Wrangler Adopts the Denim Industry’s First ‘Dry-Dyeing’ Process

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It takes a whole lot of water to make a pair of jeans. In 2007 and again in 2015, denim giant Levi Strauss set out to quantify just how much water went into making its iconic 501 jeans. The company discovered that each pair of 501's uses around 3,800 gallons of water during its full life cycle—70 percent of which is used for cotton growing and another 9 percent consumed during manufacturing.

This week another storied American denim company announced it will cut its manufacturing usage down to size by bringing a brand new dyeing technology to the industry.

On Tuesday, Wrangler confirmed an agreement to implement a new foam-dyeing process to give its jeans the same classic blue color without the water waste. The company will be the first to use the technology, which it says can eliminate 99 percent of the water typically used in the dyeing process.

Researchers at Texas Tech University developed the new dyeing system thanks to early-stage funding from Wrangler and the Walmart Foundation. Tejidos Royo, a Spanish fabric mill with a reputation for prioritizing environmental performance, will be the first to integrate the process, which it calls Dry Indigo.

“We invested in the development of this innovation, because we believe it can drastically change the denim industry for the better,” Tom Waldron, president of Wrangler, said in a statement. “We’re grateful to have an industry-leading partner in Royo, with whom we are taking this revolutionary step toward more sustainable denim.”

Wrangler will leverage a full line of jeans to showcase the foam-dyed denim in 2019. “We’re excited Wrangler is dedicating an entire line of jeans to this innovation,” Jose Royo, sales director of the Tejidos Royo fabric mill, said in a statement. “Our Dry Indigo process nearly erases the environmental impact of denim dyeing and represents the next generation of denim production.”

The manufacturing upgrade is part of Wrangler’s broader goal to save 5.5 billion liters—or around 1.5 billion gallons—of water by 2020. The company has already recycled 3 billion liters of water over the past 10 years, but it will need to step it up in order to meet its goal—and new innovations like this can help, Waldron said.

“While we have been able to reduce 3 billion liters of water in product finishing during the past 10 years, we know that more needs to be done across the entire supply chain,” he explained in a statement. “Foam technology reduces water consumption and pollution further upstream, helping our fabric suppliers to dramatically minimize the impacts of making denim fabric blue.”

If Wrangler dyed all of its denim with this new process, it would save enough water for 150,000 people to use in their homes for an entire year, the company said. For perspective, that’s roughly equivalent to the entire population of Savannah, Georgia, or Hartford, Connecticut.


Wrangler is also looking to move away from the petroleum-derived synthetic indigo dye used by most denim manufacturers. The company began sourcing natural indigo from a handful of farmers last fall, including the Tennessee-based Stony Creek Colors, and hopes to ramp up natural indigo purchasing in the coming years.

Even further down the supply chain, Wrangler continues to work with cotton farmers on more sustainable agricultural practices. The company introduced a soil health program last year to boost the sustainable cotton supply, engaging farmers from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, Environmental Leader reported.

The denim icon also plans to power all owned and operated facilities with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025, among other sustainability initiatives.  

Wrangler’s parent company, VF Corporation, is no stranger to sustainability either. The apparel giant that also includes labels like Vans, Timberland and the North Face cut carbon emissions by 12 percent from 2009 to 2015 while growing the business—among a number of impressive social and environmental achievements.

The Made for Change strategy, launched at the end of last year, further embedded sustainability into day-to-day operations at VF. “Made for Change was designed as a long-term strategy for the business—not just a sustainability strategy—so it had to create value,” Letitia Webster, global vice president of corporate sustainability for VF, told Conscious Company. “If we want the plan to generate value in the form of revenue, reputation, brand relevancy and growth, it must be embedded in the business.”

As it moves forward with its company-wide goals, Webster said VF will lean on brands with more experience in sustainability, such as Wrangler, the North Face and Timberland, to lead the way. “We’ve been at it for a long time, and we’ve been able to show some wins and highlight some success stories from brands across the company,” Webster told the magazine. “Those bright spots put momentum behind us, and people start to wonder, ‘If that team can do it, why can’t I?’”

Image credits: Wrangler

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Carlsberg’s Snap Packs are Latest Example of Sustainable Packaging for Beer Industry

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Danish brewer Carlsberg’s latest packaging innovation is almost invisible, and that’s exactly the point.

Gone are the days of plastic wrap, rings or caps holding together multi-packs of beer. Instead, the cans in Carlsberg’s new Snap Packs are held together by glue.

“You can’t actually see the packaging. It’s almost not there, and that is what is extremely exciting from a sustainability perspective,” said Simon Boas Hoffmeyer, head of sustainability at Carlsberg, in an interview with The Guardian.

The Snap Packs, which will debut in the United Kingdom, were three years in the making. The hardest part of the development process? Making glue dots strong enough to keep the packs together during shipping and on store shelves, while easy enough for consumers to break when they want a single can.

Carlsberg estimates the switch to glued cans will reduce plastic waste by 1,200 metric tons (1,323 tons) a year – the equivalent of 60 million plastic bags.

The World Wildlife Foundation has already given its support to the new packaging design. Said Bo Øksnebjerg, Secretary General in WWF Denmark:

Our wildlife is drowning in plastic – and the problem is unfortunately growing considerable. We therefore need to act now. We need less plastic to end up in nature. That is why we consider it huge progress that Carlsberg is now launching solutions that significantly reduce the amount of plastic in its packaging. With these new solutions, Carlsberg has taken the first big steps on the journey toward a more clean and green future.
To celebrate the release of the new Snap Packs, Carlsberg recruited one of Denmark’s biggest celebrities – The Little Mermaid. Earlier this month, Carlsberg debuted a replica of Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid statue. Only this version was made with, you guessed it, glued-together Snap Pack cans. The rising “tide” on the statue is made of 302 lbs. (137 kg) of plastic, representing the amount of plastic eliminated every hour by the absence of plastic on the new Carlsberg multipacks.


The Snap Pack is not the first green packaging initiative from Carlsberg. In September 2016, the brewing company unveiled designs for its Green Fiber Bottle, made from sustainably sourced wood fiber.

