Green Growth 50: Learning From Companies Boosting Profits While Cutting Emissions

More companies are investing in renewable energy to power their operations and offset their carbon emissions...Getty Images

EBay at its very core pioneered the circular economy — of finding new homes for treasures that might otherwise have ended up at the dump. “Avoiding items going into a landfill is very important to our customers,” says Steve Priest, CFO of eBay. “Driving the circular economy is part of everything we do.” But finding new shelves for Beanie Babies is just a small component in eBay’s sustainability efforts, which prioritize slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

In eBay’s case, these are mostly tied to electricity used to power vast data centers. Since 2017 eBay has cut its carbon emissions by 29% to 88,000 tons per year. The e-commerce giant became carbon neutral this year, and is aiming to achieve a 100% renewable electricity supply for all its offices and data centers by 2025.

This goal might actually be attainable in the next few years as eBay’s biggest clean energy projects yet come online. The White Mesa Wind Project in Texas (a joint venture with Apple, Sprint and Samsung) began operating this year, producing 75 peak megawatts for the four companies, enough to power 20,000 homes.

Meanwhile the Ventress Solar Project in Louisiana, a virtual purchase power agreement between eBay, McDonalds and BP’s Lightsource division, will generate 345 MW. “We collaborate with our tech peers when some sustainability issues come up, where banding together makes more sense,” says eBay’s chief sustainability officer Renee Morin.

Such efforts have earned eBay the no. 11 spot on our inaugural Forbes Green Growth 50 list. Using emissions data from Sustainalytics and financial data from FactSet Research Systems, we honed in on U.S. companies with market caps greater than $5 billion, that started with more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2017, and have since successfully reduced their emissions while simultaneously growing profitability (as measured by an absolute increase in net income or operating income from 2017-2020).

Going in, we figured these criteria would produce a list of more than 100 companies. But green growth is harder than it looks — both Weyerhaeuser and Edison International, ranking no. 21 and no. 10 on our list, grew earnings less than 2% since 2017.

Is there a connection between cutting carbon emissions and boosting earnings? eBay’s Priest thinks we’ve reached the point where companies that don’t care about green will find it nearly impossible to deliver growth. “Customers want to be associated with corporations that take their environmental responsibilities very seriously. Those that do will continue to drive loyalty from their customer base.”

This is a strategic emphasis echoed by Stephan Tanda, CEO of Aptar, which took the no. 1 spot on the Green Growth 50. Aptar makes myriad drug delivery systems and dispensing products for consumer goods, especially foods and cosmetics. “We look at everything we do through a sustainability lens.” Most of Aptar’s facilities in Europe are already certified landfill free. By the end of the year Aptar is looking to achieve “80% disposal avoidance.”

It’s a business that involves reconciling contradictions — most of their products are plastic, which he says actually has a pretty low carbon footprint relative to alternative containers. A new Aptar product is a “monomaterial” lotion pump with no metal parts, entirely recyclable.

Consumer demand for such new products is arguably more impactful than the kind of government policy circus on display at the recent COP26 meetings in Glasgow, Scotland.

“Governments don’t impact what we do that much. Consumers and patients and customers demand what we do,” says Tanda. They will pay for the carbon transition because it is what they want. Listening to the consumers is how Tanda aims to “future proof our business.”

That approach has worked for electricity giant AES, which landed no. 15 on the Green Growth 50 list after reducing emissions by 22%, replacing coal-fired power plants with wind, solar and batteries — “a winning combination that can decarbonize 90% of the grid,” says Chris Shelton, president of AES Next. Because the costs of renewables kept going down, they were able to shift customers over under a “green, blend and extend” program.

AES also operates a kind of inhouse venture capital operation. Its Fluence utility-scale battery joint venture with Siemens recently went public and now sports a $6 billion market cap — the company behind some of the biggest battery installations in the world.

There used to be a large group of companies “in denial” about mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. “That group is vanishing fast,” with companies moving over to the “bargaining” group, where they want to know the minimum they have to do to get by and keep activists off their back — that’s the insight of Chris Romer, cofounder of Project Canary, which installs laser-based sensors at industrial sites to monitor methane leakages.

