Walmart Scales Up Wind Power Purchases As It Eyes 100 Percent Renewable Energy

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Retail giant Walmart is following through on its commitment to source 100 percent renewable energy for its global operations. Earlier this month, the company signed a deal to buy 233 megawatts of utility-scale wind power from EDP Renewables. Large companies—including Walmart—have collectively procured nearly 4 gigawatts of utility-scale wind and solar power across the U.S. through August of this year, breaking the previous high mark by 750 MW, according to a recent report by the Wind-Solar Alliance. These companies want renewable energy to fuel their growth and are willing to make the long-term investment to get it.

“The declining cost of renewable power has led to an increase in clean energy procurement from companies like Walmart in recent years,” Miguel Prado, CEO of EDP Renewables North America, said in a statement.

Walmart's most recent deal includes three wind farms—all developed, owned and operated by EDP Renewables—in the states of Illinois and Indiana. It’s not yet clear how the electricity will be distributed and whether the power will go directly toward local Walmart stores or to other facilities.

“Walmart has a goal to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy, and sourcing energy from wind farms developed by partners like EDP Renewables is a core component in the mix,” Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart, said in a statement.  “Wind energy is an important part of our energy portfolio.”

The company is also making investments on the solar energy front. Last week, it announced an agreement with the commercial energy provider SunPower, which will install solar systems at 19 Walmart stores and two distribution centers in Illinois. A mix of rooftop and ground-mount systems are expected to generate 23 MW of power, with start of construction targeted for the first half of 2019.

Walmart intends to supply its global operations with 50 percent renewable energy by 2025, on the path to 100 percent renewables. Other companies targeting 100 percent renewable power include Alphabet, GM, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson, according to the Wind-Solar Alliance. Through the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, more than 100 U.S. corporate buyers pledged to purchase 60 GW of new U.S. renewable energy capacity by 2025—and they've procured just over 13 GW since 2013, according to the Alliance.

Yet, as the Wind-Solar Alliance noted in its report, it can be difficult—and sometimes impossible—to get the renewable power from where it’s generated to the demand centers that need it most. Walmart tackled that challenge by joining Southwest Power Pool's Regional Transmission Organization, which directs the construction of high-voltage transmission projects. Other major renewable energy users might choose to collaborate with transmission planners in other ways, the report suggested, such as paying a “green tariff” to a local utility, or working with other companies to develop a needed transmission line. A third option is for companies to work together through trade and advocacy organizations to help planners shape the grid.

Engaging large buyers of renewable energy with transmission planners may increasingly become an efficient way to ensure that the wind power is there when companies need it—and it can help move clean power goals like Walmart's forward.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Bolsonaro, Brazil and Why Your Company Should Care

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On the evening of Sunday, October 28th, Brazilian citizens solidified the decision that Jair Bolsonaro will be the country’s next president. Often called “tropical Trump,” Bolsonaro’s stated agenda has massive implications: during his campaign, he promised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, shut down the Ministry of Environment and open up the protected indigenous lands to mining and industrial agriculture. In the week before the election, he walked back on some of these statements, but the overall sentiment doesn’t bode well for our climate—or for your company.

As someone whose professional goal is to promote forests as a valuable part of the climate solution, I am incredibly disheartened by this news. But I also know that when policymakers cut back, companies can be a powerful force for environmental protection.

So if mitigating forest loss is part of your company’s sustainability goals, here’s what you need to know.

Bolsonaro’s proposed environmental rollbacks will make meeting corporate deforestation commitments increasingly difficult.

Hundreds of companies have supply chain deforestation commitments, often with 2020 deadlines. Brazil ranks second in the world for soy and beef production, so many of these companies’ supply chains touch Brazilian agriculture. Unfortunately, one estimate indicated that Bolsonaro’s agenda will nearly triple deforestation rates across the country, undermining corporate efforts to improve.

Counter to Bolsonaro’s rhetoric, economic development and thriving forests can go hand-in-hand.

In one sustainable beef intensification project in Mato Grosso, ranchers increased gross profit margin six-fold after implementing improved management practices, all while saving an estimated four hectares of forests for each hectare of pasture intensified. Scaling these types of practices is possible, and it drives value for everyone—producers increase profits, the state prospers from economic growth, and companies are able to meet their deforestation targets.

Corporate engagement in state-based jurisdictional approaches are even more crucial if Bolsonaro cuts back at the federal level.

