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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment Heather Clancy Wed, 10/28/2020 - 07:01

It may be a little early to start writing about trends for 2021, but I’m going to do it anyway. What’s on my mind? Carbontech, a category of climate tech I’d love to see break through next year. It's the exciting idea that we can take something that could be considered waste, draw it out of the atmosphere and turn it into a source of revenue or economic growth.

There are signs that give me optimism. This morning, digital payments company Stripe announced a plan to let its merchant customers divert a portion of their revenue to carbon removal projects. The move follows Stripe’s own pledge to put $1 million into four "high potential" projects earlier this year, and the two initiatives are related. The specific technologies that Stripe is funding are carbon-sequestering cement (CarbonCure), geologic storage (Charm Industrial), direct air capture (Climeworks) and ocean mineralization (Project Vesta).

"Stripe’s climate initiative is a gift because it removes all barriers to positive action," wrote Substack CEO Chris Best, a beta tester, in a statement. "This program makes it easy, and valuable, to do the right thing. We’re proud to be part of it." All of the popular newsletter platform’s writers have the opportunity to participate. Makes me want to host my own personal blog there.

Lest I forget, another well-known commerce player, Shopify, last month picked carbon removal and carbontech as a focus for its Sustainability Fund, which commits $5 million annually to climate-tech solutions. Some companies it is supporting are the same as Stripe (CarbonCure, Charm Industrial and Climeworks). It is also including ocean sequestration in the mix through its support of Planetary Hydrogen. And it is also letting merchants add options for offsetting that buyers can select during transactions. 

Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way.

Rising corporate support of carbontech and carbon removal technologies writ large is one of the biggest reasons driving my optimism that the market is about to take a turn. 

Last week, for example, Microsoft announced one of its most unusual investments yet, as it seeks to deliver on its pledge to become a "carbon negative" company. It plans to supply Alaska Airlines with sustainable aviation fuel for the three most popular routes flown by its employees between Seattle and Silicon Valley, via a partnership with SkyNRG, which produces it from waste oil and agricultural residue. That’s right: Microsoft is buying jet fuel. 

MInd you, those jets will still need to use regular fuel in combo with the sustainable stuff, but the strategy will help Microsoft reduce emissions from those flights (it’s also working on an accounting standard for helping do this), and we all know the aviation sector will be really tough to decarbonize. This is a much needed commercial boost, optically speaking.

Alaska Airlines

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft also joined the Northern Lights project in Norway, which is seeking to standardize methods for capturing carbon emissions at industrial facilities in Europe, turning them into a liquid and transporting it to a place where it’s pumped and stored under the ocean floor. The initiative — a collaboration of Norway’s government along with oil giants Equinor, Shell and Total — is moving into a commercial phase.

The nature of Microsoft’s involvement isn’t entirely clear, but one thing being explored is how the software company’s analytics technology can help create blueprints for the techniques being used to capture CO2 (so they can be replicated elsewhere) and for creating new value chains for transporting and managing it. 

Corporate interest is on the rise

Carbontech is very much in the spotlight at this week’s VERGE 20 virtual event, in sessions dedicated to moonshots and emerging technologies. According to a comprehensive market report published this week by the Circular Carbon Network (CCN) and discussed during the conference, the pace of activity picked up dramatically in the past decade — of the roughly 330 innovators working on carbon removal or turning carbon into value, more than 65 percent of them were started after 2010. About 50 percent of the 107 companies that CCN tracks closely are already generating revenue. I’ll bet that’s more than you thought. 

The investment dynamics are intriguing: CCN’s research uncovered 135 companies in this space that have raised $2.2 billion; its own Deal Hub tracker recovered deals worth $714 million in the past year, a significant pick up of activity, according to the organization’s report. 

"What you are seeing is an accelerating pace of interest and activity," said Nicholas Eisenberger, managing director at Pure Energy partners and co-founder of CCN, who spoke about this topic during a carbontech market update at VERGE 20. "This market is going to either be very large or ginormous." 

Here’s another big takeaway from my conversation last week with Eisenberger and his colleague Marcius Extavour, executive director of the NRG Cosia Carbon XPrize, one of the managing organizations for the CCN: Deals with corporate investors are increasingly attractive to carbontech entrepreneurs. And vice versa.

CCN is tracking 61 multinational companies (as of this writing) involved in everything from research and development (the most common intersection) to buying and selling CO2 derivatives (buying it for food and beverages or selling carbon credits). Aside from Microsoft and the to-be-expected oil companies, others on the list include Amazon, Delta Air Lines, Interface, Lafarge, Nike and Starbucks.

