Last month there was a question as to whether or not Ford lobbied Congress on the Keystone XL Pipeline. However, publically the automakers’ sustainability marketing promises to help achieve "climate stabilization". In the US, companies have to disclose the subject of their lobbying, but do not have to disclose the position for which they are lobbying. This incomplete reporting raises consumer and investor concerns. Smart businesses are beginning to embrace transparency on climate change policies.
Take Ikea Group, for example. The company recently released this infographic to transparently share their position on climate change. In it, IKEA explained why climate change is relevant to its business interests. And they not only made it clear where they stand on the issue and which policy actions they support, they also communicated the message directly to European policymakers. IKEA is lobbying for ambitious, legally-binding 2030 targets for carbon dioxide emissions, renewable power and energy efficiency.
Not all companies take a black or white stance on global warming. Some are merely silent on the issue. There are a multitude of reasons including fear of publically taking a position on a political topic that might push away customers. Some businesses are grappling internally with climate change’s risks and opportunities, putting out consistent messaging, and trying to find the capacity to publically engage on the issue. Whatever the reason, it is certainly delaying much needed political breakthroughs on climate change.
Although businesses fall different places on the continuum of how to publically address climate change, there are resources available to help them engage responsibly with the issue. Take this guide that is a baseline for action and transparent reporting from the World Resources Institute, which was informed by the United Nations and business leaders, policymakers, and investors.
With the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, companies can expect more scrutiny from customers, shareholders and stakeholders regarding their position on global warming. Businesses can make a positive impact on the issue and the time to start acting is now.
One cup of premium loose leaf tea inspired Beth Johnston to get into the tea business, and environmental responsibility drives the company’s commitment to organic teas, sustainability practices and Carbonfree® business operations.
“Conserving our planet’s precious resources has always been a personal concern for me. With our continued expansion, both importing and shipping customer orders, I felt a further responsibility to take it on corporately,” says Beth Johnston, Founder and CEO. “We had been looking for an effective way to offset the impact Teas Etc. has on the environment but also wanted to give our customers the choice to offset theirs. We did our homework, looked at a couple of different options and decided that Carbonfund.org was the right partner to help us meet our goals.”
For the seventh consecutive year, Teas Etc. is offsetting its own carbon footprint with Carbonfund.org by supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects. In an effort to generate greater awareness about sources of carbon emissions, Teas Etc. offers customers the option of offsetting the carbon footprint created by shipping their orders. To date, Teas Etc. and its customers have neutralized the same quantity of emissions as would be sequestered by almost 11,000 tree seedlings grown for ten years.
Teas Etc is has provided premium quality award winning teas and modern accessories to wholesale and retail customers for over 15 years. The company is USDA certified to package and to distribute organic products, and has a complete line of organic teas. In addition to their tea line, the company manufactures the innovative, award winning Tea Traveler® that allows tea drinkers to enjoy loose leaf teas on-the-go. The company opened in 1998 with its headquarters in Palm Beach, FL has an office in Nanjing, China and a permanent show room at AmericasMart in Atlanta, GA.
In addition toCarbonfree® operations,Teas Etc. supports a local recycling program, utilizes recycled paper goods, biodegradable packing materials and chemical-free cleaning products. Their ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability, high quality products and excellent customer services confirms Teas Etc. as a leader in responsible online premium loose leaf tea retailing and wholesaling.
Even the greenest IT services firm recognizes that it has a carbon footprint. After renewable energy sources, paperless processes, recycling and energy conservation measures, there remains some energy use, business travel, mailings and supplies that create carbon dioxide emissions.
Forward-thinking companies like Carbonfree® Business Partner EMWeb Design are neutralizing their current carbon footprint while continually seeking ways to reduce it.
EMWeb Design provides comprehensive Internet design and marketing for small businesses, professionals, creative artists and civic organizations. Services include branding, logo design, web design, search engine optimization, social Internet marketing and print media.
"Environmental responsibility starts with each one of us," explains Elizabeth Mullen Matteson. "EMWeb is striving to cut our carbon impact continually. For now, we are offering more "green" options to clients, and for the sixth consecutive year, are purchasing carbon offsets through Carbonfund.org, so that our overall carbon footprint remains zero."
