Corporate Sustainability Manager- Week 3 Review

Mon, 2011-12-26 17:44

My third live online session was filled with healthy discussion and lots and lots of case studies. Our session opened with a discussion about the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart. The book reference was an introduction into the cradle to cradle concept for conducting a life cycle assessment (LCA). Jon Boggiano, one of the Founders of Everblue and our instructor (he rocks!), began the introduction of what a life cycle assessment is by comparing the difference between a closed loop and open loop process. Closed Loop is everything that’s disposed becomes feedstock. Open loop usually ends up in a landfill or rots (1000’s of years; ex; nuclear waste). Jon did a great job of using the Nike Shoe Design to illustrate this difference. He pointed out that Nike uses leather in their shoes (it’s a renewable source) and pieces are stitched in an overlapping fashion to reduce the shoe’s material mass. The company also eliminates harmful adhesives to simplify recyclability and they don’t use PVC. Another great example was Herman Miller‘s cradle to cradle office products. Their Mirra line contains 42% recycled content, and, overall material is 96% recyclable. I was not surprised to learn that defining a life cycle assessment (LCA) for your own company usually takes 1-2 years to complete. It’s very important to follow the following road map:

1. Define life cycle assessment

2. Understand when to conduct an LCA

3. Identify LCA organizations

4. Explain the LCA process

5. Identify LCA tools

Jon stressed the importance of the sustainability team (whomever that may be) to collectively agree to choose the kind of story that you want to tell and then base your objectives on that story. I would tend to agree with this because sustainability is going to mean different things to an organization. Also, most of the time companies only look at production when they’re thinking about LCA. They should also be thinking about the “usage” and “disposal” phases. But, Jon shared with us that this is starting to change.

Jon definitely knows what he is talking about because the case studies that he presents in class are spot on. For example, he concluded the class by introducing the process that National Geographic took to perform their LCA. They focused on printing, distribution and disposal to make a complete and accurate LCA with the intent of telling the story based on their impact on global warming.  National Geographic revealed that the carbon footprint 1.28 lbs of CO2 equiv.; doesn’t really mean anything unless you say that it’s the equivalent of burning a gallon of gas.

Another great example was the case study on Apple. They focused on carbon and conducted LCAs on their products. Their story tells you that the biggest impact to the environment is when you are actually USING the product, followed by the manufacturing of your favorite Apple device. It’s interesting to note that transportation was relatively small and their story includes details about the value chain and life cycle processes.

This was by far the meatiest and most interesting session that I’ve taken and I could tell that Jon really enjoys this session because of how he presented the material. There was some very good interaction with my other classmates through the chat window and I really liked how there were so many more review questions after today’s session than there were in the previous 2 weeks. I would actually recommend that the Jon and his team add additional review questions to the earlier sessions so that there is more onus on the participants to pay attention during the class. But overall, I’m definitely looking forward to my last class next week and seeing how well I do on the test.

Ben Lack, The Daily Energy Report


For more information on corporate sustainability training, give us a call at 800-460-2575.

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