Authenticity and Connectivity: Two Words for the Enhancement of Corporate Social Responsibility!

By Paula Cortes

CSR has been controversial because of how corporations have failed with their green logos. An example is Terra Cycle, a recycling company whose tagline is “Eliminating the Idea of Waste”. For example, the company makes plastic lumber products out of single-use coffee pods. But many environmentalists are unconvinced: “if TerraCycle really wanted to eliminate waste, it would suggest consumers make coffee the old fashioned way”  (1.)

Untitled

Many brands are using corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a communication strategy to improve their corporate image; consumers, however, are often overwhelmed by these more or less well-founded CSR claims and can have trouble identifying what distinguishes a truly responsible firm. This confusion has promoted ‘greenwashing’ practices and may make CSR initiatives less effective (2), despite their rise as a prominent international interest. It has also become a research priority in public relations and has been considered as one of the key aspects of that field for decades (3).

In a TED talk video Dr. Mc Elhaney proposes the use of her four core values when consultants are working for a company doing CSR: “Authentic, Bold, Connected and (Damn) Useful” are the strategies for better CSR programs according to her.  In the talk she points out Authenticity as an initiative that represent economic benefits because being the author of one’s own innovation shows a higher self-awareness and engagement from the shareholders. Additionally, it will improve the consumer’s perception. To put this into perspective the CSR of every company should demonstrate a realistic concern for the implication of their processes. For example a company in the mining sector after achieving EIA approval should be authentic in its CSR design, including realistic needs of the community on its guidelines, for example training local people to be employed by the mining enterprise, creating better access to basic resources as water and aliments and ensuring healthy labor conditions in order to demonstrate that the company understands the particular needs of the community where the mine is located.

Dr. Mac Elhaney focuses on the importance of being authentic and, despite the fact that she does not rationalise the other core values mentioned before, I would like to take into consideration the importance of being “Connected”. Firms involved in repeated interactions with stakeholders that are based on trust and cooperation have an incentive to be honest and ethical. They have demonstrated that this behaviour is beneficial to the company; therefore, it is important to generate permanent bonds between people as we care better the ones that we know (5). Being connected includes having effective communication. Informing the public about the company management of environmental challenges and the preventive and corrective actions to environmental threats brings trust and a better perception from the public. In the example of noise annoyance, a refinery that Irving Oil developed a reducing noise program which has been decreasing noise in the neighbourhood around the refinery, minimizing the use of flaring as well as installing a range of noise silencer technologies. (7) This demonstrates that the company is connected enough to hear and be aware of community needs and to respond to improve people’s quality of life.

CSR is a challenging process that requires a comprehensive approach on the part of the people who are creating the strategy. In this article I briefly explored two of the core values mentioned for the Dr Mc Elhaney; however, it is important to take into consideration that all companies have different missions and visions, which makes them unique. Authenticity might be sometimes hard to achieve as it is necessary to have a budget to implement new practices, if the company has many standardized processes probably would prefer to maintain its traditional ways. To be able to be authentic requires engagement from the workers, open communication and a committed disposition of the shareholders.

If there is an opportunity to modify and improve a process in a company, it should be easy to communicate to the main chair about it. When companies have quality systems they have an advantage in this process as these protocols have continuous improvement guidelines. Social responsibility requires a real engagement to achieve all the company goals expressed in a mission and vision. It should exist as a participatory mechanism for any person to take part of it and cooperate in the enhancement of the different processes. With real consistency and authenticity communicated, the company’s relations with consumers will be smoother because the public will better trust a company that shows that what they promote agrees with what they do, and then CSR wouldn’t look like just another greenwashing initiative.

Sources:

(1) http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/aug/25/5-sustainability-greenwash-products-ecofriendly-boondoggles-design

(2) Parguel, B. Benoît-Moreau, F.Larceneux F. 2011. How Sustainability Ratings Might Deter ‘Greenwashing’: A Closer Look at Ethical Corporate Communication.August 2011, Volume 102, Issue 1, pp 15-28.Journal of Business Ethics

(3) 2007. Capriottia, P. Moreno, A. 2007.bCorporate citizenship and public relations: The importance and interactivity of social responsibility issues on corporate websitesPublic Relations Review Volume 33, Issue 1, March 2007, Pages 84–91

(4) Arenas,D Lozano, M & Albareda L.2009. he Role of NGOs in CSR: Mutual Perceptions Among Stakeholders Journal of Business EthicsAugust Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 175-197Date: 05 Aug 2009.

