Consumers Strive for Sustainable Living, and Companies Can Help

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A report released by the strategy consulting firm GlobeScan indicates that "eco guilt"—anxiety around what one should and could be doing for the planet—lives on. 

The report found that while 54 percent of people across 25 countries say that living in a way that is good for themselves, others, and the environment is a "large" or "major" priority for them, only 37 percent say they "mostly" live this way now, according to the survey. The countries with the highest percentage of citizens who view climate change as a "very serious" problem are Mexico and the Philippines. The countries with the lowest percentage of respondents who view it as a problem are Russia and China—the first and fifth largest emitters of carbon worldwide

In the report, younger generations—Generation Z and millennials—expressed the most significant interest in living healthier and more sustainably while also polling the most concern about not living consciously enough.  

The report is an outcome of a partnership among GlobeScan, Ikea, VF Corporation, WWF International, Procter & Gamble and Visa to better understand consumer behavior regarding sustainable living.

"We want to use the insights from this and other studies to enable many people to live more sustainable lives, and at the same time contribute to societal change through innovations and new collaborations," Lena Pripp-Kovac, head of sustainability at Inter Ikea Group, said in a public statement. "Our ambition is to make sustainable living affordable, attractive, and accessible for the many people with thin wallets."

Barriers get in the way of sustainable living 

The report indicates that many citizens worldwide, across different cultures, want to do better when it comes to shopping ethically and sustainably. But barriers to such action—including affordability, not enough government or business support, and not understanding how to live a more sustainable lifestyle—are not being addressed to allow for faster adoption.

The No. 1 barrier, high price, is a reminder that even though 90 percent of U.S. millennials are willing to pay more for products beneficial for the environment, a premium pricing strategy may not go mainstream globally. 

"I would like to eat organic foods and local products/services more because I believe that will be very good for our environment, health and economy," one participant, a female with two children who lives in South Africa, responded in the report. "What limits me is money."

Companies should incentivize healthier and more sustainable lifestyles 

An interesting take-away from the report are the findings around the subconscious and conscious drivers that contribute to individuals' sense of living a healthy and sustainable life. Significant factors—healthful food, shopping ethically and avoiding packaging and plastics—require companies to reward behavior or to develop creative business strategies to decrease consumers' feelings of eco-guilt.  

The first method to empower the consumer is to reward their good behavior. Companies should encourage consumers' healthy and sustainable actions that they perform frequently through incentives and rewards programs—think eating locally produced food or buying a socially responsible product, according to the report

One example is Amazon Day—an option that allows the world’s largest online retailer’s customers to choose one day a week for non-urgent items to be delivered. In exchange for accepting the less carbon-intensive shipping option, Amazon offers digital credits for future purchases, as explained in Forbes.  

The second strategy is for companies to enable consumers to live healthier lifestyles by rethinking their procurement practices and supply chains to empower eco-minded customers. Loop—a global circular shipping platform—is an excellent example of enabling customers to act on their eco-guilt with a profitable solution.

Or, take Scandinavia Airlines' biofuel program that enables eco-conscious customers to purchase biofuel at any time up until departure for 20-minute blocks of a flight time, according to Fast Company. Such an initiative puts the power back into the hands of the consumer to act on their eco-guilt and take steps towards traveling sustainably. 

"Consumers want to make positive changes in their lives but they need help from businesses and governments," Cristianne Close, Markets Lead at WWF said in a public statement. "This research shows there's a huge opportunity to shift markets and economies toward supporting a better future for people and nature."

Image credit: Louis Hansel/Unsplash

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HP: Printing Can be More Sustainable Than You Think

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Ellen Jackowski, global head of sustainability strategy and innovation at HP, recently visited an FSC-certified forest to see responsible forest management in action.

Everyone has seen the messages on the wall near the office printer or at the end of an email: "Think before you print," "Please consider the environment before printing," or "Save paper, save a tree." These messages spring from the conventional wisdom that using paper requires trees, so avoiding printing must be the more environmentally friendly choice.

But what if printing could actually help protect and grow forests?

While deforestation is still occurring in some places around the world for paper production, companies that source or make paper can actually benefit the world’s forests, thanks to new developments in forestry practices and corporate commitments to conservation. When people buy paper and paper products that are sourced from well-managed forests, their purchases can protect forests instead of depleting them.

“As human beings, even if we do everything we can to reduce our consumption, we are still impacting the Earth’s natural environment,” says Ellen Jackowski, global head of sustainability strategy and innovation at HP. “We will always need to consume, but we must innovate to consume responsibly in harmony with our planet.”

HP currently makes all of its paper with fibers from sources that don't contribute to deforestation; the majority of HP paper around the world is certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards, the gold standard in forest management that protects people and nature. That decision is part of a much bigger vision — a forest positive future, in which companies that source raw material from forests account for their impact by not only contributing to forest health today, but helping to preserve forests for the future. 

Recently, HP has announced it is taking a huge leap forward to this future with longstanding partner and conservation leader World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Over the next five years, HP will contribute $11 million for WWF to restore part of Brazil's threatened Atlantic Forest and increase sustainable management of state-owned farms and forest plantations in China – ultimately protecting a combined area of 200,000 acres. HP’s partnership with WWF will support the development of science-based targets for forests, estimating carbon and nature co-benefits of forest restoration and improved forest management. The new initiative with WWF begins in November and marks the launch of HP’s Sustainable Forests Cooperative.

All HP-branded paper is already deforestation-free, and by 2020, the company is on track to achieve 100% zero-deforestation for all of its paper-based product packaging. These efforts and the partnership with WWF are supported by FSC and International Paper, one of the world’s largest paper manufacturers. The ultimate goal is to make printing with HP a catalyst for industry-wide support for FSC-certified and recycled fiber sourcing, while contributing to the restoration, protection, and improved management of the world’s forests. 

