Ceres Sustainability Podcast (podcasts)
An ongoing conversation with investors, corporations, policy makers and public interest groups about how they are adapting business strategies and financial markets to address the risks and opportunities of climate change and other sustainability issues.

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Supply chains are complex networks of resources, activities, technology, information, people, and organizations all involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer. For many companies, improving supply chain management offers the largest opportunity for achieving increased sustainability performance – particularly in addressing issues of labor and human rights abuse. In the 1990s, the issue of human rights and supply chains became front-page news after child labor scandals in the apparel industry surfaced. As a result, customers, investors and regulators increasingly want to know that the products they purchase and underwrite are not causing undue harm to communities near and far. This three-part podcast series focuses on the ethics of supply chain management and the evolving impacts on human rights.

With the recent explosion in the market of computers, cellphones, tablets and more, human rights and corporate supply chains are once again in the limelight as the mining of minerals needed for our handheld devices have helped fuel conflict and bloodshed in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This episode looks at a recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule requiring all companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose the origin of four key minerals—tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold. Found in most consumer electronic devices, as well as the aerospace, automotive and heavy manufacturing sectors, these minerals contribute to ongoing political violence, illegal trafficking and devastating human rights violations in the DRC.

To gain some perspective on this new rule and how it protects human rights and impacts companies and their supply chains, we spoke with Bennett Freeman from Calvert Investments, one of the lead investors on the SEC’s conflict minerals roundtable, and Andrew O’Donovan, the president of mineral mining company Global Advanced Metals Technologies.

Direct download: Sourcing_Conflict_12.10.12.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:26pm EDT

As the physical effects of climate change increase, so do the financial risks that impact companies, investors and the communities in which they operate. Last year was marked by record-setting economic losses -- equaling USD$148 billion due to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and fires. And these events are expected to occur with more frequency as global greenhouse gas levels increase, meaning bigger economic losses in the future.

Companies and investors face significant risks from these changing weather patterns. Recent guidelines set forth by the SEC require companies to disclose risks brought on by the effects of climate change. As a result, a growing group of institutional investors and public interest groups are asking companies to disclose these risks and the steps they are taking to minimize risk from climate-related disasters.

Ceres, along with Oxfam America and Calvert Investments, released a new guide "Physical Risks from Climate Change: A guide for companies and investors on disclosure and management of climate impacts" to help improve corporate disclosure and management of financial impacts of climate change and help investors make more informed investment decisions. This week, we speak with Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President of Sustainability Research and Policy at Calvert Investments about the new guide and what it means for companies and investors alike.

Download the report at www.ceres.org/reports.

[Music: "Finally Moving" by Pretty Lights on Taking Up Your Precious Time (Pretty Lights Music, 2010) and "Not Fit State" by Hot Chip from The Warning (Caroline Astralwerks-CAT, 2006)]

Direct download: Physical_Risks_Podcast_0612.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:01pm EDT

Shifting Ground: Why State Regulators Need to Adapt to America's Changing Energy Landscape

As electric utility companies face new challenges -- outdated energy infrastructure, rising fossil fuel prices, incorporating renewable energy sources -- state utility regulators have a unique and important role to play in the future of energy generation in the U.S.

State utility commissions are responsible for overseeing the practices of investor-owned utility companies, which provide the majority of our country's energy services -- everything from setting energy rates to approving utility investments and enforcing renewable portfolio standards. The decisions regulators make over the next few years will determine the future of energy utilities for years to come.

To help understand our country's emerging energy crisis and sketch out a transition plan for the next generation of electric utilities, we spoke with Ron Binz, former chairman of the Colorado Public Utility Commission and principle of Public Policy Consulting. Binz authored a new Ceres report called "Practicing Risk-Aware Electricity Regulation: What Every State Regulator Needs to Know", which looks at the role of state regulators in shaping the future of our national energy system.

Learn more and download the report here.

[Music DJ Click (ft. Estelle Goldfarb), "Hazara" from the album Delhi to Sevilla (2010, No Fridge); The Walkmen, "Victory" from the album Lisbon (2010, Fat Possum Records)]

Direct download: Binz_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:13pm EDT

Power Play: Turning clean energy legislation into an economic windfall in the Beehive State

When eBay, the world's largest online marketplace built its first ever data center in South Jordan, Utah, it wanted to use clean energy to power much of the facility -- to both reduce its environmental impact and stabilize energy costs for company down the road. But by law, Utah didn't allow large energy consumers to buy and transmit power directly from renewable energy developers, leaving eBay with the choice of sourcing their energy needs from coal (which powers 94% of the state), or not doing business in Utah.

