On Thursday, fast-food giant McDonald’s announces its latest sustainability plans to pursue two new renewable energy projects. These projects are virtual power purchase agreements with Apex Clean Energy and Ares Management, and are based in Texas. One project will be solar-energy based, and the other will generate power using wind energy. And altogether, these projects are estimated to be able to power over two thousand stores.
So just how much energy will be produced in the project and what will its impacts look like beyond just the numbers?
How Much Energy Will Be Produced In The McDonald’s Sustainability Project?
According to the business’s calculations, these two projects can produce 380 megawatts (MW) of energy. To give that number some context, that could power more than 2,500 McDonald’s restaurants.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, one MW of solar energy can power about 164 American homes. That means that the energy output from this project has the potential to power about 62,320 homes.
However, this number can vary with differences in average sunshine, wind, and temperature that the solar panels endure. According to McDonald’s, this is contribution of renewable energy to the grid is more than any other restaurant company.
This agreement is also good for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The restaurant’s power generation will aid in preventing 700,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This amount of emissions would otherwise be created during energy generation processes using non-renewable means like natural gas or coal.
This is equivalent to planting more than 11 million trees. It is also comparable to taking over 140,000 passenger cars off the road for a year.
So, What Is A VPPA?
A business produces a surplus of energy that it would rather sell to the grid than use itself. The grid is the supply of energy sent to other users, like private residences.
To do this, the business partners with an offtaker, someone who wants the electricity the business wants to offload. (This is frequently an electricity supplier.)
In a VPPA where the energy involved in the transaction comes from renewable resources, the company also receives renewable energy certificates, or RECs.
Energy from coal and energy from solar panels look the same once put into the grid. RECs are essentially proof that the energy that the company is selling is derived from renewable sources. The energy supplier pays for the energy and the RECs in a contract that typically lasts around 15 years.
In short, this agreement gives McDonald’s an incentive to grow its renewable energy production. If this deal is a success, then it will majorly motivate other companies with the same scale as McDonald’s to make VPPAs as well and grow their renewable energy production.
McDonald’s Sustainability Goals Broken Down
Many businesses have sustainability goals that deal with reducing their carbon footprint or energy usage, or utilizing renewable sources of energy.
Companies frequently make announcements of new sustainability goals. With their frequency, it is easy to become desensitized to them.
More than half of Fortune 500 companies have such goals. What’s more is that many of these companies take no concrete steps towards achieving their goals. This seemed to be the position of McDonald’s before this week.
Back in 2018, McDonald’s announced its Scale for Good environmental sustainability campaign. The goals contained within included reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36% by 2030, and a 31% reduction in emissions intensity per metric ton of food and packaging.
According to the restaurant chain, this would “prevent 150 million metric tons of C02 equivalents (CO2e) from being released into the atmosphere by 2030.”
Additionally, it would be the equivalent of “taking 32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year or planting 3.8 billion trees and growing them for 10 years.”
Like other Fortune 500 companies, these are lofty goals. Unlike a majority of other Fortune 500 companies, though, McDonald’s has taken a concrete step to achieving these goals by creating the VPPAs.
Looking Into The Future
Consuming more energy from renewable sources is a major step towards overall environmental sustainability and a step towards preventing further environmental damage.
With the announcement of this deal, hopefully other companies follow suit and make real, serious progress towards their own environmental goals.
Final Note: We encourage the McDonald’s team and other companies making a difference in sustainability to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking to work with companies to learn what they’re working on.
Australian National Airline Announces Ambitious Sustainability Plan
Australian national airline Qantas, which flew its first zero-waste flight earlier this May, has outlined its plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The national carrier, which announced the pledge in a November 11th press release, is the first Australian airline to commit to a net-zero emissions target. Though it appears that its goals are ambitious, the Australian national airline believes that they are fully achievable.
“Ambitious But Achievable” For The Australian National Airline
Qantas revealed the road towards the target will begin immediately and revolved around three key strategies.
- Immediately double the number of flights being offset.
- Cap net emissions from 2020 onwards.
- Invest $50 million over 10 years to help develop a sustainable aviation fuel industry.
Alan Joyce, CEO of the Australian national airline, said the announcement reflects Qantas’s need to continue to curb climate change.
“We’re effectively doubling our carbon offsetting program from today and we’re capping our net emissions across Qantas and Jetstar from 2020 so that all new flying will be carbon neutral,” he said.
He added: “These short-term actions will go towards a longer-term goal of being completely net carbon neutral by 2050. It’s ambitious but achievable.”