Carlsberg’s shift is among other eco-friendly packaging innovations that have been brewing across the international beer industry in recent years:

  • Saltwater Brewery of Delray Beach, Florida, was the first brewery to offer the E6PR (Eco Six Pack Ring). These rings are made from compostable organic materials that are not harmful to wildlife if accidentally ingested. The E6PR has now expanded to four breweries in the U.S., along with breweries in Australia and South Africa.   

  • SAS Green Gen Technologies of France is finalizing development on a bottle made of flax fibers. The lightweight, biodegradable bottle can handle beverages with an alcohol content of up to 60 percent ABV, making it a suitable container for not only beer, but also wine and liquor. Within the next two years, SAS Green Gen Technologies expects to expand to include beverage containers made of bamboo, sugar cane, and hemp.

  • Scottish brewing company Jaw Brew is working with biotech firm Cuantech to create can connectors made from shellfish. Chitin is a substance extracted from prawn shells. If successful, these six-pack connectors would reduce both plastic and aquaculture waste.
Photo credits: Carlsberg
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Global Fossil Fuel Demand Could Peak In Only Five Years, Studies Find

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Fossil fuel demand could peak as early as 2023, according to a pair of studies released this month. The shift has the potential to put “trillions at risk for unsavvy investors oblivious to the speed of the unfolding energy transition,” Carbon Tracker, a nonprofit think tank that studies the impact of climate change on financial markets, predicted in a report last week.

Demand for coal, oil and gas is “stalling” as the costs of clean energy and battery storage fall and governments shift away from fossil fuels in pursuit of their pledges under the Paris climate agreement, the London-based think tank found. Moreover, it describes an “emerging market leapfrog,” in which developing countries move directly to renewables and bypass costly fossil fuel projects.

“The motor of change now lies in the emerging markets, which is where all the growth in energy demand lies,” the report reads. “They have less fossil fuel legacy infrastructure, rising energy dependency, and are anxious to seize the opportunities of the renewables age. We believe it highly likely therefore that emerging markets will increasingly source their energy demand growth from renewable sources, not from fossil fuels.”

Overall, Carbon Tracker expects a 1 to 1.5 percent annual growth rate in global energy demand over the next decade, while the global deployment of wind and solar power increases by 15 to 20 percent each year. If that happens, “fossil fuel demand will peak between 2020 and 2027, most likely 2023,” according to the study.

“Fossil fuel demand has been growing for 200 years, but is about to enter structural decline,” Kingsmill Bond, new energy strategist for Carbon Tracker and author of the report, said in a statement. “Entire sectors will struggle to make this transition. They can expect price declines, greater competition, restructuring, stranded assets and market derating.”

The fossil fuel sector has invested an estimated $25 trillion in infrastructure, much of which could be put at risk if demand begins to fall, and energy firms are far from the only ones in the danger zone. The energy transition will directly affect sectors that compose up to a quarter of equity indexes and debt markets, ranging from banking and capital goods to transport and automotive, according to Carbon Tracker.

Bond and his team also warned that fossil fuel exporting countries will suffer potentially destabilizing shake-ups in the wake of a transition, as fossil fuel leases account for 10 percent or more of GDP in 12 countries, including Russia and Saudi Arabia.

A second report released by DNV GL came to a similar conclusion. The Norwegian risk-management company predicted that global energy demand will decline from 2035 onward, hastening the shift away from fossil fuels. Fossil fuel spending will drop by around a third by 2050, as investment in renewable energy triples, according to DNV estimates.

“Fossil fuels will play an important if reduced role in our energy future with its share of the energy mix set to drop from around 80 percent today to 50 percent by the middle of the century, with the other half provided by renewables,” Peter Lovegrove, media relations and video production manager for DNV, wrote on the company’s blog.

DNV expects oil to peak in 2023 and natural gas to become the single largest energy source by 2026, with wind and solar “set to meet the majority of new electricity demand.” Coal is already on the decline, having reached its peak in 2014. “The transition is undeniable,” Remi Eriksen, group president and CEO of DNV, said in a statement. “Last year, more gigawatts of renewable energy were added than those from fossil fuels.”

These peak projections differ substantially from what the fossil fuel industry expects. Shell says it could peak in the late 2020s only under the “most aggressive” and unlikely scenario for electric car growth, the Times U.K. reported. ExxonMobil projects growth to 2040 as sectors like shipping and aviation continue to depend on oil, reports the Guardian.

With these numbers in mind, it’s no surprise that some in the industry are unconvinced by the recent studies. In a Fortune op/ed published this week, the CEO of one of America’s largest privately-owned oilfield services companies said the 2023 peak forecasts “should be viewed with caution.”

“The energy transition will happen over the coming decades, but an array of political, economic and social considerations will determine how long it actually takes to ‘de-carbonize’ the entire global energy system, if ever,” Canary CEO Dan Eberhart wrote in Fortune.

Even as countries switch away from fossil fuels for their energy needs and electric vehicles continue to take hold in the transportation market, oil demand is expected grow in other sectors, including trucking, aviation and petrochemicals, Eberhart argued. He also pointed out that most oil companies sit on vast natural gas reserves that will keep them relevant and competitive for decades to come.

Still, Eberhart’s argument that full-fledged decarbonization is necessary to reach peak oil remains in dispute. “Even though complete decarbonization is far off into the future, the peak occurs early on in the transition,” energy reporter Nick Cunningham wrote on Yahoo Finance. “Once the peak is hit, the troubles start to accelerate. Demand starts to fall, so fossil fuel companies face lower prices for their products, lower valuations and ultimately stranded assets.”

Notably, demand often peaks when up-and-coming competitors still represent less than 10 percent of total sales in a sector, said Bond and his team at Carbon Tracker. They used Europe’s thermal energy sector as an example. There, demand for thermal energy peaked in 2007 when renewables made up just 3 percent of total energy supply. As demand fell following the financial crisis and renewables continued to grow, the thermal industry was forced to write down $150 billion in assets.

