CSRHub Blog

Carol Pierson Holding


Recent Posts

Can Business Trump Trump’s Anti-Climate Stance

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 15, 2016 8:00:00 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

Donald Trump’s election has sent the global climate community into a tailspin.

Windmill

It seems every climate change action supporter is making lists of the awful things he’s planning to do, so I’ll turn to the very succinct one I received in a Sunday morning email from Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club:

End of Paris Climate deal. End of the EPA. End of the Clean Power Plan. More drilling. More coal. More pipelines. More lives destroyed. More wildlife bulldozed.

I’d add to Brune’s list of deplorable actions Trump’s choice to lead the EPA transition,  Myron Ebell, who Scientific American calls our “top climate skeptic.”

But we can’t forget what Neal Leary at Dickinson College’s Center for Sustainability Education reminds us in the Huffington Post the scariest fact of all: “Mr. Trump has asserted that climate change is a hoax.”

Leary refuses to give up: “I put my hope and efforts in action at state, local and institutional levels to keep and build momentum toward a clean, low-carbon U.S. energy system.”

Top on my list of Professor Leary’s institutional efforts would be American businesses, especially those that have turned away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy for the most American of reasons — profit.

With the help of non-profit organizations such as the Carbon Disclosure Project, the Environmental Defense Fund, The Climate Group and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions which set standards and rate companies’ environmental performance, our businesses are killing demand for coal by making energy efficiency a top priority and solar and wind the energy systems of choice. As eco-consultant Andrew Winston writes, “It’s flat out more profitable” to use renewables.

Another reason: renewable energy reduces a company’s risk.

How can renewable energy mitigate risk? The direct answer is that by installing their own solar power — either by building solar plants, as Google and other firms are doing, or via rooftop solar to supplement the energy they draw from the grid — these companies ensure access to power without the risk of price fluctuations endemic to fossil fuels.

But there are other reasons why renewable energy lowers risk. For one, investors are becoming increasingly concerned with business’ environmental practices as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) becomes common practice. Charles Schwab features Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) on its Mutual Funds web page, commenting that it is “emerging as a significant trend in the financial markets” and noting that SRI increased 28% between 2012 and 2014, when total SRI assets topped $4.3 trillion. More investors reduces a company’s cost of borrowing in tough times, when raising money can otherwise be expensive.

But the even greater risk of not participating in environmentally sound policies is the potential damage to the brand. CSRHub, the sponsor of this blog and the world’s largest CSR database, analyzed its CSR ratings against data on brand strength and finds significant correlation.

 

Sustainability increases Brand Strength

Download presentation slides:
How the Correlation between Sustainability and Brand Strength has Changed in the Last Few Years, More Proof that Sustainability Drives Operating Performance

In other words, what a company does for its community, including environmentally, affects the value of its brand. And that means customers are more loyal. And that translates into how much a company can charge for its products and its profitability.

Not everyone is a fan of CSR. But despite some bad actors using CSR to “green-wash” their reputations, the concept is embedded in American business and may provide a bulwark against climate deniers now coming to power. And who knows. If Trump does what he’s said he wants to do, eliminating the Affordable Care Act and drastically reducing social services, he might find himself in need of a boost to his reputation. And what could be more effective than saving the planet.

 

Photo courtesy of  SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

 


Carol2Carol Pierson Holding is President and Founder, Holding Associates. Carol serves as Guest Blogger for CSRHub. Her firm has focused on the intersection of brand and social responsibility, working with Cisco Systems, Wilmington Trust, Bankrate.com, the US EPA, Yale University’s School of Environmental Sciences, and various non-profits. Before founding Holding Associates, Carol worked in executive management positions at Siegel & Gale, McCann Erickson, and Citibank. She is a Board Member of AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation). Carol received her AB from Smith College and her MBA from Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and rankings information on 16,495+ companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

 

Read More [fa icon="long-arrow-right"]

[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Sierra Club, Charles Scwab SRI Mutual Funds, Neal Leary, risk mitigation, Brand, Carol Pierson Holding, Trump

Ask the Plants for Help Adapting to Climate Change

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 12, 2016 12:58:11 PM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By: Carol Pierson Holding

Three interconnected firs Hoh sm (1)

Last week on CBS News I watched a piece about Dutch farmer Marc van Rijsselberghe, who is running experiments in the Texel Islands, Netherlands, to grow potatoes using in salt-ridden land. As more and more salty water seeps through the Dutch dykes onto its farmland, van Rijsselberghe and others are finding ways to adapt.

