Why Washington's Anti-Regulation Agenda Will Hurt the Economy

The president and congressional leaders are fixated on demolishing public health, safety and environmental regulations, but these efforts make little practical — or economic — sense. Of particular concern is, first, the president’s "two-for-one" executive order requiring two federal regulations to be deleted for every one issued. The second is efforts by Congress to pass regulatory reform legislation that substantially would curb consideration of how the public would benefit under proposed rules. There are many reasons to criticize this double-barrel regulatory assault. The biggest is broad economic harm to the American public and local communities because of weaker clean air, water and public health protections. Rules on coal-mining runoff and methane and power plant pollution already are on the chopping block. The effort also will be harmful to substantial swaths of the U.S. business community who are clamoring for regulatory certainty on key issues such as climate change and clean energy policy. "The cost of doing business without a national carbon mitigation strategy subjects companies to undesirable risks," wrote candy giant Mars Inc. and software firm Adobe, in a legal brief filed last year supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at cutting carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. Mars and Adobe are among dozens of major U.S. companies that have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy to power all their operations. Rather than dealing with state-by-state patchwork quilt energy policies, they would prefer a holistic national solution for tackling climate change and securing the green power they need for their facilities across the country. The president likes to say that environmental regulations stifle economic growth and kill jobs. The truth is the opposite. While no regulations are perfect, federal environmental protections have, time and time again, provided enormous benefits for the American public and the broader economy. Consider the example of the EPA and the Clean Air Act — two of the administration’s favorite punching bags. Federal environmental laws have helped restore areas from Cleveland to Boston, enabling commerce and recreation to thrive in places that had been previously unhealthy and polluted. Look no further than Boston’s Charles River, once famous for the song "Love that Dirty Water," which is now being used to make Harpoon Brewery beer. Public health and quality of life also have improved. Measures taken by the EPA under the Clean Air Act have prevented hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. No doubt, such measures have been a rock-solid economic investment. The nonpartisan federal Office of Management and Budget has calculated that rules adopted by the EPA over the decade ending in 2012 yielded economic benefits 10 times their costs — a ratio better than all of the other federal agencies they reviewed. Despite these findings, the Trump administration and Congress insist on undoing environmental protections that the public, businesses and investors strongly support. Two weeks ago, for example, the House voted to nix a rule requiring oil and gas producers to limit methane pollution — an especially potent greenhouse gas — on all federal and tribal lands. The methane rule has strong public support, especially in Western communities where methane flaring (where natural gas from wells is simply burned off into the atmosphere) is an all-too-common byproduct of widespread hydraulic fracturing operations. More than 200,000 individuals and 80 local officials commented in support of the rule during the public comment period. Investors owning shares in oil and gas companies also support the rule, including major pension funds such as the California and New York City retirement funds who have voiced concern about energy companies losing billions of dollars worth of natural gas every year due to unnecessary flaring and well leaks. Other regulatory rollback efforts will have profoundly negative impacts on consumers. Tougher fuel economy standards for vehicles, which the administration is threatening to weaken, are saving American drivers billions of dollars in reduced gasoline costs. Billions more will be saved under new energy efficiency standards for air conditioners and other building appliances — another item in the administration’s cross-hairs. Other clean air efforts, such as the Clean Power Plan and broader U.S. support for the historic Paris Climate Agreement, also make good business sense. While the president has tried to cast doubt on these efforts, more than 760 companies and investors, many of them iconic Fortune 500 firms, are supporting them publicly because they recognize that climate change is an urgent priority that can be addressed with low-carbon policies that accelerate deployment of ever-cheaper cleaner energy. "We want the U.S. economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy," wrote the businesses in a statement last month to President Trump and Congress. Supporters include industry giants such as General Mills, Nestle, Nike, Unilever and VF Corporation, all of whom are concerned about climate change and have ambitious goals for lowering their carbon footprints and using more renewable energy. I hear this logic all the time from CEOs. Companies are eager to tackle important societal issues such as climate change, and they are happy to work with common-sense regulations that address them. What they don’t like is changing the rules of the road or dropping them all together — especially when there is no legitimate basis for doing so. This anti-regulation agenda is neither grounded in science or economics, and the implications to our economy and public health call for reconsideration. Abandoning regulations such as the methane rule and the Clean Power Plan will hurt — rather than help — our economy and our way of life. Image sourced from Shutterstock/OFC Pictures Read the post at GreenBiz.com