Managing a healthy forest

Forests are essential to life on Earth. They provide homes for thousands of species. They produce oxygen, store carbon, and regulate global climate. And they support millions of people who depend on them for survival. 

But along with clear-cutting for agriculture, demand for timber has fueled high rates of deforestation, threatening nearly half of the world’s forests. According to WWF, the planet is losing 18.7 million acres of forest each year — the equivalent of 27 soccer fields per minute. Recent fires in the Amazon rainforest and Indonesia and Africa have shown how the rate of deforestation has reached critical levels. Much of this is due to the fact that people cut the forest down to earn a living from things like soy or palm oil or beef. To counter this cycle, local communities need new ways to develop economically. By committing to purchasing FSC-certified fiber, HP is working to create incentives to keep forests intact and prevent deforestation.

Finding the balance of using and maintaining this precious resource that we can’t live without is crucial. On a recent visit to an FSC-certified forest near HP headquarters in northern California, HP’s Jackowski walked through a mix of young and old-growth redwoods. She saw streams where salmon swam, while birds chirped overhead. While this forest produces timber harvested for lumber, the visit gave a glimpse of what a sustainably managed forest can feel like.

“This is how the planet runs naturally and this is how we need to continue to protect it for future generations,” Jackowski says. “You can't eliminate certain aspects of a healthy forest and still expect it to maintain itself like it might have otherwise.”

Conventional forestry practices involve heavy harvesting and pesticide use. When chemicals are used, they can come into contact with freshwater bodies or local communities. But in an FSC-certified forest, trees are cut selectively and chemical use is highly restricted. Standards also cover the physical health, and social and economic well-being of people who work in FSC-certified forests.

“If you're walking in a conventionally managed forest, you're seeing very large openings and is a highly altered landscape,” says Corey Brinkema, president of FSC’s US national office. “Walking in an FSC-certified forest feels like you're walking in a natural forest. You tend to have the qualities that you would expect if you're walking through your state park.”

Conservation through collaboration               

With the HP Sustainable Forests Cooperative, HP is taking steps to make printing with any paper more sustainable — not just its own. The new initiative is designed to conserve an area of forests and increase the supply of FSC fiber, enough to cover the amount of paper (even non-HP branded paper) that runs through HP printers, according to calculations by HP and WWF.  

The initiative covers two forest conservation programs. One is a restoration project in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, a biodiversity hotspot that’s home to jaguars, hundreds of tree species, and 5% of the Earth’s vertebrate species — many found nowhere else on Earth. The other will increase the area of responsibly managed forest in China, which produces and consumes more paper than any other country. 

“HP wants to lead the way to help reduce negative impacts of printing with HP, and help educate consumers around sustainable paper choices that keep forests healthy," says Jackowski.

Every package of HP paper is sustainably sourced, carrying an FSC label, as have a number of products from companies that Brinkema says have followed HP’s lead. He says these commitments have been critical in creating demand for sustainably sourced paper, and that momentum has helped the network of certified forests grow. 

FSC-certified forests must meet a strict set of standards, protecting biodiversity, wildlife, and the rights of indigenous and local communities through management methods that also consider soil, waterways, and vegetation. “Consumers can use their purchasing power to reward companies showing leadership for forests and nature,”  says Linda Walker, senior director of corporate engagement for World Wildlife Fund. Looking for an FSC label “is the one simple action that people can take to know that they are helping forests with their purchasing decisions.”

For WWF, the new collaboration with HP is an opportunity to accelerate forest conservation in ways that can enhance existing efforts and influence other companies to step up, says Walker. In Brazil, for example, HP’s investment is adding to commitments by other companies, including supply-chain partner International Paper. International Paper manufactures HP-branded paper and produces seven million tons of responsibly sourced fiber for paper products each year. 

This shared commitment is part of the forest positive concept, Walker says, ultimately strengthening forest health far into the future. 

“You can have more of a likelihood of a resilient, connected landscape over time, versus more piecemeal conservation actions,” she says. “We believe this will have a lasting impact on forests and have a ripple effect on other companies that need to scale up their actions for forests. Every business is in the forest business, because every business depends either directly or indirectly on forests. For businesses to thrive in the future, nature needs to thrive.”

Image courtesy of HP

Previously published on HP's Garage Blog and the 3BL Media newsroom.

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International Day of the Girl Partnership Aims to Empower 10 Million Students and Teachers

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Today marks the eight annual International Day of the Girl, a day established by the United Nations to amplify girls’ voices and stand up for their rights as envisioned in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.

The Platform for Action, which will mark 25 years next year, envisioned gender equality in all dimensions of life, something that no country has yet achieved, according to the U.N.. Nowhere is this truer, say women’s rights advocates, than in education.

According to New York-based Women Deliveronly 45 percent of developing countries have achieved gender parity at the lower secondary education level (seventh through ninth grades) and only 25 percent have done so at the upper secondary level (10th through 12th grades). This adds up to more than 130 million girls around the world who lack access to education.

To mark today’s International Day of the Girl, HP and the nonprofit Girl Risingbest known for its award-winning documentary of the same name—announced a new initiative leveraging the tech giant’s technology solutions for schools and Girl Rising’s youth empowerment curriculum.

The initiative seeks to reach up to 10 million students and teachers in the United States, India and Nigeria, helping to raise awareness of the value of investing in girls and helping HP meet its goal of enabling better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025.

“HP believes that education is a fundamental human right that creates pathways to new opportunities,” said Michele Malejki, global head of HP’s social impact programs. “Data also show that education is one of the single most effective ways to eradicate poverty and a critical building block for nations’ economic growth and development.”

