Is There a Trend of Greenwashing in the Fashion Industry?

By Reilly Sakai – Sustainability Analyst at G&A Institute

Despite being identified by some as one of the top contributors to impact on society’s environmental and social issues, on close inspection we could say that the fashion industry continues in 2020 to lag behind other sectors when it comes to a close review of the industry’s sustainability efforts.

The positives: Some major apparel industry players have or are attempting to create strategies and initiatives to reduce plastic and improve the sustainability of their supply chain.

However, in reviewing industry performance overall, it can be difficult to parse through which initiatives are actually making a difference — and which are simply an example of greenwashing, especially given the lower rate of disclosure of ESG emissions by prominent companies’ reporting.

Solutions? What Steps To Be Taken?

So, we can ask, what steps must be taken now — both at the company and the consumer level?

We can ask this question: Is it possible for an industry that so depends on continuous consumption of its products (clothing) to become more sustainable?

The fashion industry is reported to be responsible for more carbon emission than all international flights and maritime shipping combined — “producing 10 percent of all humanity’s carbon emissions” (source: UNEP, 2018).

The apparel industry is also the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply — after fruit and vegetable farming, which can be very intensive in terms of water use (source: Thomas Insights, 2019).

And, among the challenges, it’s reported that up to 85% of textiles end up in landfills rather than being recycled or upcycled (UNECE, 2018).

Between 2000 and 2015, clothing sales increased from 50 billion units to over 100 billion units, while utilization of clothing (the average number of times a garment is worn) dropped 36% during the same timeframe (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017).

These figures are nothing to scoff at as various sectors and industries move toward less water use; less waste to landfill; more recycling and re-use, among many measures adopted throughout industries.

Is the Fashion Industry Drive to Sustainability Slowing Down?

And yet, according to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report from the year 2019, sustainability efforts in the industry appear to be slowing down rather than accelerating to address these issues.

In GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database, there are currently 248 organizations that fall in the textiles & apparel sector worldwide. Put that in perspective of the total 14,476 organizations in the database.

That’s less than 2% of reporting organizations in the textile & apparel sector. In the sector, there are just 80 GRI Standards industry reports, vs 4,089 GRI Standards reports in the database as a whole.

Given the rate at which the global fashion industry has been growing (before the coronavirus emergency) – more people, more apparel, more income, etc) — we might conclude that companies in the industry have simply not been doing enough to offset their well-charted detrimental environmental impacts.

So what to do now? We know that the fashion industry is important in terms of global economic impact and employment, and creativity – while also being a top contributor to waste, greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and an array of other negative environmental factors.

Incentives For Changing – Lacking

Today, there aren’t major economic or societal incentives in place for apparel companies to make real changes.

It’s going to take a lot of time and effort, not to mention considerable investment, to switch factories in which clothes are produced and polluting or violating human rights and so on (to address key ESG issues).

And it’s also quite difficult to have real transparency at every level of the apparel and footwear global supply chain to help to ensure a more sustainable production process.

Consumer Tastes – May Make a Difference. Maybe.

Moreover, while many consumers are now starting to buy what they believe to be the more sustainable products in many categories including fashion, very few consumers are apparently willing to pay more for them — or have the time or means to investigate every company’s sustainability initiatives and track record before making their purchase (Source: Pulse of the Fashion Industry, 2019).

Since it’s so much quicker and cheaper to do, companies instead may turn to marketing messaging that tells their customers that they are working towards a more sustainable future — without actually doing much or even anything in reality.

What Leading Companies Are Doing – the Positives

There is good news.  The “we are sustainable” message has begun to sell well and customers have been moving to certain apparel brands that are promoting a sustainable vision — without the buyer being able to (at point-of-sale) fact-check a company’s claims. That is the reality of at-market sales.

We can begin by taking a look at Everlane, which touts “radical transparency,” but doesn’t actually divulge the name of the factories in which its garments are produced.  So we don’t know what is going on there.

Patagonia, on the other hand, is considered best-in-class, offering repair and buyback programs in order to promote a circular economy, and has a multitude of policies and systems in place to ensure they’re doing everything they can to protect the environment and people who work at or interact with the company.

Nike, similarly, has done a lot to improve their supply chains over many years, using innovation as a driver for sustainability.

Rather than increasing factory audits to ensure that workers are wearing protective gear, Nike engineered a non-toxic glue so protective gear is no longer needed.\

Nike’s flyknit sneaker vastly reduced the amount of material needed to construct a shoe, meaning lower costs and less waste.

Other brands, from Adidas to Puma, have followed suit.

On the luxury end, Eileen Fisher has been a staple of sustainable clothing for decades, sourcing environmentally friendly materials, offering a buyback program, upcycling old materials into new garments, and sharing the wealth with all of her employees by offering a comprehensive ESOP.

Looking to the Future to Protect the Planet

With our Planet Earth’s environmental situation growing ever more dire, it is critical for the fashion industry — now! —  to encourage and make major changes — but convincing individual corporate leadership that this is a worthwhile investment is no small feat.

Because of the higher costs typically associated with implementing sustainability initiatives (or at least the perception of higher cost), overhauling a company’s entire supply chain is quite challenging.

Many fashion companies do not find it feasible in this competitive pricing environment to raise their prices or cut into their margins, especially when they continue to see the industry growing at such a swift pace year-over-year.

