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How She Leads: Sara Greenstein, Underwriters Laboratories

Published October 21, 2014
How She Leads: Sara Greenstein, Underwriters Laboratories

How She Leads is a regular GreenBiz feature spotlighting the careers of women who have moved into influential roles in sustainable business.

Sara Greenstein jokes that her first university economics class had more people than the central Illinois farm town where she was raised. Now, she's a self-described global citizen.

As president of UL's supply chain operations and sustainability business units, and a member of the executive team, Greenstein shepherds the company's mission to "bring safe, sustainable and compliant products to the global marketplace." Among two of its biggest accomplishments: an ongoing quest to accelerate adoption of zero-waste strategies and a mission to support more transparency about what's in products consumed around the world.

Greenstein was instrumental in expanding its footprint in Japan, India and China; and more recently was behind the acquisitions of IDES and Innovadex, since combined into a massive materials information database. She landed at UL after several classic business process strategy assignments with the likes of Boston Consulting Group and Arthur Andersen Business Consulting. In her mind, it was a short-term gig.

"Thirteen years later, I am here and have had a lot of various roles," she told GreenBiz. "Through all of them, I've been able to have an impact on our mission and on our business, which I think is the primary thing that has kept me here."

I spoke with Greenstein about what shapes UL's philosophy, and why "sound science" is important for meaningful progress.

Heather Clancy: Give me a sense of UL's reach and where you believe that it has the most impact? 

Sara Greenstein: We have been active pioneers in terms of leadership standards, product certifications and testing methodologies, and sound science that has fed current environmental practices. As we move forward, we're taking that what I call science-backed, technology-enabled capability and embedding it in the supply chain — all the way back to the raw materials and every other link thereafter, to the end product — to help understand broader social impacts, environmental impacts and human health impacts. 

You can only do that when you've got a framework that includes consensus-based standards, that includes third-party verification of performance and efficacy against those standards, and the technology, connectivity and security that's required to link all those various strains in a very global and complex world. From a UL perspective, our mission — I'm sorry, our reach — will only continue to evolve from where we are today, both organically and inorganically. 

Clancy: How have the acquisitions of IDES and Innovadex expanded UL's services?

Greenstein: We are able to provide the technology across the supply chain so decision makers can force products that are healthy, safe [and] sustainable and either formulate (if it's a material, if it's a chemical or chemically formulated product) or design … a product to meet multiple requirements — compliance requirements, perhaps performance requirements, sustainability requirements, and/or individual brand requirements that are being asked of them. 

[Learn more about sustainable supply chains at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27-30.]

Where UL Prospector (the combined IDES and Innovadex platform) comes into play is as a public forum where hundreds of thousands of formulators come every day to get technical information they need when determining what materials to buy to formulate a product. Our supply chain software [offers] a very data-secure environment where suppliers provide very important information in a proprietary fashion that enables them to respond to any compliance requirements that are asked of them by any decision maker further down the supply chain

A retailer or a brand or a end-product manufacturer has requirements that they demand, whether it's because they have to comply with various regulations around the country or the globe, or because of their own internal policies and requirements. We have a connected, secure mechanism by which we feed that information up and down the chain. We layer our environmental and sustainability standards as filters onto that information. The end result is all about safe, healthy, sustainable products and processes to produce those products.  

Clancy: A moment ago, you referred to growth, organic and otherwise. So can we expect any additional acquisitions?

Greenstein: I think the answer is yes. We are at the beginning of a long journey, and to be honest, the strategy that we are deploying is one that is, I believe, going to continue to grow for decades. From my perspective, and this is something that we talk about pretty intensely here at UL Supply Chain, the whole notion of safe in the broadest sense — safe, secure, sustainable supply chains and the science of sustainability — are to the next century what electrical and fire safety were to the last. We are actively investing and charging hard to do what we can do to solve that safety challenge. It's our mission. 

Clancy: Recognizing that you have a pretty big purview, what would you say is your team's most important priority?

Greenstein: I think the most important priority for the next probably six to 12 months will be to drive consensus in the market amongst the diverse stakeholders around a common set of requirements, all of which improve the state of sustainability, if you will. To get everybody working from the same page, recognizing that continuous improvement can only happen once we've got a common set of criteria and standards from which to work. From that, true innovation and improvement can occur. In the absence of that, there are inefficiencies and therefore less productive work underway for everybody, for everybody along the supply chain. The sooner we can gain consensus with real science and experience around a common set of sustainability and regulatory compliance for major markets, the faster progress can be made. 

Clancy: You've spent a lot of time in Japan, India and China, so how has that impacted your perspective? 

Greenstein: I think one of the most enriching things about my journey here at UL has been that I've become a citizen of the globe, right? So I am as comfortable in the business environment in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, as I am in Germany and Italy and the United States. 

For me, it boils down to what we do here and the reason why we do it, which is to provide safe living and working environments for people around the world. This matters everywhere. At the end of the day, I lead from a place of "I care." I genuinely care about the people who work for me, who work with me, and who we are doing this work for. …

Traveling the world, engaging with clients and colleagues and governments around the world just continues to invigorate why this matters and why we have to have perseverance and succeed here. Because 75 years ago, in the United States, people worried about plugging electronics in. We don’t worry about that here anymore. But we do worry about known carcinogens that our children are absorbing that we are unknowingly causing. If you see a river in China that's totally black because of the chemicals that have leeched into it, or the air there is so thick you can hardly breathe, you absolutely worry.

