McDonald’s New Super-Sized Deforestation Commitment: 4 Things You should Know

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Just in time for Earth Day, McDonald’s has released a new global deforestation commitment. While this policy is new, the company is no stranger to the issue. In fact, McDonald’s was one of the first companies to be confronted in the 1980s as consumers began to recognize the “Hamburger Connection” between beef production and tropical forests. In response, the company established its Amazon Policy, which prohibited the sourcing of beef from the Amazon. Seventeen years later, McDonald’s was instrumental in creating the Soy Moratorium, an industry-wide effort which has effectively halted soy expansion on native vegetation in the Amazon Biome. (Soy is a major source of feed for chickens and other livestock).

Now, following a wave of commitments from agricultural giants such as Cargill and ADM, the new global policy is a first-of-its-kind in the fast food sector and, if executed correctly, could stand as a shining example for other companies in the food business to follow. As one of the world’s most recognized brands, McDonald’s knows any commitment with such a large impact on the planet – tropical forests are one of the largest contributors to, and buffers against, climate change – will be heavily scrutinized. So, what do we need to know as we watch this journey unfold? To radically simplify, four things come to mind:

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Behind the Label: the Blueprint for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

Behind the Label - the blueprint for safer chemicals in the marketplaceIf you’re in the business of using chemicals to make consumer products – things like shampoo or baby lotions, spray cleaners or laundry soap – the last few years have likely been anything but dull. State legislatures have been passing laws restricting certain chemicals from products; consumers are demanding more transparency about product ingredients; and some of the nation’s biggest retailers, including Walmart and Target, have issued chemical policies of their own.

Having worked for years to reduce the public’s exposures to hazardous chemicals and drive incentives for safer innovations in chemistry, Environmental Defense Fund is encouraged to see the growing demand for ingredient transparency and chemical safety. But for companies impacted by these new policies, adjusting to new demands may be challenging. As a business strategy, waiting to respond to the next chemical of concern or the next regulatory action, as opposed to taking proactive steps to improve transparency and chemical safety, is an unsustainable means for addressing risk.

What if your company didn’t have to worry about the next retailer’s list of priority chemicals, the next set of state or federal policy changes or regulations, or the next chemical of concern du jour to light up social media outlets?

EPA Relaunches SaferChoice Product Labeling Program

by Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., Health Scientist

SaferChoiceToday, the EPA Design for the Environment Program (DfE) Safer Choice program (formerly, the safer product labeling program) unveiled its newly redesigned family of three product labels. The voluntary Safer Choice program seeks to recognize and bring consumer awareness to those products whose chemical ingredients represent the safest among those within a particular chemical functional class (e.g., solvents).

Today’s milestone is the result of a public process led by the EPA DfE program to solicit feedback on a new label that better communicates the goals and purpose of the program. After more than a year, and 1,700 comments and six consumer focus groups later, the new labels will be arriving soon to a store shelf near you.  Read more

Consumers Get Their Say in Supporting Sustainable Products

Like teenagers, all ground-breaking products or ideas go through an awkward adolescent phase.  And, like teenagers, the only way products or ideas can move past the clumsy stage and blossom into a sought after, form-meets-function icon is through experience.  Meaning, real consumers have to put them through their paces: does this work? How could it work better? Revise, improve, re-test, repeat… that’s how you make something truly effective; truly great.

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All this is by way of acknowledging a group of sustainable-minded collaborators on the coming-out party this week for Walmart’s “Sustainability Leaders Shop”, an online shopping portal that “will allow customers to easily identify brands that are leading sustainability within a special category”.  It is, literally, the very first time a quantifiable, science-based index of various products’ sustainable provenance is being placed in the hands of consumers at the scale that only Walmart can provide. Read more

Are Energy Managers Making Progress? Introducing a Tool to Help

Energy management can be complicated, and the projects that organizations must tackle run the gamut: from small-scale lighting and HVAC upgrades to whole building retrofits, from baselining energy consumption to data analysis of enterprise-wide energy management systems and from volunteer employee engagement programs to executive-level goal setting.

So if you’re an energy manager, there’s no doubt that you are busy! But, when you’re deep in the middle of so many “weeds,” what’s often not so clear is this: Is your organization making real progress to improve the way it thinks about and manages energy? What does real progress look like?