This six-year commitment of carbon emissions neutrality has mitigated the same quantity of carbon dioxide emissions as 6000 trees planted and grown over a ten-year period. That's meaningful impact for a business focused on sustainability.
EMWeb Design offers solar and wind-powered web hosting, and can also provide environmentally friendly printing options using recycled and sustainably-produced papers and soy and vegetable-based inks. As EMWeb Design makes progress in operational emissions reductions, the Carbonfree® Business Partnership program will continue to provide a way to "reduce what you can, offset what you can't™".
Among the benefits of our Carbonfree® Business Partnership for small companies are program affordability, applicability to businesses in all industries, and ease of utilizing the program benefits. The program simplifies the process of neutralizing operational emissions and creates the opportunity for any business to become carbon neutral.
A great example of a small business that recognized these benefits is Brynmorgen Press, a small publisher located in Brunswick, Maine that specializes in books and videos about jewelrymaking, metalsmithing, and design. Tim McCreight started Brynmorgen Press in 1985 to provide practical, high quality textbooks on metalworking and design.
“We are committed to creating books, but recognize the need to replenish the trees required for our products,” explains Tim. “By supporting reforestation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency projects through Carbonfund.org, we have become Carbonfree®.”
To augment its environmental commitments, Brynmorgen Press recycles office waste and prints on recycled paper with soy inks. To conserve energy, Tim and his team wear jackets in the office on cold days and go barefoot in the summer!
Tim McCreight started Brynmorgen Press after he'd published two books with commercial publishers. He thought he might enjoy getting involved in the design and production aspects of publishing, and apparently he was right. Three decades later, he's still writing, designing, and illustrating books, and he’s able to maintain a Carbonfree® operation easily and affordably through Carbonfund.org.
ANN ARBOR, Mich., USA and TROIS-RIVIERES, QUE.,CANADA – Kofcan Inc.’s biomass fuel pellets, which are made from spent coffee grounds, have earned CarbonFree® certification from Carbonfund.org Foundation and NSF Sustainability, a division of global public health organization NSF International. CarbonFree® product certification for its 15 kg, 25 kg and 1.5 kg bags of coffee pellets is a credible, transparent way for Kofcan to provide a carbon-neutral fuel source to home owners and environmentally-conscious companies.
Kofcan’s biomass fuel pellets were designed to recycle waste into energy and provide a more efficient and lower environmental impact alternative to wood pellets. Instead of contributing to landfills, the spent coffee from which the pellets are made is collected from restaurants and institutions in a 200 km radius of the micro pellets plant in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The resulting pellets have a higher energy output, generating 27.5 percent more BTUs (British Thermal Units) than wood pellets.
In addition to maintaining a low carbon footprint by sourcing spent coffee from local businesses, Kofcan also assessed the environmental impacts of its coffee pellets by undergoing a detailed life cycle assessment to measure its carbon emissions in North America. Kofcan then offset its carbon emissions through investment in third-party validated renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry carbon offset projects provided by Carbonfund.org, a leading nonprofit and developer of the CarbonFree® Product Certification program, the first carbon neutral product label in North America.
“Kofcan and its founders Michel Cordeau and Sylvain Laroche have developed a truly waste-free and efficient energy source. With the addition of CarbonFree® certification through NSF Sustainability, Kofcan is able to demonstrate the carbon neutrality of its coffee pellets and communicate to home owners as well as industrial companies its commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Tom Bruursema, General Manager of NSF International’s Sustainability Division.
“Kofcan is proud to have the first energy pellet to be certified CarbonFree® as well as the first energy pellet that creates viable energy from a waste product instead of the harvesting and processing of trees,” said Michel Cordeau, CEO and founder of Kofcan, Inc.
“Joining the ranks of CarbonFree® Business Partners and taking action to neutralize annual carbon emissions through supporting carbon reduction projects marks Kofcan as a leader in the global warming solution,” says Eric Carlson, President of Carbonfund.org.