When CBS asks van Rijsselberghe how he knows which test strain will work, he says, “We ask the plants.”  Whether they live or die in salty soil dictates which strains will be sent to other places suffering salt-induced soil degradation.

 

It’s a huge piece of climate adaptation: The problem of salt-water intrusion affects 20 percent of the world's irrigated lands, up 37% since the early 1990s. Rising sea levels and reductions in usable water are driving this rapid increase. Once van Rijsselberghe identified strains of saltwater-loving potatoes, they were shipped to Pakistan where they are being successfully used in land formerly unusable for agriculture due to salt incursion.

I’ve heard more than a few people involved in the climate change movement despair that we’re too late. And maybe we are if we go at the problem thinking we have to solve it by ourselves. But what if we can tap into the intelligence of plants? Not just through binary experimentation — planting thirty varieties of potato to see which will grow in saltwater as van Rijsselberghe did — but to go further, even find new ways to absorb the excess carbon that’s leading to climate catastrophe?

We know that plants have their own intelligence. Ten years ago, Jeremy Narby codified scientific studies that prove so in Intelligence in Nature. Narby calls it “problem-solving at all levels of life” and describes the findings in a 2013 talk for Bioneers:

“Bees handle abstract concepts, slime molds solve mazes, and plants gauge the world around them. Science itself is evolving, moving away from a mechanical understanding of nature.”

We know that fungi clean up toxins and trees gobble carbon. German forester Peter Wohlleben goes even further. In his book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, Wohlleben makes a compelling case for an arboreal social life that values the forest community over the individual tree. Tree roots feed each other, sacrificing their own growth to supplement the nutrition for a weaker member of their species, keeping alive young trees so that they can develop tougher trunks, which as they grow will in turn feed and shade older trees.

The biggest threat to the forest is not climate change but other species, notably humans:

“As climactic conditions change…A few old trees will die, but most of the rest of the forest will remain standing. If conditions become more extreme, one tree species could even be decimated without this being the end of the forest. The only proviso is that the social structure of the forest is not disturbed by lumber operations so that the forest can continue to regulate its own microclimate for itself.”

In other words, intra-species dependence is just as important as inter-species. Just as we depend on trees to produce oxygen, trees too depend on other life forms, especially fungi among which tree roots grow, exchange nutrients and share information about, for example, impending insect attacks.

The fact that The Hidden Life of Trees was a bestseller in Germany and is already #13 on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list is a testament to its resonance with our own species. Human behavior also tends to be communal when it comes to climate change: residential solar panels are installed in waves, neighborhood by neighborhood. Even corporations act on climate change by industry grouping. Big box retail companies including Wal-mart, Costco and Ikea lead in installing solar panels on their enormous roofs; tech firms such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have committed to renewable energy by building their own solar plants and lobbying – together - for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Like trees, our species’ survival in the face of climate change is most successful when we put community over our individual selves. Imagine if we could also acknowledge what other living things have to teach us — we could expand our universe of potential partners to include all of nature. That’s a revolution in mindset, but oh the rewards.

Photo courtesy of  Carol Pierson Holding.


Carol2Carol Pierson Holding is President and Founder, Holding Associates. Carol serves as Guest Blogger for CSRHub. Her firm has focused on the intersection of brand and social responsibility, working with Cisco Systems, Wilmington Trust, Bankrate.com, the US EPA, Yale University’s School of Environmental Sciences, and various non-profits. Before founding Holding Associates, Carol worked in executive management positions at Siegel & Gale, McCann Erickson, and Citibank. She is a Board Member of AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation). Carol received her AB from Smith College and her MBA from Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and rankings information on 16,495+ companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

Read More [fa icon="long-arrow-right"]

[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Uncategorized, Clean Power Plan, climate change adaptation, fungi, Intelligence in Nature, Jeremy Narby, Marc van Rijsselberghe, Peter Wohlleben, salt water potatoes, solar plants, tech firms, The Hidden Life of Trees, Carol Pierson Holding

Climate Woes Demand Both War and Civil Action

[fa icon="calendar'] Sep 21, 2016 10:23:22 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By: Carol Pierson Holding

For at least a decade, I’ve been a huge fan of Bill McKibben, thought leader for the climatesustainability girl
movement. But his most recent article in The New Republic, “A World at War,” falls short.  Subtitled “We’re under attack from climate change — and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII,” his piece uses war as more than an analogy: “It’s not that global warming is like a war. It is a war.”