(5) McWilliams A, Donald S.Wright, P 2006. Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategic Implications.Journal of Management Studies Volume 43, Issue 1, pages 1–18, January 2006.

(6) Reinhardt, F. 1998. ‘Environmental product differentiation. California Management Review, 40, Summer, 43–73. Web of Science® Times

(7) http://irvingoil.com/

(8) www.cartoonstock.com

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A Zombie EIA process in Quebec ?

The economic downturn which started in 2008 has now lasted for a number of years. To counter the effects of the recession, the recently elected Liberal government in Quebec has decided to take measures to cut so-called redundant spending and create jobs.

With the latter objective in mind, two major projects have recently received approval. The first is the McInnis Cement Plant in Port-Daniel, Gaspésie.

Plan of McInnis Cement Plant, Port-Daniel, Gaspésie

This project, partially funded by the government, will create about 400 permanent jobs [1] in a region with few job opportunities, but will also be a major source of greenhouse gas pollution. This cement plan was a priority for the previous government, and it seems to be a priority for the current government as well. In fact, the Couillard government has introduced Bill 37 to allow the project to be exempted from a review by the BAPE (Bureau d’Audiences Publique en Environnement), because of threats from the proponent to pull out if the project would have to go through this more extensive process [2]. It should be noted that the construction of the plant had already started before the introduction of Bill 37. How then can the BAPE influence the design of the project?  As you will see in this short news coverage (in French only) by Radio-Canada [3], there are a number of legal issues related to this project, but some of the environmental concerns were arguably “dissipated” through mediation between the proponent and environmental organizations. Is that enough considering the lack of transparency in the process?

The second major project is the Arnaud Mine in Sept-Îles, Quebec. This mine will extract apatite, a mineral used in the production of fertilizers and create about 330 permanent jobs [5]. The Couillard government has announced that the Arnaud mine project would go forward (with 10 additional conditions) on March 16, 2015, about one year after a review of the project by the BAPE [6]. In 2014, the BAPE had declared in a report that in its current form, the project was unacceptable, mainly because of risks of groundwater contamination, health, noise, and air quality issues, and a lack of social acceptability of the project (division within the community) [7]. From the information available, since the initial review of the project by the BAPE, the proponent has not submitted a revised version of the project.

Protest against the Mine Arnaud project, Sept-ÎlesProtest to support the Mine Arnaud project, Sept-Îles

These two examples show the little regard the government has towards the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process and the little impact EIA reports have on decisions. Are we going back to treating the EIA process as a hindrance to development?

“Je ne sacrifierai pas une seule job dans la forêt pour le caribou”
Phillipe Couillard, Quebec Prime Minister [8]

This quote from the Quebec prime minister demonstrates that the government puts a higher value on job creation and short-term growth than on sustainable development or any environmental concern. This philosophy has led the government to bypass its own legislation, as seen especially in the McInnis cement plant case, and to ignore recommendations by its independent panel of experts in the environmental field (BAPE). This behavior and discourse will likely decrease the confidence citizens have in the EIA process in general and lead to further pessimism towards governments [9].

Maybe it is time for governments to create a long-term plan for the future and to stop opposing economics and environment. We need to have a vision as a society to focus governmental policies. In the meantime, a number of actions should be undertaken to strengthen the EIA process. First, we need to give legislative power to the BAPE, so that they have means to implement their recommendations. Second, we should systematically consider the “no-project” alternative when evaluating projects.


