Corporate Social Responsibility and Greenwashing Looking Bad for Many Companies

Here’s an ideal way that Procter & Gamble could have bolstered its efforts to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chains.

Is Cincinnati-based multinational consumer goods company Procter & Gamble (P&G) standing up to its commitment to prohibit forest degradation? Reuters reported that the company has dropped its pledge to not buy wood pulp from degraded forests like the Canadian Boreal Forest.

More than a million acres of that climate-climate forest are clear-cut each year. That’s one go the forests P&G taps into for toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissues. It’s an important forest in the fight against climate change, with more than 300 billion tons of climate-altering carbons — twice as much carbon as the world’s oil reserves — in its soils, plants, and wetlands.

P&G is one of many companies violating previous sustainability commitments and greenwashing their efforts.

In 2020, a majority of P&G’s investors passed a non-binding resolution requesting that it assess how it could bolster efforts to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chains. That came from scrutiny and pressure the company had been placed under environmental non-profit groups and some shareholders. The boreal forest deals violate the resolution.

The company is under a lot of scrutiny now with the Reuters report and the ABC affiliate in Cincinnati airing a an investigative series called, “Conscience of the Company” that explores how the descendants of Procter & Gamble’s founders are trying to influence the company today.

Another challenge is that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) late last year filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to evaluate if P&G’s claims that it prohibits forest degradation were materially misleading investors. 

In March, Greenpeace Australia Pacific asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate whether environmental claims by Toyota have been misleading or deceptive. The greenwashing complaint focused on claims about the environmental performance of Toyota’s vehicles and its net zero ambitions.

Greenpeace’s complaint includes allegations Toyota’s net zero by 2050 plans are not what the company is carrying out in its vehicle production plans, it was lagging way behind on making electric vehicles, and it has lobbied globally to heal, weaken, or delay vehicle emissions standards.

“Toyota Australia has a long track record in helping customers reduce their vehicle emissions, including through the supply of over 315,000 hybrid-electric vehicles and investment in reduced tailpipe emissions vehicles and carbon neutral technologies,” the company said.

Toyota and Honda had the worst EV availability. Only 11% of Honda dealers and 15% of Toyota dealers had an electric vehicle available for sale. That came from the Sierra Club’s new report “Rev Up Electric Vehicles: A Nationwide Study of the Electric Vehicle Shopping Experience,” which shows that the U.S. auto industry is largely failing to meet consumer demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and automakers are greenwashing their EV commitments.

ExxonMobil tops the charts
ExxonMobil has topped the list for worst-case scenario for global automakers seeking to stay completely dependent on fossil fuels. The company had made some big claims about joining the climate change fight and getting out of oil and into other energy. Shell and BP tend to also end up on greenwashing lists.

Last year, PBS’ Frontline news series presented “The Power of Big Oil,” provided a three-part investigative series the role the fossil fuel industry, particularly ExxonMobil, has failed to confront climate change. The evidence was damning — on how much scientists, corporations, and politicians have known about human-caused climate change for decades, and the missed opportunities to mitigate the problem.

“We have continued to maintain a position that has evolved with science and is today consistent with the science,” said Darren Woods, chair and CEO of ExxonMobil, in an October 2021 congressional hearing.  

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is in a very tough situation. The company provides natural gas and electric service to approximately 16 million people throughout a 70,000-square-mile service area in northern and central California. As climate change hits hard, PG&E is at the epicenter of wild brushfires raging through the region. The company may be wise to break up the covered area and sell off some of it to other utilities or state-owned entities.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently approved a settlement PG&E for the utility’s involvement in the 2020 Zogg Fire. PG&E will pay a total of $150 million — $10 million will be paid as a penalty to California’s General Fund, and $140 million in shareholder funds will be invested for new wildfire mitigation initiatives designed to mitigate the risk of similar events occurring in the future. The Zogg Fire was caused when a tree fell on energized conductors owned and operated by PG&E in Shasta County on September 27, 2020. The Zogg Fire burned 56,338 acres, caused four fatalities and one injury, and destroyed 204 structures. A state agency conducted an investigation and alleged that the tree that caused the fire was not removed in time because of PG&E’s poor record-keeping.

