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We can help you:

  • Identify the cradle to grave GHG emissions of products
  • Identify GHG hot spots in your supply chain
  • Run material and process scenarios
  • Inform business and supply chain strategies   

To find out more or to request a demo, send us a message.

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CoClear

understand your impact

CoClear & DSI team up for March 31st Hackathon

Erika Whillas

CoClear, a NYC based sustainability data startup, will run a hackathon to explore the visualization of product life cycle analysis (LCA) data that was publicly disclosed to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). The data set we will use during the hackathon is already cleaned and ready to use. It includes 546 product LCAs from 108 companies across 26 countries.

The goal of the hackathon is to create an interactive visualization that can be hosted on a publicly available website (e.g. CDP) where every company can compare the carbon performance of their own products against competing companies - and where sustainability-minded consumers can gain insight into the carbon performance of various products, brands, and industry sectors.

During the hackathon students will be provided with training and supervision so that they leave with knowledge both of product life cycle analysis and the power of data visualization tools. D3.JS data driven documents will be utilized. A re-refresher of D3.J3 will be provided at the hackathon but existing familiarity is a plus.

In addition to CoClear experts and D3.J3 technical instructors, colleagues from SAP will join the event for mentoring and serving on the judges panel.

CoClear CDP Partnership//Press Release

Erika Whillas

The CDP has partnered with CoClear to analyze its product life cycle data from CDP’s Supply Chain Climate Change Information Request.

Over 347 companies from 47 countries, representing 54 global industry category sectors (GICS), responded to the CDP questionnaire in 2013, 2014 & 2015. These companies provided life cycle emissions data on more than 1092 products. The data collected from the questionnaire provides an opportunity for CoClear to provide deeper insight into sector and product-level emissions.

Prior efforts to understand industry emissions often relied on “top-down” methods of analysis, examining high level, aggregate emissions data. With top-down analyses, it is often difficult to pinpoint with particularity the causes of carbon emissions – and which products and brands in a company’s portfolio offer the most potential for efficiency improvements CDP’s supply chain data, which includes emissions information for hundreds of products, provides an opportunity for CoClear to perform “bottom-up” analyses of product hotspots and how these vary across industries. By analyzing this data, CoClear seeks to identify which life cycle stage cause highest emissions in each industry and how sectors track and manage these hotspots over time. This can help industries identify efficiency improvements throughout their value chain.

CDP’s tremendous success in collecting this highly relevant supply chain level data opens a door to sector wide and statistically significant efficiency insights. In 2014, there was a 15% increase in the number of responses to CDP questionnaire (compared to 2013). Over 50% of companies responded to the questionnaire two years in a row. In 2013, 402 products with emissions figures were submitted to the CDP. In 2014, 320 products with emissions figures were submitted and 370 in 2015.

Please contact us for further details at sally@coclear.co

The environmental challenges facing the fashion industry

Erika Whillas

By William Gritten

The textile wastes in a landfill around Damascus, Syria Photo by Mohammad J. Taherzadeh

The textile wastes in a landfill around Damascus, Syria
Photo by Mohammad J. Taherzadeh

For many people, fashion begins and ends as “a fun and glorious accompaniment to the act of self expression”. These are the words of Lucy Collins, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Fashion Institute of Technology, speaking at Pioneer Mode 2015, a conference entitled “The Future of Fashion”.

Collins’ words were a call to individuals not to take the world of fashion too seriously, but to approach it innovatively, without fear, with a sense of perspective and irreverence. Increasingly, however, the impact of the fashion industry is going beyond the aesthetic, the cultural, and the expressive. More and more, people are waking up to the environmental realities of the seemingly benign objects they wear. At a time when fashion is second only to oil as the most polluting industry, both the fashion industry and consumers need to face the stark reality.

