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green@work : Magazine : Newlines : Sept/Oct 2002

Newslines
Actions and initiatives worth noting

2002

Toyota, Nissan Enter Hybrid Agreement
Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. have concluded a basic agreement on the long-term, continuous transaction of hybrid systems including technical cooperation—an agreement made possible, company officials say, because both companies found common ground in terms of philosophy and outlook in their discussion on the future popularization of hybrid vehicles.

Aiming for a business relationship of 10 years or longer, the agreement calls for Toyota to supply state-of-the-art hybrid system components to Nissan. In addition, both companies have also agreed to start exchanging information and discussing joint development of components related to hybrid systems that both Toyota and Nissan are currently developing independently.

As an initial project, Nissan will be installing a hybrid system currently under development by Toyota in Nissan’s vehicles to be sold in the United States in 2006. Volume is expected to reach approximately 100,000 units within a five-year period starting in 2006. The components for the hybrid system, such as the transaxle and inverter, will be developed by Toyota, while Nissan will conduct development of its own engine and application of the hybrid system on its own vehicle, which will have a direct impact on Nissan’s product.



Illinois Gets Commercial Wind Farm
ComEd, Illinois Wind Energy (IWE) and Tomen Power Corp. (TPC) have announced plans to create the first commercial wind farm in Illinois. The Crescent Ridge wind energy project will become one of the largest wind farms east of the Mississippi River and will generate enough renewable energy to power approximately 20,000 Illinois homes.

Under the agreement, ComEd will purchase the entire output of the 51 megawatt wind generating facility. ComEd is adding this renewable resource to its supply portfolio, available to serve its customers.

The Crescent Ridge wind energy project will be located across 2,200 acres of farmland in Bureau County, IL, though the wind turbine facilities themselves will actually take up less than 20 acres of land. The land can continue to be farmed, except what is needed for the wind facilities themselves. The project will be built near Tiskilwa, about 110 miles west of Chicago, and is expected to be completed in mid-2003.

IWE and TPC are co-owners and co-developers of the Crescent Ridge wind power project. TPC, which is financing the project, is a subsidiary of Tomen Power Holding Co., one of the world’s largest wind power developers.



A Sweet Deal for Cars?
Reuters News Agency reported that researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison say they have found a relatively easy way to extract the clean fuel source hydrogen from a glucose solution. According to the report, Jim Dumesic, who leads the UW-M research team, told Reuters that, “We are at the (laboratory) bench experiment stage so far, but it works.” Dumesic went on to note that the experimental process was far more efficient and quicker than the alternative of using bacteria to break down plant material such as maize to generate hydrogen.

The research, also published in the science journal Nature, found that heating the sugar solution to 392F and passing it over a platinum-based catalyst broke it down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen could then be piped off into a fuel cell, with the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, where it could be absorbed normally by growing vegetation and transformed back into oxygen.



Portland Awarded $1 Million
The Portland, OR, City Council has executed a unique contract with The Climate Trust to reduce global warming by improving the energy efficiency of apartments and commercial buildings. The Climate Trust will provide almost $1 million for this project because it reduces energy use and related emissions of carbon dioxide.

Over the next five years the Portland Office of Sustainable Development Energy and Green Building Divisions will use The Climate Trust funding to work with the owners of over 12,000 apartment units and about 40 commercial buildings statewide to improve energy efficiency. This collaboration leverages existing funds to provide technical expertise and facilitate access to financial incentives. It is expected to create over 20 jobs in Oregon.

The program implements a key piece of Portland’s Local Action Plan on Global Warming, which established a goal of reducing local emissions of greenhouse gases to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. Any program costs will be covered through a pay-for-performance contract with The Climate Trust, a Portland-based non-profit organization that invests in high-quality greenhouse gas offset projects.



