This week Walmart joined a growing number of companies that are trying to advance the circular economy for packaging. Like previous commitments from Nestle, Coca-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.
Happy Cyber Monday everyone.
For those of us who didn’t break the bank on Black Friday, we’re filling up our online shopping carts with Cyber Monday sales – seeing if we can break new records of consumerism. I know I am.
Last year’s Cyber Monday was the biggest day in the history of U.S. e-commerce, totaling $3.45 billion in online purchases. That’s an enormous amount of money. But it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the $25 billion spent on China’s Singles Day – a recording-breaking day for sales.
What started as an anti-Valentine’s day holiday for single Chinese people, Singles Day makes our Black Friday and Cyber Monday look like any ordinary day of shopping. Singles Day has become the world’s largest online shopping holiday. When you look at China’s population, it’s no surprise they out-shopped us. The economy will be made up of 500 million middle class consumers in the next five years – an exploding population – all of which are embracing the convenience and material abundance of consumerism.
American businesses benefit tremendously from the robust voluntary and regulatory programs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These programs are now under threat of massive budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks. In the coming weeks and months, the experts at EDF+Business will examine what a weakened EPA means for business.
It’s safe to say that the EPA isn’t having the best week. Whether it was new administrator Scott Pruitt vowing to slash climate and water protections at CPAC or this week’s reveal that President Trump wants to slash a reported 24 percent of its budget, the EPA has taken a beating recently. However, what may not be as obvious is that slashing EPA’s budget and reducing funding to key programs actually hurts businesses that have greatly benefitted from EPA programs.
A key example of how the EPA bolsters business is freight. In the freight world, the EPA has done a lot for companies’ bottom lines while protecting human health and that of the planet. Companies seeking to
reduce freight costs and achieve sustainability goals across supply chains receive immense value from the EPA. Two key programs that provide this value are the U.S. EPA SmartWay program and the Heavy-Duty Truck Greenhouse Gas Program.
A compelling value proposition for business
SmartWay was created in 2004 as a key part of the Bush Administration’s approach to addressing clean energy and climate change. The program has grown from fifteen companies at its start to nearly 4,000 companies today. The program attracts strong private sector participation because it offers a clear and compelling value proposition: freight shippers gain access to information that enables them todifferentiate between freight carriers on emissions performance.
This saves shippers money and cuts carbon emissions. Freight carriers participate in the program to gain access to large shippers, such as Apple, Colgate-Palmolive and Target.
The EPA SmartWay program is not only a popular program that is delivering billions of dollars of annual savings to the U.S. economy, it is also a core strategy for companies to reduce their freight emissions. The agency has calculated that since 2004, SmartWay partners have saved:
- 72.8 million metric tons of carbon emissions
- Over 7 billion gallons of fuel
- $24.9 billion in fuel costs
To put it in perspective, the reduction of 72.8 million tons of emissions is roughly the equivalent to taking 15 million cars off the road annually. The $25 billion in aggregate savings from this one program is more than three times the annual budget of the entire EPA.
[Tweet “Just one program, EPA SmartWay, saves business $25 billion – more than 3x the annual budget of the @EPA. #EPA &business are not at odds!”]
Given the strong value proposition of the program, it is no surprise that many companies with existing science-based targets on climate emission reductions participate in EPA SmartWay, including: Coca-Cola Enterprises, Dell, Diageo, General Mills, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Ingersoll-Rand, Kellogg Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble Company and Walmart.
Clean fuel driving a healthy U.S. economy
Another key program that is saving companies billions is the Heavy-Duty Truck Greenhouse Gas Program. This program supports long-term cost savings and emission reductions through clear, protective emission standards with significant lead time.
The first generation of this program, running from 2014 to 2017, was finalized in August 2011 and will cut oil consumption by more than 20 billion gallons, save a truck’s owner up to $73,000, deliver more than $50 billion in net benefits for the U.S. economy, and cut carbon dioxide pollution by 270 million metric tons.