The Pioneer Mode 2015 conference was called in part to investigate the environmental challenges facing the fashion industry - challenges that must be seen in the context of a world already mired in a crisis of scarcity, pollution, and climate change. At current rates, our planet takes one and a half years to regenerate what human beings consume in one. Not only do we consume vastly more than we produce, but the consequence of this production is carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, as well as other pollutants.

Speaking at the conference was, among other thought leaders on the issue, CoClear’s Chief Product Officer and Cofounder, Erika Whillas, who explained how life-cycle analysis drives product innovation, and how both are integral to a sustainable modern fashion business. In particular, the audience was encouraged to discard the assumption that companies are playing a zero-sum game between serving shareholders and serving the environment. The message was clear: in the modern world, corporate profitability is intrinsically linked to environmental sustainability.

Few Industries are affected more by the global increase in consumption than fashion. Countries like China, which produces nearly 40% of apparel products sold in the USA and manufactures an estimated 65% of the world’s textiles, and India, are now significant not only for their productive prowess, but for their consumers’ voraciousness too. Spearheaded by the rapidly swelling middle class in the BRICS nations, global demand for clothes and accessories, already unprecedented, is set to grow and grow. China, technically the world’s fifth largest luxury market, becomes the world’s largest if you take into account the purchases of Chinese tourists abroad. This massive, virgin marketplace is a fashion company’s fantasy, and from fast fashion to luxury, corporations are working hard to carve out their own market share.

Fashion is a globalized industry, and as such runs the gamut of environmental negatives. Far from being the only culprit, fast fashion companies are a particular environmental problem, given not only their colossal use of raw materials and natural capital, but also the fact that their products, made in large part from synthetic materials, and treated with dyes, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals, tend to end up as waste in landfill sites, or worse, dispersed throughout ecosystems. Indonesia’s Citarum River, lined, as it is, by over 200 textile factories that release their untreated effluent indiscriminately, is known now as the world’s most polluted river. For the 30 million people and aquatic life it used to sustain, the poisonous implications are devastating.

Rhett Godfrey, Sustainability Director at Loomstate, who spoke at Pioneer Mode, sought to bring the conversation about sustainability away from the near-incomprehensible scale of global-warming to a more tangible and human level. Godfrey noticed that communities that produce in an ecologically friendly way need the stability of financial security to continue to do so. His idea was to bring together a number of small to medium sized fashion companies to syndicate the purchasing of organic cotton, an enterprise that is usually hamstrung by the fact that, because of the instability inherent in smaller businesses, long-term contracts with producers are often impossible. The group spreads the risk, acting as guarantors to the contract.

According to the WWF, while as little as 2.4% of global cropland is planted with cotton, 11% of the world’s pesticides are used in it’s production, and it accounts for 24% of the world’s insecticide market. The toxic effects of pesticides on communities and ecosystems are well documented, and as such it is of major consequence that cotton is produced organically. The formula offered by Godfrey is an example of how even small startups can play a part in a sustainable future while remaining up-scalable and financially ambitious.

Humans are not evolved to solve problems the effects of which are dispersed, insensible, and experienced over the long term. We rely on the patterns and conditions of the present to provide our concepts of the future, but the realities of climate change, and shifting consumer values in light of those realities, mean that there can be no ‘business as usual’.

Innovation in both technology and ways of thinking about systems is crucial in today’s globalized fashion industry, where a single product’s constituent ingredients can derive from multifarious sources, each with its own potential for ecological misadventure. It was with this in mind that both Erika Whillas of CoClear, and Dr Leonardo Bonanni of Sourcemap spoke about life-cycle analysis and supply-chain accounting. The chain of production for a given product can span dozens of companies and numerous continents. If every element of this chain can be mapped, from procurement, packaging, and transportation, to retail, use, and even disposal, then businesses will have the data they need to reduce both environmental and monetary costs. Improvements could range from changing the location of a factory, to altering the design of the product itself.

A convenient truth is that unnecessary energy use is more expensive both financially and environmentally. Companies that map their supply chains are empowered to approach their operation holistically and iron out anything otiose in their operation. A more efficient process is a cheaper process in every way.

