A blog focused on sustainable business issues and challenges

Archive for August, 2012

New EU Directive on E-Waste Takes Effect

August 27, 2012 | No Comments →

The European Union (EU) has adopted new rules on electrical and electronic waste (e-waste), which aim to allow EU member states to combat the illegal export of waste more effectively.

The new directive, which also seeks to improve e-waste recycling levels, drew upon research from a number of sources, including Basel Convention research and data. Recent studies by the Basel Convention on e-waste in Africa have highlighted the ongoing stream of used electrical and electronic equipment reaching the continent from industrialized countries, including the EU member states, for recycling or disposal.

Electrical and electronic equipment can contain heavy metals such as mercury and lead, as well brominated flame retardants, which can damage human health and the environment. Hazardous substances are released during various e-waste dismantling and disposal operations, posing serious health risks to workers.

The new EU directive aims to improve collection schemes in member states, where consumers can return used electronic and electrical items free of charge, thereby increasing the recycling and re-use of products and materials.

The directive introduces a collection target of 45 percent of electronic equipment sold that will apply from 2016 and, as a second step from 2019, a target of 65 percent of equipment sold, or 85 percent of electronic waste generated.

From 2018, the directive will be extended from its current restricted scope to all categories of electronic waste, subject to an impact assessment beforehand. The new directive will also require exporters to test whether equipment works or not, and provide documents on the nature of shipments that could be thought illegal.

The new rules went into effect on 13 August 2012.

Executives Address How to Create Value through Sustainable Practices at World Business Council for Sustainable Development Conference

August 16, 2012 | No Comments →

Executives from 80 leading corporations, NGOs and other organizations based in the U.S. Midwest – and reporting an aggregated $2.1 trillion in revenue – met to discuss how their organizations could accelerate their sustainable practices at the second annual World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) U.S. Midwest Conference.

Held on the Columbus, Ohio campus of The Ohio State University on Aug. 2, the conference was co-sponsored by Greif, Inc. (NYSE: GEF, GEF.B), SC Johnson, Battelle and the Dow Chemical Company.

Representatives from the invited organizations discussed U.S. water trends; tactics that companies can employ to promote and accelerate more sustainable consumption; and the implications of Rio+20 for corporations. Organizations also shared best practices to foster collaboration at the national and regional levels.

In his keynote remarks, WBCSD President Peter Bakker said, “Everyone talks about sustainability, but the world is not getting better.  We need radical change.  We need to act now.”

According to the WBCSD report Vision 2050, nine billion people will share the planet by mid-century. Twenty-nine leading global companies from 14 industries collaborated to write the report, which resulted from an 18-month combined effort of CEOs, sustainability experts and more than 200 companies and external stakeholders in 20 countries. It features agreed-upon must-haves if the world’s population in 2050 is to live well and within the limits of the planet’s resources.

Bakker said businesses can start by initiating sustainable best practices in their sectors, then continue with cross-sector innovation, consider the “eco-costs” of their value chain decisions, define the rules of business for reporting and develop an MBA for the future. Businesses must balance their financial, natural and social capital to create the radical change that is necessary to address the resource challenges that are looming.

5 Questions Businesses Must Answer to Advance Towards Sustainability

August 07, 2012 | No Comments →

Here is a great example of a company creating a framework for repeated measurement of progress towards sustainability goals. Are you asking these questions for your company? Do you have metrics that you can track over time?

Interface, Inc., the worldwide leader in design, production and sales of environmentally responsible modular carpet, has released the company’s latest 2011 EcoMetrics(R) and SocioMetrics(TM) report, tracking annual global environmental and social effects, Interface today offers five questions in need of answers for sustainability progress.

Answers to the following questions can test any business’ approach to becoming a sustainable organization:

1. How can we increase use of recycled and bio-based materials? Evaluating material alternatives through compatibility and footprint analysis is one of the best ways to help answer this question. Interface is pioneering commercial carpet applications for bio-based yarn that is created from corn and soy. Last year, 44 percent of raw materials used were from recycled or bio-based sources. In the past eight years, the percentage of recycled and bio-based raw material use has grown from four percent to 44 percent.

2. How can we prevent our products from ending up in landfill? Understanding the full lifecycle of products from raw materials to production, distribution, use and end of useful life shows a well-worn path. Consider the best way to take back products from customers and extract further value from them. For instance, Interface’s ReEntry(R) 2.0 process reclaims old carpet and converts it into recycled raw materials. Interface is expanding an infrastructure for end-of-life carpet reclamation to recapture used face fiber to be reconstituted into nylon and convert used vinyl backing into new backing. Last year, ReEntry diverted 25 million pounds of carpet and carpet scraps from landfill. Since 1995, ReEntry has diverted a cumulative total of 253 million pounds from landfill.

3. How can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time increase our use of renewable energies? Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that cannot be absorbed by vegetation are causes of increased global temperatures, acidification in oceans, and dangerous climate change, according to WWF’s 2012 “Living Planet Report.” For Interface, actual greenhouse gas emissions at manufacturing facilities have been reduced by 32 percent from a 1996 baseline. Interface’s energy efficiency and direct purchases of renewable energy have resulted in a cumulative reduction of more than 22,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from baseline. This amount is the equivalent to the carbon sequestered by approximately 565,000 tree seedlings grown for 10 years, according to the U.S. EPA’s “Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.” Energy from renewable sources accounts for 31 percent of energy used at Interface manufacturing facilities.

4. How can we reduce water consumption? Excessive water consumption by businesses and households threatens freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity globally. Finding ways to conserve water use in manufacturing processes is essential for lessening environmental impacts. Since 1996, Interface water intake per unit of production has decreased by 84 percent. Water intake includes all water used at manufacturing facilities, including administration buildings, customer support sites and warehouses.

5. How can customers make decisions about our products based upon trustworthy environmental facts? Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are a leading-edge methodology for consumers and businesses, like nutrition labels only much more detailed, to make comparisons when purchasing products. EPDs offer detailed product “ingredients” and environmental impacts that occur throughout the entire life of a product. EPDs are based on life cycle assessment, which details the resource use and environmental impacts of products. EPDs follow standardized product category guidelines that are verified by third parties to provide full disclosure. In 2011, Interface developed EPDs for more than 90 percent of its products, globally.