EDF has long supported the idea that jurisdictional approaches can drive massive reductions in deforestation, and this still holds true with a Bolsonaro presidency. One state-based strategy, the Mato Grosso Produce, Conserve, Include initiative, could increase GDP by $1.3 billion annually while avoiding over 6 gigatons of GHG emissions by 2030. Corporate engagement in jurisdictional approaches sends a powerful market signal: the private sector is looking to invest in places with strong environmental policies.

No matter what Bolsonaro’s environmental agenda turns out to be, smart business leaders make decisions based on long-term economic goals, not short-term political news. In times of political turmoil, companies have a critical opportunity to show that commitment to climate and nature remains steadfast. Increasingly, customers and shareholders are well aware of the fact that thriving business and a thriving environment are not mutually exclusive.

Let’s show them—and president-elect Bolsonaro—what is possible.

Previously posted on EDF+Business and 3BL Media news.

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How Microsoft Empowers People to Achieve More with Cutting-Edge Technology

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Global technology companies increasingly realize that they have a responsibility to help consumers and all other stakeholders to inspire social impact through technology and innovation.

To that end, Microsoft says it is empowering people and organizations through building an intelligent cloud, reinventing productivity and business processes and making computing more personal. In its 2018 CSR Report, the tech giant describes how it is doing what it can to meet its commitment to the company’s mission.

Maintaining Privacy and Data Security

Microsoft insists that is focused on maintaining the timeless value of privacy and preserving users’ ability to protect their data. The company’s product development and privacy practices are built around six principles:

User control: Provide user-friendly tools and clear choices to put people in control of their privacy.

Legal protections: Respect local privacy laws and fight for the protection of users’ privacy as a fundamental human right.

Transparency: Be vigilant when it comes to being transparent about data collection and use so users can make informed decisions.

No content-based Targeting: Avoid the use of email, chat, files, or other personal content to target ads.

Security: Protect data that users can trust that the company will protect their personal information through strong security and encryption.

User benefits: Ensure that the company only uses data to benefit users and improve their experiences.

Increasing Accessibility

Microsoft claims it will continue to design products and services that are accessible to more than one billion people around the world with disabilities. The company says it considers inclusion in product design, workforce and culture to ensure that its technologies empower people of all abilities.

Features such as “Accessibility Checker” are a part of its various software programs that analyze the user’s material and provide recommendations alongside the document, helping people with disabilities understand how to fix errors and create more accessible content over time.

The “Alternative Text Tool” provides a description for an image or an object so that a blind or visually impaired person can understand the content. Automatic Alternative Text leverages intelligent image analysis powered by the Microsoft Computer Vision Cognitive Service to give suggestions for alt-text descriptions for images, which can be understood by people with blindness.   

Other innovative accessibility enhancing features include the Edge Reading Mode, which allows flexible text spacing and has a read aloud option. This works well for people who have trouble focusing on content that is spaced tightly together, or need content to be read aloud to improve comprehension.

Supporting Digital Skills and Career Pathways

From basic digital literacy to advanced computer science technologies, Microsoft says it promises to offer opportunities to learn digital skills so people and communities that lack access are equipped for the jobs of the future.

Through cash grants, technology and resources, the company supports in-school programs like Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) and nonprofits like, to help increase the number of young people who have access to computer science education.

In partnership with and others, Microsoft encourages US states to provide access to computer science education and count such courses toward math and science credits required for graduation.

The company works with over 150 nonprofits across 60 countries to help engage more than three million young people with computer science learning experiences.

Human Rights

Microsoft says it adheres to international standards and partners with human rights organizations to ensure that every citizen is respected—from its employees, to its suppliers and to communities worldwide.

The company aims to conduct best-in-class human rights impact assessments on its salient human rights actions, along with emerging trends in business and human rights.

In his letter to shareholders, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “We are grounded in creating local economic opportunity in every community, helping to unlock the power of technology to address our customers’ most pressing challenges.”

Source and Image: Microsoft

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Danone Striving for 100% Circular Packaging by 2025

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The circular economy model goes beyond the typical extractive industrial model of take-make-dispose with an aim to reduce dependence on finite resources and eliminate waste and pollution. Instead, this concept keeps materials and products in use and regenerates raw materials.