Perhaps more and more companies will consider Nike’s successful approach. That is, increasing spending in R&D as opposed to marketing, which has major potential to decrease costs and increase margins in the long-term, while improving their ESG efforts at the same time.

In my opinion, it’s going to probably take some form of public sector intervention or a mass consumer revolution or some similar dramatic action to influence the bulk of the fashion industry to move toward a truly sustainable future – and one of those things might happen sooner than later.

The leaders in corporate sustainability in the industry will be the major beneficiaries when the tide turns.

* * * * * * * * *

Reilly SakaiReilly Sakai is a sustainability analyst at G&A Institute; she began her work with us as one of our outstanding analyst-interns in grad school. She is completing her MBA program in Fashion & Luxury at NYU Stern School of Business, where she is specializing in Sustainable Business & Innovation, and, Management of Technology & Operations. She has been working with NYU’s Center for Sustainable Business on an independent study that explores environmental sustainability in apparel manufacturing.

The Power of the Purse / The Power of the Portfolio – Looking At Consumers and Investors in the United States of America

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

Facts:  The U.S. has the largest consumer market in the world (estimated spending is at US$12.5 trillion, or 26 percent of the global total consumer marketplace, and three times the size of the #2 consumer market, China).  “Personal” consumption accounts for 70% of US GDP.

Facts:  The US has the world’s largest investment base — for domestic bonds, that is $40 trillion of the $100 trillion worldwide bond market, and $20 trillion for domestic equities, roughly one-third of the $64 trillion entire global equities market.

Question: Imagine if the consumers and investors (of course, with much overlap here) in this nation of 331 million (third largest population in the world behind China and India) enthusiastically “dived into what living more sustainability means”.

Answer: It is happening, of course, from the American grassroots to grasstops — even if the President of the United States is withdrawing the nation from the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change and denying the impacts of global warming et al. 

Our Top Story for you this week is from CNBC (NBC-TV Network), with commentary from Alicia Adamczyk about a new series to be telecast: “CNBC Make It”, examining different facets of consumerism and finance and how these related to climate change and sustainability. (CNBC carries investing and market news throughout the day and has popular program hosts through the day and evening. The original name: Consumer News and Business Channel.)

The series can reach a quarter million viewers and more on CNBC in prime time and content is especially geared to younger age cohorts. Every day, volumes of content are shared on the CNBC web platform.  As the editors say — Influencing tomorrow’s leaders! Who will be among the most influential consumers and investors in the USA. 

Why is this media effort important?  Consider: A 2019 survey told that us 72 per cent of Americans now say global warming is a personally important issue.  And 44% support a carbon tax, according to another survey.

State and local governments (especially New York State and City and California) have been launching comprehensive sustainability initiatives. Plastic bags for taking shopping items home are going the way of the extinct Dodo bird in New York State, for example.

On the investing front, 85% of individual investors in the USA and 95% of the Millennials expressed interest in “impact investing” and making their portfolios more sustainable (source: Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing).

A doff of the cap to CNBC editors for their informational and educational efforts to help advance personal and institutional sustainability and sustainable investing.  You can learn more about their work at the link in our Top Story (there are links on the CNBC web platform to interesting sustainability topics).

And a short note on the future: This Coronavirus Crisis will pass and the world will get back to work. Investors and consumers will be looking at what companies are doing during and after the crisis to demonstrate their corporate citizenship. We may have an interruption in the trend, but the sustainability journey continues.

Top Story

More and more Americans want to live more sustainably—we’re diving into what that means
Source: CNBC – Over the past few years, sustainability has become one of the biggest buzzwords in personal finance, with consumers rethinking exactly where and how they spend their money.

The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States

Guest Commentary by Anita Fernandes

Scientists and researchers from around the globe have warned that climate change is the greatest threat to human health in history.

In fact, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that all life on our planet is under existential threat.

From hurricanes and floods to drought and catastrophic wildfires, there’s no denying that climate change is affecting us right now. However, climate change also poses long-term problems particularly to sustainability issues that impact our economy, society and health.

In focus: The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States

1. Temperature-related illnesses
Rising temperatures have direct and indirect effects on human health. Higher temperatures lead to an increase in the incidence of heatstroke, hyperthermia and dehydration-related deaths. High temperatures pose a greater risk to those with existing health problems such as cardiovascular, respiratory and kidney conditions.

It is difficult to calculate heat-related morbidity and mortality but researchers predict that future warming will result in an increase of from 2,000-to-10,000 deaths annually in each of 209 US cities.

This may seem like inordinately inflated figures until we consider that the 2003 European heat wave was responsible for approximately 70,000 premature deaths.

Higher temperatures are also linked to the spread of infectious diseases due to the increased populations of vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks.

Since the 1990s, the number of cases of Lyme disease (spread through deer ticks) has more than doubled in the US and affects approximately 300,000 Americans annually.

2. Extreme weather events
Weather extremes such as heat waves, droughts, tornadoes and hurricanes pose a significant threat to human health. Extreme heat was a rare occurrence in the USA just 50 years ago but now, extreme summer heat occurs about 7 per cent of the time.

We have also seen increases in concurrent droughts as well as heavy downpours and as the climate continues to warm, the number of fatalities will rise dramatically in the US.

Extreme weather events also have a significant impact on the country’s economy. For instance, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017 cost over US$300 billion in damages.

