‘The power is in the hands of the consumers’

Unilever CEO Paul Polman, talks about why consumers will no longer tolerate businesses that behave in unjust or unfair ways.

Who would have thought even a few years ago that one of the world’s most powerful chief executives would be advocating a transformation in society far more radical than any mainstream politician.

Paul Polman, the CEO of Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever, whose brands include Dove, Persil, Bertolli, Flora and PG Tips, says the political and economic systems are failing and that capitalism needs to be reframed to work for the common good.

He says too many companies have prospered at the expense of society and nature, and that business now has to learn to be successful while contributing to society and supporting ecosystems and biodiversity.

“We do not have to win at the expense of others to be successful,” he says. “Winning alone is not enough it’s about winning with purpose.”

He acknowledges the Occupy Wall Street movement for exposing the inequalities in society, warning that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that companies that fail to respond to the social and environmental challenges of our age, are at risk of being put out of business.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement sends out a very clear signal,” says Polman. “If you look out five or 10 years, which is my job, the power is in the hands of the consumers and they will not give us a sense of legitimacy if they believe the system is unfair or unjust. Some companies that miss the standards of acceptable behaviour to consumers will be selected out.

“I am not advocating communism or trying to turn the world into a kibbutz. Some people sometimes accuse me of being a socialist but I am a capitalist at heart. But what I want is a sustainable and equitable capitalism. Why can’t we have that as a model?”

Polman is acknowledged as one of the leaders of a small but growing band of progressive companies that believe humanity is heading for disaster unless politicians, companies and civil society join forces to respond to the challenges of social injustice, climate change, resource scarcity, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss.

“We have increasing income disparity within the developed world. We have a political system that barely functions after the economic and financial crisis. So continuing the way we are going is simply not a solution and increasingly consumers are asking for a different way of doing business and building society for the long term together.”

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan

Polman believes in walking his talk and last year launched the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, which covers all brands and 180 countries where Unilever operates, as well as its total supply chain, including the impacts of its consumers.

Unlike many other companies that concentrate on their environmental footprint, Unilever’s plan also incorporates the other two pillars of sustainability; social, and economic.

The plan seeks to double sales and halve the environmental impact of its products over the next 10 years. There is also a commitment to improve the nutritional quality of its food products – with cuts in salt, saturated fats, sugar and calories – and link more than 500,000 smallholder farmers and small scale distributors in developing countries to its supply chain.

At the heart of Polman’s thinking is the desire to show the Sustainable Living Plan is not just about doing good but about good business. By providing a concrete example of the business case for sustainability, he hopes it will convince other companies to follow suit and help convince the investment community to move away from their obsession with short-termism.

“If we hit all our targets on this plan, but no-one else follows suit, we will have failed miserably,” says Polman. “We are trying to show that you can be successful as a business and at the same time show the financial community this should be one of the better drivers for their investments.

“We are growing and our share price is doing well. So we will gain credibility. The more we can reinforce that link and show it to others, the more we can be a galvaniser in this world for good. That is what success will look like.”

Reconnecting business to a sense of purpose

At the root of his philosophy, and what drives him, is a recognition of the importance of reconnecting business to a sense of purpose beyond just making money and getting bigger.

“If you believe in something you have to fight for that and have the courage to take the tougher decisions that come with it,” he says “Having a deeper purpose to what we do as people makes our lives more complete, which is a tremendous force and motivator.

“What people want in life is to be recognised, to be part of, to grow and to have made a difference. That difference can come in many forms; by touching someone, by helping others, by creating something that was not there before.

“To work for an organisation where you can leverage this and be seen to be making a difference; that is rewarding.”

The importance of collaboration

Polman has a missionary zeal about the potential to create a better world and often works 15 plus hours a day to not only embed sustainability at the heart of Unilever’s business but also to encourage a more collaborative approach with companies, NGOs and institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations: “I only do things I am passionate about otherwise I am wasting my time,” he says the development of coalitions is essential, he believes, because change needs to come at a systemic level, which needs all major players in society to commit to change.

He cites as examples his work with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to see how business can work more effectively with the global institution, and the creation of the Consumer Goods Forum, which has agreed amongst other things to stop buying palm oil, paper, soya or beef from illegally forested areas by 2020.

Part of his thinking behind the Sustainable Living Plan was to set such ambitious targets that the company would be forced to work in partnership with others if it were to have a hope of meeting them.

