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Amazon Fires: Why a new economic model must come from the ruins

To fight the Amazon fires we need more than water cannons and law enforcement – we need a new economic model, writes Forum for the Future’s Roberta Iley

The fires raging in the Amazon have been covered extensively by the media and labelled an environmental disaster. But does this label tell the full story? What we are really talking about is a complex…

Source: – Business Green
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The Body Shop reimagines store as refill centre and ‘activist workshop’

The Body Shop’s refill section in its new Bond Street concept store | The Body Shop

Beauty giant says it is going back to its ‘activist roots’ with new store concept opening in Bond Street today

Ethical beauty brand The Body Shop has declared its intention to “reignite its activist spirit” with the launch of the brand’s new retail concept today in central London.

The Body Shop has overhauled one of its existing stores on Oxford Street to feature shower gel refill stations, water bottle refills, packaging recycling points, and an ‘activism corner’ for customers to make their own change-making pledges.

The store marks a return for refillable products at The Body Shop, which were axed from the chain’s line up in the 1990s after consumers showed little enthusiasm for the idea.

But speaking to BusinessGreen ahead of the public launch of the new store, The Body Shop’s managing director Linda Campbell said customers are ready to embrace a new way of shopping as concern over the state of the planet grows.

“I’ve been in the beauty industry for nearly 25 years, and I think the change has been quite dramatic, especially over the last five years,” she said. “I think customers, businesses, we are all challenging ourselves to be more sustainable. To think in the future what the planet is going to be like.”

“We’ve listened to our customers, we’ve listened to our store managers,” she added.

The move to embrace in-store refills follows in the footsteps of successful trials by other retailers – most notably Waitrose, which recently expanded its ‘Unpacked’ pilot of commonly bought products to more stores across the UK.  

Customers to the new The Body Shop store will also be able to gain vouchers in return for bringing in beauty packaging from any brand for recycling. 

Alongside tapping into customer concerns over plastic packaging, the firm hopes the new store model will point a way forward amid a turbulent retail landscape by affording customers a ‘brand experience’ as they shop.

To that end, the Bond Street store features an ‘activism corner’, where customers are encouraged to make an activist pledge to share on social media and join local and global activist groups.

Campbell said the idea to bring activism into stores echoes the ethos of The Body Shop’s late founder Anita Roddick, who died in 2007. “We want to make stores more of an activist hub – somewhere where, if you are in the community, you can come in, you can connect with people in the community, you can actually have a voice,” she said. “That was one of the key reasons why Anita started The Body Shop – she wanted to have a voice in the community, she wanted to make a difference, and she wanted to be a force for good.”

The plan is to roll out eight more of the new concept stores next year, across North America, Asia, and Europe. The stores’ performance will be monitored closely to determine whether the new model becomes the default for all The Body Shop’s outlets, Campbell said.

“It will be a test and learn, so we will test on customers, on the enjoyment they have, we will test how it works from a store staffing point of view, test the fixtures and fittings to see how durable they are, and ultimately we will then also balance how sustainable this store is against our current store footprint,” she explained.

The team is also actively exploring the potential for other products, beyond shower gels, to be offered as refills. “Ultimately I would love to have a Body Shop body butter refill,” Campbell revealed.

She said technologists at the brand were working on how to marry the product’s thick texture with the pumps and tubes of the dispensing machines, but insisted she was “quietly confident” the body butter – one of The Body Shop’s most well-known products – could be made to work as a refillable offer.

Brazilian B-Corp Natura bought The Body Shop from French beauty giant L’Oreal in 2017. The Body Shop has made no secret of the fact its relationship with L’Oreal was not always harmonious, and according to Campbell the launch of the new concept is down in large part to the influence of Natura. “They have definitely encouraged us to be more sustainable but also to bring that activist voice, which perhaps under L’Oreal we weren’t as loud as we could have been,” she said.