Reinforcing its commitment to the circular economy, global food giant Danone (whose North American CEO, Mariano Lozano, was the winner of Responsible CEO of the Year for Public Benefit Corporation at last week’s 3BL Forum) has announced a range of steps to ensure its packaging becomes 100 percent circular by 2025.

Danone plans to achieve this goal through improved product design, alternative delivery and reuse models, investing in systems for increased recycling and actions to preserve natural resources.

Packaging Designed for Circularity

Danone has committed that by 2025 all its packaging will be designed to be 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable. The company has pledged that it will also develop alternative models to eliminate unnecessary or problematic plastic packaging.

At present, 86 percent of Danone’s packaging is circular, and half of its water volumes are sold in reusable packaging. At evian, the company’s bottles are already 100 percent recyclable, and it is working on an innovation to eliminate shrink film for multipacks (which currently is non-recyclable).

Danone says the company also is planning to launch alternatives to single-use and plastic packaging in all its major water markets by 2025. It is also evaluating alternative solutions to replace plastic straws through a pilot program to be launched in Indonesia in 2019.

Circular Model in Practice

Circular design alone is not enough to make packaging 100 percent circular. Danone says it recognizes that effective systems for collection and recycling are required to ensure that packaging gets reused, recycled or composted in practice.

Danone also recognizes that design won't be enough to make its packaging fully circular. Effective collection and recycling systems are essential to ensuring packaging is recycled, reused or composted in practice.

To meet this goal, the company insists that it plans to go beyond the regulatory collection targets (such as the minimum 90 percent collection target for beverage bottles to be imposed in 2025 by the EU). Danone will support proven collection and recycling systems, such as Deposit Return Scheme and Extended Producer Responsibility, as needed.

By 2025, the company aims to launch or support initiatives for collection and recycling in all of its top 20 markets (that represent about 90 percent of its sales). It has already invested $5.25 million in the Closed Loop Fund, an initiative to develop sustainable manufacturing technologies and large scale recycling infrastructure in the US.

Preserving Natural Resources

To achieve transition to a circular economy of packaging, companies must commit to discontinuing any use of packaging from finite resources. This commitment helps preserve natural resources and keep the existing packaging materials in use. Recycling is a key strategy here.

Danone is using 14 percent of recycled PET on average in its water and other beverage bottles. It plans to increase the recycled content to 50 percent by 2025. The company’s evian brand already includes 30 percent recycled plastic on average, and aims to reach 100 percent by 2025.

Collaborating to Combat Waste and Pollution

Danone claims the company is fostering new alliances at global as well as local level to achieve its circular economy goals. The company will be joining hands with other organizations, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program and like-minded organizations to take on challenges related to plastic waste and pollution.

"We believe the time is now to step up and accelerate, embrace our responsibility and work with others to engage a radical shift that will help free the world from packaging waste,” said Emmanuel Faber, Chairman and CEO of Danone. “We will be acting both at global and local level to ensure circularity of packaging becomes the new norm,” he said.

Image credit: Danone

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Next-Level Corporate Social Responsibility and the End of Gab

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Last week's massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue has focused attention on Gab, the extremist, alt-right social media platform favored by white nationalists, including the Pittsburgh murderer. Gab has now been practically forced offline by the tech companies that provided it with digital support. That's a significant development because it fits into an emerging next-level corporate social responsibility pattern, in which business leaders are stepping in to address issues of broad social concern when others fail to act.

The corporate actions against Gab are also significant because they put mainstream social media platforms -- Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube among others -- on notice: they could be next.

Social media has a corporate social responsibility problem

Social media has been long overdue for a corporate social responsibility reckoning. The core of the problem is that popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are, well, popular. The business model is one that relies on high participation at zero cost to the user, with minimal bottom line expenses for monitoring.

Enforcing community standards on these platforms was a monumental task from the get-go, but not an impossible one. The problem is that until truly effective algorithms are developed, social media companies need to rely on hiring more human beings to make decisions about online content, and that costs money.

To justify lack of investment in human resources, social media companies have promoted the idea that online connectivity is by nature a good thing.

That's obviously not representative of the full range of online expression. It's simply a formulation of convenience, one that relieves the company from the responsibility -- and the considerable expense -- of hiring enough staff to keep online interactions on a civil and respectful level.

In real life, of course, there is nothing intrinsically good about getting people together. It simply depends on who is talking to whom, and with what motive.

