Too May Eco-Labels ‘Overwhelming,’ Companies Say

Source: Environmentalleader.com Consumers and companies alike are becoming “confused” and “overwhelmed” by eco-labeling, according to a survey of more than 1,000 international companies including Hewlett-Packard, Nestlé, Canon, Sara Lee and E.On. The joint study by the International Institute for Management Development and the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne concludes that eco-labeling has nearly reached the saturation point with companies and consumers increasingly concerned about the practice’s over-proliferation and credibility. Germany’s Ministry of the Environment introduced the world’s first eco-label, the Blue Angel, in 1978. Now more than 400 are used across 25 industries in 250 countries. Only a minority of customers, called “dark green” in the report, are especially cognizant of the notion of sustainability. Their “light green” counterparts are unaware or uninterested, while “mid-green” consumers may think sustainability is important but they don’t want to take the time to find out why. Because of this, study authors say the idea that the average buyer will spend time sifting through eco-labels is unrealistic. In interviews, companies listed brand strengthening, addressing consumers’ sustainability demands and …

The true cost of food

Source: greenbiz.com Trucost analyzed three common food products: breakfast cereal, fruit juice and cheese. We examined the stages of production from farm and orchard to the supermarket shelf. The embedded carbon, water, waste and pollution were calculated for generic products in each category. (No brand has been harmed in the generation of these metrics!) Trucost then calculated the “natural capital” cost of each of these. For carbon we used the social cost. For water, a local issue, we correlated the volume of water required to produce the raw materials with local scarcity by gathering data on the location of production and pricing water accordingly. To view the full analysis, click on the image below. The percentages show each item’s share of the product’s total environmental impact. Our analysis indicates that, on average, the true cost of a block of cheese should be 18 percent higher than the retail price, breakfast cereal should be 16 percent more expensive and fruit juice 6 percent more. Water is the most significant natural capital dependency for all …

10 things I learned in my first 100 days

Source: Greenbiz After four years as VP and general manager of U.S. commercial printing paper business, in 2012 Teri Shanahan was appointed VP Sustainability at International Paper (IP), the world’s biggest paper and packaging company. Here are 10 things she learned in her first 100 days. 1. Deforestation is a serious, global problem. We buy most of our wood from tree farmers who maintain high standards and continuously replant to sustain their business. That’s the happy side of the picture. But globally, forests are shrinking and we need to act. 2. Pulp and paper making is not the prime cause of deforestation. Okay, I would say that – but it’s true. The main cause is the need to feed 7 billion humans! Clearing forests for agriculture is primarily responsible for the annual loss of about 13 million hectares of forest, according to the United Nations. And with 2 billion more people expected by 2050, forests will come under even more pressure. 3. The paper and packaging industry uses about 11 percent of …

Can Brands Be Too Big To Do Good?

Source: Fastcoexist In kindergarten we’re all taught to play fair. It’s the golden rule, the ethic of reciprocity: treat others as you would like to be treated. Yet when it comes to the business world, what becomes of this golden rule? The individual rule of “being good to one another” does not have an equivalent proverb when we consider larger human systems, especially in regards to the corporate world. Still, being viewed as “good” is golden. It’s a desirable and elusive status that triggers businesses to invest large amounts of marketing dollars. Yet nobody seems to have successfully branded themselves as a truly good multinational corporation. In which big business do you have 100% faith in long-term social and environmental sustainability commitments? I’ve been quick to sing the praises of smaller businesses that have built “good” into their brand architecture. But it is significantly easier for small to mid-size businesses to understand their social and environmental impacts. Monitoring down-the-line suppliers is, in theory, a more manageable task. The greater question is about …

How Coca-Cola, McDonald’s worked with nonprofits to get greener

Source: Greenbiz Businesses and nonprofits used to have a one-way relationship: Nonprofit asks for donation; business says yes or no. That relationship has evolved dramatically as the two sides found ways to develop mutually beneficial relationships, and — more recently — collaborative partnerships. In this model, the goal is to create shared value. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the environmental and sustainability arena, where conveying and exemplifying true green value has such a critical impact on the triple bottom line. Of course, no single nonprofit, business or group can do it alone. Solving problems requires the strengths, perspectives and talents that each type of organization brings to the table. When we developed our Impact Awards program, for example, our primary focus was to brainstorm with our corporate partners to create online collaborations resulting in compelling and beneficial experiences for their brands, their consumers and the participating nonprofits. True collaboration So what is true collaboration? Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy [TNC] – a founding EarthShare member charity – believes when we move past donating …

