21 October 2010

Water risks, green fund performance, CSO salaries, bioplastic packaging and more sustainability news for business

Top Stories

"Water Scarcity a Bond Risk, Study Warns"reliability high.
A new report from Ceres, Water Asset Management and PricewaterhouseCoopers says that some municipal bonds carry significant unpriced water-related risk. The Times quotes the report announcement: "Municipal bonds are bought and sold on the basis of their credit ratings. Yet today these ratings take little account of utilities’ vulnerability to increased water competition, nor do they account for climate change, which is rendering utility assets obsolete." The story says: "Just as mortgage ratings reflected historical patterns but didn’t capture recent market changes, water bond ratings tend to reflect a past when water was plentiful, and not a future when supplies of fresh water may be less abundant, the study noted." More highlights and comments. See The New York Times. [Study isn't available yet on Ceres site, but should be soon.]

"U.N. urged to freeze climate geo-engineering projects"reliability high.
"The United Nations should impose a moratorium on "geo-engineering" projects such as artificial volcanoes and vast cloud-seeding schemes to fight climate change, green groups say, fearing they could harm nature and mankind." Pat Mooney, from Canada-headquartered advocacy organization ETC Group, told Reuters: "It's absolutely inappropriate for a handful of governments in industrialized countries to make a decision to try geo-engineering without the approval of all the world's support. They shouldn't proceed with real-life, in-the-environment experimentation or the deployment of any geo-engineering until there is a consensus in the United Nations that this is okay." From Reuters. [But what about geoengineering projects already under way?]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

"Odwalla, Replenish Offer Eco-Friendly Packaging"reliability high.
"Odwalla plans to transition all of the brand’s single-serve natural health beverage bottles to PlantBottle packaging in March 2011. The high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is made of up to 100-percent plant-based materials and is 100 percent recyclable." The original PET PlantBottle was only 30% renewable material, though Coca-Cola said it planned to transition to 100%. In related news, "Replenish has unveiled its flagship eco-friendly household cleaning product in a reusable bottle with a replaceable concentrate pod. The reusable bottle is also made of 100-percent recyclable materials." From Environmental Leader. [If all it takes for a container to be "eco-friendly" is that it be made of recyclable materials, mighty few containers are excluded. Headline writer probably goes beyond what Replenish would claim.]

"Facebook, eBay share energy tips for data centers"reliability high.
Facebook got a $294,000 rebate from its energy supplier to upgrade air flow management at it s Santa Clara, California, data center and saved $230,000 a year. More details of the technical changes it made. Also describes what eBay did at a server facility in Phoenix, Arizona, that reduced power consumption by 16%. More details. See Computerworld.

"Autodesk, Granta Design Deliver New SW For Sustainable Product Design"reliability high.
Autodesk and Granta Design are working together to develop"Web-based software that will allow businesses to assess the environmental impact of their materials choices during the product design stage." Granta brings materials information and eco-design technology. According to the article, 80% of a product's environmental footprint is determined during the design phase. See Environmental Leader.

"Can sustainable investing beat the markets?"reliability medium.
Marc Gunther interviews Cary Krosinsky of Trucost. Cary says funds investing in companies taking advantage of sustainability innovation, and firms actively managing sustainability risks, do outperform the market. "We found that for the 1, 3 and 5 years leading up to the end of 2007, when looking at SRI funds with this positive, opportunity-focused sustainable investing methodology, that they consistently outperformed their mainstream index equivalents.  When updating this study for a UN Principles of Responsible Investment academic paper in 2009, this still held true, both before, through and after the recent financial crisis of 2008 into 2009." More comments and examples. From Marc Gunther blog.

"GreenBiz Salary Survey Takes a First-Ever Look Inside the World of CSOs"reliability high.
The GreenBiz Salary Survey based on interviews with 500 sustainability professionals says that "Vice presidents of sustainability earn an average of $192,064, whereas directors of sustainability earn an average of $160,320 and sustainability managers earn an average of $103,197." Other highlights. See GreenBiz.

Government and Regulation

"India set to be first country to publish 'natural wealth' accounts"reliability high.
India says it will be the first country to develop "a new set of accounts which track the nation's plants, animals, water and other 'natural wealth'". Work on agreeing common measures, such as the value of ecosystems and their "services" for humans – from relaxation to clean air and fertile soils – will be co-ordinated by the World Bank, which hopes it can sign up 10-12 nations and publish the results by 2015 at the latest. See The Guardian.

"Incentives, tax to drive Japan low-carbon push"reliability high.
The Japanese government wants to pass a climate bill in the current Diet session to make the country's pledge "to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 if all major emitters adopt similar targets" into law. The package includes both incentives and taxes. Its fate in the upper house, where the DPJ government lacks a majority, is uncertain. Reuters story.