Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

17.6.09

Investors Call On SEC to Enforce Climate Change Disclosures


Investors Call On SEC to Enforce Climate Change Disclosures
climatechangebyindThe investor community is making another attempt to push the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to improve disclosure of climate change risks. Members of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) and other leading global investors sent a letter to the SEC this week requesting that the Commission address the lack of corporate disclosure of climate change and other material environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks in securities filings.
Specifically, the investors are requesting that the SEC issue formal guidance on material climate-related risks that companies should disclose and enforce existing disclosure requirements for climate change and other risks such as water scarcity and labor practices. They also want the SEC to  recognize shareholders' right to submit resolutions related to climate change and material environmental, social and governance issues as well as require the disclosure of these risks using the Global Reporting Initiative as a framework.
The letter's 41 signatories include some of the nation's largest public pension funds, state treasurers, controllers and comptrollers, asset managers, foundations and other institutional investors with approximately $1.4 trillion in assets under management.
The letter was sent to SEC chairman Mary Schapiro, commissioner Luis Aguilar, commissioner Kathleen Casey, commissioner Troy Paredes, and commissioner Elisse Walter.
This letter was sent in the wake of two recent reports, conducted by Ceres, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Center for Energy and Environmental Security, which find that companies with the most at stake in responding to risks and opportunities from climate change are lacking climate-related disclosures.
"Climate change and other environmental and social issues pose bottom line risks, and investors have a right to know which businesses are best positioned to compete in the emerging low-carbon global economy," said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, in a statement.

Focus on Innovators, Not Polluters, for Climate Solutions
Andy Mannle
Senior Editor
Arcwire

andy-mannle-mugThe Waxman-Markey bill trickling its way through Congress is both historic and problematic. As loopholes are inserted, and interests appeased, the bill will inevitably get watered down to something that is both more passable, and less effective. While the eventual result may be the best we can get out of this Congress, do we risk missing the forest for the trees by framing the debate around the "problem" of carbon?
It's time to focus on science of solutions, instead of the politics of pollution.
The "Copenhagen Call" recently signed by 500 global business leaders calls for a "science-based approach" to climate change, and "immediate & substantial" reductions in carbon emissions.
The reason is simple: business leaders like certainty, and they know politicians are fickle. Only by taking a science-based approach can we overcome the interest groups and election cycles of individual nations and craft global goals for addressing climate change. Staying focused on the problem keeps us mired in conflicting agendas, technical details, complex regulatory schemes, and piles of "carbon credits" that we can price and trade for the next 30 years without making a dent in the very real challenges we face.
While a "market-based solution" sounds like a good approach, the solutions for climate change will come from science, not the market. In short, we don't need a market cap on carbon so much as we need scalable, market-ready alternatives.
The whole point of cap and trade is to create the market conditions necessary for viable clean energy at a massive scale. So why don't we cut to the chase and simply provide those market conditions directly?
We can't just make the pollution business harder, we need to create a better business for polluters to be in. By direct investment in efficiency, solar, wind, grid R&D, new batteries, etc., we could potentially find solutions faster than the indirect process of forcing the private market to transition by making polluters feel the pain of a carbon cap.
For all the protest about cap and trade, the reason companies are getting on board is because the "pollution paradigm" keeps attention focused on them. If we weren't auctioning permits, we'd simply be taxing pollution.
Everyone says that's politically unviable - if the tax were low enough, and applied evenly across the board it could potentially generate less confusion, less resistance, and more money for the actual solutions we need.
Striking the proper balance between science and the market requires understanding the relationship they both share with technology. While science describes the cycles of cause and effect in the environment, technology is how that science is put into action. And markets are how that technology makes a difference in our lives. Thus markets do not create new science, but science has frequently created new markets by developing better technology.
That's why we need to invest in R&D. While Obama's budget called for $15 billion a year for ten years, the Waxman-Markey bill has chipped out those teeth by giving away the permits that would have raised the money. The stimulus package provides $65 billion over two years. But didn't we just spend nearly a trillion dollars bailing out Wall Street and the auto industry? How much will it cost to bail out the climate of the entire planet? An order of magnitude more.
It's time to realize that government can do more than prop up banks and auto industries to avoid economic collapse - it can invest directly in REAL climate solutions to avoid global environmental collapse and the political chaos that will follow. And just as military investments gave us freeways and the Internet, bringing the full weight of government investment and R&D to this challenge can help create new climate solutions, and bring to market the many clean-energy technologies that already exist.
The pain of pricing carbon is minimal compared to the boost our economy will get by becoming a leading exporter of clean energy technology. But the pain of taking little or no action will be both economic and political. Whatever form the bill takes it will certainly send an important signal - but if the targets are too weak then we could undermine our leverage with China, and undercut efforts being made in Europe. It could be an albatross, not a bargaining chip.
At the end of the day, it will be hard to call the Waxman-Markey bill a success if it represents merely a political achievement, while "offsetting" actual results. Keeping our attention, policies, and budgets focused on developing and implementing solutions is critical if we are to relegate carbon pollution and carbon taxes to the scrap heap of the past.
Andy Mannle is Senior Editor of Arcwire.org. Mannle also serves as strategic communications consultant for a variety of green businesses, media outlets and environmental organizations.