Being a global citizen of business just reinforces how connected we are, how our basic human needs are all similar, and frankly, why we have a responsibility to address it. 

Clancy: You're going to have more accomplishments in the future, of course, but up to this time, what do you consider to be your most important accomplishment? 

Greenstein: To me, it's my husband and three children. I'll also give you the professional one, but I think for me, having someone who I adore and adores me back kind of helps balance everything. And having three healthy, happy children, I feel blessed and grateful every day for that.

Professionally, I think it's having the opportunity to shape such an impactful business and really have the impact that I think UL has had and is positioned to have, and simultaneously watch the people that work for me grow and develop beyond where I think they probably thought they could. That's what gives me the most satisfaction. 

Clancy: Who has been your most inspirational mentor? 

Greenstein: I'm going to offer the following: I think the most important person who helps me do what I do, the way I do it, is my husband. He serves as everything from sounding board to support to friend and husband. At times, when I am working out what to do or how to do what I know needs to be done, knowing that I have such a strong foundation gives me the extra little push to do what needs to be done. What we do takes courage. There are fewer people who are willing to be brutally honest than I would hope. He's a very steady presence in my life, and I think he has had a big impact in helping me get to where I am. 

Clancy: What advice would you give to someone aspiring to a career similar to yours?

Greenstein: I say first of all listen. I think listening is one of the most life-changing skills — listening to others and listening to yourself. Being able to listen, being willing to ask questions is critical in life and in business. 

And then I would say, be who you are. I've grown up in prominently male-type environments — both in the consulting world and then UL, the engineering firm. … I always encourage people to just be who they are and be less concerned about what they think they should be and be very honest about who they are. Know thyself. If someone is in alignment with who they are and is able to listen to others and themselves, they will succeed because they will be doing something for which they have passion, that they're capable of achieving, and that they enjoy. That is the recipe for success.

Also in The How She Leads Blog:

Ellen Weinreb checks the pulse of the CSO profession

Published October 21, 2014
Ellen Weinreb checks the pulse of the CSO profession

The notion of chief sustainability officers inside major corporations is still opaque to most people, even some inside companies that have them. But to those in the sustainability field, the CSO function represents an important touchpoint about the overall field of sustainability: how, and how much, it is being woven into the corporate fabric.

Three years ago, Ellen Weinreb, whose executive search firm, Weinreb Group, focuses on sustainability and corporate social responsibility jobs and careers, took a peek inside the job of the CSO with a report called CSO Back Story. She dubbed it “the first-ever data driven report of its kind concentrating on analyzing and encapsulating the essence” of the CSO role. Among the commonalities she found was that CSOs were “business veterans who are good at leading new initiatives, cross-functional teams, and understand how to translate external factors into internal opportunities.”

Now, she's updated that research. The latest report (download) “explores the evolution of the CSO role across industries,” again taking the pulse of the profession.

Among her latest findings: the CSO role “is now increasingly tasked with delivering collective benefit,” both internally and externally. “To achieve this, CSOs are enlisting support across departments and functions, and building strong governance structures. Today’s CSOs are orchestrating company-wide CSR efforts.” In other words, woven into the corporate fabric.

That is leading CSOs to stretch themselves a bit, delving into parts of the organization that may not be their traditional sweet spot. Said Weinreb, who writes the Talent Show column for GreenBiz on sustainability professionals: “With businesses increasingly embedding CSR across their organizations, a successful leader must demonstrate not only a solid understanding of and background in sustainability systems, accounting and related areas, but also an acute sense of how she can help create value — for her organization as well as social and environmental stakeholders.”

Weinreb found 36 chief sustainability officers within large U.S. corporations, up from 29 in 2011. She counted only those with that actual title; many others consider themselves to be their company’s “chief sustainability officer,” even though their titles don’t reflect that. Only five were hired as CSOs by their companies. The rest were promoted internally, in many cases as a capstone to a long career within their company.

The report covers five shifts that “showcase the ways in which the CSO role has matured, evolved or shown renewed emphasis over the past three years.” They include:

  1. Collective benefit: The role of the CSO has transitioned from a focus on the tactical implementation of environmental and social initiatives toward an emphasis on delivering benefit for stakeholders and shareholders simultaneously.
  2. Innovation: Thinking beyond incremental improvements, CSOs are spearheading innovation in order to meet the need for sustainably designed products and processes that meet radically different criteria.
  3. Stakeholder signaling: CSOs actively are engaged in signaling the company’s commitment to sustainability across multiple channels. Communication of the sustainability agenda to external stakeholders, such as customers and the media, as well as internal stakeholders, such as employees, is a critical responsibility of the CSO.
  4. Access: Regardless of its hierarchical position, the CSO role touches the business at all levels and works across organizational pillars. The CSO moves seamlessly from collaborating with employees across the business to influencing the company’s core vision and strategy.
  5. A team sport: The success of the CSO hinges upon the careful orchestration and engagement of multiple teams throughout the organization. By embedding sustainability into all corners of the business, the CSO empowers business leaders to own.

A woman’s place?

