Northwest states Brownbag Lunch Meetings

The Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center hosts and attends informal brown-bag lunch meetings to stay current on issues affecting pollution prevention, and to hear interesting speakers who educate participants on topics relevant to our work and offer fresh perspectives to think about.

August 1, 2000 — "Dow Jones Sustainability Group Indexes"
Tauni Sanchez, Dow Jones Sustainability Group Indexes Managing Director

Investors interested in putting their money into enterprises that take some risks to ensure long-term sustainability can track the performance of these companies through the Dow Jones Sustainability Group Indexes (DJSGI).

The purpose of the DJSGI is to provide a credible, objective barometer that investors can use to track and benchmark the financial performance of companies that reduce long-term risks and pursue sustainability opportunities. The index also is useful for companies to validate their sustainability efforts in the marketplace. The ultimate goal is for sustainability to become a routine component of equity analysis, lending and financing decisions, and securities underwriting.

Investment institutions can buy licenses to use the DJSGI as the basis for sustainability-oriented investment products.

While any definition of sustainability can be questioned and debated, the DJSGI index is acceptable to the world's capital markets. Sustainability is seen by the DJSGI as a three-legged stool -- economy, environment, and social equity -- and as a reliable indicator of the overall quality of company management. Inclusion in the index rewards companies that are willing to take risks now that will pay off in the long run. For example, a company undertaking research into solar photovoltaic panels may have little to show for its money in the short run, but the long-term reward may be a profitable future business line and fewer risks down the road. Leading sustainability companies deliver more predictable results and fewer unpleasant surprises for investors.

The index currently includes 219 companies that integrate economic, environmental and social equity practices as a long-term strategy for increasing shareholder value. The DJSGI currently includes companies in 68 sectors, based in 22 countries. Based in Zurich, Switzerland, the index is a joint venture of Dow Jones Indexes and Sustainability Asset Management (SAM).

To assess companies for possible inclusion in the index, questionnaires are sent to 2,000 firms in the Dow Jones Global Index. Two-thirds of the questionnaire covers generic sustainability issues, while the remainder is tailored for individual industries. A maximum sustainability score of 74 is possible. The questionnaire includes inquiries covering areas such as corporate sustainability policies, corporate governance, stakeholder relations, strategic planning, risk management, benchmarking, environmental management systems, and environmental purchasing policies. The questionnaire is reviewed and revised continually to reflect updated information.

Only the "best of the best" are included in the index. Examples of companies in the index today are Honeywell, an electronic components manufacturer; Bristol-Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical company; TransAlta, electric utilities; and Unilever, a maker of food products. Companies that are in the index are re-assessed annually, and the DJSGI scans 30,000 newspapers each day to keep an eye on their activities. All the companies currently in the index will be identified on Sept. 6, 2000. The performance of the index is reported daily by Reuters News Service, Bloomberg Business News, and various European newspapers.

Why is Dow Jones interested in sustainability? There is an investment trend to direct money to companies that meet certain environmental and/or social criteria. "Socially responsible" investments claim one of every eight investment dollars in the U.S. However, there is a difference between "socially responsible" investments and the DJSGI criteria. Socially responsible funds will typically exclude companies that sell certain products, such as alcohol or tobacco. The DJSGI does not focus on what a company produces but how it does so. There is an exception of sorts for weapons production. Companies that earn more than 5 percent from weapons sales are derated for index calculation purposes. Advice is provided by a board of experts, including representatives of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development and John Elkington, a sustainability consultant and author of The Green Consumer Guide.

For more information on this topic, visit:

Dow Jones Sustainability Group Indexes
http://indexes.dowjones.com/djsgi

Investor Responsibility Research Center
http://www.irrc.org

World Business Council for Sustainable Development
http://www.wbcsd.org

February 3, 2000 — "The Business Case for Sustainable Design"
Dr. Judith Heerwagen, presenting at Seattle City Light

A group of schoolchildren visited a furniture factory in Michigan. Before their tour, the children’s teacher asked them to draw a picture of a factory. The typical "before" picture was a Dickensian nightmare of stacks belching clouds of black smoke, ugly buildings, and a forbidding chain-link fence. After their visit, the children were asked to draw a factory again. A typical "after" picture was an airy space filled with smiling people and stuffed animals.

Why the dramatic change? The children toured the headquarters building of Herman Miller, a furniture manufacturer. The building, designed by William McDonough, is a sustainable building showcase that not only prevents pollution and uses resources efficiently, but has created a workplace that is good for the employees’ social and mental well-being.

The Herman Miller example was described at a Feb. 3 presentation on "The Business Case for Sustainable Design." The presenter was Dr. Judith Heerwagen, an environmental psychologist and consultant in workplace ecology. She spoke at a brown bag sponsored by Seattle City Light.

Sustainable buildings can do more than lighten their environmental footprints. If designed right, sustainable buildings can provide a working "habitat" that will improve employee productivity, stimulate creativity, attract and retain workers, and improve overall worker satisfaction.

The benefits of sustainable buildings should be marketed in terms that speak to business concerns. Profitability, cost reduction, and greater market share are givens, but others include product quality, customer satisfaction, capacity for innovation, public image, employee retention, and quality of work life. Sustainable design can produce healthy work spaces which tell employees that their companies care about their well-being.

For buildings to be a positive working environment, they must do more than keep the rain out and the heat in. They must meet people’s mental and social well-being needs as well. The latter two are often overlooked in workplace design. In fact, Dr. Heerwagen said, more thought is put into the space needs of zoo animals than those of employees. Wildlife show strong preferences for spaces that meet their needs. The same applies to people, who typically spend 80 percent or more of their time indoors.