Hospitals that are affected by hurricanes are forced to grapple with recovery costs in the following year — which is likely to have a negative impact on their operating performance.

Extreme weather events also cause damage to roads and bridges which disrupts access to hospitals and health care services.

3. Air pollution
Climate change impacts air quality and conversely, air quality impacts climate change. Hotter summers pose a serious health risk as the increased temperature results in stationary domes of hot air that trap air pollutants in the lower atmosphere.

These “stagnation events” have become more prevalent especially in cities as data shows that 83% of US cities have experienced an increase in stagnant days.

This also increases the risk of ground-level ozone — which is a dangerous air pollutant that causes chest pain and coughing and can worsen asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

People with a history of these respiratory problems are at a higher risk of pneumonia and other pneumococcal diseases. Increased CO2 coupled with higher temperatures increases the growth rate of plants such as ragweed that are linked to allergies and asthma episodes.

Pneumonia information (“What you need to know”) is at: https://www.everydayhealth.com/pneumonia/guide/

4. Food and water shortages
Increased water temperatures brought on by climate change affects the habitat range for fresh water and can increase marine algae that produce toxins. Furthermore, flooding compromises human waste water treatment and can compromise drinking water leading to water shortages.

Reduced rainfall leads to diminished flow in rivers and streams which subsequently results in an increased concentration of harmful pollutants in these waters.

Similarly, climate changes in the American Southwest has resulted in less precipitation which has resulted in more severe and longer periods of drought. Crops fail to mature due to the lack of precipitation, which can lead to food shortages and food insecurity.

5. Mental health effects
Studies show that visits to the emergency department for mental illness and attempted suicides increase with higher temperatures. Furthermore, extreme heat poses greater risks to the physical and mental health of people with mental illnesses.

Disasters such as flooding and prolonged droughts can result in severe and even chronic mental health disorders including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorders. Increases in extreme heat also increase the risk of death for people with mental illnesses.

# # #

Guest author Anita Fernandes has been writing extensively on health and wellness for over a decade. She has expertise in nutrition, fitness, public health, and weight loss and has contributed content to a variety of leading digital health publishers.

Anita has a unique perspective on healthy living and lifestyle, as she has battled and overcome eating disorders and obesity. She shares her experiences in an effort to help others overcome the physical and mental health problems that can sometimes seem insurmountable.

Issues in Egypt in Focus, 2020 – Ken Cynar Perspectives – Could the Nile Go Almost Dry?

by Ken Cynar – Editor-in-Chief, G&A Institute

On Water Sustainability:

Critical Question: Could the Nile River Go Almost Dry?

Where can Egypt’s people find enough water to drink and continue sustainable agriculture that has lasted more than 5,000 years?

Blue Nile at Luxor

Long before the modern era of civilization first blossomed, the waters of the ancient Blue Nile flowed north from central Africa more than 4,100 miles into the Mediterranean Sea.

Along the way over the millennia the river’s flood cycles deposited fertile soil along its banks, fighting back the ever-encroaching desert, and quenching the thirst of the people and irrigating the crops they grew.

The Nile became the life blood of a region and a nation. This, the world’s longest river, became both the foundation of and the catalyst for the creation of ancient Egypt, nourishing its science, religion, engineering, writings, and other cultural foundations.

Today the Nile River flows through ten countries that share in its water and electric generating capacity…but not equally. The ever-fragile status quo is being threatened by the construction today in Ethiopia of yet another dam.

For Egypt: A Grave Situation

The situation is becoming grave for Egypt and its 97.5 million people who closely congregate in the land adjacent to the Nile as it flows northward.

Only 6 percent of the land in Egypt is usable in its current form and that tiny percentage is the home to almost all of Egypt’s people – with 22 million people in Cairo alone.

The Nile is their source of water for their crops, drinking water and more. Any sizeable disruption in the flow of the Nile would devastate the country, creating ecological calamity for its people and precipitating one economic disaster after another.

The truth is this: Here in northern Africa, water is more precious than oil.

Aswan Dam, Upper Nile

The solution to the problem like most regarding water is not cut and dried (forgive the pun). No one disputes Ethiopia’s right to build the dam and to generate electricity for its own people. The problem is in the details.

Lake Nasser

Behind the new dam the plan is to create a new lake and that lake must be filled with water…the question is how long will it take to fill the lake and how that disruption will impact the flow to the Egyptian Aswan Lake Nasser complex — and thereby the flow of water to the majority of Egypt’s almost 100 million people.

So far that question is unresolved and the dam construction is going forward.

Talks in Washington D.C. have not been fruitful — with no resolution of the issues involved in this complex situation.

As populations grow and poorer countries try to bring themselves and their people into the 21st and 22nd centuries, water control…in terms of protecting source and distribution…are becoming issues that could drive nations to armed conflict.

Currently it appears as Ethiopia is not bargaining in good faith and ignoring the impact their actions will have on its neighbors.

Moving Off “No” and “No Progress” to Resolution

While the United States is trying to broker a compromise there not been significant movement. Is water the new oil? Or has it become the key catalyst for nations marching inexorably to war with their neighbors?

Watch carefully in the coming weeks to see if this issue is being resolved.

There are two difficult sides to the story: Ethiopia wants its dam but Egypt cannot allow the lake to dramatically reduce the flow of the Nile.

