Leadership on Sustainability Must Include Helping Shape Smart Policy

This past year, we’ve seen some bold action by companies in what we’ve dubbed the business-policy nexus, and it’s taking several different forms. Some have been calling for state or federal action on environmental impacts, while others are taking far-reaching voluntary efforts that could help support policy advocacy in the future.

Whether you view engagement on public policy as risk mitigation, providing market certainty, supporting corporate sustainability goals or securing competitive advantage, leading businesses are increasingly stepping up their efforts to support smart policy reform that will benefit the environment and economy.

Keeping toxic chemicals out of supply chains

Walmart shopper

Walmart and Target are moving to proactively get harmful chemicals out of their supply chains, even though the nation’s main chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is outdated and hasn’t been reformed in nearly two decades.

Earlier this year, our long-term partner in this area, Walmart, took a big step forward by announcing a new sustainable chemicals policy focused on cutting 10 chemicals of concern from home and personal care products it sells. Chemicals of concern – for example, formaldehyde, a known carcinogen – have been found in about 40% of the formulated products on Walmart shelves, including things like household cleaners, lotions and cosmetics.

That policy includes requiring Walmart’s suppliers to disclose the chemical ingredients of their products as well as phase out or declare on their packaging the ten high-priority chemicals of concern. Walmart is also moving to have its private label products meet the EPA’s Design for the Environment safety standards.

Building upon this, Walmart and Target convened a Beauty and Personal Care Products Sustainability Summit aimed at surfacing ways both companies and their suppliers can increase consumer safety, sustainability and transparency through the entire supply chains of their products.

By engaging early—especially in areas where federal action is expected in the future, as with reform of TSCA—companies can reduce their risks, whether from legal action or public perception, and build greater trust with the public. These efforts also create a lens into companies’ operations that will shape the debate as changes to federal regulations take form.

Curbing methane leakage from the oil & gas sector

Oil and gas well padAnother area where companies have been voicing support and helping guide policy is the push to reduce emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the oil and gas sector. Methane emissions are 84 times more potent than CO2 emissions over a 20-year timeline, and are increasingly seen as a major environmental and financial risk by both the energy and investment sectors.

That risk is driving companies in the oil and gas sector and elsewhere to encourage the federal government to regulate methane emissions. For example, in June Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein voiced his support of methane regulation on the Charlie Rose Show. Just two weeks ago, a group of investors managing $300 billion in assets (including the $160 billion NYC pension funds) sent an impassioned letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling for federal regulation of methane emissions.

Your opportunity to lead in the transition to a clean energy future

Solar installationEngagement starts with being informed. That’s why EDF is eager to help you understand the need and opportunity for leadership on the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan (aka the Carbon Pollution Standards or 111d).

This proposed rule is the biggest single action the federal government has taken on climate change, and will help curb carbon emissions from the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Proposed by the EPA earlier this year, the Clean Power Plan is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent below 2005 levels, with room for custom implementations on a state-by-state basis so that state and local leaders can decide what solutions best fit the needs of each state’s specific economic, corporate and energy sectors.

Any sustainability officer who has tried to competitively price green power or build the business case for an energy efficiency program has a stake in the outcome. The Clean Power Plan can help shift us towards a lower-carbon economy and expand the demand and market for renewable energy and energy efficiency.  But this depends on how the plan is implemented, and getting that right depends on you.

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDF

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDF

Mandy Warner, Sr.  Manager, Climate and Air Policy

Mandy Warner, Senior Manager, Climate and Air Policy, EDF

Join us November 19th for a webinar with myself and Mandy Warner from EDF’s Climate & Energy team. We will walk you through how the Clean Power Plan is structured, what it means for businesses and why companies should make their voices heard as plans to implement the rule take shape.

Register here today for this informative webinar.

New Report Supports Jurisdictional Approaches to Ending Deforestation in the Amazon

Andrew Hutson EDFThe world’s attention has been on Brazil lately.  With an exciting World Cup this past summer, an election season full of drama (including a plane crash), and the coming Summer Olympics in 2016, it has been easy to overlook the piece of news that has the greatest impact on all of our lives: the remarkable decreases in rates of deforestation in the Amazon.  With little fanfare (at least from the general public), deforestation decreased 70% since 2005 and Brazil has become the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

But while this progress impressive, it is important to note that we’re still losing over 5,000 square kilometers of forest a year in the Amazon. More importantly, we’ve seen a slight uptick in the rate of deforestation over the past two years, with an increase of 29% from 2012-2013. That number looks likely to increase again this year.

As the number of companies, governments, NGOs, and indigenous peoples who signed the New York Declaration on Forests last month demonstrated, there is an eagerness to address this issue across all sectors of society. Among other goals, signatories to the Declaration seek to halve the rate of loss of forests globally by 2020 and end natural forest loss by 2030. To get there, we need a scalable and systematic approach to meet this ambitious, yet achievable goal. EDF believes one solution is the creation of Zero Deforestation Zones (also referred to as jurisdictional approaches) – nations or states that are able to demonstrate reductions in deforestation within their borders as the most effective way to save forests the scale of entire landscapes, rather than individual parcels of land.

A new report by Datu Research, Deforestation in the Brazilian Beef Value Chain, supports this notion.

