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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At GCAS, Walmart and Unilever show leadership on forests: 3 big reasons to join them

Walmart and Unilever made big news at this week’s Global Climate Action Summit. With forest loss still on the rise (the highest levels of tropical tree cover loss occurred in the last two years), these two consumer-product giants just committed to taking big, concrete steps toward addressing the complex reality of global deforestation.

At the center of their commitments are critical actions in support of jurisdictional approaches, which encourage companies that source deforestation-related agricultural commodities to collaborate with local governments, communities, and producers in their sourcing region. Through these collaborations, jurisdictional approaches ensure that local laws, regional efforts, and corporate policies work in concert to reduce deforestation across entire landscapes.

Companies with forest goals coming due – and there are hundreds of them – should take note, for three big reasons:

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How an Indonesian coconut plantation inspired Mars’ “aha moment” on sustainability

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 aggressive, science-based goals; collaborating for scale across industries and global supply chains; publicly supporting smart environmental safeguards; and, accelerating environmental innovation.

This is the seventh 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.

You likely know Mars as the company behind leading brands like M&M’s®, PEDIGREE® pet food, and UNCLE BEN’S® rice. For those of us in the field of corporate social responsibility, Mars is also well-known for its environmental leadership.

Mars’ Sustainable in a Generation plan lays out the company’s commitment to procure 100 percent renewable energy, reduce 100 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from its direct operations by 2040, and reduce indirect emissions throughout the value chain by one-third by 2030 – and two-thirds by 2050.

As Mars’ chairman Stephen Badger wrote in a Washington Post editorial last year, the company’s carbon footprint is the size of a small country. The company’s goals are therefore nothing short of ambitious.

But if anyone can help the company meet those targets, it is chief procurement and sustainability officer Barry Parkin, who believes that big goals drive big innovation.

I recently spoke with Barry about how Mars plans to tackle its climate goals, how being a family-owned business shapes its approach to sustainability, and how his time on the British Olympic sailing team influences his day-to-day job. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

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Deforestation-free supply chains: 4 trends to watch

Aerial Photography – The River

Hundreds of companies have committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains by 2020, but the political landscape and market conditions are shifting as the deadline draws nearer. Here are four emerging trends that these companies – as well as the governments and civil society organizations engaging with them to zero out deforestation – should be taking into consideration as 2020 fast approaches.

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What the sensor technology revolution means for businesses, the planet, and your lungs

A recent study from UPS and GreenBiz revealed that 95 percent of surveyed companies recognize the effect that urbanization – particularly air quality and traffic congestion – will have on business growth and sustainability.

Why? Because poor air quality costs the global economy $225 billion every year in lost labor income, according to the World Bank. Air quality also worsens with congestion, which will likely increase as 2.5 billion more people are expected to live in urban areas by 2050.

It’s no surprise then that less than half of the UPS/GreenBiz study participants feel prepared to address these challenges.

The good news is that cities and businesses can turn their anxiety into action by embracing and utilizing disruptive mobile sensor technologies that collect air quality data.

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Leading methane commitment from Exxon’s U.S. driller: Why it matters

The degree to which the oil and gas industry can be trusted to play a constructive role in a low carbon future depends in no small measure on whether and how it reduces climate pollution today. That’s why company insiders, investors, and policy makers should take careful note of the sensible and innovative commitments announced by XTO Energy, the ExxonMobil subsidiary that leads the United States in natural gas production.

The industry’s many outside stakeholders both in the U.S. and around the world are increasingly calling for emission reductions and greater commitment to cleaner production. Companies that heed those calls, and advance new technologies, will be much better positioned to answer society’s demands for responsibility. Read more

China: the new leading voice on climate change?

This is the first of a three-part blog series covering corporate sustainability in China. Experts from EDF Climate Corps examine how businesses are shifting the ways they approach energy management in response to increasing climate commitments.

This past June, 197 countries reaffirmed their commitments to reduce GHG emissions in an effort to curb global climate change. The U.S. was not one of them. This decision, a major backpedal for America, made room for a new frontrunner to take the reins on global climate leadership. And that’s exactly what has happened.

After President Trump backed away, China, the largest GHG emitter and coal consumer, recommitted to forge ahead with the Paris agreement. The nation recognizes climate change as a major challenge faced by all mankind and a threat to national security, which is why Beijing has deemed the Paris agreement its “highest political commitment”. China’s participation in any international agreement on climate is not only critical, it’s an opportunity to dominate the clean energy sector and inspire others to take action.

