We don’t want to be preachy or boring but this blog is where we share our values and experiences and write about the issues shaping the future of our businesses and our society. Catch a glimpse into our lives and find out what’s new in our world...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Holidays from Sustainability Consult

We would like to wish you a very happy holiday season and all the best for a happy, healthy 2012.

From Kathryn and all the Sustainability Consult Team 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Speed dating on.... sustainable food!

Everybody is aware that eating better means not only improving our health, but also reducing the impact of our food production in the environment. But who exactly is out there to helps us, consumers, on this? That's what I found out last Friday, when I 'speed dated' a group of fascinating and diverse people, all related to sustainable food.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Actual Progress on Climate at Durban?

In the early hours of this morning, the United Nations climate negotiations COP17 got behind the EU plan for a binding roadmap for the second period of the Kyoto Protocol. Over 120 countries (out of 194 present) agreed a legally-binding deal. After three all-nighters and going 36 hours over deadline, the talks concluded. The additional time is a classic COP tactic to wear people down until they agree. I remember journalists crashed out in the press room in Bonn ten years ago as the discussions went through the night*.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Best Belgian Sustainability Report Awards

Over the past 20 years, interest in measuring and reporting organisations’ progress towards sustainability has been increasing, thanks in part to the development of well-established guidelines, such as those provided by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Beyond just transparent and accountable data reports, the latest trends demand a more concise and creative presentation, with an emphasis on the contribution of new interactive media tools.  This seemed to be the key takeaway from the 2011 Best Belgian Sustainability Report Awards on 23 November.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

TEDx Comes to Brussels

Over 2,000 people attended
TEDx Brussels 2011
Where else but a TED event could effortlessly blend androids, futurologists, entrepreneurs, free-thinkers and statesmen together into a fabulous cauldron of ideas?  I was very fortunate to attend this year’s TEDx Brussels event sponsored by our client .eu at the Palais des Beaux Arts, where such illustrious figures as British statesman Paddy Ashdown, Geminoid DK inventor Henrik Scharfe and physicist Jacques Vallee enthralled the audience with their robots, poetry and visions of the deep future.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Climate change leading to more extreme weather

Source: IPCC
Since 1950, extreme hot days and heavy precipitation have become more common.  There is evidence that anthropogenic atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), have enhanced these extremes.  In this context, it’s crucial to provide appropriate risk management tools to increasingly vulnerable populations.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

New Belgian "Zero Emissions" Polar Station Website

Source: antarcticstation.org
The Princess Elisabeth, the first “Zero Emissions” Polar Station, launched its new website this week.  This Belgian Polar Station is located in a less well-explored part of Antarctica and hosts expeditions and research, all with minimal impact on the environment.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

SMEs Showcase Innovation at European Biotech SME Awards

We attended the EuropaBio event 'Biotechnology: what's in it for you', where the 'Most Innovative European Biotech SME Award 2011' was presented.  This event aimed to highlight the entrepreneurship and pioneering activity of European Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in biotechnology and their inventive answers to complex problems such as environmental contamination, degenerative medical conditions, epidemics or food security.  The judging panel consisted of G. Steven Burrill, Founding CEO of Burrill and Company, Dr Paul Ruebig, MEP, Tom Saylor, Chair of EuropaBio's SME Platform and CEO of Arecor, and Nathalie Moll, Secretary General of EuropaBio.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

CO2 Emissions Still On The Rise

Source: energyfromthorium.com
Well so much for reducing carbon emissions.  As reported by The Associated Press on 4 November, new research by the US Department of Energy (DoE) has shown that global greenhouse gas emissions rose 6% in 2010.  Rather alarmingly, this represents the highest increase ever recorded, a “monster” increase that is unheard of, according to Gregg Marland, professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate US Department of Energy figures in the past which is particularly surprising given that we are in an economic crisis where you would expect production and the resulting emissions to be down.

Cut Small Businesses A Break Not A Push Overseas

The European Commission's SME policy launched today encourages European small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to seek their fortunes in emerging markets, like China, India, Russia, South East Asia and Latin America.  