Joyce told the media that the airline hoped the announcement would encourage passengers to offset their travel’s carbon usage.
“Qantas offsets all of its own travel needs and so do many of our customers. By matching their efforts, we’re hoping it will encourage even more people to offset and the program will keep growing.”
Company Behind Qantas’s Offset Program Sees Demand Growth
Meanwhile, Tasman Environmental, the company specializing in carbon offset programs for business clients including Qantas, has reported strong demand growth.
Executive chairman Andrew Grant said the boost in consumer awareness of the effects of climate change propelled the demand growth.
“The demand for our services has increased dramatically as consumer awareness grows around the environmental implications of travel, products and goods and services and the desire by consumers and corporations to lighten their environmental footprint,” Grant said.
Biofuels Preferred Over Investment In Electric Plan Alternatives
The airline industry has come under pressure in Australia over recent years to curb its emissions. Data from the Clean Energy Regulator showed Qantas as one of the top greenhouse gas emitters in the country.
However, an article in an Australian environment magazine points out that the Australian national airline has decided not to invest in alternatives like electric planes. Instead, the company has chosen to back the development of biofuels for its aircraft.
Long-Term Solutions For The Australian National Airline
The airline has committed to working in partnership with government and institutions to reduce carbon emissions. “Qantas will work with industry, research institutions and governments to develop the long-term solutions to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry over the next three decades,” said the company in a statement.
With a number of clear metrics set in place, the Australian national airline will be interesting to follow.
Final Notes: If you are a part of the Qantas team, reach out at email@example.com. We’d be interested in staying in the loop about your progress and sharing it out with our readers.
E-Waste Is Becoming A Sustainability Disaster. And Investors Have Taken Notice.
As technology continues to evolve (and end up in landfill), e-waste is proving to be a sustainability disaster. In 2018 alone, humans generated approximately 2.01 billion tons of waste worldwide. To put things into perspective, 2.01 billion tons is comparable to 287,142,857 elephants or 275,342 Eiffel Towers. Certainly, that volume of waste sent into landfills is a significant concern. And along with it, potentially reusable resources are continuously wasted as a result of careless disposal.
Shockingly, e-waste is responsible for 50 million tons of the total generated waste produced each year. Not to mention, it accounts for 70% of the toxic waste lying in landfills.
To uncover more about the e-waste issue, I recently interviewed Amanda O’Toole, a fund manager at AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM). She is a part of the firm’s investment team as the Lead Portfolio Manager for Framlington Equities’s (AXA IM’s qualitative equities business) Clean Economy Strategy fund.
We discussed the primary challenges in e-waste as well as why financiers are looking towards waste management as an investment opportunity.
Why Is E-Waste So Hard To Recycle?
When dealing with the improper disposal of hazardous materials, there is a constant risk of land and water pollution through contamination. E-waste similarly causes these pollutive consequences.
For example, batteries leak heavy metals such as lead, barium, and lithium into the soil when placed in a landfill.
As a result, these heavy metals seep into groundwater channels, which eventually enter larger bodies of water like ponds or streams. And as technology continues to develop, the demand for new electronics continues to rise. Estimates show that the number of connected devices will reach 31 billion by 2020.
In O’Toole’s words, “without fundamental change throughout the electronic supply chain, the e-waste epidemic will get worse.”
Although many companies do already run their own programs for the recycling of e-waste, the reclamation of e-waste is a difficult and complex process.
While complex electronics can contain up to 60 elements from the periodic table, the process of recovering these devices can be complicated and costly.
The question now arises: If it is complicated and costly, what other ways can we deal with e-waste?
Future Economic Potential In E-Waste
The way that O’Toole sees it, e-waste is of particular interest from an investment perspective because of the value of the materials it contains.
When a company is able to extract these raw materials safely, they are able to create a valuable product that can generate revenue.
If the extraction process is cost-effective, it is possible to generate a financial return by reducing e-waste. And in some cases, securing a stable supply of a material may be challenging.
Striving For Clean Technology Through Investments
For the last six months, O’Toole has been working to launch a successful new strategy focused on promoting clean technologies.
In her Clean Economy Investment strategy, she talks about how the fund adopts a unique approach that invests in diverse areas of the market that enjoy structural growth.
Surprisingly, many of these areas are not dependent on macroeconomics. Instead, the product gears towards the interest of mainstream investors.
Through this strategy, O’Toole engages with clients who are not typically interested in environmental value. And with her guidance, clients begin to move towards these areas of the market.
Appealing To the Public
Recently, the rise in social awareness of environmental issues is driving change. This change is partly due to regulations such as building performance regulation and effluence discharge monitoring.