New digital resources for teachers and students

The new initiative will add Girl Rising’s teacher training modules to HP’s Education Edition PCs. Targeted toward primary and secondary schools, HP will also deploy a suite of curricula and a library of content to accompany the HP School Pack, a suite of software pre-loaded onto HP’s EHP Education Edition PC.

In addition, with the goal to develop the next generation of female leaders, the HP Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurship (HP LIFE), a free e-learning program from the HP Foundation created to support entrepreneurship and skills development, will  provide additional curriculum in the three markets. HP School Packs, a suite of software for educators, will also be available for the duration of the program.

HP says it will evaluate additional opportunities for Girl Rising content and curricula distribution, including new products and services, as well as additional partners to scale the program over the next three years.

Today’s announcement continues HP’s work with Girl Rising, which began in 2015 with the  launch of the Hindi-language version of Girl Rising in India. In 2018, the organizations created the Girl Rising Creative Challenge, which celebrated everyday gender equality champions around the world. And earlier this year, HP supported the production and distribution of the nonprofit’s latest documentary, Brave Girl Rising.

Girl Rising, which currently has programs in 11 countries, uses storytelling in its original media and creative campaigns to explore intimate real-life issues facing girls, such as forced marriage, forced labor and gender-based violence, as well as the universal benefits of educating girls. They then work with local partners to reach youth and their communities through customized curriculum.

“We embed the stories in the curriculum to spark dialogue among girls about their rights, to build their skills and confidence, to address powerful social norms that hold girls back, and—critically—to build empathy and awareness among boys and parents to ensure a different future for girls,” said Christina Lowery, CEO of Girl Rising, on the eve of International Day of the Girl in New York. 

Next up for Girl Rising are films supported by educational campaigns on how sports can change a girl’s live, and the link between girl’s education and climate change.

Investment also builds skilled workforce for tomorrow

In addition to Girl Rising, HP recently announced an agreement with U.N. Women at last month’s U.N. General Assembly to advance education, entrepreneurship and digital learning for women and girls in Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Morocco. The agreement centers on two U.N. Women initiatives, Second Chance Education and African Girls Can Code.

For HP’s Malejki, the partnerships with both Girl Rising and U.N. Women just make sense. “Technology can be a great equalizer for underserved and marginalized groups,” she says. “They help bridge the digital divide and connect people and communities to greater opportunity.”

Partnerships such as these also help HP invest in tomorrow’s workforce as the company expands globally. In a 2018 global report on talent shortages by ManpowerGroup, 45 percent of employers find it difficult to recruit employees with the necessary skills.

Investing in girls’ education yields huge returns

It turns out that investing in education for girls is one of the best investments a company, donor or country can make.

“Giving girls access to education and opportunity is the most effective factor in transforming pressing global issues including health, poverty and climate change,” she says.

And the data back her up. According to the U.N.’s Girls’ Education Initiative, every additional year of secondary schooling for a girl increases her future earnings by 10 to 20 percent. The World Bank reports that, compared to women with no education, women with secondary education earn almost twice as much and those with tertiary education almost three times as much. Women who are better educated also have fewer unplanned children, are less likely to marry early, and are more likely to drive national economic growth.

Perhaps no one says it better than philanthropist Melinda Gates, no stranger herself to the world of high-tech and global development, in her recent book The Moment of Lift: “If you want to lift up humanity, empower women. It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high-leverage investment you can make in human beings.”

Image credit: Girl Rising

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Why the Case for Second-Chance Hiring Includes a Very Human Argument

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As discussed yesterday, momentum is building so that second-chance hiring can be the norm, not the rare exception, across Corporate America.

Plenty of hurdles, however, lie ahead. Despite the fact that 7 million jobs across the U.S. are still unfilled, and the fact that organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offer companies the tools and guidance necessary make second-chance hiring a more seamless process, many formerly incarcerated prisoners still struggle finding jobs that can allow them to rebuild their lives and contribute to their local communities and the U.S. economy.

Last year’s passage of the First Step Act, a federal law designed to provide for programs that can prevent recidivism after former prisoners complete their sentences, are also helping with this effort.

Nevertheless, Jenny Kim of Koch Industries insists the private sector can, and must, do more.

The business case for second-chance hiring

“Business has been the voice that's missing from this,” said Kim. “And the reality is we all live in these communities, and 97 percent of the folks in prison are coming back to our communities; we have got to figure out a way so that we can all subsist in this ecosystem successfully together.”

For Kim, her colleagues at Koch and her peers at SHRM, the reality of a nationwide talent pool that includes one in three people who have a criminal record cannot be overlooked; the alternative is continuing the same cycle of incarceration, despair and recidivism. “People's needs are very different - our demographics are very different now,” explained Kim, “and we have to figure out the way we can take a shot at breaking out of generational poverty. People want a shot to make the American dream.”

There is an indication change is afoot in the private sector, one that Kim acknowledges. “I’m inspired seeing companies like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America talk about this. I think companies are now stepping up to the plate and are becoming leaders in their community when it comes to this challenge. We have been able to lead on this at Koch; that's the thing that we're most proud of.”

The very human case for second-chance hiring

For human resource managers or for any professionals in management who are wary of second-chance hiring, Kim was emphatic that they take a step back and again, look at these individuals as what they are – humans. Human beings, just like the writer and reader of this article, with the difference that they did that have the support and encouragement many of us have taken for granted from early childhood.

“I've been very lucky personally to have a very strong network of family, of friends, but not everyone has that,” Kim said as she reflected on her background and the focus of her work at Koch. “And so, looking at that humanity and looking at it from that aspect, I think that has been the most rewarding.”