“We have seen a similar pattern in many energy transitions, from electricity, coal and cars in recent years to horses and gaslights in the past,” Bond argued. “Demand for incumbents peaks early, and investors in incumbents lose money early on.”

Carbon Tracker predicts that the tipping point for fossil fuel demand will come when solar and wind power make up around 6 percent of total energy supply—far below levels of penetration in many European countries. But these forecasts are far from certain, especially if more countries follow the United States’ lead and drop out of the Paris agreement or weaken their commitments. In Brazil, presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro has already pledged to pull his country out of the agreement if elected.

“If more and more countries start to take Paris less seriously, that will have some effect on how quickly the energy transition happens,” Sebastian Ljungwaldh, an energy analyst at Carbon Tracker, told the Guardian.

While the exact timing remains to be seen, the potential risks for investors and industries tied to fossil fuels are undeniable—and those folks are likely paying attention, even if the fossil fuel sector is not. “Investors anticipate, so they will typically react even before companies see peak demand,” said Bond of Carbon Tracker. “This is what happened recently in the coal and European electricity sector transitions. We believe that investors will start to react faster as the energy transition works its way through the world’s capital markets. As each sector is impacted, it becomes easier for the market to anticipate something similar happening to the next sector.”

Image credit: Flickr/Walter

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Good News: Greenwashing Isn’t So Prevalent After All

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What do you do if a company wants you to help with greenwashing?

The recurrence of this question indicates to me that while greenwashing may seem like a somewhat tired conversation to those of us who follow sustainability closely, it’s still a big concern to the thinking public.

Academic researchers affiliated with the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business at Georgia Tech may have closed the book on at least one question regarding the prevalence of greenwashing in industry. (Disclosure: The Ray C. Anderson Center is a client of my firm, New Growth Communications.) Manpreet Hora and Ravi Subramanian, both associate professors of operations management, analyzed whether or not companies that voluntarily published information about their environmental intentions or achievements actually performed better or worse than their more reticent peers.

They found companies making positive discretionary disclosures in the press significantly reduced their overall releases of pollutants—as measured by the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)—compared to similar firms that did not.

“The research suggests that at least one form of greenwashing isn’t prevalent,” said Manpreet Hora. “We designed the study to test whether or not there was a so-called ‘hidden trade-off,’ meaning that one set of positive environmental outcomes was emphasized while other negative and potentially more serious outcomes were overlooked. Fortunately, that didn’t seem to be the case.”

The full study, “Relationship between Positive Environmental Disclosures in Press Announcements and Environmental Performance,” has been accepted for future publication in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. However, the Ray C. Anderson Center just published a research brief on the study in its new Sustainable Business Insights series for practitioners.

The study built on a data set previously used by Subramanian and another researcher at the Center to study how positive environmental disclosures did or didn’t affect shareholder value (Jacobs et al, 2010). But instead of correlating the disclosures to stock prices, Hora and Subramanian correlated the disclosures to environmental performance scores, which they devised from aggregating comprehensive TRI data about chemical releases across company facilities after weighting the releases for varying levels of toxicity. Then they compared the scores to a control group of companies that did not “toot their own horns,” so to speak.

“The overall environmental performance of the 200 firms that made press announcements was better than that of the control firms that shared similar characteristics such as size, industry, and prior environmental performance,” Hora said. “This should be good news to both stakeholders and activists.”

However, Hora pointed out the lack of greenwashing could be the result of external watchdog pressure. Hora and Subramanian’s paper cites an earlier study published in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy (Lyon and Maxwell 2011) that observed a phenomenon I’ve experienced in which firms with good environmental performance and nothing to hide are hesitant to talk about themselves for fear of drawing more intense scrutiny.

Hora and Subramanian also analyzed their findings to compare the measured environmental improvements of companies in industries categorized as clean or dirty, and to compare the performance of companies that announced environmental intentions against those that announced environmental achievements. Interestingly, the firms in dirty industries had stronger improvements in environmental performance than those in non-dirty industries. And improvements were statistically the same for companies that announced environmental intentions compared to those that announced achievements.

It’s important to note EPA’s TRI doesn’t track carbon dioxide, so this study doesn’t apply to corporate claims about fighting climate change. Additionally, it doesn’t address political greenwashing, a pressing concern that some companies talk a good game publicly while quietly lobbying lawmakers behind the scenes to uphold or institute damaging environmental policies.

Nonetheless, I recommend the research brief to any practitioner who has three minutes to spare and an interest in understanding greenwashing better. If you’re really curious, the paper will be a good entry point to the academic research on the topic, with interesting citations to discussions on institutional theory and legitimacy gaps.

Image credit: Neep/Wiki Commons

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Onward! Resilience Takeaways from the Global Climate Action Summit

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In some ways, it’s surprising how little the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit focused on climate adaptation. Only two the 500 official announcements emanating from the annual event, which concluded last Friday, relate to adaptation.

And though The Exponential Climate Action Roadmap, published on the CGAS opening day by its leadership, explained that “the roadmap outlines the global economic transformation required by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement on climate,” it asserted that the Paris Agreement’s goal to reduce the risk of dangerous climate change “can be achieved if greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2020, halve by 2030 and then halve again by 2040 and 2050.”  

Actually, this isn’t quite right. The Paris accord has goals – plural. In addition to the above objective, the Paris Agreement covers global approval for adaptation, resilience and reduced vulnerability. It requires signatory nations to plan and apply adaptation, report adaptation efforts and needs, and – every five years – measure adequacy, effectiveness and progress. Indeed half of the Paris Climate Agreement is about adaptation. (For those of you who keep score, adaptation is mentioned 47 times in the agreement while mitigation only 23.  Check it out.)

So while the climate media and GCAS may be distorting the Agreement’s reality, the resilience initiatives featured at the Summit and affiliated events are awesome and deserve to be encouraged and supported in their own right.  

