British-based electricity firm Ecotricity will complete the world's first electric highway by September of this year by installing twelve electric charging stations between London and Edinburgh. The first of its kind, the aim is to bring the all-electric vehicle out of the city and make longer distance (not just commuter) traveling possible.
On the Environment
A basic part of research often taken for granted is the simple definition of a term. There is a global understanding of what is measured by GDP, for example. However, there are many terms for which there is no internationally accepted definition -- "environmental goods and services" is one of these because environmental impacts are highly context-specific. This poses difficulty and adds contextual nuance when undertaking a study such as ours on the linkages between trade and the environment.
The distinction between production and/or consumption poses particular difficulties with such research projects. For example, a bicycle manufacturer may spew noxious gases and deplete non-renewable minerals in the production process. However, the use of bicycles may reduce fossil fuel use by end-users as they bike rather than drive to work. These are just a few of the complexities that organizations like the WTO, the World Bank, the OECD, and others are trying to resolve so that trade statistics can inform more sustainable trade policies.
Another major hurdle for the integration of environmental concerns into trade policy is the accounting of the environmental impact embodied in trade in the modern global economy. One of the best-known examples on the world stage is the carbon content of trade: how much carbon dioxide is emitted in the manufacturing of a product that is consumed abroad? And is it fair only to include that in the accounting of the country in which it was manufactured? Several research institutions are working to develop comprehensive input-output tables that account for environmental impacts and resource use; however, none are yet sufficiently adequate accounting tools.
While there is neither a clear definition of environmental goods and services nor a sufficient accounting tool for environmental trade impacts, empirical analysis, such as that in our "Exploring Trade and the Environment" report, offers some insight into the complexities of the relationship between trade and the environment.
Some of the most influential institutions in the international trade realm are integrating environmental concerns into their trade-related work. Groups such as the WTO, World Bank, United Nations, OECD, and various multilateral trade groups, have convened workgroups to flesh-out definitions of ‘environmental goods and services.’ The challenge, as is usually the case with environmental data, is how best to quantify the associations between trade and environmental conditions.
This is a difficult challenge. The world of environmental metrics is young and evolving (unlike the longstanding world of more traditional trade statistics). And connecting quantifiable environmental values to quantifiable economic values (or the narrower subset of quantifiable trade values), and vice versa, is particularly problematic. There is, for instance, currently no internationally recognized system of environmental accounts. There is also no universally-agreed-upon environmental equivalent to GDP, or the stock market, and so different organizations have developed their own frameworks for assessing relationships between environmental conditions and trade.
Our latest report, “Exploring Trade and the Environment,” is one attempt to connect quantifiable environmental values to quantifiable economic values. Building on eleven years of research in environmental metrics, and the resulting Environmental Performance Index, the report explores ways of assessing quantifiable associations between environmental factors and trade statistics. One of its more straightforward, yet still significant, findings is a strong correlation between high levels of trade and low environmental impacts on human health (see the ENVHEALTH category in the figure below).
To appreciate what this really means, it’s important to understand the data underlying the terminology we use. ‘Environmental impacts on human health’ comes from the World Health Organization’s ‘Disability-Adjusted Life Years’ (DALYs) measure, and ‘levels of trade’ refers to the percent of a country’s GDP that is generated by imports and exports. The DALY metric is composed of, among other things, measures of infrastructure, such as access to improved drinking water and sanitation sources. The variable itself has a strong correlation with GDP. The finding of a ‘strong association between trade levels and environmental impacts on human health’ is thus hardly surprising: countries with more robust trade also typically have better water and sanitation infrastructure.
On a deeper level, perhaps what is most interesting about this finding is that it demonstrates the interconnectedness of policy problems and solutions. For policymakers in the developing world, for instance, our analysis suggests that improving human health means not only the obvious actions of increased water and sanitation infrastructure investments, but it also means putting in place policies that increase overall national trade levels.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released this past Friday the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), a new and potentially powerful regulation that limits the amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) that can cross state borders. CSAPR is a response to the environmental dilemma created by airborne pollutants that can disperse widely and across state boundaries, a dilemma that particularly afflicts the eastern half of the United States (for instance, sulfur dioxide emissions from a Pennsylvania power plant creating acid rain in New York’s Adirondacks). Under CSAPR, 27 states will be required by 2014 to cut their SO2 emissions to 2.4 million tons per year and their NOx emissions to 1.2 million tons per year, down from 8.8 million tons and 2.6 million tons in 2005.