Manager, EDF Climate Corps

Here are three ways China is positioning itself to meet its targets (America, take note):

1. Enforce goals at every policy level.

China has set aggressive targets aimed at reducing the nation’s greenhouse gases that are supported and enforced by climate policies at the international, national and local level. This alignment allows for greater consistency and cooperation between the private and public sectors, enabling greater efficiency in working towards these common goals.

At the international level, China reaffirmed its promise to meet the commitments (working closely alongside the EU) outlined in the Paris agreement, including peaking CO2 emissions by 2030. Domestically, China has both short-and long-term plans to help ensure their energy goals are met. The Strategic National Energy Plan was completed this past April and China is on track to achieve its energy goals outlined in the 13th Five-year plan.

At the local level, cities have their own carbon-cutting plans. Shenzhen, one of China’s manufacturing hubs, aims to peak the city’s carbon emissions by 2022—eight years ahead of the national target. Companies, too, are ramping up their efforts.  For the past two years, EDF Climate Corps has placed four fellows in IKEA’s Shenzhen offices to help meet these targets by focusing on increasing the sustainability of the company’s supply chain (Stay tuned for more on this kind of corporate engagement in the next post of this series).

2. Invest in clean energy.

China continues to expand its dominance in renewable energy. Recently, they committed to investing $360 billion in clean energy development. According to China’s National Energy Administration, renewable energy already employs 3.5 million people in China (compared with less than a million in the US) and this new investment is expected to create 13 million more jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2020. That’s enormous growth.  

The private sector is tapping into this market as well. Chinese companies already dominate among the most profitable clean energy companies in the world with 35% of the top 200 publicly traded corporations earning significant revenue from renewable energy being Chinese. Simply put, in China, clean energy is viewed as smart business and smart economics.

[Tweet “China takes the lead on climate change action w/ plans to invest $360bil in clean energy development. Where’s the US?”]

3. Use a multi-faceted approach:

Manager, EDF+Business

China is coming at climate change from all angles. In addition to the policy mechanisms and promotion of clean energy mentioned above, China is securing long-term investment and sustained financing to encourage innovation and the adoption of new technologies. For example, this year China launched five pilot zones to promote “Green Finance”, a vehicle aimed at raising funds for pollution clean-up.

Also this year, President Xi Jinping pledged to launch the world’s largest national carbon market; a decision EDF played an important role in by providing the Chinese government with critical technical support and consultation. The market will hasten the transition to a low-carbon economy and send a message to the world that China is serious about finding solutions. Additionally, this presents an enormous opportunity for the private sector to curb emissions. Companies are incentivized to innovate and reduce their emissions, selling excess allowances and opening up new revenue streams.

The road forward for China

The momentum we’re seeing in China is in sharp contrast to Trump’s America. It’s this strong leadership and creativity that is needed to address GHG emissions within China. And it sets an example for others to follow. Delivering on its many commitments and aspirations won’t be easy, but for China to declare them as necessary is a big step in the right direction–one that has the potential to create massive positive change.

In our next blog post, we’ll take a closer look into how companies are already making and delivering on plans to do their part in helping China achieve its climate commitments.


Follow Scott and Xixi on Twitter, @scottwood_, @Talk2Xixi


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There’s no avoiding it, business must lead on climate

A few weeks ago, I attended the Earth Day Network’s Climate Leadership Gala in Washington, DC.  Each year the event brings together more than 300 leaders from business, government and the NGO community to celebrate achievements in working towards a clean energy future. This year’s top honor, the Climate Visionary Award, was presented to Unilever CEO Paul Polman for his commitment to fighting climate change.

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFBold, passionate leadership like Polman’s is essential to tackling climate change while helping to create an economy that benefits us all. He understands that it’s not a choice between business and the environment. In fact, a thriving economy depends on a thriving environment.

Corporate sustainability leadership is now more important than ever. It’s clear that the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll-back environmental protections have thrust U.S. businesses into a critical leadership role on clean energy and climate change. (In fact, I’ll be talking with business leaders later today about how they are “responding to the new norm” at the Sustainable Brands Conference.)

[Tweet “A thriving economy depends on a thriving environment – why business must lead on climate – @tpmurray”]

Over the past 25 years at EDF we’ve seen corporate sustainability go from simple operational efficiencies to global supply chain collaborations; now it’s time to go further. Business must continue to raise the bar for sustainability leadership.

How?

  1. Set big goals, then tell the world

Thinking big and setting big goals, are required to drive big innovation and big results.  Many large companies have demonstrated that if you commit to aggressive, science-based, sustainability goals, you can deliver meaningful business and environmental results. For example, Walmart, a longtime EDF partner with a track record of setting aggressive yet achievable climate goals, has recently set its sights even higher by setting a goal to source half of the company’s energy from renewable sources by 2025 and by launching Project Gigaton, a cumulative one gigaton emissions reduction in its supply chain by 2030.

