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Tears Don’t Mend Broken China

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 12, 2017 11:32:16 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

renewal.jpgI’ve always been clumsy.  There were many broken dishes and glasses in my childhood.  My Mom was always kind about it.  She’d say, “Tears don’t mend broken China.”  She had other similar phrases I remember (e.g., “If you get a load of lemons, it is time to make lemonade!”), but the lesson was always Midwestern positivism.  Don’t sit around moaning about what can’t be fixed—keep moving forward and don’t let your own failures hold you back.

Our recent election broke dishes for those of us in sustainability.  Many of my friends in the field and a number of our clients have asked if US corporate sustainability programs will be put on hold for the next four years.

I’m not as good as my mother was, at mending dishes (or comforting someone who is crying!).  But I do see some reasons for hope:

  • Well-run corporations care about profit, reputation, and mission. If their sustainability programs generate a profit, reduce risk, or help them accomplish their longer-range goals, they should continue to pursue them.
  • Young folks soon take over. We get requests daily from students around the world who need data for a sustainability study or project.  For every student who majors in CSR there are ten other young people who care passionately about the world’s future.  Unless something dramatically changes how young people view the future, we will continue seeing a generation-driven rise in interest in sustainability.
  • US companies trade with the rest of the world—and the rest of the world won’t backtrack on sustainability. If a US company wants to be successful in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, etc. it must adhere to a high standard of ethics, respect indigenous peoples, avoid polluting local water supplies, combat climate change, etc.
  • US companies have the same stakeholders they did on November 7. Managers, employees, communities, suppliers, customers, and investors will continue to remind companies about the risks that companies will face if they do not behave responsibly. It will remain important to have a “social license to operate.”
  • Momentum matters. Corporations are big ships that turn slowly.  They have put money and time into corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.  They won’t shift these resources into other things, without good reason and a lengthy analysis process.

 

What types of changes may occur?  Don’t expect stringent new guidelines from US regulators (e.g., the SEC, the EPA, OSHA, etc.).  Look for more boycotts and “buycotts.”  (Several groups are boycotting Trump-related brands and there seems to be a countervailing push to punish firms that won’t advertise on Breitbart.)  Some companies may offer less-sustainable alternatives in certain product areas.  (E.g., muscle cars, heavily-sugared cereals, and other “retro” products.)  Corporations may put on hold major new green investments until things “settle down.” None of this is long-term stuff.  We can mend these pieces and fix these holes.

We at CSRHub see our data and tools as a way to improve how a company communicates its progress and a means to reduce the cost of and improve the effectiveness of sustainability reporting. My mom once put the lid of a tea pot I’d smashed under my pillow and told me that it would give me sweet dreams.  Let’s remember what we’ve been through and all that we’ve accomplished so far.  Then, let’s move forward and dream again, about a better future.

Photo courtesy of  Ruth Edwards


Bahar Gidwani

Bahar Gidwani is CEO and Co-founder of CSRHub.  He has built and run large technology-based businesses for many years. Bahar holds a CFA, worked on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody, and with McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to a number of major companies and currently serves on the board of several software and Web companies. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to the world’s largest corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information.  It covers over 16,800 companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 500 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices, and seek ways to improve corporate sustainability performance.

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Rays of Hope for 2017

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 5, 2017 11:24:05 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

Donald Trump’s picks for his cabinet and advisors created a climate denier’s dream team, and their promises to renege on the Paris Climate Agreement and dismantle the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency are firing up the global Green movement big time.

Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement has generated “an unprecedented sense of solidarity among all the (signatory) countries,” says Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists. He believes that Trump has ceded climate leadership to China. Surely high levels of smog in Northern China help too: Beijing started the year in its third day of a smog alert, delaying flights and closing highways. On New Year’s Day, 25 cities in Northern China issued (even higher) “red alerts” for smog, closing factories, schools and construction sites.

Stop Dakota Access Pipeline.jpgGreen heroes are emerging everywhere. One example is the unlikely conversion of Portland’s Mayor, Charles Hale, once nicknamed “Fossil Fuel Charlie” for supporting a $500 million propane export facility proposed by the Pembina Pipeline Corporation, the largest pipeline in the Canadian tar sands and the largest business proposal in Portland history. Hale gave up his reelection campaign to push for projects including “the first stone in a green wall across the West Coast” — a zoning ordinance that effectively bans all new fossil-fuel-export infrastructure within the city’s limits, including the Pembina pipeline, and prevents expansion of existing facilities. On December 14, he got his wish, when the Portland city council voted unanimously for the ordinance.