CSAPR’s public health and environment benefits could be vast. The EPA announced that they expect the rule to prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.8 million sick days a year beginning in 2014. The EPA also estimated that CSAPR’s benefits will overwhelmingly outweigh its costs. The following graphic tells the story well.
For more information about the EPA’s new rule on cross-state pollution, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/airtransport/.
A few weeks ago, the House passed the 2012 agriculture appropriations bill, which cut $2.7 billion from the previous year’s level, including $760 million from conservation programs, $686 million from the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, and $354 million from research; the House also passed an amendment that prohibits USDA from spending money to implement climate change adaption planning into its programs and policies.
The appropriations bill – and the debate surrounding it – offer an interesting preview of the 2012 Farm Bill discussion. The farm bill funds a variety of programs including conservation programs, nutrition programs, rural development, crop insurance, and crop subsidies. The legislation is reauthorized every five years, allowing lawmakers the chance to review and revise programs. With such disparate interests competing for a portion of what is sure to be a much smaller pot of money, something will have to give.
The Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy visited with Chris Clayton, ag policy editor at DTN/The Progressive Farmer, for some perspective on this and other ag policy issues.
YCELP: What do you think will happen with conservation spending in the next farm bill?
CLAYTON: We’re going to have some real challenges in the 2012 Farm Bill for conservation spending. You have 17 conservation programs, all of them have different constituencies or groups -- some of them are overextended, which means more people want to sign up for them every year than there’s money for them. But they’re all going to face cuts in this next farm bill, and that’s going to affect the ability for farmers to address issues such as erosion and nitrogen and phosphorus in the waterways. If you don’t have the funding through conservation programs, if the incentives from the conservation title of the farm bill are taken away, then you talk about maybe actual regulations stepping in and filling the void.
For a full list of USDA’s conservation programs, visit USDA's website here.
YCELP: How will producers compensate?
CLAYTON: It’s going to become a more complicated matter because these issues -- whether it’s water, air, or climate -- aren’t going to go away, but the funding is going to be more difficult, and we’ll have to start thinking in different ways of providing incentives for farmers to do these things environmentally -- or your just going to hear constant kicking and screaming about EPA because they could very well be regulated through the courts or rules and regulations and not have real incentive programs to help them reduce runoff and protect the soil. It’s going to be real difficult moneywise in this next farm bill.
But the problem I think is it also requires people to think outside the box a little more than they want to. I don’t think it’s necessarily a lack of money, it’s a lack of thinking outside the box -- what can we do differently and achieve the same results.
YCELP: Is climate change a concern that producer and farm groups are discussing?
CLAYTON: Some groups and people are talking about it quite a bit.
If you look at the issues that agriculture has to address in conservation -- nitrogen and phosphorus runoff in the waterways being a key one -- all of these things are interrelated and can be addressed by the same type of conservation practices. We have to figure out ways to mitigate and adapt, but if you are putting in cover crops or double cropping over the winter you’re also reducing the potential of erosion; you’re also reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the waterways, you’re also potentially getting a second biomass crop that can be used for energy or a second feed crop that can be used for livestock.
And despite the rebuke from the House of Representatives (regarding funding for climate change adaptation planning), USDA continues to emphasize research on how farmers and livestock producers can deal with extensive production challenges stemming from climate change. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture recently announced 13 grants totaling more than $53 million to study ways agriculture and forestry can adapt to climate change and take advantage of variable climate patterns. These grants carry forward a series of climate-related projects USDA began rolling out last February that includes three separate $20-million grants for five-year studies on how climate change will affect corn in the Midwest, forests in the Southeast and wheat in the Northwest.
In a creative effort to curb carbon emissions, six states, along with New York City and several land trusts, decided to pursue a different policy tactic than previous environmental campaigns. Rather than lobbying for Congressional legislation, this coalition sued five major electric utilities and the Tennessee Valley Authority in 2004, claiming that their emissions constituted a public nuisance and, therefore, should be regulated by the courts under federal common law. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, bringing national attention to this environmental campaign and issue.