Oil Companies Now Have New Tools For Navigating The Low-Carbon Transition

For the energy industry and its investors, the past 18 months have brought fundamental and disruptive changes. Saudi Arabia is charting a path away from oil. Solar power is now cheaper than coal in much of the world. Shell’s CFO is warning that global demand for oil could peak in as little as five years. And in late 2016, the historic Paris Climate Agreement was entered into force, including detailed national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a first-ever global commitment to limit climate warming to below two-degrees Celsius. For all of the above reasons, global investors are pushing energy companies to forsake ‘business as usual’ and plan for the coming low-carbon transition through the use of scenario analysis. This effort gained enormous momentum last year when investors in the U.S. and Europe worked together to call on oil companies through shareholder resolutions to assess and disclose the resilience of their portfolios in a future in which the two-degree target is achieved. These resolutions achieved the broadest mainstream shareholder support ever for U.S. climate risk resolutions, garnering a 49 percent vote at Occidental Petroleum, 41 percent at Chevron and 38 percent at ExxonMobil. Wall Street icons such as Northern Trust, State Street, HSBC, Charles Schwab, TIAA and MFS were among the supporters. Fast forward to today. At the request of G20 nations through the Financial Stability Board, an industry-led task force led by Michael Bloomberg has created a critical risk management tool for energy companies and companies in any industry where 2-degree scenario planning matters. The “Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)” has released specificrecommendations that highlight the “potential impacts of climate-related risks and opportunities on an organization’s businesses, strategies and financial planning under different potential future states (scenarios), including a two-degrees Celsius scenario.” Although many companies already use scenario planning, questions still remain on how to conduct a two-degree scenario analysis. That’s why the TCFD and Ceres have both developed tools to help companies conduct scenario analysis and meet increasing calls for robust climate risk disclosure. The TCFD released a Technical Supplement report to help companies better understand the need for disclosure, while Ceres teamed up with global energy expert Amy Myers Jaffe of University of California, Davis, to release a two-degree scenario framework geared specifically for oil and gas companies and investors. Key requirements for conducting a two-degree scenario analysis include: Analyzing the range of potential exposures to a climate-related transition, physical risks and opportunities; Evaluating the effect on the company’s strategic and financial position; Identifying options for managing the risks and opportunities to adjust strategic and financial plans; Disclosing key inputs, assumptions and methodologies to investors. As investors, analysts and other industry actors bring unprecedented pressure on companies to assess and disclose material climate risks, their efforts are sure to be bolstered by these two tools. Future market conditions may be uncertain, but energy companies now have the tools they need to evaluate risks and opportunities and create strategies for transitioning to a decarbonized world.

Human Rights Are Everyone’s Business

Human rights are everyone’s business, and every business has a critical role to play in ensuring fair, safe, and equitable workplaces not only across global supply chains, but also – as we’re learning this week in the wake of President Trump’s immigration ban – within corporate walls. For decades now, multi-nationals have been taking steps to protect the basic human rights of workers in their global supply chains, but have not always recognized a similar need in their own operations. Yet internationally recognized human rights standards like the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights do not differentiate based on geography. They call on companies to respect human rights in direct operations and across their value chains, no matter where they operate.   To do this, companies must establish formal human rights policies aligned with international standards, conduct regular human rights due diligence assessments to assess, measure, and mitigate risks, and disclose management systems in place for implementation. But those are just the beginning. To effectively advance human rights – by translating policies preventing discrimination, child and forced labor and unsafe working conditions from words on paper to corporate cultures that truly embrace principles of diversity and inclusion, freedom and human dignity – requires bold leadership and a willingness to speak out when those rights are threatened. Recently many iconic American companies have spoken out against legislation that would limit gay and transgender rights, and for swift action to address pay disparity and lack of diversity within their industries. We’ve also just witnessed Apple, Google, Nike, and others speak out on the ramifications of President Trump’s recent executive order severely restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries while giving special exceptions to Christians traveling from those countries. Tech companies, which are hugely reliant on highly skilled immigrants, were especially outspoken in opposing the immigration ban. “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do,” Apple CEO Tim Cook, wrote to his employees. Nike Chairman and CEO Mark Parker expressed broader concerns. “Regardless of whether or how you worship, where you come from or who you love, everyone’s individual experience is what makes us stronger as a whole,” Parker said in a staff email. Whether it’s Nike or Apple on immigration, or earlier business boycotts in North Carolina and Indiana on other social issues, business has a clear leadership role to play. It can use the power of its voice and its influence to respect and protect the basic human rights of workers from executive offices to factory floors and fields. Now is not the time to stay silent.

