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April 29, 2015 / Green America

New report exposes how the cleaning industry fails to protect your health

Guest article from Women’s Voices for the Earth

When cleaning product manufacturers assure you that product safety is their highest priority, do you ever wonder if their definition of “safe” might differ from yours?

Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) has released a new report, entitled “Deep Clean: What the cleaning industry should be doing to protect your health,” which exposes how cleaning product companies keep secret how they screen out dangerous chemicals from the products we use in our homes.

When cleaning product manufacturers assure you that product safety is their highest priority – do you ever wonder if their definition of “safe” might differ from yours?

The report rates four leading cleaning product manufacturers:

  • The Clorox Company—makers of Clorox, Pine-Sol, S.O.S., Tilex, Liquid-Plumber, Green Works)
  • Procter & Gamble—makers of Tide, Cascade, Dawn, Mr. Clean, Dreft Laundry, Febreze, Gain, Cheer
  • RB (formerly Reckitt Benckiser) —makers of Woolite, Lysol, Finish, AirWick, Old English
  • SC Johnson & Son, Inc. —makers of Pledge, Shout, Windex, Glade, Scrubbing Bubbles

According to the report, none of the four companies are fully transparent about the criteria included in their ingredient safety standards, making it impossible to compare the quality of any one company’s screening process to another. The report reveals that SC Johnson is one of the only major companies still using hormone disrupting synthetic musks, calling into question the integrity of their screening process. SC Johnson’s GreenlistTM process, which they hold up as evidence of its product safety, still allows synthetic musks! This begs the question: How exactly do hormone-disrupting chemicals like those even pass muster?

“Consumers are not content to take marketing rhetoric at face value. They want to know how a synthetic musk that’s linked to hormone disruption can pass SC Johnson’s GreenlistTM,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “We need clear insight into how a company determines whether or not a chemical is safe to use in their products.”

Little regulation exists in the U.S. to limit or control the use toxic chemicals in consumer products. Until federal and state regulations set safety and transparency standards, it’s up to companies to set their own safety standards for products. Since WVE launched its Safe Cleaning Products Initiative, they have taken aim at product safety, ingredient disclosure and eliminating toxic chemicals from cleaning products. As detailed in the Deep Clean report, manufacturers are responding to consumer demands and have made considerable strides towards removing certain toxic chemicals from their products and in publicly disclosing product ingredients for the first time on their websites.

“It’s a start,” said Switalski. “But transparency is still a huge issue. Assuring customers that products are ‘safe to use’ will ring hollow if companies don’t also explain what they mean by ‘safe’.”

In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in consumer demand for green cleaning products. Studies show that consumers, especially women, are spending their money on brands that reflect their concerns for safe products. Amid the increased demand for safe products, consumers are also suspicious of safety claims by major companies. Cleaning product companies must make their internal chemical screening processes much stronger and more transparent.

Deep Clean provides the clear framework of what we expect – of what consumers expect – an effective screening process to look like,” said Alexandra Scranton, WVE’s Director of Science and Research. “Critical to this framework is the simple task of publishing a company’s safety criteria in a transparent way.”

Download the “Deep Clean” report.

Then take action to tell SC Johnson it needs to improve its toxic chemical screening process if it wants to regain your trust.

April 25, 2015 / Elizabeth

World Fair Trade Day is May 9. Celebrate by Taking Action!

farmersThe fair trade movement in the US is growing, and that’s good news! But even as demand for fair trade products increases,  there are still millions of individuals working in agriculture around the world living in extreme poverty.

World Fair Trade Day aims to bring more awareness to the fair trade cause. This year, more than awareness, we’re trying to increase sales of fair trade products so that more money can get back to the farmers working in fair trade. We hope that as demand grows, so will supply, and that means that more farmers will join the fair trade system and more money will be transferred out of the conventional economy into one that is fair and sustainable.

Green America and Fair Trade Campaigns want to bring sustainable livelihoods to all this World Fair Trade Day. Here are three crucial actions to deepen your involvement in the Fair Trade Movement:

dear manager 1.) Request fair trade produce at your local supermarket.  

