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Matthew Gardner

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Using Science to Reduce Greenhouse Emissions

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Mar 16, 2017 4:34:03 PM

Editor’s Note – Matthew Gardner, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Sustainserv. He will serve as moderator of the AIM Sustainability Roundtable on April 8.

InnovationSmall-5.jpgIt’s one thing for a company to commit to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It’s another to base those reductions on strict, science-based targets.

But that’s exactly what AIM members like Walmart, Dell, Coca Cola and Procter and Gamble are doing. Another 170 global companies have committed to do the same.

The science melds global scientific greenhouse-gas reduction research with a disciplined understanding of a company’s own generation of greenhouse gasses.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by up to 70 percent by 2050 to limit global warming to 2°C , the threshold below which irreversible climate change can be averted.

Following the UN Climate Talks in Paris in 2015, an initiative was launched for companies to establish “science-based” GHG reduction targets consistent with the 2-degree C warming limit.

The standards give companies clear quantitative benchmarks against which to guide their GHG reduction efforts.

The targets apply to all of the categories of GHG emissions for which a company may be responsible. Such emissions include

“Scope 1” and “Scope 2” emissions, those related to the amounts of fuels that the company consumes in its operations (think heating, process-related and/or fuels used in company vehicles), as well as emissions related to the generation of energy that a company then uses on site (such as electricity).

By ensuring that a company has energy efficient buildings, operates an energy efficient vehicle fleet, or maximizes the efficiency of its process-related energy usage, the employer can reduce both its Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions and its expenses. 

So-called “Scope 3” -  those associated with the production and/or delivery of goods or services that are provided to the company by others on its behalf - emissions, are more complicated Scope 3 includes GHG emissions associated with business travel, emissions resulting from the production of materials that a company uses to manufacture its own products, or emissions from services such as shipping and logistics for which it contracts.

Scope 3 emissions can be many multiples greater than Scope 1 or Scope 2 emissions. Reducing these emissions can be difficult, however, as it requires significant engagement with the suppliers of those products or services, and an awareness of the GHG impacts of those products or processes by all parties.

Establishing science-based targets, and the implementation plans to achieve those targets, is a technical process that needs careful consideration and planning. GHG emissions must be calculated carefully and according to accepted protocols. Most importantly, an action plan must be developed to achieve the goals in an economical and technically feasible manner.

Done properly, science-based targets can provide context and focus to GHG emissions programs and the actions required to make them successful.

Attend the AIM Sustainability Roundtable

 

Topics: Environment, Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Sustainable Practices and Your Suppliers

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Jun 2, 2016 8:30:00 AM

Editor’s Note – Matthew Gardner, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Sustainserv. He will serve as moderator of the AIM Sustainability Roundtable on June 16.

The boundaries of corporate sustainability programs are rapidly expanding to include not just the operations of a particular company, but also the impacts and actions of its suppliers and business partners.

InnovationSmall-4.jpgMany major corporations, such as Walmart, now require suppliers to provide detailed information regarding their environmental impacts, social and labor-related programs, and efforts to mitigate negative impacts they may be having on their environs. The environmental, social and labor records of a company’s suppliers may represent significant risk to the company’s business and/or carefully crafted public image.

Supply-chain sustainability has also entered the regulatory arena under the Dodd-Frank Conflict Mineral legislation, under regulations regarding human trafficking enacted by the state of California and Great Britain, and under other laws. These regulations compel companies to disclose the manner in which their supply chains source key raw materials or address the risks related to human trafficking and forced labor.

Social responsibility issues have also received attention of world leaders. In June 2015, following their summit meeting, the leaders of the G7 countries issued a statement recognizing “the joint responsibility of governments and business to foster sustainable supply chains and encourage best practices.”

But addressing supply chain sustainability is easier said than done. Small companies may interact regularly with as many as one hundred suppliers. Large multinationals in the retail sector frequently have more than 100,000 suppliers. Collecting information from a supply chain of any size is an exercise in disciplined data collection, risk assessment and strategic engagement.