Sources :

[1] Radio-Canada (2014). Port-Daniel aura sa cimenterie. Ici Radio-CanadaLast update: June 2nd, 2014. http://ici.radio-canada.ca/regions/est-quebec/2014/06/02/001-cimenterie-port-daniel-gouvernement-couillard.shtml

[2] Shields, Alexandre. (2015). La cimenterie de Port-Daniel échappera définitivement au BAPE. Le Devoir. Actualités sur l’environnement. 19 février 2015. http://www.ledevoir.com/environnement/actualites-sur-l-environnement/432213/la-cimenterie-de-port-daniel-echappera-definitivement-au-bape

[3] Biron, Martine. (2015). Cimenterie de Port-Daniel-Gascons : Québec veut éliminer toute entrave au projet. Ici Radio-Canada. Last update: February 18, 2015. http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/politique/2015/02/18/005-cimenterie-port-daniel-projet-loi-quebec-eviter-bape.shtml

[4] Corbeil, Michel (2015). Feu vert à Mine Arnaud. Le Soleil. March 13. 2015. http://www.lapresse.ca/le-soleil/affaires/les-regions/201503/12/01-4851720-feu-vert-a-mine-arnaud.php

[5] (2011). Mine Arnaud: Un projet de diversification économique. http://www.minearnaud.com/fr/benefices/

[6] Radio-Canada (2015). Feu vert à Mine Arnaud. Ici Radio-Canada. Last update: March 16, 2015. http://ici.radio-canada.ca/regions/est-quebec/2015/03/16/002-mine-arnaud-annonce-sept-iles.shtml

[7] Québec Meilleure Mine (2014). Conclusion historique par le BAPE: Projet Mine Arnaud à Sept-Îles jugé “inacceptable”. Mining Watch Canada. Last update: http://www.miningwatch.ca/fr/news/conclusion-historique-par-le-bape-projet-mine-arnaud-sept-les-jug-inacceptable

[8] Côté, Charles (2014). Bras de fer en vue sur le caribou. La Presse. Last update: April 28, 2014. http://www.lapresse.ca/environnement/especes-en-danger/201404/28/01-4761476-bras-de-fer-en-vue-sur-le-caribou.php

[9] Morissette, Samuel. (2013). Les parlementaires de l’Assemblée nationale et le cynisme envers la politique: Entre la réalité politique et l’utopie démocratique. Fondation Jean-Charles-Bonenfant, Assemblée nationale du Québec. 42 pages. Retrieved at: http://www.fondationbonenfant.qc.ca/stages/documents/Essai_SamuelMorrissette.pdf

Images:

McInnis Cement Plant: http://argent.canoe.ca/nouvelles/les-desmarais-et-les-beaudoin-saffronteront-dans-le-ciment-17102013

Protest against the Mine Arnaud Project: http://tvanouvelles.ca/lcn/infos/regional/estduquebec/archives/2013/09/20130921-171034.html

Demonstration to support the Mine Arnaud Project: http://tvanouvelles.ca/lcn/infos/regional/estduquebec/archives/2014/03/20140314-202740.html

Citizen Science: Monitoring in the EIA Process

“Citizen science is a process by which everyday people take an active role in scientific discovery, joining forces with researchers to answer important science questions” (MASH)

Historically, science was a task that could only be carried out by a couple of advantaged people who had that background training to carry out experiments and the multiple tests it required. What is distinct about Citizen Science (CS) is that it appeals to individuals who would not have been traditionally associated with the field of research.  It is the development of new learning communities that sidestep institutions and tradition as a means of acquiring knowledge that make it possible for individuals to have an impact in the scientific field. In the ’70s activists adopted the saying ‘Science for the People’ but it has been suggested by Silvertown (2009) that “’Science by the people’ is a more inclusive aim”. The publication in 1962 of Silent Spring by Rachel Carlson brought with it a movement which brought to the attention of the people that sciences needed to become accessible to everyone. It is important to note that at the moment, CS now includes participation in many fields such as projects on climate change, invasive species, conservation biology, ecological restoration, water quality monitoring, population ecology and monitoring (Greaves, 2013; Silvertown, 2009).

Terms

Amateurs: A person who does something (such as a sport or hobby) for pleasure and not as a job.

Volunteer: A person who does work without getting paid to do it

Protocol: A system of rules that explain the correct conduct and procedures to be followed in formal situations

Video

Why is Citizen Science accomplished?