Further reading

Source: – Business Green
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British Conservation Alliance: New green group touts free-market environmentalism

The BCA believes the debate around climate and environment has been monopolised by the left

Led by a group of young classical liberal activists, the BCA counts former Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd MP on its advisory board

The British Conservation Alliance, a new UK non-profit campaigning for a free-market approach to tackling climate and environmental issues, has been officially launched in a bid to fill the “glaring gap” in the political market for “pro-market, sensible environmentalism”.

Founded in July by a “non-partisan group of conservative and liberal-minded millennials”, the BCA counts former cabinet member Amber Rudd MP and Ryan Shorthouse, chief executive of conservative think tank Bright Blue, among the seven members of its senior advisory board.

Officially launched yesterday, the group is led by a young team of conservative activists with an aim of encouraging more students to engage in pro-market environmentalism and conservation measures, arguing the narrative of environmental protection has been “monopolised” by the left.

Describing climate change as “the most important challenge of our time”, the group said it aimed to empower “a new generation of conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals” to try and shift “pro-enterprise and market-based solutions” into the mainstream political debate.

Founder and president Christopher Barnard, a recent University of Kent graduate who also works as head of campaigning and events at libertarian group Students for Liberty, said he was inspired to set up the BCA after collaborating with other like-minded people in his age bracket.

“The BCA firmly believes that economic and environmental success are not mutually exclusive – in fact, it is possible to harness both the power of the free market and the beauty of our environment to the benefit of everyone,” he said.

Climate change is increasingly seen as a key issue among younger people, spurred on over the past year by school strikes led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. A recent poll found younger voters were more likely to see climate change as a more pressing priority than Brexit.  

The BCA said it aimed to set up a university network of affiliated societies in a bid to attract more support among students and young people for “free-market environmentalism” and “much-needed campus activism”.

Other organisations affiliated with the BCA include the Initiative for Free Trade, young Conservative group Blue Beyond, the Property and Environment Research Centre (PERC), and the American Conservation Coalition.

“Everyone at BCA is profoundly passionate about the environment, and we seek nothing more than honest, transparent, and cross-partisan discussions on how to help save our planet,” added BCA chief operating officer Maziar Shakibaii.

The Conservative Party has repeatedly sought to bolster its green credentials over the past decade, with the government touting its decarbonisation track record and the UK’s new net zero emission target.

However, its commitment to tackling the climate crisis has been repeatedly questioned by opposing parties and the Party’s green credentials have been undermined in the past by links to free market and openly climate sceptic groups that have campaigned for a watering down of environmental policies.

Source: – Business Green
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Plan A + B failed. What next for big oil?

The CEOs of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative / Credit: BP on Flickr

As predictions of peak oil demand become more prevalent and environmental protests more vocal, Ed King wonders where the oil industry goes next

There’s a looming threat facing the oil and gas sector, but it doesn’t involve Iran, Saudi Arabia or missile-bearing drones.
The brazen attack on Saudi Arabia’s top hydrocarbons processing plant this…

Source: – Business Green
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Poll: Two-thirds of Britons support limiting air travel to address climate crisis

Global air travel is estimated to account for around two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and rising

YouGov survey of 2,000 people finds more than 60 per cent believe tackling climate crisis requires high or extremely high urgency

More than 60 per cent of Britons believe tackling the climate crisis requires high or extremely high levels of urgency, according to the results of a new YouGov poll, which suggests growing public support for limiting air travel and meat consumption.

Published today, the report found 61 per cent of the 2,000 people surveyed supported the UK Parliament’s declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ earlier this year, with only 11 per cent opposed.

Moreover, 62 per cent believed there should be ‘high’ or ‘extremely high’ urgency in tackling the climate crisis.

Two-thirds of respondents – 67 per cent – also said limits should be placed on air travel in order to help curb emissions, with just 22 per cent against such a move. And 53 per cent were of the view that the UK also needed to reduce its meat intake in order to cut emissions, versus 37 per cent against.