You already know that purchasing fair trade products empowers workers around the world to lift themselves out of poverty and grow their communities. But how many of us stop to think about the countless farmers and artisans behind the non-fair trade products that line supermarket shelves? These individuals often face substandard living conditions, low wages, even starvation.

In order to help these farmers and artisans we have to continue to increase the demand for fair trade products.  Click here to print a Product Request Card. Then, submit it to your supermarket chain.

Rogelia Serna Cruz and husband Luis Angel Juarez Morales of Tapachula, Chiapa smile as they harvest Fair Trade cucumbers.

Rogelia Serna Cruz and husband Luis Angel Juarez Morales of Tapachula, Chiapa smile as they harvest Fair Trade cucumbers.

2.) Educate yourself about the reality of many fruit and vegetable farmworkers. 

Last December the L.A. Times investigation “Product of Mexico exposed the poverty, hunger and unsafe working conditions that non-Fair Trade farmers confront on a daily basis.  The prospect of being fired forces many farmers and workers to endure these abuses silently.

Getting even one new fair trade product into your local supermarket has a tremendous impact in the lives of hundreds of farmers and artisans throughout the world. It can mean having a satisfying dinner instead of going to bed hungry, getting life-saving medical care instead of slowly succumbing to treatable illnesses, and creating an education system for one’s children that will prevent them from falling into poverty.

3.) Start or join a Fair Trade Campaign.  Click here to see our Fair Trade Campaign Map.

Will you help your community increase fair trade product availability this World Fair Trade Day? Show your concern for others by demanding food that feeds the people who grow and pick it. Make your voice count!

April 21, 2015 / Green America

HOW JACQUELINE GREENED HER INVESTMENTS

Read how a fellow Green American greened her investments, and then tell us your story too! Write in the comments below (please include your email so we can contact you to share your story) or email us at webster@greenamerica.org.

jacqueline-500wJacqueline Jenkins has been working on greening her finances for the past three years. She got started on this process by cutting her ties with Bank of America after it foreclosed on her daughter-in-law.

Although her daughter-in-law was working full-time, she ran into trouble making payments after interest rates went up. Jenkins says, “She tried to get them to reduce her payments, but they kept losing her paperwork. She would think they had gone down the right road, and then she would get another notice that the foreclosure was going through.”

After round after round of “misplaced” paperwork on the bank’s part, she declared bankruptcy, and Bank of America foreclosed. She had to find a new home for herself and her eight-year-old daughter.

“It was very hard on [my granddaughter], because she was very young when that was all going on. She didn’t understand no matter how much we tried to explain it to her,” says Jenkins. “That was her home. She didn’t understand why they had to leave their home.”

So after moving to the town of Floresville, TX, three years ago, Jenkins began the process of getting Bank of America out of her life. She says she used resources from Green America’s Break Up With Your Mega-Bank Campaign to make sure the process went smoothly. After opening up a bank account at Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union, she ended her relationship with Bank of America.

“I’m really happy I made that move,” she says. “It wasn’t that difficult.”

Her second step was helping her now 11-year-old granddaughter learn green banking habits. Jenkins helped her open an account at the credit union. “I told her why, and she’s older now, so she can grasp it better,” Jenkins says.

Jenkins’ success in breaking up with Bank of America got her thinking about other ways she could green her finances. She inherited oil stock and, after selling most of it off, had a little left that she wanted to re-invest in something more responsible. We referred her to our Guide to Fossil Fuel Divestment, where she could find a range of resources including financial planners and investment consultants that are specifically interested in helping people get dirty energy out of their portfolios and move their money into socially responsible investments.

Seeing how Bank of America’s predatory behavior played out in the lives of her friends and family has changed how Jenkins sees money. “It’s a true social lesson for all of us,” she says. “We can’t act like the banks work.”

Want us to share your story too? Write in the comments below (please include your email so we can contact you to share your story) or email us at webster@greenamerica.org.