Hale’s conversion came after a sustained campaign of relentless protests and public action. As his spokesperson Dana Haynes explained, “Public sentiment is very, very strongly against it, wildly against this thing. The mayor called Pembina in Calgary and said: ‘You’re walking into the chopper blades here. I was willing to support you last fall, but you’ve lost my support.’”

And these protests were even before Trump was elected.

Now, chopper blades, where personal stakes meet collective action, are everywhere. In December, Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted to restore favorable rates to solar companies after a year of fee increases and a phase-out of credits for excess energy customers sent back to the grid. The reversal was supported by huge turnouts at the PUC hearings that included those whose power costs have gone up and those who suffered when major solar companies, including SolarCity and Sunrun, left the state as solar applications dropped from 1386 to 18 a month. Personal stakes are high. Hearing turnout is high. Chopper blades.

Best known are demonstrations in North Dakota, where Native Tribes and environmentalists staged a protest thousands strong at Standing Rock, the Sioux Tribe’s sacred land that was threatened by Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL. When the protestors change their designation from climate justice Water Protectors, focusing as much on potential contamination of the Missouri River as on land rights and ancient burial grounds, the action drew affected farmers and renewed support from leaders like environmentalist Bill McKibben and journalist Amy Goodman.

While that movement may have succeeded only temporarily, it did reset the agenda. “Water Protectors” pits fossil fuel companies against clean water, which many believe is a universal right. DAPL also engendered more protestors against the just-approved Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion from Alberta to Vancouver. This project enlarges an existing pipeline to deliver three times its current volume of highly toxic and viscous tar sands oil to seven times as many tankers in the Salish Sea, just a few miles north of the pristine San Juan Islands and Seattle.  (Full disclosure: I live in Seattle and write on an island in Puget Sound.)

This 700% increase in oil tanker traffic is not sitting well in the Pacific Northwest. Water Protectors are already calling it “Standing Rock North.” Thousands of chopper blades.

The EPA releases a study that links fracking to water contamination. Fresh meat for chopper blades.

A coalition of outdoors enthusiasts, veterans, local businesses and environmentalists successfully argued that a $3 billion copper-nickel mining lease in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was illegally granted. Chopper blades.

Investors worth over $5 trillion have committed to dump fossil fuel stocks. Over 80% of that is from funds run for profit. More chopper blades.

And Obama churns out environmental edicts daily.

Trump will undoubtedly give no quarter to environmentalists or native tribes. With all that’s happened since his election, we collectively are setting chopper blades against his disdain for climate action. Isn’t this how a democracy is supposed to work?

 

 Photo courtesy of  Fibonacci Blue


Carol2 Carol 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 16,891+ 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.

 

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in climate change, Obama, Donald Trump, Charles Hale, Nevada PUC, DAPL, Water Protectors, Paris Climate Agreement, China smog, Penumbra Pipeline

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.

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Heineken's Bold Approach to Increasing Their Transparency

[fa icon="calendar'] May 4, 2016 10:44:07 AM / by CSRHub Blogging

By Jeff Hayes

Sustainability professionals are chronically over-worked, and the idea of reviewingHeineken CSR performance another sustainability report - even one from a leading global brand - often gets filed under "good idea" rather than "essential reading".

That's almost certainly the reasoning behind Heineken's decision to produce a rap video that shares quantitative information on their CSR performance.

That's right - a rap video! And at CSRHub, we applaud any effort that makes CSR performance data easier for everyone to understand - its at the core of what we do, too.

While we're not familiar with this particular rapper (Blaxstar) we do appreciate a funky groove - even more so when the lyrics speak to honest effort that's been applied to solving some of the world's biggest problems.

What's next - a Broadway musical on climate change? We're looking at you Lin-Manuel Miranda...

And more importantly - what do you think of their strategy? Is this a good idea?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FJyKYK74DM

Photo courtesy of Acid Pix via Flickr CC.

 


Jeff HayesJeff Hayes is part of the Direct Sales and Business Development team for CSRHub. Jeff defines Corporate Sustainability as "maximizing profitability - but not at the expense of the environment, people, or their communities." Before joining CSRHub, Jeff was a consultant, offering middle-market organizations a fast-track to sustainable business best practices. During that time he was also a CSRHub subscriber, and he brings his own user-experience focus to improving our tools. In 2006 he co-founded an inclusive network of entrepreneurs and young professionals called Green Business Networking, simultaneously running an exclusive, sustainability-focused network of service professionals. Jeff attended Berklee College of Music, where he studied Film Scoring. Returning to California he entered the emerging world of computer graphics, and his early career was spent developing visual effects for film, television, and video games for Walt Disney Imagineering and Activision. Jeff grew up traveling around the world, surfing exotic locales, and since settling in Seattle he's shifted his passion for ocean sports to learning to kite board in Puget Sound.