“Our new survey findings make clear that most people feel climate change is an urgent issue, and are willing to make significant changes to their own lifestyles to help tackle it,” said Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, director of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST), a new UK research centre which commissioned the poll. “Changing travel and food habits are amongst the most impactful thing individuals can do to reduce their carbon footprint – it’s very encouraging that there’s support amongst the public for making these changes.”

Funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), CAST officially opened its doors in Cardiff today as part of a collaboration between Cardiff, Manchester, York and East Anglia Universities, as well as the charity Climate Outreach.

The £5m Centre aims to become a global hub for understanding the societal changes required to address climate change, with a focus the four key issues of food and diet, transport and mobility, consumption of goods, and heating and cooling.

“The Centre will aim to put people at the heart of the transformations required to address climate change, and seek to find ways in which we can live better as well as in low-carbon and sustainable ways,” added Whitmarsh.

She said said partners behind CAST would be working with a range of private, public and third sector organisations “to understand how to transform lifestyles, organisations and social structures in order to achieve a low-carbon future”.

Professor Jennifer Rubin, executive chair of the ESRC, welcomed the opening of the new Centre as key to developing effective approaches to communicating climate change and its effects. “Despite the urgent need to tackle climate change, researchers know that people rarely talk about it on a day-to-day basis – this means opportunities for meaningful dialogue and practical responses relevant to people’s everyday lives are missed,” she said.

The survey is the latest in a string of polls that have suggested record high levels of public concern around environmental issues in recent months. Earlier this week, a separate poll revealed a third of people support a hugely ambitious target to deliver net zero emissions across the UK by 2025.

Source: – Business Green
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Climate change and the media: More news is good news

As we approach another edition of Climate Week — an intensive annual gathering of professionals, policy makers, activists and thought leaders in New York City, starting next week — there’s an apparent pivot taking place in the news media: Climate change is morphing from a controversy to a crisis.

The number and frequency of political stories debating whether climate change is real are going the way of, well, coal-fired power plants. In its place are stories about adaptation, mitigation and sequestration.

In other words, climate solutions.

Admittedly, this conclusion is based on zero empirical evidence — just my observation as an avid consumer of climate-related news and information. But as I scan the steady stream of climate stories produced daily by both mainstream and niche publications, the trend seems marked and meaningful.

This isn’t necessarily good news. The growing focus on the real-world impacts of a climate-changing world reflects the grim reality that we are thick in the midst of some challenges that not long ago seemed off into the future, but which now are menacing threats. So the shift makes sense: When a patient is seriously ill, there’s little use in debating the cause of her illness.

The apparent pivot is long overdue. For decades, the media — again, both mainstream and niche — have been complicit in sowing doubt about climate change’s existence, what’s causing it, whether it can be solved and how bad it will really be. The two-sides-to-every-story mentality of traditional journalism helped give climate doubters and deniers a seat at the table, and many smaller publications and websites with a political axe to grind — on both sides of the issue — have been all too happy to pull up a chair.

As a result, climate stories have been largely about the controversy — the political and scientific skirmishes, not about the on-the-ground realities. Inspiring stories that show what’s possible if we succeed in stemming the worst impacts of the climate crisis have been few and far between.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve reached a turning point.

Witness the launch of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets. The goal: “to strengthen coverage of the climate story.”

That seems newsworthy in and of itself — both the concentrated focus on the climate topic and the level of collaboration among media organizations. The initiative is led by the Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation and The Guardian. The participating outlets — including roughly 40 newspapers; 150 magazines and online publications (including and 60 broadcast outlets — have committed to sharing climate-related stories at no cost, leveraging their collective reporting resources — and their collective audiences.

It will be interesting to see what the collaboration produces, and whether it continues beyond its intended two-week lifespan. We at GreenBiz plan to be doing our part.

But it’s only a start. What will it take for the media to bring stories to light that can alert and arm their viewers, listeners and readers to take action at the personal, household, community, marketplace and political levels? And to provide such stories for more than just a brief blip in September.

