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  • Blog post

    A Look Inside Facebook’s Carbon Footprint

    Facebook, a business that relies so heavily on people’s willingness to share information, took an important step recently by sharing some details of its own. The social networking company has, for the first time, released information about its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

    Facebook used the GHG Protocol’s Corporate Standard for reporting emissions, categorizing them into Scope 1 (direct emissions), scope 2 (emissions from electricity consumption), and scope 3 (all other indirect emissions including, in Facebook’s case, emissions from business travel and the construction of its data centers). Measuring GHG emissions is a crucial first step for any company seeking to manage and reduce its climate change impact.

    Facebook’s GHG Inventory

    Here are some of the key figures from Facebook’s GHG inventory:

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  • Publication

    Moving the Fulcrum

    A Primer on Public Climate Financing Instruments Used to Leverage Private Capital

    Targeting public finance to leverage private sector capital can help meet the several hundred billion dollars of annual low-carbon investment required in developing countries. This working paper serves as a primer, demonstrating how the public sector can employ different types of public...

  • Blog post

    Calling All Businesses: Help Pilot WRI’s SWOT Tool for Corporate Sustainability

    The World Resources Institute (WRI) and our corporate partners are using a new twist on an old tool to spark innovations for a green economy—a “SWOT tool” adapted for corporate sustainability.

    SWOT analysis is a framework companies have used for almost 50 years to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). In partnership with companies in WRI’s Next Practice Collaborative, we have developed a guide based on this familiar framework to help corporations find, evaluate, and act on new risks and opportunities as environmental challenges shape tomorrow’s markets.

    We are excited to invite companies to help road test this new tool. Those who do will help shape the final version, have the opportunity to be featured as a case study, and can connect with other companies to share insights on the big trends they see around the corner.

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  • Blog post

    Wanted: A Steve Jobs for Sustainability

    This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

    Where is the Steve Jobs of sustainability? The business leader with the big, disruptive ideas—and the force of will—to achieve for sustainable production and consumption what Apple’s visionary chief did for global technology and information?

    This question springs strongly to mind after attending the Rio+20 conference.

    Unlike the original Earth Summit 20 years earlier, business leaders were everywhere at Rio 2012. And with governments failing to make headway at the UN-led forum, there was much talk of businesses taking a greater lead in fixing the world’s environmental and development challenges.

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  • Blog post

    Rio+20: More Progress from Business Needed

    This piece originally appeared in The Guardian.

    Big business seemed to be everywhere at Rio+20, arguably more visible than the 100 or so heads of state and government, who arrived for the final few days.

    Hundreds of business initiatives were announced through groups including Business Action for Sustainable Development and the UN Global Compact's Corporate Sustainability Forum. And the corporate leaders who flocked to Brazil made all the right noises. "We have to bring this world back to sanity and put the greater good ahead of self-interest," Unilever CEO Paul Polman told the Guardian.

    But how much substance lies below the surface of these declarations?

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  • Blog post

    Rio+20 in the Rear View: Getting Business on Board with the Green Economy

    WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here, here, and here.

    Many stories came out of the Rio+20 proceedings; Jo Confino’s blog in The Guardian is an excellent place to review what happened. But now that Rio+20 is behind us and the 50,000 government officials, business representatives, and activists have gone home, one expectation is clear: Leadership from the private sector is critical to advancing sustainable solutions in the coming years.

    The question is: Are business leaders on board with this strategy? Is transformative action possible or desirable from a business perspective? We can’t speak for all businesses, but on June 17th in Rio, WRI partnered with Forum for the Future, a UK-based NGO that works with companies on sustainable business practices, to present a panel featuring corporate leaders that are currently taking steps toward "next practices."

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  • Blog post

    VIDEO: Leading Companies Use New Standards to Uncover Greatest Sources of Carbon Emissions

    Last week’s Rio+20 conference failed to yield strong sustainability commitments from corporations. As Manish Bapna, interim president of the World Resources Institute (WRI) stated earlier this week, companies in Rio didn’t “grasp the fundamental recognition that the planet is on an unsustainable course and the window for action is closing.” The gap between where we need to get to avoid climate change’s worst effects and the actions companies are willing to take to get us there have never been further apart. While governments have an important role to play in setting policies to reduce emissions, legislation on its own will never be enough to put us on a development trajectory that is sustainable. Leadership from business is urgently needed.

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  • Blog post

    Rio+20 in the Rear View: Companies Call for Better Water Governance

    WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here and here.

    Since the close of the Rio +20 conference last week, participants, experts, and observers the world over have tried to determine what, if any, real outcomes were achieved. Amidst all of the controversy and frustration over commitments and lack of progress, something significant did happen at Rio: Forty-five major companies representing hundreds of billions of dollars in annual revenue called for “much greater action by Governments” to achieve global water security.

