy and methodologies. Read more

Cooling the Climate Impact of the Cold Chain

Next time you’re having a scoop of your favorite ice cream, enjoying a banana or even cracking open some peanuts, thank the cold chain.  What’s the cold chain you ask? Well, it’s the system of refrigerated warehouses, trucks, shipping containers and box cars that enables temperature-sensitive products to be moved great distances without spoiling.

This modern marvel is so vast that it has been deemed the artificial cryosphere.  As the Atlantic recently reported, “at least 70 percent of the food we eat each year passes through or is entirely dependent on the cold chain for its journey from farm to fork.”

The cold chain is for more than just food too.  A quarter of all healthcare products are temperature-sensitive and moved through the cold chain.

This system is dependent on refrigerants that have major impacts on our climate. The global warming impact of these gases, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), can be several thousand times more impactful per volume than carbon dioxide. The demand for these gases is growing rapidly too. In fact, the U.S. EPA projects HFC emissions could increase to as much as 19 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Keeping products cold throughout the mobile portion of the cold chain – largely trucks, trains and ships – accounts for seven percent of global HFC consumption. Overall these HFC’s contribute four percent of the total global warming impact of moving all freight, refrigerated or not.  For each move that is refrigerated, HFCs contribute a significant portion to the climate footprint.

Many companies are working to develop and deploy solutions to reduce these impacts.

Carrier, a United Technologies Company, has launched a new refrigeration unit that runs on carbon dioxide. The unit is for marine container applications and is able to cut the climate impact of the refrigeration unit by 35 percent.

In an interview with the Living on Earth, John Mandyck – UTC’s Chief Sustainability Officer, noted that these savings came about because the company has “been able to match the best in class energy efficiency using CO2” while also “replacing a higher global warming refrigerant.”

UTC is exploring how it can use the technology in truck trailer refrigeration applications.  They have a lot of competition too.  Turns out that there are several companies moving forward creative solutions to reduce the impact of keeping products on trucks cold.

An impressive effort is underway at the Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) to power truck refrigeration units by an alternative fuel – hydrogen.

According to a recent edition of the Salt, there are 300,000 refrigerated trucks on the road in the U.S., each consuming about 10 gallons of diesel fuel a day. All told this level of fuel consumption leads to 11 million metric tons of emissions from fuel each year.  This is in addition to any HFC leaks or discharges from these units.

The engineers at PNNL are focusing on reducing the costs of a hydrogen cooling system.  This unit costs about double a traditional unit, but is also twice as efficient. Given that it can cost upwards of $15,000 a year to fuel a refer unit, the operating savings of a more efficient unit can help develop a solid pay-back proposition.

Coca-Cola is in on the action too.  The company announced that it is launching a series of electric delivery trucks that will use electric chillers instead of the conventional diesel-powered units. According to a recent article in GreenBiz, the new electric trucks will “employ eutectic cold plate technology, which chills the air using a series of aluminum beams that circulate a refrigerant. The chiller is powered by a electric system that operates independently of the electric motor and batteries used to power the truck.”

The fuel saving from the electric refrigeration unit helped make the business case for these new fully electric trucks.

Its great news that there are technologies being developed and increasingly deployed today that lessen the impact of refrigerants and reduce the amount of fuel needed to power refrigeration units.  Given the scale of the climate challenge, we need more of these efforts and we need more organizations involved in ensuring these efforts succeed.

Refrigerated carriers – be it truck, ship or rail — need to be partnering with the solution developers to pilot new, innovated equipment.

Shippers of products that need to be kept cold must collaborate with their carriers to ensure they have the financial capacity to participate in pilot programs that stand to deliver financial and environmental savings across the value chain.

Retailers – the outlet for many of the products that depend on the cold chain – should work with their suppliers to inform them about the increasing availability of these solutions and create incentives that reward suppliers that adopt them.

By collaborating we will provide the solution. Inventors and manufactures will have the opportunity and feedback they need to develop the next generation equipment to keep the artificial cryosphere humming along while also helping to keep Mother Nature’s own cryosphere intact.

McDonald’s new paper coffee cups brewed from 23 years of hard work and NGO partnership

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is delighted to hear the good news from McDonald’s that it will transition away from polystyrene foam cups and opt for more sustainable fiber-based paper cups to serve hot coffee drinks in at its 14,000 U.S. restaurants. This is a significant step forward for the company — one that builds on decades of hard work.

Twenty-three years ago, EDF embarked on a partnership with McDonald’s to prove the business case for recycled paper packaging over polystyrene foam. In an era when environmental and business interests were typically not aligned, this was the first of its kind partnership between an environmental group and a Fortune 500 company.

