Sustainability Reads: December 15- December 21

The Year in Climate Action
Here is a collection of US milestones in addressing climate change (CC) that took place this year and why action needs to continue next year:

  • EPA sets limits on biggest source of CC pollution (power plants)
  • More than 400,000 take to the streets (People’s Climate March in NYC)
  • US and China reach groundbreaking agreement to cut pollution
  • ALEC comes under fire for its climate denial (100 big companies withdrew from the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC this year)
  • The push to divest from fossil fuels grows stronger (180 colleges & funds)
  • GOP takes control of congress, vows to block climate solutions. From Peter Lehner’s Blog, NRDC

Charting the plastic waters
A new oceanographic model of floating debris estimates the amount of plastic in the sea at 268,940 tonnes. 75% of total are items measuring more than 200mm (largest size group). Chunks of polystyrene were the most commonly observed large items, but by weight lost fishing gear, such as floats, lines and nets, accounted for most. As for the number of items in the sea, the researchers calculated this to be 5.25 trillion bits of plastic of all sizes. The vast majority, some 4.8 trillion, are microplastics and these were spread across the world. There is also growing evidence that some microbes can biodegrade tiny pieces of plastic which may have toxic effects in the food chain. Since clean up would be very difficult, efforts should focus on keeping plastic out of waterways (incentives for individuals and consumers to recycle). Additionally, no one really knows where the plastic microbeads from facial scrubs end up so natural alternatives are encouraged. The Economist.

The Truth About CSR
Harvard Business School research shows that most companies practice a multifaceted version of corporate social responsibility (CSR), ranging from pure philanthropy to environmental sustainability to the active pursuit of shared value. Moreover, well-managed companies seem less interested in totally integrating CSR with their business strategies and goals than in devising a cogent CSR program aligned with the company’s purpose and values. CSR strategies are  hampered by poor coordination and a lack of logic connecting the various programs. Although surveys often cite an increased involvement of CEOs, HBS has seen that programs are often initiated and run in an uncoordinated way by a variety of internal managers, frequently without the active engagement of the CEO. HBS suggests to maximize positive social and environmental impact, companies must develop coherent CSR strategies. This should be an essential part of the job of every CEO and board. Aligning CSR programs must begin with an inventory and audit of existing initiatives.

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