April 8, 2015 / Elizabeth

Hershey’s Kisses Will Get A Makeover By 2016

2016 hershey barsHershey announced yesterday it will source enough certified and sustainable cocoa in 2016 to surpass the amount of cocoa required for the global production of four of its most popular chocolate brands including:

  • Hershey’s Bars
  • Kisses
  • Kit Kat(United States only)
  • Brookside

This announcement comes a little more than a month after Hershey announced it would transition to “simpler ingredients” in its products, including switching the sugar used in two of its flagship products (Hershey’s Bars and Kisses) from genetically modified sugar beets to sugar cane, which is non-GMO.

That means that by 2016, some of Hershey’s most iconic products, perhaps even Hershey Bars and Kisses, will not only be non-GMO, but also ethically certified as being made without child labor.

This is a huge win for consumers. For years, conscious “deep green” consumers have been pushing Hershey and other major food companies to make their products more responsibly, with a particular focus on farmers and the environment. In fact, Green America and our allies led the “Raise the Bar Hershey!” campaign and organized tens of thousands of consumers to come together and pressure Hershey to address the worst forms of child labor in its supply chain.

In October 2012, Hershey announced it would ethically certify all of its cocoa by 2020, following in the steps of other chocolate companies like Mars and Ferrero. Hershey also committed to reaching 50% by 2016, and announced in January 2015 that the company is ahead of schedule to meet this goal. Hershey’s recent announcement is another sign that Hershey is following through on its commitment to source 100% ethical chocolate by 2020.

On the non-GMO side of things, Hershey is now the leader amongst big candy companies. While Nestlé announced recently it would remove artificial flavors and dyes, it has not committed go non-GMO for any of its products or ingredients. Additionally Mars has yet to announce any non-GMO candy options.

Hershey and its competitors would be wise to continue the trend toward simpler ingredients across their offerings. According to Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, consumer food preferences are shifting quickly towards healthier options; and more than ever before, consumers are actively searching for organic and fair trade options that align with their values.

Check out our Chocolate Scorecard to find fair trade and organic chocolate options for your chocolate fix>>

April 7, 2015 / Sam Catherman

Environmental Costs Outweigh Corporate Profits

The 2015 State of Green Business report was just released, detailing the environmental performance of large companies around the world. The report, produced by GreenBiz and TruCost, illustrates the true costs of pollution, ecosystem depletion, and health impacts of unsustainable natural capital consumption by corporations and the alarming rate at which they are growing.

2010dirtyenergyAccording to the report, environmental costs, like greenhouse gas emissions and water abstraction (removing freshwater from the natural water cycle, and thus preventing its future use), would render most businesses unprofitable if they were responsible for paying for the impacts. The report found that environmental costs tallied up to $1 trillion (or 6.2% of GDP) for companies in the US, and $3 trillion worldwide.

The authors state, “Over the past five years, the proportion of company profit at risk consistently exceeds 100 percent of their profit… This means that, on average, companies would be unprofitable if they had to pay the actual costs associated with the commodities they consume and pollution they generate.”

It’s not all bad news, however. The report finds that the level of sustainable investment has been growing considerably in recent years. According the 2014 Trends Report published last November by US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, cited in GreenBiz’s report, sustainable assets totaling $6.57 trillion represented almost 18% of the $36.8 trillion in total assets under management, a 76% increase over 2012.

Social investors, joined by non-profits and growing consumer concern, are changing the ways that companies value natural resources. As a result, more companies are adopting the concept of ‘natural capital,’ which refers to “the stock of resources and ecosystem services on which all companies depend for their success.” Fresh water for industrial processes, and energy produced from fossil fuels (and its connected value to the clean air it pollutes) are the two largest forms of natural capital discussed in the report. Most companies are using these forms of capital at unsustainable levels. Due to rising shareholder and consumer concerns, companies are increasingly examining their businesses along their entire supply chain, where most natural capital expenditure occurs.