That could result in a draught of Biblical proportions leading to the destruction of wildlife, agriculture and even death to those living along the Nile. Could armed conflict ensue? Can a country in the 21st Century allow their supply of water to be cut off by another country?

We have to accept: Water is more precious than ever in a world facing global warming and climate change. Leading to greater civic unrest.

A similar situation is brewing between India and China with the river Ganges …same issue, different continent. They who control the water have the power, the upper hand…more on this issue in coming soon.

About My Egypt Travels

Egyptian Pyramids

We spent eight days touring 5,000 years of Egyptian history…from stately Coptic Churches to the temples at Karnack and Luxor, to King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings to the Giza plateau and the great Pyramids and the Sphinx.

Our Egyptian tour guide — with a B.A. and Masters in Archeology and Egyptology, Amr — was a wealth of knowledge painting a picture of the gods, goddesses, and pharaohs that made the history, culture and religion of ancient Egypt come alive for us.

His knowledge was enhanced by his love and passion for his country and its history and his deep respect for those ancient peoples. His talks were like the encompassing lectures from the best professor at your university filled with facts, color and excitement.

All this was combined with the execution of the complex logistics by Norm of Mike’s Guiding Light Tours, helping us smoothly glide from location-to-location by plane, river boat, bus, horse-drawn carts and camels — and even by Felucca (the traditional Egyptian sail boat) – all of which made the trip even more exciting.

If you are thinking of touring Egypt or other places worldwide, I recommend that you consider Mike’s Guiding Light Tours. (I know, interesting name, but I think the Guiding Light was his wife’s favorite soap opera.) He is expert in coordination and logistics, with excellent selections of hotels and restaurants and a special feeling of adventure and comradeship…all of this making for a superb travel experience.

Ken Cynar, Inside Tombs

Egypt Museum

Sphinx with Ken & Donna Cynar

Pyramids with Ken & Donna Cynar

Temple of Philae

The Circular Economy is Coming Our Way. Here Are Some Things to Think About for Your Product Development and Product Delivery…

February 13, 2020

by Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

During your travels, or even going about your usual business and personal activities, do you recall the days when… 

For example, experienced pilots remember having to use cockpit instruments (going “IFR”) when flying over large cities because the “smog” (usually thick yellow) eliminated visibility below. 

That was caused by belching smokestacks as dirty coal was burned for industrial use or for generating electric power. Con Ed in New York City was a prominent “smokestacker” in those days.

Or, you may have seen deep and wide gouges in our good Earth where giant machine scoopers were pulling a variety of minerals out for manufacturing products.  The American west and south (and north and east!) are filled with these gaping holes. Wonderful vistas?

As a young pilot, up there as the “Eye in the Sky” on weekends as a hobby to build flight hours, flying and broadcasting beach traffic to WGBB and WGSM (radio) below, I often had to fly in and out of the yellow mists IFR. With choking effects as the cockpit air filled.

Or as you traveled past a flowing river you may have seen thick flows of rubber or petroleum-based factory discharges…don’t worry, downstream the ocean will take it away, we were told.

(I remember seeing the US Royal plant outflow into the Connecticut River, with the rocks in the river all rubber-covered! The river flowed south to Long Island Sound and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Where the junk disappeared. Or did it!

In many countries, especially in Europe and North America, the good news is we have been moving far away from those days. In the U.S., the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, RCRA, Superfund/CERCLA, and a host of other environmental regulations helped to make this one of the cleanest (relatively) countries by the end of the 20th Century.

That’s the good news!

And as the linear model of many years in old-line production methods continues to recede in many factories – that is, the traditional  take, make, use, dispose – and that model moves farther into the past (as described by Tom Tapper of “Nice and Serious” writing for Sustainable Brands), the “circular model” has been steadily emerging. The positive effects are being felt all along the value chain.

So what does this mean for branded company leadership?  Whose brand out there in the consumer or B-to-B marketplaces signals “we hold these values dear” or “look to us for sustainability leadership” or “corporate and societal responsibility is at our core”?

Tom Tapper cites examples of products and practices new and old from such firms as Unilever, CIG, Haagen-Dazs, Coca Cola, Stella, and Aesop, with a focus on their distinct product delivery (packaging, bottles, capsules, other means).  

He offers us his perspectives in a sometimes whimsical but always firmly- grounded style on what to expect in the coming years in brand marketing.

In a circular economy, the author sees five trends to watch:

  • We’ll be thinking of Bottles as “objects of desire”.  (Remember the classic, dark brown 1890’s voluptuous-evoking stylized Coca-Cola bottle of yesteryear?  And whatever happened to the little plastic Pez dispensers!) These were ions of yesteryear.
  • Product and Story. Or, as story.  The quality of and qualities of the product will be the main story told by marketers.  (The smart brand marketing leaders have been doing this for years!)  The drive to reduce plastics use, as example, gives smart marketers new ways to talk about product and packaging that has plastic workarounds (in product and packaging). Not that plastic will go away; it will be “different” in many ways.
  • “Hermit Crab Branding”.  If the brand does not have that beautiful bottle or packaging to offer consumers, they can offer stickers in packs to enable consumers to do their own packaging customizing. Or to cover over the branding on a competitor’s bottle. That is thinking like the Hermit Crab, which live in other sea critters’ cast-off shells.
  • The Coming of Dispenser Wars.  Push here for soap – the product dispenser becomes the competitive battleground, thinks author Tom Tapper. Will consumers want “memorable refill experiences”? Will marketers entertain the customer as he/she refills their containers?  (With music, sounds?) Maybe.  Non-branded containers may become the choice of the merchant (more profit!), like store brands are today.
  • Refill Truck Revolution.  Push here for the soap. If individual product packaging and products in bottles as today’s primary delivery modes recede into the past, will a fleet of electric vehicles someday be visiting your neighborhood to bring you “a premium refill experience”?  Filling your vat when you run low?