Resources and tools are also available to help you prioritize your sustainable supply chain efforts. Programs such as Ecovadis (www.ecovadis.com) or Sedex (www.sedexglobal.com) have engaged thousands of suppliers globally, and offer access to large datasets of sustainability related information from these suppliers.

Other databases, such as the Social Hotspot Database (socialhotspot.org), offer information specific to social responsibility and labor/workforce related issues. These resources allow companies to prioritize which suppliers, sectors or regions may represent disproportionate risk, and thus necessitate greater scrutiny. Based on this, a company can focus its supplier inquiries, whether in the form of surveys or interviews, on those areas that represent the greatest risk, and deploy their limited resources effectively.

 

Attend the AIM Sustainability Roundtable

 

Topics: Supply chain, Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Engagement Holds Key to Sustainability

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Nov 30, 2015 3:40:00 PM

Editor’s Note – Matthew Gardner, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Sustainserv.

The most successful corporate sustainability efforts are based upon engagement with employees, management, suppliers, customers, regulators and the communities in which the companies are located.

InnovationSmall-3Such engagement requires that the company take into account the needs and expectations of its stakeholders. It also requires focused and well-planned communication and outreach efforts.

“Building strong relationships and meeting the needs of our stakeholders in innovative ways is critical to our business” said Pat Centanni, Executive Vice President and Chair of Executive Corporate Responsibility Committee at State Street Corporation in their 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report.

When done right, the results of a well-designed stakeholder engagement program can include powerful and enduring alliances based on mutual trust, and shared understandings of what each group can expect from the other with respect to sustainability performance.

State-of-the-art stakeholder engagement programs are quite comprehensive, and include several key attributes:

  • Commitments to transparency and disclosure;
  • Openness to discuss mutual needs and expectations;
  • The ability to tailor communications and outreach to different audiences;
  • Support of senior leadership.

Each of these topics implies risks and opportunities to an organization. The idea of transparency and disclosure can be quite intimidating to many companies. At the same time, the path to mutual trust and license to operate requires a willingness to discuss successes as well as failures candidly and credibly. While it is important to listen to the needs and expectations of your stakeholders, managing expectations is equally important to let them know what you can and cannot address.

“Maintaining open and constructive conversations strengthens our relationships, helps us to understand other views and guides our decisions on what our commitments should be and how to deliver on them.”

Coca Cola, on stakeholder engagement

Whether your company has the resources to undertake a truly comprehensive and expansive stakeholder engagement program, or must focus its limited resources on those stakeholders and those material topics that are most important for success, stakeholder mapping is a valuable approach. The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability is just one example of an approach to get the most out of stakeholder engagement and to ensure no constituencies have been overlooked.

The AIM Sustainability Roundtable on December 10 will host a discussion of successful stakeholder engagement initiatives that demonstrate the ways that companies of different sizes and sectors can successfully identify and engage with key stakeholders and showcase the benefits that such engagements can bring to all parties. 

Register for the Sustainability Roundtable

Topics: Environment, Sustainability, Productivity

The Business Case for Managing Water

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Aug 27, 2015 12:43:00 PM

Editor’s Note – Matthew Gardner, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Sustainserv.

Issues surrounding water have turned from a drip to a flood for companies in Massachusetts and beyond.

WaterhandsHardly a day goes by without news of water shortages, depleted aquifers and contaminated wells somewhere in the world. Though Massachusetts does not suffer from widespread and systemic shortages of water, corporations are starting to quantify, analyze and try to reduce their water usage with the same zeal that they are applying to energy and greenhouse-gas reduction efforts.

There are several drivers behind the new emphasis on water.

The first is economic. Water is a commodity paid for by businesses, so any opportunities to reduce the cost associated with this input material are to be considered against the investment required to realize the savings.

A second economic element is the disposal of water that has been utilized in any sort of industrial process. The disposal of this water is something that is paid for as part of standard utility bills. Reductions in the discharge of waste water, whether it is into a municipal system or into a privately owned waste water treatment facility, will also result in lower costs.