"This space is about climate, it’s also about a climate solution. It’s also an example of a climate solution that can support economic growth," Extavour noted, pointing to the carbontech evolution. Hence, the corporate interest.

The extent to which COVID-19 infrastructure investments and economic recovery plans are linked with climate action is also likely to increase corporate involvement, especially outside the U.S., where some investments already have been linked to these metrics, such as the bailout of Air France, Extavour added.


How ginormous could the carbontech market get? According to nonprofit Carbon180, the total addressable market for products that could be affected is $6 trillion — with the biggest opportunities for using "waste CO2" found in transportation fuels and building materials. Captured carbon also could be a resource for food, fertilizers, polymers and chemicals. (Before you ask, very few innovators that CCN is tracking are focused on enhanced oil recovery applications.)

Helping entrepreneurs commercialize carbontech more quickly is the mission of the new three-year Carbon to Value Initiative created this summer by the Urban Future Lab at New York University-Tandon, Greentown Labs and the Fraunhofer USA Technbridge (with support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Consulate General of Canada in New York). Whew. 

Lo and behold, C2V last week added the first corporate members to its leadership council with representatives from Johnson Matthey, W.L. Gore and Associates, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, NRG and Suez. (Extavour and Eisenberger are also on the council, as is Noah Deich, executive director of Carbon180.) 

Pat Sapinsley, managing director of cleantech initiatives at NYU Tandon, said carbontech entrepreneurs haven’t benefited broadly from attention by the investment or mentorship communities that have shown up to support other climate-tech sectors such as energy or transportation. "Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way," she said. "They’ve been very well supported recently, by some really excellent NGOs, but we bring commercial chops to the table."

C2V is accepting applications for its first startup cohort (supported from May to November 2021) through Jan. 27. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, said there are four sorts of solutions types C2V hopes to catalyze: capture mechanisms; transformative process innovations; utilization methods that use CO2 as a feedstock fuels, building materials and so forth, and storage approaches (including those focused on important natural solutions such as sequestration).

By mentoring carbontech entrepreneurs, C2V hopes to send a "market signal" for broader commercial and government support, Reichert said. "This is such a multidimensional problem that we need to tackle it from a multi-industry and multidisciplinary approach," she said.

By the way, there are still three days left of VERGE 20, with plenty of sessions about carbon solutions, including one of the most popular approaches — tree planting, conservation and cultivation initiatives. If you're missing out, register here.

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Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way.
Carbon Capture Carbontech VERGE 20
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The Climeworks plant in Hinwil, Switzerland.

Author: Heather Clancy
Posted: October 28, 2020, 2:01 pm
Kraft Heinz sustainability chief reflects on 'interdependence' Heather Clancy Wed, 10/28/2020 - 01:00

Food company Kraft Heinz has been relatively quiet about its corporate sustainability strategy in the five years since it was formed through the merger of food giants Kraft and Heinz — stepping out in early 2018 to provide an update.

In September, the maker of well-known brands such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Planter’s Nuts and Heinz Ketchup — which had $25 billion in revenue last year — spoke up again with a second combined report that shows it stalled on 2020 goals for energy and water through last year (it will miss both) and doubles down on work to create circular production processes for packaging (it’s ahead of schedule and will introduce the first circular Heinz bottle in Europe next year).

Kraft Heinz also updated its commitments with new targets pegged to 2025. Here are some of the latest commitments, along with perspective on progress so far:

  • Procure most electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and decrease energy usage by 15 percent. The company didn’t previously have a renewables target, but it has been emphasizing a goal to reduce energy consumption (per metric ton of product produced) by 15 percent, which it had hoped to achieve by this year. Through 2019, it managed a 1 percent reduction against a 2015 baseline.
  • Decrease water usage by 20 percent at high-risk sites and 15 percent overall by 2025 (per metric ton of product made). The company had hoped to reduce consumption by 15 percent by this year, against a 2015 baseline, but it actually increased water use by 1 percent per metric ton of product produced.  
  • Decrease waste by 20 percent across all Kraft Heinz manufacturing operations by 2025. That’s a higher percentage than its previous commitment, which focused on waste to landfill. The company actually increased waste to landfill by 16 percent through 2019 but is has pledged to focus more closely on "a strong byproducts plan, product donation strategy and improved forecasting."
  • Make 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025. Through 2019, it has achieved 70 percent.
  • Kraft Heinz is undergoing an assessment so it can set a science-based target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Emissions have increased since its 2015 baseline, although the company managed a 5 percent cut from 2018 to 2019.
  • Responsible sourcing is a big focus, with the company aiming for 100 percent sustainably sourced tomatoes by 2025, 100 percent sustainable and traceable palm oil by 2022, and 100 percent cage-free eggs globally by 2025 (among other ingredients).

