Supply chain decarbonization: the way forward

Getting to a global net-zero emission supply chain sounds like an impossible and expensive task, but it may be cheaper than one might think.

This is according to an article published in the recent State of Green Business report by Michael Holder, “The Price is Right.”

Holder, a BusinessGreen reporter, writes that  “setting ambitious net-zero targets for a company’s core business is one thing, but achieving deep decarbonization across the entire supply chain is quite another.”

Many, if not most, supply chains are highly complex and reach across the globe, so measuring and mandating emissions is daunting. “Yet without action to get to net-zero emissions across every corner of the global economy, the planet’s climate will continue to warm.”

He referred to a recent report, “Net-Zero Challenge: The “Supply Chain Challenge,” from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) noting that, as well as being a “game changer” in the fight against climate change, decarbonizing supply chains is possible with readily available technologies and at surprisingly low cost. Some of the majore findings from the report include:

  • Many companies can multiply their climate impact by decarbonizing supply chains
  • Eight supply chains account for more than 50% of global emissions
  • Net-zero supply chains would hardly increase end-consumer costs. (Around 40% of all emissions in these supply chains could be abated with readily available and affordable levers)

Decarbonizing supply chains will be difficult; the report outlines nine major initiatives every company can take:

“Through interviews with several dozen global companies that lead the way in reducing supply chain emissions, we have identified nine key actions: (1) build a comprehensive emissions baseline, gradually filled with actual supplier data; (2) set ambitious and holistic reduction targets, reducing emissions by (3) revisiting product design choices and (4) reconsidering (geographic) sourcing strategy; (5) set ambitious procurement standards and (6) work jointly with suppliers to co-fund abatement levers; (7) work together with peers to align sector targets that maximize impact and level the playing field; (8) use scale by driving up demand to lower the cost of green solutions; and – finally – (9) develop internal governance mechanisms that introduce emissions as a steering mechanism and align the incentives of decision-makers with emission targets.”

There is no time like the present to get started.

Further reading:

Gates Notes

  • Global Energy Perspective 2021

The Global Energy Perspective describes our view on how the energy transition can unfoldthrough four scenarios

The newly announced actions may well mark the beginning of the end of the fossil-fuel era.

newyorker.com

Featured

The Opportunity: Green Business

Business, green business, sustainability, health and economic security have always been connected, but no more so than now after four years of neglect and ignorance by the Trump Administration. Mix in a raging pandemic, a new administration committed to tackling climate change, and it might just be that the path forward is in sight.

“There never has been a moment as opportune as this one to be talking about the intersection of business and sustainability,” writes Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group, in the latest edition of the State of Green Business. The report is now in its 14th year.

“Justice,” he continues, is the new mantra governing a host of issues–social, racial, climate, economic, environmental and others. “During 2020, amid the economic, social, political and public health crises we encountered; corporate sustainability continued to move forward.” Because of Covid-19 and “the other challenges we’ve encountered, the idea of rapid, large-scale global action now seems more than a mere pipe dream,” says Makower.

Factoids from the report:

  • According to the U.S. SIF Foundation’s 2020 biennial “Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends,” sustainable investing assets now total $17.1 trillion, or 33 percent of the $51.4 trillion in total U.S. assets under professional money management — a 42 percent jump from 2018
  • As of October 2020, more than 1,500 organizations had expressed their support for the Taskforce on Climate related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), an increase of over 85 percent since June 2020
  • Given the above, it was not surprising to see an uptick in corporate ambition on sustainability issues. “Net zero” became a key commitment during 2020 — goals that aim to eliminate, at least on paper, a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, water extractions, fossil fuel use or deforestation activities by a given date
  • What will it take for companies to dramatically step up their ambition and actions? That is a defining question of the decade. No doubt the answer lies in a combination of investor pressure, technological innovation, consumption shifts, governmental pressure, new circular business models that reward resource efficiency — and more than a little grit and determination
  • Corporate sustainability efforts are continuing apace, even amid economic uncertainty and a global pandemic that, as of this writing, is far from contained. It wasn’t very many years ago that the future of corporate sustainability was uncertain even during good times

10 Subject-matter trends discussed in the 135-page report:

  1. Ocean-Based Sequestration Heats Up
  2. The ‘S’ in ESG Gains Currency
  3. Community Investments Pay Dividends
  4. Aquaculture Becomes a Net-Positive
  5. Industrial Decarbonization Picks Up Steam
  6. Nature Takes Root on the Balance Sheet
  7. Sustainable Mobility Drives the Newest Perk
  8. Aviation Plots a Sustainable Course
  9. The Circular Economy Shows its Human Side
  10. Corporate Advocacy Gets Louder

The “State of Green Business” is always a valuable resource, now more than ever.

Further reading:

“A New Day for the Climate,” New Yorker, by Elizabeth Kolbert January 31, 2021

It remains to be seen whether Joe Biden’s sweeping climate directives can make a meaningful difference, but a critical threshold has been crossed.

Exxon in the dock for climate change fraud

ExxonMobil now is fighting fraud lawsuits on two fronts — one in New York and the other in Massachusetts — alleging that the oil giant defrauded investors by misleading consumers about the central role fossil fuels have played in causing climate change and misleading investors about the climate-driving risks to its business.