The economics are particularly important in water-intensive industries such as some electronics manufacturing, food processing, or the beverage industry. Water usage in these industries represents a significant cost of doing business, so saving even a few percentage points off of the total utilization results in appreciable cost savings. And if waste water does not meet certain, and sometimes quite exacting, standards for purity, then the disposal costs can multiply quickly.

These issues are compounded for operations located in parts of the world where water resources are limited and/or threatened. Costs in these regions can be high, and limits on water usage are often stringent.

The water “footprint” of a company also extends to the water requirements of the products the company produces. A particular product may not require significant water in manufacturing, but what about the water requirements as it is being used? What is the manufacturer’s responsibility to manage and influence that phase of the product’s life cycle? Those products that offer customers greater efficiency regarding whatever input materials are required in their operation will be viewed favorably.

There are a variety of methods available to calculate the water footprint for a company and/or for the products being produced. Using the principles of life-cycle analysis, it is possible to quantitatively and accurately understand the complete picture regarding the impact that a company or a product has on water resources.

How are local companies managing water? Experts from Desalitech, Boston Beer Company and Ocean Spray Cranberries will share their water-management strategies at the AIM Sustainability Roundtable on September 17 at Waters Corporation in Milford. The conversation will include a panel discussion, a question and answer session, and an opportunity for participants to network with colleagues who have encountered similar issues.

As this has become an issue squarely in the eye of the public and governmental regulators, it behooves all companies to consider this issue, and make conscious and informed decisions about how they need to take the protection and conservation of this precious resource into account.

 

Register for the AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Topics: Environment, Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable

What is the Real Cost of Your Products?

Posted by Matthew Gardner on Mar 5, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Editor's note - Matthew Gardner is Managing Partner of Sustainserv, Inc., an international consultancy helping clients develop sustainability strategies, programs and communications.

What are the environmental impacts associated with the products your company provides to its customers?

MosiacA growing number of companies are seeking to understand, document, and in some cases, take responsibility for the entire range of environmental impacts that their products have, from the extraction of raw materials, to manufacturing, to distribution of the product, to usage, to the end of the product’s usable life. It’s a far different approach than evaluating the cost of a product only to the point when it leaves the factory and reaches the customer.

Why would a company broaden its view of environmental impacts?

  • The company may want to market a product as “eco-friendly,” or “green,” promoting the fact that it offers environmental benefits over other products.
  • The company may wish to understand the factors that contribute to not only the cost of manufacturing a product, but to the total cost of ownership of that product – another potentially favorable angle from which to market.
  • There is increasing interest among employers in formal environmental certifications for some types of products, and these certifications often require formal accounting methodologies (e.g. ISO 14040/14044). 

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a sophisticated method in which material and energy inputs to a product are cataloged, and the environmental impacts calculated, scaled and weighted into an overall environmental profile. By understanding how a product is used in the “real world,” and what its typical disposition is at the end of its life, you can develop a quantitative picture of the relative impact of the manufacturing process versus the use phase versus the end-of-life stage and see where the largest opportunities for improvement may lie.

For example, LCA can quantify whether there are energy and environmental benefits to using recycled versus virgin materials in a product. Those same approaches can uncover parasitic energy losses in electronics, or identify opportunities to show end-users how to use products more efficiently to lower their operational costs.

One of the criticisms of LCA is that comprehensive and rigorous reviews can be complicated and time consuming (read: expensive), especially when analyses related to toxic materials and ecosystem impacts are included. Sometimes the level of detail required by the ISO standards don’t provide results that justify the time and expense required.

There are alternative and cost-effective approaches to Life Cycle Analyses called “screening” LCAs. The idea is that smart, informed approximations regarding materials used and processes employed enable the user to focus efforts on alternative design or manufacturing approaches that address the stages that are of most concern. 

Register for the AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Topics: Environment, Energy, Sustainability

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