I would recommend watching the whole video, but what is most relevant to the field of CS and its ability to attract participants emerges five minutes into the video.

Three factors that lead to better performance & personal satisfaction

  • Autonomy: Desire to be self-directed; management is good for compliance but autonomy is good for engagement.
  • Mastery: The urge to get better at stuff, because it’s fun, because you get better at it and that’s satisfying.
  • Purpose: Transcendence purpose – it makes coming to work better; it’s the way to become more talented.

A question that is brought forward in this video is pertaining to the type of individuals CS attracts. It is stated by the video that technically sophisticated highly skilled people who have jobs are the ones carrying out these tasks. But why are they willing to do so? What does CS give back to individuals as an incentive for them to carry out these tasks? According to the video the answer are straight forwards and simple: “the science shows that we want to be self-directed, make the world a little bit better”.

Tools

What tools makes participation in CS possible?

According to Silvertown (2009), it is any technology that makes it possible for information to be shared. The range for such tools is wide, starting by innovations such as the telephone to more modern ideas of Social Medias. The tools he suggest vary from “Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Google maps, iPod apps, YouTube and wiki” he goes further to state that the tools can be anything that “can be used to reach and engage with a large audience”. To this list I would also add: Smart phones, GPS and open GIS soft-wares.

Limitations

It is noted that some projects such as monitoring can become very complicated. Such projects would typically attract fewer individuals. The literature also suggest that if proper protocols and standardization are put in place then, even very complicated scientific questions can be addressed. (Bonney et al, 2009). Protocols used for citizen science should be easy to perform, explainable in a clear and straightforward manner, and engaging for volunteer participants” ( Silvertown, 2009; Bonney et al, 2009).

Monitoring in Environmental Impact Assessment Process.

A movement towards a new model of industrial performance, which integrates “transcendence purpose”, leaving behind the sole aim for profit by adding a contribution to the social environment is on the go.  The Environmental Assessment Impact process should emulate what the market has started to embrace. Including citizen science in the monitoring process would do just that: it would add a second purpose to the process, revitalize it, and improve public involvement and public concern towards such questions as to whether what happens in and the quality of what is included in an EIA report.

Recommendations

  • Make data resulting from citizen science accessible ( Increasing transparency and public motivation for involvement )
  • Integration of public participation (section) in post project implementation during the monitoring phase of the EIA process.

Links pertinent to Citizen Science

What is citizen science?

Scientific American: List of projects looking for involvement.

Citizen science: Monitoring, Education and Volunteering.

Seek free knowledge (MIT free courses)

Ongoing projects

Christmas bird count-National Audubon Society in the USA –since 1900, 63 million bird observations

The British trust for ornithology -founded in 1932

National Biodiversity network– 31 million records of over 27 000 UK species of animals and plants in majority collected by amateur naturalist

References

Bonney, R., Cooper, C. B., Dickinson, J., Kelling, S., Phillips, T., Rosenberg, K. V., & Shirk, J. (2009). Citizen science: a developing tool for expanding science knowledge and scientific literacy. BioScience, 59(11), 977-984. http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/59/11/977.full. Retrieved March 9th, 2015.

MASH(NA)Leaning is open. Toolkit Citizen Sciences. California Academy of Sciences http://alpha.projectmash.org/groups/citizen-science Retrieved March 9th, 2015.

Greaves, S (2013)Citizen Science Musings: The Rise of Citizen Science. http://citizenscientistsleague.com/2013/01/14/citizen-science-musings-the-rise-of-citizen-science/ Retrieved March 9th, 2015.

Silvertown, J. (2009). A new dawn for citizen science. Trends in ecology & evolution, 24(9), 467-471. 