Here is my roundup of a baker’s dozen of highlights that deserve our attention and promotion as we fuel ambition for adaptation:

  1. James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Authority at the Summit representing the National Association of Counties and discussing Community Readiness boldly pointed out that to break the damage/repair/damage/repair cycle  in certain cases, we must "make climate action happen by migrating households out of harm’s way.”  

  2. Sanjay Wagle, Managing Director of the Lightsmith Group, launched a resilience finance technical facility for lower income and small island nations, based on the progress of the firm’s award-winning Climate Resilience and Adaptation Finance and Technology-transfer facility (CRAFT). 

  3. Emilie Mazzacurati, founder and CEO of Four Twenty Seven Inc., introduced the firm’s latest innovation, a project to identify and calculate the macroeconomic risks of climate change for every country and ensure that governments can access its data.

  4. Tom Steyer (At the Cities4Climate Event hosted by C40), who is a hedge fund manager, philanthropist, activist and the money and brains behind Risky Business, gave credit for California’s progress on climate action to community activists. He contended that California’s climate progress “is due to the leadership of the environmental justice movement – they are the high water mark in terms of morality. They make climate change a kitchen table issue.”

  5. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), is working on the biggest climate change killer out there, heat stress, by helping Indian states adopt heat action plans with public awareness campaigns, better identification of vulnerable populations and expanded use of reflective surfaces.

  6. C40 for its Deadline 2020 initiative – a commitment from 73 cities, representing over 425 million citizens, to develop inclusive climate action plans to strengthen resilience and address adaptation along with mitigation in their work.

  7. ICF’s Robert Kay, who foresaw that GCAS would be a key set of dialogues and initiated plans for the robust affiliate event, “Building Resilience Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow,” that brought together the Global Resilience Partnership with BSR and the United Nations initiative, Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape.

  8. Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) hosted a Climate and Resilience Preview where real estate investors waded into the deep of both reporting the climate risk embedded in their holdings and working to mitigate it. It included Romilly Madew, CEO of Australia’s Green Building Council, who has mainstreamed real estate climate change risk assessment among her members.

  9. The Pacific Coast Collaborative led by Governors Jerry Brown (CA) and Jay Inslee (WA), who launched a new effort to strengthen climate resilience through collaboration that results in climate resilience for local communities and infrastructure.

  10. Global Adaptation and Resilience Investment (GARI) work group and Willis Towers Watson’s Carlos Sanches, who together are promoting the development of financial tools and instruments for the management of portfolio exposure to climate risks.

  11. Connecticut Governor Dannell P. Malloy led with his proudest climate action: Creating resilience through traditional finance by applying state bond proceeds to neighborhood microgrids. This occurred after the state was pummeled by extreme snow events that cut power for days.

  12. BSR provided leadership from Samantha Harris with its new Climate-Resilient Value Chains Leaders Platform. Launched with climate resilience leaders Mars Inc. and Coca Cola, the initiative focuess on long-term models for corporate buying that require resilience.

  13. Mayor Lionell Johnson Jr. of St. Gabriel, Louisiana, (population: 6,677),who launched the Mississippi River Investment Coalition to grow local financing of resilient infrastructure “because the heart of America is experiencing climate change every day, affecting our economies and our workforce.”
Next week, the UN General Assembly is in session and, concurrently, New York City’s 10th Climate Week will be held. More resilience action will occur there as adaptation continues to gain momentum with leaders around the globe.  

Meanwhile, the high-level “Summit Champions” responsible for making GCAS 2018 more than just another meeting by fueling ambition for climate action, are encouraged to think twice about the Paris Climate Agreement – specifically, No. 1, mitigation and No. 2, adaptation.

And act with urgency on both.

Image credit: Global Climate Action Summit

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Natural Gas Stumbles as Hydrogen Picks Up the "Clean" Fuel Flag

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New evidence about methane emissions has been stripping the veneer of sustainability from natural gas, and that could mean both good and bad news for hydrogen fans. The good news is that new technology is bringing the global economy closer to renewable hydrogen as an alternative to natural gas as well as petroleum and other fossil-sourced fuels.

The bad news: much of the world's hydrogen still comes from its conventional source -- natural gas.

First, The Bad News

This week's editorial in The New York Times underscores the grim reality behind the natural gas hype. Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and it is a powerful contributor to global warming.

Yes, natural gas is "cleaner" than coal when it burns. The problem is that significant methane leakage occurs all along the supply chain, from the wellhead to transportation, storage, and local distribution networks.

In a harbinger of things to come, the Rocky Mountain Institute is gearing up a campaign to get property owners and other stakeholders interested in eschewing gas appliances in favor of electric, based on both indoor and outdoor emissions issues.

Renewable Hydrogen Steps In

Hydrogen is abundant but it does not exist by itself in nature, hence the reliance on natural gas.

The good news is that fossil gas is not the only potential source for hydrogen. One good example is water. Think H2O and you're on the right track.

The supply of water is practically limitless and it can be accessed without expensive -- and disruptive -- drilling.

The problem is how to "split" the hydrogen out of the water. The basic method, called electrolysis, involves applying an electrical current. That necessarily involves copious amounts of fossil fuel to produce the electricity -- at least it did, until now.

With the advent of low cost wind and solar power, the dependence on fossil fuel for water-splitting is dissolving. It's also worth noting that wind and solar power can be distributed around the globe in far more regions than hydropower, which is the only source of renewable electricity previously available in bulk.

Biogas is also coming along as another source of renewable hydrogen, too.

One other important thing to note is that hydrogen sourced with the help of renewable energy (aka power-to-gas) is, in effect, a large scale energy storage solution. That's especially clear in the case of wind power. During periods of low consumer demand a wind farm can keep operating at optimal capacity as long as an industrial customer -- for example, a water-splitting facility -- can pick up the slack.

Now, The Good News: Railway Edition

With all this in mind, let's take a look at some recent developments that are pushing the demand for renewable hydrogen.

Last Sunday the France-based railway manufacturer Alstom celebrated the launch of the Coradia iLint in Germany, its first zero emission hydrogen fuel cell passenger train to go into service.