States Open Their Doors to Clean Energy

As state legislatures kick off new legislative sessions around the country, clean-energy policies will likely remain on the agenda in a number of states. Unprecedented business support for climate action and clean energy investments will be a key factor for legislatures hoping to attract the attention of businesses interested in seizing fast-emerging clean energy opportunities. More than 720 companies and investors (and counting) call on President Trump to support the Paris Climate Agreement and state and federal low-carbon policies. Many of the companies are iconic household-name brands that have already made significant investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency in states with supportive policies. While lawmakers get to work tackling budget deficits, unemployment, infrastructure, public health concerns and more, the opportunity to deepen their commitments to clean energy is growing. Strong, stable clean energy policies are proven winners in providing carbon-free, cost-competitive power that is spurring economic development and creating new jobs. According to a new analysis by the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Information Technology Industry Council, state policies are making it far easier for the retail and information technology sectors to procure renewable energy and expand customer choices on energy sourcing. For example, Iowa has tapped its abundant wind energy resources to attract numerous large corporate buyers with utility green tariffs and third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs). Google and Facebook have procured more than 500 megawatts of wind power with Iowa’s major utility, MidAmerican Energy, resulting in new jobs, tax revenues and other economic benefits. The state can secure additional corporate investments by making it easier for companies to do onsite renewable energy projects, too. Utility green purchasing options, access to third-party clean energy solutions and community solar are just a few of the policy mechanisms that large commercial and industrial customers can use to meet their increasingly ambitious carbon reduction goals. Renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standards, which set specific statewide goals for efficiency gains and renewable energy sourcing, are also catalyzing significant utility investments in clean energy, which are diversifying their energy supplies and reducing reliance on new, oftentimes more costly fossil fuel plants. Analysis by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that renewable portfolio standards are saving states billions of dollars due to reduced air pollution, reduced public health impacts and other societal benefits. In the waning days of 2016, governors and legislatures in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Ohio all demonstrated their continued support for clean energy. And, with renewable energy costs getting cheaper and companies ramping up their commitments, we expect this momentum will continue in 2017. It is now up to state policymakers to seize on this positive momentum by enacting clean energy policies that will benefit both their economies and the climate. Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung via Flickr Read the post at Triple Pundit

Companies From Chanel to Ben and Jerry’s are Benefiting From the New “Carbon Insetting” Trend