One of the notable findings was a large increase — 50 percent — in women CSOs over the past three years, from 28 percent in 2011 to 42 percent today. “I’m often struck by these photos of the leadership team where you see all men accept for the one woman — and she comes from Human Resources,” Weinreb told me recently. “There are some C-level functions that are seen as more feminine; human resources, for example. I wouldn’t want the CSO to take on a gender stereotype.”

We’re a ways from that happening. Women still represent a minority of CSO positions. And, at the risk of falling into a gender stereotype, there are traits in the CSO role for which women may be more naturally suited — among them, communications, bridge-building, collaboration and deflecting credit to others. And many women come to the CSO role through engineering, finance and science positions, traditionally male-dominated fields, as we've been featuring for years. Doesn’t seem like a gender problem to me.

But it’s not that simple. My colleague John Davies, in GreenBiz’s State of the Profession report, found that “while women constitute 50 percent of sustainability managers and 49 percent of directors, they account for only 37 percent of the vice presidents surveyed." Davies also found “an extreme lack of racial diversity in the profession as well as a significant pay gap for professional women.”

Weinreb’s CSO “back story” contains its own sobering findings. For example, a few companies have eliminated the CSO role since the 2011 report; another, a European company with a strong U.S. presence, moved the position back to Germany. It’s unclear whether this reflects a step forward or backward — whether CSOs disappear because their companies have lost their focus on sustainability, or because their former jobs have become broadly dispersed within the companies. Depends on the company, of course.

From here to obsolescence

Still, it's hard to make a case that CSOs eventually will become outmoded. When sustainability becomes “everyone’s job,” it’s really no one’s job — that is, no single individual who is accountable, or who holds the larger vision of how the company can align its business goals with society's. There’s a good case to be made that someone needs to be in charge. That will be one interesting trend to watch in the next tranche of research on the sustainability profession: not just the macro view of how many companies have CSOs, but also the micro view of where they sit within companies, their reporting relationships, the kind of clout they wield and their budgets and headcount. That will help tell a deeper story about the kind of influence such professionals are likely to have, now and in the future.

Weinreb believes the future seems bright for sustainability execs and discounts those who believe that successful CSOs eventually will work themselves out of a job. “I am of the strong belief that the CSOs play an extremely important role at the helm, steering the ship and staying the course,” she said. “I disagree with those that say they are working themselves into obsolescence.”

All images courtesy Weinreb Group

Also in The Two Steps Forward Blog:

Supply-chain fixes are the secret sauce for three NY companies

Published October 21, 2014
Supply-chain fixes are the secret sauce for three NY companies

Sustainable organizations can become preferred business partners, thanks to the demand for sustainable suppliers. Organizations that integrate sustainability into their operations likely will generate more revenue, retain and potentially create jobs, and reduce the risk of jeopardizing potential business.

Both of us work at the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, which assists companies in the state with their journey along the sustainability continuum. Through NYSP2I's "Sustainable Supply Chain" program, manufacturers learn to identify opportunities to become leaders in their industry sector by recognizing their impacts, determining a strategic certification or label to pursue and educating stakeholders on making sustainable purchasing decisions.

NYSP2I has assisted several companies with identifying opportunities to meet customer demands while reducing environmental impacts. Three are discussed here: a food manufacturer; a start-up packaging company; and an established granite countertop manufacturer. Each had an obstacle to overcome in order to gain or retain customers.

1. Baldwin Richardson Foods

Baldwin Richardson Foods wanted to be a greener supplier — and its customers demanded the same — but the company needed assistance to understand how to improve communication of its activities. BRF manufacturers and supplies custom developed products and ingredients for food service and consumer packaged goods companies. Using a supply chain sustainability assessment tool developed by NYSP2I, we performed an assessment at BRF to determine which common components of internationally accepted sustainability guidelines it was using.

NYSP2I staff conducted a review of BRF's policies, initiatives, relevant company data and production processes. Staff also interviewed members of BRF's sustainability team, as well as procurement, marketing and production department managers. The assessment identified opportunities for improvement and determined BRF's preparedness to fully report to its customers and stakeholders on its environmental sustainability commitments and efforts.

The assessment concluded that BRF is committed to sustainability and is well-equipped with the resources necessary to create a company with a competitive advantage due to its sustainability focus. As a supplier always striving for continuous improvement, BRF is able to support its supply chain and customer sustainability efforts and influence its suppliers to make sustainable choices. By retaining and growing customers, BRF expects to retain its current employees and add new jobs focused on sustainability.

Per John Cairns, BRF's director of engineering, "BRF has a better understanding of the appropriate reporting and documentation necessary for its sustainability actions as well as areas of improvement to help the company continue to make further enhancements to its sustainability practices. The assessment tool and report provided by NYSP2I has not only provided direction for BRF to supports its customers' sustainability efforts but also yielded insights for how the company can influence its own suppliers in making sustainable choices. With credibility as a supplier focused on sustainability, BRF has a recognized competitive advantage in the marketplace which makes the company a preferred business partner within the food and beverage industry."

2. Ecovative Design

Ecovative Design is developing a new class of high-performance products which serve as environmentally responsible alternatives to traditional foam packaging, insulation and other plastic-based materials. Ecovative's Mushroom Packaging is made from agricultural byproducts and mycelium, or mushroom "roots."