This week, however, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the defendants in American Electric Power v. Connecticut. The Court stated that it was the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as charged under the Clean Air Act to regulate US carbon emissions, not that of the courts. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued, "Congress set up the EPA to promulgate standards for emissions, and the relief you're seeking seems to me to set up a district judge, who does not have the resources, the expertise, as a kind of super EPA."
While undoubtedly a setback for those who desire real reductions in U.S. carbon emissions, this case may still have a silver lining. By highlighting the responsibility of the EPA to set standards for carbon emissions, the Court has placed renewed pressure on the EPA to take meaningful action on climate change. The Court’s decision has also clarified the stakes for all concerned. As long as Congress refuses to address climate change through new legislative solutions, the EPA will remain the only national policymaking body in the United States with the ability to tackle the problem. Efforts to impede or constrain EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act now seem doubly dangerous.
Read the Court’s official decision in American Electric Power v. Connecticut.
In a recent study on trade and the environment, the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy conducted a pilot time trend analysis, painting a clearer picture of the complex relationship between country-level CO2emissions and trade intensity. The analysis examines changes in trade intensity (as seen through trade as a percent of GDP) alongside two measures of CO2 emissions—CO2 per capita and CO2 per GDP. The former CO2 measure indicates emissions intensity per person, while the latter indicates the emissions intensity of the economy.
Time trends show that the most common phenomenon is a decline in emissions per GDP with increasing trade intensity, an indication that economies become more carbon efficient as trade becomes a greater portion of GDP. However, the data also reveal a troubling trend among countries: emissions per capita most commonly increase with increasing trade, an indication that trade might be harmful in terms of emissions.
The exciting news—at least for those interested in trade and environmental quality—is that this trend is by no means universal. Many countries have managed decreasing emissions per capita with increases in trade intensity. This elite group includes many European nations—Germany, France, the UK, Sweden and Denmark—as well as several countries in the Americas—Belize, Colombia, and Cuba.
While considerable work is still needed help deepen understanding of the complicated relationships between trade and the environment and while the statistical findings do not support drawing conclusions about causation, it is interesting to pose the question - what are these nations doing differently?
Did you know that June 8th was World Oceans Day? Keep your eyes peeled next February for the release of the world's first Ocean Health Index, put together by Conservation International, the National Geographic Society, and the New England Aquarium.
The Index's goals are much the same as our land-based Environmental Performance Index - to develop an analytically rigorous and data-driven approach to assessing the health and well-being of the world's oceans, to track and measure ecosystem vitality and public health, and to better inform policymakers. Check out more about the Index at http://bit.ly/crmTyl and check out our Q&A session with Steve Katona, Managing Director of the project.
The Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy has issued a report titled, Exploring Trade and the Environment: An Empirical Examination of Trade Openness and National Environmental Performance. I am pleased to say that FedEx sponsored this report, since the issues of both trade and environmental sustainability are of great importance to us. This study came about as a result of our sponsorship of the 2010 edition of the Yale Center’s annual Environmental Performance Index, an analysis that measures the environmental performance of 163 countries.
I will not go into the report here, but you can find links to the press release and report here. An intriguing point noted in their press release, however, is the following:
“One notable finding is that a subset of developing countries, such as China, India, and Mexico, have experienced trade growth while also decreasing their greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP.”
This is encouraging, and it tends to support the idea that trade, and the economic growth that goes with it, increases the capacity of countries to improve their environmental performance. It also reminds me of our work on Access, which includes a great deal of data analysis. What is Access? Well, taking directly from our Access site:
“Access, put simply, is the ability to connect. Access is powered by anything that makes it easier for people and businesses to connect with each other — whether it’s a smartphone or a computer or the ability to ship a package overnight to anywhere in the world. When Access expands, it empowers people with the ability and confidence to improve their current conditions and future prospects. Access creates new opportunities, accelerates and simplifies global connections and changes what’s possible.”
This post, by Mitch Jackson, VP, Environmental Affairs & Sustainability, FedEx Corporation, was originally published on the FedEx website.