Nike Quietly Goes Green: The brand's eco-friendly products are cheaper to make, but its buyers are more interested in design and performance than sustainability


Nike Quietly Goes Green
The brand's eco-friendly products are cheaper to make, but its buyers are more interested in design and performance than sustainability

By Reena Jana
The sole of Nike's (NKE) new Air Jordan is made with ground-up bits of old Nike sneakers. But the company isn't selling it as an eco-friendly shoe: That might not be good for business.
Nike, which is No. 42 on BusinessWeek 's list of the top-performing companies, has an unusual problem. Like many companies, it is trying to make its supply chain and products greener, which brings obvious environmental benefits and, just as important these days, financial ones, too. But while executives at General Electric (GE) and Wal-Mart (WMT) eagerly advertise the eco-conscious changes they're making, those at Nike choose to play down sustainability initiatives. Nike customers buy shoes to make them feel fast, slick, and hip; they don't care much about being eco-chic. "Nike has always been about winning," says Dean Crutchfield, an independent branding consultant in New York. "How is sustainability relevant to its brand?"
Nike came to this same conclusion after a less-than-successful experiment a few years ago. The company launched its first line of environmentally friendly shoes, called "Considered," in 2005. It had high hopes for a walking boot, made with brown hemp fibers, that looked obviously earthy. Critics called the $110 shoes "Air Hobbits" because of their forest-dweller feel and took Nike to task for a design that detracted from its high-tech image. The boots didn't sell well, and within a year were taken off the shelves.
The lesson for Nike was that its green innovations should continue, but its customers shouldn't be able to tell. "We want to do more and say less," is the way Lorrie Vogel, who oversees Nike's green business practices, puts it. The company also has to be careful about promoting itself as socially responsible because of its past use of sweatshop labor in Asian factories.
The sustainability push comes at a time when Chief Executive Mark G. Parker is also trying to streamline operations. The financial imperative to do so has never been clearer: Nike's revenues fell by 2%, to $4.4 billion, during its most recent quarter, which ended Feb. 28. In May it laid off 5% of its worldwide staff. The company doesn't give estimates of how much it might save by making its manufacturing more green, but it expects to reduce the amount of material it wastes by 17% over the next decade.
PERFORMING WELL
Nike's marketing, though, doesn't suggest a feel-good, do-good attitude; and its designs don't compromise quality. "Saving money [with an environmentally friendly product] only works if people buy it," says Sam Poser, an analyst with brokerage firm Sterne Agee. "It has to be fabulous, not just green."
Last year, Nike debuted the Air Jordan XX3, which was designed so that all the pieces of the shoe fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. That eliminates any excess plastic. The company also invented a sewing machine that speeds up assembly time, which saves electricity. Nike simply heralded the XX3 as the next iteration in a 24-year string of Air Jordans. In January it rolled out the 2009 version, which also makes use of eco-friendly manufacturing.
And what do you know? The Air Jordans continue to sell well, recycled materials and all, suggesting that customers are still happy with the shoe's performance. Charles D. Denson, Nike brand chief, says that during the company's most recent quarter Air Jordan helped the basketball shoe division achieve double-digit growth. Nike's lineup now includes eco-friendly basketball, football, soccer, tennis, and running shoes.
With Burt Helm