Ten years ago, serendipity set Tristan Lecomte on his path to planting millions of trees around the world. Lecomte was CEO of the French organic and fair trade company Alter Eco, and his eco-conscious consumers were pressing him about his actions on climate change. So Lecomte calculated his company’s carbon footprint and began planting trees in partnership with the Peruvian farmers who supplied Alter Eco with cocoa to both offset the company’s emissions and help the farmers. The 5,000 hardwood trees they planted helped restore the soil, biodiversity and water systems on the cocoa farms, while giving the farmers another source of income. “I love nature and I thought it made sense for the farmers,” says Lecomte about the tree planting. “I never knew it would become my work.” But Nespresso, a division of Nestlé, was sourcing coffee from the same Peruvian region and asked Lecomte for help with a similar initiative, and what began as 5,000 trees for Alter Eco in 2006 grew into a massive public-private partnership, with 3 million trees planted by farmers, an additional 40 million pledged by the government, and the creation of a 2.4 million hectare (5.9 million acre) biosphere reserve in the Peruvian Amazon. And out of that came PUR Projet. To date,PUR Projet has planted 7 million trees for dozens of big brands — Chanel, L’Oreal, and Ben and Jerry’s, among them — across five continents. Its projects have sequestered the greenhouse gas equivalent of some 1.4 million tons (1.27 million metric tons) of carbon, Lecomte says, and spurred a new trend called “carbon insetting,” in which companies offset a portion of their carbon emissions through agroforestry initiatives within their own supply chains. Insetting is a type of carbon emissions offset, but it’s about much more than sequestering carbon: It’s also about companies building resiliency in their supply chains and restoring the ecosystems on which their growers depend. “Insetting looks at the total needs of the community,” says Andrea Asch, manager of natural resources at Ben and Jerry’s, which is working with PUR Projet on initiatives involving coconut and vanilla growers in Peru and Uganda, respectively. “It’s not so much about the carbon sequestration reductions we’re trying to achieve; it’s about helping communities adapt to the impacts from the emissions all of us in the global north have dumped into the atmosphere.” CUTTING CARBON THROUGH LAND MANAGEMENT That said, up through 2020, land management initiatives that reduce carbon emissions, such as carbon insetting, offer greater potential for near-term carbon mitigation than any other strategy, according to the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat. The Secretariat, in fact, estimated that globally we could reduce carbon emissions 2.4 to 8.5 metric gigatons (2.7 to 9.4 gigatons) from 2015 through 2020 by rapidly scaling land use initiatives that prevent deforestation, change agricultural practices or restore degraded landscapes. “Land use solutions are critical to achieving a two-degree carbon budget,” says Kate Levin, vice president of North American sales and marketing at Ecosphere+, which markets ecosystem services and forest conservation projects, such as carbon offsets to businesses and individuals. “We can’t afford to wait while we figure out the clean energy revolution.” Levin sees two factors, urgency and availability, that make land use solutions, including incentives to avoid tropical deforestation, particularly attractive now and a key way to plug the hole in needed emissions reductions left by countries’ contributions toward the Paris Climate agreement. Those contributions fall short by 12 to 14 metric gigatons (13 to 15 gigatons) of carbon of the goal of holding global warming to no more than 2 °C (3.6 °F) over preindustrial levels, according to UNEP. The shortfall will be even greater if the Trump administration decides to pull the U.S. out of the Paris deal, which is possible.   SUPPLY CHAIN RESILIENCY Since 2005, when the Clean Development Mechanism was put in place as part of the Kyoto Protocol, hundreds of companies have purchased carbon offsets as one component of their carbon mitigation strategies. Offsets reduce carbon emissions unrelated to the companies purchasing them, typically through investments in wind energy, methane capture projects or forestry initiatives. What makes carbon insetting particularly appealing is that it gives companies insight into what’s going on in their supply chains, where many are seeing the fingerprints of climate change. “Everywhere we go we hear a similar story of farmers facing ecosystem degradation, soil erosion, extreme climate events, and a lack of water or a lack of regulations for water,” says Lecomte. Insetting is further popular because it simultaneously tackles environmental and social issues, largely poverty among smallholder farmers, in company supply chains. Take Uganda, where Ben and Jerry’s is financing, through PUR Projet, the planting of 100,000 native trees, including jackfruit and African cherry. Those trees were selected to help the smallholder vanilla farmers in Rwenzori diversify their income by selling fruit and timber. Promoting timber products may seem counterproductive, but research shows that sustainably managed working forests can provide substantial carbon mitigation. Intercropping these trees also provides shade and ecosystem benefits for the vanilla crops, which are threatened by climate change impacts — heat, longer droughts and irregular rains. IS TREE PLANTING GREENWASHING? Ben and Jerry’s receives carbon credit for its Rwenzori program through the Clean Development Mechanism. But not all companies that inset their emissions go the route of carbon credits. Certification is expensive says Lecomte, and “if you can see what’s going on in your supply chain, why waste the money? We tell companies, if you don’t need to make a carbon claim, put the money in the trees, not in the certification.” Nespresso’s massive initiative with PUR Projet — planting 10 million trees in Colombia, Ethiopia, Mexico and Nicaragua to reach carbon neutrality by 2020 — is not certified through the Clean Development Mechanism, though it is audited and certified by a third party, Ecocert, using a similar verification scheme. To skeptics who might view tree planting as greenwashing, Lecomte says, “Nespresso is investing US$600 million over five years. You don’t spend US$600 million just to look good. If you want to look good, you spend US$1 million and that’s fine.” Nespresso is investing that money because it sees insetting as a “virtuous cycle,” says its French division president, Arnaud Deschamps. “You plant trees to offset your emissions. You help your farmers with better land, better ecosystems and better revenues, so their children want to be farmers too. And we upgrade the coffee quality for our consumers.” Research also shows that the companies that offset carbon emissions — whether through insetting initiatives in their supply chains, or external projects in far off regions — are doing a lot more to directly cut their carbon emissions. L’Oreal USA, for example, is on track to achieving 100 percent renewable electricity for all of its U.S. manufacturing operations and announced in 2016 that it will install two large solar projects in Kentucky and Arkansas. Among Ben and Jerry’s numerous carbon-cutting initiatives, Asch is most proud of its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on dairy farms. INSETTING’S POTENTIAL Can carbon insetting actually achieve the potential gigatons of carbon mitigation that UNEP says is possible from land use over the next three years? In places such as Peru, where Alter Eco’s initial project blossomed into a massive public-private partnership and a biosphere reserve, the potential is enormous. Generally, however, Levin thinks that insetting is a “smart strategy for every company with a supply chain that’s dependent on a natural ingredient,” but traditional carbon offsetting has higher carbon mitigation potential in the near term. She’d like to see big brands collaborate on a massive commitment to purchase forest carbon offsets from projects that protect standing tropical forests and catalyze sustainable agriculture practices. “We need to give a real market signal that this type of activity has value,” she says. “Land [use solutions] get us up to eight [metric] gigatons [of carbon reductions], but it’s getting only about 5 percent of public climate finance. We’re not connecting the dots.” Some are. A major collaboration with food companies and other partners was recently announced at the World Economic Forum. Spearheaded by the Norwegian Government, the US$400 million fund aims to leverage investments up to US$1.6 billion in deforestation-free agriculture. Ultimately, land management initiatives — whether insetting, changes in agricultural practices or larger scale offsetting — are only effective if the transition to clean energy keeps pace. “We have to sequester carbon and reduce emissions or else we’re toast as a civilization,” says Eric Toensmeier, author of The Carbon Farming Solution, in a recent interview with Civil Eats. Without emissions reductions, Toensmeier warns, “[s]equestration continues at a good rate for between 10 to 15 years and then more or less stops,” So companies like Ben and Jerry’s, Nespresso and L’Oreal are taking a multifaceted approach. “We have a huge footprint, and we need to be laser focused. We need to do everything we can across our entire footprint,” says Asch. Image courtesy of PUR Project Read the post at Ensia  