Buzzfeed reporter and tech insider Ryan Broderick sums up the corporate social responsibility issue for social media companies in a nutshell:

The way the world is using their phones is almost completely dominated by a few Silicon Valley companies. The abuse that is happening is due to their inability to manage that responsibility. All of this has become so normalized in the three years since it first began to manifest that we just assume now that platforms like Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Twitter will exacerbate political and social instability. We expect they will be abused by ultranationalist trolls. We know they will be exploited by data firms. We wait for them to help launch the careers of populist leaders.

The "inability" is baked into the business model, so it's not really a lack of capability. It's a deliberate corporate social responsibility choice (or lack thereof) to not pay the army of staff that would be needed to vet and rank social media posts more effectively.

Gab as low hanging fruit

With all this in mind, let's take a look at the corporate social responsibility response to Gab. The startup was launched in 2016 and quickly gained a reputation as the "alt-right" alternative to Twitter.

As one measure of the amount of hate speech on Gab, advertisers shied away long before the latest massacre occurred, and Apple and Google Play refused to list the Gab app on their stores. Gab's initial online host was Azure, but that relationship ended after the site's anti-Semitic vitriol caught the attention of Microsoft president Brad Smith last summer.

Nevertheless, Gab stayed online -- until after the shooting. PayPal and another online payment vendor, Stripe, were both already in the process of suspending Gab before the shooting. They quickly closed Gab's accounts afterwards.

Gab’s current host, Joylent, cut Gab after providing it with a 24 hour window to find another host. The site also lost its domain on GoDaddy.

Gab has learned an important lesson: companies that provide services for online platforms are no longer willing to put their brand reputation at risk by enabling bad behavior -- or at least, not extremely bad behavior.

Social media whack-a-mole

Of course, Gab will have an afterlife, just as the influence of Breitbart and InfoWars continues to ripple out. Gab's owners and executives can still get a sympathetic hearing within the right wing television, talk radio and public appearance circuits. They will mostly continue to influence high profile Republicans -- up to and including President Trump -- who seek to build credibility with their core voters.

It's also inevitable that Gab users will continue to carry the torch through mainstream social media, including Twitter, YouTube, along with WhatsApp and Instagram, both of which are under the Facebook umbrella.

The question now is whether or not the outrage over the synagogue shooting will have any significant impact on the corporate social responsibility profile of mainstream social media platforms. These platforms have regularly taken their share of hits for enabling harmful online behavior that spills seamlessly into the real world, without making any substantial change to their business models.

That could change, now that the stakes for brand reputation are more clearly in evidence. The consumer boycott movements #grabyourwallet and Sleeping Giants have already put major brands on notice that they face significant reputational risks by associating with platforms that enable hate and violence -- and those brands are beginning to respond.

Image: "Facebook Beachfront" by mhkmarketing/

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What Are the Root Causes of Food Insecurity?

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Earlier this month, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) issued its Annual Global Food Security Index. This year’s survey, which evaluated data from 113 countries, sheds light on which nations have the most robust – and vulnerable – food supplies. The world’s population could surge to 9 billion people by 2050, which means governments, the private sector and nonprofit organizations need to find creative yet more sustainable ways to meet increasing demand for food – planning that should have launched many yesterday’s ago.

EIU researchers evaluated three core challenges that each and every one of us considers when we shop for food: affordability, availability and quality.

The natural reaction to this report is for citizens to thumb through the report and see where his or her country ranks. This study, however, has value for food and beverage companies as well, even if it sparks more questions than answers. Where are long-term risks across a global supply chain? As the world increasingly turns to populism and protectionism, what are potential workarounds considering one-fourth of all food humans consume is traded across borders? What new markets offer opportunities?

And for companies that have pledged to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), what options do businesses have to work closely with governments and nonprofits to ensure the world in 2030 is not one rocked by food shortages or in the worst-case scenario, famine?

TriplePundit recently had the opportunity to interview Robert Smith, an EIU consultant, to distill a few of this report’s findings. The big takeaway? While partnerships across sectors is hardly new, the lesson for business is that plenty of rocks are still unturned. Companies including General Mills, Unilever and PepsiCo have long found that working closely with nonprofits can help improve supply chain sustainability worldwide. In addition, large environmental organizations such as WWF have found that engagement, not estrangement, with the private sector can help advance environmental responsibility and tackle problems like deforestation - while improving agricultural practices that can also generate more economic opportunities.