After reviewing the horrors of global warming, McKibben reports how the U.S. and other nations could deploy renewable energy rapidly enough to reduce fossil fuel emissions 80% by 2030. Using a wholesale industrial retooling akin to WWII to manufacture solar, wind and geothermal equipment, the reconstruction would be ordered and partly paid for by the feds, using existing contracts as leverage to force businesses to comply.

But what McKibben also points out is that after the war had ended, “solidarity gave way to the biggest boom in personal consumption the world had ever seen.” After WWII, materialism was our reward for war’s deprivations.

This time, a boom after “defeating” the climate could lead to even bigger disasters.

McKibben’s right that we need an all out effort to address climate change, but it’s only one solution to the mess we’ve created from our out-of-control consumerism. There’s also the Texas-sized island of plastic swirling in the Pacific Ocean, the jaw-dropping species extinctions, the lethal pollution and toxic chemicals and threatened water supplies. If we simply convert to clean energy without addressing the underlying causes of over-consumption and disregard for the earth, we’ll continue to face the same level of global emergency as climate presents now.

To be clear, the climate is not attacking us and it’s not our enemy. That’s the same twisted philosophy that got us here in the first place, where nature is other rather than part of a single system of which we are a part.

Rebecca Solnit, environmental activist, historian and the author of fifteen books, explains climate justice in this week’s Guardian. Her article on the Dakota Pipeline protests asks, “Is this a new civil rights movement where environmental and human rights meet?” Rather than wage war against climate change, she writes about joining forces with the Native American civil rights movement, as is being done successfully in South Dakota and for years up and down the Pacific Northwest coast.

Like McKibben’s war argument, climate justice is not a new concept. I wrote about it in 2010 for CSRHub.com in a story about the Native Alaskan Village of Kivalina suing big oil for melting their permafrost. I also wrote about the Occupy movement’s Climate Justice day in the Huffington Post: “Environmentalists are defining how environmental destruction and economic inequality are closely connected.”

The concept goes all the way back to Chief Seattle, who is quoted as having said, ““Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

Civil rights are being extended bit by bit to include all of humankind, and those movements will continue. Now we have to expand that same justice and compassion to all life on earth, finding ways to protect the earth and each other while diminishing our need for stuff.

We may need a war-like effort to switch to renewables, but comparing the climate crisis to waging war doesn’t move us forward. We need to heal our environment and, within our environment, ourselves. It’s a change in values that will be a much tougher “war” to win than the one McKibben proposes.

Photo courtesy of  Fibonacci Blue via Flickr CC.


Carol2Carol Pierson Holding is President and Founder, Holding Associates. Carol serves as Guest Blogger for CSRHub. Her firm has focused on the intersection of brand and social responsibility, working with Cisco Systems, Wilmington Trust, Bankrate.com, the US EPA, Yale University’s School of Environmental Sciences, and various non-profits. Before founding Holding Associates, Carol worked in executive management positions at Siegel & Gale, McCann Erickson, and Citibank. She is a Board Member of AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation). Carol received her AB from Smith College and her MBA from Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and rankings information on 16,495+ companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

Read More [fa icon="long-arrow-right"]

[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in climate change, Dakota Pipeline, renewables, Uncategorized, Rebecca Solnit, A World At War, Bill McKibben, Carol Pierson Holding, CSRHub, species extinctions, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Light at the End of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 23, 2016 11:10:26 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By: Carol Pierson Holding

Trans-Alaska Oil PipelineWriting recently for the Wall Street Journal, Thomas Barrett, President of Alyeska which owns and manages the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, bemoans the pipeline’s deterioration due to falling oil production and urges that oil drilling sites be opened in Alaskan seas to increase the oil load and save the pipeline.

But first, Barrett celebrates this amazing scientific and engineering feat. Completed in 1977 for over $8 billion, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline runs for 800 miles, carrying oil from its source in the North Slope to the port of Valdez. The complexity is mind-boggling: hot oil, maintained at a steady 140 degrees
through external temperatures as low as 60 degrees below zero, is pushed along by eleven pumping stations through pipe wrapped in 4 inches of fiberglass insulation, about half of it buried and half carried above the tundra on 78,000 support structures. The tundra’s temperature is further stabilized through 124,000 heat releasing pipes.