Of course, there are automotive, transportation, and energy companies that are being socially responsible.

Newsweek has partnered with global research and data firm Statista for its fourth annual list of America’s Most Responsible Companies 2023.

General Motors is the only automaker to be placed on this list of 500 companies, coming in at No. 56. It came in at 82.94 points on the scale with Environmental Score being the highest, followed by Corporate Governance Score and Social Score down in points and third on the list.

It’s one of 17 companies on the list in the Automotive & Components category. It’s mostly parts and component suppliers. The other manufacturers besides GM are Harley-Davidson, Winnebago Industries, and Polaris Inc., a manufacturer of power-sports vehicles.

For the Energy & Utilities there are no oil companies. Waste Management made No. 73 on the list. Renewable Energy Group, a biodiesel production company headquartered in Ames, Iowa, came in at No. 410.

And in other news………..
US fuel economy standards going up: The Biden administration on Friday proposed to hike fuel economy standards by 2032 to a fleet-wide average of 58 miles per gallon as it seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce fuel use. That will equate to a real-world fleet efficiency average of about 43.5 mpg. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposal, which covers the 2027 through 2032 model years, would boost Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements by 2% per year for passenger cars and 4% per year for light trucks. The agency’s new proposal would save 2032 vehicle owners about $1,043 per vehicle in lifetime fuel costs, while increasing average vehicle costs by $932. The agency is also proposing new fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans for 2030-2035 rising 10% per year.

Green hydrogen: A tracker by Aranca allows you to follow all green hydrogen projects around the world. Since 2018, there have been 461 projects put into operations. Register here with your email to get on the Green Hydrogen Hub – Aranca list. You can look at it by country and other parameters.

Tesla owners still love their electric vehicles but are not on good terms with CEO Elon Musk. Bloomberg recently revisited its survey of 5,000 Tesla owners that were first polled in 2019. Most of them think Musk’s recent public statement had harmed Tesla’s reputation, and that his acquisition of Twitter (now called X) was a distraction from his duties at Tesla. The Model 3 is getting “near-universal praise,” Bloomberg said. A majority of owners are satisfied with its reliability, and it’s help up well since the previous survey in 2019.

More than 300 RNG stations: The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) reported that in North America, there are more than 300 operational Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) facilities, up from just over 30 facilities in 2011 when RNG Coalition was founded. This extraordinary growth reflects the RNG industry’s steadfast commitment to mitigating climate change, fostering energy security, and ensuring a cleaner, greener future for present and future generations, the coalition said. 

RNG plays a pivotal role in reducing global methane emissions — a greenhouse gas estimated by leading scientists to have 80 times the climate-warming impact of an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. By investing in methane capture and RNG distribution, North America is curbing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing circular economies and enhancing the overall environmental sustainability of the region. 
RNG is a sustainable, clean fuel derived from organic waste found at landfills, wastewater treatment plants, dairy farms and other waste streams. RNG facilities capture and refine biogenic methane emissions produced by this waste, turning it into a valuable energy resource. 

J.D. Power announced that its J.D. Power EV Index, an analytics tool to track the growing electric vehicle (EV) market in the US has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help establish benchmarks and monitor ongoing development of EV infrastructure nationwide. DOE research using the J.D. Power EV Index will be led by Argonne National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the DOE’s Office of Science. The J.D. Power EV Index delivers detailed data on EV infrastructure development and consumer experience with public charging networks at the ZIP Code level across the country. It also provides vital information on regional trends in infrastructure growth and potential barriers to widespread consumer adoption.

Seven Automakers Forge Fast Charger Network, More on Renewable Diesel

Photo source: CleanTechnica

Seven automakers are forming a new company that will be installing 30,000 faster chargers in the US in the new few years. They’re going to be dual-port stations with both CCS1 and NACS (Tesla’s connector), but CHAdeMO won’t be included. The stations will be in urban areas and along state highways.

The seven automakers are BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis. Automakers who had recently agreed to adopt Tesla’s NACS were Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Polestar/Volvo, and Rivian. Automakers reportedly in talks with Tesla: Hyundai, Stellantis, and Volkswagen. ChargePoint and Electrify America had agreed to adopt NACS, according to Car and Driver.