Rashida La Lande, general counsel at Kraft Heinz, took on responsibility for the company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy at the end of 2018. I caught up with her recently for a brief conversation as the company disclosed its new target, chatting about how best practices from the previously independent companies have been shared, how the pandemic has affected progress and what’s to come for sustainable agricultural practices. Below is a transcript of that discussion, edited for style and length.

Heather Clancy: It seems unusual for a general counsel to have this role. What prompted the decision to make it part of your responsibilities?

Rashida La Lande: I think it was a couple of things. There are some general counsels that have it. It sometimes falls within corporate affairs, sometimes it falls within procurement. I think for depending on where you see it, it kind of reflects the way that the company might focus on the issue. From our perspective I think it reflects several things.

One, it reflects the fact that it’s a passion of mine. It’s something I view, and I think is important. And I think at the time our CEO wanted to make sure that someone who was passionate about it and had real sense of the business and the industry was leading it.

The environmental and, of course, the social are hugely important to us but we really start from the perspective of how can we design policy and reporting to maximize our result.

In addition, when we look at ESG, I think the fact that it’s within legal also reflects the heavy importance that we put on its governance. From the governance part of it — meaning the reporting level of the board, the oversight, the disclosure — we really truly do believe that what you track, what you measure, what you report on, what you compensate on are the things that you see effectively change. So, of course, the environmental and, of course, the social are hugely important to us but we really start from the perspective of how can we design policy and reporting to maximize our result.

Clancy: How is your team blending the legacy knowledge of the two separate programs at Kraft and Heinz?

La Lande: That’s a really good question. Business continuity was the primary focus of the merger and of aligning the two companies. And they had very different sustainability programs at the time. Right now, what we’re trying to do is to make sure that the ESG focuses on the key parts of our enterprise strategy so we put the time and resources behind our commitments and where we think we can drive the biggest change. With the merger, we’re able to assess what each company was doing and how they were thinking about it. Frankly [we could] identify where we can take the things that they were doing best and then identify the things that each side needed to do better.

So, for example, we had strong sustainable palm oil sourcing programs on the Kraft side whereas on the Heinz side there was a really strong focus on agricultural and sustainable agriculture commitments stemming from ketchup and our use of tomatoes. … Both companies had really strong histories of philanthropical support, Heinz in particular with the relationship it had in Pittsburgh. And so it’s coming together and really thinking about as a food company how can we best talk about food insecurity and feeding people globally, which is something that really gels from both companies’ background.

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Kraft Heinz

Clancy: How has the pandemic changed the focus of the Kraft Heinz ESG team?

La Lande: It really put a focus on how much of a global company we are and our interdependence through all of our systems, businesses, units and people. And frankly, it has highlighted some of the ways that our global ESG perspective [is a strength] for us as a company and how important it is for our strategy.

One of the things that we have been talking about since I started working on ESG is how important it is for us to support our community in their time of need. So we really looked at places where we’ve got employees and factories and consumers and customers, and we started to do more programming around not only the food insecurity but also making sure that we were available to people at the time of the disaster.

So when the pandemic hit, it really caused us to quickly recognize that how we were thinking about this already, in terms of community, disaster relief and feeding people, put us in a really unique position to be impactful and to think about the global need that was going to be coming from the pandemic.

So, we committed to provide meals to those in need and trying to do what we could to eliminate global hunger. And the pandemic just punctuated the need. At this point, to date, we’ve donated more than $15 million in financial and product support to help people all across the globe access the food that they need. And we’ve done it both in a fast time, mobile way as well as [through] a local touchpoint where we have business and community impact.

Clancy: I know I’m jumping around a little bit. That’s the nature of having only a few minutes with you. What is the company’s policy for protecting biodiversity?

La Lande: Right now, we’re working to update our sustainable agricultural practice by the end of 2020. We’re doing the work with a very seasoned agricultural team ... primarily coming from the Heinz side but not exclusively. We have a strong history of sustainable agriculture. We’re working with developing that program further based on input from our growers and our suppliers, the farmers that we buy from. And we even have an upcoming "In Our Roots" program where we’re going to be working with suppliers to ensure that all of their agricultural practices satisfy our customer needs for safe food and traceable origin, [and] satisfy consumer demands for reliable supply, particularly of affordable nutritious food.

