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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an idea that corporations have to consider the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and ecological considerations in all
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green@work : Magazine : Newlines : May/June 2002

Actions and initiatives worth noting

Hybrids Get “Green Light”

With 30 percent of new-vehicle buyers indicating that they would “definitely” consider a hybrid electric vehicle and another 30 percent indicating a strong consideration, hybrid vehicle technology is getting a solid “green light” from consumers, especially among women, according to the J.D. Power and Associates Hybrid Vehicle Consumer Acceptance Study of 5,200 recent new-vehicle buyers.

The study provides answers to three core industry questions about hybrid vehicles:

• In which vehicle segments do consumers want hybrids offered?
• What will cause them to purchase?
• How much are they willing to pay?

Survey respondents overwhelmingly indicate that they want a hybrid powertrain option in the same segment as their current vehicle. However, regardless of the vehicle they currently own, nearly all consumers surveyed select a midsize car as their second most popular choice for a hybrid.

“A hybrid option in the high-volume midsize car segment would provide manufacturers a broad-based growth path to the mainstream market,” said Thad Malesh, director of the alternative power technology practice at J.D. Power.

Concern over fuel prices, the high level of U.S. dependency on foreign fuel supplies, a federal tax incentive and concern for the environment are the primary motivators behind consumer consideration to purchase a hybrid vehicle.

In comparing consumer expectations of hybrid vehicle acceleration, fuel economy and emission levels with those of a gasoline-powered vehicle, respondents clearly show a need for more information about hybrids. Respondent comfort levels with various hybrid vehicle operating features—such as idle-off at a stoplight, higher voltage batteries and consumer expectations regarding the length of the battery pack warranty—highlight additional educational requirements.

Domini to Manage New York City Assets

Domini Social Invest-ments LLC, manager of the Domini Social Equity Fund (NASDAQ:DSEFX), the nation’s oldest and largest socially responsible index fund, has been selected to manage the “socially responsible account” within the City of New York Deferred Compensation Plan, containing assets in excess of $190 million.

Previously available to over 180,000 New York City employees through the city’s 457 deferred compensation plan, the socially responsible account is now available to an additional 250,000 individuals through the city’s new 401K plan. Domini will manage a separate account that is designed to mirror the performance of the Domini 400 Social IndexSM, a benchmark for socially responsible investors that is composed of the stocks of 400 large-capitalization domestic companies that pass a comprehensive set of social and environmental screens. The index includes companies with positive records in community involvement, the environment, diversity and employee relations, and excludes companies deriving significant revenues from alcohol, tobacco, gambling, nuclear power and weapons contracting.

Verizon’s $40 Million Savings

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have given Verizon (NYSE: VZ) its most prestigious Energy Star honor—the Corporate Commitment Award—in recognition of the company’s industry-leading energy efficiency program.

Verizon’s energy reduction program—which has included installing low-energy-use lights in buildings, using more efficient cooling fans in central offices and recruiting over 250 employee volunteers called energy champions—enabled Verizon to cut expenses by about $40 million last year and by about $60 million over the last two years, and prevented some 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere. Citing the nearly five billion kilowatt hours of electricity Verizon uses to provide local, long-distance and data services to customers across the country each year, Verizon president and co-CEO Ivan Seidenberg said the company has a major responsibility to its customers and the communities it serves to control the rising use of electricity. “And as with all serious issues in our very complex business, this presents us with a leadership challenge: to balance our various obligations to control our costs, maintain reliable service for customers and preserve the environment,” Seidenberg said.

Changing Consumption Patterns

In response to the growing environmental risk created by rapidly rising consumption patterns around the world, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched the Life Cycle Initiative, a collaboration between UNEP and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) to help governments, businesses and consumers adopt more environment-friendly policies, practices and lifestyles. The initiative will develop and disseminate practical tools for evaluating the opportunities, risks and trade-offs associated with products and services over their whole life cycle.

