Why Disney World is betting on clean energy

“Environmental stewardship and conservation were engrained in The Walt Disney Company from the beginning,” Angie Renner recently told me. Angie is an Environmental Integration Director at Walt Disney World Resort, and today she says the company is investing in new technologies and renewable energy projects that have thus far cut greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half. Why? Because as a Bloomberg story just noted, warmer temperatures are already impacting the “the comfort and health and well being of [the resort’s] customers.”

In other words, climate change is bad for business. But as I’ve seen firsthand, companies that invest in clean energy, engage customers in sustainability efforts and leverage their influence to drive smart policies can turn a downside risk into tangible cost-savings, customer retention and global leadership.

I recently caught up with Angie to learn more about the company’s sustainability initiatives and successes and its efforts to provide environmental education to the hundreds of thousands of guests who visit the iconic Disney resorts each day.

Here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

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Why TD executives are banking on sustainability

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.

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The 4 critical steps to climate leadership

Business leaders can no longer afford to look the other way on climate change. The recent National Climate Assessment revealed that regional economies and industries dependent on natural resources are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – as are energy systems. Warmer climates will increasingly disrupt international trade, prices, and supply chains, and costs could reach hundreds of billion dollars per year by the end of the century. Climate change doesn’t just threaten ecological balance, it threatens corporate balance sheets.

In light of these findings I’m encouraged by a recent survey of corporate leaders, 82 percent of whom said companies need to advocate for or take a stand on environmental, social and governance issues and that “climate and environment” was one of the three highest priorities for their organizations.

Knowing that a company should take action, however, is a long way from actually taking action on climate. While there are a growing number of cases where leading companies and major investors are ahead of the federal government on climate action, it’s simply not enough, and many more U.S. businesses need to step up.

The role that CEOs and companies play in global governance is changing. Leaders and laggards, winners and losers, will all be defined by how they respond to climate change. The leaders will surface based on their ability to take these four critical steps. Read more

3 reasons why Apple, Danone, Mars, Nestle and Unilever just stood up for strong climate policy

In the media storm surrounding the midterm elections, you might have missed an important act of sustainability leadership. Five of the world’s leading brands filed public comments opposing the Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. The ACE rule would replace the Clean Power Plan, which all five companies have previously supported, and place no quantitative limits on climate pollution from power plants.

In their public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency, Apple and the four members of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance (SFPA) – Danone, Mars, Nestlé and Unilever – make it clear that clean energy is good for business, and call for policies that cut emissions in line with what science says is necessary.

Here are three of the key reasons they spoke up.

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3 reasons why air pollution should be a top priority for businesses

Leaders from pretty much every country in the world representing current and future customers attended the World Health Organization’s (WHO) inaugural Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva last week, along with academics and nongovernmental organizations, but there were no corporate leaders in attendance.

The absence of companies suggests that air pollution isn’t front and center on business leaders’ radars. Here are three reasons why it should be.

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5 ways companies can act on the latest dire climate warnings

Oh what a week it has been!

Trying to turn away from the political polarization and fracturing civility in this country, I looked elsewhere in the news and found something even worse…dire warnings for our planet.

Two reports in the news this week ring the alarm bell on climate change. The first report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries. As the New York Times reports, it “describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.”

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IPCC report reveals urgent need for CEOs to act on climate

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a sobering report this week detailing the dramatic effects of climate change and the immediate steps we need to take to make significant progress on limiting warming in the future. The report makes it clear that apathy and inaction are no longer viable options. Unprecedented action is needed by both the public and private sector to transform our energy, transportation and other systems around the world.

Could this report finally be the clarion call to our nation’s business leaders to take responsibility for ensuring a prosperous and clean energy future for all?

There has been encouraging progress to date, but much more needs to be done. Businesses have an essential role to play in building political will for action, which may be the biggest challenge of all. Moreover, new research shows corporate stakeholders want – and expect – climate leadership, including policy advocacy. Read more

Future fleets: how clean air innovations are driving smarter, healthier cities


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

Scaling for good: can McDonald’s raise the bar for sustainable food?

At Environmental Defense Fund, we believe that environmental progress and economic growth can and must go hand in hand. EDF+Business works with leading companies and investors to raise the bar for corporate sustainability leadership by setting ambitious, science-based goals; collaborating for scale across industries and global supply chains; publicly supporting smart environmental safeguards; and, accelerating environmental innovation.

This is the 10th in a series of interviews exploring trends in sustainability leadership as part of our effort to pave the way to a thriving economy and a healthy environment.

Let’s turn back the clock to 1990. It was a milestone year for McDonald’s, as the company opened its first restaurants in Moscow, mainland China and Chile. It was also when the largest restaurant company in the world joined forces with Environmental Defense Fund to launch a groundbreaking partnership that would find ways to reduce McDonald’s solid waste. The results? $6 million in savings, more than 300 million pounds of packaging eliminated, and 1 million tons of corrugated boxes recycled.

2018 is shaping up to be a big year for McDonald’s too, with a packaging waste goal set in January and an announcement to reduce emissions across its supply chain in March. Led by Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain and Sustainability Officer Francesca DeBiase, McDonald’s has raised the corporate leadership bar with these ambitious sustainability targets. But now, the difficult and complex work of meeting these goals begins.

I caught up with Francesca ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit this week to ask her about what the roadmap to meeting these goals looks like, and how they’ll collaborate with their suppliers and the industry to prioritize action on the areas where McDonald’s has the biggest opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including responsible beef production

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

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4 Takeaways from the 2018 World Gas Conference

For years, conversations at major oil and gas industry conferences focused on one thing: the shale revolution. Excitement about the surge in economical new supply of unconventionally produced oil and gas was palpable, as panelists spoke of the potential for shale to transform everything from the geopolitics of American energy supply to the price of hydrocarbons. With such an unexpected and seismic change, a supply side story carried the day, with a focus on “below ground” drivers of energy abundance.

But today, the shale revolution is simply the new normal and the conversation has changed. “Above ground” factors like increasing competition from renewables, greenhouse gas emissions, and license to operate will affect demand for natural gas for years. How industry confronts such challenges – both in the United States and internationally – will have a lot to do with industry’s longevity in putting resources to productive use in a changing world demanding cleaner energy

At last week’s World Gas Conference in Washington, DC, difficult questions swirled about whether industry has done enough to earn societal trust that natural gas has a constructive role to play in the transition to a low carbon economy. The biggest buzz of all surrounded one key issue: methane emissions, a core strategic challenge for the oil and gas industry.

I remember from experience that methane began as a niche issue years ago, mentioned by engineering and science teams, not CEOs. World Gas Conference 2018 left no doubt that those days are over, and that tackling methane must become part of business as usual. Here are four key takeaways. Read more