U.S. Green Product Council Debated


U.S. Green Product Council Debated
green-globe2With more than 300 different organizations claiming to certify various products and services as "green" or "sustainable," industry leaders are pondering whether the time has come for a unified U.S. Green Product Council.
Leaders say that possible consumer confusion on just what constitutes "green" may be reason enough to consider a unified green standard, reports Detroit News.
Consumers can't be expected to verify the legitimacy of each and every green certification system, said Steve Odland, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Office Depot Inc., who spoke June 16 at the National Summit session on Sustainable Business Solutions in Detroit.
"Maybe it's time for a U.S. Green Product Council which could then take on the task of mapping all these various certifications," he said, according to the article.
To Odland, it would make sense to divide such a standard into three levels of "greenness": light green, green and dark green, reports the Detroit Free Press. Indeed, Office Depot is moving forward with just such a tiered rating system.
Fellow panelist Thomas Lyon, a professor and director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, also is in favor of a common standard. "We're getting a proliferation of labels and the average consumer can't tell which label is better," he said.
The Federal Trade Commission has taken up the subject of late. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged Kmart Corp., Tender Corp., and Dyna-E International with making false and unsubstantiated claims that their paper products were "biodegradable."
In a June 9 hearing before the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection entitled "It's Too Easy Being Green: Defining Fair Green Marketing Practices," representatives from the FTC and other organizations spoke on the topic.
"Consumer interest in conserving energy and protecting the environment will likely result  in continued environmental marketing," James Kohm, Director of FTC's Enforcement Division, said during the hearing. "Competition based on green claims drives businesses to  greater innovation, which ultimately benefits consumers by increasing the availability of the types of green products and services they desire. For the marketplace to thrive, however, companies must compete on the basis of legitimate advertising claims and consumers must be able to rely on those claims."
Also at the hearing, Urvashi Rangan, Director of Technical Policy for Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), said consumers face a "dizzying array" of labels — from specific claims like "no phthalates" to vague and undefined claims like "natural" and "green."
"Of the certified label programs, there are several viable business models including public, private, non-profit, for-profit—that may or may not be of interest to a particular consumer," Rangan said.
When Consumers Union surveys green labels, it looks at criteria including: verification, consistency, transparency, stakeholder input and independence.
"Comprehension and accessibility are challenges for all green claims.  Whether specific or broad, the maintenance and evolution of standards over time must be addressed," Rangan said.
Government and industry should work toward defining what constitutes fair green marketing practices, said Scott Cooper, Vice President of Government Relations for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
"In order to make this vision a reality, we need to make more efficient use of the standards and conformance resources that are already in place . . . and we need to identify every gap that exists," Cooper said.
ANSI offers accreditation in sustainable forestry, environmental management and food and agriculture best practices.
The European Union has an official eco-label program, which recently began certifying foods.

15.6.09

Greenwashing Lawsuits, Climate Change Deception on the Rise


Greenwashing Lawsuits, Climate Change Deception on the Rise
pollutersLawyers, environmentalists and marketing groups say they've seen an increase in greenwashing suits over the past year, according to the National Law Journal. These groups are questioning everything from household cleaners to automobiles for their eco-friendliness.
Patent attorney Eric Lane for San Diego-based Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, who runs the Green Patent Blog and tracks greenwashing litigation told the National Law Journal this is the beginning of what may be an explosion of these kinds of cases.
Others agree. Victoria Davis Lockard, a partner in the products liability group at Atlanta's Alston & Bird, also warns lawyers and companies about the growing popularity of greenwashing claims, reports the National Law Journal. She says companies should "be on the lookout for consumer product class actions alleging greenwashing. I think that this is what's on the horizon."
Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) is calling for an investigation into some of Australia's biggest companies, including resource giants Rio Tinto and Woodside, over complaints that they have engaged in deceptive conduct when making public statements on climate change policy to gain extra compensation from the government, reports Reuters.
The ACF has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate Rio and Woodside, in addition to London-listed coal miner Xstrata, Australia's top building products maker Boral, oil refiner Caltex Australia and BlueScope Steel, the country's largest steelmaker.
The complaint notes 14 instances in which the six corporations have made statements about the impacts of the government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).
The ACF has estimated Australia's six heaviest polluting industries will gain at least A$1.1 billion ($896 million) in added compensation under recent changes to the government's planned emissions trading scheme (ETS), currently before parliament, reports Reuters.
The government is determined to force a Senate vote on the ETS before the winter break on June 25.

