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. According 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 […]

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2015 Proxy Season Set to Break Record

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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 […]

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Wisconsin Utility Latest to Propose Anti-Solar Policy, Met with Strong Opposition

Wisconsin utility WE Energies recently proposed a hike in electricity rates on consumers, singling out residents who have opted to generate their own electricity through solar panels. The extra charge on residents who sell their excess power back to the grid has incited outrage at local and national levels. The utility claims the charges will cover the operating costs to the grid for customers with solar panels who aren’t paying the traditional rates, but all of the evidence surrounding the proposal suggests that this plan is little more than a reactionary measure from a company whose business model is in serious trouble. The proposal would raise the fixed charge on all residents’ power bills from $9 to $16 per month, and impose an additional fee for those who sell their excess electricity back to the utility through a policy known as “net metering.” A Wisconsin solar installer stated, “The demand charge of $3.80 per kilowatt (kW) per month works out to about $220 per year for a 5 kW system, a deterrent for potential solar customers and an unfair penalty for those who have already chosen to go solar.” A spokesperson for WE Energies said the company is seeking modest increases for the purpose of improving and modernizing their grid and complying with environmental standards. The company believes that it is unfair for those who generate their own electricity to use the grid without paying the same portion of the […]

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Concerned Investors Push Corporations at Record Level in 2014

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This year investors filed a whopping 454 shareholder resolutions on social and environmental issues, up from 402 such resolutions filed last year. The 454 filings exceed the number of social and environmental resolutions ever filed in one year – clear testimony to the growth in shareholder action. As reported by the Sustainable Investments Institute, not only are the numbers of […]

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New Tool for Fossil Fuel Divestment

The Fossil Free Index tracks the stock market’s performance, minus the oil, gas, and coal industries.  Given the link between burning fossil fuels and global climate change, financial professionals are increasingly searching for investment opportunities that exclude oil, gas, and coal companies. Fossil-Free Indexes LLC (FFI), an environmental, social, and governance index and research company released its first broad American market fossil-free index last week. The announcement of the new index is a timely contribution to the growing fossil fuel company divestment movement across the country.  Market indices represent the value of an entire stock market at a single moment, and may be used to track changes over time. The Fossil-Free Index is based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, omitting any fossil fuel companies identified by FFI’s “The Carbon Underground 200,” a proprietary list cataloguing some of the most carbon-intensive investment options. The release of the index, coming in the same week as the Rhodium Group’s “Risky Business” report on the broad economic effects of climate change, strengthens the message that a warming globe is most certainly not good for businesses. As rising temperatures and more intense weather events become commonplace, so do the risks of damage to critical infrastructure and natural resources. By seeking out opportunities for economic growth while minimizing the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions (by decentivizing them altogether), investors can help shift focus away from climate- damaging fossil fuels, and towards efficient, clean, […]

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Light Weight = Heavy Impact

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Guest blog post and graphic by Allison Stewart of our Better Paper Project.  I was at a Sustainability in Packaging conference earlier this spring, and it hit home for me that we need better product and packaging development. If we develop products that have no further opportunity for re-use, then we are intentionally making unsustainable products and packages. If we […]

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Why a Central Banking System Doesn’t Work for Everyone

Green America’s Take Charge Program urges consumers to support smaller, local financial institutions in lieu of megabanks. Here are a few reasons why local banks and credit unions benefit smaller communities across the country.  Since the early 20th Century, The United States has relied heavily on its centralized banking system. Represented by the Federal Reserve and top-tier financial institutions, (such as Citi and Bank of America), a centralized system is one in which a single entity regulates a state’s currency, money supply, and interest rates. The Federal Reserve has many responsibilities, including regulating and supervising private banks, protecting the credit rights of consumers, and issuing the nation’s currency. The role of large, wealthy private banks is important in understanding how the central banking system works. The Fed is not controlled by the government, but rather by a group of governing board members who are often employees of private megabanks. Private banks give the board information related to their particular economic situation, and Federal Reserve policy is based on their suggestions. In turn, Federal Reserve policy largely influences to whom, and by how much banks should lend their money. The centralization of banking benefits wealth concentration and increases risks Research suggests that “high-ability entrepreneurs” tend to gravitate towards a central banking system. Essentially, wealthy individuals and institutions enjoy the connectedness that a centralized system offers. Pooling together the resources of powerful entrepreneurs, however, increases the risk of losing all of that […]

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