The triple bottom line helps save the environment and the economy!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Paper Based Water Bottles Equal Greenwashing

Brandimage announced recently it created a paper-based water bottle that will question "the very existence of the plastic water bottle." The 360 Paper Water Bottle is made from pressed renewable plant fibers. There is one problem with the new bottled water brand: it is not needed. What is needed is for people to start drinking tap water in reusable water bottles. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sportswear and Equipment Companies Green Buildings

Patagonia, the sportswear clothing company, built a 171,000 square foot LEED Gold-certified addition to its Reno, NV distribution center. The addition contains a modular conveyor system which uses 30 percent less energy and increases operational efficiency by 20 percent. 

The addition is heated with a radiant heating system, which uses copper tubes filled with hot water. 

In constructing the addition, Patagonia went beyond the LEED Gold-certification requirements:
  • Used 100 percent light-colored concrete instead of asphalt in parking lot and driveways. LEED requires 30 percent to be certified.
  • Uses 40 percent less water by installing water efficient toilets, waterless urinals, and bathroom faucets that automatically turn off. (LEED requires 30 percent.
  • Fifty percent of the materials used to construct addition were manufactured within a 500 mile radius. LEED requires 20 percent.
  • All the wood used was Forest Stewardship Council (FCS) certified. LEED requires 50 percent.
“Whether we're designing a new product, sourcing contract manufacturing sites, or building a new distribution center, everything we do goes back to the mission statement,” said Dave Abeloe, director of the Reno facility. “We ask ourselves: 'What are we trying to accomplish with this project, and how can we do that while adhering to our values?'”

REI's LEED Silver-certified distribution center

Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) built 525,000 square foot LEED Silver-certified distribution center. The 43 acre property in Bedford, PA, according to a Reuter's article, is one of the largest "green buildings and properties" in the U.S.

During the building of the distribution center, heavy construction equipment was powered by bio-diesel (B20). A concrete and mixing plant was also on the construction site.

The distribution center contains 360 windows and skylights which reduces energy use by 33 percent. Twenty bike stalls were installed in the parking lot, along with 30 preferred parking spaces for those who carpool or drive fuel-efficient vehicles. 

REI bought 12 acres surrounding the property to reate a natural wetland, which will help local wildlife and help the company manage its rain water runoff.

In addition to achieving LEED Gold-certification, REI donated a house already on the property Habitat for Humanity. 

"We are very proud of what we have accomplished, in addition to enabling us to significantly reduce the transit times to our customers and existing stores in the Eastern United States," said Brian Unmacht, REI's senior vice president of salesstore development and logistics.

Watch a video about Patagonia's distribution center:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama To Cap Executive Pay

Last week, President Obama announced a $500,000 pay cap on certain senior executives whose firms received TARP funds

Obama reminded executives that they need to "take responsiblity." He characterized firms that received TARP funds and paid "customary lavish bonuses" as the "height of irresponsiblity" and "shameful." He also reminded executives that Americans "don't disparage wealth" or "begrudge anybody their success." However, he pointed out that the American people become upset when failure is rewarded, and the "rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers."

In addition to the pay caps, executives who receive "perks and luxuries" are going to have to publicly explain "why these expenses are justified," Obama said.

The Rich Got Richer

For the first time, everyone on the 2006 Forbes 400 list was a billionaire. The 2005 Forbes 400 list contained 374 billionaires, with a combined net worth of $1.13 trillion. No new editions were added to the 2005 list. Steve Forbes, Forbes magazine publisher, did not make the list because his net worth is only $400 million.

The collective net worth of the Forbes 400 billionaires is $1.25 trillion.  In fact $1.13 trillion is more than “the combined gross domestic product of SwitzerlandPolandNorway, and Greece,” as New York Times columnist Nina Munk observed.

The minimum net worth needed to make the list went from $500 million to $625 million in 1998. In 1999 the Forbes 400 list had as much wealth as bottom half of U.S. population, over a trillion dollars. The average Forbes 400 member increased their wealth by 177 percent in the last decade, and more than 55 percent in the last two years.

A 2004 study by UC Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez reported that the income of the median household in 2004 only increased by 1.6 percent. During the 1998 to 2001 period it increased by 9.5 percent. The New York Times conducted a study on the 2003 tax cuts. They found that someone earning $26 million paid the same amount of taxes as a $200,000 to $500,000 wage earner. The median income taxpayer receives a tax cut of $600, while a $10 million dollar wage earner receives a $500,000 tax cut.

Given the above facts, it is clear why Obama declared, "we're taking the air out of the golden parachute."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What's Up With U.S. Banks?

Last fall the Congress passed the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program which helped troubled financial institutions. Frederick Cannon, a banking analyst, recently said, "Money is moving throughout the system, but there is increasing recognition that these institutions don't have enough capital to withstand the losses from all the crazy loans they have."

Something is wrong with the the bank bailout, or at least the terms of it. Banks that received TARP funds are helping the pharmeceutical company Pfizer buy Wyeth. As a writer for Online Journal pointed out, the buyout will not help the American people. 

Another good example is Citigroup paying $400 billion to have its name put on the New York Mets new ballpark. Bank of America is paying $140 billion to have its name on the NFL's Carolina Panther's stadium. Both Citigroup and BofA received $45 million in TARP funds. JPMorgan Chase & Co. spent $66 million to have its name on the Arizona's cardinal's ballpark. JPMorgan received $25 billion in TARP funds.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) called the banks' spending "frivolous," on a few days ago said he plans on holding hearings. 

