#SquareMileChallenge on coffee cup waste, investors press Amazon on ESG, EU utilities locking in carbon, air pollution risks, sustainable plantations, China storage problems, saving crayfish, Florida B Corp

#SquareMileChallenge to recycle half a million coffee cups

Coffee retailers and businesses this week launched the UK’s largest coffee cup recycling campaign, a scheme that aims to recycle half a million coffee cups in London this month.

As part of the Square Mile Challenge, more than 100 high street coffee retailers, including Caffé Nero, Costa and Starbucks, are offering recycling facilities and accepting coffee cups in their stores, regardless of where they were purchased.

The scheme is part of a coalition of organisations including the sustainability communications charity Hubbub, Simply Waste Solutions and Simply Cups. The challenge also has the backing of coffee cup high street retailers, manufacturers, recyclers, major employers, Network Rail and the City of London.

Hubbub co-founder Gavin Ellis said: “We are delighted that so many organisations, including the local authority, Network Rail and businesses that are usually in competition with each other are collaborating to tackle this issue. We hope that other parts of the UK will follow suit and eventually reach a point where recycling levels for coffee cups are on a par with those for drinks cans and bottles.”

Hubbub's CEO and co-founder Trewin Restorick talks about the charity's work with businesses such as IKEA, Sainsbury and Mothercare in NGO Voices here.


BMO leads $3trn investor coalition to engage Amazon on ESG

Credit: Alvaro Ibanez

A group of large European asset managers ith combined assets under management of some $3trn has teamed up to "heavily engage" with the online retailer Amazon, pressing it to address environmental, social and governance concerns, Responsible Investor reports. 

UK-based BMO Global Asset managers initially discussed the issue with Amazon’s chief sustainability officer, then joined with  with “four or five other large UK and European asset managers” to write a letter to Amazon’s board, said Jamie Jenkins, BMO's head of responsible global equities. Jenkins said a particular focus will be on “major labour risks", centring on employment conditions at the company’s distribution centres. Amazon fits into the company’s “improve” area of its responsible investment strategy.

Last week, Amazon agreed to a call with the investor group to discuss its concerns, which also include the retailer’s lack of carbon footprint data. BMO said Amazon was working on coming to market with an integrated ESG report, although there is no specific timeline for this.


Europe’s energy giants on track to breach Paris Agreement, says CDP

Credit: WDG photo

A new CDP report shows that Europe’s major utilities companies are locked into high-emissions projects, putting at risk €14bn of earnings unless they realign strategies with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The report, Charged or Static, looks into which of the 14 largest publicly listed European electric utilities are prepared for a low-carbon transition. The results show that the companies are estimated to exceed the 2°C carbon budget by 14%, or 1.3 billion tonnes of carbon emissions between 2015 and 2030.

While companies such as the UK’s SSE and Centrica, and France's EDF and German firm RWE were commended for “positive signs” towards a low carbon transition, 43% of the companies listed in the report are producing more than 20% of their electricity from coal, and their transition is restricted by investment in carbon-intensive projects. The report estimates this will put €14bn at risk.

CDP’s chief executive Paul Simpson said: “The last year has seen a step-change in support for, and engagement with, low-carbon policies but the industry remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels to meet electricity needs. Market prices are showing that renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are more cost-competitive than ever and [EU] utilities should look to capitalise on the strong growth that is forecast for these technologies.”

Air pollution linked to decline in men's cognitive abilities

Credit: Testing

Men living in cities with high levels of pollution lose their faculties for logical and verbal reasoning at a faster rate than women, according to a study.

In the most polluted areas, this loss could be the equivalent to a year of education in older men, or a gap of more than 20% in test scores. Academics explain this could be because of structural differences in the brain that leave men more vulnerable to the shrinkage of “white” connective tissue linked to air pollution, although this has been challenged by independent scientists.

The study was based on the performance of 25,485 people in China on maths and language exams between 2010 and 2014, analysed by health researchers at Yale University in the US and Peking University in Beijing. The study is the first to measure both day-to-day fluctuations and long term trends in exposure to air pollution.

The results reveal men tend to perform as well as women in the tests up to the age of 30, but men tended to do notably better than women later in adulthood. In polluted cities, however, the scores of older men dropped significantly, an average of 2.1% more of his cognitive ability than women of the same age in the same area.