How the CarbonFree® Product Certification Program Works
The CarbonFree® Product Certification program uses life cycle assessments (LCAs) to determine the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over a product’s entire life cycle. GHG emissions (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents) that cannot be reduced or eliminated from the product’s life cycle are offset or neutralized with third-party validated renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry carbon offset projects.
A carbon offset is a verifiable reduction in carbon emissions somewhere in the world other than where the emission is generated. These external reductions offer clean energy transformation (e.g. wind, solar), sequestration (e.g. forestry) and clean technology (e.g. energy efficiency). The projects also offer a range of benefits including conservation, clean water, job creation and innovation. Credits are generated when a project is verified and registered – allowing companies to purchase these credits and offset the emissions produced in the manufacturing and use of their products. These credits are then permanently retired on behalf of the product/company.
CarbonFree® certified products earn the use of the CarbonFree® mark along with being listed in the Carbonfund.org online product certification database. The CarbonFree® mark can be found on a variety of products today, including food, beverage, electronics and apparel.
About Kofcan: Kofcan is a young company playing in a big industry and plans to make a global impact by reinventing the meaning of "renewable energy" and the way it is used in the pellet industry. Producing low carbon products such as pellets from used coffee and other recycled raw materials is its primary focus. Kofcan is creating energy through sustainable projects, protecting the planet, and helping people become socially responsible through renewable sources.
About Carbonfund.org Foundation: Carbonfund.org is a leading nonprofit climate solutions organization, making it easy and affordable for individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce their climate impact and hasten our transition to a low-carbon economy. Carbonfund.org supports innovative renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry projects globally that reduce carbon emissions and help people. Carbonfund.org has worked with over 2,000 corporate and nonprofit partners. More at www.carbonfund.org.
About NSF International: NSF International is a global independent organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the construction, food, water and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide. NSF International has been collaborating with the World Health Organization since 1997 in water quality and safety, food safety and indoor environments.
NSF Sustainability draws upon this expertise in standards development, product assurance and certification, advisory services and quality management systems to help companies green their products, operations, systems and supply chains. Product assessments include testing and certification for more sustainable consumer and commercial products. Through its National Center for Sustainability Standards, NSF also develops sustainability standards for products such as carpet, flooring and other commercial building materials.
Additional NSF services include safety audits for the food and water industries, nutritional/dietary supplement certification, organic certification provided by QAI (Quality Assurance International) and management systems certifications delivered through NSF International Strategic Registrations (NSF-ISR). NSF-ISR services include ISO 14001 environmental management systems, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and chain of custody (COC) certifications.
Forever Cheese is already renowned for their commitment to sourcing the finest cheeses and specialty foods from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Croatia and it has now been seven years since they have begun a commitment with Carbonfund to actively help the planet and further renewable energy.
“We are focused on wind and solar energy not just as a way for the future, but for now.” states Michele Buster, President and Co-Founder of Forever Cheese. “We hope to be a role model for other companies, catalyzing them to support the development of renewable energy resources.”
Since 1998, Michele and her business partner, Pierluigi Sini have been finding unique artisan cheeses and specialty foods to introduce into the US. They hand-select each item directly from the producers.
Some of their more famous products include Genuine Fulvi® Pecorino Romano, Rustico®, Drunken Goat®, Naked Goat®, Mitica® Marcona Almonds & Fig Almond Cake. Look for the brands Fulvi®, Sini® or Mitica® to find Forever Cheese products.
Carbonfund.org is very proud to have this great partnership with Forever Cheese to provide significant benefit to renewable energy projects around the United States along with additional support toward national reforestation projects.
"We greatly appreciate our partnership with Forever Cheese," said, Executive Director, Eric Carlson, "they are true industry leaders in their commitment to supporting renewable energy."
For more information, please visit www.forevercheese.com.
What does consistent environmental leadership look like? Over the past six years, CarbonFree® Business Partner Community Capital Management has neutralized over 850,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions – equivalent to the emissions created by burning almost 43,500 gallons of gasoline.