Saving Water Is on Trend in the Apparel Industry

It takes about three years’ worth of drinking water to make your favorite cotton T-shirt using conventional manufacturing practices. That’s roughly 713 gallons (2,700 liters). The fashion industry’s dependence on water is nothing new: From growing cotton to manufacturing textiles, water is an essential component throughout the fashion supply chain. In recent years, however, the fashion industry has been making huge strides on water stewardship. From conducting life-cycle assessments on key products to innovating water-less dye processes to pledging to use organic cotton, many notable apparel juggernauts have begun implementing best practices throughout their waterlogged supply chains.   And with every season, more and more fashion houses are diving into the challenge. Last month, I visited New Fashion Products’ Los Angeles facility and saw firsthand how some of the leaders in the fashion world are rising to the challenge of making their clothing more water smart. New Fashion Products is an apparel manufacturer for some of the most influential names in the denim industry, including Eileen Fisher, Levi Strauss & Co. and Patagonia. My hosts for the visit – Shona Quinn, sustainability leader at Eileen Fisher and Bobby Ahn, president and CEO at New Fashion Products – literally walked me through the process to make your favorite pair of jeans. From the design room to the textile warehouse, to the washing process, they described how water use comes into play at each step. We even hiked up to the roof to see the 0.6-MV solar array that produces 80 percent of their energy use. It never occurred to me just how much effort – and how much potential water – goes into crafting each pair of jeans. Working with denim, a material that typically needs to be washed up to six times to get the right feel and coloring, the New Fashion Products team has explored – with the urging of clients like Eileen Fisher – several ways to reduce water use. The facility has experimented with enzymes that can decrease the number of washing cycles over time as well as using ozone machines that bleach garments without water entirely. More recently, New Fashion Products has moved to machines with formaldehyde-free resins to limit water pollution. New Fashion Products and its environmental values are part of a bigger fashion movement toward water stewardship. For Eileen Fisher, Levi’s and Patagonia, being clients of the facility is only one facet of their action-driven work toward better water management across their supply chains, both through company strategies and industry collaborations. From the field, to the factory, to the policy table, Eileen Fisher has become one of the industry leaders in sustainability. The label is renowned for its long-standing commitments to the environment and has advocated for progressive policies at the local, state and federal level for years. In 2015, Eileen Fisher introduced Vision2020, a campaign that aims to scrutinize and improve the brand’s practices. As part of Vision2020, Eileen Fisher committed to using water in an environmentally responsible manner throughout its operations and supply chain. The brand has already been using 20 percent less water in their Bluesign-certified dyehouse in China and plans for all its cotton and linen to be organic by 2020. One of Eileen Fisher’s biggest goals, however, is to inspire others in the fashion industry to reconsider how they do business. Another pioneer, Levi Strauss & Co., led the industry’s first comprehensive life-cycle assessment for one of their core products, 501 jeans. Using that original assessment as its guide, Levi’s sourced 12 percent of their total cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative in 2015 and has since launched a goal to use 100 percent sustainable cotton in its products by 2020. The denim giant also began its Water<Less campaign in 2011, which uses finishing techniques that can save up to 96 percent of water used in the denim finishing process. They introduced New Fashion Products to this technique in addition to other vendors. The company is also open sourcing these technologies in the spirit of collaboration and the sustainability of the industry as a whole. Patagonia has also turned the tides on its water stewardship journey. The clothing company has set out to reduce the environmental impact of its supply chain through initiatives such as its Chemical and Environmental Impacts Program (CEIP), which covers areas such as chemicals management and water use in its global supply chain. In 2007, Patagonia became the first brand to join the network of Bluesign system partners and as of spring 2015, 56 percent of the company’s fabrics are Bluesign approved. This rigorous certification eliminates hazardous chemicals in manufacturing, ensuring that the products sold are safe for people and the environment. In addition to their individual work on water stewardship, Eileen Fisher and Levi’s are partners of Ceres through Connect the Drops, a campaign elevating the voice of California businesses in favor of resilient water solutions at both the local and state levels. All three companies are members of Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), a coalition that works directly with key allies in the business community to pass meaningful energy and climate change legislation, which is very intertwined with water issues. Even companies like Eileen Fisher, Levi’s and Patagonia still have work to do to become 100 percent sustainable in their water practices and beyond, but their progress cannot be denied. In an industry that is parched, leaders have emerged that have the opportunity to not only change their company practices, but inform and transform the fashion world as a whole. And back in Los Angeles, New Fashion Products’ clients make sure to keep the facility honest about its water stewardship. All companies perform audits of the manufacturing facility’s best practices, including energy and water. Ahn says this process makes him more aware of how to do business and drive progress forward, “As a collective, it makes us better.” Looking good and doing good are no longer mutually exclusive. The apparel industry needs to continue on a path toward sustainable water stewardship or risk being left high and dry. Read the post at Water Deeply