Beyond solar and wind

The climate solutions story is a rich one. It’s not just about buying renewable energy and electric cars. It’s about understanding what might happen to families and communities in a world where floods, droughts, hurricanes, heatwaves and other extreme weather events become more frequent and severe. It’s about understanding how companies need to mitigate the risks climate change may pose to their supply chains, operations, customers and employees. It’s about understanding how the impacts of climate change will be unevenly distributed, hitting poorer countries and communities harder, perhaps dealing a figurative or literal death blow to already-vulnerable citizens around the world.

It’s about transforming our world with an eye toward prosperity, security and resiliency.

As the Los Angeles Times editorial board put it this weekend:

The changing climate is no longer an abstract threat lurking in our distant future — it is upon us. We feel it. We see it. In our longer and deeper droughts and our more brutal hurricanes and raging, hyper-destructive wildfires. And with that comes a new urgency, and a new opportunity, to act.

Still, much of the climate coverage seems to focus on the impacts: the melting glaciers, burning forests, disappearing species, dying coral reefs and all the other distressing manifestations of the climate crisis. And on the vulnerable populations impacted by these developments. All are important signposts of the new normal. To be sure, a growing percentage of these stories are connecting the dots to climate change, which itself seems a big win.

But there’s more to it: What about stories highlighting neighborhoods and communities that are working to become more resilient, and ensuring that all citizens of every income level, political leaning and skin color are taken care of? What about stories about technologies that are deployable here and now to counter the underlying problems contributing to climate change? What about profiling inspirational entrepreneurs, business professionals, Wall Street mavericks, local and regional elected officials and other heroes who may not even self-identify as being part of the climate movement?

And what about casting a light on the next generation? The youth movement seems to be doing a pretty good job of garnering international attention to the climate crisis, although their messages are light when it comes to what we need to do about it other than “take action.” We can tell better stories about these young leaders and leverage their inspiring message.

This is the role the media can and should play. Not simply to accentuate the negative, although that’s a traditional media role and one that’s critical in delivering the long-overdue and much-needed wake-up call that the climate crisis isn’t a theoretical exercise. But also to provide insight and inspiration about how it can be slowed or solved — stories about economic and workforce development, and food, energy, housing and water security in every community.

For so many citizens, many feeling overwhelmed and fatalistic about the climate crisis and what they can do about it, such positive, solutions-oriented stories would be newsworthy.

From extraordinary to ordinary

Every sustainability solution goes through its own media lifecycle. There was a time when a company’s mere publication of a sustainability or CSR report was worthy of a news story. (Plenty of PR folks still think this is the case.) Eventually, it became table stakes for any self-respecting company, therefore no longer “news.” So, too, with LEED building status: Every new certification was worthy of a press push until certification became so commonplace as to become the norm. And back in the 1990s, achieving ISO 14001 certification — part of a family of standards for environmental management — was yet another reason for shouting from the rooftops. Today, few citizens have heard of that standard, even though it is ubiquitous in the manufacturing world.

Simply put, the fact that these things were no longer newsworthy is … newsworthy. What was once extraordinary is now ordinary.

When it comes to the climate crisis, what’s extraordinary is that we, individually and collectively, have failed to stop it. All of us, globally. Today, we’re in a race against time to blunt its sharpest edge. There are dozens, hundreds, probably thousands of inspiring stories of individuals, companies and communities that are doing just that.

Is the media up to telling those stories, or will it be just more mind-numbing bad news, day in and day out?

I invite you to follow me on Twitter and to subscribe to GreenBuzz, my free e-newsletter, published every Monday.

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As the world warms, the call for climate-friendly cooling heats up

The Climate Group’s EP100 smarter energy management initiative, which the nonprofit runs in partnership with the Alliance to Save Energy, crossed an important milestone over the summer — surpassing more than 50 members worldwide after gradually building momentum since the launch three years ago.