“As the world population grows—and it is poised to expand 50 percent by 2050—it will be accompanied by an extraordinary growth in consumption,” said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP executive director. “The Life Cycle Initiative will help address problems such as finding alternatives to hazardous substances in products like lead, as well as better systems of eco-labeling and product design,” he continued. “With its focus on sharing of information and closing the knowledge gap between developed and developing countries, the initiative will critically translate life cycle thinking into practice.”

“In many ways, the consumption patterns of the rich are being exported to, and, therefore, burdening developing counties,” Toepfer added. “Our challenge is to change consumption practices in richer countries while at the same time bringing new tools to the table, like the Life Cycle Initiative, that will ultimately help tackle poverty and ensure a safe and secure environment for long term sustainable development.”

The Life Cycle Initiative was launched at the start of UNEP’s 7th International High-level Seminar on Cleaner Production (CP-7), the biennial global forum that looks at progress made in promoting sustainable production and consumption. Changing consumption and production patterns will also be high on the agenda of this year’s World Summit on Sustainable Development. Life cycle thinking, including assessments, eco-design and eco-labeling, is increasingly seen as one way to help tackle the problem of unsustainable consumption.

For more information about the Life Cycle Initiative see

Training China’s Future Business Leaders

Some 100 professors from 40 of China’s top business schools met in Beijing from April 22 to 24 to discuss how they can incorporate environmental content into Chinese graduate management curricula. “Growth in clean, profitable and efficient production is a necessity for China,” said Jonathan Lash, president of World Resources Institute (WRI). “Achieving this goal will depend on China’s business schools to train the next generation of business leaders to manage their firms sustainably.”

The meeting, called the International Conference on Business and Environment Education, was organized by WRI’s China Business, Environment, Learning and Leadership (China BELL) project and the Center for Environmental Education and Communications of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration. China BELL was launched two years ago, following a successful model developed in the United States of integrating environment into the masters of business administration (MBA) curricula.

All the 62 nationally accredited Chinese business schools were invited to attend the conference. Seven of these schools developed the core curricula that was introduced during the conference. Experts in environment and management from leading U.S. business schools, including University of Pennsylvania, New York University, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Hawaii and others, have advised the process from its inception.

TXU: Big on Wind Energy

In 2001, TXU, a global energy business based in Dallas, TX, became the largest purchaser of wind energy in Texas and the fourth largest in the United States, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Globally, TXU has enough renewable energy to power more than 355,000 homes in the United States, Europe and Australia. It added 390 megawatts of wind power in 2001.

Texas wind power production soared in 2001 with a record number of wind turbines erected in west Texas. TXU led the way with 382 megawatts of the 916 megawatts installed. Last year TXU received the Utility Leadership Award from AWEA for being in the vanguard of the Texas wind energy boom. TXU purchases wind power from four projects located in western Texas near Abilene, Big Spring and Pecos County.

According to the AWEA, nearly 1,700 megawatts of new window power capacity was from wind farms built across the U.S.; Texas more than tripled its wind capacity and would rank sixth among the nations of the world in wind capacity if it were a country, based on one year’s development alone. One megawatt of wind energy-generating capacity powers between 200 and 300 homes.

Outside of the U.S., TXU is a partner in a 200-megawatt offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom and has purchased a 40 percent equity stake in two wind farms under construction in Argon, central Spain. The first generation from the Spanish wind farm is expected at the end of 2002.

Solagen Tapped for Investment

On March 28, 2002, Solar Development Capital disbursed its first investment in Solagen Ltd., a photovoltaic (PV) distributor in Kenya. The company, a distributor for Solar BP, has imported, sold and installed solar (PV and thermal) equipment in Kenya since 1994, and will now use debt and equity from SDC to expand into rural markets.

“Only two percent of Kenya’s households have access to the electric grid, which is unreliable and insufficient to meet demand,” notes Candace Smith, COO of SDC. Solar PV presents a stand-alone micropower resource that is often the least-cost option in off-grid areas.