How Your Company Can Get Serious About Responsible Palm Oil

A wave of companies, from Procter & Gamble to Cargill, has committed to sourcing responsibly produced palm oil; yet problems persist in their supply chains. Forests and peatlands continue to disappear at an astounding rate and workers rights and land rights remain under threat. How then do companies address this implementation gap, and ensure that their commitments do more than sit on a shelf? How do they guard against reputational risk and potential supply chain disruptions as consumers and investors increasingly seek greater accountability? And how do stakeholders ensure that responsible palm oil commitments improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and plantation workers, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen indigenous and community land rights? Improved transparency and supply chain visibility are key ingredients. To help on that front, a diverse group of 18 nonprofit organizations and investor groups from Rainforest Action Network, to CDP, to Global Forest Watch, to Zoological Society of London, to Oxfam, came together to develop common reporting guidance for companies on their responsible palm oil pledges. Our perspectives differ, but all agreed that we could create more consistency and clarity by collaborating than each of us could on our own. The guidance, which is not a separate scorecard or survey, is intended to inform companies about what they should be reporting on, as well as provide a framework for supply chain engagement about challenges in the palm oil sector. Investors will find the disclosure useful. Here is a sample of what’s included and why it matters: Supply Chain Transparency Transparency and mapping enable companies and their stakeholders to understand where issues are occurring. Supplier names; plantations, mills and concessions maps; and traceability levels are vital information that can help stakeholders improve practices on the ground. Some companies are already taking meaningful, if incremental, steps forward. Olam is the most recent of many traders to list top suppliers, and downstream brands such as Nestlé, Mars and Kellogg (PDF) already have done so. Many growers, processors and traders publicly map their mills and are beginning to submit concession maps to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil's New Planting Procedure, and plan to do so through the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA). Labor Rights Companies are encouraged to refer to the Free and Fair Labor Principles (PDF) to inform their reporting on labor issues, and to focus on a few risk indicators, specifically: temporary workers (including any imbalances by gender); union representation; document retention; and recruitment fees. A current practice worth highlighting is R.E.A. Holdings’ (PDF) reporting on the percentage of women in its workforce, broken down by casual vs. permanent. This disclosure can help shed light on whether women are more frequently hired as casual workers. Land Expansion Many of the palm oil industry’s most significant impacts occur in new land development. Companies need to demonstrate that development does not take place without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of local communities, nor with the clearing of forests and peatlands. The reporting guidance lays out expectations for clear procedures regarding land expansion as well as evidence of compliance. For the latter, companies are encouraged to submit maps of expansion areas for third party assessment through the HCSA, and to ask their suppliers to do the same. Grievance Mechanisms Growers, processors and traders are expected to have transparent mechanisms for responding to grievances from landowners and community members that arise both within their own operations and from third party suppliers. Such transparency can demonstrate that the grievance mechanism is accessible to all stakeholders in a supply chain, and that the company is addressing grievances in a timely manner and taking the appropriate assessment, remedy and enforcement actions. Cargill, Wilmar (PDF) and Musim Mas already have grievance mechanisms in place and report on their responses. Different Roles Across the Supply Chain Recognizing that a "one size fits all" approach will not work across the industry, the guidance provides tailored recommendations for different supply chain segments. For example, manufacturers are encouraged to report on their own activities as well as the direct performance of their suppliers. Some already are moving in this direction. Mondelez (PDF) expects suppliers to have a grievance and due diligence procedure in place, to report on community consultation and FPIC, and to map and risk assess all owned mills and concessions on Global Forest Watch. For retailers, the guidance focuses on reporting related to traders and importers in their supply chain, but less on traceability. External Initiatives Creating enabling conditions through public policies and enforcement mechanisms for responsible palm oil production and sourcing is critical. The guidance recommends that companies disclose how they are engaging government or certification bodies, supporting jurisdictional approaches, and other collaborative activities. Transparency, like traceability, cannot alone solve the enormous on-the-ground challenges that companies face in realizing their responsible palm oil goals. But neither can these challenges be solved without the enhanced visibility that fosters shared understanding and builds accountability. All the organizations behind this guidance hope that it will help stakeholders to understand company implementation plans and accountability systems so that they can zero in on the gaps and help make responsible palm oil a reality. Read the post at GreenBiz.com