    These major companies endorse the U.N.’s Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, an initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation, and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. Their recent call at Rio+20 for better water governance is an important step forward for water protection—after all, it’s not every day that such a wide array of leading corporations asks governments to assert more control. It’s an indicator that water scarcity is creating widespread risks that are too complex for even the most powerful of companies to manage alone.

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  • Blog post

    What's Happening at Rio+20: June 16th

    The Rio+20 informal sessions kicked off this week, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. I just arrived in Rio myself this afternoon. It's a beautiful city--right on the water, with lots of mountains around. I'm looking forward to a very busy and productive week.

    Each day, I’ll bring you highlights of upcoming WRI events. Check out the details below on what we’ve got going on tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of all WRI events at Rio+20.

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  • Blog post

    The Green Economy: Combining Profit and Planet

    Can creating business value and promoting sustainable development go hand in hand? We think so, and so do many leading companies. That’s why we’re excited to present a panel at the Rio+20 conference featuring speakers from Siemens, PepsiCo, and Mars. On June 17, 2012, these companies will reveal successful strategies that benefit the environment, their customers, and their bottom line.

    Companies that Combine Profit and Planet

    Each company has a compelling story to tell about how environmental initiatives can spur business opportunities and growth:

    • Siemens: Almost half (41 percent) of the company’s 2011 revenue came from products in its environmental portfolio, such as solar technologies and building automation systems.

    • PepsiCo: The company partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank to create a market for sunflower oil in Mexico, supporting its transition away from palm oil, which threatens forests, while providing healthy foods and beverages. The initiative will provide a stable income source for roughly 850 farmers and their families. This fits with the company’s “Performance with Purpose” approach which seeks to tie superior financial performance with its commitment to human and environmental sustainability, while “fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.”

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New Ventures

Voices of the Entrepreneurs

“Voices of the Entrepreneurs” is both a celebration of what New Ventures has achieved so far and a springboard to its future. This report highlights the experience of 32 New Ventures entrepreneurs and provides valuable insights into the challenges that hinder the growth of environmental...

3 Companies that Are Making Money by Embracing Sustainability

Superstorm Sandy and the subsequent Nor’easter were the biggest news this week and last. The combination of two powerful forces resulted in unprecedented and widespread damage. Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted.

I can’t help but draw the connection between our recent extreme weather and businesses today—corporations are increasingly recognizing that they, too, are navigating two powerful forces. One force demands financial results, while the other requires increasingly sophisticated techniques to respond to climate, energy, resource scarcity, and other sustainability risks. The ways businesses navigate both these forces will determine whether they are truly viable over the long-term.

3 Pioneering Businesses Focused on Profits and Environmental Stewardship

On the eve of Hurricane Sandy, I moderated a Net Impact conference panel titled “Driving Bolder Investments in Sustainability.” This panel brought together representatives from Waste Management, Intel, and Pepsi to discuss how sustainability is no longer an add-on, but is becoming core to business planning. These three companies are incorporating environmental initiatives in order to shield themselves from business risk and boost their profits.

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Companies and MBAs Test New Sustainability SWOT

At last week’s Net Impact conference, WRI challenged teams of attendees to come up with what was essentially a “mashup” of megatrends and environmental challenges. The teams then engaged in a friendly competition to see who could create the most innovative corporate sustainability strategies for a hypothetical company modeled after LEGO.

The teams began by looking at global environmental challenges (like clean energy, climate change, and waste removal); then connected these hurdles to other big trends (such as urbanization and social inequality); and finally, assessed strategic actions for the model company. The result was a handful of very clever corporate sustainability strategies. One team suggested that 3D-printing and materials science could enable the company to produce toys in growing markets using bio-based plastics, thereby reducing shipping costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Another team thought that creating visual instruction guides could help overcome language barriers and promote affordable green building design and construction. And the winning team proposed partnering with companies like Coca-Cola and non-profit organizations like 5 Gyres to reuse plastic waste in the world’s oceans (similar to what Method and United by Blue are currently doing).

The proposals varied greatly, but all the teams had one thing in common: They used WRI’s new Sustainability SWOT (sSWOT) as a guiding framework to shape and communicate their strategies.

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Why Businesses Must Focus on Climate Change Mitigation AND Adaptation

This week, Hurricane Sandy drew attention to the increasing climate-related risks for communities and businesses.

More and more companies are recognizing and reporting on actions they’re taking to “mitigate” climate change, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through energy efficiency, renewable power, and cleaner vehicles. Now, businesses are finding they’ll also need to “adapt” to more volatile conditions and help vulnerable communities become more resilient. Adaptation means recognizing and preparing for impacts like water stress, coastal flooding, community health issues, or supply chain disruptions, among other issues.