But eBay didn't do either of those things. Instead, the company began working with legislators, energy providers and other energy-hungry companies to create a new law that would make renewable energy available to Utah energy consumers. The attempt, Senate Bill 12, will do just that -- enabling large energy consumers such as eBay, Twitter and Oracle to enter into long-term purchase agreements with alternative energy providers, as long as no costs are passed on to other rate-payers.

The bill passed unanimously in the Utah Senate and House and will go into effect this summer. The legislation is being touted as a win-win for Utah's economy and the environment. eBay, which employs more than 1500 people in Utah alone, is already planning to build a second data center and adding nearly 2,200 jobs in the state. And other companies are taking a second look at Utah

To get a better picture of this clean energy collaboration in the Beehive State, the Ceres Podcast spoke with Dean Nelson, senior director of Global Data Center Strategy and Operations at eBay and Senator Mark Madsen, a Republican State Senator from Tooele County, Utah and lead sponsor of Senate Bill 12. 

eBay is a member of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), which is a project of Ceres. For more information, visit www.ceres.org/bicep.

[Music: Bonobo, "Animals" from Black Sands (Ninja Tune, 2010); Four Tet, "She Just Likes to Fight" from There is Love in You (Domino, 2010)]

Direct download: eBay_022812.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:00pm EDT

Montana's Energy Future (Part Two): Differing Perspectives on the Energy Economy of the Rocky Mountain West

The future of global energy production is shaping up to be one of the most important and complicated issues of our time. From limited traditional fuel sources like oil and coal to newer, cleaner energy like wind, solar and bio-mass, nothing is off the table when it comes to meeting the growing global demand for energy. And while the energy market is increasingly global, the debate over the sustainability of our energy use is rooted in regional geographies, statewide politics and local communities – those affected by discreet projects and those that will be most affected by climate impacts.

To shed some light on just how complex and nuanced these energy issues are, we focus on the state of Montana – which shares the largest coal deposits in the U.S. (along with Wyoming), ranks fifth among states for potential wind energy production and is home to one of the largest domestic oil shale deposits.

In the second episode of this three part series, we speak with Gloria Flora, former U.S. Forest Supervisor and founder and Director of Sustainable Obtainable Solutions, an organization dedicated to the sustainability of public lands. Gloria recently co-authored a report on how Montana can become energy self-reliant through renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation and is championing something known as 'biochar' as a possible carbon-negative energy source.

To learn more about Gloria Flora's work, visit the US Biochar Initiative homepage at www.biochar-us.org. And stay tuned in the next few weeks to hear the final installment in this series, a conversation with regional wind expert Tom Darin on the Montana wind market.

[Music: Phillip Aaberg, "Keep Walkin" from Blue West (Sweet Grass, 2005); Vampire Weekend, "White Skies" from Contra (XL, 2010)]

Direct download: Flora_091311.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:22pm EDT

Montana's Energy Future (Part 1): Differing Perspectives on the Energy Economy of the Rocky Mountain West

The future of global energy production is shaping up to be one of the most important and complicated issues of our time. From limited traditional fuel sources like oil and coal to newer, cleaner forms energy like wind, solar and bio-mass, nothing is off the table when it comes to meeting the growing global demand for energy. And while the energy market is increasingly global, the debate over the sustainability of our energy use is rooted in regional geographies, statewide politics and local communities – those affected by discreet projects and those that will be most affected by climate impacts. To shed some light on just how complex and nuanced these energy issues are, we focus on the state of Montana – which shares the largest coal deposits in the U.S. (along with Wyoming), ranks 5th amongst states for potential wind energy production and is home to one of the largest domestic oil shale deposits.
 
In this three part series, we talk with the Governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, former US Forest Service Supervisor and environmental activist Gloria Flora and Western Representative for the American Wind Energy Association Tom Darin, about the future of low carbon and high carbon energy developments in Montana.
 
For the first episode, we talk with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Now in his second term as Governor, Schweitzer, is keen to kick America’s dependency on foreign countries for our fuel supplies. His keynote speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention highlighted the risks and costs to the American public of relying on foreign countries lead predominantly by dictators to meet U.S. energy demands. According to Schweitzer, Montana’s resources offer a homegrown  solution out of this geopolitical trap.

