Sustainability Trends for 2018

Read the full story from SustainAbility.

Welcome to SustainAbility’s annual trends review in which we identify ten issues that we believe will have significant impact on global sustainability and the corporate sector in 2018.

This year we expect to see continued momentum and leadership by companies on climate change, the social equity agenda, freedom of speech, sustainable mobility, and other core issues facing society. Despite declining leadership by national governments, we have reached an inflection point on renewable energy due to falling costs, and an increasing number of companies are investing in clean energy and strengthening climate resilience efforts.

Momentum is also growing for societies to close the gap on gender, racial and economic inequality. Last year saw a rising tide of support for a more equal society, with the emergence of the #MeToo campaign and vocal CEO and executive support for immigrants and minorities, and we expect this momentum to continue in 2018.

We hope that this report will spark further conversation and action in pursuit of a sustainable future. And as always, we invite your feedback.

Assessing Progress on the 1997 Integrated Management Plan for the Illinois River Watershed

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The Illinois River Watershed (IRW) encompasses approximately 44 percent of the land in Illinois. The watershed plays a prominent role in supporting the ecological structure and function of natural resources of the state by providing a habitat for fish and wildlife, giving recreational opportunities, producing fertile floodplain soils, and providing a resource for drinking water to human and animal inhabitants as well as water for irrigation of agricultural lands and industrial uses. Participants in the development of the 1997 Integrated Management Plan (IMP) for the Illinois River Watershed determined that the success of the plan could be measured against these seven objectives:

  • Objective 1: Healthy levels of abundance, distribution, and diversity of plant and animal communities.
  • Objective 2: Restoration of highly eroded streams: 1 percent by the year 2000; 10 percent by the year 2010.
  • Objective 3: In all stream segments, the attainment of water quality standards and, every 10 years, a 10 percent improvement in the Index for Biotic Integrity (a state index of biodiversity related to water quality).
  • Objective 4: Reduction of the river’s deviation from the natural hydrograph (volume, depth, and duration of water flows).
  • Objective 5: For floods with 2-5 year frequencies, reduction of peak flows to the river by 2-3 percent.
  • Objective 6: A viable economy that enhances the ecological value of the watershed through high-quality job creation.
  • Objective 7: A measurable reduction of the amount of sediment entering the Illinois River and its tributaries.

The plan also listed 34 recommendations, some of which included detailed goals on how to achieve these objectives.

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor asked the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute (PRI) to review and report on the progress that has been made toward these objectives over the past 20 years based on PRI’s data and studies. As home to the state’s five scientific surveys, PRI offers diverse scientific expertise and perspectives and a wealth of long-term data on Illinois’ resources.

Although PRI conducts many monitoring and research studies directly related to these seven objectives, no dedicated funds were set aside by the state in 1997 to achieve those objectives. Since then, however, some progress or monitoring has been conducted with targeted programs, and some has been a side benefit of other programs. This report is an attempt to evaluate the 20-year progress on the objectives based on a compilation of existing PRI data sources, status and trend summaries, and monitoring and research efforts conducted in accordance with PRI’s mission. From this evaluation, PRI has also identified a number of recommendations for future studies of the Illinois River Watershed that would enable a more complete picture of progress in the coming years and expand on the objectives to cover areas of concern not included in the IMP in 1997.

Owens-Illinois Achieves Cradle to Cradle Gold Rating in Industry First

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

Glass container manufacturer Owens-Illinois (O-I) is the first food and beverage packaging company to receive gold-level certification for material health and re-utilization under the Cradle to Cradle standard. Based in Perrysburg, Ohio, O-I makes glass packaging for leading brands and had revenues of $6.9 billion last year.

Saving Energy, Saving Lives: The Health Impacts of Avoiding Power Plant Pollution with Energy Efficiency

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Pollution from power plants harms public health, contributing to heart attacks, respiratory conditions, asthma attacks, and premature death. Energy efficiency can benefit health by reducing power plant pollution. This report estimates the health and environmental benefits that would come from a nationwide 15% reduction in annual electric consumption. We present results nationally, for states, and for the 50 largest US cities. We go on to describe some of the ways these results might be achieved and how efficiency programs and policies can be designed to maximize public health benefits.

Companies’ contribution to sustainability through global supply chains

Tannis Thorlakson, Joann F. de Zegher, Eric F. Lambin (2018). “Sustainability in global supply chains.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Feb 2018, 201716695; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1716695115

Significance:  Supply chains tied to multinational corporations represent over 80% of global trade and engage over one in five workers. Supply-chain management therefore has a significant impact on key social and environmental challenges. Despite this importance, there is currently no comprehensive, empirically grounded understanding of how companies address sustainability in their supply chains. We develop a global database based on a random sample of publicly listed companies with annual reports in English to provide insight into how the private sector contributes to advancing global sustainability via their supply chains. This study provides a large-scale empirical analysis of corporate sustainable-sourcing practices across multiple sectors and geographies.

Abstract: Global supply chains play a critical role in many of the most pressing environmental stresses and social struggles identified by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Responding to calls from the global community, companies are adopting a variety of voluntary practices to improve the environmental and/or social management of their suppliers’ activities. We develop a global survey of 449 publicly listed companies in the food, textile, and wood-products sectors with annual reports in English to provide insight into how the private sector contributes to advancing the SDGs via such sustainable-sourcing practices. We find that while 52% of companies use at least one sustainable-sourcing practice, these practices are limited in scope; 71% relates to only one or a few input materials and 60.5% apply to only first-tier suppliers. We also find that sustainable-sourcing practices typically address a small subset of the sustainability challenges laid out by the SDGs, primarily focusing on labor rights and compliance with national laws. Consistent with existing hypotheses, companies that face consumer and civil society pressure are associated with a significantly higher probability of adopting sustainable-sourcing practices. Our findings highlight the opportunities and limitations of corporate sustainable-sourcing practices in addressing the myriad sustainability challenges facing our world today.

EPA Withdrew ‘Once In Always In’ Policy – So What Does That Mean?

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

On January 25, 2018, the EPA issued a guidance memorandum withdrawing the “once in always in” policy for the classification of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA). Within the air compliance and permitting community, this guidance memorandum has been thought of as long overdue. Below are the guidance memorandum change details.

This duo wants to turn your trash into a cocktail

Read the full story at SBS.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage, the bartenders behind low impact pop-up bar Trash Tiki are not dumpster divers…

What they have done, quite successfully, is alter the perception that sustainability can only be sought in what we eat, how we dress or how much water we conserve around the house. Bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts can aim to incorporate sustainable practices into the business of drinking, too.

Webinar: A Guide to Green Chemistry Experiments for Undergraduate Organic Chemistry Labs

Tue, Mar 6, 2018 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CST
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Green Chemistry has been widely adopted as a means for reducing hazards and waste in chemistry labs, while maintaining the necessary rigor for teaching fundamental reactions and techniques. In a collaborative partnership between Beyond Benign, My Green Lab, and MilliporeSigma, a new resource guide has been developed for undergraduate organic chemistry teaching labs. This guide provides educators with a set of safer, greener alternative organic chemistry experiments to demonstrate key chemical transformations to undergraduate chemistry students, and indicates quantifiable benefits when greener alternative experiments are implemented, including waste reduction, hazard reduction, and cost savings.

How going green can raise cash for your lab

Read the full story in Nature.

Recycling leftover chemicals and equipment slashes energy bills and boosts research budgets.

California Aims To Get Past The Yuck Factor Of Recycled Wastewater

Read the full story from NPR.

With the potential of another drought looming, California is looking at recycled wastewater as a source for drinking. Recycled water is California’s single largest source of new water supplies.