We focus on promoting and protecting the health and welfare and the economic prosperity of the farmers, the workers, the employees and the communities within our supply chain. We’re very focused on minimizing our adverse effects on the Earth’s natural resources and biodiversity. We think those are the ways that we’re going to contribute, and that’s what we’re focusing on as we develop this program. We expect to roll it out more effectively — more widely, I should say — in 2021.

Our main focus is on being good stewards of the environment, sourcing responsibilities, tracking and verifying where our ingredients come from, making our concerns and commitments with our suppliers and our supply chain very clear.

Clancy: Will regenerative ag be part of that?

La Lande: I think that is one of the things that we’re talking about, but I think we’ll have an ability to think more specifically about it once we make a more specific announcement in 2021.

Clancy: Fair enough. How does Kraft Heinz blend environmental justice considerations into its ESG strategy?

La Lande:Our main focus is on being good stewards of the environment, sourcing responsibilities, tracking and verifying where our ingredients come from, making our concerns and commitments with our suppliers and our supply chain very clear. Working and partnering with our supply chain to make sure that they have the training and expertise and understanding of our expectations. And verifying our ingredients, where they come from, what the impacts of our operations are. Through all of this, we think we’re better able to ensure that our environmental impacts are not so delineated by socioeconomic or demographic lines and instead really focus on how we can impact and have good stewardship worldwide. That’s why you see one of our key pillars being environmental stewardship as a global strategy.

Clancy: You probably have 18 priorities or probably 18 million priorities. But what do you feel is your most important priority in this moment?

La Lande: My goodness. I do have 18 million priorities. But for me, I think in this moment in the pandemic it’s really the focus on feeding people. There is a lot of hardship that people are facing. Unfortunately, I think there’s going to be more hardship kind of globally before we [as a society] get ourselves out of the position that we’re currently in. So I think while everything that we’re doing is extremely important, I think the day-to-day needs that we’re seeing and addressing those needs for people have to be at the forefront of what we do and have to be our first commitment.

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The environmental and, of course, the social are hugely important to us but we really start from the perspective of how can we design policy and reporting to maximize our result.
Our main focus is on being good stewards of the environment, sourcing responsibilities, tracking and verifying where our ingredients come from, making our concerns and commitments with our suppliers and our supply chain very clear.
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Rashida La Lande, Kraft Heinz

Kraft Heinz general counsel Rashida La Lande leads the giant food company's corporate social responsibility and ESG strategy.

Kraft Heinz
Author: Heather Clancy
Posted: October 28, 2020, 8:00 am
Gillette plans to shave use of virgin plastics by 50% by 2030 Deonna Anderson Tue, 10/27/2020 - 02:17

Personal care products brand Gillette, known for its razors, set out to become a more sustainable company one decade ago. And over the past 10 years, it has reduced its energy consumption by 392,851 gigajoules and its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent. The company also has reached zero-manufacturing-waste-to-landfill status across all plants in its global network.

On Monday, Gillette announced its 2030 goals to uplevel its sustainability ambitions. Building on the 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions — and using a 2009-2010 baseline — Gillette plans to boost that number to a 50 percent reduction by 2030.

"We've done a lot over the 10 years. But we're not complacent," said Gary Coombe, CEO at Gillette. "And we recognize there's still a lot to do."

One of Gillette's 2030 goals is to maintain zero-waste-to-landfill status. To achieve that designation at its World Shaving Headquarters in Boston, Gillette worked with local recycler Rand Whitney Recycling to do an in-depth assessment on all of its waste streams, with a goal of ensuring all would be either reused, recycled or incinerated for energy recovery. P&G Corporate, Gillette's parent company, doesn't release numbers about how much waste is reused, recycled or incinerated across its brands.

From there, the company worked to reduce scrap waste and engaged employees to help improve recycling rates. Gillette said because the assessment of its waste streams, which helped determine how to treat the waste, was effective, it later was implemented at other plants globally.

Another one of Gillette’s goals is to reduce water consumption related to production by 35 percent. The company has been cutting its water consumption by using more recycled water at its sites and through water conservation projects. The company shared its Milenio plant in Mexico as an example. At that plant, it said it has zero water discharge, meaning 100 percent of its wastewater is treated and reused onsite.