Kim’s drive also comes from the fact that her work has had a massive impact on people she had never interacted with and will most likely never meet. But with that pride comes a deep sense of humility, evident during the long conversation she had with 3p.

“Often, you don't know whose lives are changing by the work that you do. And maybe that's the biggest blessing that so many people will be touched by this work if we all collectively do it together,” she said. “And that's the biggest transformation that all of us could contribute to - but it's okay if none of us get credit for it as well.”

If can agree on this one thing . . .

The resources Koch Industries, the Koch Foundation and yes, the Koch network have invested in this movement has attracted a bevy of supporters across the U.S. political spectrum, including CNN commentator and former Obama administration official Van Jones. “This is an authentic movement . . . the left and right have come together on this for principled reasons,” Jones told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour during a joint interview he held with Koch Industries’ senior vice president Mark Holden after the First Step Act was passed last winter.

But not everyone praises Koch Industries’ stance on this issue. As The Atlantic summarized in 2015, the company’s opponents, in the words of Molly Brown, see this campaign as “just another attempt to manipulate the political process to advance the company's financial interests.”

Jones’ response to Brown, shared in the same article, was pointed: “When you've got more than 2 million people behind bars, I'll fight alongside anybody to change those numbers."

That point of view is shared by Kim. “We are willing to work with anyone and unite with anyone to do what’s right.”

“We're at a touch point with where Americans of all demographics I meet with day to day are really concerned about where we're headed,” Kim continued, “and the criminal justice system basically has been a warehousing tool for a long time, but we can't afford to do that anymore.”

For anyone who still isn’t persuaded by Jones, or Snoop Dogg’s public appearances with Charles Koch, here’s what Kim has to say:

“If anyone criticizes Koch, well, this is the beautiful thing about the fact that we are in the United States. We can have a civil dialogue about it, or not. And this is why my parents immigrated to this country, because when they were growing up in South Korea, they were not allowed to say anything about the government or the president.”

Wherever one’s thoughts about Koch Industries may lie, there’s little doubt that the company is leading and winning on this massive challenge. And this challenge has become a movement, one that includes companies, people and governments from all walks of life: from Ben & Jerry’s to John Legend . . . to conservative governors in the reddest of the red states like Georgia and Texas.

And if you cannot get past how important this second-chance hiring movement because of your feelings about Koch or any other company working on this challenge, here’s a gentle reminder: If your friend or family member was once incarcerated and still struggles making ends meet because of his or her past, the stubborn fact is that you would feel far differently about the groundbreaking and life-changing work that Kim and her colleagues refuse to stop doing.

A reminder: Later this month, we’ll be hosting 3BL Forum: Brands Taking Stands – What's Next, October 29-30, at MGM National Harbor, just outside Washington, D.C. On the afternoon of the 29th, Jenny Kim of Koch Industries will be onstage discussing how the private sector can help support prison reform and the hiring of formerly incarcerated citizens. You won’t want to miss this!

We're pleased to offer 3p readers a 25 percent discount on attending the Forum. Please register by visiting the 3BL Forum website and use this discount code when prompted: NEWS2019BRANDS.

Image credit: Tom Blackout/Unsplash

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When It Comes to Health and Well-Being, Put Consumer Safety First

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Despite widespread changes to health insurance and employee benefits in recent years, roughly half of Americans still receive health benefits through their employer, and, of those employers, 56 percent offer a company-sponsored health savings account (HAS), while 68 percent offer a general medical flexible spending account (FSA). Millions of people use these special accounts to buy health and wellness products for themselves and their loved ones, so ensuring the quality and safety of these products is essential.

Unfortunately, not all online retailers adhere to this same standard and that means people with spending accounts -- and the employers who sponsor those important benefits – may be subject to fraud, counterfeit and product diversion that puts consumer safety at risk. This is especially a concern with third-party resellers who have been known to sell counterfeit or unsafe products.

Every product available for purchase with one of these accounts is required to be an IRS-qualified product or service. Every product available on e-commerce sites that sell products eligible for HSA or FSA spending must fulfills meet those regulations; both product authenticity and safety are non-negotiable.

3 things anyone with an HSA or FSA should know about product safety and authenticity when shopping online

The following guidelines from are built on the idea that American families deserve safe, authentic products. And for account holders and companies that provide health and wellness benefits, that means understanding a few key aspects of product safety and authenticity.

  1. Direct-to-consumer sourcing

The direct-to-consumer model is mostly known for helping consumers save by cutting out the middleman. The Health-E Guidelines recommend shopping brands that follow best practices like ISO 9000, a certification that tests for unsafe levels of lead, cadmium and other hazardous substances, as well as a UL certification for safety in consumer electrical products. These certifications can generally be found on a company’s website.

Companies that follow these standards are more likely to have the monitoring and testing protocols in place to ensure safe products, and these tight supply chain controls are a must for health and wellness products.

  1. Counterfeit products

In the health and wellness industry, where counterfeit and mishandled products could put consumers in danger, being aware of and able to identify sources of potential counterfeit products can be lifesaving. In most cases, if something seems suspicious, it probably is. Look out for product images and descriptions that are incorrect, poor quality or overly generic as dead giveaways that a retailer isn’t telling the full story.            

Brands and their customers can fight back against these unauthorized sellers. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) encourages consumers to file reports of harm involving consumer products through SaferProducts.gov.

  1. Consumer education

Health and wellness companies and online retailers have an obligation to teach customers how to spot fake products, counterfeit merchandise, suspect product pages, and more when shopping for qualified health products. Therefore, online shoppers should look for retailers and brands that provide educational resources that help them become more savvy consumers and that protect their health and well-being.