That's a significant development on its own, since the new train replaces diesel. What's even more significant is Alstom's interest in renewable H2, which it displayed a few years ago by partnering with the aptly named company Hydrogenics.

The Canada-based company is already known for its power-to-gas operations in Europe. Earlier this summer it launched its first North American power-to-gas facility, in Ontario.

Just this week, the company announced that it has joined a consortium to develop a major power-to-gas project in Norway, which neatly illustrates the interplay between wind farms and H2 energy storage.

The consortium will deliver a 2.5-megawatt, electrolysis-based energy storage system that will operate in tandem with the 45-megawatt Varanger Kraft wind farm in Rggovidda, Norway. Here's the rundown from Hydrogenics (break added for readability):

Varanger Kraft's wind farm, located in Raggovidda, is already one of the most efficient in Europe. However, due to limitations within the local transmission grid, the project's capacity of 200 megawatts cannot currently be realized.

The consortium - named Haeolus - will enable the production of clean hydrogen using some of the excess power produced from wind in the region.

More Good News: Automobile Edition

For those of you new to the topic, fuel cell cars (and fuel cell trains, for that matter) are electric vehicles. The difference is that they don't depend on electricity stored in a battery. Fuel cells generate electricity on-the-go, by shepherding a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.

Toyota is widely acknowledged as the leader in the fuel cell automobile sector with its much publicized Mirai. The company has already introduced a renewable energy angle as well.

The fuel cell passenger car sector is still lumbering along slowly, but Hyundai is among the auto makers that are beginning to generate more buzz.

Earlier this summer Hyundai introduced its next-generation fuel cell passenger car, the NEXO. For now the car will only be sold in California, where it is being pitched as a long range EV that can fuel up in only five minutes -- just like a gasmobile.

Around the same time, the company also announced a fuel cell development partnership with Audi. So far Audi has only dipped its toe into the fuel cell EV concept, and a little nudge from Hyundai's supply chain could help the company get its concept off the drawing board and into the street.

The new collaboration also involves affiliates including Kia and Volkswagen, with the idea that cross-licensing and patent sharing will accelerate development of more efficient, less costly fuel cells.

Btw, that five-minute fueling time is a big advantage for fuel cells EVs over battery EVs, but if you're wondering where the fueling stations are, that's a good question.

Here in the US, the national hydrogen fueling infrastructure is razor-thin. However, California and several other states have taken the lead in pushing the hydrogen economy forward.

That includes a renewable energy angle. California's fuel station strategy, for example, calls for at least 33% renewable hydrogen.

More Good News: Trucker Edition

Speaking of Hyundai, last week the company unveiled its plans for a fuel cell long haul semi truck.

Notably, Hyundai's announcement focused narrowly on the design of the new fuel cell truck:

[The] fuel cell electric truck boasts distinctive design which sets it apart from other Hyundai commercial vehicle line-up. The truck aims at simple and clean design which is also aerodynamically efficient with a spoiler and side protector.

The front grille symbolizes hydrogen through geometric shapes, giving the vehicle a unique and powerful look. The vehicle emanates an eco-friendly look with an iconic blue color application and a bold side body graphic on the container, which visualizes its dynamic character.

That could mean any number of things, but let's say for the sake of argument that businesses and fleet managers are already aware of the advantages of fuel cells over diesel. Hyundai is betting they would be attracted to a fuel cell truck that provides them with a high-visibility way to project a green image all over their driving territory.

As for renewable H2, Hyundai seems to have that base covered as well. Earlier this year the company signed on as a founding member of the new Hydrogen Mobility Australia advisory group, tasked with enabling the merger of hydrogen and renewables:
The new industry body will help accelerate the hydrogen economy by developing the various regulations and industry codes needed to support the introduction of the new fuel source here.

The announcement cements Hydrogen Mobility Australia’s position as the official industry body representing a broad industry group encompassing car manufacturers, energy and technology companies.

Much more is afoot in the hydrogen fuel cell field, from technology improvements to robotic applications, so stay tuned for more on that.

Also, keep an eye on the geopolitical perspective as natural gas fights to maintain its grip on the global energy ledge.

One thing to look for: how Europe's power-to-gas initiatives could edge Russia (and the US) out of the EU energy market.

Photo: Coradia iLint fuel cell train via Alstom.

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Why a Crystal Manufacturing Company Is Focused on Water Stewardship

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You may know Swarovski as the timeless Austrian maker of crystal, which is shown off across storefronts in tony shopping districts worldwide. But besides its famous crystal business, Swarovski also produces optical instruments such as telescopes, telescopic sights for rifles and binoculars (gaze through a pair when hiking, if you ever have a chance!); and the company is also a leading manufacturer of grinding, sawing and drilling tools and machines.

This year, Swarovski and the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television partnered to produce Waterschool, a film that discusses the issues surrounding safeguarding the world’s continuing supply of fresh water. The film takes us on a journey with several young female students who live along six of the world’s major rivers – the Amazon, Mississippi, Danube, Nile, Ganges and Yangtze – and highlights the work of Swarovski Waterschool, a community investment program the company established in 2000 that to date has reached almost half a million young people across 2,400 schools worldwide.

The film discusses how teachers and guides at Swarovski Waterschool are empowering citizens to take care of this most  valuable resource. As students discover how best to protect water, they pass on their insights to their peers, parents and grandparents.

TriplePundit recently had the opportunity to catch up with Nadja Swarovski, a member of the company’s executive board, to talk about the company’s commitment to water stewardship. 

3p: What got Swarovski to get focused on water stewardship in the first place?

NS: The interest in water is rooted in the very origins of Swarovski as a business when the company was first founded by Daniel Swarovski in 1895. The process of using water to craft crystals is a method that was invented and patented by Daniel Swarovski himself – back then, he created a revolutionary electric cutting machine, using hydropower that was used in the production of crystal glass. This allowed crystals to be cut more precisely than by hand.

Water remains an essential resource to produce our different product ranges. For instance, the company’s main manufacturing site at Wattens, Austria, sources a third of its electricity from the site’s hydroelectric plants. As a reflection of the importance placed on water resources throughout our history, Swarovski works to empower future generations to protect the world’s most precious resource.