So the opportunities inherent in the coming of the Circular Economy, Tom Tapper tells us, present challenges for us as well, especially in that we have to discard the old ways and adapt to change, as in the relationship of the brand and product to the buyers. 

Progress is always about adapting to change.  Risk and opportunity. Welcoming and forbidding.

Just consider for a moment the work involved in the disappearance of those old belching smokestacks and smog over our heads and junk flowing into rivers from outflow pipes and deep gouges in the Earth.  Pilots don’t need to wear smoke masks anymore as they pass over U.S. cities.

We are certainly more productive as a society today than ever before!  U.S. industry is booming, turning out various goods.

And that presents many challenges as well – which the coming of the Circular Economy could help us deal with.

We’re reminded here of the favorite quote of the late Lee Iacocca (he was a leader of both Chrysler and Ford Motor Company.  Lead, follow or get out the way – good advice today: the Circular Economy is coming our way.

Top Stories for This Week

What Will a Circular Economy Mean for Branding?
Source: Sustainable Brands
While a circular economy will present huge challenges to most brands’ conventional business models, there are huge opportunities for those who embrace and adapt to this change — while those who drag their heels with incremental changes will undoubtedly fall behind.

Tune In To This Important Report – Today And In Time to Come: The Fourth Official “Climate Science Special Report” Issued by the U.S. Government’s “Global Change Research Program” – Projected the Critical Impacts of Climate Change on the American Society in the 21st Century

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Another in the About the Climate Crisis series

November 7, 2019


In November 2018 the government of the United States of America published the fourth climate change assessment by key U.S. government agencies — this is the “Climate Science Special Report” as prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Federal government.

The contents are of significance if you are an investor, a company executive or board member, an issue advocate, officer holder or civic leader, consumer — or other type of stakeholder.

There are volumes of data and descriptions for a range of “high probability” outcomes in this the 21st Century.

The foundation of the report: Literally hundreds of studies conducted by researchers around the world that clearly document increases in temperatures at Earth’s surface as well as in the atmosphere and oceans — and projections of what that means to the planet and its occupants.

What is clear: Human activities are the primary driver of climate changes observed in the three-plus centuries of the modern industrial era (i.e., GHG emissions, deforestation, land-use changes).

Think about the impacts of these events and developments on your business and personal life:

  • we can expect many more superstorms;
  • and more drought in more areas of the U.S., Africa, other parts of the globe;
  • greatly increased risk of forest fires;
  • more floods;
  • melting glaciers melting resulting in steadily rising sea levels;
  • the news of still more melting glaciers; ocean acidification; 
  • death of species;
  • increasing atmospheric water vapor (thus, more powerful rainstorms, especially accompanying superstorms)…and more.

And — what about a potential drop of 10% in the U.S.A. Gross Domestic Product by end of this century? What impact will that have on you? On your children and their children?

The impacts of climate change will be felt in such activities as human health, agriculture and food security, water supply, transportation, energy, trade, migration, and ecosystems…becoming increasingly disruptive in coming years.

These are some of the subjects explored in depth in the “Climate Science Special Report” released the day after Thanksgiving 2018 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

(The Trump Administration released that day to hide the report, critics immediately charged; the report directly and emphatically challenges the “climate change is a hoax” claim of the administration. Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday is usually a very slow news day.  However, the release of the report resulted in broad media coverage on “a slow day”.)

Influential Authors: The Global Change Program

The program is a mandated collaborative effort of more than a dozen Federal departments of the United States of America government — such as NOAA, NASA, US EPA, and executive branch cabinet offices of Commerce, Agriculture, Energy, State, Transportation, and Defense; plus the Office of Management & Budget (OMB – this is part of the Office of the President).

The many experts gathered from these departments of the U.S. government, plus a universe of university-based experts, reported (in more than 1600 pages of related content) on the “state of science relating to climate change and its physical impacts.”

The CSSR (“Climate Science Special Report”) serves as a foundation for efforts to assess climate-related risks and inform decision-makers…it does not include policy recommendations.

The results are not encouraging – at least not in November 2018 and here in October 2019 as we look out to the rest of the 21st Century, given the s-l-o-w pace of actions taken to date to address climate change challenges.

Highlights of The Report:

NOAA — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — is the lead agency working with NASA and other Federal governmental bodies to develop the report.

The collaborative effort analyzes a wide body of scientific research and observations of current trends in climate change — and projects a number of major trends out to the end of this 21st Century.

The focus of the work is on impacts to human welfare, societal, economic, and environmental elements of climate change.

Each of the 15 chapters of the report focuses on key findings; authors have assigned a “confidence statement” for scientific uncertainties. (There are numerous statements of “Confidence Levels” and “Likelihoods” for various trends and events.)

