Blogs and Columns
See Ceres' point-by-point response to a shareholder letter sent by ExxonMobil's Vice President of Investor Relations and Secretary, Jeffrey J. Woodbury.
Plotting a company’s future is never a static process. Circumstances shift. Technologies change. Trends accelerate. This is surely the case as global businesses grapple with sustainability pressures like climate change, water risks and human rights challenges. Just as the urgency and complexity of these threats are increasing, operating environments for businesses are also changing dramatically. That’s why we recently announced updated Ceres Roadmap expectations calling for accelerated action on key issues.
California may be in danger of losing the gains it has worked hard to achieve in the last year in water conservation. A wet winter doesn’t mean California is in the clear.
As global leaders gathered at the United Nations to sign a historic climate agreement, Ceres' Peyton Fleming and his family stood in front of a tiny solar-powered trailer on the side of a dusty, dirt-packed road in Ethiopia.
When it comes to addressing climate change impacts to Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance business, Warren Buffett paints a somewhat misleading picture that minimizes the business risks posed by a demonstrably changing climate. In doing so, Buffett begs serious questions about his company’s planning for climate impacts and undermines confidence in the insurance division’s climate resilience.
Yesterday at the annual meeting of utility AES, shareholders had their first chance to vote on a resolution asking a U.S. based company to stress test its investments against the low carbon future that the Paris agreement will help bring about. The resolution received support from 42% of investors, the highest vote ever for a 2 degree stress testing resolution in the U.S.
Six years ago, the SEC took one giant step toward acknowledging climate change as a financial risk and opportunity for markets. Their formal guidance on climate risk discusses climate risks, how they are material, and how they are disclosed—but the SEC has almost nothing to enforce that guidance.
Tesla recently unveiled the Model 3, a mass market, affordable electric vehicle with a starting price of $35,000 and a two hundred mile range. In just over five days, more than 276,000 people put down $1,000 to reserve their own Model 3, signaling that American appetite for electric vehicles (EVs) is on the rise. That’s good news because GHG emissions from transportation are growing faster than in any other sector in the U.S. and account for about 30 percent of the total. A major shift to electrified vehicles is necessary to give us a fighting chance to meet our climate goals.
From an economic, environmental and social standpoint, keeping food out of landfills is imperative. We waste 40 percent of the food we buy each year while one in seven Americans go hungry, and the global agriculture industry emits one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But there’s another aspect of the food waste problem that gets much less discussion, one that is also critically important to water-stressed California: Saving food equals saving water.
Mention the word "sustainable" to a liberal member of Congress and you immediately have credibility, common ground with many. Mention the word "sustainable" to a conservative member and you might have a disagreement on your hands or, at a minimum, whatever you say after that will go unheard. But what does "sustainable" mean?
Worms and Wine? Fetzer Vineyards First to Adopt Innovative Wastewater Treatment System to Save Water / Combat Climate Change
It takes a lot of water to make a glass of California wine, anywhere from two to 15 gallons of water, according to recent studies. And as the state moves into its fifth year of drought, many California wineries are rethinking how they use water and the way they do business.
Last month, the country’s largest pension fund, the California Public Employees Retirement System, updated its Global Governance Principles, which drive its efforts on corporate engagements, proxy voting and investment decision making. The principles now state that board members of companies that CalPERS owns should have “expertise and experience in climate change risk management strategies.” This move is hugely important.
Wind power is booming in Mexico. With more than 3,200 megawatts in operation, the country is on par with Japan. By 2018 it expects to have 10,000 MW installed as part of the government’s Climate Action Plan. Promising, right?
On Friday, the biggest players in technology and some of the largest consumer brands submitted separate friend-of-the-court briefs providing resounding support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which the Supreme Court placed a hold on in February while the D.C. Circuit Court reviews the legality of the regulations.
The global climate agreement adopted in Paris in December is far more than just a roadmap for tackling climate change. It’s also a blueprint for rethinking how we bring energy to 1.3 billion people who live without electricity—a significant barrier to eradicating global poverty. On both of these fronts, clean energy, not fossil fuel energy, is a critical linchpin.
New proxy data showcasing how mutual fund companies voted on climate-related resolutions in 2015 reveals a major divide in their thinking on the mega issue. These common sense requests are believed by investors to be financially material to the companies receiving the resolutions and to mutual fund companies who have a fiduciary duty to vote in the best interests of their clients.
The water bond passed by voters in 2014 provides funding for projects to help recharge groundwater. But some of the best and most cost-effective options may be smaller-scale projects. Ceres' Kirsten James takes a look at some promising options in both urban and agricultural areas.
By the time California homes have fully embraced these new water-efficiency fixtures, the annual savings will be on the order of 38 billion gallons of water - nearly 58,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or enough water for almost 290,000 California homes for a year.
Today, on International Women's Day, we salute the visionaries and the trailblazers: the women leaders who work tirelessly to champion sustainability in business and investor circles.
On February 9, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling to pause implementation of the Clean Power Plan while the lower court reviews the legality of the regulations. The “stay” of the rule means that the EPA may not enforce the Clean Power Plan pending the resolution of the case on the merits. While the ultimate legal outcome is unclear at this point, what is very clear is that the pace and scale of the transition to a thriving, clean economy is now undeniable, irresistible, and inevitable.
The way we pay for water in California has to change. Despite a wet winter this year, California still faces serious drought conditions, and the forecast for the longer term is that this is likely the new normal. Balancing a growing population’s water demand with economic and environmental needs will require a shift in business as usual.
Morocco has set ambitious renewable energy goals and dropped all fossil fuel subsidies. It opened up the electric power sector to private companies and made long-term guarantees that the state will buy large amounts of power being generated.
Some of the ingredients for catalyzing clean energy investments in Asia, Africa and other emerging markets have their own unique nomenclature—“blend 2.0,” “de-risking” and “national investment catalogues.” Yet there is a more straightforward recipe: A mix of national clean energy policies with the needs of institutional investors looking for opportunities that are safe and relatively profitable.
California is managing its water system like an unbalanced checkbook. There are thousands of “withdrawals” and “deposits” from stressed surface water and groundwater supplies, but no sufficient accounting system to understand the overall “balance” of water resources. Better data and new policies are helping to change this.
We need to stay the course and keep up our conservation efforts to protect our water future, but in the midst of El Niño storms, how do you convince stakeholders and the public that we need to remain vigilant and continue to conserve? This isn’t easy, but luckily we have a governor and State Water Board who understand that we are in a long-term game.
We need far more investment in the low-carbon economy — well over US$1 trillion every year. What will it take to get pension funds, insurance companies and other investors who manage trillions of dollars to open their wallets to this enormous clean energy opportunity?
Those gathering at the UN in New York on Wednesday for the biennial Investor Summit on Climate Risk are facing a new world and a new reality. The Paris climate agreement has confirmed that every nation is now on an irreversible path to a low -- perhaps even zero -- carbon economy. The challenge now is not the certainty, the direction or the ultimate destination of this transformation: it is the speed and how to scale up the opportunities.
Much progress has been made at remaking California’s water future. But we're far from done. We need to keep plugging away and not let a season of heavy precipitation slow our momentum.
There’s been barely enough time for the ink to dry on the Paris climate deal — but we must begin charting a path forward if we’re going to meet COP21’s bold ambition in the years ahead. Around the world, policy makers, companies, and investors are demonstrating that they agree: There is no time to waste.
The Paris Agreement increases carbon risk for fossil fuel companies. After Paris, companies that stress test capital expenditures for a 2 degree or 1.5 degree future will have the competitive edge. The impacts of the oil price downturn illustrate how unprepared most fossil fuel companies are to manage the risks of the energy transition.
Leading institutional investors’ willingness to publicly express their desire for greater corporate transparency has created an analogous trend; global stock exchanges are beginning to implement mandatory environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure listing rules and reporting guidance for their corporate members.
The ongoing international climate negotiations here are an intricate ecosystem of policy wonks, finance ministers and world leaders trying to create one seamless tapestry called a low-carbon future.
EPA's closely watched Clean Power Plan rules are key to 'unprecedented' pace of change in U.S. electric power industry. But the rub: Will significant increases in customers' monthly fixed charges impede the transition?
California and Morocco are starkly different places, but not when it comes to energy. Both are charting radical paths to replace fossil fuels with clean energy—and they’re pulling it off.
Every day here at the UN climate talks, we’re hearing new private sector commitments to catalyze the low-carbon global economy.
The transition to a thriving, clean economy that protects the global climate while providing equitable access to sustainable development does not come cheap. The energy innovation and climate-resilient infrastructure we need requires finance at scale. This is why the climate finance discussion is so difficult and so important.
Corporate boards and the critical oversight function they play have come to the fore over the last year. You don't need to look any further than the scandal roiling ExxonMobil to understand the high stakes at play.
The World Bank’s Rachel Kyte is a whirling dervish these days in advance of key international climate change negotiations. She recently made a stop at the University of Massachusetts-Boston to share her optimism that a big climate breakthrough is possible next month in Paris.
Institutional investors like to call themselves global investors, but when it comes to global clean energy financing that’s hardly the case. Pension funds, insurance companies and other investors manage trillions of dollars, but precious few of those dollars are being invested in renewable energy projects in developing countries — a key linchpin in curbing carbon pollution to avoid catastrophic global warming.
Congressional representatives in October sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown asking about his plans to ensure that when El Niño’s storms hit, the water is captured. More dams, greater surface storage and looser environmental permitting do not add up to a sustainable water supply for California. We need to think outside of the box.
Ceres President Mindy Lubber had the honor of standing side-by-side with Vice President Joe Biden as he announced the latest round of companies to join the White House’s American Business Act on Climate pledge. Companies are supporting the Administration’s efforts to negotiate a robust international climate agreement in Paris – and more action is needed.
From all corners of the world, we can hear sounds of applause at news that world leaders have agreed on a climate finance package. To be clear, it wasn't a congratulatory standing ovation at the finish line; it was the encouraging and excited applause that comes at the beginning of a long race.
California’s “severe drought” is now at 860 days and counting. Every Californian is feeling the ripples, whether in lawn watering bans, fallowed farmland or tap water limits at local restaurants. So when will the state’s water woes be over?
Ceres and its investors have been warning Shell that Arctic drilling projects were at extreme risk of becoming stranded due to a combination of market factors ranging from high break-even costs, oversupply, and price volatility.
Year-round warm temperatures and decades of smart water planning have earned the state its place in the market. Unlike California, however, Arizona is not currently facing a water crisis, even though it too is enduring prolonged drought.
Climate change is the most significant threat to sustainable development. Left unchecked, it threatens to undermine progress on nearly all of the other Sustainable Development Goals -- from ending poverty and hunger to ensuring access to clean water and decent work.
Seven years ago, we woke to news of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the landmark moment in this century’s biggest financial crisis. Amid all the blame, bailouts and bursting bubbles back in 2008, there was one universal action that everyone seemed to agree on: the need for transparency to better manage hidden risks in the financial system.
The phrase “ESG disclosure” was on the lips of hundreds of investors at the annual Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) conference in London today. And there’s a reason why the much-debated corporate disclosure gap on global sustainability challenges was center-stage: today, the United Nations released long-awaited Model Guidance on ESG Reporting for use by global stock exchanges.
El Nino will solve the drought. You’re hearing this sentiment around California these days. After four years of bone-dry winters, warmer Pacific Ocean waters are expected to bring lots of precipitation to California this winter — a huge opportunity for replenishing California’s depleted reservoirs and aquifers.
Words matter. This is especially true for the Paris Agreement on climate change to be concluded this December. Businesses and investors have a clear stake in the words in the agreement and in the political commitment behind them, which will underpin the policy certainty they need to build the low-carbon economy. Getting the right words in the right place is essential to success.
The fact is water — or the lack of it — poses investor risks. Companies and investors can no longer ignore increasing competition over limited water resources. Some investors view water as one of the many environmental, social, and governance (ESG) variables that can have very tangible payoffs — if studied and the lessons applied properly.
As we celebrate the release of EPA’s historic Clean Power Plan for power plants, let’s not lose sight of another critical source of carbon pollution that’s up for cutting now: transportation emissions.
Today, as I joined President Obama at the White House and looked on as EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy issued the agency’s final Clean Power Plan rule, I found myself reflecting on how much has changed in the past 25 years
Water – or lack of it – is becoming a bigger financial issue for investors. The World Economic Forum recently named water availability as the “top global risk.” Often overlooked by investors, and society at large, is that very little of water is readily available for human use and even less is truly renewable.
“Water conservation” has become the state motto in California as the epic drought continues to sap the region. Banana Republic wants to raise awareness around sustainability as a small, but important step forward to be more conscious about the environmental impact we all have in our daily lives.
The fossil fuel industry is facing its day of reckoning – and not just because one of the world’s most prominent religious leaders, Pope Francis, is calling for action.
The two largest North American oil and gas companies, Chevron and ExxonMobil, recently held their annual meetings in the midst of a historic drought in California, a heat wave in India that is claiming thousands of lives, and unprecedented storms and flooding in Texas.
Next week, we expect to see proposed federal regulations governing the fuel economy of freight trucks. This is a big deal from both an economic and an environmental perspective — an important opportunity to take a big bite out of carbon emissions and freight costs.
Lettuce is a thirsty crop in parched California. It takes roughly 12 gallons to grow a single head, and Chris Willoughby, a mid-sized grower of leafy greens, broccoli and cabbage, is doing his best to cut back on that amount.
Weak pricing signals. Poor accounting. Byzantine rules. These are just a few of the reasons why California is in the midst of a water crisis. A lack of rainfall is perhaps the least of the state's problems. California's situation is symptomatic of escalating water risks all across the world, where water is typically undervalued and, as a result, used incredibly inefficiently as more people than ever need it.
California’s drought is challenging for all farmers, but it’s especially daunting for growers like Barat Bisabri, who is being forced to re-think his entire business model when it comes to water.
For many companies, Earth Day is a time for releasing corporate sustainability reports, unveiling new environmental initiatives or sponsoring community festivals honoring the day. All laudable initiatives, but with the clock ticking on our ability to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic climate change, companies need to up their
Six years ago, when an international climate treaty in Copenhagen seemed distinctly possible, there was still a discernible gap between the concept of a low-carbon global economy and the capital market’s ability to deliver it.
The water news from California keeps getting worse. This week’s final snowpack tally from the Sierra Nevada mountains – one of the state's key water lifelines – is "dire" and "obliterated" previous record lows, David Rizzardo, chief of snow surveys and water supply forecasting at California's Department of Water Resources, told reporters on Wednesday.
The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework Means No Excuses for Companies on Human Rights Performance
In February Boston Common Asset Management spearheaded a group of over 60 investors from around the world – including many Ceres Coalition investor members - with $3.9 trillion of assets under management, in a joint investor statement backing the new United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) Reporting Framework.
On Friday, March 13, the Wall Street Journal published an article that noted how a university parking garage in Massachusetts was financed by a bond that was labeled “green.” The reporter wondered how that could be considered a proper “green” project. He wasn’t the only one.
Water is essential to human life … and to running our business. In fact, our sustainability work centers on protecting and conserving the natural resource base on which our business depends. Water is at the top of the “most critical natural resources to our business list.”
Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Center for Climate Leadership, in collaboration with the Association of Climate Change Officers, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and The Climate Registry, recognizes corporate and individual leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of its Climate Leadership Awards program. This year, five Ceres Network members were among the 18 honorees.
Knowing the world needs to invest an additional trillion dollars per year into clean energy by 2030 might sound daunting. This week, however, we saw a down payment on that clean energy future we so desperately need: a new $100 billion environmental finance initiative announced by one of the world’s largest financial institutions, Citigroup.
It’s no secret that our agricultural industry is very thirsty, gobbling up 80 percent of the freshwater that America consumes each year. It takes a lot of water to feed the nation, and every five years we get an accounting of just how much it takes, for what crops and at what cost, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey.
Last week, in advance of fourth quarter earnings reports, investors and industry analysts voiced growing concern about excessive industry spending on high-cost, high-carbon fossil fuel projects that may be bad financial bets as the world continues to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, accelerate renewable energy and reduce overall carbon emissions to counter the threat of climate change.
Don’t leave 2014 without realizing there have been notable — often underreported — big capital market breakthroughs on climate change, water protection and other sustainability fronts.
Across the country, extreme weather is exposing the vulnerability of 20th century water infrastructure. his liability was brought into stark relief by a lawsuit brought by Farmers Insurance Co. against municipal sewage systems in the Chicago region for failing to invest in upgrades that could have prevented a monster rainstorm from spewing raw sewage into basements and streets.
We talk a lot in this country about what it takes to enact change -- from politics to finance and education systems. Time and again, we've seen that regular people have the power to drive reform, and that there is strength in numbers.
Two years after Superstorm Sandy devastated large swaths of the East Coast and cost our economy an estimated $65 billion, the insurance industry – which is on the frontlines of climate change – is still not doing enough to address the risks associated with extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts or more intense coastal storms.
Coastal Louisiana faces a complex web of environmental challenges from land loss, to declining fisheries, water quality problems and climate change.
‘Protect our climate’ was the rallying cry heard across New York City yesterday, but the underlying message really was ‘stop using fossil fuels.’
There is an urgent need for an additional $1 trillion per year to be invested in clean energy over the next 36 years if the world is to avoid the potentially catastrophic environmental and economic impacts of climate change that scientists predict.
While federal clean energy policy is stymied in Washington, consensus is growing among America’s largest businesses and a bipartisan group of state legislators that clean energy makes economic sense, and it’s the right thing to do.
PG&E sees a big opportunity to help farmers reduce their water use – and electricity use – at the same time. By doing so, it can save precious water, help farmers save money and help the power company itself reduce overall electricity demand.
Three years before the California drought became a national crisis, national berry giant Driscoll's, on the state’s Central Coast, knew it had a major problem with water.
Pricing is a powerful tool for shaping behavior, including water use. Recognizing the power of pricing, more water utilities are adopting water rates designed to encourage customers to conserve.
When Tom Steyer and Robert Rubin joined me on the stage for Ceres’ 6th Investor Summit on Climate Risk at the United Nations to discuss the economic impacts of climate change, it was immediately clear that I was in the company of two businessmen who truly understood the essential role that financial leaders must play in the global transition to a low-carbon economy.
Today, many of America's largest companies are strengthening their bottom lines by jumping on the clean energy bandwagon -- to the tune of more than $1 billion in savings per year.
As a new Ceres report released yesterday makes clear, there’s a hitch to the corn sector’s prodigious expansion: It is not sustainable, especially in regard to water quality and water use impacts, and the escalating ripples from climate change.
An international group of investors is asking the world’s largest fossil fuel companies to assess the risks they face from climate change. These investors, managing trillions of dollars in assets, are motivated by concerns that companies in their portfolios are not adequately preparing for a future of lower demand for fossil fuels as the world transitions to cleaner energy sources.
Four years ago, Ceres and Sustainalytics produced a report that it called a roadmap for sustainability for the 21st century corporation, and noted that while there were pockets of leadership in sustainability, these pockets were surrounded by oceans of incrementalism that were insufficient to address the sustainability challenges confronting us.
One year after the collapse of the Rana Plaza apparel factory in Bangladesh killed more than 1,000 people, it is clear that things aren't changing quickly enough for workers in global supply chains.
The Dawn Creek subdivision in Lancaster, 60 miles north of Los Angeles, looks like any other neighborhood scattered across California’s Antelope Valley. But Dawn Creek contains a home like no other in the country—a so-called Double ZeroHouse that is so highly energy and water efficient that it uses zero electricity from the grid and less than half the water of an average home.
How are investors, businesses and governments doing on the road to the Clean Trillion goal of $1 trillion per year invested in clean energy?
After years of study, EPA announced the new Tier 3 standards, which will significantly reduce tailpipe emissions of smog and soot from vehicles.
Exactly 25 years ago, 260,000 barrels of crude oil from the Exxon Valdez oil tanker inundated the frigid, fragile waters of Alaska's Prince William Sound.
Water is a critical but contentious resource for the fracking industry, which is booming in the US and poised to take off globally.
This year's Climate Leadership Conference was held in San Diego, and for good reason. The Golden State leads the nation in clean energy progress and innovation, thanks to its many forward-looking policies.
When Ceres called for an additional $1 trillion investment per year in clean energy at the United Nations in January, we hoped people would take notice.
Sunday night I cheered as Steve McQueen dedicated his Best Picture Oscar for 12 Years a Slave to “all of the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”
Conversations about climate change and the insurance industry usually focus on catastrophic storms and their damaging financial ripples for insurance providers. Given skyrocketing extreme-weather losses in recent years, it’s surely a legitimate issue that should be making insurers re-think their business models.
$36 trillion in clean energy investment is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Ten cities are stepping up to the plate and investors are likely to follow.
Today, President Obama visited California’s Central Valley, which may be in the midst of the driest winter in centuries.
Fifty miles south of San Antonio on Route 181, signs of the hydraulic fracturing boom taking place in the Eagle Ford Basin are everywhere. New hotels are popping up. Trucks endlessly barrel down roads. Restaurants can’t find enough workers.
If the world burned all of its fossil fuel reserves, would the world as we know it be the same?
Even though a global climate deal is obviously unlikely at the UN talks in Warsaw, the fossil fuel industry’s iron-clad grip on the global economy appears to be loosening.
Ceres harnesses the power of leading investors and mainstream companies to drive the sustainability agenda in groundbreaking ways. Ceres acts as both partner and advocate - yes, it's a fine line to walk but they have deftly treaded that narrow path with consistent success.
Ceres' unique voice highlights that environmental progress is not about sacrifice for our children - it's about opportunity for both current and future generations.
Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call for cities everywhere about the risks of unprecedented storms.
Levi Strauss & Company’s new Eureka innovation lab in San Francisco on Wednesday unveiled Dockers Wellthread, a process that pushes the envelope on sustainable design.
Concerns are intensifying in the US about the troubling interdependence of the economy's water and energy needs.
Ceres relationship with companies is a model for a new form of environmental activism, one that minimizes the confrontational tactics of the past with a hardheaded business approach built upon the economic and financial case for social and environmental corporate responsibility.
With the fourth anniversary of the SEC’s Interpretive Guidance on climate change disclosure approaching, it’s time to ask: are companies disclosing climate information in SEC filings that’s helpful to investors?
Last month, Ceres’ water team got some insights into how Campbell Soup is preparing for a likely drier future during a half-day visit to the 38-year-old processing plant and two nearby farms.
Today’s new IPCC climate science report and the fast approaching first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy have policy leaders busy promising ways to curb global warming pollution and avoid future devastating storms.
Controversy concerning the practice of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional oil and gas development is about more than just breaking up underground rock deposits to release gas and oil.
Most people find it tough to get excited about regulators. But President Obama’s nomination of Ron Binz to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is reason to sit up and take notice.
Water users in the parched Southwest U.S. were just hit with a devastating warning.
Water utilities across the United States are planning major infrastructure investments in the coming decades. How much? The Environmental Protection Agency estimates about $300 billion will need to be spent by 2030 to keep our drinking water systems safe.
The insurance industry's core business is to protect people – and businesses – in harm's way. With the rise of extreme weather across the US, insurers are increasingly connecting the dots between climate change and its costs.
A new report, produced by Ceres and a coalition of industry partners, highlights just how rapidly California companies are developing diverse new, low-carbon fuel options to meet LCFS requirements.
The costs of rebuilding our nation’s water infrastructure are jaw dropping: estimates range from $300 billion to $1 trillion needed over the next 30 years.
Many firms have responded to the new climate paradigm by limiting their impact. But without a national strategy on climate change, even these efforts aren’t enough to address the underlying cause of a changing climate.
Most Americans pulling into gas stations are focused on the pump price, not the fuel's content. However, sulfur content and its impact on vehicle emissions and public health is worth their consideration.
Hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) has recast the U.S.’s energy future, but it’s also shining a light on fragile water supplies, which could crimp the industry’s growth.
Helen Keller said, "The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." Her words were on my mind during a workshop at Ford Motor Company’s headquarters where Ford brought together some of its executives with outside stakeholders, kicking off a year-long effort to deepen its water strategy.
What happens when your most valuable assets become liabilities? International oil, gas and coal companies may be about to find out.
It’s bad enough that Western farmers and ranchers are reeling from a three-year-old drought and record heat waves. Now they’re feeling the heat from the goliath energy industry – over water
I didn’t drive a VW microbus to Berkshire Hathaway’s recent annual meeting, but I did come away from the Woodstock of Capitalism with a question: Will Warren Buffett’s firm take the challenges of climate change as seriously as it does its reputation for delivering hefty returns?
Proposed standards that the U.S. Department of Interior announced for fracking on federal and Indian lands are important, especially in the arid West where water is gold. Unfortunately, water protection gets short shrift in the rules that, once finalized, will apply to 750 million acres of public lands.
Hundreds of cities and insurers across North America were hit by extreme weather events last year, many of them made worse by climate change. Higher sea levels, elevated storm surges and record flood damages cost U.S. insurers tens of billions and taxpayers double or triple this.
Institutional investors manage more than $70 trillion in assets globally. But when it comes to renewable energy, a large portion of that capital is sitting on the sidelines.
As investors and as citizens, we must "pop" the carbon bubble now to protect both our economy and our environment.
Toxic industrial runoff, overdrawn ground water and even bloated pigs and dead ducks in major waterways. The list of China's water woes is long and appears to be growing.
For long-term shareholders such as institutions and pension funds, there's power in consistent ownership, and it's measured in clear increments. One vote per share.
Climate change and extreme weather are fundamentally changing the United States, and American taxpayers are paying a huge – and growing – cost.
When a storm like Hurricane Sandy can bring the world’s largest financial institutions to a standstill, it's crystal clear that the challenges of climate change are inextricably linked to our economy.
In the second post of her two-part series, Andrea Moffat describes her recent experience in Cambodia working with suppliers, local NGOs and major apparel manufacturers on the implementation of a new program to improve the lives of workers.
More than 20 years ago, LS&Co. became the first multinational apparel company to establish a comprehensive workplace code of conduct for its global suppliers. But LS&Co. concluded two years ago that the code, while important, is not enough.
Despite overwhelming support for a policy that’s already on the books, an Ohio State Senator is seeking to repeal the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.
Part two of Monika Freyman's blog series on how hydraulic fracturing is changing the American landscape. In this installment Monika examines regional water issues associated with hydraulic fracturing.
What’s one thing the Sisters of Mercy and the titans of Wall Street have in common? A deepening realization of water’s fundamental value.
Advances in drilling technologies, most prominently hydraulic fracturing, have unlocked shale oil and gas resources previously thought unrecoverable and quite literally changed the American landscape.
The financial sting from Hurricane Sandy lingers, but it's encouraging to see businesses and policymakers embracing measures to protect against extreme weather.
Across maps of the arid West, expensive water pipelines are being plotted to meet the region's profound need for water. But what if there's not enough demand for water to pay for these projects?
I’ve seen what America’s oil boom looks like from space, and it’s not a pretty picture.
“Rebuild smarter.” That’s the constant refrain in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
While the debate rages in Washington over the fiscal cliff, a greater threat lies ahead. You could call it the climate cliff, the point of no return where our use of fossil fuels triggers catastrophic climate change.
There’s a new majority in the Fortune 100, and it favors a clean energy future. That’s the key finding of Power Forward: Why the World’s Largest Companies are Investing in Renewable Energy, a new report released by Ceres, Calvert Investments and World Wildlife Fund.
The fallout from Hurricane Sandy will be with us for years, and it will extend far beyond the devastation in New York City, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast.
The fallout from Hurricane Sandy will be with us for years, and it will extend far beyond the devastation in New York City, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast.
In the lead-up to Tuesday’s election, all eyes are on the candidates at the top of the ticket. But if you care about energy policy, your focus should be local.
It’s déjà vu all over again: a huge chunk of the nation is reeling from extreme weather – in this case, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy.
West Texas is on the front lines of a changing climate, and scarce water is the most obvious symptom. Everyone - ranchers, farmers, water engineers - is talking about it.
The world’s largest reinsurer has examined the recent rise in the number and severity of natural disasters worldwide, and finds the trend bears the unmistakable fingerprints of climate change.
Freedom House—an independent watchdog organization dedicated to expanding freedom around the world—recently held its annual awards event to honor exceptional individuals and organizations that are supporting and accelerating the cause of freedom and democracy.
Policymakers and insurers must act now to prepare for rising sea levels caused by climate change.
With the regulatory, reputational, legal and operational risks associated with sustainability issues, companies must understand how every one of their suppliers is performing on key environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics.
The U.S. insurance industry continues to be “surprised” by extreme weather losses. But the truth is that weather extremes are no longer surprising.
Automakers and suppliers recognize that better fuel economy equals better sales, better profits and more jobs.
Think Progress: As Coal Sinks, Renewables Soar: Emissions Report Shows Start Of Clean Energy Transition
For the electric power industry, the signs of change are in the air. Power plants are emitting less pollution than in prior years, and renewable power is a bigger part of the energy mix than ever before.
Water bills make up a tiny fraction of operating costs even for companies that use vast amounts of the stuff, and ample supplies have traditionally been taken for granted. But, in many areas of the United States and around the world, fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce, polluted and contested.
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, several reports have found that many oil and gas companies—not just BP—were poorly managing the risks of offshore drilling. Shell is moving forward with at least two Arctic wells this year, at a time when confidence in the oil and gas industry’s risk management practices is remarkably low.
The oil industry hasn’t responded with sufficient reforms or adequate disclosure to prevent another Macondo. Ten of the world’s largest oil and gas companies failed to adequately disclose the risks in their deepwater drilling activities in filings submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Many companies don’t fully disclose a key material risk hovering over their future performance: climate change. Without robust corporate disclosure, investment managers can’t truly know how risky their investments are.
Automakers, and especially Detroit’s Big Three, will see greater sales and profits from stronger federal fuel economy standards. That’s what a recent report by Citi Investment Research in collaboration with Ceres found.
Studies suggest that the world may be facing a global water shortfall of 40% by 2030 and this is something that governments and industry must face together.
Pensions & Investments: The blindness of short-term thinking 'Quarterly capitalism' desperately needs tempering with long-term guidance
Quarterly capitalism — a system that drives far too many CEOs, directors, investors and analysts to focus on short-term performance and return on investment — is on a collision course with reality.
As thousands of diplomats, world leaders, corporations, institutional investors, NGOs and social and environmental activists gather in Rio for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, corporate sustainability disclosure has risen to the top of the global agenda.
In 2011, extreme weather caused more than $148 billion in economic losses, and $55 billion in insured losses globally. Ceres, Oxfam America and Calvert Investments released a new guide to prepare businesses and investors for facing and disclosing climate-related risks.
Companies must shift from mere “supply chain management” to corporate supply chain improvements. But the data show there is still a long way to go.
Michigan’s DTE Energy is one of the nation’s top 25 largest electricity producers. It’s also one of the nation’s most polluting power companies. With 75 percent of its power coming from coal-fired plants, DTE faces a significant challenge from recently finalized EPA air emissions regulations.
Major US companies are taking the lead on sustainability as policy makers in Washington fail to act on green issues.
There are times when business as usual becomes a risk in itself. America’s electric utilities are approaching just such a moment. A new report from Ceres analyzes the impacts investment decisions will have on utilizes and their stakeholders.
The new documentary “Last Call at the Oasis” does far more than recount the alarming woes of our country’s most water-stressed regions; it’s a beautifully produced, detailed picture of an immense global crisis bearing down on us as we speak – and thankfully a roadmap of sorts to what we can do about it.
As the world population soars beyond seven billion, human beings are putting unprecedented demands on natural resources and generating ever-higher levels of greenhouse gases. Can our global economy, and the environment on which it depends, survive these stresses?
Part of Rio+20 will be the Corporate Sustainability Forum, a global effort to engage the private sector on building a sustainable economy for a sustainable planet. This aligns perfectly with Ceres’ mission – and Ceres will be in Rio pushing for accelerated action and results.
Given the economic, energy and climate change challenges we face, you'd thick it wouldn't be necessary to write a column illustrating how it makes no sense to "flare" --literally burn up-- $110 million worth of perfectly good natural gas each year without even using it to power a single light bulb.
When eBay, the world’s largest online marketplace, built its first-ever data center in South Jordan, Utah, it wanted to not only design and build the site to LEED Gold standards, it wanted to use clean energy to power much of the sprawling facility. This wasn’t simply part of eBay’s company-wide commitment to sustainable operations, it was a bottom-line business decision.
When Prudential Capital Group provided $121 million in financing for an Arizona solar power project earlier this year, and General Electric hit the $1.4 billion mark in solar energy projects it has invested in cumulatively, they weren’t speculating in risky, early-stage technology ventures. They were investing in core infrastructure projects with high gross margins and revenues fixed for 20 to 25 years.
Across the West, proposed high-stakes projects to capture water resources are generating well-deserved controversy because every one of them ignores cheaper, more sensible alternatives that are more sustainable in the long term.
On Capitol Hill yesterday, major re-insurers drew a grim picture of increasing floods, droughts, severe storms and other weather disasters. Invited by a group of senators advocating responsible action, the insurance leaders called for our country that has long led the world in producing greenhouse gases to take the lead in tackling climate change.
Quarterly capitalism, a system that drives far too many CEOs, directors, investors, and analysts to focus on short-term performance and return on investment, is on a collision course with reality.
At any moment Congress will decide whether to extend the production tax credit (PTC), which gives wind power producers a 2.2 cent tax credit for every kilowatt hour of power they produce. Among those urging extension are some of America’s biggest brands and largest purchasers of wind and other renewably sourced energy.
Much of Nevada’s livelihood comes from gambling, but some things are too precious and too costly to gamble on. Unfortunately, gambling is exactly what the state’s largest provider of that most precious desert resource – water – is doing. The stakes are high for residents and businesses.
Companies often point to investors as a reason why they’re not doing more on sustainability. “We’d like to do more…but mainstream investors just don’t care about it,” is the common refrain according to a survey by Accenture on CEO attitudes. That’s starting to change.
The economic slump still with us after several punishing years is largely rooted in living beyond our means -- too much spending and not enough money in the bank to cover people's expectations for the future. Tackling this disconnect is a well-worn battle cry by now in the financial markets. But it is also taking root in a far more precious and increasingly-scarce resource: fresh water. If investors and companies do not plan for this already unfolding global threat, they are as vulnerable as overextended banks were when subprime mortgages and housing markets collapsed.
Anyone who thinks the business world doesn't believe in acting on climate change should check out what's happening at the United Nations today. Some 450 global investors who control tens of trillion in assets are gathering for the Investor Summit on Climate Risk and Energy Solutions.
In November the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report examining the link between climate change and extreme weather events. Its finding: Climate change is indeed responsible for the increased frequency of pronounced heat waves, droughts, and heavy precipitation.
The word on the street is the recession is behind us, but times are still tough. The economy is stagnant and businesses of all sizes are still trying to weather the economic storm that forced many to close their doors and left countless workers unemployed. For these reasons, every other word out of politicians’ mouths is “jobs,” and how we can protect them and create more.
The Obama administration’s resistance to a new binding global agreement on climate change is not only disappointing; it reeks of political calculus.
The EPA is scheduled to release its Mercury and Air Toxics (a.k.a., Utility MACT) Rule on December 16. The rule will establish, for the first time, limits on mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants. Although power plant operators would not be required to comply with the Utility MACT rule until 2015 or 2016, members of Congress and some within the electric industry have been suggesting that EPA push back the compliance schedule even further. AEP, for example, has suggested that it may need until 2020 to comply.
Forbes: IPCC Report Confirms What Businesses Already Know - Extreme Weather & Climate Change Has Economic Impacts
The brouhaha over a newly released batch of climate scientists’ hacked emails should be ignored. It is nothing more than a bald attempt to derail international climate talks and distract from the increasingly rock solid research confirming that climate change is real and that more extreme weather is on the way unless we dramatically reduce carbon pollution.
Ceres President Mindy Lubber blogs about a report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week that reaffirms the link between a changing climate and a rise in extreme weather — and how businesses are already dealing with the impacts of extreme weather.
What a year for cruel weather. Devastating tornadoes, heat waves, wildfires, and record-breaking floods have forced millions of Americans to experience the kind of weather-related upheavals that hurricane-hardened Floridians have long been used to. Severe weather has already caused $55 billion in economic losses in the U.S. in 2011 — and we still have a couple months to go.
The insurance/climate change nexus is the focus of a reception Ceres is hosting in Miami at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference. This post, done with Energi CEO Brian McCarthy, explores Florida’s unique vulnerability to climate change and the key role insurers and others businesses have in tackling this challenge.
For most investors, a detailed bottom-up assessment of water risk across hundreds of companies is likely to be impossible. Enter a new tool to assess corporate responses to water risk and opportunity. Ceres' Brooke Barton and Irbaris' David Hampton explain.
It’s illogical – and quite myopic – that many of the nation’s largest institutional investors refer to shareholder-sponsored resolutions addressing material topics such as climate change, resource constraints and environmental stewardship as “special interest,” “non-routine” or involving “special circumstances.”
Recently, the jam and syrup mogul J.M. Smuckers heard resoundingly from its stockholders on an uncommon topic: climate change and coffee prices.
A growing number of companies are hiring sustainability officers to tackle challenges from waste reduction and product stewardship to green innovation. Sustainability can seem, well, squishy, to a profession that thrives on financial numbers and hard data. But that’s starting to change.
It’s the cup we cherish for our morning ritual: the lowly-but-ubiquitous disposable coffee cup. Yet this same cup’s environmental footprint...is inspiring a consumer backlash that’s grabbing boardroom attention for its potential hit to brand and customer loyalty.
President Obama unveiled his jobs proposal last night and among many strong points, he rebuffed the naysayers who disparage the key role that clean technology jobs have in America’s revival.
A bipartisan bill to help both our economy and environment is emerging in Congress — in these days of hyper-gridlock, the effort deserves our full support. The bill restores a popular financing program, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), to improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses across the country.
CalPERS has long been an innovator in the ESG space, but early this year it decided to scale those efforts by committing to across-the-board ESG integration. Last week in Sacramento, board members got a two-hour preview of what this mammoth undertaking will likely entail.
Stakeholder engagement is a critical process that helps companies build credibility, improve performance and get out ahead in addressing emerging environmental, social and governance issues. In this blog post, Ceres offers advice for companies looking to make the most of their engagements.
By setting an average standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 for passenger vehicles, the Obama administration has done right by America’s economy. Higher gas mileage and greenhouse gas (GHG) standards will spur innovation, create jobs and save drivers money at the pump.
Most of us won’t put up with decades-old technology. Yet when it comes to our electricity, we’re stuck with last century’s dirty and inefficient power plants—even though cleaner and newer technologies are available. It’s time for our electric power industry to embrace the 21st century with modern, cleaner power generation.
With all eyes riveted on the debt talks and efforts to avert an economy-busting government default, little attention is being paid to another debt that is similarly ballooning out of control and threatening to spur its own economic chaos. The carbon debt.
The Lone Star state just joined Colorado, Arkansas and Pennsylvania in requiring oil and gas companies to come clean on the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the controversial natural gas drilling practice that’s sweeping the country and raising myriad environmental problems.
Growing pressure on our most precious resource – clean, potable water – is creating a new set of challenges that will quite literally impact things basic to everyday life, such as eating, drinking and turning on the lights.
This spring, California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) is working jointly with federal officials on one of this year’s biggest energy and environmental decisions – stronger nationwide fuel economy standards.
From Wall Street to business associations, recognition is growing that the long-term viability of business depends on how quickly we develop and support solutions that use fewer resources and cleaner energy. That’s what sustainable capitalism is all about: generating financial return in a long-term and responsible manner.
In surveys we conducted over the last year, Americans express a clear preference for much higher fuel economy standards. Just last month, for Ceres, we explored attitudes in the heart of the industrial Midwest and the headquarters of America’s auto industry — Ohio and Michigan — where we found overwhelming support for at least a 60 miles per gallon standard.
Businesses can't take on complex environmental and social issues without input from the full spectrum of stakeholders ranging from NGOs and community groups to their suppliers, employees and investors.
In addition to the economic crisis, businesses operating in our global economy face colossal environmental and social challenges – climate change, energy and water constraints, population pressures, rising consumer expectations and endemic poverty, to name just a few.
Canada's stock exchanges list some of the most energy-intensive companies in the world, including hundreds of miners, like Barrick Gold and Teck Resources. The Toronto Stock Exchanges alone have handled more than 80% of worldwide mining equity transactions over the past five years.
In Australia, epic floods and drought have caused billions of dollars in economic losses and helped send food, coal and other global commodity prices through the roof. In China, melting glaciers have contributed to a drop in water supplies comparable to the entire flow of the Mississippi River. In the western U.S., warmer temperatures and the spread of destructive insect pests have ravaged millions of acres of valuable forest; Colorado alone lost 100,000 spruce trees a day last year from spruce tree infestation. Scientists have been warning for years that the frequency of these extreme weather events will only increase as we continue to emit more carbon pollution into the atmosphere.
If there’s one thing Americans agree on in these divided times, it’s the urgent need to move toward cleaner energy. Polls as recently as November show a majority of Americans favoring comprehensive energy reform that limits pollution, develops domestic sources and stimulates renewable power.
Even though comprehensive reform for clean energy is not likely to happen in the year ahead, there are still strong paths toward a cleaner, more sustainable economy, according to Ceres' President Mindy Lubber. That's because smart entrepreneurs are taking the lead.
Ceres' President Mindy Lubber blogs about what her team is learning at COP-16 in Cancun, such as that exciting wind projects are popping up all across the globe - except in America. For the first time in history, wind energy installations in developing countries this year will outpace those in industrialized countries.
Anne Kelly, co-director of policy at Ceres, blogs from COP-16 in Cancun about how companies are working together to tackle supply chain climate problems, despite the fact that climate action is stalled in Cancun and Congress.
Ceres' President Mindy Lubber blogs about the enormous worldwide business innovation that is taking place to build a clean sustainable economy - and how it's only a matter of time before it translates into huge financial rewards and a new business paradigm.
Ceres' President Mindy Lubber blogs about how the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are considering new mileage standards, and how standards for heavy-duty trucks should - and could - be 9 mpg.
Many consumers don't know that food producers, through their heavy use of palm oil, are a major driver of rainforest deforestation in Southeast Asia. Walmart and General Mills recently committed to changing that practice by "sourcing palm oil in a socially and environmentally responsible manner."
Jared Diamond, author of the acclaimed book, "Collapse," is the prophet of sinking societies. So what is Diamond's take on threats facing society today - and what lessons are there for 250 hardheaded investors at Deutsche Bank, who gathered Monday in New York to hear Diamond and other experts discuss climate change and other sustainability challenges.
Federal and state officials working jointly on new national mileage standards for cars and trucks can do America’s businesses a big favor by boosting those standards sharply.
Beyond the immense suffering within Pakistan's borders, the flooding is also triggering ripples for America's economic interests, from higher cotton and rice prices to national security costs in the fight against terrorism.
Now that the climate bill is in hibernation, it would be easy to despair that the US power sector will resume its tradition of burning high-polluting coal to sell increasing amounts of electricity.
Even in hyper-partisan modern Washington one would have thought that, in the end, the Senate would have more plain sense than to turn its back on comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year. But that's exactly what it did last week.
The World Cup. The BP Oil Spill. Both are reverberating around the world. But in one, you have a company who responded poorly to risk. In the other, you have one meeting it head on -- a soccer header if you will. What exactly do the World Cup and the BP oil spill have in common?
Outdoor pursuits will be among the first activities widely altered by climate change, and many of the $750 billion outdoor industry's largest companies are getting vocal about it.
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has already had devastating environmental consequences, but let's leave that aside for a moment and ask -- how should oil company investors be thinking about risky production projects?
Mindy Lubber of Ceres blogs about addressing sustainability issues, innovative compensation schemes and the demand for new business models in the 21st Century Corporation.
Mindy Lubber of Ceres provides a guest view on the weather events around the SouthCoast and New England, touching on how we need a new path after the economic shocks of recent years for our families, our country and our planet.
The world can no longer afford business as usual. Our global economy faces unprecedented challenges, whether from climate change, ever-increasing food and water shortages, surging populations, or myopic financial markets obsessed with short-term gains and growth at all costs.