Additionally, science-based emissions reduction goals are becoming much more commonplace. Now, to really address the problems of overusing natural capital, corporations need to take a leadership role in reducing their imapcts. It is up to businesses to address their overall sustainability by assuming liability for their stranded assets (including certain fossil fuel reserves), adopting open and distributed sustainability systems, providing transparency along supply chains, and most importantly, supporting policies that advocate for sustainable business practices across the board.

March 27, 2015 / franteplitz

2015 Proxy Season Set to Break Record

shareholderimage2015[1]According to the latest Proxy Preview  — the authoritative, annually-updated compendium of shareholder resolutions – the 2015 shareholder resolution season is set to break yet another record in terms of the number of resolutions filed on social and environmental issues. This means that corporate management, and shareholders, will face resolutions on some of the most pressing issues facing our society and global community. This form of corporate engagement plays an important role, alongside strategies such as consumer pressure, in urging companies to improve their practices and policies. Shareholder resolutions play a key role in pushing companies to be accountable for the diverse range of impacts that their operations create or exacerbate.

When the Proxy Preview went to press this month, 433 social and environmental resolutions had been filed; 417 were filed at this time in 2014. The highest number of resolutions were filed on environmental issues including climate change; corporate political activity; human and labor rights; and on a range of sustainability issues.

Green America’s 2015 shareholder resolution focus lists highlight dozens of resolutions that Green America addresses throughout the year: carbon pollution; renewable energy; human rights; GMOs; deforestation; sustainability; recycling; and more.

So if you own direct company stock (not mutual funds) – be sure to open your proxy materials and VOTE! Investors are part-owners in the companies in which they invest, and as such, have a responsibility to weigh-in on issues to improve the company. Not sure what to do with your proxy when it arrives in the mail? See Green America’s infographic on What is a Proxy Ballot and What Do I Do With It?

So if you own stock directly in companies like Abbott Laboratories, Bank of America, Chevron, Delta Airlines, ExxonMobil, Google, Hess, Lowe’s, PepsiCo, Walmart, or Western Union – check out Green America’s 2015 Shareholder Resolution Lists for votes to support!

March 21, 2015 / Todd Larsen

Obama: Taking on Fracking?

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The Obama Administration has taken its first federal action to regulate fracking.  Unfortunately, the new rule won’t do much to address the growing problems that fracking causes.

The Bureau of Land Management issued the rules on Friday, March 20th.  The new rules only apply to fracking on federal lands, and would institute the following:

  • New well-construction requirements to ensure the protection of groundwater supplies;
  • Increased transparency by requiring companies to promptly and publicly disclose chemicals used fracking operations to the BLM through the website FracFocus;
  • Higher standards for wastewater storage.

While each of the above provisions represents an improvement over the current status of little of no regulation at all, the reality is that fracking should not be taking place on public lands period.

The growing evidence demonstrates that fracking harms air and water quality, damages local infrastructure, and is even causing an increase in earthquakes.

In addition, fracked gas is increasingly sent overseas, so the American public is not even using the resources taken from public and private lands in the U.S.  Corporations are profiting, but the American people bear the environmental and social costs of these exports without getting much benefit in return.

The Obama Administration’s embrace of fracking (with some regulation), alongside its support for increased oil drilling off the East Coast is all part of a failed “all of the above” energy strategy that is designed to appeal to conservatives, but in reality, just opens the door to increased pollution and climate emissions, while impeding the progress of clean energy in the U.S.

As a country, we can’t seriously embrace ambitious goals to address climate change (which the President says he supports), while also supporting increased fossil fuel production.  The problem with the new rules on fracking are that they try to put a band aid on the harms of fossil fuel production, when it is increasingly clear that the only sustainable course of action is to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Make sure to let the Administration know that you want a true clean energy future. Please join Green America in calling on the President to take real action on climate change by creating a real plan to address carbon emissions, the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, and clean energy initiatives!

March 10, 2015 / Elizabeth

For just $12.38 per iPhone, Apple could pay its workers a livable wage. 