So far, EP100 companies collectively have reduced emissions by more than 522 million metric tons of CO2e since their respective baseline years — and that’s just for the 23 companies that reported results to the nonprofit for the past year. (The Climate Group’s latest progress report only used metrics from members with at least two years of energy data.) Put another way, that’s a reduction of 703 terawatt-hours of power, or about half the annual electricity consumption of India.

The concept of energy productivity is subtly different from energy efficiency: It looks beyond the reductions made possible through saving power to consider how these changes might be used to drive growth in economic output. 

Now, several of EP100’s active participants are rising to a more specific directive: drive far deeper energy efficiency for the equipment that keeps corporate campuses, warehouses and factories cool. Those contributing range from building technology company Johnson Controls to auto and farm equipment maker Mahindra Group to chemicals company Godrej to retailer Majid Al Futtaim.

Those measures could include anything from end-to-end retrofits of existing air conditioners and chillers to cleaning air filters or adjusting fan speeds. Here is how a company can participate in the challenge:

  • Schedule a treasure hunt, with internal teams and relevant external advisers, at a major facility to identify potential refrigerant leaks in systems or ways to switch equipment to run on low-global warming refrigerants, thermal cooling operation or renewable energy.
  • Look for potential ways to finetune energy management settings or controls or to invest in retrofits of chillers, temperature controls and other equipment.
  • Declare a chosen course of action.
  • Deploy the suggested energy management upgrade within one year of the commitment or complete an “investment-grade” retrofit by the target year for your company’s overall EP100 commitment.
  • Start reporting progress on an annual basis to the EP100 program. 

You can think of this as a preemptive strike: the reality is that as the global temperatures rise, the demand for air conditions and industrial cooling system will increase in sympathy and electricity demand from air-conditioning alone could triple by 2050. It’s hardly surprising that the first companies to rise to the challenge hail from India and the Middle East.

Cooling a warming world

Most of India-based Mahindra’s energy use, for example, comes from keeping offices at a bearable temperature for the occupants. The company’s chief sustainability officer, Anirban Ghosh, estimates that Mahindra & Mahindra’s planned cooling retrofit could cut related annual operational costs by 30 percent, seeing a payback within a few years.

“Cooling is a big user of energy in Indian corporates, especially in office blocks,” Ghosh said in a statement. “Technology is now available so that cooling can be carried out more effectively than in the past and in a greener way.”

At Majid Al Futtaim, a big retailer based in Dubai, cooling accounts for 40 percent of the utility bills. The company is installing controls to better sequence its chillers, pumps and cooling tour at shopping malls in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s also recovering condensed water to feed back into cooling towers, and using digital technology to monitor the bigger picture.

Three of the four Godrej operating companies have signed up for the challenge. They’ve already introduced chiller improvements and monitoring systems in more than 90 manufacturing facilities. Now, these organizations will focus on improving cold-chain logistics with artificial intelligence and the internet of things.

Coming from a place of increased strength

Support behind the EP100 initiative has accelerated in the past 12 months and the campaign is aligned with the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. Three sorts of commitments are associated with EP100:

  1. Double energy productivity, or “economic output” per unit of energy consumed within 25 years. (The company chooses what output means, so the commitment can apply to both goods and services businesses.)
  2. Deploy an energy management system, and agree to reach a certain targeted reduction within 10 years.
  3. Commit to owning, occupying and developing buildings that operate at net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

As of the report this summer, about 22 companies had agreed to double energy productivity, eight are installing energy management systems and 20 are focused on the net zero buildings goal.

When I spoke with Jenny Chu, head of energy productivity initiatives and head of corporate partnerships, China with the Climate Group, she said there was no single course of action that EP100 companies are taking to achieve their goals. As you might expect, however, the real estate sector has become one of the leading industries when it comes to taking action. 

One of the more significant success stories buried in the EP100 report comes from Woolworths, a big retailer and supermarket business based in Australia with locations in South Africa and 11 sub-Saharan African countries. The company already has doubled its energy productivity over a 2006 baseline year, saving about $400 million on electricity costs over the past 11 years.