The program was created with the broad support of the trucking industry and many other key stakeholders. Among the diverse groups that supported the standards were the American Trucking Association, Engine Manufacturers Association, Truck Manufacturers Association, and the United Auto Workers. The industry has embraced the new and improved trucks too.
The success of the first generation effort spurred the agency to launch a second phase that was finalized in August 2016. This effort stands to be a major success as well. The program is estimated to save:
- 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon pollution
- 550,000 tons of nitrous oxides and 32,000 tons of particulate matter (aka: harmful air pollutants)
- 2 billion barrels of oil
- $170 billion in fuel costs
This latest phase is also big hit with leading companies. More than 300 companies called for strong final standards during the rulemaking process, including PepsiCo and Walmart (two of the largest trucking fleets in the U.S.), mid-size trucking companies RFX Global and Dillon Transport, and large customers of trucking services General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, and IKEA. Innovative manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, and freight shippers have also called for strong standards.
The corporate support for these standards was so impressive that the New York Times issued an editorial illustrating a rare agreement on climate rules.
Every company that sells goods in the market benefits immensely from these two programs and many others from the U.S. EPA. Programs like EPA SmartWay and the Heavy Truck Greenhouse Gas Standards are saving companies and consumers billions of dollars annually, and are integral to corporate efforts to cut carbon emissions.
In his remarks to EPA employees on his first day on the job, Pruitt acknowledged that “we as an agency and we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment…we don’t have to choose”. My hope is that this is a signal of open mindedness to a path forward would allow further improvements to the environment and the economy rather than roll-backs on vital programs and protections.
Perpetuating the belief that the EPA and business are at odds will not only hurt the environment, but would endanger American prosperity.
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This post is part of an EDF+Business ongoing series on sustainable finance, highlighting market mechanisms and strategies that drive environmental performance by engaging private capital. EDF is actively engaging leaders with the capital and expertise needed to catalyze sector-wide changes—from accelerating investment in energy efficiency and clean energy, to protecting tropical forests, restoring depleted fisheries and saving habitats of endangered species.
An issue many nonprofit and for-profit groups face is how to get beyond the pilot stage and scale up efforts. This is the crux of the issue in impact investing and was the focus of the “Bringing in Big Money” panel at this year’s Skoll World Forum.
In many areas of EDF’s work, we’ve found that the capital needed for the issues we care about – turning the corner on climate emissions, bringing fisheries under sustainable management practices, and protecting natural resources – outstrips the availability of philanthropic and public sector budgets.
On the panel, Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), commented about how amused she is by how widely quotes from academia range on the amount of capital that can be accessed – from the relatively small numbers of the “derisive minimizers” to the large estimates of the “breathless maximizers.”
Rather than focusing on the absolute amounts, she looks at the leverage entities like OPIC can create through guarantees, insurance and, in some cases, direct financing itself. These efforts by OPIC and multilateral institutions have led to a dramatic shift in the ratio of public sector to private sector finance. In contrast with 20 years ago when public sector grants exceeded the amount of private investment capital, today, it is the reverse – $7 of direct private investment for every $1 from the public sector.
What, then, are the keys to amplifying this trend and repeating it in other sectors? Read more
Last week in Atlanta, Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts (KKR) Member and Head of Global Public Affairs Ken Mehlman summed up his approach to sustainability in a single sentence: “it’s got to be about what you do.” The comment was in response to a panel that EDF moderated at KKR’s first annual sustainability summit, where guest panelists Jeff Foote from Coca-Cola, Mitch Jackson from FedEx, and Maury Wolfe from Intercontinental Hotels Group shared their successes and challenges in improving their organizations’ environmental performance. Ken highlighted a common theme in all three panelists’ remarks: for a company’s work on sustainability to have a real impact, it needs to be integrated into its core business model.
KKR has clearly taken the same lesson to heart. By integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into how it evaluates and manages portfolio companies, KKR has shown what that thinking can achieve for a private equity firm and its portfolio companies. Read more