Meanwhile, banks are still in trouble. Last Sunday, Obama said to NBC News, "some banks won't make it," but assured the American people there deposits would be safe. "The banks, because of mismanagement, because of huge risk-taking, are now in a very vulnerable position." Obama issued a warning to banks and financial institutions that "they've got to abide by certain conditions" if they received TARP funds.

Reportedly, Timothy Geitner, new Treasury Secretary for the Obama administration, is considering buying up troubled assets from banks. A BusinessWeek article reported the following:

Daniel Clifton, Washington policy analyst for Strategas Research Partners, says Treasury is considering starting the bank with $100 billion from TARP, then adding leverage from the Fed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. so $1 trillion in funding is available to buy bad assets. Ultimately, he adds, Administration officials believe they could need up to $2 trillion.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) criticized creating a "bad bank" to buy banks' troubled assets. He told CNBC the idea has two problems. "One is the cost – its usually expensive – and, second, if you have the bad bank where the government has to buy the assets at the price right now, you don’t know how to value them.”

Another idea reportedly being considered by the Obama administration is offering banks guarantees which would limit their losses on troubled assets. BusinessWeek characterized that option as a "thinly veiled nationalization of the worst banks."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, said, "If we are strengthening them, then the American people should get some of the upside of that strengthening. Some people call that nationalization." She furthered said she didn't favor "total ownership." 

Economist Lena Komileva said the important part of a solution is to "get market structures working again and restart private capital flows."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Will Green Investing Do Well In This Economy?

Investing in 'green' or environmentally-friendly projects or companies is not expected to go down, despite the weakest economy since the 1930s, according to recent reports and surveys.

The World Economic Forum's recent report, Green Investing: Towards a Clean Energy Infrastructure identified eight important clean energy sectors: onshore wind, offshore wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal electricity generation, municipal solar waste-to-energy, sugar-based ethanol, cellulosic and next generation biofuels, and geothermal power.

The reported warned that at least $515 billion a year needs to be invested in clean energy until 2030 to stop carbon emissions from reaching a level scientists consider to be unsustainable.

During last week's World Economic Forum meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "By tackling climate change head-on we can solve many of our current troubles, including the threat of global recession. We stand at a crossroads. It is important that we realize we have a choice. We can choose short-sighted unilateralism and business as usual. Or we can grasp global cooperation and partnership on a scale never before seen."

A recent survey by the Allianz Global Investors revealed that almost eight in ten U.S. investors surveyed (78 percent) think green tech can potentially be the "next great American industry."

Over nine in ten (91 percent) think that finding solutions to environmental problems will be important for years. Seven in 10 (69 percent) think investing in companies that are addressing environmental problems important, and 64 percent classified the environment as the most "desirable" factor in investment. There was a 30 percent increase from 2007 to 2008 in amount of investors who already invested in companies addressing environmental problems.

"The need for pollution control, clean water and energy efficiency is not going away. Investors perceive there is real opportunity here and they want to capitalize on it," says Brian Gaffney, CEO of Allianz Global Investors Distributors.

"Investors' bright outlook on the environmental technology sector is telling. This is perceived as a long-term opportunity," says Gaffney. "Investors understand that robust demand for innovation and solutions will fuel growth, and consequently profits, for years to come."

A report by the Hartman Group titled Sustainability: The Rise of Consumer Responsibility stated that three out of four consumers consider both environmental and social aspects when they purchase products. One in three are willing to pay more. Eighty-eight percent define themselves as participators in sustainable behaviors, and 37 percent think purchasing decisions are as important as voting. However, less than 25 percent can even name a single sustainable product.

In a December survey by the SunTrust Bank Private Wealth Management, 69 percent of business owners said, "Even if there is an economic downturn that moderately affects my business, I plan to maintain my current level of giving to environmental causes in the coming year.” Over 200 business owners with at least $10 in annual revenue were surveyed about green giving and investing. The majority believe it is either a "good" or "average" time to invest in green funds, and 40 percent believe it is a "good" time for businesses to have high environmental standards.

The Panel Intelligence's Quarterly Sustainability Tracking Study released in December cited a survey of 65 corporate sustainability executives of Fortune 500 companies in North America. Eighty percent of the executives surveyed plan to either maintain or increase levels of sustainability spending this year, and 82 percent rated energy efficiency number one area of investment.

The percentage of corporate revenues spent on sustainability and clean technology is expected to increase through 2010 by 73 percent. Corporate spending on sustainable waste management initiatives is expected to grow by 20 percent this year.

“In a downturn, some would back away from their current commitments,” said Dan Esty, a professor of environmental law and policy at Yale University, in 2007. “There could be stress in the next year or two, but I’m confident that investment in the environment will be higher.”

In 2007, Michael Chesser, chairman and CEO of Great Plains Energy, said, “The investment can be rheostated. In other words you can speed up or slow down, depending on how you see your demand going over the next couple of years.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Monday, February 2, 2009

Obama Gives Bad & Good News

"The bad news is well known to Americans across this country," President Obama said during his weekly address. The good news is that the "House passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which will save or create three million jobs over the next few years."

What will the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act do for businesses? Obama spoke about how the Act will help businesses:

Soon my Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, will announce a new strategy for reviving our financial system that gets credit flowing to businesses and families. We'll help lower mortgage costs and extend loans to small businesses so they can create jobs. We'll ensure that CEOs are not draining funds that should be advancing our recovery. And we will insist on unprecedented transparency, rigorous oversight, and clear accountability -- so taxpayers know how their money is being spent and whether it is achieving results.