One of the biggest changes Woolworths made was investing in closed-door refrigeration starting in more than 1,300 stores starting in 2012, according to the report. This isn’t an inexpensive gesture — the project should save up to $10 million over five to 10 years, according to the EP100 update.

Woolworths is also replacing all incandescent bulbs with LED ones, a relatively common practice now, and using an internal green building protocol to evaluate a new construction or refurbishment project.

As global temperatures begin to increase, pushing energy-related cooling and refrigeration costs higher, practices of this nature will become part of even more mainstream across virtually every business sector.

And you can also expect the big players in heating and cooling technology to speak up more loudly in the months to come. Ingersoll Rand, for example, included a number of unique and ambitious aspirations in its 2030 sustainability goals announced in the spring, including a commitment to reducing its customers’ carbon emissions by 1 gigaton by that timeframe. You can anticipate hearing more, starting next week during Climate Week in New York, where addressing cooling processes will be a central theme.

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Will California’s ingredient transparency law spur safer cleaners?

Growing public demand for ingredient transparency across the marketplace is prompting regulators to require manufacturers and retailers to publicly communicate the ingredients in everything from personal care and baby products to cosmetics and cleaning products. Starting in January, cleaning product manufacturers for the first time will have to post their product ingredients online to comply with a new ingredient disclosure law in California.

As the nation’s leading environmental certification organization, Green Seal always has required manufacturers to fully disclose their product ingredients to us to qualify for certification. We believe that public disclosure of product ingredients can empower purchasers to choose healthier, safer products.

But we also know that reading a long and complicated list of ingredients without context can be confusing or even misleading, defeating the purpose of ingredient transparency.

To help both purchasers and companies get the most out of the new ingredient transparency law, we recently launched Formula Facts, an ingredient label program that makes it easier for leading manufacturers to provide clear, accurate and meaningful ingredient communications. 

Will disclosure finally prompt companies to weed out the stew of toxic chemicals that lurk in most cleaning products? Here is what we have learned about the benefits and challenges of ingredient transparency over decades of working with the nation’s leading cleaning product manufacturers. 

1. Manufacturers don’t know all their product ingredients

Ingredient disclosure is made harder by the fact that cleaning product manufacturers often don’t have access to information about some of their ingredients. That’s because they buy their raw materials from other suppliers who keep their formulas confidential. Manufacturers know what the raw material will do in the cleaning product (for example: it’s a solvent), but they may not know the specific identity of the active ingredient or whether there are any additives. 

Think of it as making homemade cookies with bakery-bought chocolate chips. You know that the chips will taste delicious in your cookie, but you don’t know where the chocolate was sourced or whether any ingredients were added to keep them tasting fresh. 

When Green Seal evaluates a cleaning product for certification, we work with the company’s raw material suppliers to track down every ingredient in that product. Because so many ingredients in a finished cleaning product are contained within the raw materials and hidden from view to the manufacturer, it will be essential for manufacturers to convince their suppliers to disclose them — even when they involve confidential business information. This will help promote safer product formulations. 

2. Some chemicals are hard to detect

In addition to ingredients that are intentionally added, cleaning products can contain byproducts and other impurities that are unintentionally created during a chemical reaction. One example is 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen found as a reaction by-product in ethoxylated substances, often used as surfactants in cleaning products.

The state laws require manufacturers to identify certain byproducts and other impurities that are associated with harmful health and environmental impacts. But this information can be hard for manufacturers to find because there is no requirement for raw materials suppliers to disclose the byproducts and impurities in their products. These chemicals also tend to be present at much lower concentrations that are harder to detect.

Green Seal always screens for byproducts and impurities when we evaluate a cleaning product for certification to fully understand the product’s composition. Often, this process alerts manufacturers to the presence of chemicals they weren’t aware were in their products. Identifying these chemicals is the first step to weeding them out — another win for ingredient disclosure. 

