ICYMI: Apple's ho-hum environmental report, greener Easter goods, and more

In Case You Missed It

ICYMI: Apple's ho-hum environmental report, greener Easter goods, and more

ICYMI -- "In Case You Missed It" -- is a regular Friday feature recapping the news of the week.

Happy almost-April-Fools-Day, readers! The arrival of April means that the much-dreaded Earth Day Onslaught is nigh -- we're still trying to come to terms with how we'll come to terms with the flood of announcements next month, but in the meantime, there are plenty of interesting tidbits to sink your teeth into below (including, if you read to the end, horse meat!). Onwards!

Notable commitments and achievements

European Union's big emissions pledge: The E.U. this week announced a goal to cut its emissions by 40 percent over 1990 levels by 2030.

• Just in time for Easter, Hershey's released a road map of its progress toward achieving 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020, suggesting that it will be 10 percent of the way to achieving that goal this year, and halfway by 2016.

• Global shipping giant Maersk continues its sustainability work, with an announcement that it is purchasing the biggest ship in the world, which will reduce emissions per container shipped by 50 percent. The move comes after the company announced in January that it had achieved its 2020 emissions-reductions goals -- seven years early -- and has been testing biofuels for shipping voyages since 2011.

Carbon neutral America's Cup: In preparation for the boating event, taking place in San Francisco later this year, event organizers have created a detailed sustainability plan, including a goal to be a carbon neutral event, through a partnership with Vancouver-based Offsetters.

• Writing the The Guardian, Marc Gunther takes a look at how Disney, Microsoft and Shell are using internal carbon taxes to drive down emissions. (We highlighted Microsoft's efforts at our GreenBiz Forum last month.)

The quest for greener chemicals

If you don't follow chemical policy news, but want to get a close look at the seamy underbelly of U.S. chemical policy, there is no better place to start than the Chicago Tribune's Playing with Fire series on flame retardant chemicals, the health and environmental risks they pose, and the powerful interests working to keep them required by law in all sorts of products.

• The Tribune this week has a follow-up story on flame retardants, revealing that the California state legislature is pushing forward with a new safety rule that would ban flame retardants in furniture and baby products, and which could have nationwide implications.

• Speaking of flame retardants, the EPA announced that it is about to begin testing 20 flame retardants to attempt to understand the potential risks posed by the chemicals

• Speaking of the EPA, the agency is encouraging researchers at universities to develop innovative uses for Toxics Release Inventory data -- the treasure trove of information on chemical releases to the air, soil and water everywhere in the U.S. -- with its new TRI University Challenge. The deadline to propose projects is May 13, 2013.

Odds and sods

• oekom Research has released its 2013 Corporate Responsibility Review, listing the world's top-performing companies on sustainability in 20 sectors. The full list is in the graphic below, with Ricoh taking the highest overall rating -- a B+ -- and the Paper & Forest sector as a whole having the highest average sustainability performance rating, at 47.7 out of 100 possible points.

• Writing in The Nation, Madeline Ostrander takes a long look at how California's cap-and-trade program may not do anything to improve the environment for people living near industrial areas, in this case, the oil refineries of southern California.

• The Department of Energy this week launched a Clean Manufacturing Initiative, aimed at boosting U.S. manufacturing of clean energy products and improving energy efficiency at all manufacturing sites.

Apple unveiled its latest environmental report this week, a shiny, pretty, sleekly designed collection of information that, much like Apple products themselves, works well if you don't try to push it beyond what Apple wants it to do. For example: Apple will tell you its 2012 carbon footprint (30.9 million metric tons of CO2e), but it won't tell you what that footprint was in 2011, or 2010, or so on. (Thanks to the Wayback Machine, we know that Apple's footprint was 23.1 million MT CO2e in 2011, and 14.8 million MT CO2e in 2010 -- that means a more than 100 percent increase in the past two years!)

Sigh. One would just hope that the world's richest company could afford to do this right...

• Hey, but SAP this week released its first integrated financial and environmental report, which is a great step in the right direction. And guess what? It shows, very clearly, a five-year trend for a whole bunch of indicators, including CO2 emissions (way up over last year), energy use (holding pretty steady) and more.

• Last but not least, remember that whole horse-meat scandal that rocked England earlier this year? It turns out that maybe eating horse meat instead of cow meat is actually a much more environmentally friendly option. For now. Until someone comes up with a scheme to raises horses in CAFOs...

Easter bunny photo and grass photo via Shutterstock.