Collaborating for consumer safety

The U.S. Government and Accountability Office (GAO) examined the issue of product authenticity and safety in a 2018 study where they purchased a variety of items of different types from third-party resellers on five popular consumer ecommerce sites. The GAO found that 20 of 47 brand-name products purchased were counterfeit. And for three of the four product types, at least one item purchased was determined to be counterfeit, according to the study.

In response to this growing threat, a coalition of companies that manufacture eligible health and wellness products, as well as organizations like the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA). Together, they have developed the Health-E Guidelines to protect individuals from diverted, unsafe health products and the rise of unauthorized third-party sellers.

Brands and retailers that educate consumers about product authenticity and safety have an opportunity to increase loyalty and sales, while demonstrating their commitment to customers. In the health and wellness industry, that should always be the non-negotiable first goal.

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Why We Have No Time for Climate Despair

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Last month saw a massive global rising led by young people, demanding the grown-ups act urgently and ambitiously to save their future. At the same time, a deep climate despair is gripping a number of people who are awake to the crisis. Indeed, some are worried that it is now too late to stabilize the climate. The best we can do, they say, is build more resilient communities to withstand the coming climate-induced socio-economic breakdown. The novelist Jonathan Franzen recently made this case in The New Yorker.

“There may come a time, sooner than any of us likes to think, when the systems of industrial agriculture and global trade break down and homeless people outnumber people with homes.” He concludes that local farming and strong communities “will be essential in a crisis and in whatever society survives it.” (emphasis added)  

Franzen speaks for a growing group worn down by the far-reaching damage we are doing to our world, who see climate change in apocalyptic terms, a phenomenon very likely to end human civilization as we know it.

This is precisely the wrong historical moment to abandon belief in a finer future. Climate solutions are now cheaper then fossil fuels, and getting cheaper. It lies within our grasp to rewire the world with clean energy. So why are some folks giving up?

It’s not too late to fight climate change

This new climate despair is being fed by two beliefs. The first is that the impacts of even 2 degrees Celsius will be so catastrophic that the civilization will not survive. This is just wrong. Two degrees will be bad, not the end of the world.  The second fear is that we can’t cut emissions fast enough to stay below 2°C.  Time is indeed short. By 2030, can we really get on the path to stabilizing the climate at the low end of warming?

Yes. In the past few years the path to deliver 2°C (or less) has been getting cheaper every day.  Utility scale solar is already crushing fossil fuel across the world. In competitive energy bids in Colorado, Idaho, and California. solar plus wind plus storage bids are coming in at half the price of natural gas. Utility scale battery storage is already shuttering existing natural gas-powered plants. Very soon, distributed solar plus batteries will start to destroy the basic business model underlying the centralized grid.

The transformation is already underway

On the transport side, Mercedes Benz executives recently announced that they have designed the last gasoline-powered cars they will ever build. Add in driverless electric vehicles (EVs)—Lyft says that half its rides will be driverless within ten years-- and the disruptive market dynamics become even more powerful.  Last month, Mad Money’s Jim Cramer—about as far from a sustainability advocate as you can get— wrote: “Oil's a goner. Natural gas is a goner. The oil complex is becoming un-investible before our very eyes.”

These transformative technologies are all arriving on the scene simultaneously, and just in time.  They are here courtesy of decades of forward-thinking government RD&D spending in the U.S., Europe and China that drove down the cost of renewable energy and EV’s to a level now competitive with, and rapidly getting cheaper then fossil fuel options. Because it was only a few years ago that these technologies were indeed expensive alternatives, many observers have misjudged what it will take to stabilize the climate.  Mainstream analysts like Cramer are just now getting it.

Running renewable price declines forwards means that by the mid 2020’s, the solar and the EV revolutions will be fully market driven. The policy challenge in energy and transport then is no longer top down, it is bottom up: tearing down obstacles at the state, city and utility level, and ensuring justice in the transition. Today we now have both the low cost technologies and successful business models to achieve the low-end Paris goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To imagine how we might actually solve climate change by 2030, watch this video by Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Stanford Professor Tony Seba, or read my paper with Hunter Lovins, or the summary here. The basic argument is that solar plus storage plus driverless EV’s will be soon be so cheap that they will blow the existing energy and transportation infrastructure to bits. These renewable energy technologies could spread quickly across the earth in the next decade, as smart phones did in the last: from zero to 2.5 billion users, one-third of the world’s population, in 10 years.

Fighting to win and avoid the trip of climate despair

Solving climate by 2030 is possible. Of course, opposition from utilities and oil companies could delay the path to “solar dominance” to 20 years. Or 30. The timing, and how much global warming we get—low end or catastrophic-- depends critically on the level of political engagement by people like you and me with our states, cities and utilities. But regardless, the solar revolution is coming. Ask the CEO of Shell or the analysts at McKinsey. And if we fight hard enough for it, we can absolutely hold global heating to 2°C or less.

Despite this, you don’t have to scratch far below the surface to find an increasing number of grown-ups in climate despair, no longer able to see a way through to stabilizing the climate. But this fear is not grounded in what markets are telling us about climate solutions. Absorbing apocalyptic visions served up daily on our news feeds, it has become easier for many to imagine billions of people homeless and human civilization in ruins then it is a world rewired with clean energy.  

By contrast, watch Greta Thunberg, the 16-year old talking truth to the powerful, and you can see the internal balancing of a warrior.  Already bearing the pain of loss her generation faces, she is nevertheless telling us to fight for her future. This is no time for climate despair. Now more than ever we can see the path to solving climate change by 2030, and all that stands in our way is a lot of hard work.

