The green race to the top

If climate regulation will burden businesses or increase costs,  then why are so many companies strengthening their voluntary response to the climate crisis in the midst of an economic downturn?

The reason is, there’s a race to the top when it comes to sustainability, particularly among consumer companies. No one wants to be seen as a laggard by  customers, workers, NGOs, government or the press.

Reputation matters. Ignoring the climate emergency is no longer an option for a big consumer brand.

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That, as far as I can tell, is why so many companies are surging ahead in the third annual corporate climate scorecard put together by the nonprofit group Climate Counts. Gary Hirshberg, the CE-yo and “main moover” behind of Stonyfield Farms (yum) put up the money to start Climate Counts, and Wood Turner is its able executive director.

“We see a real competition ensuing, as companies race to the top,” Turner told me the other day, as the new ratings came out. “Companies are preparing their businesses and their brands for the future.” [click to continue...]

Food Inc: tasty but unsatisfying

“You can change the world with every bite.” So says the new movie Food Inc., now in theaters. I’m not so sure.

I’m sitting in my neighborhood Cosi. Just ordered a “gigante” Artic Latte and a fruit cup. Did I change the world? For better? For worse? Who knows? I ought to know because I pay more attention than most people can to the social, environmental and health impacts of the food business. I’m paid to do so. And I don’t have a clue—where the coffee in the Latte came from, where the fruit came from, or what the embedded energy or carbon footprints.

By all means, go see Food Inc. The movie serves up a provocative indictment of industrial food. It shows how our eating habits affect climate change, waste and energy. (The food processing and packaging business is one of the top five industrial users of energy in the U.S.) The film is entertaining and clever, as you’ll see if you watch this trailer And the visuals are eye-opening, even for those of us who have read Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, two stars of the movie. The trouble is, the politics, economics and science of Food Inc. are all a bit fuzzy.

Consider the argument that we can change the world by redirecting our consumer dollars. Gary Hirshberg, the founder and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, puts it this way:

The irony is that the average consumer does not feel very powerful. They think that they are the recipients of whatever industry has put there for them to consume. Trust me, it’s the exact opposite. Those businesses spend billions of dollars to tally our votes. When we run an item past the supermarket scanner, we’re voting.

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