The Commission Communication ‘Small Business, Big World - a new partnership to help SMEs seize global opportunities’ says that only 13% of EU SMEs operate outside the EU and shows examples like European SMEs active in chemicals in Brazil.  We really appreciate the Commission throwing their hat in the ring for us small businesses but what role can they really play in this?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Sustainable Neighbourhoods in Brussels

Brussels is one of the most lively and diverse cities of Europe.  And it seems that its citizens are also committed to improving the life quality of their communities as local associations sign up for sustainable and integrative activities, developing awareness on important social, economic and environmental issues.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Building the Bioeconomy

EFIB 2011, Amsterdam
The sustainable economy, the biobased economy, the biobased society, the bioeconomy... which label to put on the shift to more renewable products was one theme which came out in the 'Communicating the Bio-based Economy' session at the European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology (EFIB) in Amsterdam last week.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

What’s in a brand and does it matter?

That’s the million-dollar question Forbes set out to answer in a recent study to understand consumer’s impressions of 100 top corporate brands in the US.  Showing how important sustainability and CSR is in the business world today, Forbes asked consumers to rank brands based on 12 attributes including “is honest and trustworthy”, “has ethical leadership”, “leverages business success and expertise to make a positive contribution to society” and “upholds transparent communication practices”.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Sustainable Business is Big Business

Image Source: greenmuck.com
DSM is still out front in the chemicals sector of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI) World Index this year. In the metals and mining sector, Xstrata was identified as a ‘supersector’ leader.  A further 41 companies were added to the DJSI World Index when SAM, the Zurich-based investment company focused exclusively on Sustainability Investing and Dow Jones Indexes, a leading global index provider, jointly announced last week the results of their 2011 DJSI Corporate Sustainability Assessment.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

BioAmber Wins EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Award

BioAmber has won a prestigious 2011 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, presented by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Chemical Society (ACS).  

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Food vs Fuel: How Sustainable is Palm Oil?

The Sustainability of Palm Oil Production debate held by The Parliament Magazine in association with the Malaysian Palm Oil Council at the European Parliament on 14 June attracted a full house of MEPs, NGOs, policymakers, researchers, journalists and industry representatives to the Parliament Members’ Salon, where participating speakers set out widely divergent views on the issues surrounding palm oil.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

No more cheap energy, says Commission

Emmanuel Guerin, Director IDDRI Climate
Bringing together the great and the good from academia, NGOs, policymaking, industry and the media at the French Permanent Representation to the EU, the presentation of the new Climate Strategies/IDDRI report on ‘The Need for a Strengthened Energy and Climate Strategy – for an energy-efficient, competitive and low-carbon Europe’ preceded a lively debate on what is needed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Sustainability Consult Launches New Website

The Sustainability Consult Team is delighted to announce the launch of its new website, which coincides with our advertisement in the European Voice newspaper and the European Commission's 2011 Green Week.  We invite you to take a look around and send us your feedback.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

We Must Recycle The Rare

First published in CIWM Journal January 2011

With China moving to reduce its exports of rare earth elements, there is no longer just an environmental incentive but also an economic driver to improve waste management, in particular the reduction, re-use and recycling of rare earth elements. 

In the last few years, China has adopted a more protectionist stance in the provision of rare earths, such as antimony, graphite and magnesium and is expected to introduce a full export ban by 2015. This position is starting to impact electronics producers worldwide with major German technology manufacturers, in October, reporting their first shortage of rare metals used for electronics like mobile phones, according to a recent article in Spiegel Online.

China puts this brake on exports down to its own dwindling stocks which need, it says, to be conserved for environmental reasons. However, countries affected by reduced imports believe that China is taking advantage of Europe’s own shortage in rare earth elements to push companies to locate their production and invest in China.

Currently, 95 percent of the production of rare earths is located in China so, when push comes to shove, there is little that Europe can really do.

