Leadership on Sustainability Must Include Helping Shape Smart Policy

This past year, we’ve seen some bold action by companies in what we’ve dubbed the business-policy nexus, and it’s taking several different forms. Some have been calling for state or federal action on environmental impacts, while others are taking far-reaching voluntary efforts that could help support policy advocacy in the future.

Whether you view engagement on public policy as risk mitigation, providing market certainty, supporting corporate sustainability goals or securing competitive advantage, leading businesses are increasingly stepping up their efforts to support smart policy reform that will benefit the environment and economy.

Keeping toxic chemicals out of supply chains

Walmart shopper

Walmart and Target are moving to proactively get harmful chemicals out of their supply chains, even though the nation’s main chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is outdated and hasn’t been reformed in nearly two decades.

Earlier this year, our long-term partner in this area, Walmart, took a big step forward by announcing a new sustainable chemicals policy focused on cutting 10 chemicals of concern from home and personal care products it sells. Chemicals of concern – for example, formaldehyde, a known carcinogen – have been found in about 40% of the formulated products on Walmart shelves, including things like household cleaners, lotions and cosmetics.

That policy includes requiring Walmart’s suppliers to disclose the chemical ingredients of their products as well as phase out or declare on their packaging the ten high-priority chemicals of concern. Walmart is also moving to have its private label products meet the EPA’s Design for the Environment safety standards.

Building upon this, Walmart and Target convened a Beauty and Personal Care Products Sustainability Summit aimed at surfacing ways both companies and their suppliers can increase consumer safety, sustainability and transparency through the entire supply chains of their products.

By engaging early—especially in areas where federal action is expected in the future, as with reform of TSCA—companies can reduce their risks, whether from legal action or public perception, and build greater trust with the public. These efforts also create a lens into companies’ operations that will shape the debate as changes to federal regulations take form.

Curbing methane leakage from the oil & gas sector

Oil and gas well padAnother area where companies have been voicing support and helping guide policy is the push to reduce emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the oil and gas sector. Methane emissions are 84 times more potent than CO2 emissions over a 20-year timeline, and are increasingly seen as a major environmental and financial risk by both the energy and investment sectors.

That risk is driving companies in the oil and gas sector and elsewhere to encourage the federal government to regulate methane emissions. For example, in June Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein voiced his support of methane regulation on the Charlie Rose Show. Just two weeks ago, a group of investors managing $300 billion in assets (including the $160 billion NYC pension funds) sent an impassioned letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling for federal regulation of methane emissions.

Your opportunity to lead in the transition to a clean energy future

Solar installationEngagement starts with being informed. That’s why EDF is eager to help you understand the need and opportunity for leadership on the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan (aka the Carbon Pollution Standards or 111d).

This proposed rule is the biggest single action the federal government has taken on climate change, and will help curb carbon emissions from the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Proposed by the EPA earlier this year, the Clean Power Plan is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent below 2005 levels, with room for custom implementations on a state-by-state basis so that state and local leaders can decide what solutions best fit the needs of each state’s specific economic, corporate and energy sectors.

Any sustainability officer who has tried to competitively price green power or build the business case for an energy efficiency program has a stake in the outcome. The Clean Power Plan can help shift us towards a lower-carbon economy and expand the demand and market for renewable energy and energy efficiency.  But this depends on how the plan is implemented, and getting that right depends on you.

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDF

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDF

Mandy Warner, Sr.  Manager, Climate and Air Policy

Mandy Warner, Senior Manager, Climate and Air Policy, EDF

Join us November 19th for a webinar with myself and Mandy Warner from EDF’s Climate & Energy team. We will walk you through how the Clean Power Plan is structured, what it means for businesses and why companies should make their voices heard as plans to implement the rule take shape.

Register here today for this informative webinar.

Investors Voice Market Support for Methane Regulation

banner_gasLast week, financial community leaders took a big step into the intersection of business and policy on the urgent need to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. A group of investors managing more than $300 billion in market assets sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration and the White House, calling for the federal government to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The letter urged covering new and existing oil and gas sites, including upstream and midstream sources, citing that strong methane policy can reduce business risk and create long-term value for investors and the economy.