Coffee Project Receives Funding
Starbucks Coffee Co., the Ford Foundation, Oxfam America and CEPCO (Oaxacan State Coffee Producers Network) will collaborate in a pilot project to help small-scale Mexican coffee producers expand their access to the global marketplace and increase the availability of high quality Fair Trade-certified coffee. This collaboration aims to enhance the livelihood and capabilities of small-scale coffee farmers.

Oxfam America and CEPCO, Mexico’s largest cooperative of small-scale coffee producers, will implement the partnership in the state of Oaxaca. Starbucks and the Ford Foundation have committed a total of $250,000 to the pilot for its first year. The comprehensive quality program will provide farmers with valuable technical assistance, market information and product quality feedback. Ultimately, the project seeks to strengthen trading relationships between small-farmer fair trade cooperatives and coffee roasters in the U.S. specialty coffee industry.

With coffee prices at historic lows, farmers who produce high quality coffee are better positioned to earn higher prices and generate greater income for their families. Oxfam America, which has worked with small-farmer coffee cooperatives for more than 30 years, believes the partnership will support small-scale farmers’ efforts to redefine “quality coffee” to mean coffee that is environmentally, socially and economically beneficial, in addition to tasting good.



Growing Cooperation
The United Nations (UN) has released Building Partnerships, a comprehensive over-view of the growing cooperation between the UN and the business community in tackling a range of development challenges in the pursuit of broad UN goals.

The book—a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact and the UN Department of Public Information in cooperation with The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum—provides an overview of the evolving relationship between the UN and the private sector, ranging from traditional procurement and consultative arrangements, which have been in place since the founding of the UN in 1945, to the new types of innovative partnerships that have emerged in recent years and become a hallmark of secretary-general Kofi Annan’s office. It provides more than 150 examples of UN-business partnerships, highlighting several initiatives that illustrate how the UN is working with the private sector on projects of increasing magnitude and scope.



Which Recycling Programs Work Best?
State and federal lawmakers are floating legislation that would place a fee on electronics containing cathode ray tubes (CRTs), with funds going to help local governments recycle the lead-containing equipment. But do government-run electronics recycling systems work? Electronics Recycling: What to Expect from Global Mandates, recently published by Raymond Communications, finds that perhaps industry can do a more efficient job.

Countries with mandated industry-run collection systems for old electronics appear to be reaching higher recovery rates than where government finances the systems, according to the report. Figures from Europe show that 50 to 80 percent of information technology equipment is being recovered in three countries with existing take-back mandates: The Netherlands, Switzerland and Norway. The figures, provided by privately-run collection groups, include both consumer and commercially-generated equipment. Most have a “visible fee” to consumers—but the money is provided directly from manufacturers to collection organizations.

However, in Denmark, where local governments are expected to ensure collection and recovery, the recycling rate was about 30 percent in 2000, according to government figures.

The report finds that 11 countries already have electronics recycling mandates on the books, and within five years, there will be 28 countries with such laws because of the two stringent directives soon to be finalized at the European Union. The new directives also will require re-design of chip boards and other equipment because of a ban on lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and certain brominated flame retardants.

U.S. lawmakers are currently struggling over the electronics waste issue. While major stakeholders are attempting to work out a national voluntary recovery system, California, North Carolina, Massachusetts and New York are moving on bills that would place fees on cathode ray tubes. On July 19, Rep. Steve Thompson (D-CA) introduced a federal bill that would place a $10 fee on CRTs and computers, with the money to be funneled through the U.S. EPA to local governments.

“The pilot studies indicate that collection systems run with retailers are the least expensive in the U.S.,” says publisher Michele Raymond. “However, retailers are the least cooperative.” Manufacturers do not want to offend retailers, she points out.

However, if industry is unable to come up with a national voluntary agreement in the U.S., governments could move on a patchwork of government-run solutions, which will end up costing consumers and industry much more in the long run, Raymond says.

The 197-page report covers U.S. state and federal legislation, as well as detailed coverage of 16 countries. It includes results of a 50-state survey of electronics recycling policy and summarizes what 28 major electronics firms are doing in recycling, waste reduction, “design for environment” and related issues.