Surely China’s blockade on shipments of rare earths should encourage other countries to put their own mines into production? Perhaps, but the prospects to do so are limited, at least in the short-term. Mines require a lot of investment and can take years to come online. Permitting can also be an issue. Even where there are big deposits, for example in Canada, Greenland, India or Russia, it could take up to five years to develop mines that could compete with China’s production.

EU policies are needed, which are aimed at encouraging citizens to further embrace the three Rs of ”reduce, re-use and recycle” for high-tech products to face up to China’s tightening grip on the rare earths that European industry needs. The European Commission’s 2008 Raw Materials Initiative may be a step in the right direction.

The Ad-hoc Working Group on Defining Critical Raw Materials published its report Critical Raw Materials for the EU this year, in which it identified recycling of raw materials or raw material-containing products and improvements in the overall efficiency of the management of critical raw materials as two of the most crucial steps needed if the EU is to tackle its shortage of the rarer raw materials.

Unveiling its 2020 Energy Strategy in November, the Commission made clear that it will apply assertive tactics to guarantee continuous access to scarce natural resources. The rare earths are used not only for electronic equipment but also in batteries and wind turbines. The Commission’s statement caused some concern among national diplomats as it sent a clear message to China to back off on its rare earths export restrictions.

While from a trade policy perspective this is understandable, for the long-term environmental and economic wellbeing of the EU, we should not overlook our resource efficiency and waste legislation.

Other News From The EC

In more general policy terms, the Commission last year recommended establishing an EU agency responsible for enforcing compliance with EU waste legislation. Under the Commission’s proposal, this agency would have extensive powers to review national enforcement systems and undertake inspections of waste facilities. More recently the Commission has started preparing a strategy to ensure compliance with EU waste legislation. Presented as part of the Commission’s 2011 work programme, the strategy aims to ensure compliance through closer monitoring of member states’ implementation progress and a bigger role for national judiciaries in enforcing compliance.

The next move was for member states to transpose the 2008 EU Directive on the Protection of the Environment through criminal law into national law by the end of last year. The Directive outlines a number of environmental offences that must now be considered criminal offences, even if they were committed intentionally or as a result of negligent behaviour.

EU efforts are also being made to better manage specific waste types, such as nuclear fuel and other radioactive waste. A process to ensure safer storage of the 7,000m3 of radioactive waste being generated within the Union each year has been initiated. By moving it from storage sites near the ground to deep underground repositories, the risk posed by fires, accidents and earthquakes will be reduced. While countries such as Finland, France and Sweden have already launched national plans to have such repositories in place before 2025, others have not done so.

On 3 November 2010, the European Commission presented a number of common EU safety standards for the disposal of nuclear power plant fuel, as well as medicine and research radioactive waste. The Proposal for  Council Directive on the Management of Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste requires EU members to present national programmes on how, when and where they handle their nuclear waste and when they will fully implement the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safety standards. Compliance with the safety standards would be assured by an independent body, which would also be responsible for granting licences for the construction and management of the proposed repositories.

The draft Directive allows for co-operation between EU member countries in managing their waste but forbids any export of radioactive waste to outside the EU. It also states that EU citizens would have to be informed and consulted prior to the construction of any proposed radioactive waste storage sites.

Not only radioactive waste management, but also food waste management within the EU has also been on the political agenda recently. In a joint declaration on 28 October, academics and NGOs urged the European Commission to propose a food waste directive before 2015 and to halve the annual food waste from 50 percent to 25 percent of all purchased food by 2025.

Given that food waste today accounts for a quarter of the world’s total freshwater consumption and that each tonne of food waste generates 4.2 tonnes of CO2, hardly a positive carbon balance, the issue of food waste needs to be resolved. The declaration urges the United Nations to make food waste reduction a new Millennium Development Goal and will continue to lobby for a Global Partnership Against Food Waste to be set up.

With this backdrop it seems likely that the EU legislative waste framework will only get more complicated, but also that the mantra of ”reduce, re-use, recycle” is ever more important today, particularly if we are to reduce the Union’s dependence on Chinese rare raw materials. CIW

Kathryn Sheridan is the founder of Sustainability Consult, an environmental communications and issues management network. For more information visit www.sustainabilityconsult.com