Every day, we see another article about forests disappearing in the Amazon. This coverage shines light on a significant global problem that is only intensifying. With all the bad news, I was especially energized to attend the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) Annual Meeting last week, where around 200 passionate people gathered to promote a forest positive future.
The first time I spoke at a conference about air pollution, the venue was right beside a daycare—a well-regarded chain, no doubt with significant waiting lists. But on the outside, the facility was steps from onramps to a bridge and a major highway, where horns blared and buses and trucks idled at the lights.
The pollution around this daycare was invisible, but because there is still so much we don’t know about air pollution, so were many of the risks. Read more
Amidst rising deforestation rates, many companies have committed to eliminating deforestation from key commodity supply chains. As of June 2018, 473 companies globally committed to curbing deforestation in supply chains linked to palm oil, soy, timber and pulp, and cattle.
Many of these companies have set 2020 goals, and are doubling down efforts to meet these goals as the deadline fast approaches. Companies now find themselves in a position in which they know where they want to go, but do not always know how to get there.
Identifying deforestation risks in supply chains by using monitoring and traceability tools is one key step to achieving corporate goals related to fighting deforestation. Being able to monitor full supply chains, from the production of raw materials to retail or consumption, will enable companies to locate and address deforestation risks. Read more
Nicole Vadori remembers being in grade school and watching the news about a fire at a tire warehouse with big plumes of black smoke that would inevitably cause environmental damage and thinking at that moment, “how can adults let this happen?”
Today Nicole is associate vice president and head of environment at TD Bank Group, where she spends her days finding ways to help reduce the bank’s carbon footprint, mitigating climate risk in its investment activities, and helping to drive business initiatives that can create positive environmental and social impacts.
I recently caught up with Nicole to talk about what TD is doing to help support the transition to a low-carbon economy, how the company analyzes climate risk, and to hear about her favorite Toronto restaurants.
Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.
I have helped Walmart, Starbucks and other companies get started with sustainability. I can help you too, using all the lessons I’ve learned from them.
I don’t want to sound like just another environmentalist waving my hands, jumping up and down that we need to act to reverse climate change NOW. The truth is simply this: I know it can be done, sustainability targets create business value and companies stand to lose big financially if they don’t act.
This blog was co-authored with Meghan Demeter, Program Analyst, EDF
With mounting concern about the state of the climate and increasing speculation about natural gas’ role in decarbonizing energy markets, oil and gas companies face growing scrutiny from the public and investors. Some companies are stepping up with pledges to reduce emissions of methane from their worldwide operations.
But there’s a catch. Read more
When you picture a city bus, an animal control van or a waste management truck, you’re probably not thinking about a high-tech, mobile urban sensing platform, about saving millions of lives, or about the smart city of the future. At least not yet. But a new initiative in Houston is turning public fleets into the rolling eyes and ears of the city, and enabling these vehicles to revolutionize the way air pollution is monitored, measured – and ultimately addressed across the United States.
The information generated by these IoT-enabled “future fleets” is also a key tool in the transformation to fully connected, smarter cities, where hyperlocal data makes streets safer and less congested and where market forces reward urban efficiency, decarbonized electricity, and clean transportation. Picture using connected, clean fleets to improve delivery times, bring residents to work, school and doctor’s appointments, and even pinpoint the location of toxic air pollution threats – all at the same time.
These vehicles are enabling a future where air pollution forecasts eliminate hundreds of thousands of heart attacks, tens of thousands of hospital and ER visits, and an even larger number of missed school and workdays that are caused annually by air pollution. Air pollution also costs the global economy $225 billion dollars every year in lost labor income, but recent studies show that improving air quality – both indoors and outside – could improve worker productivity. Read more
I am just back from a week in Beijing, where Environmental Defense Fund was part of Walmart’s announcement of a new goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its China supply chain. Had I not been there in person, I’m not sure I could have accurately comprehended how essential that this goal – a 50 million metric ton (MMT) reduction by 2030 – must be followed by swift implementation.
That’s because every day in Beijing felt like the worst day in San Francisco, my home, when last year’s horrific wildfires made our eyes and lungs burn. “Normal” in Beijing means not being able to see down to the end of the block, and sharing the crowded streets with commuters, parents and children all covered by facemasks.
As I’m writing this blog, the news is breaking that President Trump may pull out of the Paris agreement. Which makes my story about Walmart and product innovation all the more relevant.