A New Point System Lets You Measure The Sustainability Impact Of Anything

Source: Fastcoexist There are any number of problems facing the world right now, and a limited amount of resources and time to handle them. Sometimes, you have to think about triage. But the scope of the problems can make that hard. What’s more important: creating clean energy or managing water scarcity. Those two issues are measured differently, making it hard for non-experts to compare them analytically. Energy Points is a new startup on a mission to quantify sustainability. Instead of using different ways of conceptualizing consumption (say, of water, electricity, waste, transportation and the like) the company smooths out diverse units and translates them into one common denominator: the amount of energy it takes to generate one gallon of gasoline. The result is that companies (and eventually individuals) can conduct one-to-one comparison of any sustainability project or resource consumption, regardless of the native unit of measure (kWh, gallons, BTUs, CO2 abated). All of these units of measurement are now expressed in energy per gallon, the same way miles per gallon represents …

In Brazil, prisoners’ pedal power shaves time off their sentence

Source: springwise Film lovers in the UK have already experienced screenings projected the environmentally friendly way with the pedal-powered Cycle-in Cinema. In Brazil, the Santa Rita do Sapucaí prison has taken a similar approach in its attempts to produce green energy – harnessing the pedal work of its inmates. According to reports, two exercise bikes have been placed in the courtyard of the penitentiary and are hooked up to batteries. Cyclists’ kinetic energy is converted into electricity which charges the battery and a device on the handlebars alerts the rider when it’s time stop. The fully charged batteries are then taken into the city and used to power street lamps – one day’s cycling can provide enough energy to run six light bulbs. On a mass scale, the country’s prisoners could be a source of alternative energy for illuminating a city’s worth of street lights. In order to incentivize use of the bikes, city judge José Henrique Mallmann is waiving a day off the sentence of prisoners for every 16 hours pedalling they …

Supermarkets’ Energy-Savings Potential Can Be Sustained ‘Up to 10 Years’

Source: Environmentalleader Supermarkets are able to continually improve their energy efficiency for much longer than is commonly believed, according to UK researchers. Dr. Rory Sullivan and Professor Andy Gouldson, who lead the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy project “Governance Beyond the State? Corporations and the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy,” found that the seven UK supermarkets that report on their environmental performance experienced energy efficiency improvements between 2.5 and 5.5 percent a year over the past three to five years. Additionally, these companies continue to achieve annual energy efficiency improvements between 2 to 3 percent for up to 10 years, the authors say. Writing for the Guardian, Sullivan and Gouldson say that these companies’ targets indicate that they will be able to sustain this level of energy efficiency for at least five to 10 more years. There is “no silver bullet” for delivering these results, the authors say. Instead, the energy efficiency improvements come from a range of activities directed at reducing energy use and GHG emissions. …

Creating Practical Consumer Value from Sustainability

Source: bcgperspectives Green products are in vogue. Consumers are increasingly interested in products that use resources more efficiently. But outside certain niches, consumers have resisted paying the high prices that these products usually require. In order to profitably connect with environmental concerns, companies in the home improvement sector are beginning to reorient green products around the direct material benefits to consumers. They emphasize savings more than green credentials. A Challenging Opportunity The housing bust of recent years further dampened what was already a mature home-improvement market. With household formation and home construction slowed, companies in affluent countries are eager for any area of potential growth.  On the face of it, sustainability offers a great deal of potential, but converting theory into commercial viability is difficult. Like companies in many other industries, home improvement companies have worked on improving the sustainability of their products. They’ve developed new lines and features and explored emerging technologies. But the results of these efforts have so far proved largely disappointing. The Boston Consulting Group’s annual survey …

Why the cloud is sustainability’s silver lining

Source: Greenbiz Cloud computing is getting a lot of buzz. The term describes data-processing operations that are outsourced to server farms, instead of being powered on-site. These range from websites and remotely hosted networks to digital storage space and individual documents. Software delivered over the web looks very similar to software operating on a personal computer, and is accessible from any computer in the world. Consequently, some IT sector analysts are predicting the death of the personal computer while others believe it will simply become another device to access the online world. Increasingly, the engine of the IT sector is composed of large-scale data servers that are driving the cloud-computing revolution forward. With regard to energy, cloud computing should result in lower costs for users and fewer greenhouse gas emissions by streamlining information-crunching into single facilities on speedy machines. Slashing Costs The cloud certainly seems to offer significant cost savings. A recent study found that if companies adopt cloud computing, they can reduce the energy consumption of their IT departments …

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