Celebrating Eco-Progress: Adidas

Today’s Celebrating Eco-Progress installment has some great news concerning a company known more amongst people of conscience for their sweatshops than for any concern for sustainability.

Via GreenBiz.com:

Adidas Commits to 100% Sustainable Cotton Apparel

Adidas’ Environmental Strategy 2015 has the overall goal of lowering its environmental impact by 15 percent by 2015, relative to sales. Within that are many more goals covering product design, sourcing, marketing, company operations and other points in product life cycles…

One area being targeted is cotton, with Adidas aiming to have 100 percent of the cotton it uses meet the Better Cotton Initiative’s standards by 2018 (40 percent is planned to meet the standards by 2015).

“Rather than individual product teams seeking sustainable cotton, it will simply become standard across all our apparel,” wrote Adidas Group CEO Herbert Hainer in the report.

The very fact that Adidas has an Environmental Strategy is reason to celebrate, and if you read on in the article, you’ll see that they are working on a lot more than just cotton (parenthetical remarks added for clarity):

  • “By the end of this year…Adidas wants at least 80 percent, by value, of leather it sources to come from gold-rated tanneries; 70 percent of its leather, by value, already comes from gold tanneries, and 26 percent comes from silver tanneries.” (Gold and Silver are the two highest ratings given by the Leather Working Group).
  • “Adidas plans to track more of the sustainable materials it uses through a system called String it developed. Intended to trace the supply paths of materials, String was introduced to suppliers last year. While the system is “well used,” Adidas says, it wil work to get more suppliers to use it.”
  • “Adidas will cut the number of colors it uses in half (it currently uses about 800 colors) and will add more sustainable materials to its toolboxes, which are made up of pre-selected base materials and colors for designers to work with. The materials and colors are chosen based on their ability to provide efficiencies during production, consume less water and energy, and create less waste.”
  • “Adidas wants to shrink its carbon footprint by at least 10 percent, mainly by reducing energy and switching to energy sources that put out less carbon.”
  • “Adidas plans to cut energy by 20 percent, water by 20 percent, waste by 25 percent and paper by 50 percent (the last three are on a per employee basis), all by 2015. Another effort that will bring down energy is Adidas’ goal to reduce the impact of its IT operations by 20 percent by using power management setting in computers, virtualizing servers and consolidating at data centers.”

That is most certainly MUCH more than a shallow greenwashing campaign.

Thanks, and keep up the good work, Adidas!

Celebrating Eco-Progress: Shell Oil

For years I’ve been very critical of the oil industry for a great many reasons, and one of my pet peeves has been their stunning lack of business foresight.

It seems there are two primary responses a company in the oil industry could make concerning the reality that not only is there a finite supply of the fossil fuel they deal in, but that the burning of this fuel is contributing to a planetary climate crisis.

  1. You can bury your head in the sands of denial and even obstruct the development of eco-friendly renewable fuels; or
  2. You can assure your company’s long-term survival and prosperity by taking the lead in the development of eco-friendly renewable fuels.

After all, the oil companies already have R&D departments, supply line infrastructure, and production and distribution facilities all over the world. It is so painfully obvious that planes, trains, and automobiles aren’t going to disappear, and so the market for fuel will always be there. It’s just a matter of producing, distributing and selling a different product to all those users.

Sadly, the oil industry has mostly opted for the sands of denial and short-term profit mongering, crying pathetically when governments want to subsidize renewable energy development projects because, they claim, it will harm their business. They even tread out the shameful scare tactic that they’d be forced to lay off thousands of people if they lose a lot of business.

You know, when big box stores come to town and put Mom and Pop shops out of business, you’ll hear free market sycophants say that it’s all about survival of the fittest, and that if Ma and Pa aren’t creative and resourceful and competitive enough then it’s not the fault of the big box stores if they fail. And yet, you won’t likely hear the same person say that the oil industry is to blame if their companies fail because they refused to respond to the geological and meteorological realities by taking action to adapt, develop renewable fuels, and secure their future.

Well, it seems that Shell Oil is at least making an effort, however small, in the right direction.

See this?

No, it’s not some deadly new virus.

Via Inhabitat:

Fresh from winning $64,000 worth of funding from Shell’s low-carbon technology contest, UK-based Cella Energy recently revealed an innovative, inexpensive and safe method for storing hydrogen. Using nanotechnology, Cella has developed ‘micro beads’ – 30 times smaller than a grain of sand – that can trap and release hydrogen when heated. And because the beads are small enough to flow like liquid, refuelling could even be done at any gas station.

