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New Greenhouse Regulations Will Drive Up Costs for Employers

Posted by Bob Rio on Aug 11, 2017 11:29:19 AM

The Baker Administration will today introduce new regulations that set specific limits on sources of greenhouse gases, the emissions linked to climate change. State officials indicate that the regulations could increase costs to electric ratepayers by as much as 2 percent.

Electriclinessmall.jpgThe new rules aim to reduce the state’s carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, as required by state law.

Robert Rio, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, issued the following statement:

“The 4,000 member employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts are extremely disappointed with the Baker administration’s new electricity sector regulations. The administration openly admits that these rules will increase Massachusetts electric rates that are already among the highest in the nation.

“The increases produced by the proposed rules, when combined with other pending cost increases, could raise the electric bills of Massachusetts employers some 10 percent in the next year alone.

“These regulations are ultimately unnecessary. The administration could have chosen to work with the legislature to change the Global Warming Solutions Act to allow for alternative ways for the electricity sector to meet these obligations.  Instead, the administration has turned a blind eye to the corrosive impacts that high electric rates are having on struggling Massachusetts companies.

“The cost increases produced will harm consumers as well through higher rents, taxes and other costs of doing business.   

“AIM supports clean energy and is a leader in working with the administration to transition the power sector to cleaner sources.  These regulations are a setback to that effort."

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Environment, Energy

A Better Idea to Reduce Carbon Emissions...

Posted by Bob Rio on Jun 19, 2017 8:30:00 AM

Massachusetts could reduce carbon emissions far more significantly by streamlining existing greenhouse-gas reduction initiatives than by implementing a bureaucratic new carbon tax.

trafficsmall.jpgThat’s why Associated Industries of Massachusetts will oppose a carbon-tax bill and offer an alternative strategy during a Beacon Hill hearing tomorrow.

An Act Combating Climate Change would establish in its first year a carbon tax of 10 dollars per ton of carbon dioxide emitted, rising steadily to 40 dollars per ton in year seven on all fossil-fuel use (gas, diesel, natural gas) in transportation (on and off road vehicles, trucks, recreational and commercial vehicles, including buses, trains and vans) and residential and business heating and process.

Fuels used to generate electricity would be exempt because there is already a carbon tax on those sources.  

The money generated – almost $600 million dollars the first year and rising to $2.4 billion in year seven - would be returned as rebates to residents and business by a mechanism to be developed by the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER). Rebates would be made in rough proportion to what each sector pays. Based on current usage, approximately 60 percent of the funds would come from the transportation sector.

AIM opposes the carbon-tax bill because the rebate mechanisms is expensive and overly bureaucratic. Collecting and rebating money to nearly 7 million residents and 250,000 or more businesses will be an enormous administrative burden that will cut into the rebates.

AIM estimates that the average payer will get back through rebates only 50-60 percent of the amount paid into the tax. Certain groups could get more than they paid.    

Rather than establish an entirely new program, AIM suggests fixing the current programs; and if a carbon tax is desired, replace the current funding for the existing programs with the proceeds of a carbon tax.

Massachusetts already surcharges both residential and business electricity and natural gas users to support programs that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Those surcharges generate almost $2 billion dollars per year.

These programs could be more efficiently managed through the one source of revenue envisioned in this legislation.

Our recommendations include:

  • All carbon emissions, including the electricity sector, should be subject to the carbon tax.
  • The carbon tax should replace the carbon tax instituted under the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
  • All current programs that deal with energy efficiency and renewable energy that are funded by ratepayers or taxpayers should be eliminated, including those currently directed at the transportation sector.

With all programs eliminated, the single funding source would be overseen by a new advisory council – the Carbon Reduction Advisory Council - made up of a diverse group of stakeholders. Under the direction of this advisory council, the funds would be channeled to programs that would compete to provide the best carbon-reduction strategies.

This would be a bold change to the way Massachusetts operates these programs. But a bold change is needed. Many of the existing programs have become hidebound and uncoordinated. New ideas that could help our collective carbon-reduction goals are not instituted because they do not fit into current silos.

