A blog focused on sustainable business issues and challenges

Archive for August, 2011

Are You Ready to Calculate Your Plastic Footprint?

August 31, 2011 | No Comments →

First there was the carbon footprint. Next came the water footprint . . . and then the forest footprint.

Now, it’s time to get ready for the plastic footprint.

The New York Times is reporting that starting in early October, hundreds of companies and institutions around the world will receive a questionnaire asking them to assess and report their use of plastic.

The goal of this new survey? To build awareness about plastic use and have companies manage and utilize plastic more wisely, according to Doug Woodring, an environmental entrepreneur in Hong Kong who has a background in asset management and is the driving force behind the initiative.

The Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP), which was first introduced in September 2010 at the Clinton Global Initiative, will be re-launched to the public with a new website next month.

The initiative aims to improve transparency in reporting while educating both businesses and the general public about the possible environmental and health impacts of the materials used in production. Researchers estimate that about 90 percent of plastics made today are not recycled. As PDP points out, that represents an enormous opportunity for recycling, re-use, better design and cost savings. (more…)

Major Beverage Companies Signal Willingness to Take Responsibility for Post-Consumer Packaging

August 29, 2011 | Comment (1)

US bottle and can recycling rates are lagging. Of the 224 billion beverage containers sold annually, Americans recycle only a mere 29 percent by weight. The remainder is thrown in landfills or incinerated –a huge waste of natural resources.

Fortunately, several major US beverage brands now appear willing to support efforts to reverse that trend.

A new report, Waste & Opportunity: U.S. Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report, from shareholder advocacy group As You Sow, concludes that leading beverage companies are showing both steady, incremental progress on source reduction and a new willingness to support laws making producers financially responsible for collection and recycling of post?consumer beverage packaging.

The report is As You Sow’s third review of the beverage industry since 2006, and the efforts to promote Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) mandates are new –at least in the US.

“The major development since our last survey has been the willingness of leading beverage companies to consider new legislative mandates requiring them to take responsibility for their post?consumer packaging,” said Conrad Mac?Kerron, Senior Director of As You Sow’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program. “Many beverage and consumer packaged goods companies pay fees in other countries to finance recovery of their packaging. It’s significant that companies are finally acknowledging the need to take responsibility in the US as well.”

Here are a few other key findings: (more…)

Conservation and Technology Help UPS Deliver Better Fuel Efficiency

August 26, 2011 | Comment (1)

Late last month, UPS released the latest edition of its annual sustainability report, and once again, the company has managed to reduce the amount of fuel it’s using to deliver each package in the United States.

Interestingly, the company’s US package volume rose 1.8 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, and yet UPS reduced the amount of fuel consumed per package by 3.3 percent. The company attributed the improvement to:

  • deploying the right vehicle on the right routes,
  • using technology to minimize the miles driven and
  • focusing on how behavior can affect fuel use.

All told, technology has enabled UPS to avoid driving more than 63.5 million miles in 2010 with an associated emissions avoidance of 68,000 metric tonnes. As remarkable as it sounds, UPS estimates that distance is the equivalent of 251,987 trips to the International Space Station.

How, exactly, has the company used technology to reduce fuel consumption? According to a press release, UPS has specifically improved: (more…)

Aqueduct Alliance Aims to Measure, Map, Report on Global Water Risk

August 24, 2011 | No Comments →

Water is quickly becoming a significant business growth and development risk.

In fact, after polling 150 large corporations, CDP Water Disclosure found that nearly 40 percent of responding companies had already experienced disruptions in operations, increases in expenses and other detrimental impacts related to water. Of course, government entities are also increasingly concerned with water-related disruptions, and they’re seeking viable approaches for mitigating risks, as well.

Fortunately, a new group promises to offer the kind of information needed for public and private sector decision-making regarding water risks.

Launched just last week, the Aqueduct Alliance is a consortium of leading water experts from the private and public sectors, NGOs and academia. It was founded by the World Resources Institute (WRI), Goldman Sachs and General Electric, but already the alliance has added Bloomberg, The Dow Chemical Company, Talisman Energy, and United Technologies. The Coca-Cola Company is also engaged and will be providing an extensive global database of once proprietary water risk information to support Aqueduct’s work.

From the alliance’s website: (more…)

Nike and Puma Commit to Eliminate Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals

August 22, 2011 | No Comments →

Earlier this summer, Greenpeace challenged major clothing brands, including Nike, Puma and Adidas, to eliminate the release of all hazardous chemicals across their supply chains.

I’m very pleased to report that within the past month or so, both Nike and Puma have announced significant commitments to “detox.”

Nike, the world’s largest sportswear brand, announced last week that it will eliminate the releases of all hazardous chemicals across its entire supply chain and the entire life-cycle of its products by 2020. In addition, the company has agreed to full transparency about the chemicals being released from its suppliers’ factories and to work toward the widespread elimination of hazardous chemicals from the clothing industry. Nike has said that it will publish its implementation plan within eight weeks. From the company’s press release:

NIKE, Inc. is committed to the goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.

To make this a reality, NIKE, Inc. will continue phasing out hazardous chemicals in our supply chain and we will accelerate the phase out of the highest priority hazardous chemicals. NIKE, Inc. will continue to work with brands, material suppliers, the broader chemical industry, NGOs and other stakeholders to achieve this goal. We will drive towards innovative solutions for transparency in chemical management disclosure.

We recognize the path to reaching this goal must be through innovation, the application of green chemistry, and broad industry and regulatory collaboration and engagement. NIKE, Inc.’s commitment and investment towards this goal and the dedication to system change is unwavering.

We will work tirelessly to affect system change across the industry towards this goal. This commitment includes sustained investment in moving industry, government, science and technology to deliver on systemic change.

We commit to continue to share what we learn, our approaches and tools and work with others8 in finding new solutions and removing existing barriers, and to report progress towards comprehensive chemicals management.

Puma had already made a similar commitment: (more…)