What's more, Coombe said when Gillette thinks about reducing water consumption, it also considers how to reduce the amount of water people who use its razors consume when shaving. 

To that end, it designed razors to be easier to rinse hair from, enabling people to use less water. It also recently released a "waterless" razor for "assisted shaving," or shaving someone else. That product was designed with caregivers in mind, with a shave gel tube attached directly to the razor. 

Gillette’s other 2030 goals include:

  1. Use 100 percent renewable purchased electricity: The company has created an energy task force team at each of its sites to help identify and improve its energy footprint.
  2. Reduce absolute virgin plastic by 50 percent.
  3. Provide 100 percent transparency about the ingredients in its formulas: Gillette is part of the Smart Label program in the U.S. to promote ingredient transparency for people who use its products. Additionally, its parent company P&G provides product ingredient information through its product ingredient transparency page.
  4. Responsibly source animal, plant and mineral-derived materials, backed by supporting credentials (Forest Stewardship Council)
  5. Use 100 percent recyclable packaging.
  6. Increase the amount of PCR content used in its blades and razors by 2023.

To help support the recyclability of its products, in 2019, Gillette, in partnership with TerraCycle, launched a razor recycling program in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand, which allowed its customers to recycle any brand of used razor handle or blade along with its packaging. 

"This is a program that we felt was very important and necessary to give consumers that option, should they wish, to recycle the product," Coombe said. "That's a partnership that continues to grow. And we're going to leverage it further, as we launch new products and products that are even more specifically designed to improve the environmental profile of the razor."

Since the program’s initial launch, the partnership has established over 21,000 public razor recycling locations globally, according to Gillette. Once the disposable razors, replaceable-blade cartridges and their packaging are collected, they are broken down and separated by material. The plastics are cleaned and turned into pellets to be recycled into new products such as picnic tables and park benches and the metal materials are smelted and converted into alloys. 

Aside from its 2030 goals, Gillette this week is releasing results of a global survey it conducted with research firm Lucid. The survey, which polled about 5,500 men ages 18 to 50 in 11 countries, showed more than half of the men surveyed (54 percent) care about sustainability and more than half (58 percent) say plastic waste in the environment is a very important issue to them. 

Coombe said that while the survey results didn’t influence Gillette’s 2030 goals, "it's given us even more encouragement and energy to get to stay on this journey and accelerate the journey that, frankly, we've been on for 10 years already."

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Gillette's World Shaving Headquarters in Boston, Mass. 

Gillette's World Shaving Headquarters in Boston, Mass. Courtesy of Gillette.

Author: Deonna Anderson
Posted: October 27, 2020, 9:17 am
Lisa Jackson: How Apple aims to lead on environment and equity Elsa Wenzel Tue, 10/27/2020 - 02:00

Apple's Lisa Jackson is moving social justice to the top of the list for protecting the environment. Coming from one of Fortune's "most powerful women in business" at one of the world's largest companies, she has views that could have a long-term global impact.

Apple's big-ticket sustainability goals released this year for 2030 include becoming carbon-neutral and achieving a net-zero impact in all operations. The company also recently embraced an outward-facing leadership role on its social impacts, with a $100 million investment to create a Racial and Equity Justice Initiative (REJI), which CEO Tim Cook asked Jackson to lead in June.

How can we grow some Black and brown-owned businesses that are working on the issue of climate change?

It's not new for Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives to see racism and climate change as intertwined. She capped off her two-decade career with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as its chief under President Barack Obama. Jackson recalled a key lesson from her New Orleans childhood to GreenBiz co-founder Joel Makower during a VERGE 20 virtual event Monday.

1. Identifying intersections

"I know what it means to be at the receiving end of our industrial society, whether it's the air quality coming from petrochemical facilities, of wind, or the water quality coming down the Mississippi River, or the Gulf of Mexico's health — and that ecosystem and diversity, all those issues, conflate to me around the place I call home," the chemical engineer said.

For example, she has seen the resources of the world flow upward to the people who make inequitable decisions around land use and then profit from them — but not flowing back to the people who become victims of flooding, fires or other consequences of poor planning. "Those are the questions we have to solve if we're really going to solve the climate crisis," Jackson said.

Fighting for equality and justice for my community has driven my career as an environmentalist. I’ll continue the work leading Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative. #BlackLivesMatter

— Lisa P. Jackson (@lisapjackson) June 11, 2020

Jackson's passion for addressing these problems deepened recently when she witnessed the combustive mix of poor air quality and high COVID-19 fatalities within historically underserved frontline communities.