This new thinking is not only better but necessary to attain the commonwealth’s greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

Please contact me at 617.262.1180 or a rrio@aimnet.org if you would like more information or updates on the carbon tax.

Q & A on the Carbon Tax

Topics: Regulation, Environment, Carbon Tax

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

Six Companies Earn Inaugural AIM Sustainability Awards

Posted by Michele Slafkosky on Aug 22, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Six Massachusetts companies ranging from a ski resort in the Berkshires to the largest grocery chain in New England have been named winners of the inaugural Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Sustainability Award. The award recognizes excellence in environmental stewardship, promotion of social well-being and contributions to economic prosperity.

AIM announced today that Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort of Hancock; PeoplesBank of Holyoke; W.D. Cowls, Inc. of North Amherst; Cavicchio Greenhouses, Inc. of Sudbury; Gorton’s Seafood of Gloucester; and the Stop & Shop New England Division of Ahold USA were selected from among 33 nominations. The six companies will be honored at a series of regional celebrations throughout Massachusetts in September and October.

“These companies set the standard for sustainably managing their financial, social and environmental resources in a manner that ensures responsible, long-term success,” said AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord.

“Sustainability guarantees that the success of employers benefits our communities, our commonwealth and our fellow citizens. We congratulate our honorees and all the worthy companies that were nominated.”

Sustainability has gained widespread acceptance in recent years as global corporations such as Wal-Mart, General Electric and IBM make it part of their business and financial models.

The six honorees were selected by a committee that included the co-chairs of AIM’s Sustainability Roundtable - Johanna Jobin, Director of Global EHS and Sustainability at Biogen; and James McCabe, Sustainability Manager, Global Operations Group, Waters Corporation.

AIM initiated the Sustainability Roundtable in 2011 to provide employers the opportunity to exchange sustainability best practices and hear from experts in the field. That opportunity has attracted dozens of participants from companies such as Bose, Siemens, Coca-Cola, Boston Beer, MilliporeSigma, Ocean Spray, Analogic and Cisco.

Here are summaries of each recipient, along with the date and location of the celebration when each will receive the award.

Stop & Shop New England, Division of Ahold USA – October 24, Gillette Stadium, Foxboro

StopShop.jpgStop & Shop in April opened an innovative, state-of-the-art, Green Energy Facility in Freetown that uses a natural process called anaerobic digestion to convert inedible food that cannot be donated into clean energy.  The process produces up to 40 percent of the energy for Stop & Shop's 1.1 million square-foot adjacent distribution center, enough power to operate the center for four months of the year. 

Each day, 95 tons of inedible food from 208 Stop & Shop stores is brought to the 24,000 square-foot facility to be processed and converted into biogas.  The bio-gas fuels a generator that in turn, generates electricity providing power for heating, lighting and air conditioning systems in the sprawling distribution center.

“As a responsible retailer, one of our top priorities is reducing our environmental footprint, specifically through the conversion of food that would otherwise go into a landfill,” said Mark McGowan, President, Stop & Shop New England.  “The Green Energy Facility is a perfect example of our ongoing efforts to be greener in our operations.”

The Green Energy Facility is part of Stop & Shop’s strategic and long-term efforts to reduce its environmental footprint.  Today, Stop & Shop diverts 88 percent of its total waste from landfills with the goal to be “zero waste” by 2020.

Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Hancock – September 20, Interprint Inc., Pittsfield

Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort will add to its extensive renewable energy portfolio this season by installing high-efficiency snowmaking guns on its downhill ski facility in Hancock. The resort expects to be completely powered by renewable energy by 2017.

JiminyPeak.jpgThe 450 new snow gun heads will replace older, less efficient technology and will reduce the amount of electricity used for making snow.  The new LPXY snowmaking guns generate twice as much snow using half the amount of compressed air as the older model. Jiminy was able to take advantage of a National Grid energy efficiency incentive program to help offset a portion of the cost for the upgrade.