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The Virtuous Cycle of Strategic Energy Management

Several years ago, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and partner MIT started to address these questions through the  development of a framework for strategic energy management that showed the dependency of truly successful programs on a holistic and multi-faceted management approach—one where five focus areas work in concert to create a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement:

This year, we’re taking this work a step further by addressing another question that organizations frequently have: where are we on the journey?

To that end, EDF Climate Corps is proud to announce the launch of a simple and free benchmarking survey called the Smart Energy Diagnostic, designed to help energy managers assess the overall health and progress of their energy management programs. Read more

New Case Studies in Energy Management Show the Path from 'Why' to 'How'

Business leaders have long agreed on the “why” of environmental management: seeing the value in increased profits, reduced waste and a smaller carbon footprint. But the “how” has often been the stumbling block.

Two case studies released today from adidas Group and the Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver (DHA) help to answer that question, detailing energy management strategies that deliver tremendous value and are great examples for other organizations to follow.

Material Handling Equipment at adidas Group

The adidas Group tackled the dual challenge of improving efficiency in existing distribution centers as well as when specifying material handling equipment in new facilities. Recognizing that only reducing upfront costs during design won’t optimize efficiency over the long term, the adidas Group is now analyzing the lifecycle cost of conveyer belts and other equipment. See the full case study here.

Meanwhile, DHA tackled the challenge of expanding renewable energy resources despite limited capital funds. The solution: an innovative power purchase agreement that enabled the installation of a 2.5 megawatt solar project with minimal upfront costs and a stream of lease payments to benefit DHA. If the 3,300 housing authorities in the U.S. duplicated Denver’s success, their rooftops could produce enough solar energy to power more than 1 million homes. See the full case study here.

Solar installation at DHA

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the recently released case studies of JLL and Urban Innovations, which have risen to the City of Chicago’s challenge to reduce commercial building energy consumption by 20 percent in the next five years. By focusing on education, automation and data, JLL and Urban Innovations each took leaps forward in energy efficiency.

EDF is thrilled to share these case studies as scalable solutions that companies across a wide range of industry sectors can adopt. Together, they show the diversity of organizations that benefit from EDF Climate Corps, and whet our appetite for the projects on tap for the summer of 2015, including Verizon, Shorenstein Properties and Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

We are seeing the dawn of a new era for EDF Climate Corps, as our eight years of partnerships bear new and interesting fruit, with the potential to save energy in hundreds – or even thousands – of organizations. We are eager to hear how you are making the transition from “why” to “how” in energy management, and how EDF can help. Contact us at info@edfclimatecorps.org.

2015: A Year of Business and Policy Action on Climate

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFFor most of us, New Year’s marks the time when we set annual resolutions (personal and professional) and get to work on tackling the priorities for the year ahead. In my hometown of Washington, DC a new year also means that Congress comes back into session, lawmakers and speechwriters ready their agendas and proposals, and the president delivers the State of the Union address.

From what we heard last night and in recent announcements, 2015 could be a big year for action on climate – from government and the private sector alike. But big results will take leadership on all fronts.

Leadership from our government…

Addressing climate change is supported by the vast majority of Americans and the Obama administration is taking bold steps to curb the United States’ contribution to climate change. Last night, we saw President Obama tell the nation “no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” in his State of the Union address. The President also strongly reiterated his commitment to work to ensure “American leadership drives international action” on climate change.

It is clear that climate change is an urgent national priority. Fortunately, the Administration is carrying out its promises under the Climate Action Plan, and steps taken and soon-to-be-taken have helped put us on the right path. From the proposal to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, expected fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, to last week’s announcement of steps to address methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, we have seen a lot of progress to address climate change since the last State of the Union. Further, the November announcement of a joint China-U.S. agreement to address climate change on a global scale underscores how crucial U.S. leadership is at this juncture in achieving a binding worldwide climate deal. Much more work remains and leadership at all levels will be necessary to meet our climate goals. Read more

Methane Mitigation Sector: EPA Actions Good for Industry, Will Curb Waste and Protect Communities

sean_wright_287x377A rising chorus of companies in the oil & gas services sector are adding their voices to the majority of Americans who think it’s a smart idea to limit vast waste of methane taking place every day in the nation’s the oil and gas operations. These companies in the methane mitigation industry are experts in finding and fixing methane waste. They issued statements welcoming the EPA’s announcement of planned rules aimed at reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas value chain.

As the ones who are working overtime to provide technologies and services to minimize release of methane and other pollutants throughout the natural gas value chain, these companies see limiting methane emissions as smart business for the oil and gas industry.