3. ‘Chemicals of Concern’ are constantly changing

The ingredient labeling laws require companies to clearly communicate whether their products contain any “chemicals of concern,” which include known carcinogens, reproductive toxins and other ingredients harmful to human health. But this task isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. There are dozens of different lists of chemicals of concern, including 22 referenced by the California law. What’s more, the lists constantly are updated as new studies and information become available about the potential health impacts of the chemicals available in the marketplace.

In order to comply with the laws, manufacturers will have to track ongoing changes to each of these lists and update their ingredient labels accordingly. In this way, the disclosure laws will force companies to pay close attention to new findings about the health risks of common chemicals.

4. Ingredients have aliases

The laws require cleaning product producers to list ingredients in descending order of weight, but even something as simple as communicating an ingredient’s name can be complicated. More than 2,000 chemicals are used in conventional cleaning products — but an estimated 10,000 names for those chemicals. For example, the carcinogenic byproduct 1,4-dioxane goes by a number of aliases, including Diethylene Oxide, Diethylene Dioxide, Dioxane, para-Dioxane, 1,4-Dioxacyclohexane and Diethylene Ether.

Companies will have to follow the states’ regulatory guidelines for choosing the most appropriate names for their ingredients. However, variations in naming conventions are likely to continue to cause confusion and uncertainty for consumers, who can’t be certain whether the ingredients they are screening for are hidden under aliases.

5. Communication won’t do the job of certification

Communicating product ingredients can help companies increase credibility and build trust with their customers. However, even the clearest ingredient labels can be difficult to decipher for anyone but a toxicologist. Long lists of chemicals can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing even when the chemicals are harmless.

Consumers can’t be expected to know whether chemical combinations are producing harmful byproducts or whether an ingredient that is considered a carcinogen in aerosol form is benign in liquid form. 

When reviewing a product for certification, Green Seal always starts with ingredient disclosure — but that by itself does not translate to safer, greener products. Disclosure precedes a scientific analysis of the formula information, and then the essential work of filtering out products that don’t meet strict health, safety and performance benchmarks. 

Reputable ecolabel standards stay far ahead of public awareness about the health risks of toxic chemicals. For example, commonly found toxins such as methylene chloride and 1,4-dioxane — which only recently have spurred widespread public concern — have been prohibited in Green Seal-certified products for decades.

While ingredient communication itself is not sufficient to transform the market, these requirements often encourage manufacturers to move toward safer product formulations — in effect taking their first step towards environmental certification. With ingredient labels that consumers can access and understand, transparency will continue to spur innovation and guide the economy towards a healthier, cleaner future. 

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Mergers are coming: How to manage ESG through the M&A process

We are living through a time of tremendous external disruption, technological innovation, and increased political, social and climate risk. As a result of this ongoing disruption, we are seeing increased mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity as companies seek to buy into the latest innovation, to disrupt the competition — or to prevent being disrupted by the competition.

Already this year, we have witnessed high-profile mergers take place in multiple industries, including media (AT&T and Time Warner), pharmaceuticals (AbbVie and Allergan), and mining (Newmont Mining and Goldcorp).

These mergers can have a huge impact on the state of environmental, social and governance (ESG) affairs for the companies involved. At a time when employees and customers are calling for companies to take stands on social issues and investors, such as BlackRock’s Larry Fink, are stressing the value of “purpose,” a company’s ESG performance is more important than ever. Companies can and should strive to integrate ESG considerations throughout the M&A process from initial due diligence through implementation after the merger.

As business leaders across industries pursue M&A activity, there will be substantial ESG opportunities and risks for the companies involved: opportunities to create more ambitious and resilient sustainability strategies, accompanied by risks that ESG objectives will be sidelined by overwhelming pressures to create short-term value.

BSR has developed a primer, Managing ESG through a Merger, to help chief sustainability officers (CSOs), their teams, and internal allies navigate the M&A process to leverage and enhance ESG-related programs and priorities.