Practical Environmentalism is strategic and transformational environmental stewardship that adds tangible value in the effort to be more responsible. A household, a business, or a government can practice it. When applied to business, it encompasses economic viability, strategic integration, team member involvement, and doing what’s right for stakeholders.
This is the approach FedEx has used—and it is paying off for us in the form of savings, innovation, and other forms of intangible business value. I have described the building blocks for Practical Environmentalism to include:
We are practicing each of these building blocks - constantly seeking opportunities for continuous improvement:
But why should we also focus upon Innovation and Leadership? Simply put, they are critical. They are both inwardly and outwardly focused. They help to change what’s possible within an organization; but they often affect and influence in a much larger sphere, sometimes society at large, as the chart below shows.
Practical Environmentalism can provide the blueprint for a structure that’s built to last. Environmental performance is part of the solid foundation. Leadership helps expand the structure’s benefit to others, not just the original occupants. Transparency acts like windows, allowing outsiders to see in, and the occupants to view the landscape outside. And, Innovation keeps the occupants dry, safe and warm during the changing seasons.
It is a pleasure to be participating in the Green to Gold Playbook "BRASS TACKS" Blog.
One additional important source of practical advice that I recommend for everyone is Environmental Defense Fund’s driving tips (which are also covered in more depth in The Green to Gold Business Playbook’s chapter on “Logistics and Transportation”).
I look forward to learning from others, putting solutions into practice, and perfecting our approach. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.
For more, visit the FedEx Blog at blog.fedex.com and click on the EarthSmart menu.
Performance: Business owes the public more than a good performance, but it’s the necessary start. As, such, FedEx was the first company in the U.S. transportation-logistics industry to set a goal to reduce carbon dioxide in global aviation. Through calendar year 2009, we have achieved a reduction of 12.9% from our 2005 baseline. We were the first in our industry to set a goal to improve the mileage of our FedEx Express vehicles back in 2008. To date, we’ve achieved a 15.1% improvement in fuel economy since 2005. And, FedEx Express made LEED® Certification the standard for newly-built U.S. facilities.
Transparency: Materiality matters. As such, FedEx was the first company in the U.S. transportation-logistics industry to establish a Citizenship Blog, to report global Scope 1 (direct) greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, and to disclose climate risks to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Why is this important? It gives information to our stakeholders on what we are doing, why it is important, and where we are heading. Think about it, it’s similar to our customer service - we move our customers’ goods (which are extremely important to them, and us); we tell them where those goods are during shipment; and tell them when they have been delivered to their final destination.
Innovation: FedEx has worked closely with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to create innovative, clean delivery vans. This work resulted in EDF declaring that, “FedEx leadership has helped to make hybrid truck technology a reality…FedEx led the launch that changed the marketplace.” More than 200 fleets have since purchased the very vehicles we had developed. But, we haven’t stopped there. We’ve gone on to push for electric vehicles, not only for commercial vehicles, but passenger ones, as well. Check out this video on the need to move to a diversified transportation portfolio.
Leadership: FedEx was the first company in the U.S. transportation-logistics industry to push for commercial-vehicle fuel-economy legislation, which was enacted in the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007. And, we helped create a set of principles to inform and support this first-ever national greenhouse gas / fuel efficiency program for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. See http://blog.fedex.designcdt.com/node/810.
Recently in Harvard Business Review, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer wrote about “The Big Idea” – that companies must take the lead by “creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges.” Driven by win-win success stories, by a vacuum in policy leadership, and by the embrace of thought leaders like Porter, this idea has surged into the mainstream. Even in the grip of the recession, companies across the Fortune 500 – from Walmart (#1) and GE (#6) to Owens Corning (#431) and SunGard (#472) – are actively pursuing a sustainability agenda.
But for the companies that make up mainstream corporate America, environmental issues may still largely be seen as a cost center rather than a competitive edge. What will it take to show these companies that environmental innovation can be an opportunity rather than a burden? How can we spread the principles of sustainability from the Fortune 500 to the next 5,000?