“We cannot do it alone,” he says. “We have to work together. People felt uncomfortable about this inside the company, and to some extent also my board. People were concerned about what would happen if we miss the targets and saying to me that I will not be here anyway in 10 years time.

“I got all that stuff but the response overall was positive as this is the response of a human company. We do not know all the answers, we cannot do it all on our own.

“We have to play at a different level of co-operation. I think one of the main reasons is that people are understanding that international institutions and governments are not designed for all the answers.

“By making sustainability a strategy and operating model it opens doors that are beyond peoples’ imagination. We have a unique opportunity because people are realising the world is inter-dependent. In the past we might not have talked to Greenpeace or WWF, but now we are now on the phone with them every week.

“Who will refuse that journey, who will refuse to jump on the train for a better world. I ask people what is the alternative? Why would I distrust anyone who wants to work with us to achieve that, including the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

Why are so few companies embedding sustainability?

So why is it that so few other business leaders are taking the issue of sustainability into the heart of their organisations?

Polman points out that the average tenure of a CEO is only three years so there is often little motivation to take on the challenge and that most business leaders are fixated at the moment with getting through the current economic turmoil.

He also highlights the increasing complexity of the world which creates a feeling of disempowerment.

Polman says: “I use the term VUCA to describe the world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It is very difficult for people to get a total picture. The food, water, energy nexus is so inter-related that it is for most people too difficult to know where to start and where to end.”

Another concern for Polman is the motivation of the financial community. In fact Polman famously stopped quarterly reporting and drew a line in the sand by making it clear he wanted investors who were interested only in supporting the long-term health of the company.

The role of government

He believes government has a role to play here and argues for a progressive taxation system for share ownership, pointing out that equities in FTSE100 companies are held for on average just eight months.

“Most of the trading is done in nano seconds by people that you call my shareholders but who would move anywhere if they can make a quick return,” he says.

“Governments can think about frameworks to encourage longer term thinking. There could be different share structures where dividends attract a higher tax rate depending on how long you hold shares. There are options if you really want to address that issue.

“The quarterly cycles and reporting requirements, we really have to challenge those. This is the right time to do that.”

Polman says CEOs on their own cannot significantly influence the financial markets, and given that Unilever is a consumer goods company, it makes more sense to focus the company’s attention on changing the behaviour of its two billion customers, who account for the majority of the company’s environmental footprint.

“For a CEO to move the investment community is a tall order,” he says. “We are a company focussed on the consumer so we have a lot to do there.”

The role of consumers

One aspect is to encourage customers to use resources more efficiently, such as taking shorter showers and washing clothes in lower temperatures. The other is encouraging them to switch to more sustainable products.

Polman says some clear lessons have already been learnt, such as consumers will not buy ‘green’ products unless their performance is as good and they do not have to pay a premium: “If our sustainable Lipton tea does not taste good or is too expensive, they will not buy,” says Polman.

But he believes we are now entering a new era when consumers will stop buying products from companies they see are not behaving responsibly.

“Are consumers prepared to pay for sustainable tea or not – we have gone past that at 100mph,” says Polman. “The question now is are they prepared to buy from companies that are not being responsible. Consumers recognise they can drop a company instantly.

“Companies should use this knowledge to act as a force for good, become part of the responsible movement. This is not utopia, it is enlightened self interest.”

The role of progressive regulation

Polman, like other business leaders, is frustrated by the lack of clear incentives to support the transition to a sustainable society, and is a firm believer in progressive regulation that is based on incentives.

“To move things forward like carbon reduction, it would help for governments in Europe to be clear on whether they support a 30% or 40% reduction goal – and we have made it clear we don’t mind the 40% goal – but if there is not a clear framework, companies won’t invest because capital decisions take a long time.

“Business needs frameworks. I am a free enterprise person but that is not the only solution. A system where you can have positive reinforcement for the long term is more effective than rules and regulations. If I had to run my company with bibles of guidelines I would not be in business long term.

“The financial crisis of 2008 was as much a crisis as ethics and a unique opportunity to develop frameworks for the longer term.”

Polman acknowledges there is a new generation of CEOs, brought up in the 1960s, who have a more rounded view of the role of business in society.

But he believes previous generations would also have responded to the challenges facing the world “because the clarity of the issues we are facing now are so transparent. When we went into the Second World War, the business leaders combined took a decision for the greater good of the UK to fight for freedom and when they came out, to get the economy back on track. When the challenges are big enough people respond in a responsible way.”