The crucial need of EIA for logging projects in Québec: the woodland caribou’s conservation in danger

The woodland caribou is one of the most important species of the North America boreal forest, being a unique cultural icon in Canada but also a mean of assessing the health of Canada’s boreal ecosystem. Indeed, this species is perceived as being a “focal” species, because woodland caribou “are wide-ranging, sensitive to landscape disturbances and considered by many scientists to be an umbrella species (Lee et al, 2010).

image

Source: Rudolph et al (2012)

Unfortunately, the Species At Risk Act (SARA) classifies the different subspecies of the woodland caribou as endangered, of special concern, or threatened, as it is the case for the boreal population (Lee, 2012).  Today, as the CPAWS (2013) states, only 30% of the boreal woodland populations (17 of 57) are considered self-sustaining throughout the Canada’s boreal ecosystem.

Figure1:

caribourange

Source: CPAWS, 2006

And the observed continuous declining trends of the populations are mainly due to “large-scale disturbance to high quality caribou habitats from development projects”, as Matthew Hawco summarizes in his recent MEIA blog post. For Beauchesne et al (2014), the major human activity in the Boreal forest is forest harvesting, which causes tremendous adverse effect on the woodland caribou populations by altering their habitats and increasing the landscape’s fragmentation. Therefore, attention toward the regulation and the sustainable management of logging activities is critical in order to maintain and safeguard the viability of woodland caribou populations. This is specifically the case in Quebec, where the forest industry is largely contributing to the economic and social development of the province by creating direct jobs and forest products (Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, 2008), while in the same time the percent of caribou habitat protected is low, compared to other Canadian’s provinces (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Percentage of caribou habitat protected by province, in Canada

caribouprotected

Source: CPAWS, 2006

As I said before, logging can have damaging effects on the woodland caribou populations, both direct and indirect. Indeed, logging reduces the amount of old growth forest, and therefore it decreases the quality and quantity of lichen, the principal source of food for caribou. Moreover, caribou are very sensitive to disturbances, and studies have shown the displacement of populations at a minimum of 13 km from logging areas (Nature Québec, 2007). Also, the logging activities increase the occurrence of predator populations such as wolves, which further threatens the viability of the woodland caribou.

Then, what could be the solution to deal with this critical situation?? EIA…!

Indeed, the Environmental Impact assessment process, which is project-driven, could assess the forestry and logging projects and activities, and it could determine the resulting environmental impacts from them, emphasizing the need of preserving the woodland caribou habitat from any disturbance.

But, as I speak, as incredible as it may seem, forest or logging activities/projects are not subjected to Quebec’s EIA process; only road infrastructures built for the purpose of logging require a mandatory EIA, which is indicated in Section II, f) of the “Réglement sur l’évaluation et l’examen des impacts sur l’environnement” (Government of Quebec, 2015).

I really think that it’s absurd, especially regarding the potential impacts and threats that can be induced for the woodland caribou populations. I highly recommend the inclusion of forest and logging activities in the list of projects requiring a mandatory EIA, which will primarily emphasize and focus on the conservation of the woodland caribou. Otherwise, its populations will continue to decrease dangerously until…

References:

Beauchesne, D., Jaeger, J., St-laurent, M-H. (2014). Thresholds in the capacity of boreal caribou to cope with cumulative disturbances : evidence from space use patterns. Biological Conservation.172. (2014). 190-199.

Canadian Parks And Wilderness Society (CPAWS) .(2013). Population critical: how are caribou faring?. First annual report on government’s efforts to conserve Canada’s declining Boreal caribou populations.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). (2006). Uncertain Future: Woodland Caribou and Canada’s Boreal Forest: A report on government action. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and Sierra Club of Canada.

Lee, P. (2012). Canada’s woodland caribou: industrial disturbances in their ranges and implications for their survival. Edmonton.

Lee, P., Hanneman, M., Gysbers, J., Cheng, R . (2010). Atlas of Key Ecological Areas Within Canada’s Intact Forest Landscapes. Edmonton, Alberta: Global Forest Watch Canada. 10th Anniversary Publication #4. 54 pages.

Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune. (2008). Sustainable Management in the Boreal

Forest: A Real Response to Environmental Challenges, Québec, Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, Direction de l’environnement et de la protection des forêts, 51 p.

Nature Québec. (2007). Revue de littérature des connaissances sur le Caribou forestier, réalisée dans le cadre du projet « Critères et propositions d’aires protégées pour le Caribou forestier ». 24 pages.

