(3BL Media/Just Means) - Pro bono is becoming an increasingly common strategy for companies to engage with their communities and add social value to their activities as expectations for socially responsible business continue to increase around the world. Companies are getting more creative, too, with a diverse portfolio of support beyond traditional cash contributions and volunteering.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) - On December 17th New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shook the world with the announcement with the Empire State was banning the practice of hydraulic fracturing or fracking, as it’s come to be known. The governor claims to have relied on the judgment of Health Commissioner Dr. Harold A. Zucker and Joseph Martens, the state environmental conservation commissioner, in making the call. “I am not a scientist,” said the governor. “ I’m not an environmental expert. I’m not a health expert. I’m a lawyer. So let’s bring the emotion down, and let’s ask the qualified experts what their opinion is.”
Zucker said his decision boiled down to the question of whether he’d want his family living in a town where fracking was taking place. The answer was no.
Fracking has been credited for the huge boom in US oil and gas production, which has put it on a path to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer. But it has also been controversial, almost from the outset, with numerous complaints about health issues, fear of contaminated water supplies, large amounts of water consumption and earthquakes. Economic impacts could potentially cover a wide swath of our economy starting with agriculture and tourism and extending outward from there. Yet drillers are protected by Federal law from disclosing, under the Safe Water Drinking Act, the contents of the “fracking fluids” they are injecting into the ground. This loophole was put in place by former Vice-President Dick Cheney, whose company Halliburton has been a major player in the fracking industry. This level of secrecy has done much to increase public suspicion of the process.
The domestic energy boom has helped to bring energy prices down which has helped to make American industry more globally competitive. It has also helped to accelerate the move away from coal on the part of many utility companies. Add to that the fact that it has reduced our dependence on imported oil, and you can see why so many were willing to overlook the potential health and environmental risks that have been associated with the practice.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Chemical manufacturers around the world aspire to sell their products in largest possible quantities. However, the challenge with this traditional business model is that it tends to encourage overuse of chemicals and places human health and the environment under extra strain. To counter this situation, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has been advocating an alternative business model called “chemical leasing.”
(3BL Media/Justmeans) - The UN Climate Conference of Parties, which took place over the last two weeks in Lima, Peru turned out to be quite a roller coaster ride. It began with soaring optimism in the wake of the recent agreement between US and China to take serious action, followed by a US pledge to add $3 billion to the International Climate Fund. That was on the heels of an EU announcement to cut their emissions by 40% below 1990 levels. Awareness of the issue seemed to be steadily growing as the World Meteorological Association announced that 2014 was on track to become the warmest year on record. It was a bit like a fundraiser, where some generous donor steps up with a big contribution, hoping to inspire others to do the same. Or so it seemed.
The talks at Lima were designed to set the stage with the draft of an agreement that would be finalized next year in Paris. But the drive towards meaningful action met with stiff resistance as disagreements between rich and poor nations took center stage as to how the required contributions from each should be computed and what kind of aid should be directed from the former to the latter in helping them to deal with the impacts. The talks bogged down for days at a time over the question of "common but differentiated" responsibility for rich and poor countries. How each country would present and assess their contribution before the Paris meeting was a key issue for these talks. While it’s true that industrialized countries, and the US in particular, have contributed most of the cumulative emissions, developing countries including China, India, and Mexico contribute more than half of all emissions today.
Negotiators, determined to reach an agreement, canceled their flights home and stayed on past the scheduled end date. In the end, some thirty hours into overtime, they did reach an accord in which all nations present, over 100 in all, agreed to outline a pledge to set targets in time for next year’s meeting in Paris. Chief US negotiator Todd Stern said it was a "good outcome and one that will get us started on the way to Paris.”
Coming out with an agreement that all participants signed onto was a moral victory of sorts, though it fell short of expectations. Many observers despaired of the fact that the text grew weaker as the talks went on. What had been hoped for was a tops-down plan that would arrive at carbon reduction levels based on the need to stay within the two degree temperature rise that has been cited as a kind of point of no return for the climate. Instead, the cuts will be generated in a bottoms-up process in which each country will cut what they think they can with no mechanism to ensure that the overall level does not exceed the allocated carbon budget. According to Oxfam, "The outcome here does little to break the world from a path to three degrees warming or higher."
"I'm capable of doing things I never thought I could do. I'm motivated to start my own company. I want to make a difference in my community" says Diana, aged 16. A stirring quote from a teenage girl filled with hope and determination for her future.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Rail technology leader Bombardier Transportation has got behind the ‘Clean India Movement’ and helped to clear up the Navlakhi Grounds in Vadodara, India. More than 250 Bombardier employees volunteered to help and urged the local people of Vadodara to help keep the grounds and city clean.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Recently, there has been a story in the news that links low-paid workers including firefighters, teachers and other public sector employees in America to pensioners and single mothers in East London.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Typical corporate sustainability programs drive change from the top down. The multinational company sets targets and standards for its global supply chain, and aims to improve sustainability down to the level of workers and farmers. However, there are large sections of population at the bottom rung that are not even a part of the mainstream supply chain, and remain excluded from the sustainability programs.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Over the last two decades, support for sustainable agriculture and its acceptance within mainstream agriculture has grown significantly. Sustainable agriculture not only prioritizes environment and social welfare, but it also provides economically viable opportunities for growers, laborers, consumers and various others who are a part of the food system.