HSUS calls on L’Oreal to embrace a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics

It’s no longer mainstream to apply or drop chemical substances onto the skin or into the eyes of rabbits or other animals. Photo by iStockphoto

Some years ago, a handful of companies rejected animal testing as a research and development practice and chose to only market products known to be safe to consumers. As a nod to the growing ranks of consumers concerned about animal cruelty, they affixed a symbol on their packaging to signal “No Animal Testing.” Over time, . . . 

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ROE (Return on Environment) is the new ROI: how sustainability drives business success

By Tom Murray

Comparing the themes of Climate Week 2016 versus 2017 provides a telling picture of the state of climate affairs. “America Means Business: US Leadership in a post-Paris World” was last year’s focus, while this year is all about three words: “Innovation. Jobs. Prosperity.”

It has been a remarkable year for climate action – in the absence of federal oversight and leadership, we’ve seen a major shift towards city, state and business leaders becoming the standard-bearers for the environment and the economy. With the release of Fortune’s Change the World list, it is obvious that the bar for corporate leadership has been raised even further. Companies that previously stayed mute on environmental and social issues now speak out; not as an anomaly but as a defining factor of their business.

The expectations of today’s stakeholders – investors, employees, consumers, communities – demand a higher, more visionary level of sustainability leadership. Corporate leaders who put their money, and actions, where their mouth is on environmental and social issues are driving innovation, creating jobs, and gaining a new competitive edge for their businesses.

Recruiting top talent

According to a new Morgan Stanley report, millennials are three times more likely to seek out employment with a sustainably minded company.

Unilever (#21 on the Fortune list) CEO Paul Polman said that close to 1.8 million people now apply to work at the consumer giant company every year, many of whom are under 40. Why is that? “According to the data,” Polman reveals, approximately 60% “say it’s the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and the bigger purpose that we have as a business.”

The Sustainable Living Plan is Unilever’s blueprint for growing the business while reducing waste, water, and energy use, including an ambitious goal of halving the environmental footprint of making and using Unilever products. Unilever also rises to the top in setting clear, actionable sustainability goals.

Tom Murray, VP EDF+Business, EDF

Tom Murray, VP EDF+Business

Improving the environment – and sales growth

Retail giant Walmart has been on a journey toward sustainability since partnering with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) over 10 years ago. And its environmental efforts are paying off: ridding close to 90,000 consumer products of potentially harmful chemicals, reducing 36 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain in just six years, and now, making a bold commitment to eliminate a gigaton of emissions by 2030 – all of this with continued U.S. sales growth.

With climate change topping the list of global concerns for millennials, these planet-friendly business moves are just what Walmart needs to attract a new, younger demographic of customers.

But it’s not just Walmart that can benefit. As PBS NewsHour reported this weekend, large companies see payoffs in sustainability – including businesses like Mars Inc. and Smithfield Foods.

At the same time, new resources like the Corporate Carbon Policy Footprint hold companies accountable not just based on their own emissions, but also their public support of smart climate policy. That means consumers are better informed than ever to make purchasing decisions based on corporate climate leadership.

Investing for a healthy economy and environment

For long-term competitiveness, business investments cannot be made at the expense of the environment.  The new report from Morgan Stanley, “Sustainable Signals: New Data from the Individual Investor,” assesses the state of sustainable investing through attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors of individual investors. Their findings:

  • 71% of investors polled agreed that good social, environmental and governance practices can potentially lead to higher profitability and long-term investments
  • 75% of individual investors are interested in sustainable investing

Thriving business, thriving communities

Land O’Lakes, Inc. (a farmer-owned cooperative ranked #50 on Fortune’s list), is supporting its member-owners to grow crops more efficiently and is committed to influencing sustainability practices on 20 million acres of farmland by 2025. Its business unit, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN™ delivers precision agriculture technologies, practices, services and conservation resources for farmers across North America – and works in collaboration with EDF.

This program focuses on educating agricultural retailers, farmers’ most trusted advisors, on practices that improve air, water and soil quality. The ag retailers then bring this knowledge to their customers, the farmer, who can benefit from improved efficiencies. Ag retailers benefit from staying competitive in a challenging market.

Embedding sustainability into business strategy

The Harvard Business Review article, Competing on Social Purpose, separates companies born with a social or environmental purpose – think Patagonia, TOMS, Seventh Generation – from those integrating purpose and strategy late in life. The majority of established brands fall into the latter category, despite consumers’ increasing expectations for companies to have a social purpose.

