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Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’

Flexitanks

I keep an empty wine bottle from Chateau de La Rivière in my office. It says right on the front label “Mis en bouteille au chateau,” that is, that the wine was bottled at the winery. It turns out that at least in the British wine market bottling at the winery is becoming the exception, not the rule. According to the Financial Times, a large numbers of wines imported into the United Kingdom are now imported in plastic bladders (see the image above) and bottled in the UK (Crate expectations, Jan 31).

In the past few years there has been a huge structural change in how wine is delivered to those who drink it. The UK, for example, is the most important market for one of the world’s most enthusiastic wine exporters, Australia. In 2008, fewer than three in every 10 bottles of Australian wine on British shelves contained wine that had been shipped from Australia in bulk rather than in bottle. Four years later that figure was eight in every 10, and the total amount of wine shipped out of Australia in bulk overtook the volume exported in bottle.

Australia is far from the only country to ship substantial quantities of wine sloshing around in a tank inside a container rather than neatly sealed in bottles. Spain and Italy export far more wine in bulk than any non-European wine producer, and 65 per cent of all South African wine exports were bulk last year. (Chile is an enthusiastic exporter of bulk wine and earns the highest average price per litre for it.) According to the OIV, the global wine statistics-gatherer, the total volume of wine shipped around the world in bulk rose 61 per cent between 2005 and 2012 to represent more than 40 per cent of all exported wine.

So what is driving this rapid conversion from bottle to bulk? (more…)

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Jan has been on a data kick lately (see here, here and, oh yeah, here) so here is a picture he might like:

Fuel Use

It comes from a report by the International Council on Clean Transport entitled “U.S. domestic airline fuel efficiency ranking, 2010” that was published earlier this month. (It is also discussed in the Washington Post.) Here is the question that it is attempting to answer: Given that different airlines do different things, how can we fairly compare their ability to use fuel efficiently? What’s cool about the answer is that you see with in the answer firms’ strategic and operating choices.

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What makes for sustainable clothes? That is the focus of a Wall Street Journal article on an index developed by an industry coalition that aims to rank apparel based on a variety of factors (Which Outfit Is Greenest? A New Rating Tool, Jul 25).

The Higg Index (its name doesn’t refer to anyone but was chosen to clear copyright protections in 100-plus countries) looks at the entire life of a product from raw material to disposal. Brands can get points for asking consumers to wash items in cold, rather than hot, water, as Levi’s does, or for using recycled components like Nike’s polyester, made from used water bottles.

The graphic below shows how different fabrics stack up.

The index will initially be available to just industry insiders but the goal is to eventually have clothes in stores with tags that let consumers see the impact of their clothes.

Even in its early form, the Higg index is impacting how firms design and make clothes. (more…)

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So a week after I poo-pooed Slate’s series of operations articles, they published a good one (Why Are Poland Spring Bottles So Crinkly?, Jun 19). The article makes the point that there is often alignment in operations between efficiency and being environmentally conscious. That is, a change that aims first and foremost to save money may also, for example, reduce the firm’s carbon footprint.

Consider Nestlé Waters North America, the company behind water brands like Poland Spring, Arrowhead, and Deer Park. It manufactures all its own bottles—an astonishing 20 billion each year. Starting about seven years ago, the company began to examine its processes. It discovered 1) that it could use far less material in manufacturing its bottles, and 2) that those bottles represented 55 percent of the company’s carbon footprint. “When you make improvements,” says CEO Kim Jeffery, “you tackle the items with the most impact first. The bottle was the logical place to go.” …

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Here’s an interesting story at the intersection of supply chain strategy and sustainability. The LA Times reports that Taylor Guitars has bought an ebony mill in Cameroon (Taylor Guitars buys ebony mill, pitches sustainable wood, Jun 7).

For Taylor Guitars, which has used ebony from Cameroon for many years, the chance to ensure a steady supply of legal ebony was too good to pass up, Taylor said in an interview.

The company teamed late last year with Madrid firm Madinter Trade, which sells tone woods for musical instruments, to buy the Crelicam mill outside of Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. The purchase wasn’t officially announced until late last month.

Taylor said it’s been a difficult process bringing the mill’s wood sourcing and operations up to what he and his partners consider acceptable. The mill’s subcontractors, for example, typically cut down 10 trees to find one with all black wood, Taylor said. He agreed to boost their pay to get them to deliver that ebony that had been considered undesirable.

There are some interesting motives behind this move.  (more…)

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Last week, I wrote about wedding gowns. Now it’s time to think of the other end of the fashion price spectrum: fast fashion. The Observer had an interesting piece on Swedish fast fashion retailer H&M and what they report in their annual sustainability report (Is H&M the new home of ethical fashion?, Apr 7). The report is notable because the Swedes have apparently set the goal for themselves of being “the ethical solution, the retailer that can make ethics and fast fashion synonymous.”  So how is that going?

“I don’t think guarantee is the right word,” says Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability, brightly. “A lot of people ask for guarantees: ‘Can you guarantee labour conditions? Can you guarantee zero chemicals?’ Of course we cannot when we’re such a huge company operating in very challenging conditions. What I can say is that we do the very best we can with a lot of resources and a clear direction of what we’re supposed to do. We’re working really hard.”

I believe her. Thursday’s report will show some impressive sustainable figures: for example nearly 2.5 million pairs of shoes were made last year using lower-impact water-based solvents; all building contractors have signed a code of conduct to ensure “good” working conditions; recycled polyester equivalent to 9.2 million plastic bottles has been used, and H&M uses more organic cotton in production than any other group. This year I am told, 7.6% of its cotton was organic (an industry insider estimates H&M’s overall cotton use to be around 200,000 tonnes a year). By 2020 100% will be sustainably sourced cotton. …

Does Helmersson still wake up worried they’ll be the subject of a sweated labour expose? “Yes, I worry about that sometimes. I lived in Dhaka for two years. You see how things happen down the chain in a country like Bangladesh. Remember that H&M does not own any factories itself. We are to some extent dependent on the suppliers — it is impossible to be in full control.”

And therein lies the rub. While H&M talks about responsibility, in the supply chain where retailers devolve power to factories it can be easy to distance yourself. Helmersson says H&M has invested in 100 people in CSR, 75 of whom are auditors (assessing social and now some environmental conditions in factories) and produced a series of groundbreaking short films, including one on fire safety that it claims more than 400,000 garment workers have seen.

(more…)

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How much does it cost to change a light bulb? More than you may have guessed if you think of retailers with large parking lots or hotels with high lobby ceilings. In fact, for these firms the cost of changing light bulbs can be so high that it actually changes the calculation on whether it is worth adopting new types of technologies. As the Wall Street Journal reports (The Math Changes on Bulbs, Nov 30), many firms such as Wal-Mart and Caesars Entertainment are switching to LED bulbs not so much because they use less energy but because they last so long.

Here the reporter explains the reasoning:

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