Community Capital Management is a registered investment adviser whose mission is to deliver strong investment performance for its clients in strategies aligned with their organizational purpose. The firm primarily manages fixed income impact investing portfolios that finance a variety of community initiatives such as affordable homeownership and rental housing, environmental sustainability, job creation and training programs, affordable healthcare facilities, childcare programs, and neighborhood revitalization activities. As a leader in the impact investing space, Community Capital Management maintains its commitment to operating an environmentally-conscious business practice.
"Community Capital is excited to partner with Carbonfund.org in committing to offset our carbon footprint. We hope that we will help lead the way and encourage others in the investment management industry to do the same," said Jamie Horwitz, Director of Marketing at Community Capital.
The firm is proud to lead by example, offsetting its carbon emissions by supporting the development of renewable energy, forestry projects and increased energy efficiency through its partnership with Carbonfund.org.
In addition, Community Capital Management’s CarbonFree® commitment includes encouraging office recycling programs, minimizing the use of plastic water bottles by offering a water filtration system in their office, using energy-efficient lighting, conducting more marketing online rather than using printed media, living within close proximity to their office to reduce vehicle pollution, and continually seeking other ways to grow their business in a sustainable, eco-friendly manner. This consistent leadership in operational sustainability sets Community Capital Management in the forefront of its industry as an environmentally responsible fixed income investment management firm.
Among other good news on the climate change front this week, renewable energy is projected to exceed gas by 2016. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), by 2016 global electricity generation from wind, solar, hydro and other forms of renewable power will eclipse that from natural gas – and should be double that provided by nuclear plants.
The IEA points to a surge in renewables led by emerging economies such as China, which accounts for 40 percent of the projected global growth in renewables between 2012 and 2018. Although this is positive, we’re not out of the woods yet if we want to avoid the 2 degree Celsius increase threshold that scientists predict could lead to permanent changes to ecosystems. China still relies heavily on coal, and not just for electricity generation. The country also depends on the fossil fuel for steel production and making fertilizers, which generate large amounts of greenhouse gases. Even aggressive expansion of renewables and nuclear power leaves China using coal for up to half of its total energy needs by 2050.
In the U.S., a boom in shale gas production is stunting efforts to expand renewables. European growth of renewables has also slowed. But the new economic powerhouses of China, India and Brazil are leading the charge, which sweetens the overall global renewable picture.
However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking the future is rosier than it seems. On the surface, these projections paint a picture where natural gas fills in for a decade or two while we build a low-carbon future based around renewables. That is certainly a likely scenario, but it requires the support of long-term policies in many countries to encourage sufficient investment in renewable power plants.
The problem is that policy uncertainty leads to building gas-fired plants that have a lifetime of three to four decades. This makes it difficult to phase out fossil fuels on the timescale needed to avoid dangerous global warming, which requires major cuts from 2030 onwards. In fact, the IEA itself warned in its 2011 edition of World Energy Outlook that fossil-fuel plants due to be built over the next five years are already likely to lock the planet into 2°C of warming.
So how can we fix this problem? Energy analysts say we need long-term assurances to investors that renewable plants being built now will deliver a better economic return than those fired by coal or natural gas. It’s a weakness of U.S. President Barack Obama's climate plan, announced earlier this week, which lacks the long-term targets that could be set if Congress would pass new legislation.
The stakes are high. We need significant changes in existing proposals for policy. Otherwise the chances are slim that we’ll avoid surpassing the 2 degree Celsius increase threshold climatologists warn will alter the lives of billions of people.
For decades, fossil fuel companies have enjoyed the benefit of master limited partnerships (MLPs). A MLP is a business structure that acts like a corporation with its corporate stock trading on the open market, but is taxed as a partnership rather than at the corporate tax rate. This allows investors to buy and sell their shares in the public markets, and project developers to access cheaper capital through the markets. It’s an attractive tax benefit to be a MLP; an advantage that is inaccessible currently to renewable energy investment.
Since the 1980s, Congress has enabled investors to bundle energy projects like oil and gas pipelines and other fossil fuel developments from companies that extract, process or transport “depletable” natural resources and exempted them from corporate income taxes. The word “depletable” specifically excludes renewable energy.
U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, introduced a bill last year that would give wind, solar and other renewable projects the same tax benefit. The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act was re-introduced this week by a bipartisan group of senators.