Read about the Massachusetts case here.

The latest lawsuit came last week in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston in a complaint alleging Exxon repeatedly violated the state’s consumer and investor protection law and related regulations. 

The lawsuit accuses Exxon of misconduct that includes using deceptive advertising and intentionally misleading Massachusetts investors. 

The trial in the New York case began on 22 October. The New York attorney general brought the suit alleging the company used figures internally that were different from what they disclosed publicly when calculating the impact of laws, taxes and other economic aspects of climate change over the coming decades.

The fraud cost investors as much $1.6 billion, according to the the attorney general’s office.Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016, during the years in question, and will testify in the trial, according to a company attorney.

When Tillerson became ExxonMobil CEO in 2006, he identified that climate change regulation would have a major impact on the company’s business and created the process of assessing a dollar amount for it..

“I had taken the view and we had taken the view as a corporation that the risk of climate change was serious and that … appropriate action was to be needed,” Tillerson said, according to the transcript of his deposition.

The New York suit argues that Exxon used two different ways to calculate carbon costs and wasn’t clear when it was using one or the other.

“We think it highlights the deception that Exxon has put forth over the last 50-plus years. You know, my entire life Exxon has been sowing doubt and disinformation about the climate crisis,” Lindsay Meiman, a spokeswoman with the group 350.org, told CNN.

“We’re escalating the demand that is rising around the world for fossil fuel companies to pay for their destruction and what they knew and lied about climate change,” she said.

“Exxon provided false and misleading assurances that it is effectively managing the economic risks posed to its business by the increasingly stringent policies and regulations that it expects governments to adopt to address climate change,” the state wrote in a complaint last year.

The case In New York goes back to 2015, when stories by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times found that while Exxon’s scientists were internally researching climate change to plan its operations; they knew they global climate was being severly affect while the company was casting doubt on global warming.

The lawsuit claims ExxonMobil’s actions had the effect of making its assets appear more secure than they really were, which in turn affected its share price and defrauded investors.

Exxon contends the lawsuit is politically motivated and driven by anti-fossil fuel activists. The company says it was honest with shareholders about how it calculated carbon costs. Exxon Mobil and other oil companies face a growing number of lawsuits that seek financial help in coping with climate-driven floods, drought and heat.

Big Oil has a lot to answer for its role in causing change; perhaps these lawsuits will speed that reckoning.

Image: Target Exxon by Joe Brusky via Flickr CC

James Balog and geologic-scale change

We are in the midst of geologic-scale change, and we humans are causing it.

James Balog says this during Chasing Ice, a masterpiece of filmmaking and science. It’s perhaps the one film that that those who have any doubts about climate change—and even those who don’t—should watch, and maybe watch again with a group of friends.

Balog, an American photographer who explores the relationship between humans and nature, set out to record visual evidence of what we know is happening to our planet’s glaciers due to climate change.

In 2007 Balog founded the Extreme Ice Survey, a long-term photography program that integrates art and science to give a “visual voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems. 

Chasing Ice captures largest glacier calving ever filmed:

Balog, at TED Global 2009, talked about the images from the Extreme Ice Survey and the network of time-lapse cameras recording glaciers receding at an alarming rate – some of the most vivid evidence yet of climate change.

Chasing Ice is available on Netflix. The film is a stunning, astounding, inspiring, artistic and heartbreaking work. If ever there was anything that is must-see, it is this.

Thanks for Bill McKibben: A voice shouting in the wilderness of a shrinking planet

air air pollution climate change dawn
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“We are on a path to self-destruction, and yet there is nothing inevitable about our fate. Solar panels and wind turbines are now among the least expensive ways to produce energy. Storage batteries are cheaper and more efficient than ever. We could move quickly if we chose to, but we’d need to opt for solidarity and coördination on a global scale. The chances of that look slim. In Russia, the second-largest petrostate after the U.S., Vladimir Putin believes that “climate change could be tied to some global cycles on Earth or even of planetary significance.” Saudi Arabia, the third-largest petrostate, tried to water down the recent I.P.C.C. report. Jair Bolsonaro, the newly elected President of Brazil, has vowed to institute policies that would dramatically accelerate the deforestation of the Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest. Meanwhile, Exxon recently announced a plan to spend a million dollars—about a hundredth of what the company spends each month in search of new oil and gas—to back the fight for a carbon tax of forty dollars a ton. At a press conference, some of the I.P.C.C.’s authors laughed out loud at the idea that such a tax would, this late in the game, have sufficient impact.”

The above is a short excerpt from Bill McKibben’s, remarkable article in the New Yorker, “How Extreme Weather is Shrinking the Planet.” He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College. His new book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? will be out in the spring. His article is necessary reading.

This year as we gather to give thanks, it rings a bit hollow for me because I wonder what people will be thankful for 20 or 30 years from now as we fail to take proper care of the planet and take action to deal with climate change. (Maybe thanks, Exxon! as wildfires rage, temperatures rise, species disappear and sea levels make large swaths of coastlines uninhabitable and islands disappear.)

It may be too late for us but it’s not too late to try.