How Unilever is embedding sustainability

It’s one thing a CEO putting his weight behind a leading-edge sustainability strategy, but how is Unilever embedding this across a company with nearly 170,000 employees operating in 180 countries, owning hundreds of brands and directly touching the lives of 5-6 million people across its supply chain.

Polman points to the importance of preparing the groundwork before going public, Cancelling quarterly reporting and changing the way employees are incentivised were two key ways of moving the company away from concentrating on the short-term. Measurement of impacts has also been critical in understanding where the company’s key impacts are and being able to set intelligent targets for improvement.

“In any company, you have to go back to what drives people. Making more money or being bigger means less and less,” he says.

“Brands with a purpose and that are values-led over time are going to be by definition more successful.

“We embed the three pillars of sustainability into our strategy, our key performance indicators, how we reward people. Our buying people have KPIs on the percentage of sustainable sourcing, we measure how many small-holder farmers we employ, we measure the full impact of water, carbon, packaging, waste, of all of our products and reward our people for moving in the right direction.”

Polman is delighted by the way staff have responded, although more work needs to be done to push change down into the middle management layers.

The engagement score in the regular staff survey leaped by 10 percentage points after the Sustainable Living Plan was launched. Polman says this shocked the survey company because they had never seen this level of change before.

“The real breakthrough is feeling it not just in the head but also in the heart and we do a lot of storytelling around that. Every country I visit I go to consumers and retailers to look at the impact of our products, the contribution our products make to society.

“People rally to this – some more than others – but it is at a critical mass.”

Reasons to be optimistic

While some people worry that the pace of change is far too slow to address the scale of problems the world is facing, Polman cautions against pessimism and suggests that the foundations for transformation are being put in place.

In the corporate world, he points to the growing number of companies reporting on their impacts and disclosing their carbon emissions and he points to the rapid growth of socially responsible investment funds in the financial markets. Beyond that he says investment banks are coming together to help halt illegal deforestation and that they are starting to think about their business models, although he recognises they are doing this under pressure from critics rather than voluntarily.

Within the field of corporate responsibility, Polman is considered to be the most influential advocate for challenging the status quo and showing that business as usual is not an option.

But he brushes aside this reputation and points out he could not have taken the position he does if the values of responsibility were not already embedded in the company’s culture.

“Don’t personalise this because this company has been a force for good,” he says. “I have the benefit of having the size of this company but there are lots of unsung heroes who do not have the resources of Unilever.

“What we are trying to do is nothing special. We are seeking to stay close to society to guarantee our future.”

Article as written in The Guardian, U.K., November 21, 2011

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New Brand Partnerships by Coke/Pepsi Link Plastic Bottles With Sustainable Fabrics


Soft-drink companies Coke and Pepsi both have new brand partnerships focused on the recycling of plastic bottles into sustainable fabrics for clothing and apparel.

Last week, PepsiCo brand Mountain Dew announced a partnership with Burton Snowboards, and released a line of t-shirts made from 50% recycled plastic bottles and 50% organic cotton. Three different shirts in the line feature eco-themed graphic designs ranging from a drawing of Rube Goldberg-inspired machine that recycles bottles to a snowflake.

Burton and Mountain Dew say the t-shirts are just a taste of what is planned for sustainable fabrics (and the partnership) in Burton’s 2012-2013 product seasons. New outerwear is planned to hit store shelves in fall 2012.

Similarly, Coca-Cola has partnered its bottled-water brand Dasani with New Balance’s recently released newSKY sneakers, which have an upper made from 95% recycled PET plastic bottles.

Together the brands are working to encourage increased recycling, stressing the fact that eight recycled bottles are all that is needed to make the fabric for one new pair of shoes.

New Balance illustrates the process in the video below:


Bart King is a PR consultant and principal of Cleantech Communications, and a regular contributor to Sustainable Life Media



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HP And Dell Earn Top Marks from Greenpeace for Greener Electronics


HP scored top marks in the latest version of Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics, followed by computer maker Dell. The Guide ranks 15 companies across three areas; Energy, Greener Products and Sustainable Operations. For the first time, it also sets criteria challenging companies to reduce their carbon footprint in manufacturing as well as their supply chain and through to the end-of-life phase of company products.

The latest version of the guide also features new criteria for the sourcing of paper, conflict minerals and product life cycle.