What’s more at $1.50 per gallon, and with one tank capable of powering an average car for 300-400 miles, the benefits don’t stop at the environment. “In some senses hydrogen is the perfect fuel,” says Professor Stephen Bennington, head of the scientific team behind the fuel. “It has three times more energy than gasoline per unit, can be used in a standard combustion engine, and when it burns it produces nothing but water.” The micro beads can also be used as an additive to conventional gasoline. Because so much hydrogen production occurs at oil refineries it would be possible to seamlessly integrate Cella’s technology into the supply chain for conventional fuels. The micro-beads can even be returned to oil refineries where they could be refuelled using existing hydrogen production facilities.

Sure, it will take a HELL of a lot more than Shell’s $64,000 to get this product into fuel tanks all over the world, but it’s the most promising technology that I’ve read about in a very long time.

They’ve got a snazzy website highlighting their efforts in the areas of the environment and society, so let’s hope their keep putting their money where they mouth is so we can celebrate even more progress.

Celebrating Eco-Progress: McDonald’s

Ok, so, I admit, this one’s a big stretch.

Refresher: The Celebrating Eco-Progress series is my attempt to recognize efforts by big businesses to implement more sustainable practices.

But McDonald’s? Really!?

The timing on this one is funny, because I was just grossed out a few days ago by a YouTube clip a friend shared that showed the Super Size Me guy, Morgan Spurlock, doing an experiment, setting in individual glass containers some McD’s burgers and fries and some burgers and fries from some “regular restaurant” that are, presumably, less junky. The McDonald’s food takes considerably more time to develop mold in general, and after an incredible 10 weeks, when all of the other food was practically unrecognizable from the mold and decay, the McD’s fries did not look any different.

It’s frightening to think what the preservatives they use do to the human body.

And yet, even so, the fast food giant is making new commitments to sustainabilty:

Via GreenBiz.com:

McDonald’s has laid out a plans to move to more sustainable meat, coffee and packaging.

The company’s Sustainable Land Management Commitment will require suppliers to gradually source food and materials from sustainably-managed land, though there are no specific timelines for now, and it is initially focusing just on beef, poultry, coffee, palm oil and packaging.

Those five were chosen, with the help of analysis from the World Wildlife Fund, since they have the most potential to be changed to have lower impacts. Beef, especially, has some of the biggest impacts among McDonald’s foods.

Baby steps for sure, but I still contend there’s something good happening here. Just the mere fact that McDonald’s seems to have sustainability in their consciousness and game plan, when for so many years they’ve been the poster child for junk food and environmental degradation, is indeed something to celebrate.

Celebrating Eco-Progress: BMW*

So, what’s up with the asterisk?

I’ll get to that in a minute, but in keeping with my mission to give props to big businesses that make efforts towards more sustainable practices, today’s Celebrating Eco-Progress shout-out goes to Bavarian Motor Works (BMW).

Via Wired:

The company that claims to build the ultimate driving machine wants to build the ultimate green machine and is launching a brand dedicated specifically to cars with cords.

BMW announced the “i” — yep, just like Apple — brand today, promising to deliver an electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid by 2013 while also branching out into “mobility services.” The company promised to offer a “seamless network” of services, including intelligent navigation, vehicle connectivity and even parking solutions.

It’s pretty exciting stuff and the full article is worth reading, but the other seriously notable piece that I’d highlight is…

As the Financial Times notes, “mobility” is the hot buzzword in the auto industry as automakers scramble to develop cleaner, greener vehicles. In addition to developing electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, many automakers hope to capitalize on new technology like batteries and vehicle-charging infrastructure.

To that end, BMW also is launching the “i Venture” venture capital division and bankrolling it to the tune of $100 million. General Motors, for example, has done the same thing, investing in battery technology firms, EV startups and other companies through General Motors Ventures. To offer another example, both Daimler and Toyota have invested tens of millions of dollars in Tesla Motors.

Here’s where the asterisk comes in.

When I read the name Tesla Motors a red flag instantly goes up for me. I can’t help it. I absolutely abhor the massive and growing economic inequality on our planet (I’ll have a related post out soon), and so when I think about Tesla’s $100K+ Roadster models I can’t help thinking how symbolic they are of screwed up priorities.

I mean, if you really want to address the twin crises of global climate change and a finite supply of oil, we need super-affordable cars in order to get as many people out of their gas guzzlers as soon as possible. Instead, Tesla’s first priority was to build flashy, expensive sports cars for rich people so that they can brag about how green they are.

Yes, Tesla is working on the cheaper Model S sedan, but, according to Wikipedia:

The Model S is designed as an alternative to cars such as the BMW 5 Series, the Audi A6, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, with an anticipated base price of US$57,400.

And so we come back to BMW.

The rich will spend their money and they happen to typically drive large, oil-hungry beasts. So, I suppose we should mostly celebrate efforts to get them into more ecofriendly cars. Also, you could argue that Tesla’s and BMW’s innovations and the venture capital initiatives mentioned above could lead to the development of technologies that could make it easier for other lower-end automakers to mass-produce more affordable electric cars.