However, the focus on water also comes from Swarovski’s understanding of its responsibilities as an international brand with a global presence. Our operations have faced, and continue to face, challenges. These range from extreme drought to flooding, and leads to Swarovski playing a deeper role in understanding and managing these impacts. This worldwide reach means that we are aware of the multiple challenges threatening the availability of clean, accessible water.

For that reason, it is important that we are part of the global water dialogue, inspired by the United Nations’ sixth Sustainable Development Goal – clean water and sanitation. We welcome the opportunity that this offers to collectively address the challenges and find solutions to the world’s water supply.

Waterschool is only the latest iteration of this long-standing effort. Through a program of community education, undertaken in locations on some of the world’s biggest rivers, the Swarovski Waterschool initiative helps to inspire young people and their communities to understand and practice sustainable water use.

3p: What are you doing internally at Swarovski to get employees focused on issues such as water stewardship?

NS: Today, water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the global population, one in nine people still live without clean water close to home, and nearly 1,000 children die every day due to preventable water and sanitation-related diseases. These are harrowing numbers, but numbers that can be prevented through water education, conservation and stewardship.

This is why we established Swarovski Waterschool in 2000 – to date, the Waterschool program has reached almost half a million young people through 2,400 schools worldwide. The experiences of several of the participants are the subject of our new film.

But awareness in itself isn’t enough. We need to ensure that our people, sites and communities are also going above and beyond to protect the world’s water. We collaborate with our stakeholders to create initiatives that ensure fresh water is managed responsibly and water-related challenges are addressed around our production sites.

To achieve this we are tackling the challenges of water scarcity, flooding, pollution and sanitation at our own production locations, cutting the company’s water usage by sourcing 70 percent of the water we need from recycled water across our locations. This recycled water is then treated to local regulations and then returned to the local water source – a good example of this is our site in Pune, India, where we have responded to the region’s extreme drought by achieving smart water usage in a way that leads to near zero water discharge.

Our commitment to water management also extends to our stores – the refurbishment and construction of new stores has the strictest environmental criteria applied to it. In addition, our retail development team ensures that our stores achieve the high levels of efficiency in water management, as well as promoting good practices.

3p: How did Swarovski become connected to UCLA?

NS: I’m pleased we could build on the strong and long-standing relationship that Swarovski has with the leadership of UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television to bring this project to fruition. It gave us the opportunity to work closely with Dean Teri Schwartz, known for her focus on humanistic storytelling and social impact, and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker who provided guidance to the students who made the film.

I’m thrilled these students were a part of this journey – it gave them an opportunity to be a part of a major global social action campaign to raise awareness, and drive impact and change around one of the most pressing issues of our time, and one that ultimately affects us all.

In case you missed it, you can watch the documentary's trailer here:

Image credit: Swarovski

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6 Ways to Engage Millennial Volunteers

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From technology to the challenges our communities face, it’s rare that we move on each year without a shift from the status quo.

Volunteering is no different.

Not so long so, during the age of Generation X, those citizens connected with non-profit organizations. However, for Generation X, volunteering was often about philanthropy.

In comparison, many millennials are more hands-on. They frequently want to give more than money, as they want to contribute as they know more about the cause and become emotionally invested. Millennials seek purpose; volunteering is one way for them to find meaning while doing something aligned with their passion while boosting their professional development.

Engaging the Millennials

Compared with everything else on a millennial’s plate, it is essential to link the volunteering activity to a passion the person already has. For example, book-lovers could enjoy recording audio books for the visually challenged.

Many millennials have developed extensive networks and understand the pulse of the online world and know what gets popular. Showing millennials they can make a difference by helping an awareness campaign online — just by liking and sharing — can open their eyes to how the things they already do can be harnessed for good.

6 factors that drive millennials in their volunteering zeal

Honing and developing skills: Offer millennials avenues where they can sharpen existing skills and develop soft skills such as team building, goal setting, problem-solving, and adaptability. The results could assist them in their professional growth, while doing something that will give them a purpose, harness their passion and keep them engaged. Volunteering can also spark a realization in their abilities and interests of which they may have been previously unaware. For example, when Brillio volunteers taught school students 3D design printing, they ended up going beyond their basic skills and learned far more about this new technology – hence a win-win situation.

Volunteering during work hours: Such a program requires a work culture that provides both meaningful tasks and connection to the outside world. As millennials make their presence known in more and more corporate leadership roles, they look for organizations that offer them corporate volunteering opportunities. By giving them opportunities to get out and get involved, millennials will feel more connected. At Brillio, we organize our own “TGIF” activities during which employees spend one to two hours every Friday helping students with their school work either in person or via Skype.

Random acts of responsivity: One benefit of volunteering is the impact on local communities. Millennials want to a connection with the places in which they live and work, and one way to make their communities better places is with random act of kindness. Such steps can be something as simple as picking up trash from the side of the road to switching off the lights and fans when there is no one in the room.

Raising funds: Don’t underestimate the power of crowdfunding. Millennials are taking full advantage of this unique opportunity to make their community work reach that much further. They go online, talk about their passions, and gather support and funds for the cause.

Create your own tools: Today, there are online tools that don't just give young people access to information, but also allow them to create their own materials. When they are unable to find an initiative in which they are interested, millennials seek the opportunity and empowerment to strike out on their own. Examples I have seen include the use of digital media to spread awareness on issues like road safety or creating an app for women safety.

Voices on social media: From a young age, millennials expressed themselves, their interests and their causes in various ways on different channels. Their constant connection to the online world has allowed them to be exposed to more issues, which has helped to create a particularly empathetic generation. They want to reach out and help, and their tech-savviness enables them to generate impact while giving them a voice for the causes about which they are concerned.

Brillio’s research

We conducted a survey last year to assess the impact of volunteering at Brillio in order to gain feedback and suggestions so we could improve our programs. The majority of respondents who took part in the survey were millennials. Through the survey we learned:

  • 96 percent of employees feel that volunteering has assisted in improving their productivity;

  • 96 percent found their stress levels reduced;

  • And 94% of employees who participated in volunteer programs were likely to recommend Brillio to a friend or family.