Start with energy efficiency
Every company uses energy, and can do so more efficiently. The consulting gurus at McKinsey & Company calculate that by deploying an array of NPV-positive efficiency measures, commercial and industrial users could generate $732 billion in energy savings by 2020 while avoiding some 660 million tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, we can make a lot of money and cut a lot of emissions simultaneously by using proven technologies.
But, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds. Companies fail to reap the benefits of energy efficiency for reasons that have nothing to do with what we learned in Econ 101. In the real world, managers are overburdened, useful information is hard to find, lease arrangements stand in the way of smart investments, and competition for corporate dollars is sharp.
Sometimes it takes “fresh eyes” to overcome the barriers to change. Our EDF Climate Corps program uses business students to find energy savings opportunities at participating companies. In just 10 weeks at 50 companies last summer, we found $350 million in potential operating savings. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Environmental goals, combined with open networking, can be a great way to stimulate innovation that can lead to new products and greater market share. The impetus can come from the top, because when executives set rigorous goals and metrics for measuring them, they unleash innovation throughout the company. GE’s Ecomagination program, which generated $18 billion in revenue on $1.5 billion in investments, is a good example of this approach.
Innovation can also come from the bottom up, as illustrated by Toyota’s “Treasure Hunt” process, which uses operators, engineers and maintenance staff to find process innovations and energy savings.
And innovation can come from the outside. Breakthrough ideas can – and often do – emerge from bringing a new and diverse perspective to a familiar problem. Environmental Defense Fund recently teamed up with InnoCentive, a global leader in crowdsourced innovation, to work with companies to create business breakthroughs that deliver environmental results. InnoCentive’s web-based platform gives over 250,000 entrepreneurs, inventors and scientists around the world the chance to solve them. With the likes of Eli Lilly, NASA, and Procter & Gamble using the platform, it’s redefining the innovation process.
Capture operational excellence
For most companies, including those that provide business capital, environmental issues are still thought of as a liability rather than an opportunity. To build value, firms must think beyond compliance. Smart companies are positioning themselves to compete in a resource-constrained world, where efficiency and innovation trump risk management.
Working with private equity giants The Carlyle Group and Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co., EDF has developed tools that are available to any company for systematically identifying opportunity and measuring improvements in environmental and business performance. In just two years, those tools generated $160 million in operating savings for companies including Dollar General and US Foodservice.
Drive supply chain improvement
Companies will want to focus first on their own operations, but for many small and medium-sized businesses, their biggest impacts lie not within their own fencelines, but in the lifecycle of the products they buy and sell. And while smaller companies may not feel that they have the clout to create supply chain mandates, they do have ability to ask pointed questions and shop around for the best prices. Why should your company be paying for the extra energy or water or wasted raw materials embedded in products made by another company that has not yet embraced sustainability?
There are several good examples to work from. Walmart’s Supplier Sustainability Assessment questions are simple, straight-forward and a good place to start. Procter & Gamble has a similar supplier scorecard designed to track and encourage improvement on key environmental sustainability measures in P&G's supply chain. The company reports that about 40% of the completed scorecards it receives have offered at least one innovation idea.
Today, we are all feeling the stress of a pinched economy, resource constraints, volatile fuel prices and global competition. At the same time, we’re seeing examples every day of companies that have successfully turned environmental sustainability into competitive advantage. By building capturing energy and operational efficiencies, stimulating innovation through aggressive goals and creative networking, and driving lifecycle change through the supply chain, we can bring Porter’s big idea to life.
Sleek and simple new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) calculator makes it simple for all levels of business to calculate their environmental impact – from cradle to grave.
In past years, green IT seemed to be more of a "wish list" item, something that companies might look into sometime in the future or when it became convenient. This is no longer the case. Companies are now actively pursuing green IT solutions for a multitude of reasons.
Ninety-seven percent of companies are at least discussing a green IT strategy. Fifty-two percent are in the discussion or trial stages, while forty-five percent have already implemented a strategy.
Additionally, 87 percent of companies said that it is somewhat/significantly important that their IT organization implement green IT initiatives. Only two percent said it was somewhat/significantly unimportant.
Companies are no longer seeking green IT merely to cut costs, either. True, reducing energy consumption (90 percent) and reducing cooling costs (87 percent) were the most important reasons companies listed for implementing green IT. However, a desire from corporate headquarters to qualify as "green" (86 percent) was nearly as important.