Credit: Ecovative

A large global electronics company with sustainable supply chain goals was very interested in Mushroom Packaging for protective packaging. However, this company wanted Ecovative to prove the product was compostable at industrial composting facilities. So in an effort to gain this potential customer's business, and others', Ecovative decided to pursue The Biodegradable Products Institute scientifically based label for compostable materials that biodegrade in large composting facilities. Products with the BPI label can be readily identified as compostable, which quickly allows customers to make an informed choice.

[Learn more about smarter supply chains at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27-30.]

Ecovative requested that NYSP2I provide assistance in obtaining BPI certification for Mushroom Packaging. After passing disintegration testing to prove its materials are biodegradable in an industrial composting facility, and meeting other requirements, Ecovative's product qualified for BPI certification. Ecovative projects up to a 20 percent increase in customers as a result of becoming BPI certified, along with potentially creating new jobs in New York.

According to Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and chief scientist at Ecovative Design, "NYSP2I researched and managed the testing of Ecovative's Mushroom Packaging to achieve BPI certification, which is critical for meeting customer expectations for using a biodegradable package and reducing the environmental impacts of product end-of-use. These clear and quantified claims allow Ecovative to expand its market opportunities and potentially increase sales by 20 percent, leading to employee growth at our New York state facility."

3. M.C.M. Natural Stone

M.C.M. Natural Stone Inc. manufactures granite countertops, landscaping products, fireplace surrounds and accent pieces. M.C.M. is expanding its business to include the recovery and reuse of granite waste to produce 100 percent recycled granite pavers, veneers and mosaics, known as "Bella Terra" products.

M.C.M. noted that in the industry, up to 30 percent of the original granite slab is considered to be scrap after cutting for install. The scrap is sent to the landfill. M.C.M. recognizes an opportunity to avoid the landfill by salvaging these scrap pieces of granite for use as pedestrian and light traffic pavers.

Credit: M.C.M. Natural Stone

To make this opportunity viable, M.C.M. requested that NYSP2I evaluate its Bella Terra Granite Pavers for mechanical performance and determine if they are a feasible alternative to other manufactured paver products on the market. The Bella Terra Granite Pavers successfully met or exceeded the ASTM requirements, which is information that the company can use to market these pavers to architects and construction contractors.

Additionally, because Bella Terra is a recycled product, NYSP2I determined that the pavers can contribute to credits for U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification for building construction projects because they are locally sourced and are made from 100 percent pre-consumer and post-consumer waste.

These characteristics enable M.C.M. to expand its market to environmentally conscious commercial customers looking for sustainable products, which increases sales and enhances material recovery. M.C.M. projects an increase in annual revenue of 15 percent, which will allow it to add additional employees. "By validating our granite pavers meet or exceed the standard requirements of other competing products on the market, and the potential for assisting customers with gaining LEED credits, M.C.M. Natural Stone is now able to enhance our ability to market and sell our products made from 100 percent waste that would otherwise be sent to landfills," said Mike Valle, founder and general manager, M.C.M. Stone, Inc.

Identify areas for improvement

To be sustainable suppliers, companies need to recognize where they can improve, then act to implement changes that support people, planet and profit. The NYSP2I Sustainable Supply Chain program helps companies in New York to recognize opportunities to reduce their costs and environmental impacts, expand their customer base, increase revenue and create jobs while creating a more sustainable supply chain.

Top image of ice cream with caramel sauce by Viktor1 via Shutterstock.

Also in The P2 Pathways Blog:

Anahita Williamson

New York State Pollution Prevention Institute
Anahita Williamson is the director of the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Anahita Williamson has a strong background and extensive experience in the field of environmental engineering, including manufacturing process modification for improved material recovery and reuse, design for the environment and life-cycle assessment. Prior to joining NYSP2I, she served as a senior engineer at Xerox Corporation where she assisted in implementing companywide sustainability and pollution prevention processes.

Where is water tech when you need it?

Published October 20, 2014
Tags: Water
Where is water tech when you need it?

There are no shortages of stories on the environmental, social and economic negative impacts of water scarcity and the drought in the U.S. in general and in California in particular. Stories about innovative solutions to address water scarcity and water quality, and the opportunity to ramp up investments in said solutions in the U.S. and globally? Not so much.

Singapore, Australia and Israel often are heralded as the global water-innovation hotspots. In these countries, water scarcity and security concerns have spurred innovative policies and investments in creating water-innovation hubs.

Here in North America, the government of Ontario, Canada has made similar strides with its 2010 Ontario’s Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act in an effort to advance resource efficiency and innovation at the municipal level while positioning the province as a global leader in water technology and innovation.

In the U.S., several regional economic development efforts are investing in water clusters. However, the current scale and pace of North American water innovation doesn’t begin to match the scope of the actual market opportunity or underlying resource challenge.

[Learn more about water issues at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27-30.]

The American water industry employs about 700,000 workers, including 30 utilities that support some 289,000 jobs, for about $52 billion in total annual spending. The water sector is also faced with an estimated $1 trillion in needed infrastructure investment, according to the Brookings Institution. However, water receives relatively little attention from investors and entrepreneurs who typically seek to introduce disruptive business models and technologies to solve market challenges.

Looking at the numbers, it is reasonable to conclude that the drought has had no impact whatsoever on investments in the water and wastewater sector. According to the Cleantech Group, investments from corporate and venture equity in water and wastewater technology totaled $140 million for 33 venture deals for the first half of 2014. This is compared to $317 million for 58 deals in the first half of 2012.