The groundbreaking project ultimately phased out the old fashioned foam clamshell food containers at McDonald’s restaurants; eliminating more than 300 million pounds of packaging, recycling 1 million tons of corrugated boxes and reducing waste by 30 percent over a decade. Today, the majority of quick-service restaurants serve food in paper packaging.

Phasing out foam beverage cups is an important next step for McDonald’s and the industry as a whole, especially given the coffee culture that is our current way of life.

Just as EDF worked with McDonald’s to transform food packaging in the nineties, we then worked with Starbucks to transform coffee cup practices… and how far coffee cup practices have come.

When we first started looking at Starbucks, it was serving its hot brews in double stacked paper cups for the sake of its customer’s fingertips. This doubled the amount of solid waste the company created from hot beverage cups. EDF identified better solutions for keeping its customers’ hands cool. The result? In 1997 Starbucks introduced a corrugated paper coffee sleeve made from 60 percent postconsumer recycled fiber that was 45 percent lighter than the second cup it replaced.

Coffee sleeves seem anything but innovative nowadays, but the industry is continuing with its momentum on packaging. Tim Hortons, Canada’s leading quick-service restaurant, announced just last week that it has closed the loop on its coffee cups through its cup-to-tray project. The company collects coffee cups, lids, napkins and trays in recycling bins, sorts and compresses them, and ultimately turns old material into new trays.

So what have we learned over the past 23 years? Paper cups are far better than foam cups. One paper cup with a sustainable sleeve is better than two paper cups. And paper cups that can be recycled and turned into trays (or even better new cups) are really cool.

The industry is still far from perfect in regard to its beverage vessels though. EDF would like to see more of our leading coffee culture suppliers serving up a zero waste culture along with our venti-double-caff-mocha-cappuccinos.

The Power of Networks to Drive Environmental Results

Fellows at the EDF training event

EDF Climate Corps fellows at the summer training event

The world’s top scientists reminded us last week that the case for action on climate change has never been more urgent.  And turning the corner on carbon emissions and avoiding the worst impacts of a warming world will require nothing less than a full-scale transformation of our energy system.  That is a huge political, technological and cultural challenge – one that no individual, organization or country can solve on its own.  It will take the leadership and collaboration of people across the world, pulling together toward a common goal.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has a staff of 400 – small in the global scheme. That is why we are experts at deploying powerful networks to get results. Our success with businesses – whether it’s improving the safety of products sold at Walmart, or saving water at AT&T – all rest on our ability to tap into the knowledge, connections, and influence of our partners.

One of our most successful networks: EDF Climate Corps.  Hundreds of organizations ranging from PepsiCo and Office Depot to the Chicago Public Schools and New York City Housing Authority have tapped EDF Climate Corps for energy strategies and solutions that cut costs and emissions.  And best of all, our hosts and fellows are now spreading these innovations through their own our networks, creating a multiplier effect that expands our impact exponentially.

Case in point: EDF Climate Corps fellow Jenise Young spent this summer working with professors and administrators at Texas Southern University (TSU).  She learned that minority communities, like those surrounding TSU, are already experiencing the effects of climate change. This inspired Young to develop a climate education consortium for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the Southeast. In addition to identifying energy efficiency upgrades on TSU’s campus, Young helped the dozens of HBCUs in the region see why they should invest in such upgrades too.

EDF Climate Corps fellow Kate Daniels worked with the Mayor of Sacramento on one of the nation’s largest Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) projects, which uses innovative financing so that property owners can invest in energy upgrades. Daniels tapped into a network of community leaders to expand this initiative across the city.  Beyond immediate energy cost savings, the project is expected to deliver a huge economic boost to the region, as energy retrofits keep contractors busy and facility upgrades attract and retain businesses – all without spending public dollars.

EDF Climate Corps is bringing a networked approach to saving energy in Chicago, where buildings account for 70 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.  We’ll provide boots the ground to help building owners enrolled in Retrofit Chicago meet their commitments to cut energy use by 20 percent over the next five years.  We’ll bring building owners together to share their energy challenges and solutions.  And we’ll engage utilities, vendors and other partners essential to transforming the regional energy system.

We’re building a similar network in Boston in collaboration with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, and our work in these cities represents a microcosm of what EDF Climate Corps can do nationwide.  We are weaving a web of connections among the people who have the power to transform the energy system:  large energy consumers, passionate young professionals, policy makers, utilities and our colleagues in the environmental community.  By forging connections and collaboration with and among these key players, we will create change on a scale that is equal to the challenge at hand.

About EDF Climate Corps
EDF Climate Corps (edfclimatecorps.org) taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially-trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has uncovered nearly $1.3 billion in energy savings. For more information, visit edfclimatecorps.org. Read our blog atedfclimatecorps.org/blog. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/edfbiz and on Facebook atfacebook.com/EDFClimateCorps.