And Walmart is not the only one. Other companies are stepping up as well – especially around commitments to go 100 percent renewable. Whether its online marketplace eBay committing to 100 percent renewable power in all data centers & offices by 2025, Tesco, one of the world’s largest retailers, announcing science-based targets and committing to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 or AB InBev committing to 100 percent renewable power, companies from diverse industries are taking a positive step forward.

While setting goals is a great first step, companies also need to communicate about the goals and progress. Not only does this increase transparency into a business’ sustainability efforts, it lets the world know that sustainability is core to its business. Publicly committing to sustainability goals sends a strong signal to suppliers, shareholders and customers.

  1. Collaborate for scale

In December 2016 I wrote about Smithfield Foods, the world’s number one pork producer, and its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2025. The commitment was important both because Smithfield was the first major protein company to adopt a greenhouse gas reduction goal but also because the reductions would come from across Smithfield’s supply chain, on company-owned farms, at processing facilities and throughout its transportation network.

Smithfield understands that some environmental challenges are too big to handle on their own, and they know collaboration is the key to deliver impact at scale.

Other companies are also looking beyond their own supply chain and forming mutually beneficial partnerships. Take the recent partnership between UPS and Sealed Air Corporation, for example. The two companies have announced the opening of a Packaging Innovation Center in Louisville, Kentucky where they will solve the packaging and shipping challenges of e-commerce retailers but also drive new efficiencies while minimizing waste. This is a critical issue that is material to both their businesses, and by joining forces, are finding ways to solve an environmental challenge while improving their bottom lines.

  1. Publicly support smart climate policy

I can’t stress how critical it is right now for business leaders to move beyond their comfort zones and make their voices heard on smart climate and environmental policy. If you want to be a sustainability leader, continuing to hoe your own garden is no longer enough.  You need to align your strategy, operations, AND advocacy.  We know that environmental safeguards drive innovation, create jobs, and support long-term strategic planning.

The good news is leading voices are chiming in, from CEOs signing an open letter to Trump to more than 1,000 companies signing the Low-Carbon USA letter, in favor of environmental policies.

Some companies like Tiffany & Co. are also taking a public stand on their own. The company used its usual ad position in the New York Times to tell President Trump directly that Tiffany is backing policies that will lead us to a clean energy future.

The Way Forward

Taking the leadership mantle is never easy, but now is the time for every corporate leader to get off the sidelines and into the game. There’s plenty of room for more leaders like Polman who are ready to address climate change head-on, creating opportunities for economic growth, new jobs, and a cleaner future.  Will your company be next?

Follow Tom Murray on Twitter: @TPMurray

Corporate America’s “moon shot”: Walmart’s Project Gigaton

 

At a time when leadership from the federal government is decidedly lacking, the launch of Walmart’s Project Gigaton is a cause for celebration. It is proof that companies can step up to advance solutions that will help business, people and nature thrive.

Just like Walmart itself, this is big.

The world’s largest retailer has launched an initiative to remove 1 gigaton (that’s 1 billion tons — billion with a “b”) of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from its supply chain by 2030. To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent of removing the annual emissions of Germany — the world’s fourth-largest economy — from the atmosphere. This audacious goal is impressive; it’s corporate America’s “moon shot,” and it shows real leadership.

Why? Because, according to The Sustainability Consortium, the modern supply chain is responsible for 60 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, 80 percent of all water use and 66 percent of all tropical deforestation. And with the global population projected to swell to 9.5 billion consumers by 2050, it is clear there is not just a crucial opportunity for businesses to meet growing global demand, there is also a real need to protect the planet. Embracing sustainable practices is no longer an option for business. It is an imperative. The planet needs fast action at a massive scale.

So do forward-looking CEOs. Shareholders are rewarding resiliency when companies climate-proof their global operations. And customers, especially millennials, expect sustainability to be baked into the things they buy. In short, business is looking to drive bottom-line value, including growth, with sustainability.

Elizabeth Sturcken, Managing Director, EDF+Business

Which explains the significant Project Gigaton commitments being made by companies like Unilever (20 million metric tons of GHG reduction) and Land O’ Lakes (20 million acres sustainably farmed) and commitments made in the past six months by Apple, Amazon, Google, PepsiCo, Smithfield Foods and others.

Execution and delivery

But setting goals is just the first step. The execution and delivery must follow to complete this journey.

Which brings me back to this moon shot: Walmart cannot do this alone. Project Gigaton will take a village — in this case, the tens of thousands of companies that make up Walmart’s global supplier network — to make this goal a reality. And that’s a good thing: Eliminating GHG emissions at this scale will reverberate across entire sectors and industries. It will be the change to “business as usual” that’s long overdue.