Today Apple’s shareowners will vote to approve the compensation packages of its top executives at its Annual Shareowner meeting in Cupertino, CA. The company broke records last quarter selling 74.5 million iPhones and earning $18 billion in profits.

Executives will be rewarded lavishly:
Tim Cook, CEO: $1.7 million salary, $9.2 million total compensation
Other senior VPs: $947,596 salary, $28 million average total compensation

What won’t be discussed at the meeting is the ongoing struggle of the workers who make Apple’s highly profitable products. While executives earn millions, workers make a little over $3/hour. In order to earn enough to cover living expenses workers rely on overtime, sometimes working as many as 64 hours per week at one Apple supplier, according to China Labor Watch.[1]

We’ve estimated that Apple could pay its 1.5 million workers a decent wage for only $12.38 more per device. That’s just 7% of its profits last quarter.[2]

Our latest infographic breaks this down.

Would you pay $12.38 more per iPhone to ensure workers are earning decent wages?

Apple could, and Apple should.

Apple Wages Infographic

Download infographic as PDF (for printing).

 

 


[1] Analyzing Labor Conditions of Pegatron and Foxconn: Apple’s Low-Cost Reality, China Labor Watch

[2] Explanation of calculations:

This calculation is conservative and rough, as there are many variables in production. It is meant to show how much workers in the supply chain are squeezed.
China Labor Watch estimates Apple’s quarterly labor costs at $3.4 billion per quarter (20RMB/hour for 1.5 million workers for a 55-hour work week). Average overtime hours per week at one major Apple supplier during Q1 2015 was 24 hours. Including overtime pay, Apple’s quarterly labor costs increase to $4 billion. CLW estimates it would cost Apple $5.3 billion per quarter to bring worker base wages up to a level that would cover basic living costs for an urban resident in China at 55 hours per week. This is  $1.3 billion more. Apple sold 105 million devices in Q1 2015. This is just $12.38 per device. This is also 7% of last quarter’s profits. 

 

March 3, 2015 / Green America

Rally at the White House: Four million Americans demand saving bees from toxic pesticides

bee-on-flower-guardian-250wThe fight to save bees is at a critical moment, and we need you to join us on Wednesday, March 4th at 11:00am in front of the White House to demand Obama take action to save bees from toxic pesticides before it’s too late.

We are delivering 4 million petition signatures to President Obama from people across the country to protect bees from bee-killing pesticides. We’ll also have a rendition of “Ballet for the Bees”, speakers and signs. Come as you are or donned in your favorite bee costume.

What: A rally to demand President Obama save bees from toxic pesticides

When: Wednesday, March 4th at 11:00am

Where: Outside the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, in front of Lafayette Square

Who: Moms, babies, beekeepers, farmers, business leaders and bee lovers from Friends of the Earth, Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, Green America/GMO Inside/Green America Business Network, American Sustainable Business Council, Pesticide Action Network, Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Environment America, Green America, Earth Justice and Food and Water Watch.

Speakers include: Roger Williams, President of Central Maryland Beekeepers Association; Fran Teplitz, Executive Co-Director, Green America Business Network; Bryan McGannon, Policy Director of American Sustainable Business Council; and Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides.

Can you make the rally? RSVP here.

The administration is being lobbied hard by Bayer, Syngenta and other big chemical companies to not take action on pesticides, but we have the opportunity to stand together, fight back and show the administration there is a strong and powerful movement in this country that wants him to save the bees and our food system.

Thanks for all of your work to save the bees. Your presence on the 4th could help us win this.

February 12, 2015 / Todd Larsen

Green America Raises Concerns Around Natural Gas Export Facility

Today, Green America filed the following comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in regards to a proposed natural gas export facility in Oregon, Jordan Cove.  Like the many other gas export facilities proposed around the US, Jordan Cove will contribute to increased climate change and fracking, and will endanger the local community.

Natural gas is not a bridge fuel (its growth impedes the growth of true clean energy), and when we frack for natural gas and then export it abroad, we are damaging our communities and risking our future for energy that Americans are not even using.