Raymond Communications publishes the newsletters State Recycling Laws Update and Recycling Laws International. For information, call 301-345-4237 or visit www.raymond.com



SC Johnson Joins BELC
SC Johnson has joined the Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) of The Pew Center on Global Climate Change, thus joining the organization’s efforts to battle global climate change. The Pew Center established BELC with 13 members in May 1998; the addition of SC Johnson brings its total membership to 38.

SC Johnson, the first and only consumer packaged goods company in the BELC, has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by five percent per year through 2005. Based in Racine, WI, with annual revenues of nearly $5 billion, the company is a leading manufacturer of household products.

BELC members commit to take steps in their domestic and foreign operations to assess their greenhouse gas emissions and establish programs to reduce them. The BELC considers the Kyoto Protocol a first step in global efforts to mitigate climate change and supports the development of market-based mechanisms as called for in the Kyoto Protocol.



PAG Pilot Project Underway
Plasma Environmental Technologies Inc. (PET) has signed a Technology Develop-ment and License Agreement with Kinectrics Inc. to develop and test the Plasma Assisted Gasifier (PAG) Technology. The PAG is a unique cogeneration system that destroys sorted municipal solid wastes and industrial and commercial organic wastes while producing electricity. PET and Kinectrics will develop and build a PAG Pilot Plant to demonstrate the commercial applications of the PAG’s waste destruction and energy conversion process.

The PAG incorporates a graphite plasma reactor that operates as a closed system without combustion, and consequently is much cleaner than incineration. The skid-mounted plasma gasifier will generate a syn-gas that is quenched, cleaned and compressed to produce a fuel for a gas turbine or internal combustion engine. The trailer-mounted PAG Pilot Plant will convert solid waste into a clean, high energy fuel that will drive a generator to produce electricity.



U.S., Canada Face Tough Choices
A new report indicates that the United States’ and Canada’s success in improving local environments where its people can live with clean water and air and enjoy green spaces has come at the expense of global natural resources and climate. For example, each Canadian and American consumes nine times more gasoline than any other person in the world. With only about five percent of the world’s population, both countries accounted for 25.8 percent of global emissions of heat-causing carbon dioxide.

The report, North America’s Environment: A 30-year State of the Environment and Policy Retrospective, is published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the World Resources Institute (WRI), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.

“While Canada and the U.S. has had notable success in resolving a lot of environmental problems, progress has slowed largely due to increasing consumption by its growing population,” said Brennan Van Dyke, regional director of UNEP’s Regional Office for North America.

The report cites the two countries’ success in stabilizing desertification and the reduction by as much as 71 percent of toxic chemicals discharged into the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater system. Between 11 and 13 percent of the two countries’ land area are now set aside as parks and other protected areas. Wetland losses have slowed considerably, with over 70 percent of Canada’s wetland resources covered by federal and provincial wetland policies. Sulphur dioxide emissions in the U.S. have declined by 31 percent from 1981 to 2000. Both countries reduced non-essential chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) consumption to nearly zero by 1996, thereby protecting the world’s ozone layer.

However, the report stressed that Canada and the U.S. still face serious challenges before North America is on a sustainable development path. Soil and wetland losses still outpace the gains and although withdrawal rates have declined, the region’s aquifers are still being depleted. The report urges Canada and the U.S. to accept more responsibility for the environmental changes they are causing. Among others, both countries need substantial and concrete changes toward use of automobiles that rely on more fuel-efficient technologies, and toward urban development strategies that curb urban sprawl.



Fuel Cells for Transit Buses
Ballard Power Systems, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, has received an order from Gillig Corp. for three heavy-duty Ballard fuel cell engines and support services. The 205kW fuel cell engines will be integrated into transit buses for delivery in 2004 to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), based in San Jose, CA. The fuel cell buses will operate for a two-year period in revenue service under real-world conditions, in response to California Air Resources Board’s zero-emission transit bus requirements. VTA will evaluate fuel cell technology for the public transit industry, including maintenance and operating performance and costs, fueling safety, employee training and public education and awareness. This is a joint demonstration program with VTA, the San Mateo Transportation District, the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the California Air Resources Board.

