Ceres Sustainability Podcast
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: 7:26 PM

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: 7:01 PM

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: 6:13 PM

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: 5:00 PM

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), is at the top of ranks in terms of wind generating capacity and is home to one of the largest shale oil deposits in the country.

In the third and final episode of our Montana Energy Series, speak with Tom Darin, Western Regional Representative for the American Wind Energy Association – AWEA. Despite Montana's wind generating potential, project developers are wary of building large wind farms where there isn't enough infrastructure and power lines to properly distribute and export clean energy. Darin is working with everyone from policymakers to local farmers to help create a viable wind market that would bring jobs and investments to Montana's economy.

[Music: Phillip Aaberg, "Keep Walkin" from Blue West (Sweet Grass, 2005); Broadcast, "Tender Buttons" from Tender Buttons (Warp Records, 2005)]

Direct download: Tom_Darrin_102611.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:54 PM

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: 5:22 PM

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: 3:52 PM

Growing water scarcity in many parts of the United States is a hidden financial risk not only for companies who rely on massive amounts of water to operate their business, but also for investors who buy the water and electric utility bonds that finance much of the country's vast water and power infrastructure. Las Vegas, which gets 90% of its water from nearby Lake Mead, could lose their entire drinking supply overnight due to receding lake levels and increased drought – affecting the communities and industries that rely on that water for everything from drinking to generating enough power to light up the strip. Similar scenarios across the country are forcing companies, municipalities and investors to re-evaluate current and future risks to our water supply, including the high costs associated with finding new and better ways to get water to the places that need it.

This episode, we are joined by Ceres’ own Sharlene Leurig, senior manager of Ceres’ insurance program and author of the report The Ripple Effect: Water Risk in the Municipal Bond Market. The report evaluates and ranks water scarcity risks for public water and power utilities in some of the country's most water-stressed regions, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas and Atlanta. Listen in as Sharlene explains the findings of the report and the hidden risks that water scarcity poses to investors, companies and municipalities.

[Music: Gramatik, "Afternoon Soul" from Water 4 Soul EP (Cold Busted, 2009); I am David Sparkle, "Dance of Death" from This is the New (KittyWu Records, 2007)]

Direct download: Boiling_Point_020111.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:23 PM

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: 8:16 PM

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: 6:28 PM