Fortunately, resources like EDF’s three-part framework for corporate sustainability leadership can help companies get started by:

  1. Publicly committing to aggressive, science-based sustainability goals sends a clear market signal to your customers, shareholders and suppliers that you embrace a social purpose
  2. Collaborating across departments, industries, and the entire supply chain in order to deliver impact at scale
  3. Publicly support smart climate and environmental policy that will ensure long-term competitiveness by driving innovation, creating jobs, and improving efficiencies.

Whether you’re a leading global company that’s well on its way or a smaller company just beginning to embrace sustainability, business can and must lead the way toward a future where the economy, the planet, and people can prosper.


Follow Tom on Twitter, @tpmurray


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How community air monitoring projects provide a data-driven model for the future

By Irene Burga

Nicoyia Hurt, EDF Oil and Gas Health Policy Intern, contributed to this post

Downtown Los Angeles with misty morning smog.

This month marks the one year anniversary since the residents in Imperial County California did something pretty amazing.

After experiencing some of the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the state, the community got together to launch the IVAN air monitoring project– a community website that provides real time air quality data collected from 40 different pollution monitors across the county.

Frances Nicklen said the air monitors make a huge difference to her community.

“The placement of these 40 air monitors throughout the Imperial Valley will be very beneficial so that the people can make educated decisions to protect their health and that of their families,” she told the Comite Civico Del Valle. “We only have one valley, and we have to live here, and we need to make it a better place for all of our residents.”

As a result of the IVAN project, an entire community now has access to real-time pollution data that can identify the region’s largest sources of harmful emissions.

Even local air quality regulators are using it to help inform their policy decisions, demonstrating that community-led science projects can, and do, drive real change.

What’s next?

Several companies are now developing lower-cost air pollution monitors that can collect real-time air quality data 24-hours a day with more precision, and can detect a wider array of pollutants than ever – factors which can help propel better environmental controls. These technological advancements are incredibly encouraging, and – as is clear with the IVAN project – regulators, operators and community groups alike are taking advantage of this evolution in environmental technology.

Communities with poor air quality – like those in Los Angeles – appear to be on the verge of getting a new set of tools to help aid in pollution reduction.

Why Los Angeles?

In 2015, NASA used data from satellites and 14 separate ground-based pollution monitors to confirm high levels of methane (climate pollution) in the Los Angeles region. This reiterated the findings of other studies which found that previous estimates of air pollution have been too low, and oil and gas extraction may be releasing twice as much methane and other harmful pollutants than previously thought.

What these studies didn’t tell us however, is exactly which facilities the pollution is coming from, and how harmful these emissions are to communities living in this region.

That’s the gap new monitoring technology can help close.

Continuous air pollution monitors can provide real-time data about a vast array of pollutants at a much lower price than the traditional technologies. In turn, these monitors can alert local residents, governmental agencies and facility operators to problems about sites that may be emitting toxic gases.

Similarly, mobile technology (devices mounted to cars and airplanes) can collect regional information from a wide variety of sources, helping to pinpoint and aggregate information about problematic pollution. Together these technologies can locate problems at individual oil and gas sites, or uncover pollution patterns at the neighborhood level and identify hyper-localized hot spots.

New legislation demonstrates this information can and should be used to develop local air quality improvement plans. In short, better data can set the stage for new levels of engagement and influence change in a positive direction, and efforts are under way to make that happen.

There’s no denying that the oil and gas industry in California has supplied a huge amount of goods, services and money into the state’s economy. At the same time, it’s clear that leaks and poor environmental performance at oil and gas sites, especially where sites are located within a few feet of people’s homes and businesses, can drastically impact quality of life.

Fortunately, California’s technology boom has revolutionized the way we hail a ride or rent a home. If used appropriately, it can also help create a safer, cleaner environment.

 

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California leads again – this time, in fighting puppy mills

By closing the markets for the sale of dogs from puppy mills, the California law would redirect consumers to shelters and rescues. Photo by Amie Chou/The HSUS

California is set to enact a statewide law that would ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores and require that stores instead source dogs, cats, and rabbits from shelters and rescues. The Senate recently passed the measure with not a single legislator dissenting, and the Assembly concurred in overwhelming fashion, delivering the . . . 

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Modus operandi: How EPA toxics nominee Dourson carries out his work for the chemical industry

By Richard Denison

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

I’ve now examined dozens of papers and reports that EPA toxics nominee Michael Dourson and his firm, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), have published on chemicals over the past 15-20 years.  A remarkably consistent pattern of how Dourson conducts his paid work for the chemical and pesticide industries emerges from this examination.  I’ll use one example below to illustrate, but most or all of the steps I’ll describe have been followed over and over again.  