The landmark ESG moment, he says, was last year’s ExxonMobil annual meeting, where shareholders voted in more green-friendly board members.  There’s no going back. Romer says manufacturers can already earn multiples of their monitoring and certification costs by selling “green” products at a premium.

Even on the Green Growth 50, some companies are less enthusiastic than others. Nicotine giant Altria for example, positioned at no. 35 on our list, seems to be doing just enough, having cut emissions by 10% in the studied time period. But according to its most recent sustainability report, Altria’s renewable energy use is just 2.3% of its total, a surprisingly meager ratio.

Altria also demonstrates how hard it can be to stick to a well intentioned program. The company was making great strides toward reducing the amount of waste it was sending to the landfill. In 2018 it nearly hit its 21 million pounds goal. But 2019 wrecked the trend, when Altria delivered 87 million tons to landfill — mostly rubble from a headquarters renovation. Their next challenge: reducing litter from cigarette butts.

Stronger performers included Eli Lilly, which ranked eighth on our list after the pharmaceutical company swapped out old light bulbs for LEDs at three plants, saving 330 mwh per year. And Bristol Myers Squibb, which heats its Munich, Germany office building with 100% geothermal energy, found itself at no. 13. Church & Dwight, parent company of Arm & Hammer, has meanwhile placed third on the list, having achieved its goals of no more PVC in packaging, and offsets carbon emissions by planting millions of trees in the Mississippi River Valley.

I’m an assistant editor based in New York covering money and markets for Forbes. In the past, I covered minority communities for the Boston Business Journal

Christopher Helman

Tracking energy innovators from Houston, Texas. Forbes reporter since 1999.

Source: Green Growth 50: Learning From Companies Boosting Profits While Cutting Emissions

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World’s Largest Insect Protein Farm Signals Future Of Food Supply

Black soldier flies never eat as adults, so they must binge-eat while they are still larvae (shown). ... [+]Getty

The frontier of the agriculture industry is about to take a big step closer to going mainstream. Chicago-based food processing company Archer Daniels Midland ADM -1.1% (ADM) and InnovaFeed, a French firm that makes insect protein for animal feed, plan to begin building what will be the world’s largest insect protein facility in 2021 in the city of Decatur in central Illinois.

The partnership between ADM, a $28 billion giant, and the startup InnovaFeed amounts to a vote of confidence in a nascent industry that could one day play a key role in the global agriculture sector.

“I’m in awe. If they can pull this off, it will be magnificent,” said Jeffrey Tomberlin, a professor and entomologist at Texas A&M University who has done pioneering research on insect protein. “This facility will be several times bigger than anything else in the world,” Tomberlin said.

ADM and InnovaFeed plan to grow and harvest billions of an extraordinary insect called black soldier fly, whose larvae consume prodigious quantities of organic material and convert it into nutrient-rich protein that can then be sold as animal feed. ADM and InnovaFeed aim to produce up to 60,000 metric tons of animal feed protein per year, plus 20,000 metric tons of oils for poultry and swine rations and 400,000 tons of fertilizer.

Black soldier fly larvae will eat just about anything organic — including non-compostable food waste bound for landfills — and produce hundreds of times more protein per acre than traditional animal feed sources. The new plant will give ADM and InnovaFeed a foothold in the burgeoning market for sustainably sourced food at a time when consumers’ environmental awareness is growing.

The plant would be a major step toward mainstreaming the insect protein industry, which aims to feed farm animals and aquaculture not corn, soybeans or fishmeal — common types of animal feed — but instead black soldier fly larvae and other grubs.

If widely scaled-up, this would mean vastly reducing the carbon footprint and land requirements of farm animals, especially those raised for slaughter. For every kilogram of meat they produce, cows and sheep require around eight kilograms of grains, pigs require about four kilograms and chickens need 1.6 kilograms, according to one estimate. Growing that much grain requires intensive use of land and water.