China and the U.S.: A Bumpy Road to a Green Climate


China and the U.S.: A Bumpy Road to a Green Climate
carbonemissionsIn the latest round of climate talks between China and the U.S., China wants the United States to deliver state-of-the-art technology as part of a new global warming agreement, while the U.S. wants China to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, reports Google News.
China, India and other developing countries say emission targets would constrain their economic growth, reports Google News. Shyam Saran, the chief delegate from India, said in the article that he wants industrialized countries to cut their emissions by a total of 40 percent below 1990 levels within the next decade, while refusing emissions targets for developing countries.
Saran also said that developing countries would consider measures to curb the growth of emissions, but only in exchange for technology and funding from rich countries — possibly as much as $250 billion a year.
The chief U.S. climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing says China should agree to take action to cut carbon emissions that should be measured and reported to the international community, but should not be bound to specific targets or results, reports the Boston Herald. Pershing was a participant in a recent U.S. climate change delegation to Beijing.
U.S. negotiator Todd Stern said the United States wants China to accept slow increases in its greenhouse gas emissions until it hits a "peak year," reportsPhysorg.com.
Todd also talked to Chinese officials about a greenhouse gas concentration target of 450 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere, but did not get a clear position from them, reports Physorg.com.
Meanwhile, the European Union wants China to use world carbon trading initiatives to achieve more effective CO2 cuts, reports the Guardian.
China has been the most active participant in the clean development mechanism (CDM), which allows developed countries to meet mandatory CO2 reduction targets by buying offsets for clean energy projects in the developing world.
However, critics say that China has been using the carbon trading profits to support "business as usual" pursuits such as cutting industrial gases or building hydropower projects, which they would have pursued anyway, reports the Guardian.
A report indicates that one of the biggest problems facing the CDM is that it is difficult to determine if the green projects rich nations are funding in developing countries such as China or India would have taken place without the funding.
China believes the CDM projects have proved successful in the fight against climate change, reports the China Daily. China has 574 CDM projects registered with the UN, accounting for about 34.5 percent of the program's projects the world body has approved globally, reports the newspaper.
Gao Guangsheng, director general of the Department of Climate Change at the National Development and Reform Commission, told the China Daily that the expanding carbon credit trading market is a result of efforts from the Chinese government "in lowering the costs of emissions reduction through those projects and offering favorable policies."
World players say an understanding between the U.S. and China, the world's two largest polluters, is necessary for the success of the climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.

Companies Show Little Awareness of Climate Change Risks, Report Finds


Companies Show Little Awareness of Climate Change Risks, Report Finds

GreenBiz.com, 3 June 2009 - Two new studies from investor group Ceres, the Environmental Defense Fund and theCenter for Energy and Environmental Security assess the major impacts climate change could have on global companies, and calls on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to set standards for climate-related risk reporting. 

The two new studies, one an in-depth look filings from 100 global companies in 2008, and another a longitudinal look S&P 500 companies' reports over the past 13 years, detail how slowly some of the world's largest companies are in recognizing and forming a plan to mitigate the impacts of climate change on business operations. 

In "Reclaiming Transparency in a Changing Climate," the groups reviewed more than 6,000 SEC filings from S&P 500 companies between 1995 and 2008. The report finds that just 5 percent of annual reports from these firms laid out a strategy for managing climate change-related risks, while 76 percent of companies didn't even mention climate change in their reports. 

The report breaks down risk awareness and mitigation strategies by sector and finds them by and large falling short. The utilities industry scored highest, with over 96 percent of companies at least mentioning climate change, and over 35 percent identifying at least one risk and a strategy to address it. The IT and telecommunications sectors fared poorest, with no companies in either category identifying risks or solutions, and zero telecom firms mentioning climate change and just 6.5 percent of IT firms doing so.

The second report from the groups, "Climate Risk Disclosure in SEC Filings," analyzes more recent filings from some of these industries, and shows that, while the energy industries are disclosing climate change risks to a greater extent than other sectors, the detail and depth of those disclosures are far from sufficient to help investors make wise choices. 

Meanwhile, the report finds, many companies in the insurance and transportation sectors offered no disclosure at all on their climate-related risks or opportunities. 

As a result of these reports' findings, the groups are calling on the SEC to offer detailed guidance for the ways that companies should include climate-related disclosures in their securities filings. 

"These findings are a clarion call for quick SEC action to require better climate risk disclosure from publicly-traded companies," Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, said in a statement. "Climate change is a bottom line issue and investors have a right to know which companies are best positioned for the emerging clean energy global economy." 

The reports are both available for download from GreenBiz.com: "
Reclaiming Transparency in a Changing Climate" and " Climate Risk Disclosure in SEC Filings."

(Carbon Management) News on International Developments in Product Carbon Footprinting.


thanks to Kevin B. for forwarding this one

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Might be of interest to your network
 
Kevin