That’s all fine and well, rhetorically. But what if you’re a CEO or CSR exec who’s facing the hard reality of “Where do I start”?

Some new research by Environmental Defense Fund starts to sketch out a roadmap to success — and illustrates the need for supply-chain partners to get on the bus. While we’re just at the beginning of a deep dive into the sustainability of the U.S. retail supply chain, our initial findings show two things:  the complexity and emission hotspots of box chain retailers and three clear, initial areas of focus:

  1. The supply chain is the largest source of emissions. If there was any doubt left, put it to rest: 80 percent of retail emissions occur in the supply chain; 12 percent are associated with the use and disposal of products and 8 percent come directly from retail operations — mostly buildings and facilities.
  2. Grocery is a huge hotspot and opportunity. Are you a retailer? Food company? Agricultural service provider? Farmer? Nearly half — 48 percent — of supply-chain greenhouse gas emissions come from the grocery category, which encompasses everything from fresh meat, veggies and dairy, to bakery, dry goods, beverages, snacks and frozen products. Together, these and other products emits 1.7 gigatons of GHGs (there’s that billion thing again). In other words, food production — and food waste — is definitely a place to make your numbers — and to make a difference. (Talk about low-hanging fruit!)
  3. Electricity is the biggest activity that contributes to emissions. From factories to farmhouses, whether powering a business or refrigerating an item at home, using electricity is the largest activity that produces emissions for consumer packaged goods production. Think about that: by tackling electricity use, whether from conservation or renewable energy, business leaders can not only run a more efficient operation, they can also engage their customers on which products to buy and how to best use them. That’s good business.

For those who have been paying attention to these issues for decades, these big opportunities won’t come as a surprise. But they help sharpen the focus for supply-chain professionals searching to answer the question of where to put effort and investment to get the most emissions-reduction results. Scale and speed are necessary. Knowing where to focus is critical. The EDF research is in the early stages and we plan to release the full results later this year.

In the meantime, kudos to Walmart. As suppliers make commitments for Project Gigaton that will drive reductions from factories to farms to forests to fleets, it will become imperative to identify hotspots to enable the largest impact. That’s exactly what drives innovation and the environmental impact we need.

The supply chain may be complicated, but the rewards are well worth it: thriving companies, thriving communities and a thriving planet.

Jump on the Project Gigaton moon shot. It’s leaving the launching pad, with or without you.


Follow Elizabeth on Twitter, @esturcken


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6 ways restaurants can fight food waste (and how you can help)

By engaging consumers, clarifying date labeling, and promoting composting, grocers, supermarkets and food companies can play an important role in cutting food waste. But did you know that an estimated 85% of food waste occurs at consumer-facing businesses and homes?

In the restaurant and food service industry, food loss occurs due to inefficiencies, pressure to offer extensive menu options, large portions and consumer culture. According to a study, 4-10% of food purchased by restaurants becomes kitchen loss, both edible and inedible, before reaching the consumer. Once the plate leaves the kitchen, diners typically leave 17% of meals uneaten and 55% of these potential leftovers are not taken home.

All this uneaten food comes with a high cost, both for your wallet and the planet:

But, by working together, restaurateurs (and their customers) can increase efficiency, save money and reduce food

waste.  Here are 6 ideas for restaurant owners, some fairly obvious, others as a result of emerging technologies or innovative practices:

  1. Limit menu items to optimize inventory management. Extensive menus require more inventory on hand at all times and could lead to greater waste.
  2. Offer reduced portion size options. Many national chains such as TGIFridays, Au Bon Pain, Maggianos and Cheesecake Factory, have begun offering small plate options to reduce waste.
  3. Use waste audit software such as MintScrape to identify waste sources.
  4. Find alternative uses for surplus food. One app, Too Good to Go, connects users to restaurants offering discounts on surplus food before closing or throwing it away. The app will be available in the U.S. in 2018.
  5. Get creative. Find ways to reuse food in creative and innovative ways. Restaurant owner Sean Telo of Brooklyn 21 is turning food waste into his Sunday tasting menu. Some recent items on the menu have included mozzarella butter, roasted eggplant puree served with biscuits, and pizza with lamb bacon, cheese, and honey.
  6. Look to best practices for ways to improve efficiency and reduce overall costs.

    Theresa Ehrlich, Project Coordinator, Supply Chain

What can customers do?

  • First, vote with your wallet by supporting local businesses and national brands committed to reducing food waste.
  • Next, when you’re patronizing those businesses, be more conscientious of your ordering choices.
  • Finally, take leftovers home for a late night snack or cheap, easy lunch.  Brown bagging it can mean a greener planet!