In support of the program, the fueling stations at VTA’s Cerone operating division in San Jose will be enhanced with hydrogen refueling capability.



Chemistry Award Goes to NatureWorks
Cargill Dow LLC, Minnetonka, MN, is the 2002 recipient of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge, Alternative Reaction Conditions Award for its development of Nature-Works PLA, a process to make plastic from corn. NatureWorks is a commercial-grade polymer used in fiber and packaging markets. It is reportedly able to compete head-to-head with traditional materials used in these industries.

The award, operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a partnership of various trade, scientific and academia entities, recognizes companies that have found innovative solutions to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances in the production of chemical products.

Fulfilling the award criteria, Nature-Works offers key benefits including its life cycle, which requires up to 50 percent less fossil resources than comparable petroleum-based products. In addition, PLA generates 15 percent to 60 percent less greenhouse gases (GHG) than the material it replaces. NatureWorks PLA technology produces the renewable resource-based resin by “harvesting” carbon from plants, such as corn, which has been removed from the air during photosynthesis. The carbon and other elements in these natural sugars are used to make polylactide through a simple process of fermentation and separation.



Aligning Investments
A new guide aimed at helping individual investors align their investments with their values has just been published by SRI World Group. The 20-page guide, entitled Investing in Socially Responsible Mutual Funds, is part of a free socially responsible investing (SRI) Mutual Funds Kit that can be ordered from www.SocialFunds.com, a service of SRI World Group and a personal finance Internet site devoted to socially responsible investing.

Investing in Socially Responsible Mutual Funds addresses the misconception that social and environmental screening hurts performance. It also gives readers the information they need to start investing in SRI mutual funds and covers fundamentals such as asset allocation, investment style and the different types of SRI mutual funds. Investing in Socially Responsible Mutual Funds also explains how different funds integrate social and environmental criteria into their investment strategies and includes prospectuses and informational materials about funds offered by several socially responsible mutual fund companies.



Center for Sustainable Enterprise Receives Gift
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise (CSE) at Kenan-Flagler Business School has received a $100,000, three-year grant from DuPont.

The Center for Sustainable Enterprise, part of the business school’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, is an acknowledged world leader in teaching, research and outreach designed to equip current and future business leaders with the broad vision and knowledge to effectively champion sustainable development strategies within their organizations. Sustainable enterprises use business as an instrument of social development and environmental improvement, integrating these objectives proactively into core business strategies. For a growing number of companies and non-profit organizations, competitive advantage is rooted in these new sustainable capabilities, such as pollution prevention, urban reinvestment, industrial ecology, stakeholder collaboration, life cycle management and sustainable development.

DuPont is a founding member of CSE’s Base of the Pyramid Co-laboratory. The co-laboratory is a consortium of multinational corporations, government agencies and NGOs experimenting with innovative business models that provide culturally appropriate and ecologically effective goods and services to the four billion individuals at the base of the socioeconomic pyramid.



Bridger Honored
Mac Bridger, CEO of C&A Floor-coverings, Dalton, GA, has been honored by the National Recycling Coalition with its Recycling Works Recognition Award for “actively promoting environmental initiatives and the principles of sustainability both within the company and the business community nationally.” The award went on to say that Bridger, during this tenure, has brought C&A to national leadership among corporations through not only recycling, but also the “triple bottom line” of social, environmental and economic performance. Examples of C&A achievements include: pioneering technology to achieve closed loop recycling of its carpet back into carpet; and, since 1974, sending no manufacturing waste to landfills or incineration since 1974; and developing the industry’s first “take-back” program where customers return their old carpet of similar composition (regardless of the original manufacturer) for recycling to C&A.

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