All this while balancing the demands of the pipeline’s powerful owners, primarily BP and Exxon Mobil.

For years, pipeline managers have claimed the pipeline needs more oil. After peaking in 1988 at over 2 million barrels/day, oil production in the North Slope declined, resulting in lower throughput, which leads to cooling oil, which over time results in build-up of sludge and other substances harmful to the pipeline. Barrett’s recommendation is to increase output by opening new oil drilling sites in the Chuchki and Beaufort seas and Cook Inlet near Valdez.

So far, the Interior Department has refused to sell these off-shore oil Alaskan leases, yet conservative forces and Alyeska managers continue to push.

According to Barrett, the only other option is to shut down the pipeline. The pipeline currently carries just a fourth of its maximum capacity, and its load will continue to decline, reducing revenue while requiring costly repairs. And it’s not just repairs caused by low oil flow. Pipeline President Barrett is still catching up on maintenance long-delayed by former Presidents, all but one drawn from member companies whose primary interest was to minimize costs and giving Alyeska poor ratings for environmental performance by ratings company CSRHub.

In addition, the pipeline is now almost forty years old. Insulation is eroding. Pipe seals are breaking. It seems it might be time to retire it anyway.

Climate activist Bill McKibben would agree. In an article in this month’s New Republic, McKibben argues for a “far more stringent effort” to control climate change than the plans agreed to after last year’s Paris Climate Summit. McKibben points to a state-by-state plan developed by American scientists led by Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford to transition rapidly to renewable energy from sun, wind and water, at the rate of 80-85% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. In Alaska, that would mean shifting to onshore and offshore wind for 70% of energy requirements and another 20% from hydroelectric.

The pipeline solution seems simple, doesn’t it? Instead of investing in oil pipeline maintenance, allow the North Slope oil to run out and the pipeline to degrade, then shut it down, however much it hurts to abandon that miracle of American know how. Invest instead in wind turbines.

One expensive problem remains. When the pipeline was originally built, the agreement reached with native tribes and environmentalists required that upon shutdown, all hazardous pipe, pumps, support structures, etc. must be removed and the land and vegetation restored along the pipeline as well the roads built to assemble it. The cost of disassembly could exceed the pipeline’s original cost.

What incentive does Alyeska have to make good on its promise? Oil and gas is a major source of tax revenue for Alaska and enforcement is notoriously lax. And how would you establish fines for leaving toxic pipe to erode along a 420 mile swath of tundra whose land value is virtually nil but, without which, an entire society’s source of subsistence is destroyed? Where one-third of the world’s soil-bound carbon is stored, then released whenever permafrost melts, adding to climate change?

In the past, regulators have succeeded in extracting even larger clean-up costs from the oil companies. But public outrage has played a huge part, and it may be harder to rouse activists on behalf of an old pipeline and the tundra below. If Alyeska’s owners cannot be pushed into living up to their agreement to dissemble the pipeline, then the task will fall to some combination of state and Federal agencies, and, eventually, American taxpayers. The biggest question is not how, but when.

Photo courtesy of Arthur Chapman via Flickr CC.



Carol2Carol Pierson Holding is President and Founder, Holding Associates. Carol serves as Guest Blogger for CSRHub. Her firm has focused on the intersection of brand and social responsibility, working with Cisco Systems, Wilmington Trust, Bankrate.com, the US EPA, Yale University’s School of Environmental Sciences, and various non-profits. Before founding Holding Associates, Carol worked in executive management positions at Siegel & Gale, McCann Erickson, and Citibank. She is a Board Member of AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation). Carol received her AB from Smith College and her MBA from Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and rankings information on 16,495+ companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

Read More [fa icon="long-arrow-right"]

[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Exxon Mobil, North Slope, Valdez, Uncategorized, oil leases, Trans Alaska Pipeline, Alyeska, Beaufort, BP, Chuchki, Thomas Barrett

Fossil Fuel Divestiture Campaign Focuses on Big Pensions

[fa icon="calendar'] Jul 13, 2016 10:19:45 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By Carol Pierson Holding

The fossil fuel divestiture campaign GoFossilFree equates the end of oil, gas and coal toDivest Scottish Parliament the great moral crusades of our time — Apartheid and tobacco — while hoping to reduce demand for fossil fuel stocks and thereby threaten their stock prices.