What do people need in their indoor environment for their mental and social well-being? Examples include an interesting visual environment, outdoor views, contact with nature, natural noise levels, opportunities for spontaneous social interaction, and ability to control lighting and temperatures to meet individual preferences. If these needs are not met, the consequences can be stress and maladjustment.

For example, studies have documented that contact with nature and other living things, even if it’s just a potted plant, can result in stress reduction, improved mood, and greater work satisfaction.

People have varying preferences for temperature and lighting. If a building seems too warm, too cold, or too stuffy, workplace performance will fall. A Wisconsin insurance company found that giving employees control over their personal workspace’s temperature and lighting resulted in an 8 percent productivity increase.

To illustrate the importance of a healthy visual environment, Dr. Heerwagen showed slides of a badly designed workplace. It was a building where employees were getting sick, but no evidence of indoor air quality problems could be found. As it turned out, the real cause of the sicknesses was that the interior had been designed by someone with bizarre ideas about color schemes and furnishings. Purple checkerboard patterns on the walls, columns painted pink and red, carpeting with an undulating design, no window views, and a jumble of uncoordinated colors and textures on the furniture made for a "visually toxic" environment.

A dramatic contrast is the 295,000-square-foot Herman Miller office and manufacturing headquarters building, in Zeeland, Mich. The office and manufacturing areas have windows and skylights that bring in plenty of natural light and offer outdoor views. There are temperature and lighting controls, non-toxic materials and finishings, and air handling systems that keep the air fresh. The interior abounds with indoor plants, and there are stuffed animals around the offices to add visual interest. There is a restored wetlands and prairie on the grounds that can be seen from the windows. The interior features an open environment, including a daylit indoor "street" that encourages informal interaction, not the more typical rabbit warren of cubicles that isolate employees from each other and the outdoors.

The building has reduced electricity costs 18 percent and water/sewer bills by nearly two-thirds. From the employees’ perspective, nearly three-fourths of day shift office workers believe the building is healthier and 38 percent said their job satisfaction has improved after moving into the new building. Of the day shift manufacturing workers, 62 percent believe the new building is healthier and 42 percent said their job satisfaction has improved. Eighteen workers who had left the company for higher paying jobs elsewhere returned to Herman Miller.

From a corporate perspective, the building is an intangible marketing asset, because Herman Miller can sell its sustainability initiatives as part of its overall product package. The building is also a public relations asset that has improved the company’s community standing. There is so much public interest in visiting the building that Herman Miller had to hire a tour guide. To find out more about the building, visit http://www.mcdonough.com/miller.html.

Seattle City Light is conducting a study on the productivity benefits of sustainable buildings. Results should be available in the fall. For more information about the Seattle’s sustainable building programs, visit Seattle City Light at http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/light/conserve/sustainability, and Seattle Public Utilities at http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/util/RESCONS/susbuild/default.htm.

 

January 27, 2000 — "Sustainability: Holistic Perspectives for the Next Century," a CD-ROM
Barbara Lither, EPA Region 10 Office of Innovation

Barbara Lither from EPA Region 10's Office of Innovation gave us a walk-through of "Sustainability: Holistic Perspectives for the Next Century," a CD-ROM which introduces viewers to sustainability, and includes tools for businesses and individuals to incorporate sustainability into their daily activities. The framework for the information is the "triple E:" equity, environment and economics.

There are plenty of features on the CD-ROM to keep viewers busy. It includes eight modules:

  1. What Is Sustainability – An introduction to the concept, history, a quiz and definitions offered from a variety of perspectives, ranging from Margaret Mead to Theodore Roosevelt.

  2. Why Sustainability – A 15-minute lecture and graphics describing global climate change from Dr. Richard Gammon, a climate researcher at the University of Washington; plus, an overview of smart growth and new approaches in EPA's clean air strategies that include land use policies.

  3. What You Can Do – Lists of actions individuals, schools, farms, businesses, and other organizations can take to use resources more efficiently, reduce waste, and prevent pollution.

  4. Tools for Sustainability – Checklists for evaluating sustainability in projects.

  5. Sustainability in Action – Communities and organizations undertaking sustainability projects in the Northwest.

  6. Towards Sustainable Business – A suite of features, including an opening quote from former EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus, a sustainability learning curve, risks and rewards beyond eco-efficiency, and examples of Northwest businesses that have integrated waste reduction, pollution prevention and resource efficiency into their operations. Tools include summaries of The Natural Step, ISO-14000, CERES Principles, and Global Environmental Management Initiative. The business module includes readings, references, and web links that can be activated directly from the CD-ROM.
To play the CD-ROM, you need a Pentium processor with a minimum clock speed of 166 MHz, Windows 95 or 98 operating system, sound card, and ability to display at least 8-bit color at 640 x 480 screen resolution. The product has not been tested on Windows NT.

Information on the CD-ROM will soon be transferred to a web site. For more information on the CD-ROM, please contact Barbara Lither at 206-553-1191 or lither.barbara@epa.gov.


Compiled by the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, 513 First Ave. West, Seattle, WA 98119
phone: 206-352-2050, fax: 206-352-2049, e-mail: office@pprc.org, WWW address: http://www.pprc.org

© 1999, Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center
phone: 206-352-2050, e-mail: office@pprc.org, web: www.pprc.org