“After many of the world’s leading electronics companies rose to the challenge of phasing out the worst hazardous substances, we are now challenging them to improve their sourcing of minerals and better managing the energy use throughout the supply chain”, said Greenpeace International campaigner Tom Dowdall.

“Right now, HP takes the top spot because it is scoring strongly by measuring and reducing carbon emissions from its supply chain, reducing its own emissions and advocating for strong climate legislation. However all companies we included in the Guide have an opportunity to show more leadership in reducing their climate impact”, Dowdall added.

Computer manufacturer Dell takes second position in the Guide after jumping from tenth position in the previous version. Dell scores well for having the most ambitious climate target, with plans to reduce its emissions by 40 percent by 2020, and a strong policy on sustainable paper sourcing.

The new criteria added to this edition of the Guide are based on the creation of truly sustainable electronics industry, Greenpeace said, and include a holistic examination of key supply chain issues.

Blackberry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) is ranked for the first time and scored well on conflict minerals and sustainable paper policy. But the company ranked bottom of the table because it needs to improve reporting and disclosure of its environmental performance, Greenpeace said.

Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications, and regular contributor to Sustainable Life Media

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Puma Completes First-Ever Environmental Accounting; Brand-wide Impact is EUR 145 Million

Sportswear brand Puma announced the completion of its groundbreaking Environmental Profit and Loss Account (EP&L) for 2010.

The EP&L puts the total cost of the brand’s environmental impact at EUR 145 million. In May, Puma announced preliminary figures of EUR 94 million for GHG emissions and water consumption only. The complete accounting includes an additional EUR 51 million resulting from land use, air pollution and waste.

Puma’s EP&L is a first-of-its-kind attempt to put a financial figure on a company’s environmental impact. It’s no simple task, but if others follow suit, it will create an accounting method that includes the inherent value of ecosystems. Current accounting practices do not recognize the lost value of natural systems destroyed by industry, and as a result they are not protected by market forces.

Puma says only EUR 8 million of the EUR 145 million total derives from the brand’s core operations such as offices, warehouses, stores and logistics, while the remaining EUR 137 million results from Puma’s supply chain. Over half (57% or EUR 83 million) of all environmental impacts are associated with the production of raw materials (including leather, cotton and rubber) in Tier 4 of Puma’s supply chain.

These costs, which do not affect Puma’s net earnings, will serve as an initial metric for the company when aiming to mitigate the footprint of Puma’s operations and all supply chain levels.

PPR Group, Puma’s majority shareholder, also announced that it will institute the EP&L methodology across its all of its luxury and sport & lifestyle brands by 2015.

“The results of the Puma EP&L underpin the urgency for a paradigm shift in the way we all currently do business and I have been pleased to also see that the release of Puma’s first results has generated widespread interest among governments, corporations, NGOs and academics,“ said Jochen Zeitz, Executive Chairman of PUMA and Chief Sustainability Officer of PPR.

The PUMA EP&L and the associated methodology were developed with the support of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Trucost PLC, using recognized ecological and economic techniques and building on a large volume of work in the fields of environmental and natural resource economics.

“These values are enough to make any business pay attention. The PUMA EP&L offers a real insight into the environmental consequences of commercial decisions and at the same time highlights potential commercial consequences of the environmental realities unfolding around the world,” Alan McGill, partner, Sustainability and Climate Change, PwC, said.

“This will make many companies consider how they can apply similar analysis in their own organizations. Companies – big and small – are now reliant on global supply chains, making their environmental footprint much larger than many realize. Assigning economic values to the environmental impact of a company’s operations enables a business to tackle vital questions now, not just about environmental impacts, but business risk, costs savings and finding new ways to become more effective. Without measuring them, the impacts cannot be managed, or reduced,” McGill added.

Stepping up internal Resources

In support of the EP&L findings, PPR and PUMA say they have stepped up their internal resources, hiring additional staff on a group level as well as within the PUMA.Safe team in order to address the challenge of reducing the environmental impact. On a corporate level, PPR is adding an Energy Management Specialist to its sustainability team, who will immediately begin to investigate opportunities for reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions.

PPR has also hired a Conservation and Ecosystem Services Specialist who will be investigating the development of broadly-accepted definitions of sustainable cotton and rubber and internal standards for their sourcing.