Règlement sur l’évaluation et l’examen des impacts sur l’environnement, 2015 . Section 2, f. Retrieved from http://www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca/dynamicSearch/telecharge.php?type=3&file=/Q_2/Q2R23.htm

Rudolph,  T.  D.,  Drapeau,  P.,  St-­‐Laurent,  M-­‐H.  and Imbeau,  L.  (2012). Status of Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in the James Bay Region of Northern Quebec. Scientific report presented to the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec and the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee). Montreal, QC. 77pp.

The long path towards transparency

This February, I read an article from Science Magazine on the issues of open record laws. It was interesting that the attempt to integrate transparency into the scientific community has led to harassment of researchers. This happens in the form of incessant communication (via meetings, calls, requests, emails), legal battles and lawsuits [1]. Is this what transparency brings to EIA? Is that what scares proponents away from being transparent?

Transparency is a concept that can improve decision-making. In several of my graduate classes, we can have eternal discussions on the importance of transparency in environmental impact assessments (EIA). We have seen cases where transparency was needed, or how it could improve the EIA process. Transparency was lacking in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant project, which led to unquestioned and uninformed decisions, resulting in the infamous Fukushima disaster [2]. If transparency can improve the credibility and process of EIA, why is it met with so much resistance?

What we need to keep in mind is that peer-reviewed research studies and EIA conclusions are not the same. The audience of peer-reviewed scholarly articles includes other scholars and researchers. An EIA is meant for decision-makers and to inform stakeholders. This is an important distinction. Research papers go through peer-reviewing “as the system for evaluating the quality, validity, and relevance of scholarly research [3].” An EIA report is meant to analyze the impacts of a particular project.

During one class, we discussed a paper by O’Faircheallaigh [4] that looked at the different types and purposes of public participation. It would be interesting to allow these types of public participation to provide controlled opportunities for anyone interested instead of limiting the transparency of the project. We know that there has already been an increase in restraints on public participation with the current CEAA 2012 [5]. We should at least increase transparency.

On March 16, 2015, a story about a Six Nations incinerator project, in Ontario, emerged in the news involving a new “zero emissions” incinerator that was reportedly producing 200 times the acceptable provincial levels of toxins and carcinogens into the environment [6]. On March 19, 2015, the community held a meeting to discuss the issue [7]. Questions were left unanswered, and the inventor of the incinerator, John Kearns, did not even attend the meeting to provide any information [7]. This is an instance in which transparency is needed to decide what to do next, and yet it is lacking.

“So this is good. It’s not bad. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. And we need a lot of sunlight in this troubled world.”

– Don Tapscott on transparency

Questioning the level of transparency for peer-reviewed papers is intended to protect researchers from excessive harassment. What the EIA process has that the research process lacks are the planned opportunities for those with access to the information and data to express their concerns. There are also more members participating in the EIA process compared to the number of members in a research team. We are in an age where this resistance only creates conflict. Proponents are finding it harder to fight transparency, as transparency in everyday life is becoming the norm. We no longer see transparency as a courtesy. It is becoming expected.

The following TEDtalk video has well-known author, management thinker and futurist Don Tapscott discuss where we, as a global community, are headed in terms of transparency:

[1] Kollipara P. 2015. Open records laws becoming vehicle for harassing academic researchers, report warns. In: News: Policy. Science Magazine. Electronically accessed: http://news.sciencemag.org/policy/2015/02/open-records-laws-becoming-vehicle-harassing-academic-researchers-report-warns

[2] Wang Q and Chen X. 2012. Regulatory transparency—How China can learn from Japan’s nuclear regulatory failures? Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 16:3574–3578.

[3] Taylor & Francis Group. 2014. What is peer review? [Website] Taylor & Francis. http://journalauthors.tandf.co.uk/review/peer.asp

[4] O’Faircheallaigh C. 2010. Public participation and environmental impact assessment: Purposes, implications, and lessons for public policy making. Environmental Impact Assessment Review. 30: 19–27.

[5] Gibson RB. 2012. In full retreat: the Canadian government’s new environmental assessment law undoes decades of progress. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal. 30(3):179-188.