Here are some of the report’s highlights.

3p: Talk about the key metrics you analyze and why you emphasize them.

RS: Food consumption as a share of household expenditure and sufficiency of supply are two fundamental components of the “affordability” and “availability” categories. They're essentially the headline indicator (and receive the highest weightings) under their respective categories. The higher the household expenditure on food, the lower the food security in a country (that is, food is less affordable). The higher a country's food supply, the higher its food security.

3p: What surprised you about this list's rankings?

RS: Particularly interesting is the fact that Singapore ranks number one overall in global food security (affordability, availability and quality and safety), but drops 15 spots in the rankings when applying the “natural resources and resilience category. In addition to high susceptibility to rising temperatures, rising sea levels and other climate-related risks, Singapore is also highly food-import dependent. This leaves it at even greater risk to these climate-related risks in addition to trade and supply disruptions.

3p: What is one country that is getting it right, whether it made huge improvements or have remained toward the top of the list - and why?

RS: Despite some minor shifts in the rankings since 2012, the top ten countries are all high income (i.e., their citizens overall are able to afford food), have reliable food supplies, and have developed policies and institutions to improve the quality and safety of food.

One country worth highlighting, though, is Colombia (ranked 49th), which has seen its overall food security score improve the third-most of all countries since 2012. This is partly attributed to an improved economic situation in the country and slightly lower agricultural import tariffs, but also greater efforts by the public sector to provide farmer financing (for example, insurance and credit) and to reduce the need for chronic food aid for certain populations.

3p: Concerns over food security have an impact on global food companies' supply chains as well. What can the private sector do to work with governments to ensure the world's growing population has secure access to food, even as the planet's population approaches 9 billion by 2050?

RS: Partnerships between the private, public and nonprofit sectors is essential. Private sector innovation from production to consumption (as in new strategies to improve production and reduce food waste, for example) will also be key.

Image credit: Leon Kaye

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UPS to Launch E-Bike Delivery Solution in Seattle

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Urban congestion is a growing problem around the world. With competing uses for city streets, congestion cost New York City and London a combined $46 billion last year, when fuel bills, increased shipping costs and wasted time sitting around in traffic were factored in, The Economist reported.

This has cities around the world looking for ways to decrease urban gridlock, using policies like congestion fees to ease the pain of slow-moving traffic. Enterprises that are affected by clogged streets are also coming up with innovations that enhance efficiency and leave a smaller footprint where they operate.

Logistics giant UPS is one such enterprise that for some time has been experimenting with more sustainable transportation solutions. Back in 2016, we reported on the introduction of an e-bike prototype, which UPS planned to use for deliveries in Portland, Oregon. Building upon that and similar operations in European cities, this week the company announced a new e-bike delivery system that will go into service in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the downtown Seattle area. UPS collaborated with Silver Eagle Manufacturing on the design, as well as Truck Trikes to develop the system from the ground up.

“[What] makes this different and interesting is not that it’s an e-bike, or equipment, but it’s a system that is modular,” Scott Phillippi, senior director of automotive maintenance, engineering and international operations for UPS, told TriplePundit.

Specifically, unlike the earlier e-bikes UPS experimented with—or, more accurately, e-tricycles with permanent cargo boxes—the new iteration comes with 95 cubic feet containers that can be detached from the system. This means the detachable containers, which themselves have wheels, can be hauled around on foot where the environment demands. This ultimately makes the system even more flexible than prior UPS e-bikes, allowing a variety of needs to be met in the urban environment.

A big advantage with the modular approach is that when all of the deliveries are made from the first container, the driver can attach the next full container—staged at a nearby location in the city—without returning to a distribution center. This will save time and reduce package handling.

Each container expected to hold around 40 packages. The plan is that four containers—each preloaded for designated routes—will be staged close to their delivery areas, allowing the system to be maximally efficient. The containers themselves will be fitted with solar-powered GPS units to keep tabs on their whereabouts, enhancing their security.

The modular delivery system will go into service on November 5 with just one initial e-bike. While the Seattle Department of Transportation worked with with UPS in developing the system - with the goal of both reducing congestion and improving air quality - Phillippi says UPS has tried to take a proactive approach with this program rather than be in the mode of reacting to a congestion crisis. If successful, UPS will expand the routes and consider additional e-bike deliveries in other areas of the city. Down the road, Phillippi says other cities are interested in deploying similar programs, too.