The process for efficiently cultivating black soldier flies wasn’t well understood until the early 2000s — a big reason why the insect protein industry today remains small, consisting almost entirely of startups, including many in Europe, according to Tomberlin, the Texas A&M professor. InnovaFeed, itself only a few years old, runs the current world’s largest facility, in Nesle, France. The new Decatur facility will produce around four times as much animal feed per year.

Early backers see great potential as demand for sustainably sourced food continues to grow. More than half of U.S. consumers say they want sustainable food, according to a 2019 survey by the International Food Information Council, a nonprofit. Three out of five people in the U.K. are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly food options, according to a survey of 1,000 people by professional services firm GHD released in November.

The success of plant-based meat companies this year, such as Impossible Foods, has raised hopes of shrinking the agriculture sector’s carbon footprint: the food industry is responsible for one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The black soldier flies at the new facility, which will be run by InnovaFeed, will gorge themselves on various corn products that ADM already produces at its Decatur facilities. Normally, these corn products would undergo several rounds of additional processing before finally being transported to an end customer, explained Sapna Sanders, InnovaFeed’s Project Director for North America, in an interview.

“We’re able to avoid all those energy-intensive steps,” Sanders said.

The arrangement suits both. ADM gets to avoid the expense and hassle of further processing its corn products. InnovaFeed gets to produce and sell its animal feed, oils and fertilizer to a range of customers. One of its contracts is with the food and drink behemoth Cargill, the second-largest private company in America.

In the future, black soldier fly larvae inside commercial facilities might be doing even more environmental heavy lifting — by eating up the mountains of food scraps and other human food leftovers otherwise headed for landfills.

Roughly one-third of all the food produced in the world for human consumption each year, 1.3 billion tons, is lost or wasted, according to the U.N. Much of that ends up in landfills, where it can’t naturally biodegrade and ends up belching methane, a greenhouse gas dozens of times stronger than CO2.

Part of the reason so much food winds up in landfills is that there aren’t any convenient alternatives, especially for waste that isn’t compostable. But black soldier flies would be happy to eat up all this landfill-bound waste: researchers have found they gladly eat even foods that can’t be composted. (They appear to be uninterested in hair and bones, however.)

Bringing down the costs

The biggest obstacle to scaling the insect protein industry up further is cost. Insect protein is still more expensive as an animal feed product than, for example, fishmeal, or the parts of fish caught by commercial fishing companies that are not consumed by humans (such as offal or bones). Tomberlin has estimated that it will take five or so more years for insect protein to be cost-competitive with traditional animal feed sources, although the industry is still too young to know how far and quickly costs will fall.

The U.S. may not be the first to get there. Compared to Europe, the U.S. government has shown relatively little interest in helping the nascent industry get a leg up, Tomberlin said. Yet even more than Europe, China appears most interested in getting the insect protein industry to commercial scale, he said. It already has some of the largest and most efficient black soldier fly facilities in the world and is intensively innovating, according to Tomberlin.

Nevertheless, that one of America’s largest food companies sees commercial value in insect protein is perhaps a sign that a widespread role for it at the heart of the agriculture sector is perhaps not too far away.

Correction: An earlier photo that accompanied this story pictured another type of larvae, not black soldier fly larvae, as captioned.

I cover the energy industry, focusing on climate and green tech. Formerly I covered oil markets for commodities publication Argus Media. My writing has appeared in The Economist, among

Source: World’s Largest Insect Protein Farm Signals Future Of Food Supply

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The Race To Develop Plastic-Eating Bacteria

In March 2016, scientists in Japan published an extraordinary finding. After scooping up some sludge from outside a bottle recycling facility in Osaka, they discovered bacteria which had developed the ability to decompose, or “eat,” plastic.

The bacteria, Ideonella sakaiensis, was only able to eat a particular kind of plastic called PET, from which bottles are commonly made, and it could not do so nearly fast enough to mitigate the tens of millions of tons of plastic waste that enter the environment every year.

Still, this and a series of other breakthroughs in recent years mean it could one day be possible to build industrial-scale facilities where enzymes chomp on piles of landfill-bound plastic, or even to spray them on the mountains of plastic that accumulate in the ocean or in rivers.