It’s a tall order. As long as GoFossilFree was focused on divesting university endowments, the campaign was a gnat on the haunch of the elephant. After all, why should an industry worth $5 trillion be afraid of endowments worth $467 billion, whose investments in oil and gas are probably 10%, or $50 billion, at best? Chump change to this industry’s behemoths.

But more recently, the FossilFree campaign began targeting pensions as well, and that’s a problem. Consider the numbers: as of 2013, US pension assets totaled $21 trillion. Using that same 10%, you’re talking $2.1 trillion in fossil fuel stocks. That’s a number big enough to scare even Big Oil.

The first real threat came in 2015 from California’s state pensions. In April of that year, the California legislature voted to divest its coal stocks from the pensions’ $657 billion investment fund. A scary precedent and one that got Big Oil’s attention.

Evidence of Big Oil’s alarm is clear on the anti-divestment site divestmentfacts.com. Funded by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the site used to publish letters from University Presidents justifying their decisions not to divest and a few reports on how much individual college endowments would lose through divestment.

In June, the DivestmentFacts site underwent a radical change. Focused now on pension funds, the site promotes the idea that under divestment, pension funds will lose $7 billion over twenty years. Three studies from three separate universities support the claim.

A closer look at the study authors reveals how much more the IPAA is investing to stop pensions from divesting. The lead study is authored by none other than the notorious economist and lawyer Daniel Fischel, the short-lived dean of Chicago Law School who resigned over a sex scandal and one-time expert witness in criminal trials of Mike Milken and Charles Keating as well as officers of Enron and Philip Morris. Fischel is Chairman and President of Compass Lexecon, one of the largest consultancies that specialize in what Charles Ferguson described in the Huffington Post as “The sale of academic ‘expertise’ for the purpose of influencing government policy, the courts, and public opinion… now a multi-billion dollar business.” The other two studies are by academics who are also Senior Consultants at, yes, Compass Lexecon. That’s some pricey research.

Shortly after releasing the three studies, the IPAA published a survey of pensioners conducted by FTI Consulting, which owns — wait for it — Compass Lexecon. FTI’s report warns, “Even the largest college endowment funds in existence today hold only a fraction of the assets managed by public pension funds,” then goes on to present “statistics” that prove pensioners don’t want divestment. A spokesman from the American Petroleum Institute (API) draws on heart strings when he concludes, "Millions of retirees and pension holders depend on income from oil and natural gas investments to live.”

Both oil lobbying organizations, API and IPAA, are funded mostly by the fossil fuel majors, with the bulk coming from Shell, BP and Chevron, companies that have the most to lose from divestiture. And they’re right to spend whatever they have to, because the truth is, the smart money in pensions should flee oil and gas for economic reasons. Looking ahead, HSBC Global Research found that global carbon regulations could result in fossil fuel companies losing 40-­60% of their value, which will translate into reductions in share price. Similar warnings have come from CitiBank, Standard and Poor’s, and the Bank of England.

Big Oil is right to be afraid. Pension fund divestment has moved to Europe. Just two weeks ago, the EU issued a directive that, on ratification, will require all pensions to “consider climate and risks related to…‘stranded assets,’”, referring to oil and gas reserves that may never be used. EU pensions total £3.2 trillion, $4.4 trillion at today’s depressed exchange rates.

Spending on anti-divestment is just a finger in the dike. Big oil and gas will lose to carbon-free energy. Will they follow buggy-manufacturers who never embraced the automobile and were pushed out of business? Or will they imitate American carmakers that entered the electric car market? Perhaps divestment will exact the same financial pressure on oil and gas that forced dramatic innovation in the American auto industry.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Earth Scotland via Flickr CC.


Carol2Carol Pierson Holding is President and Founder, Holding Associates. Carol serves as Guest Blogger for CSRHub. Her firm has focused on the intersection of brand and social responsibility, working with Cisco Systems, Wilmington Trust, Bankrate.com, the US EPA, Yale University’s School of Environmental Sciences, and various non-profits. Before founding Holding Associates, Carol worked in executive management positions at Siegel & Gale, McCann Erickson, and Citibank. She is a Board Member of AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation). Carol received her AB from Smith College and her MBA from Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and rankings information on 16,495+ companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

Read More [fa icon="long-arrow-right"]

[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Big Oil, Compass Lexicon, Daniel Fischer, divestiture, GoFossilFree, university endowments, Uncategorized, AIP, Carol Pierson Holding, IAPP, pensions

Subscribe to Email Updates

Lists by Topic

see all

Posts by Topic

see all