"It all comes together because we know that the co-pollutants of CO2 from fossil fuel, and from the fossil fuel-burning power sector and transportation sectors, are all part of that justice equation," she said.

2. Empowering communities

As part of its REJI initiative, which centers around representation, inclusion and accountability, Apple describes using its voice and cash to transform systemic disempowerment into empowerment. One way is to hire more coders of color and to build up wealth in underserved communities by doing more business with suppliers owned by people of color.

"One of the things we did in the economic empowerment space is come up with this idea of an impact accelerator," she said. "How can we grow some Black and brown-owned businesses that are working on the issue of climate change? Because we've always said that climate change is an economic opportunity, how can we make sure that opportunity is spread equally?"

Plus, Apple is also nurturing coding hubs at historically Black colleges and universities.

Apple's $100 million toward REJI is nine to 10 times the investment committed by Amazon, Google and Facebook each toward racial justice causes.

3. Making the human factor material

It’s been two years since Apple planted the seeds to grow a circular economy by committing to make all of its devices from recycled or renewable materials eventually. Jackson described how the iPhone maker quickly found that its "moonshot" of shunning ingredients that need to be mined is not just about closing the loop on material resources, but on human resources as well. The tech giant prioritized eliminating conflict minerals and questionably sourced rare earths early on because of the labor and supply chain difficulties involved.

In this area, Apple so far has created its own recycled aluminum alloy for devices including the Apple Watch, MacBookAir and iPad, and it uses recycled tin in solder in some logic boards. It has developed profiles of 45 materials in terms of their impacts on the environment, society and supply chains, singling out 14 for early action on recycled or renewable sourcing. The haptic engine, which enables a variety of vibrations in iPhone models 11 and up, uses recycled rare earths. The Daisy disassembly robot gained a cousin, Dave, which recovers rare earth elements, steel and tungsten from spent devices and scrap.

Joel Makower and Lisa Jackson at the VERGE 2020 virtual event.

Apple is still aiming to make all of its products and packaging from recycled and renewable materials. So far all paper materials are recycled, and plastics have been reduced by 58 percent in four years. The company is more quietly progressing on safer chemistry. Toward its goal of gathering data on all the chemicals that comprise its products, it has information from 900 suppliers on 45,000 parts and materials.

"As much as we want to continue to engage in communities to try to lift up the standards and use our purchasing power to lift up, we also have to be honest with ourselves and say, there's also a need for us to show an alternative path," Jackson said.

4. Being first and bigger

Where Apple leads, others in the market listen. For instance, so far it has nudged more than 70 of its suppliers to adopt clean energy, which Apple has fully implemented in its offices, data centers and stores without leaning on offsets. The company’s supply chain partners of all sizes are ripe for doing something differently, Jackson said. 

Because we've always said that climate change is an economic opportunity, how can we make sure that opportunity is spread equally?

"They've seen what COVID can do, or a crisis can do, to a business that hasn't thought about resilience and sustainability," Jackson said. "Apple can help by modeling and also taking a risk on technologies and ways of doing business, and quickly scaling them."

For example, Apple was able in a single year to embed 100-recycled rare earth elements in the magnets of its iPhone 12 series.

"If we can come up with a cleaner alternative, then our belief is that these other places will have no alternative but to clean up as well so that they can be competitive not just on an economic level, but on a social and environmental level as well," she said. "That's going to be the exciting work for Apple ... in the next few years is to not only do it first but to do it bigger, and to hopefully leave behind a supply chain that's now economical and accessible for other people. Because those industries, those enterprises will say, 'OK, there are probably more people who want to buy recycled material as well' — and that's the circular economy."

Pull Quote
How can we grow some Black and brown-owned businesses that are working on the issue of climate change?
Because we've always said that climate change is an economic opportunity, how can we make sure that opportunity is spread equally?
Equity & Inclusion Supply Chain VERGE 20
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Apple Vice President, Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson.

Apple's Vice President, Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson.

Author: Elsa Wenzel
Posted: October 27, 2020, 9:00 am
Brown, female and on the bus: A personal journey into transportation policy Sahar Shirazi Tue, 10/27/2020 - 01:30

I got my first passport at 6 months old. Not to take a luxurious holiday with my jet-setting family, but to move back to a country on the brink of war, right after a democratic revolution that almost immediately turned into a dictatorship. At age 5, after various failed attempts to flee Iran, I boarded a flight from Istanbul to Los Angeles by myself.