These advances are timely. By vastly increasing our use of single-use plastics such as masks and takeaway boxes, the Covid-19 pandemic has focused attention on the world’s plastic waste crisis. Earth is on track to have as much plastic in the ocean as fish by weight by 2050, according to one estimate.

However, experts caution that large-scale commercial use of plastic-eating microorganisms is still years away, while their potential release in the environment, even if practical, could create more issues than it solves.

Overcoming an evolutionary barrier

The scientists working to find and develop plastic-eating organisms must contend with a basic reality: evolution. Microbes have had millions of years to learn how to biodegrade organic matter such as fruits and tree bark. They have had barely any time at all to learn to decompose plastics, which did not exist on Earth at any scale before roughly 1950.

“Seaweed has been around for hundreds of millions of years, so there is a variety of microbes and organisms that can break it down,” said Pierre-Yves Paslier, the co-founder of a British company, Notpla, that is using seaweed and other plants to make films and coatings that could replace some types of plastic packaging. By contrast plastic is very new, he said.

Still, recent discoveries of plastic-eating microorganisms show that evolution is already getting to work. A year after the 2016 discovery of Ideonella sakaiensis in Osaka, scientists reported a fungus able to degrade plastic at a waste disposal site in Islamabad, Pakistan. In 2017 a biology student at Reed College in Oregon analyzed samples from an oil site near her home in Houston, Texas, and found they contained plastic-eating bacteria. In March 2020, German scientists discovered strains of bacteria capable of degrading polyurethane plastic after collecting soil from a brittle plastic waste site in Leipzig.

In order to make any of these naturally-occurring bacteria useful, they must be bioengineered to degrade plastic hundreds or thousands of times faster. Scientists have enjoyed some breakthroughs here, too. In 2018 scientists in the U.K. and U.S. modified bacteria so that they could begin breaking down plastic in a matter of days. In October 2020 the process was improved further by combining the two different plastic-eating enzymes that the bacteria produced into one “super enzyme.”

The first large-scale commercial applications are still years away, but within sight. Carbios, a French firm, could break ground in coming months on a demonstration plant that will be able to enzymatically biodegrade PET plastic.

This could help companies such as PepsiCo and Nestle, with whom Carbios is partnering, achieve longstanding goals of incorporating large amounts of recycled material back into their products. They’ve so far failed to succeed because there has never been a way to sufficiently break down plastic back into more fundamental materials. (Because of this, most plastic that is recycled is only ever used to make lower-quality items, such as carpets, and likely won’t ever be recycled again.)

“Without new technologies, it’s impossible for them to meet their goals. It’s just impossible,” said Martin Stephan, deputy CEO of Carbios.

Besides plastic-eating bacteria, some scientists have speculated that it may be possible to use nanomaterials to decompose plastic into water and carbon dioxide. One 2019 study in the journal Matter demonstrated the use of “magnetic spring-like carbon nanotubes” to biodegrade microplastics into carbon dioxide and water.

The challenges ahead

Even if these new technologies are one day deployed at scale, they would still face major limitations and could even be dangerous, experts caution.

Of the seven major commercial types of plastic, the plastic-eating enzyme at the heart of several of the recent breakthroughs has only been shown to digest one, PET. Other plastics, such as HDPE, used to make harder materials such as shampoo bottles or pipes, could prove more difficult to biodegrade using bacteria.

Even if one day it becomes possible to mass produce bacteria that can be sprayed onto piles of plastic waste, such an approach could be dangerous. Biodegrading the polymers that comprise plastic risks releasing chemical additives that are normally stored up safely inside the un-degraded plastic.

Others point out that there are potential unknown side-effects of releasing genetically engineered microorganisms into nature. “Since most likely genetically engineered microorganisms would be needed, they cannot be released uncontrolled into the environment,” said Wolfgang Zimmerman, a scientist at the University of Leipzig who studies biocatalysis.