France to boost sustainability of plantations in Southeast Asia

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French president Francois Hollande used his visit to Indonesia to launch the Sustainable Agricultural Landscapes in South East Asia (SALSA), a platform to promote sustainable plantations. The visit was the first since 1986 and has seen $2.6bn in pledged investments as France seeks to deepen ties with the country.

SALSA aims to promote sustainability across Southeast Asia’s plantation industries, including palm oil, rubber, and coconuts, and is backed by the French Agricultural Research Centre (CIRAD) and Indonesia’s largest grower of palm oil. It aims to strengthen the training of plantation managers, and to share best practice in yield improvement and farming techniques with the wider industry.

The regional platform will deliver research-based training and enhance sustainability standards, integrating multistakeholder teams into research, training and development projects to protect the biodiversity of Southeast Asia.

CIRAD’s managing director general, Michel Eddi said, “Agri-business is a critical and growing part of the region’s economy, and CIRAD is fully committed to working with our partners in the SALSA initiative to improve the sustainability of their supply chains.”

China renewables revolution slowed by storage problems

Credit: Artistic Photo

China’s capacity for wind and solar power continued to grow in 2016, but an imbalanced distribution of wind resources and an imperfect grid system left a billion kilowatt hours of generated clean energy wasted, China.org.cn reports.

China is the world’s largest installed capacity of wind and solar, but is encountering growing problems integrating renewable generation into the grid. The 2016 China strategy development report, released by Electric Power Planning and Engineering Institute, a state owned China think tank, said the abandoned electricity is affecting the sustainable development of new energy in China.

After a race to build wind farms in the resource-rich northern regions, output soon surpassed demand, but there are inadequate transmission or storage facilities to cope with the excess. In the past year 17% of the generated wind power was abandoned, up from 15% the previous year. For solar power, about 20% of the electricity produced in the northwest region was also wasted, according to the report. 

Liu Jizhen, academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said: “The waste of new energy power is a headache for China as a result of imbalanced distribution of wind resources and an imperfect grid system. More transmission lines should be built to make better use of the power generated.”

Virgin start-up builds artificial reef to help save UK’s crayfish

Credit: ARC Marine

Virgin start-up backed ARC Marine is building the world’s first modular artificial reef, in a bid to help save the UK’s endangered white-clawed freshwater crayfish.

The Torbay-based company is building the artificial reef at Vobster Quay, an inland water site and former quarry in Somerset, and is asking the public to back its current crowdfunding campaign to prove the viability of artificial reefs in ocean conservation.

The company, which was given a startup loan by Virgin Start-up, designs and builds artificial reefs. It says these can block illegal fishing trawlers, improve water quality and biodiversity, protect coastlines and underwater habitats from erosion, boost the stocks of overfished species, and provide a protective marine habitat for endangered and declining species.

ARC Marine plans to work with Bristol zoo to protect crayfish population from extinction. Juvenile crayfish will be released into the completed reef to help boost their numbers and encourage breeding.

Tom Birbeck, co-founder of ARC Marine, said: “Currently, only 4% of the world’s oceans are officially protected. And considering that 93% of CO2 is stored in algae, undersea vegetation and coral, it is clear that preventing marine degradation is crucial to protecting the earth’s atmosphere.”

First GREEN bank receives B Corp certification

Credit: Yourowgirl

Florida's First GREEN bank has been recognised as a certified B Corporation by the non-profit B Lab. The opened in 2009 and each of its seven locations is considered a “values centre” for its commitment to advance positive change in the banking sector. Buildings are built or renovated to meet sustainability criteria, and each location offers customers discounts on solar energy loans. 
The bank, one of 15 certified B Corporation companies in Florida, also has a living wage programme that ensures employees earn a wage of at least $32,000, and a parental leave policy to give both mothers and fathers additional paternity and maternity leave.

The bank's CEO, Keith Costello, said: “We are extremely honored to join the more than 1,000 other Certified B Corporation companies across America that are working together to make the world a better place.”



Main image credit: Sean Wandzilac
coffee cup waste  circular economy  Amazon  ESG  carbon  CDP  B Corps  climate  Palm Oil 

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