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Gaining Momentum for Optimized Fertilizer Use in Agriculture

Jenny AhlenIn 2013, Walmart launched an initiative with the potential to optimize fertilizer use on 14 million acres of U.S. farmland by 2020. This was a great step in the right direction for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution by improving nitrogen fertilizer use. Momentum on this work grew in April when Walmart suppliers including Cargill and General Mills stepped up and made joint agricultural commitments at Walmart’s Sustainable Product Expo.

Now, a little over a year since this work kicked off, it’s great to see another major boost of momentum. On Monday, Walmart hosted their fall Milestone meeting, which included an announcement from United Suppliers to join the fertilizer optimization work – committing to enroll 10 million acres by 2020.

This is a big deal for two reasons. First, this commitment is significantly larger – more acres – than any other we’ve seen so far. Second, this is the first time a major agricultural retailer has joined this initiative.

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Quiet But Admirable Commitments to End Deforestation

Andrew Hutson EDFIf you saw the news that there was a UN Climate Summit this week, but haven’t followed it closely, you might well assume that nothing substantive happened.  You can certainly be forgiven for thinking so – there was a lot of pomp and lofty talk (this is the UN after all), and no global treaty was signed (although none was expected). Below the surface, however, quiet momentum for key policy actions was built. And even quieter, but yet potentially more exciting, commitments were made. Chief among these was news that global agriculture giant Cargill committed to ending deforestation across all commodities in its supply chain as part of the New York Declaration on Forests.

This is a big deal.

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Working Towards Zero-Deforestation: Lessons from Acre, Brazil

This post is our second in a series on how companies can reduce deforestation from their supply chains. Read the first post here.

What do companies, governments, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples have in common? Despite their differences, they share a common interest in reducing deforestation, which accounts for 12% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

UN Climate Summit logo

On September 23rd, leaders from all of these groups will meet at the UN Climate Summit in New York City to spark action on climate change issues including deforestation. The Climate Summit hopes to rally action around two forest efforts, creating incentives to reduce deforestation in tropical countries through REDD+ policies (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) and eliminating deforestation from the supply chains of commodities such as palm, beef, soy and paper.

The Board of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF)—a group of 400 companies with combined sales of around $3.5 trillion—has committed to help achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. However, CGF has also recognized that they cannot solve deforestation on their own, and have called on governments to make REDD+ a priority in a legally binding UN climate agreement in 2015

At EDF, we believe that REDD+ is the best way to reduce deforestation and promote sustainable economic development and that consumer goods companies are in a prime position to support REDD+ in the countries they source from.

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Advancing on the Green Freight Journey: Discover Your Next Steps at RILA Sustainability

freightContainers-100x133Every product that ends up on a retail shelf or is sold online has a freight footprint. The annual impact of freight across U.S. retail and consumer goods supply chains is significant – over 160 million metrics tons of greenhouse emissions. Or, more than ten times Walmart’s 2010 scope 1 & 2 emissions in the United States.

There are ample opportunities for retailers and their suppliers to improve efficiency, reduce costs and emissions from their freight supply chain. These companies can get more products on each truckload, move more cargo by rail, and collaborate with other companies to find shipping efficiencies.

To capture the most savings opportunities, companies need a long-term plan of action with common key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals shared between logistics teams and corporate sustainability officers.

EDF created our Green Freight Journey model to be a framework that companies can use to manage supply chain freight emissions. The Green Freight Journey has five steps:

Green Freight Journey

  • Step One: Get Started, where a company assembles the right group of internal stakeholders and defines its objectives and key metrics.
  • Step Two: Create Momentum, where a company launches a pilot effort to improve performance in one key area. It leverages the results of the pilot to increase internal visibility about the strong value of green freight initiatives.
  • Step Three: Accelerate Performance, where a company expands the scope of its green freight efforts from one or two projects to a system-wide effort to reduce costs and emissions.
  • Step Four: Declare a Goal, where a company sets a multi-year goal to drive internal focus and resource allocation.
  • Step Five: Raise the Bar, having accomplished its first generation green freight goal, a company assess and sets a new longer term improvement target.

If you are attending RILA Sustainability later this month, visit the EDF booth (NP6) in the exhibit hall to learn more how your company can leverage the Green Freight Journey framework to identify and implement cost and emission reductions project. In addition to the EDF Green Freight Handbook, we will available at our booth have a benchmarking survey for companies to help them assess their next step on the Green Freight Journey.

Procter & Gamble, CVS, Colgate and Others Demonstrate “We” > “Me”

Mathers_Jason (1)When looking for ways to increase supply chain efficiencies, few strategies have the cost and emissions savings potential of collaborative distribution or shared shipping—where companies pool freight resources to reduce the amount of truck trips required to move supplies or products. As the Guardian noted in a recent article on Ocean Spray and Tropicana’s shared shipping collaboration, companies stand to annually save billions of dollars and cut over a hundred million tons of climate pollution by adopting this strategy.

A recent Logistics Management report–Getting From “Me” to “We”: Creating a Shared Infrastructure for Product Distribution–dug deeply into this topic too. It shared several examples of how leading companies are implementing this strategy. The example that stood out to me involved CVS, Kimberly-Clark and Colgate.

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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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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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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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