One of the key points in the announcement that this new company’s network hopes to solve a recurring problem: reliability problems. Users will have to plug and replug, or wonder why the charging speed is so low, or is no longer available.

They’re expecting roll out the chargers in mid-2024.

Who Consumes Nearly All Renewable Diesel? California.
California accounts for nearly all renewable diesel consumption in the US, but most of it isn’t made in the state, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). More than eight times the renewable diesel was consumed in California than was produced there in 2021. California imports renewable diesel, with Singapore as the leading overseas market, and purchases it from other states producing it.

Six states—Louisiana, North Dakota, California, Wyoming, Washington, and Kansas—accounted for all renewable diesel (RD) production in the US in 2021.

California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which went into effect in 2011, is behind all of it. Between 2011 and 2021, consumption grew from 1 million barrels to 28 million barrels per year in the state.

California continues to make gains in renewable natural gas (RNG) investment and production. In just the first half of 2020, RNG made up nearly 90% of all natural gas vehicle fuel consumed in the state, according to Trillium.

LCFS has been adopted in California and is in the beginning phase in Oregon. Other states are considering it.

Soybeans might make up the bulk of RD. While RD and biodiesel both come from vegetable oils, animal fats, and recycled restaurant grease, 100% of RD comes from these ingredients and is chemically the same as petroleum diesel. Vegetable oils are the most economically viable which can be met by oilseed production. Soybeans make up about 90 percent of U.S. oilseed production, while other oilseeds—including peanuts, sunflowerseed, canola, and flax—make up the remainder, says the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

And in other news……..

Taking on methane: Colorado is taking on a major environmental problem: the release of methane gas into the atmosphere. A public-private coalitions has worked together to adopt new rules that requires oil and gas companies to directly measure methane emissions at production and publicly report it; and it empowers a new formed division to have the authority to enforce compliance. It also built in a public process for continuous evaluation of a robust companion protocol to make sure it gets carried out long term.

Tesla rigged range estimates: Tesla played with the numbers on available driving range on its electric vehicles for years, according to an investigation by Reuters. A source said that the company rigged the range-estimating software on the cars’ dashboard, providing a “rosy” projection of how far the driver could go before running out of power, the report said.

ACT Expo speakers:  Interested in being a speaker at ACT Expo 2024? Here’s a link for submitting your abstract on topics that would be of interest to clean transportation advocates. The show organizer would prefer to have presenters from fleets. 

Self-driving cars and Uber drivers:  News of driver jobs going away has been floating around since 2014 after Google started testing self-driving cars. Companies such as Waymo, Tesla, and Uber are still testing and developing autonomous vehicles, but there are major challenges they still have to overcome. Regulatory hurdles, technological limitations, and public acceptance remain significant walls to climb. 

E-fuels being taken very seriously these days, NHTSA back to discussing autonomous vehicle rules

Porsche 911s will soon be powered by e-fuels, the automaker said.

There are three options that fleets consider for converting over to clean vehicles:

  1. Drop-in the alternative fuel into an existing internal combustion engine (ICE) and fuel system, such as e-fuels, ethanol blended with gasoline, or renewable diesel.
  2. Retrofit or modify over to an alternative fuel and powertrain, such as compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, renewable natural gas, or propane autogas.
  3. Replace vehicles entirely with another technology such as electric vehicle drive train systems or hydrogen fuel cell systems.

Porsche, Stellantis, Ferrari, BMW, and other automakers are digging into e-fuels as a way of hitting government mandate emissions targets along with zero emission vehicles — battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles — on the passenger vehicle side. On the commercial vehicle side, Amazon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are taking drop-in e-fuels quite seriously, too.

Drop-ins make much sense for fleet operators, especially fueling vehicles that have been in the fleet for years with much data collected on performance and dependability, adaptability to fleet applications (such as utility trucks), availability, and affordability.

Internal combustion engines continue to dominate fleets, making converting over partially to electric vehicles and bringing in e-fuels as a viable pathway to hitting internal and external targets.

What’s known so far about e-fuels?
It’s a class of synthetic fuel used as a drop-in replacement fuel. Vehicles, ships, and airplanes will be using e-fuels, and they don’t need any modifications.