However, consumer demand for things such as meat alternatives and recyclable packaging comprises a majority of the market’s change. In return, brands accommodate this change by developing responsible sourcing policies.
To its advantage, the fund is utilizing this societal trend and implementing it in their own main areas of focus.
Currently, the fund identified four sub-themes to best represent opportunities for long term secular growth in the Clean Economy:
Framlington Equity’s intention is to invest in publicly listed equities in areas of the global economy which benefit from secular tailwinds. And In the long term, O’Toole argues that consumers will continue to demand the transportation of goods and services; the provision of energy, food, and water; and the use of materials.
The Bigger Picture
The common theme across the investments that AXA IM makes through the Clean Economy strategy is that these are companies whose goods and services make economic sense for their customers.
Adoption is not dependent on subsidies or a desire by corporates to address environmental issues.
The business case for adoption is based on the need to meet more stringent regulatory requirements. Additionally, companies can gain market share by addressing the growing demand for sustainable consumer products.
Brands would want to invest in order to mitigate potential reputation damage associated with a poor environmental footprint and build a sustainable production cost advantage.
Companies operating within the clean economy have a critical responsibility to ensure they offer the best solutions for clients while being mindful of the environment.
What’s more, is that when companies demonstrate how their goods and services outperform on relevant environmental metrics, they can gain a competitive advantage.
Financiers have noticed and made waste management a part of their investment strategy.
Final Notes: Is your company doing something to reduce its e-waste or carbon footprint? If so, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adidas Sustainability Initiatives: Creating A More Circular Economy
According to The Robin Report, around 65 – 75 percent of consumers under the age of 35 say that they want brands to be more sustainable; Adidas sustainability initiatives aim to do just that. Naturally, news of climate change and dangers to the environment have made major impacts on the economic arena. And consequently, increasing demand for sustainable products fosters healthy competition among companies. From sustainable fashion to sustainable foods, Adidas sustainability initiatives have shown the company’s deliberate strides towards creating a more circular economy.
Adidas Sustainability Initiatives Include Fighting For Plastic-Free Oceans
In 2017, Adidas and Parley For The Oceans teamed up to tackle the plastic pollution in oceans. Their cooperation created the Adidas Parley shoes. These are sports shoes made out of plastic trash found in ocean.
In that same year, Adidas managed to sell one million shoes made out of ocean plastic. And the number of shoes sold is rising. It is not just shoes, either — consumers can purchase shirts, dresses, and pants now too. All of it is recycled from ocean plastic.
Additional to the push for recycled shoes, Adidas sustainability initiatives hope to help the company shift to totally recycled polyester by 2024. Furthermore, the company promises to keep its quality with recycled polyester.
Additionally, the Futurecraft Loop is a shoe that is 100% recyclable. Adidas will sell the new iteration of these shoes in 2021. It is clear that both Adidas and Parley For The Oceans are dedicated to making the ocean a cleaner place.
The founder of Parley has spoken out against plastic pollution, “Plastic is a design failure, just alien matter that shouldn’t be on this planet.”
Creating An Incentive to Recycle
Just a few weeks ago, Adidas sustainability initiatives took one additional stride by launching a voucher system in the UK. Specifically, the system allows consumers to give back their worn-out shoes.
In return, customers would earn up to $25 in credit toward a future purchase.
Afterwards, Adidas would resell or recycle those worn-out shoes. This develops an intrinsic value in the shoes that people own. Additionally, it teaches consumers to shop more wisely.
Adidas Sustainability Initiatives Extend Past Recycling
Five days ago, the company announced its partnership with International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. This multi-year partnership will pursue innovations in both technology and sustainability.
Moreover, this partnership will mark the first time that footwear innovation will be tested in space.
Among many other efforts to communicate sustainability with its consumers, Adidas hosted its annual Run for the Oceans. During the race, which occurs on World Oceans Day on June 8th, had runners log the distance they run in one week.
For every kilometer run, Adidas donated $1 to Parley Education School. These donations aided in educating young people on how to tackle the marine problem. Not surprisingly, Adidas surpassed its goal of $1.5 million.
As consumers become more environmentally aware, so must the companies that provide for them. Adidas and Parley for the Oceans are setting an important precedent for other companies that wish to continue competing in the economic arena.
With companies like Coca-Cola adding to plastic pollution, companies have to make a change if they want continual profits.
Consequently, sustainable products are imperative if companies wish to flourish in a world driven by environmental justice. But Adidas sustainability initiatives are just the first step of many.
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