In order to effectively combat climate change, renewables need to be priced at, or better yet, lower than fossil fuels. It’s easier to sell shares to individuals and institutional investors such as pension funds when renewable projects are set up as MLPs. Widening the pool of potential investors adds new competition, which could lower the cost of financing projects, and in the end reduce the cost of renewable power.
Is leveling the playing field for wind, solar and other renewable projects the magic bullet to renewable energy investment? No, but it is a step in the right direction. The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act is actually part of a broader toolkit, one that the federal government has used successfully in the past to develop domestic energy resources. Tax benefits such as the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit remain essential tools within the renewable energy industry.
Other tax reforms the industry and its supporters say will help level the playing field with fossil fuels include allowing renewable companies to organize as real estate investment trusts (REITs) and letting renewable tax credits be claimed by more types of investors. In December of 2012, a bipartisan group of 29 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to the President calling for changes to both MLPs and REITs.
Even with bipartisan support in a deeply divided Congress, the bill faces some serious obstacles. A 2011 Congressional Research Service report estimated that extending MLPs to renewable energy companies would cost the U.S. Treasury about $2.8 billion between 2010 and 2014. At the moment, the broad political momentum in Congress involves eliminating loopholes and exemptions in order to raise revenue and lower tax rates. The report suggests that if leveling the playing field is the endgame, the alternative is closing the tax loophole for oil and gas companies.
Personally, I want to stop global warming and move into a sustainable energy future. Let your Congressional Representatives know you want them to support the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act.
Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, temporarily stalling renewable energy production. When that happens, what fuel source fills in the energy gap? Traditionally the answer was coal, but due to increased supply and low prices, the answer of late has been natural gas. Coal is certainly the dirtier of the two fossil fuels, but natural gas is not a perfect choice either. The increased supply in natural gas was achieved through the process of hydraulic fracturing (called fracking), which can be harmful to the environment.
Last spring natural gas prices fell to all-time lows of $2 to $3 per thousand cubic feet in the United States. This spring natural gas prices are on the rise. In fact, they’ve doubled to just over $4 per thousand cubic feet, but the bottom line is natural gas is still pretty cheap. Experts say prices in the $4 or $5 range won’t affect the increasing use of the fuel by consumers and the energy industry since the price was $8 just a few years ago. In Europe and Asia prices are even higher; think $10 to $14.
According to a Citibank research report, “Gas and renewables could in fact be the making of each other in the short term.” Expect renewables to cost about the same as conventional fuels in many parts of the world “in the very near term.” Mark Brownstein, an associate vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that the price of renewable energy has declined substantially in recent years, and that’s expected to continue, making them even more competitive. As demand for renewables builds, it will in turn “drive demand for more gas-fired” power plants to be used as backup.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) missed an April 13 deadline to issue much-anticipated new rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. Proposed a year ago, the rules were first to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new plants. Once a limit is set for new facilities, the EPA is legally obligated to address existing plants, which pose the true climate threat at the moment. The US’ power plant fleet is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe said last week that the agency expects to propose new rules on greenhouse gases from existing plants in fiscal 2014.
The draft rule for new power plants sets a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity. That cutoff point would be easy for natural-gas-fired plants to meet, but not conventional coal plants. Already, power companies build natural gas plants almost exclusively because of the low price of gas.
There is speculation that the EPA’s indefinite delay on the new rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants is due to second thoughts at the EPA and the White House over the single standard. The EPA is said to be contemplating setting two standards, one for coal plants and the other for natural gas, which might make the new rule more legally defensible in an attempt to avert the inevitable legal wrangling that goes on whenever the EPA sets a new rule including limitations.
Environmental groups argue that separate standards make little sense. “Setting a separate standard for coal- and natural-gas-fired plants would greatly weaken the standard’s ability to ensure a transition away from building high-carbon electricity-generation sources,” said economist Rachel Cleetus of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Natural gas may be the interim answer as we build our renewable energy infrastructure and then the backup once we move to a sustainable energy future. For the sake of slowing down climate change, the EPA needs to set the rules on new electricity generation plants posthaste. Then they should tackle existing power plants without delay. Global warming won’t wait.