A recent report by McGill University and Utrecht University, summarized in Nature Geoscience, highlighted six strategies to address the water shortfall by 2050. These are not new, but focusing on these key areas is the place to start for any entrepreneurs residing in multinational corporations, startups, the public sectors and NGOs. They include agricultural productivity, irrigation efficiency, improvements in domestic and industrial water-use intensity, increasing water storage in reservoirs and desalination of seawater.

Let’s buckle down on water-tech innovation to meet the energy, water and food needs for our current and projected global population. 

Rupert Murdoch's News UK is leading media against climate change

By Jessica Shankleman
Published October 20, 2014
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Tags: Employee Education & Training, Energy Efficiency, More... Employee Education & Training, Energy Efficiency, Green Team
Rupert Murdoch's News UK is leading media against climate change

When it comes to tackling climate change, the media has "an innate" responsibility to pratice what it preaches, and should not rely on the growth of digital publishing to curb its carbon emissions, the chief operating officer of News UK has said.

Speaking to BusinessGreen after News UK last week became the first media company to secure the Carbon Trust Triple Standard for reducing CO2, waste and water use, Chris Taylor, said all businesses should be aware that they are "custodians of the environment for future generations."

"I think if we are writing and commenting on these matters as we do regularly, then it's only fair that we try to practice what we preach," he said.

News UK has slashed its carbon emissions by 50 percent since 2008, and its new offices next to London Bridge's Shard building now recycle 80 percent of their waste, up from 10 percent at the old Wapping offices.

The new complex also has no car parking spaces except for disabled drivers, in order to encourage employees to use public transport or cycle.

"The Times is very famous for its cycling campaign as an alternative to driving to work," said Taylor. "To do these things ourselves only adds to the level of credibility. I think it's just something in the company that everyone buys into, so as a joiner you feel a bit out of place if you were trying to rail against that."

News UK's strong commitment to green best practices may come as a surprise to some environmental campaigners, who have accused The Sun and The Times of promoting climate skeptic arguments and being highly criticial of decarbonization policies and investments.

Arguments against efforts to curb emissions do not appear to have been embraced by the company's management, but Taylor insists it is not within the remit of the News UK management to dictate editorial policy on environmental issues. "The Times and our other newspapers have comprehensive editorial independence from the leadership of the company itself," he said. "It doesn't have to be the case that the newspapers have to report what the policy of the company is, and in fact there are many high profile cases in the industry where that's not been the case."

Securing the Carbon Trust standards has required initiatives right across the business, and Taylor explains how steps have been taken to ensure the measures embraced by News UK are compatible with a busy newsroom. For example, the management decided to make it easy for employees to recycle by sorting waste off site rather than asking people to separate waste in different bins.

However, some of the biggest environmental wins have been achieved outside the newsroom, in the print production facilities, where News UK also prints The Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Evening Standard and The Metro as well as its own newspapers.

Printing facilities require supercharged air conditioners to deliver the precise humidity levels that ensure the ink sticks to the page. But News UK cut its air conditioning demand by 70 percent, through scheduling and engineering improvements that has saved a total of 2,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. Meanwhile, the Euroscentral print site in Glasgow has reduced its water use by 44 percent, while the Broxbourne print site in Hertforshire has curbed all non-paper waste going to landfill by three-quarters.

Taylor maintains that its efforts are having a wider impact on the newspaper industry too, with the "real wins" coming from publisher to publisher collaborations.

For example, since September 2013, News UK and The Telegraph have combined their distribution programs, reducing the need for 15,000 van journeys a year and cutting mileage for distribution vans by 1.2 million miles. Taylor said he hopes to roll this collaborative approach out with other papers in the future in a bid to further reduce mileage.

But should News UK really be focusing its efforts on reducing the footprint of print when some argue the platform rapidly is becoming outmoded?

Taylor said in fact the opposite is true, that it would be easy for a publisher to claim that a shift to digital naturally would fulfill its environmental commitments, when in fact active steps to improve environmental performance still need to be taken. This is in part because News UK's digital subscription services for online content have not led to the same widening gap between digital and print distribution that other outlets with free online sites have seen. "We here firmly believe that in an environment where you charge for all of your products as we do, it's really about consumer choice and we don't see people moving away comprehensively from print," Taylor said.

Instead he argued that all newspaper outlets should be taking practical steps to develop more efficient processes that improve both the environment and their balance sheets. "Our view is that the printed product is here to stay certainly for the next 20 years, so it's about having the two things to co-exist side by side," Taylor added.

As the newspaper industry continues to face challenges in monetizing online publishing and managing declining printing sales, perhaps News UK's approach to delivering a more efficient printing and distribution model could help improve both its financial and environmental performance for years to come. Rupert Murdoch's Twitter account may have confirmed that the media magnate is somewhat sceptical about the need for action on climate change, but at least one of his companies appears to remain fully committed to curbing its environmental impact.

This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen



Ebay, Kindle and Skype rule among the greenest apps

By Michael Ansaldo
Published October 20, 2014
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Tags: Cloud Computing, Consumer Products
Ebay, Kindle and Skype rule among the greenest apps

Ebay, Skype and Kindle now have more in common than being three of the most widely used smartphone apps. They are also the best apps for promoting sustainable behavior, according to a recent study by the WSP Group, a U.K. environmental consultancy firm.