This survey helped us understand the pulse of our employees and identify the gaps in our volunteering. To ensure your volunteering programs are aligned with your employees’ needs and interests, it’s important that you revisit these programs regularly to understand the gaps and realign efforts accordingly. While revisiting your volunteering efforts remember to align them with the three P's that drive the new age workforce — passion, purpose, and professional development.

Image credit: Brillio Technologies

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Resilient Golden Arches – Structurally and Sustainably

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Those golden arches of McDonald’s, among the most recognized logos in the word, are actually a catenary arch, a super strong architectural feature that has helped ensure resilience buildings for centuries. So, does the ubiquitous yellow pair that graces roughly 37,000 McDonald’s worldwide represent a company resilient to current and future changes?

At last week’s Global Climate Action Summit, I sat down with Keith Kenny, McDonald’s Global Vice President of Sustainability to learn about the company’s resilience story. He asserted that climate resilience is both an environmental and economic imperative for the company.

“Farmer livelihoods and related thriving rural communities are important to us because our restaurants are in those communities,” he explained. “That gets forgotten when we speak about sustainable agriculture.  Farmers need to be able to reinvest in their business. Just as we invest in them.”

That belief proved to be McDonald’s inspiration for its Flagship Farmers Program, which connects farmers interested in continuous improvement and sustainable practices. Its platform notes that climate change is affecting agriculture, causing droughts, floods, more storms and heat waves. The program encourages farmers “to adapt and develop our farming systems to be more resilient to these changing environmental conditions.”

Publicly recognizing these hazards caused by changes in climate – and predicted to grow over time – offers a good start on the path to making climate resilience a key feature of the business.

Keith pointed out that McDonald’s invests in supply chain projects with a 20-30 year payback, which makes them both climate change sensitive and focused on resilience to ensure year-over-year payback. Unlike other retailers with tens of thousands of items on their shelves, “15-to-20 items represent 70 percent of what we sell,” he said. “We have long-term relationships with our suppliers. Most of them have grown their business as we have grown ours.”

This is key, for instance, for beef consistency – patty to patty – throughout the world and also for long oblong potato varietals conducive to harvest times, storage and its fries.

This is a significant improvement from McDonald’s supply chain response of about five years ago. Then, under different leadership, its response to a question of what McDonald’s was doing to adapt its supply chain to climate change was to exclaim, “We’ll just tell Canada to get ready to grow canola if it gets to hot and dry to grow it in the lower 48.”

Its fresh approach may bring McDonald’s more into the climate-resilient supply chain vanguard with such companies as Mars Inc. and Coca Cola that have collaborated with the nonprofit Business for Social Responsibility to launch a Climate-Resilient Value Chains Leaders Platform announced at last week’s Summit.  

Though McDonald’s has yet to officially join that initiative, it is among a group of food companies including Keurig Green Mountain, Heinz and Chipotle making initial strides on climate resilience. And, like other big companies, climate action to reduce greenhouse gasses is becoming more of a priority. Last year, McDonald’s announced it was partnering with franchisees and suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to its restaurants and offices by 36 percent by 2030 from a 2015 base year in a new strategy to address climate change. It also committed to a 31 percent decrease in emissions intensity per metric ton of food and packaging across its supply chain by 2030 from 2015 levels, and the combined target has been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.

Keith said innovation is key to McDonald’s resilience and sees soil health as a “huge opportunity” that the company is exploring with such partners as the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Arizona. In addition, he enumerated the many collateral benefits of pursuing adaptive multi-habitat grazing – moving cow herds from paddock to paddock – that allows soil to regenerate by giving native plants a chance to establish deeper roots. This enhances carbon sequestration and water retention and filtration while increasing productivity with more animals grazed on the same land.

Keith also offered another example of how its thinking about climate change and resilience has changed, and it reflects that McDonald’s is a surf-and-turf restaurant. Cod fished from the North Atlantic were a key element of McDonald’s filet-o-fish sandwich until environmental organization Greenpeace brought McDonald’s and others to task for fishing in a warming ocean where melting ice flows are exposing previously frozen areas. Keith was invited by Greenpeace to journey on its Arctic Sunrise ship to see firsthand “what the fish are up to” in a climate-changed world.  

In May 2016, McDonald’s and more than a dozen other seafood industry giants joined forces to protect a large area of the Arctic from increased fishing. The voluntary agreement commits the companies from expanding cod fishing into a previously ice-covered portion of the Northern Barents Sea in the Arctic.

Image credit: McDonald's

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The Life of a Straw – A Harrowing Narrative to Support #TheFutureDoesntSuck

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Bacardi, the world’s largest privately held spirits company, has been teaming up with venues and organizations worldwide to ban single-use plastic straws. The initiative, #TheFutureDoesntSuck, was launched in July and aims to remove one billion single-use plastic straws by 2020. The mainstreaming efforts have been catching fire as companies including Cachet Hotels and Resorts have joined the movement.

“Every day we have an army of people walking in to bars and restaurants around the world,” said John Burke, chief marketing officer for Bacardi. “We share this campaign with our partners and people working the front-line, those who want to make their voice and support for eliminating single-use plastics heard.”

Bacardi chose to focus on straws because they are non-recyclable, oftentimes end up in the oceans and become eaten by marine life.

Perhaps the organization also heard of the tragic tale of Polly – the polypropylene plastic straw whose vision for a great life was never realized thanks to her single-use material. Enjoy the narrative below:

“Today’s the day!” I excitedly, and too loudly, shouted to my old best friend, Slurp. The two of us, along with 200,000 of our assembly-line counterparts had been through a lot together; we had been burned, morphed, snipped and packaged together. And now we were being shipped together. Our destination was unknown.

“Today’s our only day, Polly…” Slurp grunted back. Slurp was wise beyond his minutes – he understood what the world was really like out there for us. He knew we’d likely suffer the same fate as our ancestors – we’d be chewed up, tossed to the bottom of a trashcan and eventually find ourselves piled up in a trash gyre in the middle of the ocean. After all, the life of a straw is bleak to say the least.