The PUMA.Safe team, which ensures that supplier factories adhere to Puma’s social and environmental standards, has created both a Humanity and an Ecology team. Five additional environmental and social auditors will be joining the existing 13 employees in the PUMA.Safe team, so that environmental impacts at Puma’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers can be better addressed and solutions for their reduction more rapidly developed. Puma is also hiring a Chemical Engineer to look at solutions to identify more sustainable materials as well as supporting. (Earlier this year Puma announced it will phase out harmful substances within the supply chain.)

Big Interest in the EP&L

The release of the initial EP&L results in May generated extensive media coverage and attained significant interest among governments, industry peers and international organizations. Jochen Zeitz presented the results and benefits of the PUMA E P&L to 15 members of the German Council for Sustainable Development last month. As a result, the council will launch a project that aims at implementing standards for Puma’s environmental accounting statement and will promote the EP&L approach as an innovative practice in public debates.

The UK government featured Puma’s groundbreaking analysis as a best practices case study for sustainable business in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair (DEFRA) Natural Environment White Paper in June 2011.

Also, the Co-Chair of the Investment Commission and Treasurer for the UN Environment Programme Financial Initiatives referred to the Puma EP&L when speaking at the 2011 UNEP Financial Initiatives Global Roundtable in Washington last month.

Developing more Sustainable Products

Puma also is looking into opportunities to address the impact of its suppliers through the development of more sustainable products. The company recently introduced a version of its popular suede sneaker that is made with recycled materials. The Puma Re-Suede is comprised of 100% recycled polyester fibers, produced by a chemical recycling process that reduces both the energy consumption and the CO2 emission by 80% compared to the production of virgin materials.

With the development of the Re-Suede Puma has come a little closer to achieving its goal of manufacturing 50% of the international collections using more sustainable materials by 2015.

Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications, and a regular contributor to Sustainable Life Media.

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Adapting business for the green era.

Successful companies are changing their business models as  commodities become more expensive.

We are living through perhaps the most important economic event since the Industrial Revolution, according to Boston investor Jeremy Grantham. He is referring not to the economic crisis, but the rise in commodity prices. Population growth, rising incomes in the developing   world and climate change have combined to produce a perfect storm.

The prices of many important commodities – including iron, wheat and cotton – have tripled since 2002. Mr Grantham says this “is the rarest of rare birds: a paradigm shift”.

Research by Ernst & Young found 29% of profits warnings by FTSE350 companies in the first half of 2011 resulted from rising resource prices.

In the United States, a survey of chief financial officers recently found 59% felt their companies had been directly affected by rising prices. Most   importantly, this looks like a trend. Peter Voser, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, has said: “We will probably see rising energy prices for the long term, and we should just get used to that.”

The challenge for businesses is to adapt. As Mr Grantham notes, dryly: “There will be some great fortunes to be made in resource efficiency. It would be sensible to participate.” And a small but growing number of companies are participating: they are recognising the megatrends, investing in better margins and less price volatility, and are pursuing more market share.

For them, environmental responsibility and profit maximisation become synonymous. Last week, the South Korean conglomerate LG said it would invest   $7bn (£4.3bn) by 2015 in a Green New Business strategy, following the   success stories of Siemens and GE. Siemens delivered €28bn (£24.6bn) in environmental product revenues in 2010, or 37% of its total revenues.

GE’s seven-year old Ecomagination programme generated $18bn in 2010: 12% of   total revenues.

But it is not just technical industries that are changing their business models. Marks & Spencer’s eco programme Plan A contributed £70m to   profits in 2010, around 10pc of pre-tax profit, mainly from energy and other resource efficiencies. For a company like PepsiCo, making bioplastic bottles from potato off-cuts and cutting water use by 50% makes business as well as environmental sense.

Nissan’s bet on electric cars may turn out to be one of the most striking new paradigm strategies. The move was much derided by the car industry at its 2008 launch, and shows how a consciousness of Mr Grantham’s megatrends can generate what can look like a radical strategy to the competition.

In 2008, when auto efficiency was being driven by increasingly stringent   emissions requirements, CEO Carlos Ghosn and his team saw a compelling   business case for the electric vehicle (EV). By factoring rising petrol prices and declining battery costs into their calculations, they concluded EVs would become cheaper to run than conventional vehicles on a “whole-life   cost” basis. EVs became the heart of its development programme.

Since then, Nissan has led the EV industry, investing $4bn in conjunction with sister company Renault. It has launched the zero-emission Nissan Leaf, is making batteries and chargers, and has 140 agreements with organisations from governments to utility companies. Nissan is changing its business model, and building barriers to entry.