Spearheaded by Trillium Asset Management, the cosigners of the letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy included New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, who oversees the $160 billion New York City Pension Funds, and a diverse set of firms and institutional investors. They spelled out in no uncertain terms that they regard methane as a serious climate and business problem – exposing the public and businesses alike to the growing costs of climate change associated with floods, storms, droughts and other severe weather.

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Report Finds Opportunity for Natural Gas Job Growth—But It’s Not Where You Think

In 1933, Milton Heath Sr. opened a small, family-run consulting firm to find leaks from natural gas pipelines in an emerging energy market. More than 80 years later, the Texas-based business has expanded to provide more than 1,200 manufacturing and service jobs nationwide.

Methane Cover Photo

Heath Consultants’ business model may have changed – but the company’s commitment to finding and reducing leaks of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—has not wavered.

Stories like Heath’s are the focus of a new report released this week by Datu Research. The Emerging U.S. Methane Mitigation Industry looks at the growing industry that specializes in manufacturing technologies and providing services that help oil and gas companies reduce their environmental impact and deliver a valuable product to market.

The report analyzes more than 70 companies that limit methane emissions and provide high-paying, highly skilled jobs to thousands across the country. They operate in a rapidly growing industry responding to concerns over methane pollution that is rising in tandem with our domestic energy boom.

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Lasers, circuit boards and a $30 sensor: innovative solutions to the methane problem

This post originally appeared on EDF Voices.

The technologies we see today didn’t all start out in the forms we’re used to. The phones we carry in our pockets used to weigh pounds, not ounces. Engineers developed hundreds of designs for wind turbines before landing on the three-blade design commonly seen in the field.

innovation

(Missy Schmidt/Flickr)

Fast forward and now we're looking at a drunk-driver-and-alcohol sensor that was converted into a methane leak detector. And a sensor purchased off the web for less than $30 that was transformed into a monitor that fights off greenhouse gases.

I was excited to see the diversity of technologies such as these moving forward in the Methane Detectors Challenge.

Environmental Defense Fund’s initiative with seven oil and natural gas companies—including Shell and Anadarko Petroleum Company, the latest two to join—seeks to catalyze a new generation of technology for finding methane leaks in the oil and gas sector – a powerful contributor to climate change.

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Financial Sector Focuses on Risks from Methane

Environmental concerns about methane emissions continue to grow as more people understand the negative climate implications of this incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Now the financial community is taking note of not only the environmental risks but the impact of methane emissions on the oil and gas industry’s bottom line. Methane leaks not only pollute the atmosphere, but every thousand cubic feet lost represents actual dollars being leaked into thin air—bad business any way you look at it.

stock graph

Source: Ash Waechter

Last week the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)—a collaborative effort aimed at improving corporate performance on environmental, social and government issues—released their provisional accounting standards for the non-renewable resources sector, which includes oil and gas production.

These accounting standards guide companies on how to measure and disclose environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks that impact a company’s financial performance. Their work highlights the growing demand amongst investors and stakeholders for companies to report information beyond mere financial metrics in order to provide a more holistic view of a company’s position.

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Changing the Methane Numbers Game

Adding to the drumbeat for action on the supercharged climate pollutant methane, Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously” series recently spotlighted methane emissions leaking from America’s oil and natural gas infrastructure.

YOLD_well_photo

One theme of the May 19 episode hinged on a numbers question: Just how much methane is getting out? This question, a common one in the methane arena, refers to the national methane leakage rate for the entire oil and gas supply chain.

Various numbers, as low as 1 percent, were suggested for the national average with 4 percent, 11 percent and even 17 percent reported by scientific studies in some oil-and-gas producing regions. The problem is, it’s the wrong question.

We should stop fixating the debate on just how bad the problem is, when we know there is a problem and we can address it with confidence today.

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