The project, along with the installation of LED lights on nine night-skiing trails, is the latest in a long history of environmental stewardship for the resort. Recent additions to the portfolio include a 2.3 megawatt community shared solar facility with Nexamp and a co-generation facility located in the Country Inn. These renewable projects are in addition to the 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbine for which the resort was awarded the Golden Eagle Award from the National Ski Areas Association.

Jiminy Peak is the largest ski and snowboard resort in southern New England and a premier four-season resort in the Berkshires. The 167-acre facility includes extensive conference and wedding facilities.

“Controlling and reducing the snowmaking operating costs, maximizing snow production and optimizing the benefits of all capital reinvestments have long been the mantra of this organization,” the company says.

“Jiminy's policy of environmental awareness is seen in all of our activities. We seek to raise the environmental awareness of guests and employees, and to broaden their knowledge and appreciation through educational programs.”

Jiminy is also a participant in the NSAA Climate Challenge, joining other resorts striving to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and preserving the earth for future generations.

Cavicchio Greenhouses, Inc., Sudbury – October 17, Hanover Theatre, Worcester

Cavicchio Greenhouses, Inc. established in 1910, is a company that works and lives off the land, so it’s no surprise that the company spends a lot of time understanding and mitigating its impact on the environment.

Cavicchio is New England’s most comprehensive wholesale horticultural grower and distributor, cultivating and sustaining more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials and nursery stock, complimented by a premium selection of loam, mulch, stone, and landscape supplies.

The company operates 10 acres of state-of-the-art greenhouse space powered by computerized environmental control systems. Water usage has been addressed by installing flood floor systems to recycle water and by grading the fields (160 acres) so that irrigation water circulates back to irrigation ponds.

The company utilizes wood-fueled heating and cooling systems in its greenhouses year-round. The wood that fuels these boilers is chipped on-site from logs and cut trees brought in by landscape contractors.  The process provides a convenient way for customers to recycle debris and has eliminated the need to use fuel oil.

Cavicchio Greenhouses, Inc. communicates, both internally and externally, the importance of not misusing the land they occupy, and has engaged customers by implementing free plastic-pot and tray recycling programs, recycling over 300 tons of plastic annually.  And, Cavicchio has dedicated 10 acres to composting and recycling of grass, leaves, soil, brush, asphalt, concrete and cement. Other environmental efficiency improvements include incorporating electric carts and replacing diesel-powered tractors.

PeoplesBank, Holyoke – October 20, Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield

PeoplesBank.jpgPeoplesBank is not only building environmental responsibility into its own future, but also helping others do the same.

The 131-year-old community bank based in Holyoke recently constructed LEED® certified branches in Springfield, West Springfield, and Northampton – the first of their kind in the area. LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

After building the branches, PeoplesBank initiated community education events to spread the word about environmentally friendly construction and building operation. It also installed electric-vehicle charging stations at three locations and held e-recycling events that have collected more than 100,000 pounds of material to date.

But the bank didn’t stop there. Using one of its core business capabilities, PeoplesBank has financed more than $100 million in wind, solar, and hydroelectric power in the region. The organization regarded tackling the sheer complexity of financing these projects as another opportunity to serve the community.

The bank even sponsors of a farmers’ market for associates, a program that led to the formation of an Environmental Committee to promote green values at home and at work.

“Through our commitment and actions to support environmental sustainability, we believe that we can make the region a healthier place to live, work and raise a family,” said Tom Senecal, PeoplesBank President and Chief Executive Officer.

 W.D. Cowls, Inc., North Amherst – October 20, Wood Museum of Springfield History, Springfield

Here’s proof of sustainability - W.D. Cowls Inc. has been continuously managing generations of the same forest land in western Massachusetts since 30 years before the Revolutionary War.

The North Amherst forestry, real estate and building-materials company has been working woodlands in the Pioneer Valley since 1741, through nine generations of family ownership. Cowls grows and harvests diverse mixed species - including pine, oak and hemlock - along with other forest products. It also retails lumber, paint, hardware and building materials at its Cowls Building Supply store.