Before I started school, transportation already had served to move me both into and out of opportunity in very real ways.

Like many immigrants, my identity is complicated. First, I am not technically an immigrant. I was born in Berkeley, California. I was 6 months old when my family moved back to Iran, and for the first 5 years of my life, I was physically stuck there.

Even after we finally made it back to the U.S., I was raised in such strictly traditional surroundings, we may as well have been in my grandparents’ village in Iran, just without the bombs and threats from the government (at least, not at that point). My family struggled to gain legal status in the U.S., and I was shaped by my personal experiences as well as theirs.

When we first moved to the U.S., we were very poor. We lived in apartments around Sacramento, moving every six months or so as my parents chased elusive opportunities and odd jobs. Both of my parents worked at various burger joints, and my sister and I took the public bus to school, keys tied around our necks, sometimes upwards of 40 minutes each way.

In 1989, Mazda came out with the Miata, originally only available in red, white and blue in the U.S. It was the first time I’d ever cared about a car. Walking by those shiny, tiny cars as I went to sit in the greasy air of the burger shop gave 9-year-old me my first taste of material want, the first-time consumerism infiltrated my psyche as a child.

In school, I fantasized that I could learn skills to woo my classmates; to become clever or artistic or sporty enough that they would no longer question my hair, skin, language or lack of wealth. But here, here was a way for me to buy my way into their world. I was enchanted by the car not as a mode for gaining access or opportunity, but as a means to gain status. And that understanding never left me.

I was enchanted by the car not as a mode for gaining access or opportunity, but as a means to gain status. And that understanding never left me.

By the time I was old enough to drive, my family had moved out of Sacramento and into northern Sonoma County. My parents had moved up the ladder and now owned their own little burger shop, were able to buy their first house, and we’d been living in a middle-class community for some time.

My political psyche also had formed more. I was involved in groups and actions, I already had joined boards and commissions for youth, and I’d organized various petitions and rallies in school.

I’d been given a used bike in my early teens and rode it around the developing landscape of wine country as my only physical escape from my home. I took the school bus to school, and the county bus to the local community college, in the neighboring town, for classes I couldn’t take at our underfunded high school.

Active and shared transportation was my lifeline, and I could not imagine sheltering myself in a private car — even a little Miata, removed from the experience of transportation, despite all the problems such a luxury would have alleviated.

In Iran, taxis and mini-buses charged for space rather than users; and the wealthy paid extra for empty bus seats or "closed door" taxis that did not pick up other strangers. Riding the bus in the U.S. and not smooshing into a stranger still felt luxurious despite the inconveniences and delays, until the harassment began.

In addition to being Middle Eastern in a region made up of mostly white and Latino populations, I was a young female who’d developed early. Before I understood the comments that men hurled at me, I knew the discomfort they caused. On the school bus, young boys grabbed me with no remorse and no consequences (other than the time I punched one of them, finally trying to assert some form of power).

At the city bus stop, on a rural road with no one around, men slowed down and screamed out the window for me to get in as they drove by. This behavior continued through my 20s, in Oakland and San Francisco and much more "urban" and "progressive" places than the small town I spent my adolescence in. I still remember wondering what part of my 22-year-old self, dressed in paint-splattered clothes from nine hours of working with preschoolers, screamed out for that kind of attention.

Stop request sign on light-rail train in Sacramento

A stop request sign on a light-rail train in Sacramento. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/ZikG

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These were normalized experiences of being female, brown and a non-driver. And yet, I never sought the safe isolation of being in a car. I could not have explained why, until age 29, I refused to get a license.

I had neither the understanding of transportation’s importance or its role in our social fabric to put words to my own stubbornness, until I sank deep into the academic study, personal stories and history of our systems.

When I entered grad school at Mills College in 2009, I finally decided to get a license. I realized I could no longer afford to wait for buses that never came, and I had the luxury of being able to drive, have a vehicle and affording my private transportation system.

Being in an enclosed vehicle alone was a new experience at 29, and the safety and comfort I felt was matched only by my own sense of disconnection from the world. I’ve heard the term "windshield mentality" used for the psychology of driving, and it resonates deeply.

On a train, a bus, a bike or on foot, we are forced to interact with the world in some way. But alone, in a car, separated physically from all others, we can easily sink into an "us vs. everyone" mentality.