Finally, 81 percent of companies listed reducing energy and cooling consumption among goals included in their green policies, followed by reducing carbon emissions (74 percent) and improving the company’s reputation (67 percent).
As a result of its ongoing Green IT efforts, Symantec is achieving substantial business benefit. The Alchemy Solutions Group conducted a Total Operational and Economic Impact (T.O.E.I.)™ analysis and quantified realized and projected business value in the following areas between July 2007 and December 2011:
- Remote Site Backup Productivity Gains: $692,743 in hardware and media cost avoidance and $443,328 in labor productivity gains through global remote site backup with Veritas NetBackup PureDisk from July 2007 through December 2011.
- Hardware Maintenance Cost Savings: $12,358,000 in maintenance savings on retired server and storage hardware from August 2007 through December 2010.
- Labor Productivity Gains: $1,341,130 in IT productivity gains related to server and storage reduction from January 2008 through December 2010.
- Energy Cost Avoidance: $2,164,438 in utility cost avoidance through hardware device reduction and corresponding power consumption savings from August 2007 through December 2010.
The decommissioning of hardware from a major data center closure reduced Symantec’s overall device power utilization from approximately 500 kilowatt hours (kWh) to 168 kWh, a 67 percent reduction in energy consumption.
Further, by converting the cost of the kilowatts of electricity avoided to kilograms of carbon emissions, Symantec conservatively estimates a cumulative carbon footprint savings of 15.5 million kilograms of CO2 from 2007 through 2010.
Finally, in addition to the benefits realized within the IT data center environment, Symantec also realized significant cost savings by stemming energy use at the IT endpoint. By deploying an automated power management profile that places company laptops and desktops in standby mode after four hours of inactivity, the company expects annual savings of $800,000 and more than 6 million kWh of energy per year.
(Source: Symantec Data Center Survey 2010, 1052 World Wide Enterprise companies)
This post, by guest author Jose Iglesias, Vice President of Education and Enablement Serviecs, Symantec Services Group (SSG), Symantec Corporation, was originally published on the Green to Gold Business Playbook website.
Companies are increasingly finding that striving for zero waste-to-landfill (ZWL) can be a powerful mobilizing sustainability initiative that can also deliver cost savings, provide a new revenue stream, and serve to reinforce an efficient operations mindset. Here is one company's story and some of their lessons learned - The Clorox Company's Burt's Bees division achieved ZWL across their administrative, manufacturing, and distribution operations in April 2010.
Zero waste-to-landfill (ZWL) is part of a larger zero waste aspiration whereby manufacturers that are exemplars in sustainability strive to eliminate waste throughout the full life cycle of their products. In 2006, the Burt’s Bees business unit set a goal to be zero waste by 2020. Achieving zero solid waste to landfill in its operations in 2010 was an important milestone in this larger journey to zero waste. Here are some of the learnings the Burt’s Bees team garnered from its recent ZWL effort:
Define zero – Surprisingly, a common ZWL standard does not exist so it is important to get very clear about how you define zero. The Zero Waste International Alliance (http://www.zerowaste.org), a non-profit focused on eliminating waste, has previously defined ZWL to be 90% or greater diversion. But companies claiming ZWL today are more typically reporting 100% absolute diversion from landfill rates. These companies, however, usually do not account for waste generated outside their facilities such as the resulting ash when sending waste to a waste-to-energy facility. The Burt’s Bees team decided on a strict definition of zero, which included this remnant ash that usually finds its way to landfills. As a result, they found a firm that turns its non-recyclable, non-compostable materials into an efficient fuel for cement processing, with that residual ash actually then incorporated into the cement itself.
Map out how you are going to get to zero – The Burt’s Bees team looked broadly at all their solid waste by using the term “by-product” which they defined as anything leaving their facility other than a person or saleable finished good. They then created a by-product hierarchy (right) that prioritized how materials should be diverted from landfill. Giving higher value to source reduction and reuse than to composting and recycling, and using waste-to-energy as a last resort provided strong guidance to their path to zero. As a result, today the Burt’s Bees division sends less than 10% of its waste to the more expensive and less eco friendly waste-to-energy destination.