The pilot program conducted over the next year will be evaluated in collaboration with the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab, where researchers will review the e-bike’s reliability, design and integration into Seattle’s infrastructure. UPS expects to learn very early on what works well—and what parts of the system need to be improved, Phillippi said. From the business perspective, “Even if we stay even, it will be an improvement as we’re reducing congestion,” he told us.

As with earlier e-bike systems, the company will invite employees to bid for driver positions—which it calls its team of “industrial athletes”—and Phillippi says employees are excited to participate.

Piloting the program in Seattle has some historic relevance, too, as UPS originated as a bicycle messenger service in the city back in 1907. Going forward, the cargo e-bike is part of a broader company strategy to continue to electrify its delivery fleet, UPS said.

Image credit: UPS

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Companies Step Up to Urge Voter Participation in the November Midterms

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Even as partisan politics reach a fever pitch, voter turnout in the United States remains alarmingly low. On average, about 60 percent of the eligible voting population vote during presidential election years, and around 40 percent vote during Midterm elections, according to the electoral reform nonprofit FairVote. With less than two weeks until the Midterms, a new nonprofit initiative is rallying top companies to help get out the vote.

Launched yesterday, the Civic Responsibility Project wants to make it easier for companies to encourage voting among their employees and customers. “A country is only as strong as the engagement of its citizens—and right now nearly half of all Americans are opting out of our democratic process every election,” the Project team wrote in a press release. “The result of sustained levels of disengagement and fierce partisanship is a democracy that fails to meet the demands of a 21st-century society.”

The Project is offering a free toolkit to help companies give their stakeholders vital information about how to vote in this year’s Midterms—such as polling place locations, registration information and key dates like deadlines. It will also work with partner companies to personalize their get-out-the-vote initiatives and provide additional resources like customized voter registration links and state-specific voter registration packets.

“Many of America’s companies have proven track records in helping to solve social problems and have played a large part in shifting cultural attitudes,” said Ashley Spillane, advisor to the Civic Responsibility Project and former president of the youth voter engagement organization Rock the Vote, in a statement. “We need Corporate America’s help to ensure democracy is reflective of the overall population.”

The Project’s advisory board includes brand experts, media mavens and political operatives from both sides of the aisle. Along with Spillane, Nike alum Victor Nguyen-Long; Adam Conner, former government affairs pro for Slack and Facebook; and Brett Loper, a former American Express SVP who also served as chief of staff for Rep. John Boehner, are among those raising the call for greater voter turnout—saying, “Voter participation is not a partisan issue.”

Early voting is already underway in states across the country, including Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas. A total of 38 states plus the District of Columbia allow some sort of early voting (you can check out the timelines for your state here). And while voter registration has already closed in some places, 17 states and the District of Columbia offer same-day registration—meaning campaigns like these can not only summon registered voters off the sofa, but also get new voters to the polls.

Leading businesses like Twitter, Facebook, Lyft, Uber and Walmart are already getting involved in the effort to increase civic participation. One company, Patagonia, has taken a particular interest in this year’s Midterms.

The outdoor gear favorite has encouraged its community to vote with the planet in mind since 2004, but it's become decidedly more outspoken in recent years. Mere hours after the Donald Trump administration announced plans to shrink the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by up to 90 percent last year, the company posted a brazen message on its homepage reading, “The president stole your land.” It also joined REI and other outdoor labels in a lawsuit against the administration to protect public lands.

This year, for the first time in the company’s history, it is endorsing two candidates for the U.S. Senate in an attempt to further push for the protection of outdoor spaces. Both candidates are running on land and water protection as key components of their platforms, Patagonia said.

In Nevada, home to Patagonia’s global distribution center, more than 650 employees and its famous Worn Wear repair center, the company is supporting Senate candidate Jacky Rosen. Patagonia has worked with grassroots environmental groups and state leaders on some of Nevada’s most important conservation accomplishments in the last 20 years. It helped advocate for the protection of some of the state’s most important landscapes, including the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area and Gold Butte National Monument.

“[Patagonia is proud to support] Jacky Rosen because she will fight to protect Nevada’s public lands and the vibrant outdoor industry that depends on them,” Rose Marcario, president and CEO of Patagonia, said in a statement. “Jacky has a strong record of defending public lands in Congress and protecting our access to clean air and clean waters. We need her leadership to protect Nevada’s economy and the basic health of its people, so the business community can thrive and so Nevadans can prosper.”