The process starts with renewable energy such as wind and solar obtaining hydrogen by way of electrolysis. Oxygen is separated from hydrogen through a filtration process. C02 is captured and condensed from the atmosphere, which helps clean the air. Hydrogen obtained by electrolysis is combined with the captured C02 through a process called synthesis. The first result is e-methanol, which can be converted into synthetic gasoline with the help of a methanol-to-gasoline synthesis. This produces the carbon-neutral e-fuel, according to Porsche.

Start-up company Infinium Electrofuels is nearing first production of its e-fuel from a plant in Texas, and its first customer is Amazon. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has been an early investor in the company. Potential customers in aviation, marine shipping, and chemicals, are looking at e-fuels as well, the startup said.

In December, Porsche began working with Chilean operating company Highly Innovative Fuels (HIF) to begin production of synthetic e-fuels. Porsche hopes to be annually selling 145 million gallons of it before the end of the decade. It’s being built at the Haru Oni Demonstration Plant in southern Chile. They’re hoping the synthetic fuel made with renewable energy, green hydrogen, and recycled C02 could displace fossil fuels without having to modify vehicle engines and the fueling infrastructure. For now, it will power Porsche race cars and is being tried out in Porsche 911s.

In late march, the European Union passed a mandate ending sales of carbon-emitting cars by 2035, with the exception that vehicles running on internal combustion engines powered by e-fuels can stay on roads. They’re still debating and looking into the actual carbon dioxide emissions of battery electric vehicles versus ICEs running on e-fuels made from electricity powered by renewable energy. They may allow ICEs to continue to be sold after 2035 but they will need to be fitted or retrofitted with technology called a “fuelling inducement system” to prevent the use of fossil fuels in the vehicle. E-fuel vehicles do have some C02 and other emissions, however they are usually considered to be carbon neutral because the process involves capturing CO2, which will offset the vehicle emissions.

There are critics and observers out there who are taking a “wait-and-see” approach to whether synthetic e-fuels can deliver what advocates promise and whether the fuel will be economically viable. The fuel is currently expensive to produce and won’t be realistic for fleets and consumers to consider as an affordable option for a few years.

Skeptics would like to see honest, realistic reporting on what it will really take to produce the fuel — and the emissions released into the atmosphere during that process and how much energy it will use up to produce. Carbon capture is also very questionable, they say. Does that technology really deliver on what it’s supposed to do, and will that work from an economic perspective?

And in other news……….

Self-driving car rules: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking on autonomous vehicle guidelines, called the AV STEP. That came from NHTSA acting administrator Ann Carlson speaking at the Automated Road Transportation Symposium. It will offer an alternative regulatory route from previous possible regulations, and it may include removal of limitations on the maximum authorized number of these vehicles that can go on roads. General Motors has yet to hear back on its February 2022 request for exemption for its Cruise Origin robotaxi. GM and other automakers are interested in seeing more details come out on revised rules, which had been sitting on hold since before Covid-19 started.

Truckmakers complying: Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association and California Air Resources Board on July 6 announced an agreement on the state’s plan to phase out sales of Class 4-8 diesel-powered trucks. California regulators agreed to relax existing standards for nitrogen oxide pollution so they align with the federal government’s rules. Engine and truck makers will probably be granted more time to meet new requirements and more protection for legacy engines. The truck makers say they can now meet the state’s zero-emission vehicle targets, even if they’re later overturned in court. Engine and truck makers who’ve signed on include Cummins Inc., Daimler Truck North America, Ford, GM, Hino Motors Limited Inc., Izuzu Technical Center of America Inc., Navistar Inc., Stellantis, and Volvo Group North America.

Industry Shifting Over to Tesla’s NACS — and So Is Kentucky, Sustainability Investing Isn’t Going Away

Kentucky is the first state to require that electric vehicle charging companies include Tesla’s Supercharger fast-chargers — if they want to be part of a state program to electrify highways that’s getting federal funding. That went into effect on Friday, while Texas and Washington are considering it, according to Reuters. Along with the federal requirement for having the Combined Charging System (CCS) in place, Kentucky is following the federal lead of also including Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS). These would, of course, apply to other chargers below the fast charging level in these networks.

