Sustainability Reads: March 2- March 8

The Anti-Pollution Documentary That’s Taken China By Storm
A newly released documentary on China’s pollution problem has caught the attention of over 200 million people in the country. “Under the Dome” was produced by former Chinese news anchor and environmental reporter, Chai Jing, and has China’s mainstream public talking about pollution. Chai, whose daughter was diagnosed with a tumor in the womb, decided to produce the documentary after feeling the impact of Beijing’s pollution on her daughter. The documentary contains scenes showing the damage China’s polluted air can do to a person’s lungs, as well as talks with local government officials. Ma Jun, the director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, calls Chai’s documentary a wake-up call for China, comparable to An Inconvenient Truth, the 2006 documentary about climate change. By Anthony Kuhn at NPR.

In response to the video, air pollution has taken center stage at China’s annual National People’s Congress, which opened session this Thursday. At the session, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said “environment pollution is a blight on people’s quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts”.  In a Deutsche Welle interview, China expert Isabel Hilton says that it will require a fundamental change in China’s energy structure in order to drastically cut coal use and tackle the issue of air pollution effectively, but even then “it is likely to be at least a decade before China’s city dwellers notice real improvements.” The interview dives more into China’s pollution problem and its effect on health as well as business.

Industry lobbyists weakened Europe’s air pollution rules, say Greenpeace
A focus on air pollution was also seen in Europe this week as a Greenpeace investigation revealed that 183/ 352 members of the technical working group to create new European air pollution limits are either employed by the regulated companies or by lobby groups that represent those companies. And that equals weaker limits- the proposed standards for coal plant emissions are less strict than in China. The investigation specifically called out the UK for letting such companies formulate the country’s position. 5/9 individuals that made up UK’s delegation to negotiations in Brussels work for companies that are responsible for large-scale emissions. Arthur Nelsen and Rob Evans at The Guardian.

By mainstreaming efforts to empower women, companies can promote a variety of business goals
Just in time for International Women’s Day (today, March 8th), this article explores how companies promote gender equality as part of their sustainability strategies (Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Unilever) and the value of doing so. Referenced is a great study by McKinsey which showed “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” Gender equality just makes sense and support for the business case continues to grow. However, more companies need to focus on it and in a cohesive way; for example, “in a single company, the human resources department may take responsibility for employee diversity issues, the corporate social responsibility team may promote gender equity as a human rights issue, the board of directors may focus on C-suite and board diversity, and the supply-chain managers may work to ensure gender diversity among suppliers. Rarely do those groups work together in an integrated way on gender initiatives.” And these are the companies that are even addressing gender equality. We have come a long way, but have a long way to go as well. By Marissa Wesely at Stanford Social Innovation Review.

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