In Montana, where the company created its 1% for the Planet program, it’s backing Jon Tester—the only organic farmer in the Senate—for re-election. The company’s conservation efforts in Montana date back to the late 1980s when it began giving grants to support the Montana Wilderness Association—and it’s since doled out nearly $5 million to grassroots groups in the state.

Most recently, the company supported the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project. Championed by Sen. Tester, the initiative proposes to expand the Bob Marshall, Mission Mountain and Scapegoat wilderness areas by close to 80,000 acres, while “setting forth a collaborative vision that brings conservation, recreation, forest restoration and economic benefits,” the company said.

“We are supporting Jon Tester because he gives a damn about protecting public lands—and, like us, he’s committed to fight back against anyone who doesn’t,” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said in a statement. “He goes to work every day for the 95 percent of Montanans who believe recreation on public lands is a priority.”

The company will feature the endorsements on its website and social media, as well as in customer emails. "This is not born from a desire to get into partisan politics," Patagonia's leadership insisted in a press statement. "In fact, it’s the opposite—it’s about standing up for the millions of Americans who want to see wild places protected for future generations. That’s something we will always do, regardless of political party."

Image credit: Parker Johnson via Unsplash 

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Breaking Out of the CSR Box: How to Build Social Impact Into Your Whole Business

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By Amy Silverstein and Megan Schumann, Monitor Institute by Deloitte

In recent years, the push for businesses to be about more than business and embrace a social purpose has risen from a murmur among millennial workers and the occasional CEO to a resounding call across the business world. Executives, employees, consumers, and even investors are looking beyond the bottom line and asking, “What does it really mean for companies to have social impact?”

Traditionally, corporate social impact has focused largely on activities such as donations, sponsorships, community relations and volunteerism, and over the last decade or two, companies often centralized these responsibilities within their corporate social responsibility (CSR) unit.

But social impact efforts have expanded in recent years to affect every part of business, cutting across functions and business units. Within a single company, social impact might include efforts related to building diversity of the workforce, increasing transparency of the supply chain, attracting purpose-driven consumers, and establishing environmental and human rights requirements for business partners.

Savvy CSR professionals recognize that a company’s social impact activities no longer fit neatly within just one group. It is harder than ever for CSR units to see the full span of activity across a company—much less to control it—even as corporate leadership looks to answer questions as to how disparate efforts fit together, and what the cost and return on investment will be.

Given the breadth of activity, the historical CSR function has simply become too small a box for all of a company’s social purpose activities. “We can’t afford to be ‘bolted-on’ to the business as a separate unit; instead social impact needs to be ‘built in’ to our company’s strategy, which means showing up across many aspects of how we operate,” shared Caroline Barlerin, global head of social innovation at Eventbrite.

The roles that a more integrated CSR function can play are still emerging, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model approach. Through our consulting work with leading corporations over the last several years, we’ve identified three small but important shifts that can help CSR teams begin to adapt to the new, more distributed landscape of corporate social impact.

1. Think like a B Corp.

Most companies will never become fully-fledged B Corporations, the new designation for enterprises that seamlessly blend business and social goals together while meeting certifiable standards around social, environmental, accountability and transparency goals. However, CSR groups can learn important lessons from B Corps.

For starters, B Corps are clear about both their business and their social goals—and how the two work together. This means developing and articulating a high-level understanding of the company’s social aims, and thinking about how those goals fit with the larger business strategy. While CSR groups may not be positioned to unilaterally set their companies’ social impact goals, they are uniquely positioned to document firm-wide social impact activities, make sense of what’s happening, and help formulate how social and business goals can be integrated.

Additionally, while less than 2,000 companies have gone so far as to become B Corp-certified, an additional 50,000 businesses have used the B Impact Assessment tool, a diagnostic that helps a company understand where it stands on a wide range of issues. Moving forward, CSR groups can lend their expertise in helping to understand, measure and communicate the impact of dispersed social impact efforts across the firm.