Solagen is working with Kenya Commercial Bank and other credit providers to finance PV sales to individuals and groups for domestic and commercial use. Credit allows deeper market penetration, as most consumers, despite high monthly expenditures for kerosene and other energy sources, cannot afford the up-front payment for a PV system. Solagen has outlets in Nairobi, Nakuru, Merou and Eldout.

Information on Solagen can be found at

Gibson Guitars Strums an Eco-friendly Tune

The Rainforest Alliance recently honored the Gibson Guitar Corp. and its chairman and CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz. Gibson teamed up with the Rainforest Alliance six years ago when it introduced the world’s first line of eco-friendly SmartWood-certified guitars. Today, the instrument manufacturer also produces a line known as the Les Paul Exotics, SmartWood-certified guitars made from six of the world’s most prized woods, harvested from sustainably managed forests.

“Ultimately, our goal is not just to promote certified-wood guitars as something special, but to bring our industry to a point where the use of certified wood is standard procedure,” says Juskiewicz. The company eventually intends to make its full line of instruments from sustainably harvested wood.

The Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood forestry certification program provides a seal of approval on well-managed forests and wood products that ensure a balance of social, economic and environmental factors.

New Jersey Buys Cleaner Power

Green Mountain Energy Co. is teaming up with the administration of Governor James E. McGreevey to make New Jersey a clean-powered state government. A total of 196 state-operated facilities—from the State House in Trenton to Barnegat Lighthouse at the Shore—are now purchasing cleaner and renewable electric service from Green Mountain, one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing residential provider of cleaner electricity. The service represents 12 percent of the electricity purchased by the state government, for a total of 113 million kilowatt hours over the 15-month term of the contract. That’s equivalent to the average amount of electricity purchased in a month by approximately 173,000 homes in New Jersey.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, only three other states have implemented green power purchase programs for government-operated facilities: Maryland at six percent of the state electric load; Pennsylvania at five percent; and Tennessee at two percent.

“Making electricity causes more air pollution than any other industry in the United States, emitting billions of tons of carbon dioxide annually,” said A. Clifton Payne, eastern region president for Green Mountain Energy Co. “Green Mountain Energy electricity will help the state avoid 9,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the length of the contract. That prevents as much carbon dioxide pollution as not making 136,800 trips by car up the length of the New Jersey Turnpike—adding up to more than 20 million miles.”

Report Benchmarks Air Pollution

In a finding that highlights the financial and political stakes in the current debate over reducing power plant emissions, a report released in March reveals wide disparities in air pollution emissions from the 100 largest electric generating companies. The report concludes that fewer than 20 power generation companies in the United States account for 50 percent of carbon dioxide, mercury, oxides of nitrogen and sulfur dioxide emitted into the air by the 100 largest public and private electric power companies in the U.S. Between four and six companies accounted for 25 percent of emissions of each pollutant.

“Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Generation Owners in the U.S.—2000,” was released by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PSEG), one of the electric power generation companies included in the report. The report analyzes data submitted by the companies to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other government agencies for the year 2000. Pollution effects associated with the four emissions include acid deposition, fine particulates and regional haze, global warming, mercury deposition, nitrogen deposition and ozone smog.

The groups issued the report to assist government policy makers, corporate leaders, investors and the public as they take actions that affect emissions from the electric utility industry. It is hoped that the report will enable investors and policymakers to see the disparity in air pollution performance among the nation’s largest power producers, and shape future regulatory and business decisions to reduce emissions.

CERES said it plans to mail the report to the CEOs of all 100 companies named in the report, with an invitation to participate in a series of “utility dialogues” sponsored by CERES to discuss industry emissions reduction. The year-long dialogue would include companies, investors and environmental organizations, and would recommend financial incentives specifically to reduce CO2 emissions.

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