Learning from the Burt’s Bees team’s experience, Clorox, has stipulated that a facility aiming for ZWL must not send more than 10% of its waste to waste-to-energy facilities. Clorox believes that in a ZWL facility, the “smell of the place” should be one of a highly efficient and responsible manager of its waste with low levels of waste and robust composting and recycling infrastructure.
Kick-start your ZWL journey with a high employee involvement dumpster dive – In order to make waste visible and real to all employees, the Burt’s Bees team organized “dumpster dives,” giving everyone the opportunity to get up close and personal with their trash. This exercise involves dumping your trash dumpster onto your parking lot and having your employees literally sort the resulting pile of trash. This eye opening educational exercise showed employees how the majority of this landfill bound trash was actually either compostable or recyclable and resulted in an immediate 50% reduction of trash to landfill volume.
Be firm with your goals but flexible in your tactics – Different facilities require different approaches. In a manufacturing operation, having conveniently placed trash and recycling gaylords where the waste is generated can facilitate higher sorting rates. On the other hand, removing individual under-the-desk trash bins from Burt’s Bees administrative offices and forcing a quick trip to central in-office by-product stations facilitated sorting by taking away a convenient way for employees to throw compostable and recyclable items into their nearby trash bins.
Educate your employees – Even eco-minded employees do not necessarily know how to accurately sort the many waste items one encounters into various recycling, compost and trash streams. Burt’s Bees posted bi-lingual signs with by-product bins showing acceptable materials along with photos. Colored bins were employed and by-product station locations were included in the company’s workplace organization program. It also helped to have a trained group of employee volunteers serving as “trash experts” so that employees could get quick answers to their inevitable sorting questions.
Continuously monitor and measure your progress - ZWL is typically a rather long journey. It took the Burt’s Bees business three years to achieve this at its three facilities, so it is important to provide regular feedback via robust monitoring and measurement in order to see and celebrate progress. A key enabler for the Burt’s Bees team was the “Green Derby” monthly audit of by-product bins which scored the accuracy of sorting waste into composting, recycling and residual trash. A progress report became a standing agenda item at monthly all-employee manufacturing and distribution meetings, and progress was tied to employees’ short-term incentive eligibility. Industrial floor scales were also deployed at each facility to weigh by-products before they were shipped off-site which allowed Burt’s Bees to ensure landfill waste was being reduced as well as diverted.
Leverage your waste diversion partner to achieve your ZWL goal – An important factor in the Burt’s Bees team’s success was enlisting a waste management expert, who intermediates all of its diversion needs with 17 actual service providers. The Burt’s Bees team is also able to leverage the larger waste volumes of this partner for more favorable national contract pricing. If working directly with a recycler, remember that recyclables are commodities and it’s in the recycling firm’s interest to take the high-value, high-volume materials. Don’t hold back in pushing your recycler(s) to “take the good with the bad”. For instance, using your valuable streams (such as cardboard) to incentivize a recycling outlet to take less desirable materials (such as mixed plastic films) can create a win / win for you and your recycler. Finally, keep up to date as non-landfill outlets for by-products are evolving rapidly so what was not possible yesterday may be tomorrow, or even today.
Choose one or a few ZWL pilot sites as a beacon for your entire organization – The Burt’s Bees business has served this function within The Clorox Company. Now, Clorox has the confidence to expand ZWL to other select manufacturing, distribution and administrative facilities. Also, without an internal exemplar like the Burt’s Bees business, it is likely that Clorox would have been satisfied with achieving its current overall goal of reducing solid waste to landfill by 20% by 2013. Today, Clorox is able to see how achieving zero waste is possible which works as an accelerant across the whole enterprise.
Institutionalize your ZWL achievement – Being a ZWL operation is now part of the Burt’s Bees division’s identity. And today, there is no choice but to divert as there are no longer trash compacters or dumpsters on any Burt’s Bees sites.
This post, by Steve Walker, Manager of Environmental Sustainability, Burt’s Bees, and Bill Morrissey, VP of Environmental Sustainability, The Clorox Company, was originally published on the Green to Gold Business Playbook website.