[6] Green J. 2015. Six Nations incinerator polluting at up to 200 times Ontario limits. CBC News. March 16, 2015. Electronically accessed: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/six-nations-incinerator-polluting-at-up-to-200-times-ontario-limits-1.2931215

[7] Green J. 2015. Inventor skips Six Nations meeting about failed incinerator report. CBC News. March 20, 2015. Electronically accessed: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/inventor-skips-six-nations-meeting-about-failed-incinerator-report-1.3002484

Are Golf Courses Negatively Impacting the Environment?

Summer is just around the corner, and for many people that means the beginning of a new season hitting the links! I must admit that like many others, I can’t wait to get out on the golf course and play a round or two. That being said, after last season and entering the MEnv program, I began considering the potential environmental hazards associated with the construction and maintenance of golf courses. Are these beautiful emerald green courses really as green as they appear?

Many areas in North America are becoming more and more fragmented with new golf courses every year. In 2009, Florida alone had 1144 golf courses throughout the state, spanning a total area of just over 860 square kilometers [1]. Many of these courses are located in areas on shore lines or in sensitive ecological areas such as the Florida Everglades, as shown by this map of all the courses in 2009.

Not only are many of these courses situated in sensitive areas, but many of them use fertilizers and pesticides which are not only potentially harmful to ecosystems, but are also potential carcinogens for humans [2]. A 2006 study showed that U.S. golf courses used on average 112% of nitrogen and 187% of potash per acre used to fertilize corn crops [3]. In plain English this means more fertilizer was used per acre on U.S. golf courses than to grow corn. The result of this over use of fertilizers is the potential for eutrophication, adding an unintentional greenness to water bodies around golf courses, as is evident in the following image.

Furthermore, there is significant concern over the sustainability of the approximate use of 300,000 gallons a day of water for maintenance of U.S. golf courses, especially in areas of California which have sunken by more than a foot in 9 years due to aquifer demand [4]. While these concerns are well documented, there is a lack of regulation associated with golf courses. In Canada, many pesticides are banned for cosmetic use on properties, but golf courses have been exempt from the regulations [5]. It seems about time that governments do a better job to recognize the environmental concerns related to golf courses, and consider thresholds for required EIA of golf courses. British Columbia does currently have “golf resorts” built into its EIA legislation, stating that the resort must occupy an area greater than 200 hectares and possess more than 600 commercial bed units [6]. Considering an average 18 hole golf course requires 120-200 acres, the equivalent of about 50 to 80 hectares, not many new courses will require environmental impact assessments [7].

However, many golf course owners have realized the need to promote good environmental management of their courses. Alan Morton, owner of Golf Griffon Des Sources in Mirabel, Quebec, has implemented woodland corridors throughout his course to reduce habitat fragmentation as well as the use of liquid compost treatment to reduce the need for pesticides [5]. Even the great Nick Faldo, who now designs golf courses after a successful PGA career, promotes the notion that “as the world’s natural landscapes become more endangered, our most fundamental job as course designers is to create beautiful playing venues that also preserve and protect the environment” [8]. Golf courses may have the potential to cause environmental degradation, but the golf community also has an opportunity to be a leader in terms of sustainable development. As more courses are inevitably created, they should be designed in an environmentally friendly manner, so that we can keep enjoying the sport for years to come.

References

[1] Florida Geographic Data Library. (2009). Florida Golf Courses in 2009. Retrieved March 25th 2015, from http://www.fgdl.org/metadata/fgdc_html/par_golf_09.fgdc.htm

[2] Knopper, L., & Lean, D. (2004). Carcinogenic And Genotoxic Potential Of Turf Pesticides Commonly Used On Golf Courses. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 7(4), 267-279.