Consider their remarks:

  • “Rebellion Photonics welcomes today’s announcement from the EPA regarding its methane plan. It is a positive step towards ensuring we minimize emissions of methane, a short-term climate forcer, from the US oil and gas value chain. America’s shale revolution holds vast potential to both power our economy and drive environmental gains. Limiting the amount of methane that leaks from natural gas equipment ensures that we will maximize the environmental benefits of America’s plentiful natural gas resources,” said Rebellion Photonics, a manufacturer of specialized cameras that detect methane leaks.
  • “The FSA and its members are committed to doing its part to address climate change. The FSA is well equipped to work with our partners in the oil and gas sector, the EPA and the Obama Administration in finding solutions and being a technical resource to curtail methane emissions,” said the Fluid Sealing Association, which represents major US manufacturers of sealing technology that helps limit emissions of methane.
  • “Apogee Scientific, Inc. looks forward to working closely with the EPA and the Oil and Gas sector to reduce the environmental and health impacts of oil and natural gas development in the United States. As a company based in Colorado, a state with the country’s strongest methane rules, we have seen first-hand how good, comprehensive policy can drive environmental, economic, and local community benefits. The EPA should look at Colorado as the model of how good methane policy can benefit all stakeholders involved,” said Apogee Scientific, a Colorado-based maker of leak detection equipment.

These statements express the clear private-sector support for smart, common sense limits on methane emissions that will level the playing field for operators nationwide and drive down emissions. Read more

The Green Freight Journey: Raise the Bar

The Green Freight Journey is a five-step framework for freight optimization projects. In this blog series, EDF is taking a brief look at each step of the Journey.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Life’s a journey, not the destination.” Your Green Freight efforts are no exception.

The Green Freight Journey is about setting long-term goals and continuously learning.  Each time you reach a “destination,” remember to celebrate your success and share your learnings broadly within your organization and network.

Once you’ve acknowledged your success, challenge your department to take on new and more complex projects. As emissions from global goods movement continue to increase, the changes you make will make a difference and influence others to do the same.

To learn more about the Green Freight Journey, watch our recorded webinar, where we go into more detail about the Green Freight Journey framework, review real-world case examples and highlight tools EDF is making available to help companies progress on their journey.

During the webinar, participants will:

  • Be introduced to the steps of a Green Freight Journey and receive tips for success on each;
  • Hear real-world examples of companies that have cut emissions and costs by optimizing freight moves;
  • Review existing tools, including a green freight benchmarking survey and the EDF Green Freight Handbook; and
  • Learn how an EDF Climate Corps fellow helped Ocean Spray Cranberries identify new green freight opportunities

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

Be a Green Freight Superhero

Also, watch our EDF Supply Chain Heroes video to learn how logistics managers can channel their "superpowers" to drive their companies' sustainability efforts. The choices they make, such as moving cargo via rail or participating in a truckload consolidation network, have the power to slash costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Become a green freight superhero at your organization today!

The Green Freight Journey: Declare a Goal

The Green Freight Journey is a five-step framework for freight optimization projects. In this blog series, EDF is taking a brief look at each step of the Journey.

Green Freight Journey

These first three steps of the Green Freight Journey are fundamentally about getting “up to speed” on your journey. You start with your objective and metrics; launch a pilot or two; and then embrace the approach with wider adoption and a formal recognition. Now it’s time to invest in progress over the long term.

Companies set themselves up for longer-term success and spur innovation by declaring a goal, which is step 4 of the journey.

To do this, companies need to:

  • Assess long-term opportunities – More than just looking at what they can move forward on today, companies need to be thinking along the lines of what  they can build towards over the next 3-5 years.
  • Focus on continuous improvement – The metrics-driven approach we discuss throughout the Green Freight Journey will be key here. A long-term goal backed by objective metrics inoculates your effort from the threat of “big shiny object” projects – for example, that pet project of an executive that might be great for a press release, but won’t move the needle forward on the metrics.
  • Choose an actionable timeframe – The goal should be far enough on the horizon that you will be able to make some significant network changes over the time frame. It should be close enough, though, to be actionable.
  • Set specific targets – Your goal should be framed clearly so that all team members will understand when the project can be deemed a success.

Many companies are already setting goals for their freight operations; here are some examples to get you thinking:

To learn more about the Green Freight Journey, watch our recorded webinar, where we go into more detail about the Green Freight Journey framework, review real-world case examples and highlight tools EDF is making available to help companies progress on their journey.

Steps on the Green Freight Journey: