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Archive for the ‘Environmental Footprint’ Category

Businesses ‘profit from investing in nature’

Posted Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Businesses can and should take a key role in stemming biodiversity loss around the world, a report concludes.

BBC.co.uk, 13th July 2010

The latest report from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project argues that many sectors have a stake in protecting nature.

A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) finds that in some nations, more than half of CEOs see nature loss as a challenge to business growth.

The UN-backed Teeb project presents its latest results in London on Tuesday.

The first Global Business of Biodiversity symposium, held at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands, will hear that about half of European and US consumers say they would stop buying products from companies that disregard biodiversity concerns.

“Better accounting of business impacts on biodiversity, both positive and negative, is essential to spur change in business investment and operations,” said Joshua Bishop, chief economist of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and co-ordinator of the Teeb for Business report.

“Smart business leaders realise that integrating biodiversity and ecosystem services in their value chains can generate substantial cost savings and new revenues, as well as improved business reputation and license to operate.”

Mining for positives
 
Among the “smart companies” to be discussed at the symposium is Rio Tinto, a mining conglomerate whose reputation (like others in the field) has been criticised on environmental and human rights grounds.

In 2004, the company adopted a “Net Positive Impact” (NPI) commitment on biodiversity.

This sees it working with environment organisations to protect important areas from direct mining impacts and putting funds into conservation to “offset” damage caused.

Another is the agribusiness giant Syngenta, which recently launched Operation Pollinator, a scheme to restore important bee habitat.

The scheme is seen as a potential contribution to curbing the ongoing bee decline in Europe and North America.

One recent study put the global value of insect pollinators at $189bn per year – a classical example of the kind of “ecosystem service” that nature provides for free, and that humans would have to pay to replace if the natural system broke down.

Items in the credit column including protection from storms, habitat for young fish, and carbon storage.

Teeb has calculated the annual value of forest loss around the world at $2-5 trillion.

Plants and machinery
 
Teeb, and the UN Environment Programme to which it is affiliated, argue that this kind of analysis makes nature protection a good investment for businesses.

Consumer opinion could be another factor.

A recent Ipsos survey found that in countries possessing high levels of biodiversity, awareness of biodiversity decline was correspondingly high, rising to 90% in Brazil.

Among business leaders, the PwC survey found that more than half of CEOs in Latin America see declines in biodiversity as a challenge to growth.

But the figure drops to 20% in Western Europe, and just 15% in the UK.

And only two of the world’s largest 100 companies see biodiversity and ecosystem loss as a strategic issue.

“Businesses need to start thinking about ecosystems as an extension of their asset base, part of their plant and machinery, and appreciating the value they deliver,” said Jon Williams, PwC‘s partner for sustainability and climate change.

Teeb’s leader, Deutsche Bank economist Pavan Sukhdev, believes companies will find it easier to invest in biodiversity protection once a mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (Redd) becomes established through the UN climate convention.

Many countries favour a variant called Redd-Plus where issues such as biodiversity and forest peoples’ rights would be protected.

“We can move to a stage where big companies and countries are able to say ‘we’re meeting 20% of our emissions targets’ or whatever it might be through investing in green carbon,” he told BBC News.

“Then we can look at other issues, such as the forest’s water storage function for local people, for example.

“So it won’t be a market in the classical sense but it will be a mechanism, and companies investing would be able to see whether their investments bring about things such as an improvement in water availability or an increase in the tiger population or whatever it might be.”

Teeb will produce its final report for October’s meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan, which will see governments examining the reasons why they have failed to live up to their 2002 pledge to curb nature loss by 2010.


Oil Spill Live Feed 2010 and Cleanup Of Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill

Posted Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

 

CNN, May 25th, 2010

Oil Spill Live Feed 2010 and Cleanup Of Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill.  The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the largest – if not the largest –  environmental disaster in the world. Many have criticized BP’s cleanup efforts, especially the botched containment dome that froze before reaching the bottom of the ocean.

In addition, conservation of precious wildlife could become impossible, as the oil slick takes over delicate areas in the Louisiana wetlands or other places.  There are large numbers of environmental agencies and volunteers down by the spill trying to clean up the effects and trying to help save the lives of various marine life and birds.

The oil spill live feed 2010 serves a purpose – and that purpose is to  allow the public to view the oil spill cleanup efforts from their computers.  It’s one thing to say that you are working on a cleanup, but it’s a whole other to actually view the process in progress.

If you wish to view the oil spill live feed,.  This will take you to BP’s site, where the oil spill live feed will show you the progress as it is made, firsthand.

http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/globalbp_uk_english/homepage/STAGING/local_assets/bp_homepage/html/rov_stream.html


Creating Eco-Friendly Operations

Posted Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Entrepreneurs are turning their companies green, using a range of approaches from investing in alternative energy to banning plastic forks in the pantry

Businessweek, August 7th 2009

Entrepreneurs, already at the forefront of the environmental revolution with the products they sell, also are proving to be leaders of a less visible but equally powerful trend: the transformation of their companies into lean, green operations. Some say concern for the environment is their inspiration to go green; others are looking to cut costs or trim waste. Regardless of motivation, there are “countless thousands of small businesses out there greening,” says Byron Kennard, founder and executive director of the Washington (D.C.)-based nonprofit Center for Small Business & the Environment. “It’s a technological and cultural revolution.” According to an April survey by the National Small Business Assn., 38% of small companies surveyed have invested in energy efficiency programs in the past 18 months. Some 13% had invested in alternative energy sources, 6% had purchased or leased hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles in the past 18 months, and 18% had given employees incentives to cut back on driving.

Together, these changes have the potential to make a sizable impact. Small companies account for half the country’s industrial and commercial energy use, according to Energy & Security Group, a consulting firm based in Reston, Va. Because energy-efficient improvements typically reduce consumption by 30%, entrepreneurs have the potential to reduce their collective CO2 emissions by 182.2 million tons annually—the equivalent of 36 coal-fired power plants—and to lop $30 billion off the nation’s energy bill.

Such gains don’t come easily. It takes a lot of work—and sometimes outside consultants—to figure out how best to reduce the environmental impact of a business. And while some green initiatives save money, tight credit markets can make it difficult to finance green investments. Some 52% of companies surveyed by the NSBA cited weak cash flow as the main obstacle to making improvements in energy efficiency.


Electric cars save cash for city drivers

Posted Friday, October 30th, 2009

 They may miss out on revving their engines at the lights, but urban drivers of electric cars can cut their emissions by two thirds and save up to £3,000 a year. Sound like a fair compromise?

BBC.co.uk, April 2008

Electric cars produce no exhaust fumes, minimal pollution and a third of the CO2 emissions of petrol engines. On top of that they’re tax free, immune to congestion charges, and a full ‘tank’ of fuel costs no more than a pint of milk.

So what’s the snag? Currently, limited range and recharging opportunities, and a lack of driving pizzazz. But could the next generation of electric vehicles change all that?

How does it work? Electric cars use a battery and electric motor to power the vehicle and are charged via a standard mains socket in your home, or at an increasing number of free outdoor charging bays. The average electric car does 60 miles on a single charge with a top speed of 40mph – while higher performance sports cars can do 150 miles and 130mph. There are currently over 100 electricity pumps in the UK – the majority of which are in London. But 250 new points are expected to be added this year across Britain.

How will it make a difference? 1. An electric car run on conventional electricity from a coal-fired generator produces a third of the emissions of a conventional petrol car (64g of CO2 per km compared to 176g CO2 per km) and just over half the emissions of a diesel or hybrid car (104g CO2/km). 2. You can save thousands of pounds a year in running costs
3. If you’re thinking electric car plus green electricity tariff equals carbon neutral transport, you might need to recalculate. green energy

What’s stopping me?
“Max speed, 40mph?” Electric cars are currently best suited to city driving because the average speed of traffic in London, for example, is notoriously just 10mph: 2mph slower than an Edwardian horse-drawn carriage.

“I’ve heard they aren’t safe” Electric cars are classified as ‘quadricycles‘ by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, so are subject to less stringent safety tests than cars. But one report estimates they are three times less likely than petrol cars to be involved in accidents. Insurers certainly think so – electric cars qualify for the lowest insurance category, group one, because (reckons the AA) their likelihood of getting into dangerous situations is much lower than that of conventional, high-speed cars.

“Won’t the battery go flat as soon as I get out of my road?” Current models manage an average of about 60 miles on a single charge so we can make our average daily commute of 17 miles more than three times between recharges, but out-of-town journeys are of course trickier. Upgrading to more expensive lithium-ion batteries can increase range significantly.

“I’d love to help the planet, but I can’t afford such fancy new technology” Actually, electric cars range in price between £8,900 and £17,000 and, based on the UK average of 10,000 miles a year, you could save £800 a year on fuel, £300 in car tax, up to £2,000 from congestion charges and free parking in London, and get cheap insurance too. On the other hand, the current generation of electric vehicles are unlikely to rack up that sort of mileage due to their limited range.

Fuel and maintenance costs are also about a third of the typical petrol car: about 6.5p per mile as opposed to 20p. Even with the cost of replacement batteries – about £1,500 every three to four years – electric motoring still costs only about 11p per mile.

What’s the debate?
Electric vehicles are exhaust free but critics say that they simply shift the point at which the emissions and pollution is generated to the power station. This is true (in fact, electricity generation accounts for a third of the UK’s climate impact) but power stations are more efficient at generating energy than cars, so emission reductions still hold. You may be tempted to switch your electricity tariff to green energy to reduce your driving emissions to near zero – but think twice before making the jump.

New research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology in 2008 levels another, less serious, accusation at electric cars: they use more water than fossil fuelled cars. Vehicles running off electricity use about 17 times more water per mile than petrol vehicles because electricity production in power plants requires the withdrawal (and return) of surface water from nearby lakes and rivers. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that one million electric cars account for just 0.3% of the miles driven by light duty vehicles in the US.


Which oil company has the smallest environmental footprint?

Posted Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

New Greenopia report ranks oil companies according to environmental impact and effort.

Mother Nature Network, May 26 2009

Let’s face it, there are no environmentally friendly oil companies. It’s a contradiction in terms. Every major oil company in the world has a significant negative environmental impact — one that could only be eliminated by making a complete switch to renewable energy. But, green ratings and rankings site Greenopia.com has evaluated 10 oil giants to determine who’s causing the least damage and making the most effort to be greener.
 
Fossil fuels are pretty much at the top of any environmentalist’s black list,” said Doug Mazeffa, director of research at Greenopia. “But until alternative-fuel coalesces into large-scale market availability, cars are a vast and current fact of life and they are powered by refined crude oil.”
 
British Petroleum came in first as the company that’s doing the most to lessen its impact. Greenopia praises BP’s user-friendly, transparent sustainability reports, its efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and its portfolio of renewable energy investment. Greenopia called BP “the place to go if you want some of the more responsibly sourced oil in the U.S.”
 
Coming in dead last is Citgo, which has the least complete environmental reporting of any company evaluated. Greenopia says,

‘We couldn’t even track down the total greenhouse gas emissions, something that every other company reports front and center. And even though Citgo had an impressively low number of oil spills, they don’t even report the volume of oil spilled, so there is no way of being sure how big of an accomplishment this is. Likewise we don’t have a feel for the amount of water consumed or waste generated. Lastly, Citgo could benefit from other alternative fuels besides ethanol. Ethanol has questionable life cycle benefits and there are many other greener fuel types out there.’

Production efficiency, oil spill efficiency, sustainability reporting, pursuit of alternative fuels, stance on climate change and resource efficiency were among the criteria used to rank BP, Exxon, Chevron, Shell, Hess, Citgo, Valero, Conoco Phillips, Sunoco and Marathon. Data was collected from the companies’ sustainability and/or annual reports and was normalized against production and revenue to determine each companies’ efficiency relative to its competitors.


How Running an Eco-friendly Business can Help You Reap Eco-nomic Rewards

Posted Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

American Express.com, July 15th 2009

The phrase going green continues to battle the stigma that being eco-friendly equates to costly tactics and extreme overhauls. There’s no doubt that some ‘green‘ endeavors can be costly, but there are just as many ways to embrace an environmentally sustainable outlook that put the ‘eco’ in ‘economic’ and are as easy on the bottom line as they are on the earth. Going green in the business realm is actually a good eco-nomic strategy.  Here are some tips for greening your business that can save you some green:

Send your employees home… to work.

Arguably the number one tactic in making your business green is to send your employees home to work. Telecommuting will save everyone gas money and will help lessen air pollution. It will also save a bundle in the day to day overhead expenses of running an office. A big bonus is that you may hire people from all over the world and expand the horizons of your business from your laptop. But, if an office setting is a must for your line of work, read on…

Run a tight ship at the office.

Extend the life of office supplies. Printer cartridges can be refilled and reused for a lesser cost than buying new ones, printers may be set to print double-sided. Dont print unnecessary materials, instead, implement electronic filing systems so you may eliminate the need for paper trails. Turn off the lights and all electronics every night, and use power saving settings wherever possible. Instead of equipping every individual with a slew of personal office supplies, designate an area where all supplies are available to everyone.

Buy secondhand furniture and refurbished office equipment.

Cruise sites such as Craigslist to decorate your office and outfit your workspace with the essentials. A general rule of thumb is to spend less on tables and desks, while opting for high-quality chairs. You can find refurbished Macs online as well.

Don’t be so PC.

Bid adieu to IT support and invest in the Mac mini. They’re energy efficient, and recyclable, which is good for the planet, and they aren’t peppered with technical issues like PC’s, so you won’t need to hire or pay for IT support for you and your team.

Just say no to takeout, and yes to potlucks.

One day a week, encourage employees to bring in one dish for everyone to share and have lunch potluck style. This will eliminate Styrofoam and plastic waste, encourage bonding among staff, and will save everyone some cash. On the topic of food, offer reusable mugs next to the coffee maker as opposed to pricey, disposable cups.  These five tips will get you off to a great, green start at the office. As you start living the eco-lifestyle, more inspiration will surely strike and you’ll continue to save money.


U.S. Corporations Size Up Their Carbon Footprints

Posted Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Coca-Cola and others use ever more sophisticated tools to measure their environmental impact and meet emissions goals

Businessweek, June 1st 2009

Like many companies, Coca-Cola wants to cut its carbon footprint. The soft-drink maker has pledged to eliminate 2 million tons of CO2 emissions from its manufacturing operations by 2015. To do that, Coca-Cola has become adept at using spreadsheets and databases to measure how much carbon it produces and energy it consumes. It’s even able to track less tangible causes, such as greenhouse gases emitted by vending machines. But when it comes to tracking and managing the projects that will help it reduce carbon emissions and make better use of resources, Coca-Cola is having a harder time.

The company needed a more sophisticated set of carbon accounting and management tools, says Bryan Jacob, director of energy management and climate protection at Coca-Cola. “I’m looking for something to take us to the next level,” he says. “I’m going to either enhance what I’ve got or move to a different platform that’s much more robust.” To that end, the company is testing a product from software company Hara that goes beyond simply measuring carbon footprints. The Web-delivered tools, formally introduced June 1st, help companies manage efforts to actually reduce carbon and more efficiently use natural resources such as water, waste, and paper.

Amid growing pressure from investors, employees, and environmental watchdogs such as Greenpeace, the circle of companies making a concerted effort to go green is widening. But corporations are finding that even in cases where there’s a will to reduce emissions, it’s not easy to measure a company’s environmental impact, much less keep track of the various projects aimed at meeting aggressive carbon reduction targets.

The Carbon Disclosure Project

Demand for better carbon accounting comes not just from corporate brass, but also from investors, customers, consumers, and employees who want detailed information about a corporation’s environmental impact. Among the leaders of the charge is the Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit organization that has assembled the largest corporate greenhouse gas emissions database in the world. The group is backed by 475 institutional investors that manage $55 trillion in assets. Last year, 321 companies that make up 64% of the corporations listed in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index responded to a request for emissions information from the Carbon Disclosure Project, up from 235 in 2006.

To hand over data on emissions, a company must first gather it. Most still use fairly rudimentary homegrown methods. “About 90% of companies use spreadsheets,” says Baier. A December 2008 worldwide survey by research firm Gartner found that too many enterprises were in denial about the need for carbon management.

Of 575 companies surveyed by Gartner in the U.S. and 10 other countries, 18.8% had implemented carbon reporting and management systems and 64.7% had not. An astonishing 13.6% weren’t sure.

Intuit Tracks Its Carbon Footprint

They had better find out soon. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, direct emissions from Coca-Cola and 416 other large global companies account for about 5.8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While regulations today regarding greenhouse gases are limited in many cases to carbon-intensive industries such as power generation, Gartner and other analysts expect individual countries to pass climate-change bills that would eventually target less carbon-intensive organizations as well. In the U.S., a bill now wending its way through Congress proposes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a market-based mechanism known as cap and trade that would encourage moves toward low-emission technologies and practices.

Most companies that track greenhouse gas emissions use an accounting framework called the Greenhouse Gas Protocol from the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. That tool covers the accounting and reporting of the six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). The numbers are converted to a measurement called carbon dioxide emissions equivalents, a standard that allows comparison among different greenhouse gases.

Sony: The Carbon Its Consumers Use

Perhaps the most complex emissions to calculate, however, are those that occur outside a company’s boundary, but over which it has some control. These are referred to as Scope 3, a category that includes emissions associated with employee commutes, business travel, suppliers, and product use. The nature of this work involves estimation. When Intuit’s Shah calculated the emissions from employee commutes, for example, he got an Excel spreadsheet from HR that mapped the addresses for all 8,000 employees and calculated their commutes to Intuit offices—even accounting for vacation time and holidays. The company is trying to make its analysis more precise by taking into account such factors as work from home and Intuit-sponsored alternate transportation.

For some companies, the majority of emissions fall into this third, indirect category. More than 90% of Sony’s carbon footprint – an estimated 19.34 million tons for the 12 months through March 2008 – results from the electricity consumed when people use Sony products. “Sony has a measurable impact on global greenhouse gases,” says Mark Small, vice-president for corporate environment, safety, and health at Sony Electronics. He estimates that the company is responsible for “a little less than .01% of the total man-made greenhouse gas emissions.” That’s why Sony has made energy efficiency in its products a priority. In 2000, a 32-inch cathode-ray tube TV consumed 280 kilowatt hours a year. In 2008, a 32-inch LCD TV consumed about 86kwh. Still, Sony needs to take into account that consumers are now buying larger TVs. Since Sony can’t actually visit each consumer, it uses estimates to calculate greenhouse gases from product use.

Some companies are surprised by what they find when they look closely at the operations responsible for pollutants. Coca-Cola, for example, initially expected most emissions to come from its fleet of trucks or from its manufacturing operations. The company instead discovered that the lion’s share emanated from what it calls cold drink equipment – the coolers, vending machines, and fountain dispensers used to serve up frosty-cold soft drinks. This gear contains refrigerants and insulation with high global warming potential; it also consumes a lot of electricity. Combined, cold drink equipment accounts for about 15 million metric tons of emissions every year, compared with 3 million from Coke’s diesel-powered trucks or the roughly 5 million from manufacturing. Armed with that information, Coca-Cola is now striving to eliminate harmful chemical compounds from cold drink equipment. Says Jacob: “If we had never put pencil to paper and done the calculations, we might not have understood it ourselves – or believed it.”


 
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