2. Be a resource and a guide to “social intrapreneurs.”

One of the reasons social impact is spreading so widely within companies is the growing amount of individual initiative being taken by senior business leaders and employees. Pockets of internally motivated individuals focused on social impact can greatly extend the reach of CSR teams and dramatically leverage their efforts. Keeping in close contact with these intrapreneurs enhances the CSR group’s credibility as it authentically engages employees and business leaders around their interests and taps their creativity and energy in productive ways.

Forward-thinking CSR groups are exploring how they can guide these emergent efforts toward greater impact. For instance, CSR team members can influence the design of these efforts, help find resources, better communicate their actions, connect with relevant nonprofits and coalitions, measure their impact, and align with firm-wide goals and messaging when appropriate.

3. Manage social impact as a portfolio.

Given the wide range of social impact activities that are occurring within companies these days—corporate giving, employee volunteerism, signature social impact initiatives, cause-related marketing, supply chain sustainability and so much more—there is inevitably a growing need for firms to take a more holistic view of what is happening. As a result, innovative CSR leaders are starting to play a new role in understanding and managing the full portfolio of social purpose activities across the company.

While there will be no “right” answers and CSR units will rarely have full control over the portfolio, they can nevertheless play an important role in “holding the whole.” This includes monitoring progress against key performance metrics, thinking about balance across the portfolio, and exploring how social and business strategies can be integrated to enhance both goals. As the complexity of firms’ social impact work increases, the need for smart portfolio management will only continue to grow.

The bottom line

As social purpose efforts ripple throughout a firm, unprepared CSR groups may risk getting marginalized, even as social impact activity blossoms around them. However, by embracing these new ideas with smart planning and nimble leadership, CSR units can evolve to become hubs that are central to a company’s ongoing social impact.

Amy Silverstein is a senior leader of the Monitor Institute by Deloitte and co-leads the Institute's corporate social impact strategy practice.

Megan Schumann consults organizations committed to tackling the pressing issues of our time in ways that draw on their greatest assets and strengths. She is a project manager for the Monitor Institute by Deloitte.

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Clean Energy Funds Target Growing Demand for Renewable Energy

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Renewable energy funds are on the rise, seeking to match profits with a commitment to sustainability. These funds invest not only in generators of solar and wind power and their suppliers, but also in manufacturers of LED light bulbs, electric cars and automobile batteries.

Stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are jumping on the bandwagon—from big players like Fidelity Investments and its Select Environment and Alternative Energy Portfolio to smaller ones that have been at it for decades, such as the New Alternatives Fund.

The fact that major companies like Facebook, with its pledge to power global operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2020, are going in big for renewables sweetens the financial prospect for investors.

Electricity sector leads the way in renewable energy investment

According to the International Energy Agency’s latest market forecast, renewables will continue their expansion in the next five years, covering 40 percent of global energy consumption growth. Their use continues to increase most rapidly in the electricity sector, and will account for almost a third of total world electricity generation in 2023.

As such, large utilities like NextEra Energy and MidAmerican Energy are making huge investments in renewables. James L. Robo, CEO of NextEra Energy, one of the country’s largest power generators, predicted that solar and wind power will be cheaper than coal or nuclear generation by the beginning of the next decade. MidAmerican Energy, the majority of which is owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffet’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, has set its sights on getting 100 percent of its electricity from wind power by 2020.

With the recent report by a United Nations scientific panel calling for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, demand for renewable energy may continue to surge—and with it investment in renewable technologies.

Renewable funds ease the energy transition, managers say

Managers of green-energy funds argue that individual investments help the energy transition. All else equal, more investors should mean higher stock values for renewable energy companies, which would make it easier for those companies and new ventures to raise money, Edward B. M. Guinness, manager of the Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy Fund, told The New York Times earlier this month. That should translate to further investment and expansion. “Every piece of investment in the sector matters,” he said.

Further, studies from Morningstar and others have shown that including nonfinancial factors, like environmental performance, in investment management is healthy for overall returns.

Make money and deal with climate change

Lucas White, manager of the GMO Climate Change Fund, targets alternative-energy investments as part of the fund’s energy exposure. “As the costs fell for solar, wind, batteries and storage, our research led us to think that there was a new strategy focused more directly on the solutions side,” White said in an interview in Advisor Perspectives.

The fund's mandate “is to make as much money as possible investing in solutions for dealing with climate change," White said—noting that he expects rising demand for renewable energy to make investments in the sector even more lucrative. "We are trying to figure out how to profit from the activity in this area, which we expect to ramp up considerably.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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