Nissan’s strategy rests on an assumption of rising oil prices – a bet that is looking good three years on. It is too early to judge its success, but   momentum seems to be heading its way. Electric technology played a critical role in Nissan winning the $1bn contract to supply New York’s taxis from 2013. And in the past two years every other major car company has announced an electric programme.

These strategies have all been led by an enlightened CEO who has recognised the relationship between their business and the environment. “How will your company fare in an era of rising resource prices?” may become an increasingly frequent question from investors.

An excerpt of article as written in the London Telegraph, November 10, 2011 by Jim Woods, Director of Green Monday.

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GE Makes Electric Vehicle Push Through New Partnerships

As the adoption of electric vehicles becomes more widespread and automakers roll out new models, GE continues to lead the development of the critical infrastructure technology needed to connect all of those EVs to the grid. Last month, GE and Nissan announced a joint R&D effort to speed the creation of the charging infrastructure necessary for widespread EV adoption. And just recently, GE announced a partnership with Inovateus Solar to build solar-powered electric vehicle-charging carports, marrying two sustainable technologies. And now Spanish airports are getting in on the action: last week GE Energy Industrial Solutions teamed with Spanish energy supplier Endesa to supply and operate the EV-charging infrastructure for airport vehicles at four airports in Spain: in Madrid, Barcelona, Palma and Lanzarote.

Spanish airport operator AENA is just the sort of natural customer for switching to electric fleets: it will incorporate the EVs into the airports’ existing energy management infrastructure and the vehicles will be charged on off-peak overnight electricity tariffs. For now, the EVs are part of a three-year pilot program to assess the feasibility of switching the entire airport fleet to electric. GE will provide 53 of its DuraStation* electric vehicle chargers, which enable faster charging by integrating higher voltages and currents that require specialized equipment. In addition to charging systems like DuraStation and the Yves Behar-designed WattStation, GE Energy provides the full range of electrical systems and smart grid tech needed to build and manage a complete EV infrastructure.

The agreement with AENA follows a partnership announced last month between GE and automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen to develop reliable business models for EVs. GE has shown interest in buying 1,000 electric vehicles from PSA Peugeot Citroen in Europe by the end of 2015. GE first showed its support for EVs by incorporating them into its own fleet last fall in the U.S., where the company announced plans to buy 25,000 EVs for use as company cars and to lease to corporate customers through its Fleet Services business.

An excerpt from a GE EcoImagination News Story October 17, 2011.

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Walmart, Coke, Sysco & Whole Foods Lead Fuel Cell Adoption in North America

November 1, 2011—Walmart, Coca-Cola, Sysco and Whole Foods are the leading adopters of fuel cell technology among U.S. corporations, according to a new report highlighting the strength of the U.S. fuel cell industry.

In a little more than a year, 34 corporate customers have installed, deployed or purchased more than 250 fuel cell power systems and hundreds of backup power units, totaling more than 30 megawatts (MW) of power, plus more than 1,000 fuel cell-powered forklifts.

“Companies are collectively saving millions of dollars in electricity costs while reducing carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of metric tons per year using fuel cell forklifts and power systems,” says Jennifer Gangi, program director, Fuel Cells 2000, the non-profit organization that released the report, titled “The Business Case for Fuel Cells 2011: Energizing America’s Top Companies.”

“The U.S. is the world leader in both fuel cell-forklift deployments and combined heat and power installations, with both markets dominated by American fuel cell manufacturers, helping provide jobs and opportunities for export. All the companies profiled in this report are using fuel cells from suppliers with headquarters in the U.S.,” Gangi adds.

In 2010, Fuel Cells 2000 profiled 38 companies that collectively ordered, deployed or installed 15 MW of stationary power, 1,000 forklifts and 600 backup power units. This new 2011 report includes 24 new customers and 10 companies previously profiled that purchased additional units. Companies leading the charge with fuel cell deployment include:

  • Walmart – 6.8 MW at 17 stores; 70+ forklifts
  • Coca-Cola – 2.1 MW at four locations; 72 forklifts at two bottling facilities
  • Sysco – 500+ forklifts at several locations, hundreds more on order
  • Whole Foods – 1.2 MW at four grocery stores, 60+ forklifts

“Fuel cells are not only helping businesses boost their environmental and economic bottom lines, they are also providing a much-needed assist to American manufacturing,” says Gangi. “Newcomers like NBCUniversal, Kroger, and Kaiser Permanente and repeat customers such as Coca-Cola, Walmart and AT&T are helping keep the U.S. at the head of the pack in the clean technology game.”