Suddenly, the biker or pedestrian is a nuisance, not a person trying to get somewhere just like me. The stop signs and speed limits are just in my way, rather than being protections for the lives of others. No level of learning changes this basic psychology. I still must remind myself every time I drive, I am not in traffic, I am traffic.

To truly have a system that serves the needs of diverse communities, that acknowledges and repairs the harm we have done with past planning and projects, we must have greater representation from the people affected by them.

With this shift in mentality taking shape, I entered a public policy program, aiming to learn about community-based economic development and social equity work. I was going back to school to make a difference, and I had no idea that that path would lead me to transportation.

One of my early projects was a study for the local business improvement district; a parking study. As I walked around the community counting parking spaces by the hour, I dashed across roads with no stoplights, crosswalks and wide lanes incentivizing high speeds, wondering why certain corners were so dark once the sun went down, and taking note of the infrastructure for other modes of transportation such as buses and bikes. I spoke to shop owners and residents, passersby and city officials, and every conversation and observation pushed me to learn more about urban planning.

I think of those conversations often these days, of the person who told me they won’t take the bus in the evenings, because the bus stop is next to an ATM, and there have been too many muggings there. Of the person who explained to me that the land use and transit components are decided separately, so putting a bus stop in front of a café instead, for example, had not been considered.

And of our final presentation to the local Business Improvement District, where we suggested pedestrian, bike and transit improvements to slow down traffic would benefit them, rather than more parking, and the incredulous response we received.

I think of my own transportation stories; of the frustration of taking three buses and riding over an hour to commute to my job that was only eight miles away. Of the kids who were on the last leg of that commute, using the county bus as their school bus every morning, and how happy their interactions made me. Of missing a bus between jobs and the anxiety I felt as I waited 30 minutes for the next option.

In many ways, transportation and land use is the physical manifestation of patriarchy and racism.

City bus

From our history of bulldozing minority neighborhoods to build freeways and refusing loans to Black families to our current decision-making structures that exclude those who cannot access language, time, education, transportation, childcare, technology — all but the most resourced participants, we have reinforced systems that benefit white men at the expense of all others for decades.

How do we move forward when we are burdened with so much weight, pulling at us from our past? How do we confront our own history and learn from it, to make programs, policies, investments and structures that serve the needs of communities, especially in a world of constrained time and resources?

Recently, I gave a presentation that showed historic redlining maps lined up with current maps of disadvantaged communities, and I was surprised at the response it garnered. “Wow, they are the same,” someone said incredulously. Our past actions have long-lasting consequences, and we are never starting from scratch. It still boggles my mind how that is a revelation. Of course they are the same.

To truly have a system that serves the needs of diverse communities, that acknowledges and repairs the harm we have done with past planning and projects, we must have greater representation from the people affected by them. Our current systems, which make decisions for people without their involvement, will continue to create inequitable outcomes, however well-intentioned those decisions may be.

Sharing more information, education and stories about transportation and mobility, and enabling collaboration through new models of engagement can help us move past limited community meetings and outreach into engagement and co-creation of goals. By acknowledging the importance of transportation in economic, environmental, educational and health outcomes, those of us in the field can help connect the dots for the next generation of transportation planners, policymakers and engineers, and increase diversity in representation in our field.

Just as my lived experiences influenced my decision to enter transportation, and continue to color my views through every project, the experiences of those different from me, those affected most by the mistakes of our past and present, must be included and valued as we move forward and try to do better. Meaningful representation, moving past tokenism, is critical to shifting the transportation paradigm and addressing our past harms.

Mobility creates economic, social, and environmental opportunity, and that opportunity has been distributed asymmetrically thus far. Transportation is more than technical engineering, it is more than a bus or a train or a bike; it is the potential for movement through the physical world, and the experiences and stories of accessing that movement. 

So when someone asks me now why I do this work, I simply tell them: It turns out I’ve been working in transportation my whole life, I just finally made it official.

This article was first published on the author's Medium channel.

Pull Quote
I was enchanted by the car not as a mode for gaining access or opportunity, but as a means to gain status. And that understanding never left me.
On a train, a bus, a bike or on foot, we are forced to interact with the world in some way. But alone, in a car, separated physically from all others, we can easily sink into an 'us vs. everyone' mentality.
To truly have a system that serves the needs of diverse communities, that acknowledges and repairs the harm we have done with past planning and projects, we must have greater representation from the people affected by them.
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Inside a bus in Chicago, circa March 2016

Inside a bus in Chicago, circa March 2016. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Sorbis

Author: Sahar Shirazi
Posted: October 27, 2020, 8:30 am