The long-term sustainable view that has led Cowls to care for and maintain the same Massachusetts forest for more than 275 years led the company to create the largest private conservation project in Massachusetts history, placing a Conservation Restriction on 3,486 acres of timberland now known as the Paul C. Jones Working Forest. An additional 2,000 to 3,000 acres are due to be conserved during the next 12 months.

In a textbook definition of Smart Growth, Cowls uses revenue earned conserving outlying open space to sustainably develop downtown North Amherst.  Cowls’ generational Home Farm redevelopment is as sustainable as the company’s forest practices.

Every generation of the Cowls family since 1741 has built what was needed on the 20-acre Home Farm in North Amherst.   The site in the past has produced tobacco and onions, and housed such diverse operations as the Amherst-Sunderland branch of the Holyoke Street Railway system, a major dairy operation and the first electric sawmill in the country.

For this generation, the Cowls’ Home Farm is becoming a new town center called The Mill District.  The project already includes Cowls Building Supply; Atkins Farms Market in the old cow barn; The Lift Salon and Bread and Butter Café in the new Trolley Barn; and more than a dozen apartments.

The next phase of growth is about to begin.   North Square in The Mill District will feature 130 apartments and 22,000 square feet of restaurants, shops and services underneath.

Today, as the state’s largest private landowner, Cowls sets the bar for environmental and economic sustainability. 

Gorton’s Seafood, Gloucester – October 26, Riverwalk Complex, Lawrence

One of the most recognizable names in seafood discovered that reducing its environmental impact is a matter of degree – nine degrees to be exact.

Gloucester-based Gorton’s Seafood, for many years a leader in preserving the oceans that yield its products, utilized data and scientific analysis to determine that raising the temperature at which its frozen seafood was distributed would significantly reduce diesel emissions tied to climate change. So the company changed its recommendation for delivery temperatures from minus 10 degrees to minus one degree

The result was that the company’s carriers saved 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year, the equivalent of removing 85 cars from the road or planting 696 trees. Gorton’s was also able to smooth out significant swings in temperature to which its seafood is often subjected during the long journey from plant to grocery store to home freezer.

The program is part of a broader sustainability program at Gorton’s called Trusted Catch.  As part of that commitment to sustainability, Gorton’s currently sources 97 percent of its wild-caught seafood from fisheries that are certified as sustainable by a third party.

“As a seafood industry leader located in America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester, Massachusetts, we recognize that preserving our oceans and natural resources is not merely an option, it is a mandate. It is a mandate that we have followed for generations by partnering with a select group of suppliers and adhering to strict quality controls and standards that are among the toughest in the industry,” the company said.

All of the regional award celebrations are free and open to AIM members, but registration is required.

Register | Pittsfield

Register | Worcester

Register | Springfield

Register | Foxboro

Register | Lawrence

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Environment, Sustainability

AIM Creates Sustainability Award

Posted by Michele Slafkosky on Jun 13, 2016 7:34:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts announced today the establishment of the AIM Sustainability Award recognizing companies for excellence in managing environmental stewardship, social well-being and economic prosperity.

Globalwarmingsmall.jpgThe association is seeking nominations for five 2016 Sustainability Awards to be presented at a series of regional employer events during September and October. Award recipients will be selected by a panel that includes the co-chairs of the AIM Sustainability Roundtable – Johanna Jobin, Director of Global EHS and Sustainability at Biogen; and James McCabe, Sustainability Manager, Global Operations Group, Waters Corporation.

“It’s an incredibly exciting announcement,” said Jobin, who has chaired the Sustainability Roundtable for three years.

“The decision by the largest employer association in Massachusetts to establish a Sustainability Award confirms the growing importance that companies are placing on operating and growing in a responsible, transparent manner.”

Sustainability is the process by which companies manage their financial, social and environmental risks to ensure responsible long-term success. Once limited to a group of niche companies, the concept has gained widespread acceptance as global corporations such as Wal-Mart, General Electric and IBM make sustainability part of their business and financial models.

Companies applying for the AIM Sustainability Award may do so based upon their accomplishments in any of four areas:

  • A new idea
  • Environmental impact
  • Collaboration and communication
  • Social impact

Companies of all sizes and from any industry sector are welcome to apply. Applicants must be members in good standing of the association.