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Why We Have No Time for Climate Despair
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Climate solutions are now cheaper then fossil fuels, and getting cheaper. So why are some folks giving up, and falling into climate despair?
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International Day of the Girl Reminder: We Need More Women Leading in the Sectors That Have the Biggest Impact on Us

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Tomorrow, October 11th, marks the International Day of the Girl. The day serves to highlight issues that girls face worldwide while promoting girls’ empowerment. An important empowerment tool is representation – as in girls seeing women in a range of aspirational jobs.

In recent years there has been a significant increase in women holding management positions at utilities across the country. But to empower girls to pursue careers across the utility sectors, work still needs to be done to expand representation. Of the 27 women CEOs in the S&P 500, only three lead utilities (two energy, one water).

Representation matters for girls looking at options for future careers, but diversity is also good for the bottom line. Earlier this year, a report from the World Bank noted that globally, boards with greater numbers of women were more likely to outperform on profitability and value creation than less diverse boards. In the U.S., the report indicated that companies with diverse boards had a 95 percent higher return on equity.

The utility sector as a whole is assortment of privately- and public-owned entities, with investor-owned utilities more common in the electric sector. Most water utilities are publicly-owned in the U.S. Arguably, the municipally-owned utilities, both electric and water, are typically the least innovative due to a number of factors. Those reasons include budgetary and financing constraints, local regulations—some of which may be long-standing — and the reduced flexibility that comes with providing a public good.

These regulations and structures are necessary to safeguard public safety and to provide maximum accountability to the city or region that the utilities are accountable to. But there, too, evidence suggests that companies that put women in leadership positions experience greater innovation due to the increased diversity of the voices at the top. And as utilities struggle to reform their business practices in the face of increased clean energy and water scarcity, women in leadership may provide the jolt of innovation needed to power through to success.

Women CEOs of electric utilities, such as Paula Gold Williams of San Antonio’s CPS Energy and Connie Lau of Hawaiian Electric Industries, are overseeing their utilities’ goals to reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2040 and 100 percent by 2045, respectively.

HEI is a holding company that owns utilities that provides 95 percent of Hawaii’s electricity, and its largest company was named investor-owned utility of the year in 2018. Under the watch of Mary Powell, President and CEO of Green Mountain Power in Vermont, GMP set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 (they are currently at 60 percent) and has become a leader in the transformation to new utility business model. GMP has been named one of the world’s most innovative company three years in a row by Fast Company.

Women leaders of water utilities, such as Trish Berge, General Manager of Sweetwater Authority in California and Carrie Lewis, General Manager of Portland Water District in Maine, are pioneering innovative ways to increase education in water and technology in their communities. For example, Sweetwater Authority has initiated a partnership between a hydro station and an elementary school to teach kids about career paths in water management. Susan Story, President and CEO of American Water Works Company in New Jersey and the largest publicly-traded utility in the U.S., has overseen the investment in research and development of smart water technologies and established an innovation development process.

Female role models are powerful for young girls. As a teenager, with dreams of being an astronaut, I revered the first classes of women astronauts like Sally Ride and Shannon Lucid. It pushed me into a career of science policy. Recently, as I prepared to testify before the Texas Legislature on an energy-water issue, my daughter asked me what my job was. I said I saved water. Her response: “Good job, Mommy.”

This year’s International Day of the Girl reminds us that the in the face of climate change, we need a diverse set of voices at the table to find solutions, and those role models at our essential utilities are empowering for the little girls finding their path.

Image credit: Kate Zerrenner

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International Day of the Girl Memo-More Women Leaders Needed
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An important reminder about International Day of the Girl is representation: for example, having women in leadership roles across sectors such as utilities.
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How This Lawyer Became a Force of Nature for Second-Chance Hiring

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As many as one in three U.S. citizens has a criminal record – which means countless people will face a lifelong struggle finding meaningful employment. For many reasons, including historically low unemployment and growing fatigue with the U.S. criminal justice system, interest in second-chance hiring is growing.

Nevertheless, many businesses are still reluctant to hire the formerly incarcerated, despite the success of “ban the box” legislation (laws preventing employers from asking about one’s criminal history) across the country.

One organization that has shown leadership on this challenge is the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which boasts over 300,000 members across 165 nations. In recent years, this organization, the world’s largest human resources membership association, has become a font of best practices, as well as myth-busting, on second-chance hiring.

As one owner of a staffing agency noted on SHRM’s blog earlier this year, “I have noticed that my best employees are the most unlikely and most overlooked: Those who lost the most.”

SHRM has found a proactive, resourceful and vocal ally in Koch Industries, which by most accounts employs 130,000 employees worldwide and has annual revenues of over $110 billion.

This story about second-chance hiring got its start in Queens

One of Koch Industries’ most passionate and committed advocates for second-chance hiring is Jenny Kim, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President of Public Policy at Koch.

Kim’s focus on second-chance hiring hearkens back to her upbringing in the Woodside neighborhood of Queens, New York City. “In my apartment building there were families not that different from us, but I think some of their sons probably had a hard time adjusting to the world that was constantly changing around them,” she said during a recent interview with TriplePundit.

The apartment building in which Kim’s family lived was one of mixed races and ethnicities, but in reflecting back to her childhood, she realized that in the end, all of the families had more similarities than differences. “Some of my peers ended up working at Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s. Others, well, their life took them in another direction – in the worst cases, sadly, Riker’s Island,” she recalled. “My parents are immigrants from South Korea, so they had a very sort of black and white view of the world. If you broke the law, you broke the law. That's it. So, they would say, we can't talk to them.”

But early on, Kim took a different view of her neighbors. “[My parents] would say, ‘Don't make eye contact with them,’ but I did anyway,” she said. “I realized my neighbors weren’t necessarily ‘bad’ people; after all, they sometimes helped my mom carry groceries to our apartment.”