My relationship with Walmart started over six years ago, working towards their 20 MMT greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal. After some trial and error, and an exhaustive scan of greenhouse gas hotspots, it became clear that we would need to attack every point of the product lifecycle (including things like fertilizer optimization for crops and factory energy efficiency). Little did we know at the time that promoting energy-efficient products to Walmart shoppers–particularly LED lightbulbs–would prove to be so important to reach the goal in 2015.
As Walmart sets out on its next ambitious goal to remove 1 gigaton (aka 1 billion tons) of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) from the supply chain, I can’t help but wonder what the next game-changing product will be?
I don’t think the solution will be as easy as another LED lightbulb, but rather a series of disruptive innovations around how products are designed, sold and treated at the end of use.
Last month’s event focused on climate impacts, which largely come from the materials and processes used to manufacture and transport products. Design changes can play a big role in reducing those impacts. It can also transform products into circular products, with their materials being recaptured by the economy or the planet to live another life as a component of a new product.
Point of Sale: how products are sold
The face of retail is shifting – not just from brick-and-mortar stores to online retail, but from an economy dominated by retail-to-customer relationships to one with more peer-to-peer transactions – just look at Airbnb and Lyft. This “sharing economy” has the potential to displace the number of new items needed as people increasingly use what has already been manufactured, sold and used. This can have big environmental benefits – sort of like eliminating food waste, but for general merchandise.
[Tweet “How products are designed, sold and treated at the end-of-life can be a huge opportunity for retailers.”]
It hasn’t really taken off yet for retail, but companies like POSHMARK and ThredUp – where you can buy and sell fashion – and Spinlister – where you can rent someone’s bike – are working to change that. This will become more prevalent over time, especially as millennials have shown a preference for owning less things.
End of life: how to extend the life of a product
The sharing economy has the potential to delay a product from coming to its end of life as quickly, but once it does, innovative companies like Stuffstr can help consumers better manage what they do with their products by making resale, donations, recycling just as easy as throwing things away.
And, Stuffstr isn’t just an innovation that benefits end-consumers, but one that can help retailers understand how consumers use, and part with, the products they buy – creating opportunities to stay relevant as the sharing economy continues to grow.
It’s clear that Walmart’s goal will catalyze innovation in how we think about products and their use. The GHGs that go into creating, selling and disposing of products is too great to ignore. I look forward to seeing which Walmart suppliers step up to the challenge.
Follow Jenny on Twitter, @JennyKAhlen
Additional Resources: Supply Chain Solutions Center
In 2008, EDF launched Climate Corps, an innovative graduate fellowship program committed to jump-starting investment in corporate energy efficiency.
Now, after almost a decade of embedding over 700 fellows inside large organizations across all sectors—public, private and non-profit—we’ve taken a step back to survey the broader landscape.
What did we find? Energy management today looks very different than when we started out. As large organizations have shifted to take on more sophisticated approaches, significant advancements in management strategies have emerged.
And for those of you toiling away on a daily basis in the complicated world of energy management, we’re pleased to offer you a mile-high view of how your efforts fit into a larger picture of progress.
In our new report, Scaling Success: Recent Trends in Organizational Energy Management, we examine the efforts of more than 350 large organizations over eight years. Through careful analysis of over 3,000 energy project recommendations, we have identified five key trends:
- Energy efficiency was just the beginning. Companies have become more strategic and sophisticated about energy management over the years. Equipment upgrades and retrofits have paved the way for higher-level energy analyses and plans, integration of clean energy technologies and more.
- Organizations are turning one win into many. By scaling up energy efficiency projects to be multi-site and multi-facility, companies have clearly moved past the “pilot” or “one-off” stage and are now deploying efficiency measures at scale.
- Companies face front-loaded costs, but are realizing greater ROIs on energy projects. The days of the low-cost/no-cost energy efficiency improvement may be over. Projects now require substantial upfront capital investments, but these projects deliver more value.
- Energy projects now pack more environmental bang for the buck. As technologies have improved and companies have become more strategic about how they direct spending, investments in energy efficiency are providing significantly more greenhouse gas reductions per dollar spent than they did eight years ago.
- Strategic energy management is still hard work. Despite progress made over the years, corporations, municipalities and other large institutions still face significant barriers to project implementation.
To distill it down even further: strategic energy management has evolved from a one-off initiative into an organizational imperative. Despite the barriers, companies are scaling up their efficiency efforts, integrating clean energy more regularly and using data to drive their smart energy strategies.
If you’ve been a part of this evolution (or revolution?), congratulations! If you haven’t, now is the time to take advantage of all these lessons learned and get on board.
Either way, we invite you to learn more about our key takeaways, read our full report and keep moving forward on accelerating your clean energy projects.