Meeting with Pope Francis – a Beacon of Hope for a Just and Sustainable World

I was honored to represent Ceres at a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in January. I joined 80 participants – private sector, civil society, and faith group leaders from around the world – at the Global Foundation’s Rome Roundtable. I arrived at the Vatican that morning filled with excitement. Over the past few years Pope Francis has emerged as one of the most important voices in the global fight for social justice, sustainable development and tackling climate change. In his 2015 Encyclical the Pope called climate change “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. ” He added “there is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.” Our meeting with Pope Francis on Jan. 14 began with the Global Foundation’s Secretary-General Steve Howard briefing the Pope on various initiatives, including the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change (GIC). The GIC is a joint initiative of four groups – Ceres, IIGCC, IGCC and AIGCC – that mobilize global investor action on climate change. In his brief address, Pope Francis called on leaders to forge “a globalization that is cooperative, and thus positive, as opposed to the globalization of indifference” that ignores the needs of the poor. The Pope encouraged all of us to help ensure the global community achieves the Sustainable Development Goals set in 2015. More than 190 world leaders committed to 17 goals to help end poverty and hunger, fight inequality and discrimination, advance peace, tackle climate change and pollution, ensure access to clean energy and clean water, protect oceans and forests, among other goals. The Pope went on to condemn the current world economic system saying it “discards men, women and children because they are no longer considered useful or productive according to criteria drawn from the world of business” and makes “mammon, the god of money, the center of its attention.” He urged “those with responsibilities in the worlds of finance and politics to use their intelligence and their resources not merely to control and monitor the effects of globalization, but also to help leaders at different political levels – regional, national and international – to correct its orientation whenever necessary.” (The full text of the Pope’s address is here) After his address, we formed a line down the center aisle to greet him. When I met the Pope I thanked him for his leadership on climate change and sustainable development and told him that I hoped the world responds to his call to action, adding that the United States needs his help now more than ever. I left the meeting with Pope Francis feeling reenergized and inspired. I also felt a renewed sense of determination. Now is a critical moment for Ceres and our allies to redouble our efforts to build a just and sustainable world. Let’s get to work.

Business Resolve on Climate Action is More Urgent Than Ever

Last fall, business leaders from Whirlpool, Schneider Electric and Clif Bar met with Ohio state lawmakers on an important request: Don’t hurt jobs, profits and the economy by rejecting the promise of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Corporate and citizen support for clean energy in Ohio made a powerful difference. In the waning days of 2016, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich vetoed a bill that would have continued the state’s two-year freeze on renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates. It caused some dissent, but it was hard to argue with the economic case presented by major companies in the state. Within minutes of announcing his veto, a half-dozen major Ohio companies publicly thanked the governor for withstanding “immense pressure” and standing up for clean energy and resulting new jobs. Governor Kasich’s move in Ohio underscores the mounting challenges we face in continuing this country’s progress towards a low-carbon future, despite a new president who is embracing coal and fossil fuels over climate protection and clean energy. It’s a politically charged environment like never before and the temptation to 'lie low’ is obvious. But lying low right now on climate and clean energy – and the policies that are fostering low-carbon action – would be short sighted and dangerous. Too much is at stake with heat-trapping carbon pollution sending global temperatures, sea levels and economic losses ever higher. There are also enormous stakes in positioning the United States to compete in the fast-growing low-carbon global economy. China’s new plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars on renewable energy in the next several years should be seen as a clear competitive threat to U.S. policymakers. Just as we saw in Ohio, more than ever, we need strong business community leadership to support federal and state policies that will accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy.A good place to start would be next month’s kickoff meeting of President Trump’s business adviser team, which includes powerhouse CEOs from General Motors, PepsiCo, Tesla and BlackRock, all of whom have called for stronger action on climate change. Business support for tackling climate change – and seizing the wide-ranging economic benefits by doing so - is unprecedented. With wind and solar costs plummeting, nearly 90 major companies, including Google, Mars Inc. and Bank of America, have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy to power their operations, and more than 200 have set science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at levels that would prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change. To be sure, the business community has been more vocal the past two years in calling for strong, stable low-carbon policies that will help accelerate a faster transition to a clean energy economy. One week after the US Presidential election, 365 U.S. companies issued a public statement at the global climate talks in Morocco calling on President-elect Trump not to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement and to continue supporting low-carbon policies. That number has since mushroomed to over 700 businesses and investors, including over 50 Massachusetts companies and dozens of Fortune 500 companies with headquarters all across the country. Companies have also been vocal in supporting clean energy policies at the state level, including Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, which have all adopted stronger statewide renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in just the past two months. More than 90 companies and investors have also called on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic state governors to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a nine-state effort aimed at reducing carbon pollution from the region’s electric power sector. These business efforts are encouraging. After all, America’s economy was built by businesses, which have led the way through their values, entrepreneurship and flexibility in adapting to global challenges. As more companies across the U.S. support climate and clean energy policies and call on elected officials to embrace the economic benefits associated in doing so, politicians must heed the call. Regardless of the political winds in Washington, the urgency for building a clean energy economy is unchanged. Together, we must protect our economy and our way of life by embracing and accelerating a low-carbon future.