So, for now, we celebrate your efforts, BMW. Keep up the good work!

Celebrating Eco-Progress: Green Business

This installment of Celebrating Eco-Progress, rather than highlighting the sustainability efforts of one company in particular, highly recommends digging into GreenBiz.com‘s 2011 State of Green Business Report.

While reading the entire report is illuminating, I thought I’d bring focus on one excerpt titled Consumer Giants Awaken to Green, which names a number of HUGE companies that have made recent commitments to sustainability.

Large consumer packaged goods companies, the so-called CPGs, have long been reluctant entrants into the green world. The makers of the leading brands of detergents, personal care products, processed foods, and other things found up and down supermarket aisles have stayed largely on the sidelines, viewing green marketing as a risky, if not losing, proposition. Suddenly, the world’s biggest brands seem to be leading the way. Kraft, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, and Unilever were among the CPGs making green pronouncements during 2010.

Elsewhere in the report, there is acknowledgment that, as I wrote last week, progress usually has an up-and-down trajectory. And yet…

What’s encouraging about this year’s report is the momentum we see, embodied in the stories my colleagues at GreenBiz.com bring every business day. While not every story is earth-shattering, the corporate commitments and achievements continue to grow every year in both size and scope. During 2010, for example, we saw major corporate commitments from Procter & Gamble and Unilever; major commitments to buy electric vehicles by GE and other companies; a new wave of water footprint assessments by several large companies; zero-waste accomplishments by GM, Kraft, and others; a new generation of green chemistry coming from Dow, BASF, and others; plant-based plastics being used by several major consumer packaged goods companies.

These are encouraging signs of progress indeed, and absolutely reasons to celebrate.

Celebrating Eco-Progress: Clorox

If you are anything like me, when you think “Clorox” words like toxic, chemicals, disease, deformities, and death come to mind.

And yet, today’s Celebrating Eco-Progress installment gives a hearty hats-off and a job well done to Clorox for substantial efforts towards sustainability.

Via GreenBiz:

Sustainability was one of four mega-trends observed by the Clorox Co. in 2006 as potential business opportunities.

Consumers’ desire for greener products led the company to launch a new green cleaning brand, acquire Burt’s Bees, and reposition the Brita brand to include a sustainability focus.

“That’s what really drove our focus on sustainability. It was all about growth,” said Clorox CEO Don Krauss. “It was also about being on the right side of the angels.”…

Clorox set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and water use each by 10 percent by 2013, relative to 2007 baselines. Clorox also plans to cut waste by 20 percent. The company is on track to meet the goals, Knauss said, and may even reach the targets a year ahead of schedule. All told, the efforts save the company about $25 million a year.

The company has also committed to green building and replaced its sales fleet with hybrids. Compensation is tied to sustainability performance through an Executive Scorecard. Even its philanthropy arm expanded its focus from K-12 education to improving families and childrens’ wellness.

It’s really worth the few additional minutes to read the whole short article, because it gets to the heart of the point I’ve been trying to make with Celebrating Progress; that the more we celebrate business efforts towards sustainability, the more we support them by buying their sustainable products, the more we motivate businesses to continue and expand their efforts.

As Don Krauss says:

Sustainability, he said, shouldn’t be a one-off effort and has the potential to grow the bottom line.

“You have to focus on sustainability as part of the overall strategy of the company,” Knauss said. “It can’t be a hobby.”

Celebrating Eco-Progress: 7-Eleven

Despite my friend’s objections to my having given Walmart props for their recent decision to help combat obesity, I stand by my commitment to celebrate the efforts big businesses make to alter their traditionally harmful practices whenever I come across them. An experiment in positive reinforcement, if you will.

And so, I’ve started a new recurring series of posts — Celebrating Eco-Progress — for this very purpose.

Today, a big hats off to the convenience store giant, 7-Eleven, for their latest effort towards sustainability.

Via Inhabitat:

With their excessive fluorescent lights and gigantic energy-sucking coolers, convenience stores are at the bottom of the green building totem poll. But 7-Eleven Japan found success with an eco-friendly store prototype that they will now officially open in 100 different locations by the end of the month. The green stores use LED lighting, solar-powered electricity, and reflective flooring to reduce the need for harsh overhead lights…

7-Eleven stores around the world have begun implementing greener practices. About 5,000 stores in Taiwan operate as eco-konbinis, and stores in Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong are testing LEDs. In 2009, the first green 7-Eleven in the U.S. opened in Florida…

A solar energy specialist told the New York Times that retrofitting just 100 7-Eleven stores is the equivalent of taking 600 cars off the road.