But things would be different for me. I’m going to bask in an ice-cold McDonald’s Coca-Cola, soak up an elementary student’s 2% chocolate milk or suck out the delicious flavor of a tall, non-fat latte with caramel drizzle at Starbucks (Slurp says Starbucks doesn’t use straws anymore – but don’t all coffee shops need straws?)

A slender, freckly man carefully extended his arm to pick up the box Slurp, 498 strangers and I had been living in for the past 10 minutes. He tossed us on top of four other boxes he was balancing and cautiously tiptoed to the back of a mini tractor-trailer, wobbling back and forth as he certainly exceeded his box-carrying limit. He was relieved to finally reach the foot of the truck and wasted no time unloading us, tossing us high into the air as if our sad, single-use life meant absolutely nothing to him.

I forgave him quickly, though, as his next words would almost surely seal my fate and reverse Slurp’s pessimistic outlook for our future. As if in one fluid motion, the slender man closed the gate to the trailer, banged the side of the truck three times and belted out to the driver “Sheeeee’s reaaaaady – next stop: Jay’s Sports Bar.”

Jay’s Sports Bar? Theeeee Jay Sport’s Bar – is that what he said? It’s the number one college bar in the tri-county area and all of the straws were lining up to plunge into a rail drink there. They even have daily specials and alliterative theme nights – Margarita Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wine-o Wednesdays and Thursday Trivia. Oh, how I hope to be unwrapped on Trivia night – I know all of the state capitals and two-thirds of the Greek Gods. The emcee had better not ask me about Dionysus.

Brrrrrap Brap Brap Brapppppp. The sound and smell of the diesel was unmistakable. The truck driver adjusted his cap, switched his gears and we were off. While the other 499 straws in my box – yes, Slurp included – were bumping wrappers trying to search for their nonexistent personal space, I was content and ecstatic about going Jay’s. The future doesn’t suck.

The drive from the factory to Jay’s, though long, was about as smooth as it gets. We passed countless average, non-Jay’s bars along the way. I felt bad for the straws that ended up in hole-in-the-wall joints like these.

We approached our destination and were immediately offloaded and taken through the bar to the stockroom. The bar smelled horrible, like last night’s wild college night had gone completely ignored. Puddles of beer settled overnight and made the floor audibly sticky. It was everything I had hoped for.

My anticipation was ripe. I had gotten a good night sleep and several of my fellow straws had already made their way from the stockroom to the floor. Happy hour was coming and I knew the restaurant would need upwards of 1,000, no, 2,000 straws to satisfy the thirsty college students who just endured a grueling syllabus week full of awkward icebreakers. My moment was coming.

And sure enough, it did. In a matter of three minutes, I went from anxiously waiting in the stockroom to proudly standing front and center, unwrapped and ready for use, in a black bucket next to the bartender. Each drink order begged the chance of me getting selected. I hope my customer was well mannered and not a “you kiss your mother with that mouth?” smart aleck.

“Two gin and tonics and one plain Coca-Cola please,” a young man no older than 21 said to the bartender. The bartender nodded her head and proceeded to fill the drinks. She reached down for three straws and pinched the top of my head – I was one of them! My body was numb with excitement and nervousness. I didn’t want to be in a gin and tonic – that sounded scary. What in the world is tonic?

As destiny would have it, I was plopped into the gin and tonic. I was giddy when I realized I hadn’t immediately blown up when entering the tonic. The young man who ordered the drinks left a sizable tip and reached down to test the potentness of one of the beverages. He opted for the other gin and tonic and seemed pleased with his first few gulps.

Instead of asking one of his friends whom he had ordered for to help transport the drinks from the bar to the cocktail table they had been sitting at, the young man decided to be a hero and take all three cups to the table himself. His hands proving too small and the drinks proving too slippery, the young man dramatically spilled all three drinks almost immediately upon lifting them off of the bar.

I lay sprawled out on the bar, defeated. The bartender shrugged it off and quickly refilled the young hero’s drinks. My hopes and dreams were quickly dashed when the bartender reached into the same tub I used to reside to grab three fresh straws. I was a single-use straw and wasn’t even used once.

I thought my life was over – but it had really just begun.

The bartender nonchalantly picked me and the other two straws up and threw us into a wet, smelly trash bag. The bag became more and more crowded as the party music grew quieter and quieter as the trash piled on. Soon, a bearded man stood over us and tied the bag, fully erasing any of the light that once seeped into the can.

The same bearded man took us on a somewhat fun and somewhat nauseating ride, swinging us around in our bags until we reached an even smellier and more disgusting destination: the dumpster.

Our time in the dumpster seemed endless. Was it two hours? Two weeks? Two years? I really couldn’t tell you. But me and the countless other straws, plastics and food scraps were enthralled to hear the loud beeping of a truck hitting reverse. Our messiah came in the form of a garbage truck, which swiftly lifted the dumpster and thrust the 20 or so black garbage bags on top of 100 or so other reeking garbage bags.

The situation certainly wasn’t better than the dumpster but I held out hope that our misery was temporary and the messiah would soon deliver us to the land of milk and honey. Instead, it delivered us to a different land: the landfill. I was officially just a statistic now; one of 500 million straws discarded by Americans each year; another feather added to the 254 million tons of garbage that annually makes its way to one of the 2,000 landfills in the United States.

I missed the factory. I missed Slurp. I wonder what happened to Slurp – maybe he ended up in the ocean. I hated Slurp. He knew we’d lead miserable lives. But there was one thing he didn’t know – he thought the day we were created, packaged and shipped would be our only day. We’d be chewed up, thrown out and poof, gone. If only. He didn’t realize we’d live in a pit with other non-compostable trash or float in the ocean and end up in the stomachs of turtles or seagulls. He thought we’d live for one day. He was off by a couple thousand years. You see the truth is, we’ll never fully die.

Image credit: Lonely Whale

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