Bart King is frequent contributor to Sustainable Life Media and  PR consultant at Cleantech Communications

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Branded Sustainability Measurement System Save Hilton $74 Million


October 21, 2011—Global hospitality company Hilton Worldwide says it saved more than $74 million in 2010 across its portfolio of 10 hotel brands as a result of its sustainability measurement program, called LightStay.

Hilton Worldwide claims to be the first major multi-brand hospitality company to make sustainability measurement a brand standard, and the company reported the following results:

  • 6.6 percent reduction of energy use
  • 19 percent reduction of waste output
  • 3.8 percent reduction of water use
  • 7.8 percent reduction of carbon output

LightStay measures multiple utility and operational metrics such as energy, water, carbon, housekeeping, paper product usage, waste, chemical storage, air quality and transportation. In addition, LightStay features a “meeting impact calculator” element that calculates the sustainability impact of any meeting or conference held at a property.

Hilton recently added new features to LightStay that allow hotels to track projects, share best practices and communicate with one another through a social network dashboard. Thus far, LightStay has more than 1,200 projects in the system, which is expected to double by next year, as all of Hilton’s more than 3,750 properties are required to begin using LightStay by this December.

“LightStay has provided us with a platform to measure hotel performance and economic improvement, proving to be invaluable given today’s increased operational demands and resource constraints,” says Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide.

By 2014, Hilton Worldwide is committed to reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions and waste output by 20 percent, as well as reduce water consumption by 10 percent from direct operations within the company’s owned hotels and corporate properties.

Over the next three years, Hilton says it will continue to invest in their owned assets to improve building performance. Projects will include the installation of energy-efficient chillers, boilers, motors, building automation systems, water reclamation systems, high-efficient windows and white roofs. The Hilton New York, for example, will be installing an onsite cogeneration system, which will offset 54 percent of its electrical needs and 33 percent of its thermal needs.

Hilton recently earned ISO 14001 certification for Environmental Management Systems, achieving one of the largest ever volume certifications of commercial buildings.

Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at CleanTech Communications, and an active contributor to Sustainable Life Media.

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Companies Are Using Sustainability to Pursue Broader Goals

November 1, 2011—More companies are using sustainability to improve processes, pursue growth, and add value to their companies than focusing solely on reputation according to a study recently released by McKinsey & Company. Based on a July 2011 online survey of over 3200 executives from a wide range of regions, industries, company sizes and functional specialties, the study found that, compared to a similar study last year, larger shares of executives say sustainability programs make a positive contribution to their companies’ short- and long-term value. And more executives say their company’s top reasons for addressing sustainability include improving operational efficiency and lowering costs. The share that said this jumped 14 percentage points since last year, to 33 percent, edging out corporate reputation, selected by 32 percent of respondents.

Sustainability Can Play a Role in Any Value Creation Strategy:

The study identifies three different levers that companies can use to create value–growth, return on capital, and risk management—and finds that sustainability has a role to play in all three. According to McKinsey’s framework, a growth strategy may involve innovation and new products or reaching new customers and markets; a strategy of improving returns on capital might feature increasing the environmental performance of operations; a risk management strategy could entail regulatory or reputational management. The study found that some value strategies are more common than others.

Sustainable Growth Strategies Relatively Rare among Rank and File Companies

Companies are utilizing sustainability tactics in all three value creation strategies, according to the survey, but growth strategies powered by sustainability are relatively rare. About twice as many executives say their companies are reducing energy usage than say they are reaching new customers or markets as a consequence of their sustainability activities, for instance.  Just 18 percent of companies said they were able to achieve higher prices or greater market share from sustainable products.

Leaders More Likely to Employ Growth Strategies

Leaders are more likely to employ sustainability growth strategies than the rank and file, according to the study. Individuals were classified as leaders if they said that sustainability was a high priority and was managed well at their company, along with some other criteria. According to this segmentation, sustainability leaders were more than twice as likely as non-leaders to be pursuing a sustainable growth strategy. Indeed, they were more likely to be engaged in any of the three value creation strategies than non-leaders. One implication seems to be that as companies elevate the priority of sustainability in their organizations and improve their ability to manage sustainability initiatives, a broader range of options for creating value opens up to them.

Written by David Schatsky, President of Green Research, for Sustainable Life Media.

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