How Williams-Sonoma, Inc. is furnishing a better planet

Pottery Barn Kids / west elm Greenguard certified and Fair Trade crib

Furnishing a new home is a big job. I know because I recently went through the process myself. You need to purchase the big ticket items, maybe a new bed from Pottery Barn, down to the nitty-gritty items, possibly a nice west elm throw for the couch. It’s taxing work – for you and the planet.

Danielle Jezienicki, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Williams-Sonoma, Inc. works across the company’s eight brands, including Williams-Sonoma Home, Pottery Barn Kids and PBTeen, west elm, Rejuvenation and Mark & Graham, to ensure that products are made with the environment in mind.

I recently spoke with Danielle, an EDF Climate Corps and Presidio Graduate School alumna, to learn how Williams-Sonoma, Inc. works with stakeholders – from customers, employees and vendors – to engrain sustainability into its values.

Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

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EDF and ExxonMobil discuss technology and regulation to reduce methane emissions

Since 2017, ExxonMobil has expanded its U.S. methane leak detection program, committed to its first global methane target, supported methane monitoring technology innovation and encouraged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate methane emissions at new and existing sources. Although Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and ExxonMobil are not always aligned on certain important issues, the organizations are working together to understand and reduce methane emissions. Ben Ratner, senior director with EDF+Business, sat down with Matt Kolesar, regulatory manager at ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy affiliate, to discuss the company’s perspective on why methane is such a key issue for the industry and how technology and regulation can accelerate industry’s progress.

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Climate pollution can spark more tech innovation. Really.

Methane has made quite an entrance into climate science in the last few years.

Though long recognized as a potent greenhouse gas – more than 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in the short term – its significance in our battle against climate change has only recently been quantified. The oil and gas industry, for example, is among the largest emitters of methane on the planet, and research (including some by EDF scientists) has documented that far more methane seeps out of wells, pipelines, valves and other points in the oil and gas supply chain than energy companies and official emission inventories report.

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The new rules of business leadership

The job of a CEO has always been challenging. Today it is tougher than ever, because the pressure to deliver rising valuations and ROI is matched by a new set of demands as investors, customers, employees and other business leaders call for profits to be balanced with social purpose.

After 20,000 of Google’s employees staged a walkout last November, the company overhauled its sexual harassment policies. Amazon was pulled into the spotlight late last year, when employees leveraged their stock options to submit petitions asking the company to create a plan to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. And when high school survivors of the Parkland massacre helped make gun control a subject of national debate, Kroger, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and LL Bean put new restrictions on their retail firearm sales.

As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote recently in his annual letter to executives, “contentious town halls” where employees speak up for “the importance of corporate purpose” are becoming a fact of life. “This phenomenon will only grow as millennials and even younger generations occupy increasingly senior positions in business. In a recent survey by Deloitte, millennial workers were asked what the primary purpose of businesses should be – 63 percent more of them said ‘improving society’ than said ‘generating profit.’”

It’s no longer enough to post your values on the company intranet. You need to publicly and visibly put them to work.

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The secret behind Iron Mountain’s long-term strategy for setting a Science-Based Target? A phase-based approach.

Last week, Iron Mountain publicly shared its approved Science-Based Target (SBT) after committing to the SBT initiative in June of last year.

Setting SBTs has transitioned from a trend to an industry best practice. Last April, 250 companies committed to set or received approval for a SBT. That number today is now 515 companies. More than double in less than a year.

As more companies explore SBTs, it’s important to call out those that have reached that target-setting milestone so that others can learn from them.

Effective targets are aspirational, yet attainable. It’s not enough just to set one. There needs to be a strategy in place to meet it – which is what Iron Mountain did.

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What the World Needs Now? Spotify for Sustainable Supply Chains

Businesses today are taking basic services and turning them into well-designed, convenient user-friendly experiences. You see it every day with companies like Spotify and Seamless. Or Netflix, which is suggesting I watch The Great British Baking Show, based on my family’s viewing-history.

Now, imagine the possibilities if we applied this business model to sustainability.

The Supply Chain Solutions Center does just that. Launched today in partnership with over 10 leading environmental NGOs, this innovative platform puts resources and expert advice at the fingertips of sustainability professionals.

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Walmart steps up on recycling efforts – but a gap remains in the circular economy conversation

This is the first blog in a series evaluating the challenges associated with single-use food packaging waste.

This week Walmart joined a growing number of companies that are trying to advance the circular economy for packaging. Like previous commitments from NestleCoca-Cola and McDonald’s, Walmart is stepping up its efforts to use more recyclable packaging, incorporate more recycled content, and accelerate development of collection and recycling infrastructures. EDF has a long history fighting for greater and smarter plastics recycling, so we are pleased to see more companies working to eliminate plastic packaging waste from our environment. However, something is often missing from their statements: commitments for safer packaging free of toxic chemicals.

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Bevi CEO explains how an idea for a product grew into a sustainable startup

Reducing impact on the planet isn’t an afterthought at Bevi – it’s the startup’s core business.

Co-founder and CEO of Bevi, Sean Grundy, wanted to work for a company where sustainability was woven into the business model from the start, and shareholder and environmental values were one in the same. So, Sean chose to start fresh and build that very company.

Today, Bevi’s smart water dispensers, which provide customizable flavors using filtered tap water and natural ingredients, have saved the waste generated by over 65 million plastic bottles.

I recently chatted with Sean to learn about how he wound up co-founding Bevi, and how the startup has created an efficient, customizable and environmentally friendly alternative to canned and bottled beverages. Sean was also an EDF Climate Corps fellow with Hilex Poly back in 2012.

Here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

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How data visualization can accelerate environmental progress

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

2020 commodity sourcing goals? These tools can help with supply chain traceability

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