There are 10 regional analyses of climate change — such as the Northeastern region of the U.S., and sprawling Southern Great Plains. The report was 18 months in preparation and the final report is the sixth draft developed over that time.

Chapters include such themes as: Physical Drivers of Change; Climate Models, Scenarios and Projections; Droughts, Floods and Wildfires; Extreme Storms; Changes in Land Cover; Sea Level Rise.

Some takeaways to consider:

1. This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. Since the publication of the last Assessment, 2014 became the warmest year on record globally; 2015 was even warmer and 2016 surpassed that; 16 of the warmest years on record occurred during the last 17 years.

2. Thousands of scientific and technical studies have documented changes in surface, atmospheric and oceanic temperatures.

3. Land and sea ice glaciers are continuing to melt; there is acceleration in ice sheet loss with up to 8.5 feet of global sea rise possible by 2100. (Think about that impact on major population areas on the edge of the seas, such as New York, Boston, Miami, Liverpool, Hamburg, Naples and Bari, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, and more.)

4. Ice melts and then Sea levels continues rising; global average sea level has risen 7-to-8 inches since 1900, half of that since 1993.

5. Related: the incidence of daily tidal flooding is accelerating in more than 25 Atlantic and Gulf coast cities – watch out New Orleans and Houston.

6. Heat waves are more frequent and cold waves are less frequent.

7. Forest fires have steadily increased since the early 1980s (look at the disaster in California in recent years – and in 2018 and 2019!).

8. Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has passed 400 PPM — a level that last existed some 3 million years ago, when both global average temperatures and sea level were higher than today.

9. Since 1980, extreme weather events for the U.S. has exceeded costs of US$1.1 trillion.

There are hundreds of references to scientific studies throughout the report.

The various findings, the authors point out, are based on a large body of scientific, peer-reviewed research, evaluated observations and modeling data sets.

In this report, we should note, experts and not politicians and speak to us in clear terms that we can all understand.

Important Key Findings:

  • Global climate is projected to change over this century (and beyond) – the report is complete with “likelihoods”) and with major effort, temps could be limited to 3.6°F / 2°C or less – or else.
  • Without action, average global temperatures could reach to 9°F / 5°C relative to pre-industrial times – disaster at the end of the 2100s.
  • Human activity continues to significantly affect the Earth’s climate and is the dominant cause of climate warming. Aerosols are a key activity with profound and complex roles.

There are 12 Reporting Findings with important results here: https://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights#section-5683

Related to this:  The TCFD Scenario Testing Recommendations

Formed after the 2008 financial crisis, The Financial Stability Board (organized by the central banks and treasury ministries of the G20 nations) appointed a Task Force on Climate-related Financial Risk Disclosure (the “TCFD”), which in Fall 2017 strongly recommended that the financial sector companies and (initially) identified four business sectors begin to examine the effects of climate change on their businesses, and as part of the analysis test scenarios against (to begin with) 2-degrees Centigrade (3.5°F) temp rise — and increase scenario testing from there over time.

This important assessment (the Federal government’s 2018 report described here) should be a valuable resource for investors, bankers, insurance carriers and public and private company boards and managements in their analysis and scenario planning (alternative scenarios are suggested in the TCFD report).

And these assessment can be especially useful for publicly-traded company managements who are being urged by investors and stakeholders to begin scenario testing and disclose the results.

This will be an important issue in the engagements of investors/companies and in the 2020 corporate proxy season – and beyond.

There are various scenarios in the Assessment that can be referenced by companies in their own scenario testing.

Report Authors:

A wide range of experts helped to prepare the report; these included: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the U.S. national laboratories; scientists at such universities as Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, Maryland, Texas Tech, Pennsylvania State, North Carolina State, Iowa State; Rutgers-NJ, California-Davis, and, Alaska. In all, more than 300 experts contributed to the report.

The full report is available at:

https://science2017.globalchange.gov/downloads/CSSR2017_FullReport.pdf

The Exec Summary at: https://science2017.globalchange.gov/downloads/CSSR2017_PRINT_Executive_Summary.pdf

Important Notes:

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, based in Washington, D.C., is a Federal program mandated by the U.S. Congress – the first branch of government identified in the U.S. Constitution, Article One — to coordinate Federal research and investments in understanding the forces shaping the global environment both human and natural, and their impacts on society.

The USGCRP was established in 1989 and mandated by the U.S. Congress in 1990…to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.

There are 13 Federal agencies involved that conduct or use research on global change. Among these there are Interagency Working Groups to implement and coordinate research activities (within and across the agencies).

The critical guidance: Thirteen Agencies, One Vision: Empower the Nation with Global Change Science.

The Governance Aspects:

The USGCRP is steered by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on the Environment, overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology.

Executive Cabinet offices involved: U.S. Departments of State; Health and Human Services; Defense; Commerce; Agriculture; Energy; Transportation; Interior.

Federal Agencies: NASA; US EPA; National Science Foundation; Smithsonian Institution; U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); the White House (OMB and NSTC).

Interesting:
Positioning statement (on the web site): Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. Global climate change has already resulted in a wide range of impacts across every region of the country and many sectors of the economy that are expected to grow in the coming decades.

This Fourth assessment (known as “NCA4” to insiders) developed by USGCP is a state-of-the-science synthesis of climate knowledge, impacts and trends across U.S. regions to inform decision-making and resilience-building.