February 12, 2015

Chairman Cheryl A. LaFleur, Commissioner Philip D. Moeller,

Commissioner Tony Clark, Commissioner Norman C. Bay,

Commissioner Colette D. Honorable

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

888 First Street, NE

Washington, DC 20426

Re: Jordan Cove Liquefaction and Pacific Connector Pipeline Projects (Docket Nos. CP13-483-000 and CP13-492-000)

Dear Commissioners:

Green America is a national non-profit organization with 180,000 individual members and 3,500 business members nationwide, and several thousand individual members and over 100 businesses in Oregon.  Our green business network is the largest network of certified green business in the United States.  Green America is also a member of the American Sustainable Business Council, which represents over 150,000 businesses nationwide.

On behalf of our members, we are expressing concerns about the possible environmental impacts of the proposed Jordon Cove Liquefaction and Pacific Connector Pipeline Projects. We are also concerned that FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) underestimates the impacts and risks associated with this project.

In particular, we have concerns about the following:

Climate Change Impacts. The Draft EIS fails to take account of the climate change impacts of Jordan Cove and the Pacific Connector Pipeline Project. Jordan Cove would likely become the largest greenhouse gas emitting project in Oregon within the next decade. The project would release an estimated 2.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and equivalents. Oregon has set aggressive goals for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and Jordan Cove would work to undermine them.

The power plants used to liquefy natural gas would operate with a capacity of 420 megawatts, which is enough energy to power 400,000 homes. In addition, the venting of natural gas will also significantly increase emissions, and there will be methane leaks from the pipeline and at the plant. Methane has heat trapping properties 87 times as great as carbon dioxide.

Green America requests that FERC more fully research the greenhouse gas emissions of the projects and their impacts on Oregon and its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Increased Fracking. Jordan Cove and other LNG shipping facilities are accelerating US exploration of natural gas, much of it through fracking. Research is increasingly highlighting the negative environmental impacts of fracking on local communities. Fracking is tied to water and air pollution, significantly increased seismic activity, and degraded infrastructure. Jordan Cove would work to increase these impacts in order to ship natural gas overseas. Thus, the natural gas in question would not even benefit US communities, and shipping natural gas overseas could also contribute to an increase in the price of natural gas for US consumers.

Green America requests that FERC better account for the impact of the Jordan Cove project on communities impacted by fracking.

The danger to the community surrounding Jordan Cove. In FERC’s draft EIS, the agency states that it believes “the facility design proposed by Jordan Cove includes acceptable layers of protection or safeguards which would reduce the risk of a potentially hazardous scenario from developing into an even that could impact the off-site public.” However, two well-recognized scientific experts, Jerry Havens, of the University of Arkansas, and James Venart, emeritus professor at the University of New Brunswick, have called FERC’s assessment into question. The two scientists point out that the use of propane and ethylene, two highly flammable gases, create a risk for explosion and that the 40 foot impermeable barriers around the proposed plant could actually retain vapor leaks contributing to an increased hazard in the event of an explosion.

The risks are not theoretical. Explosions in the last decade in Algeria and more recently in Washington State have left environmentalists, emergency responders, and citizens living near proposed LNG facilities in the U.S. understandably concerned.

LNG can vaporize and form highly explosive clouds in pipelines and other parts of the facility if its container leaks. In a phenomenon called rapid phase transition, the heat transfer from spilling enough water at room temperature on the subzero LNG can cause a tremendous “cold explosion.”

FERC should more thoroughly evaluate the risk of explosion at Jordan Cove and the potentially catastrophic impact on local communities.

Based on the known climate change impacts and increased fracking impacts, combined with the potential for catastrophic explosions, Green America believes that a complete and rigorous assessment of the costs versus benefits of Jordan Cove would result in a recommendation that the project be terminated.

We would be happy to discuss any of the above concerns with FERC Commissioners and we thank you in advance for your attention to these comments.

Sincerely,

Todd Larsen

Corporate Responsibility Division Director

Green America

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