CSRHub provides access to the world’s largest corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information.  It covers over 16,000+ companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 455 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices, and seek ways to improve corporate sustainability performance. 

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in climate change, CSR performance, Uncategorized, sustainability, Heineken

Accelerating Clean Energy Transition Effective Weapon Against ISIS?

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 19, 2015 4:14:30 PM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By: Carol Pierson Holding
Paris

As we got closer to the December 7-8 climate talks in Paris, I began seeing movement towards an outcome so positive that it might surprise us all. Politically, climate change-related events of the week are just short of astonishing. Obama’s rejection of the Keystone pipeline and New York’s Attorney General agreeing to hear the case against Exxon for lying about climate change happened just a week ago. Pundits saw these decisions as climate activism success and proof of populace power.

Market news was equally encouraging. Solar energy providers just underbid coal companies, winning contracts in Chile and India without subsidies. Renewable energy is simply cheaper. Coal stocks are down and coal companies are going bankrupt. This year coal sales have already declined by as much as 180 million tons versus last year. The largest state pension system CALPERS if California is divesting from coal. All great news.

Then the ISIS attacks on Paris happened. The mass murders were barbaric; the threat of more, terrifying; the fear, all engulfing.

While my news feeds didn’t change, my perceptions changed dramatically. My filters turned negative. I began seeing pessimistic reports everywhere.

The same President Obama who seemed so fearless in rejecting TransCanada’s bid for the Keystone pipeline approved the Gulf Trace liquid natural gas pipeline expansion. As reported in DeSmog’s newsletter, the pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners, one of the worst environmental offenders, and will move fracked liquid natural gas to Cheniere Energy’s shipping terminal in Sabine Pass, Louisiana. Back in 2012, Sabine Pass was the first terminal approved by the Obama administration for liquefied natural gas. Among its board of directors is Obama's former climate czar, Heather Zichal.

Politics as usual in the entrenched fossil fuel business.

Even more damaging to the environment are increasingly conservative local leaders. One example: London is experiencing air pollution from car exhaust that’s risen to levels not seen since the 1950s, when one four-day “pea-souper” killed 12,000. This year, Oxford Street exceeded pollution limits set for the entire year in just the first four days of 2015.

But the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is a climate denier who calls pollution statistics “ludicrous urban myth” and has delayed any action until 2020. As Christine L. Corton wrote in the New York Times, “what’s happening in London is being played out in cities worldwide, as efforts to curtail the onslaught of air pollution are stymied by short-term vested interests, with potentially disastrous results.”

Then there’s the politics of COP21 itself. Protests around the upcoming G20 meeting are pushing members to recommit to ending fossil fuel subsidies, now at $425 billion, or four times the amount of pledges for climate finance. G20 leaders agreed but failed to dismantle fossil fuel supports in 2009. COP 21 offered another chance to broker the tough agreements.

But after the Paris bombings, the G20 vowed to make ISIS their primary focus.

Posting the morning of the Paris slaughter, 350.org Board Chair and Climate Solutions’ Senior Policy Advisor KC Golden’s offers this resounding call to climate action:

“We have the guts and the will and the brains to win our best and only viable future, a clean energy future.  Believe that too. It’s not just stout opposition that’s stopping fossil fuel expansion; it’s the clean energy transition, taking off.”

Would the ISIS attack on Paris prevent Golden’s vision from happening?

Leaders across the developed world face a threat just as important or urgent than climate change, and definitely more immediate. One possible scenario: political leaders recognize our dependence on fossil fuel for the vulnerability that it is. From the easy target created by our troops’ fuel trucks operating in ISIS territories to the risks here at home from combustible fuel sources located near dense population centers, fossil fuels are a strategic disadvantage. Shouldn’t climate change action be part of the G20’s response to ISIS, depriving them of their primary source of income while keeping our troops and citizens safe?

What Golden wrote before the attacks was prescient: “We’re collaborating as never before to build stronger, more equitable economies, healthier communities, shared prosperity…making continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure as unnecessary and uneconomic as it is unconscionable.” The fight against ISIS is just one more reason to make that transition as fast as we possibly can.

Photo courtesy of Groume via Flickr CC.


Carol2 Carol 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 information on 15,000+ companies from 135 industries in 132 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.

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in air pollution, climate change, Exxon lying, fuel trucks, G20, KC Golden, Uncategorized, Obama, ISIS, London pea-souped, Boris Johnson, climate talks, CSRHub, Heather Zichal, Keystone Pipeline, Paris attacks

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