It is the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment to date on the state of knowledge of current and future impacts of climate change on society in the U.S.

You can access the full report at: https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/

Reporting requirements for the Assessment comply with Section 106 of the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 and other federal requirements.

There is regional information from Global Change at: https://www.globalchange.gov/explore

The current report takes into consideration the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – of which the United States is a participating country.

IPCC issued its Fifth Assessment Report (“AR5”) in 2014 and issued a Special Report (“SR15”) – Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5-degrees C – in October 2018.

The latest IPCC report and related information is at: http://www.ipcc.ch/

There are scholarly assessments of the Fourth Climate Change Assessment at: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=fourth+climate+change+assessment&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart

We will be sharing more thoughts on IPCC in separate commentaries.

Note:  This originally was drafted for G&A Institute’s “To the Point!” management briefs (now archived) in November 2018 and updated here in November 2019.

About the Climate Crisis — The Hoax? It’s On Us!

November 8, 2019

By Larry Checco

The U.S. National Park Service markers show that in the 1940s and 1950s, about the time I was born, a glacier — Exit Glacier, just outside of Seward, Alaska — covered almost an entire valley in hundreds of feet, and megatons of ice and snow.

Today, Exit is melting at the rate of one-foot-per-day and receding back into the Harding Icefield from whence it came …millennia ago.

If you think that climate change is a hoax, then I suggest you visit Alaska.

My wife Laurie and I did recently and were in awe of the variety of its wildlife, the grandeur and majesty of its mountains and landscapes, the diversity and friendliness of its indigenous and transplanted inhabitants.
And we were greatly saddened by the dangers they all face.

Fact is, 2019 has been the driest and hottest year in Alaska’s recorded history. Anchorage, where half the state’s nearly 700,000 people reside, recorded a record-breaking 90 degrees F this past July 4th holiday.

Two-and-a-half times larger than the State of Texas, Alaska encompasses some three million lakes, 3,000 rivers, 1,800 islands, and 100,000 glaciers. You’ve got to experience it to believe it. And best to do it sooner rather than later.

It seems everything in Alaska is being affected by global warming— glaciers, vegetation, fisheries, wildlife, as well as native inhabitants who are fearful of losing their subsistence way of life, which they so cherish.

The heat and dryness accounted for more than 150 forest fires throughout the state during our two-week visit. One fire crossed the only road from Homer to Anchorage and forced our tour bus to follow an official pilot car through the smoke and small flame breakouts.

Alaska’s permafrost is thawing, which is buckling its roads (and Alaska doesn’t have many) and sinking some of its villages, making them uninhabitable.

Our tour of Denali was cut short because a rockslide the previous day took out some of the road.

None of this put us in any real danger, but they were real-life demonstrations of the force and influence of Mother Nature. And maybe, just maybe, we humans have something to do with it.

We saw in the wild, and from the safety of our tour bus, plenty of brown (grizzly) and black bears, moose, elk, caribou, big-horned sheep and more, and were told by our guide that many of their migration patterns have changed because of the increase in temperature.

We did not get to Alaska’s Arctic Circle region, where polar bears struggle to survive, but we were informed that polar bear specialists almost unanimously agree that predicted declines in summer sea ice due to rising CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use are now the biggest threat to polar bears.

Yet, in addition to rolling back some of our most important environmental regulations–including those related to clear air and clean water–the Trump Administration recently opened Alaska’s remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, ending more than four decades of heated debate on the matter, and placing a large swath of Alaska’s pristine landscape at risk.

Some species live and learn, meaning they adapt to changing environments so as to live another day. Other species just live. I fear we homo sapiens fall into the latter category.

But there may be hope for us yet. Our trip to Alaska also exposed my wife and me to the wisdom of those who came before.

Ten Universal Values

The following Ten Universal Values are from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, which includes Aleuts, Athabascans, Cup’ik, Tlingits, and several other Alaskan native tribes.

I think these principles are worth incorporating into our techno-driven, often mind-numbing lives:Show respect to others: Each person has a special gift.

  • Share what you have: Giving makes you richer.
  • Know who you are: You are a reflection of your family.
  • Accept what life brings: You cannot control many things.
  • Have patience: Some things cannot be rushed.
  • Live carefully: What you do will come back to you.
  • Take care of others: You cannot live without them.
  • Honor your elders: They show you the way in life.
  • Pray for guidance: Many things are not known.
  • See connections: All things are related.

If we can bring find the ways for ourselves to abide by these values there still may be time to turn things around. Let’s hope so.

There is no Planet B.

Contents Copyright © 2019 by Larry Checco – All Rights Reserved

Photo Gallery:

Larry with wife, Laurie. Glaciers are melting at a rapid rate in Alaska

Being escorted through a fire zone.

A grizzly, which most Alaskans call brown bears.

Laurie Checco with a sign offering good advice.

Larry in Homer, Alaska.

The Climate Change Crisis – “Covering Climate Now” Can Help to Shape The Public Dialogue

Introducing a new series of perspectives from G&A Institute…

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

We are bringing you a series of commentaries on the climate change crisis to share news, research results and perspectives to you in an organized way.

Fact:  We are facing dire outcomes for humanity and planet if we don’t move faster with strategies and actions to address the challenges of climate change.

We’re calling our shared perspectives “About the Climate Change Crisis”.