Fast forward to years later, and Kim eventually graduated from New York University, and later, Boston College Law School. Those memories of her neighbors, however, stayed with her. “I think they were lost, and I think they had a lot of dreams and aspirations. But often they had no father figure in the home. Usually their moms were raising those young men by themselves,” she said.

From compliance to advocacy

Kim’s career eventually landed at Koch Industries, where at first, she worked on political law compliance. She then found herself on a project of figuring out how to structure and magnify the company’s criminal justice work.

The recollections of her neighbors stayed with Kim as this “project” ended up becoming a passion – one she articulated with relentless energy during her recent talk with 3p. “As you get immersed in this work, you start to peel back the layers of the onion,” she explained. “You get tired of reading about what's theoretically wrong with the system. You start meeting people. And that led to the first real meeting with a human being who had a criminal record that I got to know.”

Note that Kim described this man as a “human being” – one who told Kim that he could not go join his son on an upcoming school trip due to his criminal record. “That bothered me, because he clearly was trying to rebuild his life.”

To Kim, this human being, this father, deserved to be more than to be described as an “ex con” or other terms that are in our daily vernacular, largely formed by the media and popular culture. Kim didn’t see this person as someone who “did time,” but as a vibrant and talented human being. “I also remember how artistic and articulate he was; I can't even draw a straight line with a ruler,” she quipped.

The barriers to rebuilding lives

Kim explained how criminal records stay with people – along with at least other 46,000 additional penalties resulting from convictions that people will long confront as they try to become integrated once again within society. Those barriers are the result of what many estimates suggest are up to the 5,000 criminal statues and up to 300,000 criminal regulations that are on the books across the U.S.

Meanwhile, of the 2.2 million Americans who are in prison, more than nine out of 10 of them will eventually be released, or about 650,000 to 700,000 annually.

Kim’s drive, passion and learnings she gained by visiting prisons across the country helped lead to the partnership Koch Industries launched with SHRM earlier this year. The Getting Talent Back to Work initiative not only encourages companies and trade associations to embrace second-chance hiring, but offers them resources that can help them evaluate individuals who have the qualifications and talent – but also happen to have a criminal record.

Partnerships help push second-chance hiring forward

In addition to SHRM, Koch Industries partners with several organizations in its push to have second-chance hiring become the norm, not exception. In Wichita, home to the company’s headquarters, Koch partners with Rise Up for Youth, a high school mentoring program that works with teens by providing them the tools they need to manage life’s difficulties and eventually, succeed in adulthood.

According to Kim, employees help support this partnership by spending much time volunteering with the organization; many employees, executives and spouses have also been on Rise Up for Youth’s board. “What we’re doing is not just about financial support; it's also genuine community support,” added Kim.

Nationwide, Koch also works with organizations including Washington, D.C.-based Center for Advancing Opportunity, a research and education initiative that counts the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) among its supporters. The focus of the center’s work includes supporting the research of scholars at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBU) who specialize in education, entrepreneurship and criminal justice. “The TMCF-Koch partnership is a wonderful example of vision and impact working together to advance opportunity in the public and private sectors of life with HBCU scholars and students as important voices in this important endeavor,” said Gerard Robinson, the organization’s executive director.

Tomorrow, TriplePundit will feature Jenny Kim’s discussion of the business and moral case for second-chance hiring.

Don’t forget: Later this month, we’ll be hosting 3BL Forum: Brands Taking Stands – What's Next, October 29-30, at MGM National Harbor, just outside Washington, D.C. Jenny Kim of Koch Industries will be onstage the afternoon of the 29th as we discuss how the private sector can help support prison reform and the hiring of formerly incarcerated people.

We're pleased to offer 3p readers a 25 percent discount on attending the Forum. Please register by going to the 3BL Forum website and use this discount code when prompted: NEWS2019BRANDS.

Image credit: Koch Industries

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Key to Ending Modern Slavery Lies in Frontline Communities, New Report Finds

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The possibility that the shirt you are wearing or the smart phone you’re using was made by forced labor is not something most of us like to contemplate, yet it occurs more often than we likely expect.

In a report published by Hult Research and the Ethical Trading Initiative, 70 percent of companies say that slavery-related practices likely exist somewhere in their business operations or supply chains. The International Labor Organization puts the number of modern-day slavery victims at 40 million, the majority being women and girls. 

To combat the problem, for more than 20 years, multinational companies from Adidas to Unilever have signed onto strong anti-forced labor statements and conducted risk-based audits and assessments of suppliers, many publishing the results. It seemed progress was being made.

But the London-based Freedom Fund now says that such corporate tactics are not working. They point to evidence from their frontline partners in forced labor hotspots such as India, Nepal and Thailand that suggests that ethical auditing and corporate certification schemes are ineffective tools for addressing and preventing forced labor in global supply chains. Instead, they say in a report published last month that a variety of community-based interventions and mobilization are key.

Working on the front lines to stamp out forced labor

The report -- “Unlocking What Works: How Community-Based Interventions Are Ending Bonded Labor in India” – looks at a five-year, $15 million intervention campaign supported by the Freedom Fund to protect workers in India.

The initiative included 40 nongovernmental organizations that conducted direct interventions to protect workers, including garment workers. Tactics included creating membership in community groups as alternative sources for loans; creation of adolescent girls’ and women’s financial self-help groups; community vigilance committees to bargain collectively with employers; development of internal complaint committees to serve as venues for workers to address grievances; and the availability of courses to inform workers of their rights and recourse under the law.