The example I’ll use relates to two herbicides, alachlor and acetochlor (collectively known as acetanilides), widely used in huge volumes especially in the Midwest.  The US Geological Survey reported that in 2015 about 2 million pounds of alachlor and more than 40 million pounds of acetochlor were used in agriculture annually. The USGS map images included here (click to enlarge) show where these substances are used, based on 2012 data.

Dourson’s work specifically addressed the degradation products of alachlor and acetochlor, which are frequently detected in ground and surface waters.  Except as otherwise noted below, the specifics I describe are recorded in documents posted on TERA’s webpage for this activity.

STEP 1:  The process typically starts with a company or industry that has a problem or a decision it wants to influence, e.g.:  a chemical has been spilled or is showing up in air or water monitoring; a facility permit is being reviewed; a government agency is doing a risk review of a chemical or updating a standard.  In this case, Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto, makers of the acetanilides, were facing growing scrutiny as the herbicides’ degradation products were being routinely detected in ground and surface water samples and regulators in states like Minnesota were reviewing applicable water standards.

STEP 2:  The affected company or industry group contracts with TERA to convene an “expert” panel or workshop or conduct a peer review of a government or industry assessment, research plan or other document.  TERA is hired to convene and manage the panel or peer review.  In this case, Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto hired TERA to run a workshop involving an “expert” panel that TERA was also to select.

STEP 3:  TERA appoints its own founder and President, Michael Dourson, to the panel, almost always as Chair of the panel.  This is a highly questionable practice:  While the selection of panels and peer reviewers is sometimes contracted out to “third parties,” the procedures used are designed to keep the entity identifying experts and managing panels and associated meetings at arm’s length from the experts themselves.  TERA makes no such effort:  In the acetanilides case, as in the great majority of other TERA cases, employees of Dourson’s own company appointed him (their boss) to chair the “expert” panel.

STEP 4:  TERA clears Dourson of any conflict of interest in his participation on the panel.  That is, employees of Dourson’s own company are the sole determiners as to whether or not their boss has a conflict of interest in the matter at hand.  Highly irregular, to say the least, an approach that presents its own conflicts of interest.  In the acetanilides case, TERA cleared Dourson to serve on the panel even though TERA had recently contracted with both Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto to “provide technical review on projects.”  This is not an isolated incident:  In numerous other cases, TERA or Dourson himself had recently worked for the very same company or industry group paying TERA to convene a panel or conduct a review in which Dourson participated, typically as Chair.

STEP 5:  Based on the workshop or review, Dourson and his colleagues write a paper for publication, sometimes involving other workshop or panel participants.  In the acetanilides case, the first 5 of the 9 authors on the paper (including Dourson) were TERA employees.

STEP 6:  The paper is typically published in the industry’s go-to journal, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.  I have blogged earlier about the large fraction of Dourson’s papers – well over half – published in this one journal, which has a longstanding reputation of being the go-to journal for both tobacco and chemical industry-friendly paper publishing.  The journal has been the subject of numerous exposés over the past 15 years regarding its close ties to the chemical and tobacco industries.  True to form, in this case, Dourson’s paper was published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.  It recommended water quality standards for acetanilide degradation products many times less protective than those in place in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Not all of these steps have occurred with every chemical.  Dourson’s work on the likely carcinogen 1,4,-dioxane, for example, paid for by PPG Industries, doesn’t appear to have relied on an intervening workshop or “expert” panel for cover, and instead went straight to publication of a paper, once again in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.  Not surprisingly, here too he argued for a far less health-protective standard, in this case about 1000-fold weaker than EPA’s level indicating an increased cancer risk.  It’s worth noting that state agencies in Michigan and New Jersey reviewed Dourson’s work on this chemical and found it sorely lacking on scientific grounds.

It is not only Dourson’s deep conflicts of interest that lead us to oppose his nomination, but also his questionable science and incessant claims of independence, when in fact his whole step-by-step enterprise has been set up to bend the science in support of the interests of his corporate clients.

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Court reinstates California law banning foie gras, affirms states’ rights

California had made it clear that the cruelty of foie gras is just too extreme to swallow, and the court affirmed California’s right to ban such abuse. Photo by Stopforcefeeding.com

In a major ruling with significant implications for the principle of the right of states to crack down on animal cruelty in agriculture, a unanimous panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated California’s law banning the sale of foie gras. California had made it clear that the cruelty of foie . . . 

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