[Music: Phillip Aaberg, "Keep Walkin" from Blue West (Sweet Grass, 2005); Neil Young, "Vampire Blues" from On the Beach (Reprise, 1974)]

Direct download: Schweitzer_082211.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:52am EDT

Reducing carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change and help usher in a clean energy economy has been a contentious issue for companies and governments alike. Despite the failure of Congress to regulate carbon emissions nation-wide, the state of California is earning credibility as an economic and governance innovator by forging ahead with its own carbon-cutting legislation.

In 2006, California passed Assembly Bill 32 – The Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. After a failed attempt by the oil and gas industry to delay implementation of AB32 through a ballot initiative in the last election, the state is starting to employ carbon reduction strategies this year.

In this episode, we’re joined by Kevin Kennedy, executive officer of California’s Air Resources Board’s climate division and main architect of the bill’s cap-and-trade rules. Kennedy describes the process and progress on climate policy in California and what it might mean for carbon management in the rest of the country.

[Music: Debashish Bhattacharya, "Amrit Andand" from Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide-Guitar Odyssey (Riverboat, 2008); Beach House, "Zebra" from Teen Dream (Sub Pop, 2010)]

Direct download: California_Dreaming_012511.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:16pm EDT

Ready for REDD+: Connecting Forests to Carbon Emissions Markets

Paying people to not cut down forests? Sounds like an odd business model, but it is one that is gaining ground as governments, companies and advocates try to address reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Right now, eighteen percent of global carbon dioxide emissions come from cutting, burning and degrading the world’s forests, especially in the tropics – making protection of our forests a crucial part of our strategies to mitigate climate change. Just last month, the Voluntary Carbon Standard approved its first methodology to quantify the benefits of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation – known as REDD in the carbon market world.

In this episode, we are joined by Dorjee Sun, CEO of Carbon Conservation, a forest carbon financing and management company, to talk about the work his company is doing to protect forests and help get these carbon reduction markets out of the woods. 

[Music: Delicate Steve, "The Ballad of Speck and Pebble" from Wondervisions (Smallboypants, 2009); Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, "Details of the War" from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, 2005)]

Direct download: Ready_for_REDD_091610.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:28pm EDT

Re-Energizing America: How Passing Climate and Energy Legislation Can Keep the U.S. Competitive in the Global Race for Energy

Almost a year after the U.S. House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act and after months of planning and preparation, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released the American Power Act. This is a significant step forward, but as time keeps ticking oil is spewing into the Gulf of Mexico at an alarming rate and other countries like Germany, China and Brazil are grabbing attention for their advances in renewable energy markets like offshore wind farms and solar power. The risks to our environment and economy are already in place. So just what is taking the United States so long to pass comprehensive climate and energy policy? And what are the possible ramifications - both environmental and economical - facing us if we fail to act?

In this episode, we speak with Kevin Parker, Global Head of Deutsche Asset Management, about the need for a strong regulatory environment that will spur energy investment here in the U.S. instead of sending investment dollars outside our borders.

[Music: LCD Soundsystem, "Someone Great" from The Sound of Silver [Capitol, 2007]; DJ Shadow, "You Can't Go Home Again," from You Can't Go Home Again/Disavowed/Treach Beat (MCA, 2002)]

 

Direct download: Kevin_Parker_Deutsche_052410.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:48am EDT

Investing in Sustainability: Integrating Corporate Sustainability Performance into Institutional Investment Strategies

As the possibility of living in a carbon constrained world becomes more and more a reality, many companies are rethinking their business models and integrating sustainability factors into their business models to address the environmental and social risks they face. But companies are not the only ones that need to put sustainability at the top of their agenda. Investors are growing increasingly aware of the risks that climate change, water scarcity, workplace conditions and other sustainability issues present to companies’ bottom lines. Some of these investors, like the California State Teachers' Retirement System – the largest U.S. teacher’s retirement fund and second largest U.S. public pension fund – are not only telling companies to minimize these environmental and social risks in their business plans, but are actually taking proactive steps to ensure that their own investment practices embrace sustainability from the top down. in this episode we’re joined by Jack Ehnes Chief Executive Officer of CalSTRS to talk about the role investors play in creating sustainable companies – and how the recently released Ceres Roadmap for sustainability can be used by investors to help evaluate a company’s sustainability performance and move us closer to a more sustainable economy.

[Music: Galatic, "Tighten Your Wig," from Crazyhorse Mongoose (Volcano, 1998); Sunset Rubdown, "You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)," from Dragonslayer (Jagjaguwar, 2009)]

Direct download: Investing_042110.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:08pm EDT