Mindy Lubber of Ceres blogs about the importance of sustainability in the 21st century business world as a strategy of success.
Mindy Lubber of Ceres blogs about the ‘Race for American Jobs’ event held last week in Denver, Colorado
Mindy Lubber of Ceres blogs about how banks and financial institutions can refurbish their tarnished reputations by innovating new financial products that actually help average Americans.
It's all about the money these last days in the Danish capital and one key question is being asked: How on earth do you build and finance a robust and credible global carbon market? On buses, in hallways, in long lines outside the Bella Center, participants are all talking about the explosion in financing and carbon trading that is needed to dramatically reduce the pollution causing climate change.
Mindy Lubber of Ceres blogs about the key question being asked in the Danish capital: How on earth do you build and finance a robust and credible global carbon market?
Mindy Lubber of Ceres blogs about the benefits of a car insurance based on the miles you drive. Pay-As-You-Drive (PAYD) was a hot topic at the National Association of Insurance Commissioner's Climate Risk Summit in San Francisco last week.
Mindy Lubber of Ceres blogs about why U.S. businesses want strong climate action in Copenhagen.
As the United Nations conference on climate change opened in Copenhagen on Monday, Dec. 7, representatives of 192 nations came together in the hopes of negotiating a pact to reduce emissions. It’s a colossal task, and Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) members are stepping up to help.
Mindy Lubber of Ceres answers the question, 'What do you think the impact will be of US President Barack Obama’s decision to attend the summit at the end of the conference rather than the early stages?'
A delegation of more than 150 businesses supporting the bill, which is sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., arrived in Washington yesterday and will flood senators' offices today to urge movement on climate change legislation.
Executives from the Dow Chemical Co., Energy Corp., Nike Inc. and more than 140 other companies and venture capital firms will convene in Washington this week to lobby Senate lawmakers to pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill quickly.
Cleveland's office workers could contribute to reductions in global warming pollution equivalent to taking 35,000 cars off the roads -- permanently.
Ceres president Mindy Lubber blogs about the world's first Carbon Counter unveiled in NYC today and why honest accounting of environmental costs of doing business are crucial to solving the climate crisis.
As climate change business impacts take hold, a growing number of investors are boosting their attention to the risks and opportunities from global warming that are embedded in their portfolios
Rather than join forward-thinking business leaders in meeting our energy and climate challenges, special interests fall back on their old refrain that tougher regulations will hurt business and thus the country.
Tom Benson, owner of the World's Largest Laundromat in Berwyn, Illinois, is tired of listening to conservative industry groups' bluster that climate change legislation is bad for business. That's because clean energy saved his.
It wasn't so long ago that U.S. corporate reports on environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks were as rare as penguins in the desert. Not anymore. Last week, American Electric Power published a sustainability report detailing its environmental and social performance, including laudable goals to double renewable energy sources and reduce contractor injuries by 10 percent. Coca-Cola Co.'s recent 10-K filing outlined water scarcity risks and how those risks will likely be exacerbated by climate change. National Grid is now disclosing publicly how it is linking executive pay to greenhouse gas reduction goals.
With global temperatures increasing, scientists have told us to expect water scarcity problems like those California and China are now experiencing to increase and become even more severe. The consequences for an already reeling global economy will be profound. Numerous industry sectors should expect decreased water allotments, shifts towards full-cost water pricing and ever-more stringent water quality regulations.
A green stimulus bill that spurs innovation in energy efficiency, renewable energy and achieving a smart grid will help America get its swagger back. Consider energy efficiency, the lowest-hanging fruit for improving company bottom lines and slashing global warming pollution.
Why would a new Ceres report give low scores to Whole Foods, one of the nation's largest purchasers of renewable energy, for the way it is responding to the challenge of climate change? Precisely for the word that Whole Foods uses to describe itself: "whole." Many of the company's actions on climate change are laudable, but it still lacks a holistic strategy for dealing with this colossal challenge that will ripple across all industry sectors.
Would it surprise you to learn that Starbucks is a leading advocate for action on climate change? "The way we see it," says Ben Packard, Starbucks VP of Global Sustainability, "addressing climate change will help companies like ours reduce operating costs and mitigate future economic instability. Starbucks has joined with other companies to form a coalition that calls itself BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) and it has a clear message for next year's Congress--move quickly on climate change to kick-start a transition to a clean energy economy.
The short-term blowback from the global financial panic has been pretty logical: A flight to value and safety and reallocation of assets to deal with longer-term risks of the new economy. So what does this mean for cleantech investing?
If we have any doubt about the prevalence - and cost - of "short-termism" in global capital markets, the current economic meltdown is an obvious reminder. But, beyond the $700 billion bailout and other financial band-aids to stop the bleeding, the bigger debate is how to fix the regulatory and corporate governance systems to avoid future calamities -- whether financial or environmental.
The fiscal crisis on Wall Street is a painful lesson in how entire industries can delude themselves into ignoring the most fundamental issues -- in this case, the hidden risks from easy sub-prime mortgages. It also reveals the vast pitfalls of an economic system obsessed with short-term gains and growth at all costs while ignoring essentials such as building long-term shareholder value and protecting the future of the planet. As we confront global climate change -- perhaps the biggest challenge mankind has ever faced -- business and government leaders have an opportunity to learn from the ongoing Wall Street debacle and get it right.
We all know the saying: adversity begets opportunity. Today, the insurance industry is heeding that idea and discovering that hurricanes, among other climate adversities, can create innovation -- and revenue.
The concept of open work is a relatively new one for me. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be sending email to my staff during half-time at my daughter's soccer game, videoconferencing via the internet with a colleague in London from our office in Boston, and writing a blog post on the benefits of working remotely from my couch at home, I would have told you that you were crazy. And it makes me wonder--are we really maximizing the impact of open work as a strategy to combat rising energy use, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and the greater climate change crisis?
The Wall Street Journal may not like T. Boone Pickens' clean energy plan, but it has a lot of merit. What Pickens sees -- and the WSJ ignores -- is that our oil-driven global economy is stretched to the limit and is likely not sustainable. A telling indicator is an enormous oil-extraction project in Alberta, Canada -- an enormous energy-intensive, financially questionable undertaking that oil companies are now treating as the next great oil bonanza.
Warning to U.S. companies: Just because national lawmakers are dawdling on global warming, don't think your business can dawdle, too. While U.S. policymakers are running in place on climate change, global investors are moving quickly to make money from its far-reaching risks and opportunities.
Ceres president Mindy Lubber blogs on the growing importance of stakeholders in corporate sustainability.