Why The New Administration Should Be The Loudest Advocate For Climate Action

Amidst all the political rancor, the reality is that the incoming administration should be the loudest advocate for climate action, if for no other reason than to deliver on its ambitious jobs creation goal. Maintaining U.S. climate leadership would better position companies to capitalize on the immense business opportunity and get out ahead of growing international competition. U.S. leadership will help to drive economic growth. Recognizing this, Morgan Stanley’s CEO James Gorman stated that “companies that focus on these challenges will be best positioned for long-term growth” as the sustainable business opportunity explodes to as much as $10 trillion annually by 2050. And this was before 162 countries (and counting) developed specific commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing renewable energy deployment as part of the Paris Climate Agreement. The demand for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and emission-reducing technologies and services will only grow. The private sector has already demonstrated strong climate leadership. More than 80 major companies, including many Fortune 500s have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy. Leading banks are also boosting their focus on clean energy finance. They include: Citigroup has supported over $70 billion in market activities towards its $100 billion, 2020 environmental finance goal. Bank of America has supported over $60 billion in low-carbon and sustainable financing towards its $125 billion, 2020 goal. Goldman Sachs has committed over $40 billion in clean energy financing and investments, towards its $150 billion 2025 goal. In order for U.S. leaders to unlock the nation’s true economic potential, companies and investors will need regulatory and policy certainty. States are already showing strong leadership that is catalyzing strong job growth, but in varying degrees. And these complications will compound for long-term, energy-intensive capital investment decisions and related financing. For example, electric power utilities may delay updating their generation fleets if the rules of the road are not clear. Additionally, multinational companies will bear the cost of operating under different state-level policies, and different regulations between the U.S. and the rest of the international community. Climate scientists are urging quick action in order to keep global temperature at or below two-degrees Celsius – the threshold above which we are more likely to suffer the most severe impacts of climate change. Actions by countries and leading companies over the next 10 to 15 years will largely determine whether we can stabilize the global climate for decades to come. If we don’t sufficiently reduce emissions, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates we could face global GDP losses ranging from 0.7 percent to 2.5 percent per year by 2060. As alarmingly, bipartisan military and security experts warn that climate change poses a “strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security and international security”. To help drive new job growth, provide regulatory certainty and ensure the economy and American companies are best positioned to capitalize on international demand and stabilize global temperatures, we urge the new administration to, at a minimum: Maintain the U.S. leadership role in the Paris Agreement; Continue to advance policies, including promoting clean energy and energy efficiency; and Maintain programs that provide the scientific data that the private sector needs to make informed investments. In that vein, we are not alone. The breadth of private sector support for continued U.S. climate action leadership cannot be overstated. More than 700 companies and investors are calling on President Trump and Congress to advance policies that will accelerate our low-carbon future. These weren’t businesses simply from blue states or just mom-and-pop shops. The more than 100 investors have more than $2 trillion in assets and the more than 600 companies earn more than $1 trillion in annual revenue, with headquarters in 44 states, and employing nearly 2 million people. There is widespread, diverse support because these companies and investors recognize the business and scientific imperative for action. With election campaign posturing behind us, hopefully so too will the new administration and Congress.