AIM initiated its Sustainability Roundtable in 2011 to provide employers the opportunity to exchange sustainability best practices and hear from experts in the field. That opportunity has attracted dozens of participants from companies such as Bose, Siemens, Coca-Cola, Boston Beer, MilliporeSigma, Ocean Spray, Analogic and Cisco. The Roundtable next meets June 16 at Philips North America in Andover to discuss the role that sustainability standards play in supply-chain relationships.

“The Roundtables and the new award encourage those of us working to improve the performance of our companies by improving their relationship to the community and the environment,” McCabe said.

“We urge companies of all sizes and types to apply and look forward to learning about the innovative practices being undertaken by our fellow Massachusetts employers.”

Nominate your Company

Topics: Environment, 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

What Will Solar Subsidies Cost Your Business?

Posted by Bob Rio on Nov 8, 2015 4:30:00 PM

The special interests and solar developers seeking expanded subsidies for solar power in Massachusetts don't talk about how much these handouts cost business and residential ratepayers. Here's a quick look at what it means to your bottom line.

Solarcosts

Topics: Environment, Energy, Business Costs

New England's $5.4 Billion Energy 'Tax'

Posted by Bob Rio on Aug 27, 2015 3:29:00 PM

How serious is the energy cost crisis in New England?

ElectriclinessmallA new study from business and labor organizations warns that failure to expand electricity and natural-gas infrastructure in the six-state region will generate the equivalent of a $5.4 billion tax on employers and homeowners between 2016 and 2020. Such an increase would negate 80 percent of the region’s projected private-sector job growth and drain $16.1 billion from economic output.

The study comes from the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy, which includes AIM. Other organizations include Associated Industries of Vermont, Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire; Brotherhood of Utility Workers Council, UWUA 369; Connecticut Business & Industry Association; Independent Oil Marketers Association of New England; NAIOP Massachusetts; National Federation of Independent Business (CT, MA, ME, RI, VT Chapters); Maine State Chamber of Commerce; and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

The economic devastation outlined in the study would be on top of the reported $7.5 billion in energy costs the region has already incurred over the past three winters due to the natural gas pipeline system reaching maximum capacity during winter months to meet both electricity generation and space heating demands.

“Energy issues are almost universally mentioned by members as the number one impediment for expanding in Massachusetts,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“This study clearly shows that without action, Massachusetts’ energy costs will go even higher, permanently hurting our competitiveness and resulting in major direct and indirect job losses as consumers are forced to pay higher prices for energy rather than investing that capital here.”

In May of this year, Massachusetts commercial and industrial electric rates paid some of the highest prices in the country for electricity, nearly double North Carolina and even higher than California. While rates in other parts of the country are flat or declining due to available and cheap natural gas, Massachusetts’ rates are increasing.

The study, conducted by Boston consulting firms La Capra Associates and Economic Development Research Group, found that failure to expand the region’s energy infrastructure will lead to a reduction in disposable income that could top $12 billion, and 167,600 jobs lost or not created. These impacts would ramp up from 2016 through 2020, with similar or larger impacts expected beyond that timeframe if infrastructure is not added.

AIM has consistently advocated for more natural gas infrastructure to take advantage of close and abundant natural gas supplies, while at the same time continuing to explore the use of large hydropower and renewables to help with diversification.  The association does not take a position on any individual infrastructure projects or financing mechanisms.

Five New England governors, including Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, pledged in April to work together to help consumers who pay more for electricity than almost anywhere else in the United States. While the costs and political challenges of investments in natural gas pipelines, transmission wires and renewable energy remain formidable, the governors nevertheless acknowledged that solving the energy crisis “is greater than any one state can solve alone.”

“We recognize that each state may support addressing our regional energy challenge in different ways. These efforts must be done in partnership with state legislatures, and respecting the requirements of laws, regulatory proceedings, and opportunities for public participation that are unique to each individual state,” the governors said in a statement.

Topics: Environment, Energy, Business Costs

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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