WSP devised a subjective scoring system to rank the top 20 apps that “bring sustainability to everyday lives.” It scored the apps on three metrics: popularity (gauged by the number of downloads), “stickability” (essentially its shelf life, determined by its average app rating, functionality and user comments) and environmental impact.

According to WSP, the apps that scored highest do at least one of five things:

• Encourage reuse and selling of second-hand goods.

• Reduce fuel consumption and promote public transport.

• Change eating habits and reduce food waste.

• Help consumers create more sustainable product choices.

• Replace material with electronic consumption.

Some results are surprising. While apps such as Seafood Watch and Freecycle were conceived to promote eco-friendly practices, eBay and Amazon’s Kindle app don’t spring to mind in discussions of green living. But reduced waste is a clear byproduct of these services, and their popularity encourages sustainable practices among mainstream consumers and offers a powerful example for other developers.

“What we learnt from this study is that the most sustainable apps are not necessarily the greenest ones, but rather the most popular programs are part of our day-to-day living and which enhance, not impede, citizens' lifestyle choices,” said Andy Porter, head of digital at WSP, in a statement. “Helping people make money, save money and live a richer life will always be the approach which has widest appeal, and this shows through in our study.”GoodGuide

These 10 apps scored highest in the study:

1. eBay

The online marketplace earned the top spot for popularizing and simplifying the resale of second-hand and unwanted goods, reducing waste and consumption. Of all the apps surveyed, eBay was the best promoter of the circular economy, according to WSP.

2. Kindle

The Kindle device may be the premier e-reader but it’s the app that has had the biggest green impact. The popularity of Kindle reduces the demand for physical books — just one of which generates 7.5 kg of carbon dioxide when produced, according to WSP. And its capability to run on a smartphone or tablet means users don’t have to purchase a separate reading device, which further reduces waste.

3. GoodGuide

GoodGuide provides sustainability ratings for more than 120,000 products, ranging from meat to makeup, and its app puts it all in users' hands when they need it most: when they’re shopping. WSP admits the app would have scored even higher if it contained more U.K.-focused content.

4. Skype

The robust voice and video conferencing app has helped cut unnecessary travel for individuals and businesses alike. Family and friends get more frequent face time without leaving home, and companies have an easy, low-cost way to work more closely with remote teams.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app

5. Seafood Watch

Which tuna is higher in mercury: skipjack or albacore? The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app puts the answer at your fingertips with its up-to-date guide to seafood and sushi. And its Project Fishmap feature lets users keep track of stores, restaurants and other businesses where they’ve found sustainable seafood.

6. Google Maps

This widely used app not only eliminates the need for paper maps, but its ability to plot the most direct route and navigate users to their destination conserves fuel: drivers using GPS systems used 12 percent less fuel than those who didn’t, according to a NAVTEQ study.

7. Freecycle + Trash Nothing

A bit like Ebay meets Craigslist, this app brings together regional Freecycling groups, making it easy for users to give away unwanted items to others in their community. The system promotes reuse and, because it’s locally focused, reduces the environmental impact of transport.

8. Airbnb

The community marketplace allows travelers to book lodging from hosts in more than 34,000 cities around the world who have turned their spare room, home or other property into an ad-hoc inn. Its promotion of resource sharing has resulted in a wealth of environmental benefits. According to Airbnb, its guests use 63 percent less energy than hotel guests, in North America alone.

9. Moovit

This app takes the hassle out of using public transportation by crowdsourcing the fastest, least crowded route on bus and subway lines in more than 400 cities.

10. CityMapper

Like Moovit, CityMapper makes it easy for people to hang up their car keys by suggesting routes around nearly a dozen popular metropolises. Users can plot their journey using multiple modes of transport including bus, subway, bike, taxi, train, ferry and their own two feet.

The complete list of apps is available here.

Top image shows Airbnb in the Chrome browser



With companies nailing disclosure, it's time to tackle performance

By Emma Armstrong
Published October 20, 2014
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Tags: Corporate Reporting, Energy & Climate, More... Corporate Reporting, Energy & Climate, Marketing & Communication
With companies nailing disclosure, it's time to tackle performance

CDP recently released its S&P 500 2014 Climate Change Report (PDF) — the first of this year's series of reports analyzing the 2014 climate change responses and ranking companies for their climate change disclosure and performance. But what does CDP leadership really mean — to those that are (and are not) on the leadership lists as well as to the future of our planet?

The Climate Disclosure Leadership Index recognizes companies scoring in the top 10 percent based on their disclosure score (which focuses on the extent to which they disclose climate change related information and data). As CDP shows in Figure 1 of its 2014 S&P 500 report, the bar for the CDLI continues to approach the perfect 100.

This steep increase in the minimum score for inclusion on the CDLI (from 61 to 97 in seven years) may be a result of a more mature CDP questionnaire (with fewer major changes year-on-year), companies being more familiar with answering the questions and/or companies developing more mature greenhouse gas emissions management programs. These scores reflect how much information a company discloses in its response, but not what it may (or may not) be doing to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

In contrast, the Climate Performance Leadership Index recognizes companies making and reporting positive actions with respect to climate change. Are they meeting their reduction goals? Are they investing in renewables? Are they achieving absolute reductions in their emissions — within their operations, from their product or in their supply chain? The number of companies on the CPLI this year is disappointingly similar to last year (36 in 2013 and 34 in 2014) but twice the number of companies on the 2012 CPLI. The number of companies demonstrating performance leadership is increasing, but certainly at a slower rate when compared to the disclosure index trend.