[3] Environmental Institute for Golf (2006). Golf Course Environmental Profile. Retrieved March 26th 2015, from http://www.eifg.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/golf-course-environmental-profile-nutrient-report.pdf

[4] Barton, J. (2008). How Green if Golf? Retrieved March 26th 2015, from http://www.golfdigest.com/images/magazine/2008/05/gd200805golfenvironment.pdf

[5] Oosthoek, S., (2011). How Golf Courses Are Getting Greener. Retrieved March 26th 2015, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/top-employers/how-golf-courses-are-getting-greener/article577697/

[6] British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act Reviewable Projects Regulation(2012) Retrieved March 26th 2015, from http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/370_2002

[7] American Society of Golf Architects. (n.d.) FAQ: How much land do I need to build a golf course? Retrieved March 27th 2015, from http://www.asgca.org/frequently-asked-questions/174

[8] Nick Faldo Design. (n.d.). Sustainability. Retrieved March 27th 2015, from http://nickfaldodesign.com/sustainability

The Status Quo of Apple’s CSR

Apple Inc. is the world’s second largest information technology company in the world (by revenue), and largest as a publicly traded corporation internationally [1]. According to the Financial Post last November, Apple became the first US company to be valued at $700 billion [1]Statista reports the company maintains 437 retail location in fifteen countries, and employing almost 73,000 permanent staff [2]. As well as it is doing financially, one may wonder where its corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda lies in relation to its immense economic growth.

It turns out, Apple has quite a comprehensive environmental campaign and CSR policy incorporated into its business model. The company prides itself on continuous improvement and transparency; in this respect, its projects and practices are publicly accessible on the net.

Apple Inc. has two separate pages affirming CSR initiatives: Environment and Supplier Responsibility. The Environment page discloses its annual carbon footprint (in metric tons) according to its facilities, product use, transportation, recycling, and production. Falling under its combatting climate change campaign, it also highlights energy efficiency endeavors, namely its strive towards 100% renewable energy facilities, and its progress thus far switching to solar, wind, and geothermal power (more info). Its Clean Water Program and LEED Platinum certifications are also documented here. Other links provided within the Environment page document toxins reduction and highlight product design improvements as part of Apple’s doing more with less waste reduction campaign. Impressive was Apple’s local recycling campaign which encourages the return of old devices to stores through gift card rewards. Investing $850 million into a solar farm project in California was not too shabby either [3].

Apple products are rated based on four categories: climate change, restricted substances, energy, and material efficiency; all market products (ex: iPhone 6 Plus) are subject to a Life Cycle Assessment and archived accordingly. The process adheres to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool format (EPEAT) [4].

The Supplier Responsibility page addresses supplier accountability, namely environmental effects, worker empowerment, labor and human rights, and health and safety. All such factors are audited. They also claim to map their supply chain for use of harmful chemicals, down to individual smelters; non-compliance with standards to any of the above require corrective action. Allegedly, the monitoring and remediation measures following annual audits take place in 30-60-90 day intervals [5].

Overall, Apple’s CSR initiatives are quite impressive. It seems that in terms of current standards of CSR they are doing everything they need to do. I am just not convinced the supplier responsibility side is any more than a marketing strategy. This is a concern, considering they outsource a lot to China where human rights abuses, pollution and safety violations are notorious. Apple only provides generic figures of number of suppliers audited. Do we really have legitimate information about where and how raw materials are sourced and the actual environmental pollution coming from its production facilities? Are internal audits at outsourced locations sufficient enough to comply with the standards Apple claims to adhere to?

References

[1] “Apple Inc market cap tops US$700B, double what it was when Tim Cook took over as CEO”. Financial Post. November 25, 2014. Retrieved November 25,2014.

[2] “Number of Apple stores worldwide 2005-2014”. Statista. RetrievedDecember 6, 2014.

[3] Reuters, Apple investing $850 million in California solar farm, retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/10/us-apple-cook-idUSKBN0LE2RN20150210

[4] Apple Inc. – Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved from https://www.apple.com/ca/environment/climate-change/

[5] Apple Inc. – Supplier Responsibility. Retrieved from https://www.apple.com/ca/supplier-responsibility/pdf/Apple_Progress_Report_2015.pdf

[6] “Corporate Social Responsibility in the Consumer Electronics Industry: A Case Study of Apple Inc.” [Article] Retrieved from http://lwp.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Connor-Myers.pdf