The report found that the campaign succeeded in reducing the percentage of families in bondage from 56 percent to 11 percent in the fund’s focus areas and that the interventions were effective at stopping labor abuses and changing the structural conditions that enable unfair labor practices.

“Taken together, these evaluations affirm that the power to end modern slavery lies in frontline communities themselves,” said Nick Grono, CEO of the Freedom Fund, in a press release announcing the report. “Our programs are having a direct impact in the communities our partners are working in, and they are successfully building on this community-level work to positively change wider policies and systems.”

Apple, Intel and other multinationals doing more to eradicate forced labor

For their part, many multinationals would likely agree with the report’s findings. In fact, many include the tactics cited by the Freedom Fund – such as the availability of grievance mechanisms and training on workers’ rights – in their supplier policies. But a number of companies are going further, beyond audits, to reduce the risk of forced labor within their supply chains.

In 2018, Apple received the Stop Slavery Award by the Thomson Reuters Foundation for its efforts to limit the risk of slavery in its supply chain and operations. The award came after Apple and other companies were criticized for failing to check sufficiently whether the materials used in its products were coming from ethical places.

In accepting the award, Apple said it is expanding its approach to ensure that its anti-slavery policies don't only extend to those suppliers who create Apple's products, but to their suppliers’ suppliers. As reported in The Independent last year, Apple is working with suppliers to ensure they abide by the company's "no passport withholding" policy, for instance, making sure that foreign contract employees are free from abuse even among those workers who don't actually create Apple products. The company has also announced that it will be working with an NGO to hire human trafficking victims to work in its stores.

Intel, which found evidence of forced labor in its supply chain in 2013, prohibits its suppliers from charging workers fees to obtain or keep employment, a common practice that often results in indentured servitude. If the practice is discovered, Intel requires the supplier to repay the recruitment fees in full. Since 2014, Intel says its suppliers have returned more than $14 million in fees to workers.

Adidas, another recipient of the Stop Slavery Award, uses technology to encourage workers in its supply chain to speak out about abuses.

No silver-bullet solution

“Whilst we have outsourced our production and manufacturing all over the world, we will not outsource our moral responsibility which is to do right by the 1.3 million workers who make our products,” said Aditi Wanchoo, senior manager of social and environmental affairs at Adidas, at the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual Trust Conference.

While approaches may differ, it is clear that it will take ongoing, coordinated, sector-wide approaches, involving nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and governments, to truly make progress.

Image credit: ILO Asia-Pacific/Flickr

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Investors Driving Dramatic Shift in Corporate Sustainability Disclosures

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Investors have made clear that they want good, solid data when it comes to sustainability performance and companies are increasingly giving investors what they want, according to a new white paper from Deloitte.

More than 80 percent of mainstream investors now rely upon sustainability or ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) disclosures to make decisions. In 2011, 20 percent of the S&P 500 companies published some form of a sustainability disclosure; that figure surged to 86 percent in 2018, according to Deloitte.

“We've definitely seen a dramatic shift in corporate disclosure in the whole ESG, non-financial sustainability disclosure space,” Kristen B. Sullivan, a partner of Deloitte and one of the authors of the paper, told TriplePundit in a recent interview. “It’s very much a reflection of the way companies want to provide their stakeholders, investors in particular, with more insight into how the company is navigating shifting environmental and societal trends, impacts, risks and opportunities.”

Deloitte also noted a shift in how ESG disclosures are provided. More companies are presenting or referring to nonfinancial measures in financial filings, and they are getting those disclosures assured by a third-party provider. Almost 40 percent of S&P 500 companies voluntarily address some aspect of sustainability in financial filings. Some 36 percent of those companies are getting partial external assurance, although the number who have their sustainability reporting fully assured remains low at 3 percent.

“External assurance is definitely on the rise,” Sullivan says. “Investors want confidence that the information is complete and accurate and reliable and that ESG is truly integrated into corporate practices and how companies are making decisions.”

Millennials also driving the transparency train

Customers and employees are also driving the appetite for more sustainability disclosure, in particular, millennials and Generation Z, a trend 3p has reported on extensively. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Millennial Survey, these consumers are values-driven in the choices they make, with 42 percent they have begun or deepened a business relationship because they perceived a company’s products or services to have a positive impact on society or the environment.

“No matter where you play in the capital markets, confidence and trust is foundational,” Sullivan noted. “Transparency is really a tool to drive trust and confidence with stakeholders. The discipline of disclosure helps management more effectively manage their activities as they think about these risks and opportunities and how it integrates into their business strategy and make better informed and make better decisions as well.”

Risky business to hide information

Sullivan issues a warning as well: companies that are not transparent about their sustainability performance could lose favor with investors or lose their competitive advantage, and have more difficulty attracting and retaining customers and employees.

“Even just a few years ago there was a perception that the risk of voluntarily providing sustainability information to the market outweighed the benefit, but I think we’ve seen that shift and the absence of disclosure is increasingly outpacing any sort of a concern about voluntary disclosure risk,” Sullivan said.

“They’re really leaving value on the table because the traders and analysts who are providing an ESG evaluation to the marketplace are doing so very transparently,” she adds. “If you’re not telling your story, someone else is. The absence of meaningful, high quality, reliable disclosure really puts a company at risk.”

You can run but you can’t hide, as a growing number of investors use proxy voting and shareholder proposals to push their ESG objectives, as 3p has discussed. The 2019 proxy season was the third consecutive year in which environmental and social-related proposals accounted for the majority of shareholder proposals.

“Without disclosure, there's a perception of hidden risks and that's when investors are going to use that lever of shareholder proposals,” Sullivan said.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Investors have made clear they want good, solid data within sustainability reporting disclosures - and they are getting it, according to Deloitte.
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