While CDP is right to champion that the overall performance of companies is improving (the number of companies scoring an A, A- or B has increased over the last three years, from 30 percent to 48 percent of all responding companies, as shown below in Figure 2 from the 2014 S&P 500 report), the number of companies that make the CPLI (those that receive an A score by realizing significant absolute emissions reductions, as reported in CC12.1a) is less than 10 percent of the S&P 500 respondents.

Performance as measured by CDP considers a range of activities that a company might engage in, not only whether they are achieving meaningful absolute reductions. However, most companies fall into the "B" category. While we recognize the efforts that it takes to achieve this score (and more important, the meaningful programmatic activity that this score represents), we may be giving ourselves a false sense of security: Companies are on the right track, but are they moving fast enough to achieve improvements in performance that translate to the real emissions reductions required to avoid a 2 degree Celsius degree change?

To address some of this, CDP will continue to evolve the questionnaire by rolling out a sector-based scoring approach that will add more rigor and recognize those companies that are setting and achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions in line with science-based targets.

It is true that much of the focus and fanfare around CDP over the past 10 years has focused on the disclosure score, with performance being introduced only a few years ago and sometimes considered an afterthought by companies. But as the clock ticks closer to 2020 and discussions shift from climate mitigation to adaptation, we need to focus on achieving performance improvements over disclosure improvements and specifically setting and achieving real emissions reductions. CDP has been instrumental in driving this forward and is right to have pushed first for transparency. Now that companies have demonstrated they can talk the talk, it's time to walk the walk in a meaningful way. In 2014 of the nearly 348 responding companies, nearly 50 percent scored an 80 or better on disclosure but also scored below an A on performance. That's 174 world-class companies poised to take even more significant steps and actions that tackle even greater emissions reductions projects. And that is inspiring.

As the margin for disclosure leadership continues to decrease, companies rightly should focus their efforts, time and capital on activities that demonstrate real change and bottom line (let alone triple) value. These are the harder decisions to make and more complicated business cases to prove. They take more than just (re)telling a story; they are the components and successes of that story.

The private sector will need to play a significant role in staying below a 2 degree C increase threshold set by climate scientists. The absolute reductions at the scale needed (as outlined in the CDP-WWF 3% Solution Report [PDF]) may seem daunting, but they also represent a potential present value net savings of $190 billion in 2020 (or net present value as high as $780 billion) for U.S. corporations, excluding utilities.

Quite simply, it could save money, lots of money, to reduce emissions over this period. The longer that we wait to take these steps, the harder and more expensive it will become to avoid the 2 degree C increase. Are we (still) willing to take that risk?

This article originally appeared at the Anthesis Consulting Group blog. Main image: starstickers_matthewbenoit_sstock. Inline images courtesy of CDP.



Here are the 2 biggest challenges to the future of energy storage

By Christine Hertzog
Published October 20, 2014
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Tags: Energy & Utilities, Policy & Regulations, More... Energy & Utilities, Policy & Regulations, Smart Grid, Storage
Here are the 2 biggest challenges to the future of energy storage

The recent Energy Storage North America (ESNA) conference in San Jose, Calif., can be summed up in one word: optimism. The sanguine outlooks on market opportunities and trends were unanimous. Several vendors can't manufacture their equipment fast enough to meet demand.

California is making the market for energy storage. The ninth largest economy in the world recognized energy storage systems as important technologies in electricity value chains with last year's passage of AB 2514. The California Public Utilities Commision's Decision 13-10-040 (PDF) set the regulatory expectations about utility-interconnected and behind-the-meter energy storage. States such as California view energy storage as a critical tool to firm up intermittent forms of renewable generation.

State policies in the Northeast encourage energy storage systems to deliver resiliency for grids and critical infrastructure. Of course, it's a credible argument that Tesla is making a market for energy storage with its gigafactory in Nevada. The company plans to build 50 GWh in annual battery storage starting in 2017. These combined influences are driving the growth of new storage technologies, services and financing mechanisms.

The comparisons to solar trajectory trends are well known. Energy storage technologies are expected to rapidly decrease in price in response to increased economies of scale and expertise. Deployment numbers forecast fast growth — particularly in behind-the-meter solutions that focus on reducing electricity costs due to high demand charges.

But the energy storage ecosystem has to overcome two challenges that could have negative impacts on adoption rates.

1. Profusion leads to confusion

First, energy storage technologies are diverse. There are chemical and non-chemical categories of storage. Many subcategories are based on different elements such as lithium, zinc, sodium or iron; and non-chemical storage ranges from pumped hydro to compressed air to flywheels.

There is significant variety in number of charges, stability in different environmental conditions, and form factors. You can select an energy storage solution to ensure that your mission-critical devices or operations are not disrupted by power outages — a resiliency function. Storage can help maintain stable grid operations, a reliability function. Storage can reduce electricity use at peak time periods or avoid those demand charges mentioned above — a cost-savings function.

[Learn more about distributed energy systems at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27-30.]