Global Warming.  Droughts. SuperStorms. Floods.  Rising Seas. Outbreaks of forest fires.  Loss of Species.  Degradation of farmlands.  Food Shortages. 

These should be defined as crisis situations, no?

Despite these dangers, the public dialogue on “climate change” issues in the United States reflects in some ways the divide in public opinion on critical issues facing the American public, government, business, the financial sector.

Climate changing? Yes and No. Human activities  causing the changes? Yes and No.
Should we be worried? Yes and No.

And so it goes.

The United States of America participated in the 2015 Paris (COP 21) meetings and signed on to the Paris Agreement along with almost 200 other nations, with President Barack Obama becoming a signatory in April 2016 and in September 2016 by presidential action presented the necessary documents to the U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.

The People’s Republic of China also presented the documents, a collaboration negotiated by President Obama. (This step by Barack Obama avoided presenting what amounted to an international treaty agreement to the U.S. Senate for ratification, required by the U.S. Constitution – approval assuredly would not happen in today’s political environment.)

The U.S. also contributed US$3 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

And so also by executive order, his successor in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump in March 2017 with swipe of a pen signaled the start of the complex and lengthy process of removing the U.S. from the historic Paris Agreement to limit the damage of global warming.

By his side: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (since gone from the environmental agency).

The backdrop: scientific reports that 2016 was the warmest year on record to date!

And credible scientists telling us that we have a decade at most to get control of climate change issues!

Prior to becoming president Donald Trump declared among other things that climate change was a Chinese hoax. (One of his positioning comments on the subject: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” – November 6, 2012 tweet.)

But climate change is real – and we face a climate crisis in 2019!

What Did the Current U.S.A. Leader Do?

President Trump on November 4, 2019 officially notified the international community – and specifically the community of the United Nations – that the process of withdrawal was beginning and would be complete one year from now — the day before Election Day 2020.

Note that in November 2018 the government of the United States of America published the fourth climate change assessment by key U.S. government agencies: the “Climate Science Special Report” was prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Federal government. (We’ve including an overview in this series.)

The contents are of significance if you are an investor, a company executive or board member, an issue advocate, public sector officer holder or civic leader, consumer — or other type of stakeholder.

There are volumes of data and descriptions in the report presenting a range of “high probability” climate change outcomes in this the 21st Century.

Adding credibility to the Federal government’s report to the nation and the world:  11, 258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines (biosciences, ecology, etc.) published a report in the Bioscience Journal (November 2018) – “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency” – setting out a range of policies and actions that could be (adopted, taken) to address the emergency.

Good News About News Media

Good news from the purveyors of news to millions of people: the publishers of Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation created the “Covering Climate Now” (the initiative was launched in April 2019) intended to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency.  The lead media partner is The Guardian.

The founders are now joined by cooperating media that today reaches more than one billion people worldwide. Representatives of 350 newsrooms in 32 countries have joined to ramp up coverage of the climate crisis and possible solutions. The campaign is designed to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency.

Combined, the cooperating media reach more than one billion people worldwide.

Participants in the campaign include Bloomberg, Agence France-Press, The Guardian, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The New Jersey Star Ledger, The Oklahoman, Corporate Knights, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, La Republica (Italy), The Hindustan Times (India), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), La Razon (Spain), Greenbiz.com, Huffpost, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, Scientific American, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, and many many other communications platforms.

Partner organizations in the campaign include wire services, news agencies, newspapers, magazines, digital news sites, journals, radio, podcasters, and institutions like Princeton University and Yale Climate Change & Health Initiative.

Could it be that the press, especially the U.S. press, can turn the tide of public opinion (with the naysayers and public doubters) with increasing and accurate coverage of the climate story?

Is the “media awake”?   That question was posed and answered in September 2019 by Mark Hertsgaard (The Nation) and Kyle Pope (CJR editor) addressing the  initiative.

Their comments are here for you: https://www.cjr.org/covering_climate_now/climate-crisis-new-beginning.php

Is this where you get your news a participant? Check the list here: https://www.coveringclimatenow.org/partners

Participating publisher Corporate Knights points out to us that “climate change” was suggested as a term to use by pollster Frank Luntz to President George W. Bush instead of the more frightening term, “global warming”. Let’s not scare the people. Gently move them forward.

We do need to return to the more accurate and realistic title of global warming. The threats posed by warming of land and sea are visible to us – every day now!

But, OK, if climate change is the popular branding, then let’s talk about the climate change crisis or emergency (so says the media collaboration).

We’re presenting this series of climate change crisis commentaries to help to tell the story of the climate change crisis or emergency.

The title is About the Climate Crisis, following the lead of the collaborating journalists.

The Good News

The good news as background to the above is that cities and states are “still in” and implementing strategies and actions to follow the Paris Accord in their jurisdictions. 

Corporations participated in the Conference of Parties (COP) meetings and especially the Paris COP 21 meetings.

Companies have been launching and reporting on their sustainability journey — actively addressing climate change issues — and investors are building more climate change considerations into their financial analysis and portfolio management. 

Combined these actions are keeping the United States in the game and helping to maintain the nation’s edge in climate change matters. Of course, we can ALL do more!

Let us know how we are doing. And please do suggest to us issues and topics and developments that might be of interest to you and other readers of the G&A Institute’s Sustainability Update blog.

Please do Stay Tuned to our ongoing blog commentaries.