Tesla owners are worried that supercharging will be getting difficult now that more automakers have come over to the North American Charging Station (NACS). They’d appreciated not have to wait for long periods or have their charger break down. Ford, General Motors, Rivian, and Volvo have joined up — bringing together the Combined Charging System (CCS) fast charging network with Tesla’s Supercharger network. Tesla owners are enthusiastic about the effectiveness and speed of NACS, but is the network large enough at this point? Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights, told Business Insider that by 2027, that we probably won’t see anymore new EVs built for the North American market with CCS ports; so the NACS will be getting crowded.

With more than 17,000 locations in North America alone, Tesla’s Supercharger network is the most extensive fast-charge public charging network in the world. It also benefits greatly from users being generally satisfied with it as reliable and easy to use — unlike other charging networks that have grown in complaints over the past year.

Volkswagen had been the only automaker so far to say that it’s committed to the CCS standard. Some of that probably comes from CCS provider Electrify America, which came from $2 billion VW agreed to put into the “Dieselgate” settlement. That network has 840 stations and plans to double that number by 2026. But all of that’s changing now, according to The Verge. On Wednesday, VW said in a statement that it’s in talks with Tesla about installing ports in its EVs compatible with Tesla’s plugs. That came right after Electrify America said it would soon be adding NACS charging plugs. There’s been talk about Toyota possibly coming over, too, but the Japanese automaker is staying silent about it.

Volvo will be equipping its US electric cars with the NACS charging ports starting from 2025. The company plans to manufacture only electric cars by 2030. Polestar, it’s luxury EV subsidiary, will bring in Tesla’s NACS starting in 2024.

Companies considering going over to NACS include Hyundai, Kia, and Stellantis (Jeep, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, Ram, Maserati, Dodge, Renault, Fiat, and more). Stellantis doesn’t yet sell any battery electric vehicles (BEVs). It does sell three plug-in hybrid electric vehicles — the Dodge Hornet, Alfa Romeo, and Chrysler Pacifica. For BEVs, the global automaker has two all-electric vehicles in the works — the Ram ProMaster commercial van and Ram pickup.

SAE International would like to see NACS meet the performance and interoperability criteria that is standard in the industry, which has led to a working dialogue moving forward. The US Joint Office of Energy and Transportation was instrumental in fostering the SAE-Tesla partnership and expediting plans to standardize NACS, SAE said.

Charging companies such as ChargePoint and Blink Charging, which have exclusively used CCS plugs, have already said they too will add Tesla’s NACS plugs to their chargers

And in other news……….

Sustainability won’t be fading away: “So far in 2023, investors have put just over $17 billion into global seed- through growth-stage financings for sustainability-focused companies, per an analysis of Crunchbase data. That’s on track to come in pretty close to 2021 totals but likely below the record-setting investment tallies of 2022,” according to Crunchbase. That’s quite significant as climate change forecasts keep getting worse, so the demand for solutions-based technology is there. And investors do give it more value than nearly all other sectors; sustainability has dipped in market value, but not by as much as nearly everything else that the venture capital markets follow.

Aston Martin partners with Lucid Motors: Aston Martin, an iconic British luxury and performance car brand, plans to launch its first plug-in model, the mid-engine hybrid Valhalla, in early 2024, followed by a battery-electric vehicle the following year. All of the company’s models will be hybrid or BEV by 2026 and all-electric by 2030. Lucid will supply Aston Martin with its electric motors and batteries that have been used to power the California-based company’s Lucid Air sedan. Aston Martin will then take that technology and adapt it to it to its own lineup of electric models.

Electrify America and Lyft find discounted charging: Lyft drivers will get discounted EV charging through an alliance between VW’s Electrify America and Lyft. This will take place at Electrify American charging stations coast-to-coast.

“This new agreement expands our existing relationship with Lyft and helps Electrify America advance EV adoption by advancing electrification of ride-share miles,” said Robert Barrosa, president and CEO of Electrify America. “Not only will drivers on Lyft enjoy the advantages of Electrify America’s ultra-fast and convenient charging network, but by using the new benefits, they can also quickly get back on the road to transport passengers to their destinations in a more sustainable way.”