Similar issues constrain the potential use of nanomaterials. Nicole Grobert, a nanomaterials scientist at Oxford University, said that the tiny scales involved in nanotechnology mean that widespread use of new materials would “add to the problem in ways that could result in yet greater challenges.”

The best way to beat the plastic waste crisis, experts say, is by switching to reusable alternatives, such as Notpla’s seaweed-derived materials, ensuring that non-recyclable plastic waste ends up in a landfill rather than in the environment, and using biodegradable materials where possible.

Judith Enck, a former regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator in the Obama administration and the president of Beyond Plastics, a non-profit based in Vermont, pointed to the gradual spread of bans on single-use plastics around the world, from India to China to the EU, U.K. and a number of U.S. states from New York to California.

These are signs of progress, she said, although more and tougher policies are needed. “We can’t wait for a big breakthrough.”

Update: This story has been updated to clarify the timing of a discovery of plastic-eating bacteria by a Reed College student.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I cover the energy industry, focusing on climate and green tech. Formerly I covered oil markets for commodities publication Argus Media. My writing has appeared in The Economist, among other publications.

Source: The Race To Develop Plastic-Eating Bacteria

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Related Contents:

Arthur, Courtney; Baker, Joel; Bamford, Holly (2009). “Proceedings of the International Research Workshop on the Occurrence, Effects and Fate of Microplastic Marine Debris” (PDF). NOAA Technical Memorandum.

In 2013 The Man Accidentally Threw His Hard Drive In The Trash That Had 7,500 Bitcoins

An inhabitant of the British city of Newport has approached the local authorities, with the aim of conducting an important search for a hard drive that he accidentally threw in 2013 in a municipal landfill, said device had bitcoins, whose current value is it would approximate 210 million pounds, that is, an average of 288 million dollars.

How did this tragic situation happen?

The 35-year-old computer engineer, James Howells, in 2013 carried out the cleaning of his home, later he realized that he had thrown his hard drive with 7,500 bitcoins in the trash instead of another that was empty.

After his previous application was rejected, Howells makes an offer of 25 percent, or $ 72 million , to the council in the event that he recovers his losses.

“I would like the opportunity to sit down with the decision makers and present an action plan to them,” Howells told South Wales Argus, indicating that he is supported by a hedge fund, prepared to provide funding for the initiative.

What would be the programmer’s strategy to recover his hard drive?

The computer scientist assures that in 2013 a garbage container obtained a serial number when it was filled, this before being transferred to a grave and buried. Also, a grid reference was required.

“So I could access the landfill log, identify the week I dumped the hard drive, identify the container’s serial number, and then the grid landmark,” the developer said, according to the source.

Despite eight years since the incident, Howells remains optimistic about recovering the information within the device. “The box could be rusty, but it is possible that the disk inside where the data is stored still works,” said the engineer.

It is worth mentioning that, with the passage of time, this possibility decreases, according to the programmer, who gave the suggestion that in case his search had a successful end, the funds would be transferred in the form of help to patients with coronavirus of his city.

However, the Newport City Council has indicated that digging, storing and treating all the waste could cost millions of pounds, and there is no solid guarantee that the hard drive will be found or will continue to serve.

Likewise, the institution emphasizes that, in the event of extraction, the activity is impossible due to the requirements of the current licenses and that carrying out this could lead to a serious and negative environmental impact of the place, the same reasons for which they do not guarantee assistance.

In case you are interested: “Reactivate without risking”, the new plan launched by CDMX

By: Entrepreneur en Español Entrepreneur Staff

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BBC News

Subscribe to BBC News http://www.youtube.com/bbcnews If someone told you you just threw away over $6 million worth of bitcoins, well you wouldn’t be too happy. You can imagine how James Howells from Wales felt when he discovered that he had thrown away his hardrive containing over 7,000 bitcoins. The value of Bitcoins has reached an all time high so now Mr Howells is frantically searching his local tip in the hope of retrieving his fortune Subscribe http://www.youtube.com/bbcnews Check out our website: http://www.bbc.com/news Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bbcworldnews Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bbcworld Instagram: http://instagram.com/bbcnews

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