The market places very different values on the potential uses for energy storage by function. There's a lot of confusion that needs to be addressed with education to ensure buyers are making sound decisions that meet and exceed their expectations.

2. Secrets slow adoption

The second challenge is that early stage energy storage technologies and services usually are proprietary and customized engineering solutions. Deployments may include features that aren't supported on a commercial scale, or may not exist in the future. All of these qualities increase the balance of system costs that go beyond the storage equipment purchases. There is no equivalent to a USB standard for physical connections of different energy storage solutions to the grid.

The Byzantine variety of permitting processes and fees is a problem that bedevils the solar industry too, but it's a brand new learning curve for the energy storage system integrators and installers. In essence, there's too much complexity in the entire design, development and deployment process for energy storage systems, and it's an area that's ripe for innovation.

Time to roll up our sleeves

The good news is that vendors are working collaboratively to solve some of these problems. A new industry initiative called the Modular Energy Storage Architecture standard initiative can help promote more of a plug-and-play environment. It would be interesting to see similar collaborative efforts between utilities to standardize on interconnection processes. Likewise, the irrationalities of municipal permitting processes should be replaced with national standards — just as we use the NEC (National Electrical Code) to define the safe design and installation of electrical systems in a uniform way across the USA.

The energy storage ecosystem has to rapidly mature, or suffer self-inflicted pain evident in inflexible, non-scalable and proprietary solutions slowed down with non-standard processes. These challenges could reduce overall investment paybacks for grid scale and behind the meter deployments. Industry optimism must be tempered with pragmatism to create the right technology and policy frameworks that enable continued success to this important segment of smart grid solutions.

Top image of bottled energy by Artifan via Shutterstock. This article first appeared at Smart Grid Library.



5 ways to whet consumers' appetites for sustainability

By Tove Malmqvist
Published October 17, 2014
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Tags: Consumer Trends, Food & Agriculture
5 ways to whet consumers' appetites for sustainability

Sustainable consumer behavior has improved only incrementally, and remains stagnant or has become less sustainable in areas such as transportation, housing and consumer goods, according to the 2014 Greendex survey.

Let's examine some ways that consumers can change their behavior to increase their sustainable consumption.

The fifth edition of this Greendex survey detects increasing concern about the environment, together with increasing awareness of human activity as the cause for climate change coupled with growing concern about how a changing climate will worsen people's way of life in their lifetime. It is clear that consumers are largely unable to translate their personal values and worries into meaningful action beyond incremental improvements.

On a slightly brighter note, however, the survey shows that consumers' food habits have become more sustainable in 11 of 18 countries tracked as consumers have started to embrace the local and organic food movements.

So, how is all of this relevant for business?

To better understand how we as individuals, including global corporate organizations, can accelerate the adoption of more sustainable habits among consumers, we took an in-depth look (PDF) at the dynamics of consumer behavior change in the area of food.

These insights may well be applicable beyond the realm of food and should be of interest to all who want to see a concerted drive to increase sustainable consumer behavior overall.

Here are five ways that can help to unlock sustainable consumer behavior.

1. Focus on emerging markets

A new index of behavior change potential based on current food habits versus willingness and capacity to change shows that consumers in emerging markets such as Mexico, Brazil and China have the most potential for change, while those in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan are the most set in their current habits (see accompanying graphic). The countries with the top-five change potential scores contain 1.8 billion people.

Infographic credit: GlobeScan

2. Target the right consumers

Based on advanced statistical modelling, we identified five distinct groups of consumers that differ in terms of their intent and capacity to change their current food habits. The analysis (PDF) reveals the "Moveable Masses" segment to be the largest one across the 18 countries surveyed, and also the most easily influenced type of consumer with a lot of room to improve. Individuals in this group are also highly affected by obstacles to change — removing these obstacles and leveraging the key motivators for this group potentially can unlock large-scale change towards more sustainable habits.

3. Focus on peer-to-peer communications

Our analysis indicates that the strongest driver of change for most consumer segments, including the "Moveable Masses" segment, is encouragement by friends to consume more sustainably, and also the act of encouraging others to do the same. Results suggest that peer-to-peer encouragement is statistically the most effective motivator for consumers to change their habits and that grassroots peer-to-peer activism has the potential to unlock behavior change around food.

But the study also found that only small proportions of consumers are strongly encouraged by their friends to eat more sustainably. Social media is, of course, a formidable tool that enables peer-to-peer influence to flourish, and any corporate strategy that attempts to influence consumer habits should prioritize its social media approach.

4. Be transparent

Our research on attitudes around food reveal that consumers care deeply about the food that they eat and about how it is produced, with most saying food is an essential part of their culture. At the same time, however, most feel alienated from the food system and do not feel empowered to influence what food is available to them when shopping or the way that food is produced.

Results show that when informed about the environmental impact of different types of food, consumers tend to shift their intentions toward more sustainable food choices. Businesses need to inform, engage and empower consumers to help them translate their values into more sustainable consumer habits.

5. Link sustainability with personal health

Results suggest that consumers are more receptive to information about making more sustainable food choices when this information is linked to their own health and provided by sources with medical or scientific credibility. Other GlobeScan research also indicates that scientists are far more trusted by the public than other institutional authorities, including government or business.

Top image of rogan josh by stocksolutions via Shutterstock.

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