WRI discussed why businesses need to embrace mitigation AND adaptation strategies at the recent Net Impact conference, where I sat on a panel entitled: “Climate Change Adaptation: Mitigating Risk and Building Resilience.” Dr. David Evans, Director of the Center for Sustainability at Noblis, moderated the panel. Other panelists included Gabriela Burian, Director for Sustainable Agriculture Ecosystems at Monsanto, and John Schulz, Director of Sustainability Operations at AT&T.

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WRI Launches Project on Climate Finance and the Private Sector

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that our best chance of containing global temperature rise to 2°C is to keep atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide below 450 parts per million (we’re currently at 390 ppm). In addition to several other climate mitigation strategies, sticking to this cap will require significant new investment in low-carbon infrastructure and activities in developing countries.

Experts estimate the cost of funding this development to be about $300 billion annually by 2020, growing to $500 billion by 2030. The problem is, there’s a huge funding gap when it comes to meeting these costs—industrialized nations have only committed to mobilize $100 billion of new funds annually by 2020 to meet these needs. The world will need to figure out a way to come up with the rest of the funding if we’re going to prevent developing nations from feeling climate change’s most severe impacts.

Introducing WRI’s Climate Finance and the Private Sector Project

Tapping into the private sector is one way to bridge the climate finance funding gap. The World Resources Institute’s new Climate Finance and the Private Sector (CFPS) initiative has been designed to specifically address how the public sector can leverage private investment in a low-carbon future.

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3 Lessons for Better Supply Chain Management

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

What do three leading chemical, automobile, and software companies have in common? All three – Honda, BASF, and SAP – are looking to curb risks and take advantage of opportunities across their global supply chains. They’re doing so by measuring their greenhouse gas emissions—not just in their operations, but up and down their value chains.

Many other multinationals are heading in the same direction. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) annual survey of the Global 500, released last month, reveals that seven in ten respondents measured some value chain emissions in 2011, up from about half in 2010. (Note this figure is based on WRI’s analysis of the 405 companies that submitted data to the CDP 2012 survey data.)

What’s driving the world’s biggest corporations down this path? In a nutshell: reputation, risk, and opportunity.

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Pavan Sukhdev Discusses 4 Ways to Create More Sustainable Corporations

“To tell the story of the corporation is to tell the story of a grand bargain gone awry,” says Pavan Sukhdev in his new book, Corporation 2020: Transforming Business for Tomorrow’s World. It’s a bold statement, but he backs up his claim persuasively. While many companies are reaching record profits, they’ve oftentimes come at the expense of ecological degradation, rising greenhouse gas emissions, unemployment, spikes in food and fuel costs, and social inequalities.

But Sukhdev has developed what he believes is a framework for shifting the private sector towards a greener, more equitable economy. WRI recently hosted Sukhdev at our Washington, D.C. office to discuss his new book and his vision for the future. The founder of GIST Advisory and former head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative joined a panel discussion with WRI’s Managing Director, Manish Bapna, and Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility.

“Pavan has written a remarkable new book,” said WRI’s president, Andrew Steer, who opened Wednesday’s event. “It not just a book, but really a campaign to change corporations in four viable ways.”

The 4 “Planks” for Corporate Sustainability

Sukhdev’s framework for shifting the private sector towards greater social and environmental sustainability includes what he calls the “four planks of change:”

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WRI Annual Report 2011-2012

2011/2012 was a transition period as WRI said goodbye to President Jonathan Lash and welcomed new President Andrew Steer. With ample wind in our sails from 18 years of Jonathan’s leadership, the Institute’s accomplishments—many captured in this report—reflect both the strength and versatility he...

Collaboration Trumps Competition for Developers of Water Risk and Stewardship Tools

This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

This piece was co-authored by Anne-Leonore Boffi, Program Officer with the WBCSD, and Ruth Mathews, Executive Director of the Water Footprint Network.

The unsustainable use of water and the risks it creates is on the minds of many of the thousands of water experts from the corporate, NGO, and government worlds who convened in Stockholm this week for World Water Week. As companies increasingly view water as not just an environmental issue, but a complex driver of very real risks to their businesses, the appetite for better information on how to manage these risks and become good water stewards has grown substantially. In fact, many organizations have put tremendous effort into developing tools and methodologies and compiling the best publicly available water information so that companies can manage their water use in sustainable, efficient, and equitable ways.

This week in Stockholm, teams from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), World Resources Institute (WRI), and Water Footprint Network (WFN) convened a seminar called “Towards Sustainability: Harmonising Water Tools for Better Water Governance”. The event focused on providing an overview of each tool and highlighting areas requiring better harmonization and coordination efforts to help drive companies towards better management and stewardship of water resources. The seminar also included Ceres, DEG (a German development finance institution), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the UN CEO Water Mandate. The goal of the seminar was to explain how our organizations are striving to provide companies with a clear, easy-to- understand, and compatible set of water management tools—not a variety of competing efforts, but rather an organized and coordinated front.

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