October 6, 2014

A red-eyed tree frog.
A red-eyed tree frog. By Careyjamesbalboa (Carey James Balboa). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the latest installment of Heroes and Zeros, Corporate Knights praises Kellogg’s for its announcement in August that it would aim to reduce its carbon emissions across its entire supply chain by 2015. The Michigan, Detroit-based multinational food manufacturer will require its suppliers to disclose their carbon emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project. Only a handful of other corporations have gone as far as Kellogg’s—General Mills said it, too, would aim for significant emissions reductions, but would not audit its supply chain.

Freedom Industries came under the microscope as a “zero” this month for failing to pay those affected by the 2014 Elk River chemical spill. The incident leaked 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM into the Kanawha River, cutting off water supply to 300,000 residents of West Virginia last January. The company reached a preliminary agreement for a class-actions suit in July, but the payout to residents and businesses was shockingly low: only $10 (U.S.) per person. The company filed for bankruptcy shortly after the spill. The money for the settlement is coming from a $2.9 million insurance payment that Freedom Industries received from AIG Specialty Insurance Company.

A recent study by scholars at the University of Waterloo and Carleton University has found that the line between cities and suburbs is blurring as high-income people are starting to bring their lifestyles to cities, and low-income people are being pushed out of urban centres. The study looked at 26 metropolitan areas in Canada, representing 65 per cent of the population, and found that higher income people tend to “own single-family homes and drive cars even when they live in highly urbanized neighbourhoods.” This means that urban densification on its own may not have the green effect most people expect.

However, architects are already looking for new materials to make urban densification easier on the environment, and increasingly, they are looking to wood. While steel-frame buildings have been the material of choice since the world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago in 1884, a new type of “super-plywood” has been developed that glues together layers of low-grade softwood. The Guardian says this new material is similar to Ikea flat-packed furniture and could bring in a new era of “eco-friendly plyscrapers.”

The hydraulic fracturing industry, also known as the “fracking” industry, has decided that anti-drilling activists have benefited too long from the negative connotations of the word. The words “hydraulic fracturing” are usually abbreviated to “fracing” within the industry, but Larry Fulmer, a superintendent at Cabon Oil and Gas, told NPR that the “k” was added to make it resemble a bad word. While the industry has been advised to abandon the term altogether, it has instead decided to embrace it through a rebranding campaign. The word already has a terrible reputation in the environmental movement, so only time will tell who will win this popularity contest.

A United Nations report revealed today that the world will not meet its goals to protect animal and plant biodiversity by 2020. The Global Biodiversity Outlook shows that only 53 out of 48 goals are on target or ahead of schedule, leaving many species at risk of extinction, forests being decimated by farmers and pollution and over-fishing unchecked. The report stresses that the risk of extinction goes beyond high-profile species, such as orangutans, polar bears and rare frogs, and extends to bids, mammals and amphibians more generally. It also estimates that the world will need to raise $150 billion to $440 billion each year to achieve the 2020 goals.

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