The primer serves as a guide for CSOs and sustainability teams, who may find themselves faced with a range of scenarios:

  • Company A bids to acquire Company B, but it is rejected by Company B’s Board due to a lack of commitment to ESG or sustainability. How can Company A avoid this in the future?
  • One company has nascent sustainability efforts while the other has a robust sustainability program — how can the merger create an opportunity to elevate the newly formed company up to the higher standards?
  • A smaller, sustainability-oriented brand is bought by a larger company — how can the executives ensure that the sustainability commitments, credibility, and progress will continue?
  • A larger company intentionally buys a sustainable brand to incubate more sustainable processes or products — how can they replicate those learnings across other parts of the business?
  • Two companies with significant investments in ESG merge — how can they combine their efforts, teams, and data in a meaningful way?

A successful merger requires integration of culture, strategy and processes — and a company with a resilient sustainability strategy will be better positioned to integrate ESG elements accordingly.

It’s important to note that it’s fully expected that the executive management team leading the merger process will prioritize legal and financial issues at play. This still creates an opportunity for CSOs and internal sustainability champions to step in and ensure that ESG considerations are integrated into management’s priorities, particularly during due diligence leading up to the merger.

By understanding and acting on the key considerations outlined in our primer, sustainability teams can employ processes that more effectively considers ESG issues, mitigating the reputational and financial risk associated with potential ESG crises and positioning the company to build competitive advantage through better integration of its sustainability strengths.

The new climate for business is one of technological, geopolitical and climate disruption. It is also one where ESG plays a key role in defining a company’s reputation and culture. As mergers become an increasingly popular business tactic in this climate, business leaders who value sustainability have much to consider.

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Volkswagen unveils hotly anticipated ID.3 electric car

Volkswagen has launched its “third era” of car production, unveiling its ID.3 production-ready electric car alongside claims the auto giant is set to provide “electric mobility for all.”

The ID.3 is the first model of a new generation of electric vehicles (EVs) from the carmaker, as it seeks to deliver on its multi-billion dollar EV investment strategy and revamp its image following the “dieselgate scandal.”

First revealed as a concept car at the Paris Motorshow in 2016, the ID.3 is built on VW’s new modular EV system which will be used in all its EVs from now on. It is being marketed as the “people’s EV,” as part of a vision to replicate the success of the VW Golf as a practical family car.

The $33,000 car, made in factories powered by renewable energy, will be available with three battery sizes: one with 45 kWh capacity delivering up to 330 kilometers of range, a 58kWh battery delivering up to 420km, and a 77kWh battery capable of delivering up to 550km.

VW also announced the launch of a new range of charger wall boxes. With a charging capacity of 11kW, it says the ID Chargers will be able to charge an EV five times faster than a standard domestic power socket.

VW plans to launch 70 new electric models in the next 10 years as it makes a bid to lead the transition to electric power.

Electric vehicles still only make up a tiny fraction of the overall new car market, but their share is growing fast. Data released last week by the United Kingdom’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders found sales of battery electric vehicles increased by a staggering 377 percent in the United Kingdom in August, jumping to a 3.4 percent market share.

Analysis of the data by Cornwall Insight found that based on the latest sales figures, the United Kingdom is set to outstrip its Consumer Evolution scenario for how the country’s energy market would develop through to 2050.

Under the Consumer Evolution projection — one of five published by National Grid earlier this year — electric vehicles were pegged to become the most popular form of transport by the early 2040s, but Cornwall Insight said the market seems to be evolving quicker than anticipated.

“It is still early days for the electric vehicle (EV) sector against the overall vehicle market, but the increasing EV demand represents significant support to the U.K.’s decarbonization ambitions,” said Jacob Briggs, senior consulting analyst at Cornwall Insight. “This also provides a positive signal for other parts of the industry, from charge point operators and energy suppliers through to investors and asset providers.”

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