Perhaps one of the most intractable obstacles to the concept of transparency about environmental impact is the lack of incentive for large companies. It takes just short of 10,000 liters of water to make a pair of jeans, and approximately 30lbs of carbon dioxide to produce a pair of running shoes. These environmental costs, otherwise known as externalities, though significant to the societies the businesses are part of, are not reducible through scale in the way the monetary cost of goods is. In this way big business loses its primary historic advantage – that of up-scaling production to reduce the cost of individual units – and will intrinsically be uncomfortable with the idea of accounting for externalities. Transparency in this area seems to hold no palpable benefit.

However, consumer behavior is changing, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to justify unsustainable practice, not only environmentally, but also financially. Central to CoClear’s message is the fact that contemporary consumers will increasingly reward companies who show themselves to be environmentally sound, and punish their competitors who do not. Transparency is key. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, 76% of the public thinks that independent third-party certification is the best guarantor of environmental or social responsibility. Businesses, therefore, must not only behave more sustainably, but also, crucially, be seen to behave as such.

This trend will only accelerate. 45% of Millennials are likely to refuse to buy from a company that has been shown to be socially or environmentally harmful, and a more likely to pay a premium for green products than other, older generations.The burgeoning consumer classes of the Asia-Pacific region are actually more discriminating than their European and North American counterparts: while the region’s reputation for mass-production and counterfeit knock-offs might imply consumer naivety to some, the reality is that it has bred discernment and a high demand for quality as a means of differentiation. In a recent survey, 75% of Chinese people said they try to live eco-consciously, compared to 61% in Europa, and 46% in the USA. Spending far more time communicating among themselves than using traditional media, Post-Millennials will be more likely to prefer a brand that comes recommended to them, and businesses will find it increasingly hard to achieve a positive reputation through advertising.

It is self-evident that in order to be profitable a business must first exist, and thus to have any true concept of longevity it cannot allow itself to free-ride on the planet’s limited resources in a way that undermines the stability and viability of the communities who support it. Further to this reality, companies must work increasingly hard to differentiate themselves from their competitors in a world where the marketing of companies’ green credentials has become almost ubiquitous. Consumers are becoming more exacting in their standards. In America, 50% of Millennials say they conduct research into the environmental practices of the businesses they buy from, compared with 31% of Generation Xers and 20% of Baby Boomers. Companies like CoClear offer businesses not only certification, but also consultation and data to improve the efficiency of products both in their use and in every facet of their construction.

Innovation is therefore essential not only in the spiritual heartland of fashion - aesthetics, identity, and culture - but also in the industry’s products, supply chains, and business practices. Responding to the consumer is necessary for any business, but the most successful companies are not just agile, they operate ahead of the curve. The curve predicts that the prosperous companies of tomorrow will be those who make significant and decisive strides towards sustainable practice today.  

A Life Cycle Analysis Study of Some of Our Flavors

Erika Whillas

At Ben & Jerry’s, we’ve been working for a long time to reduce our environmental impacts, including our greenhouse gas emissions. With the challenge of climate change looming larger than ever, we wanted to take stock of our largest emission sources, and develop concrete strategies on how to drive them even lower. We wanted to measure what matters, so we turned to a small start up company called CoClear for a life cycle analysis (LCA) study of our products.

Read article at Ben & Jerry's website >

Targeting the responsible consumer

Erika Whillas

The business case for investment in sustainable product development 

With a growing global population and an increasing demand for consumer goods, innovation in product design is needed to meet the environmental challenges of resource scarcity, while ensuring a competitive financial edge for multinational consumer companies. Effective design and production of products that “use less to make more” ensures that greater demand can be met in a profitable manner. Further, by considering the life cycle of products, companies can ensure that the re-use of their product materials is factored into their design. Environmental sustainability and conscientious use of natural resources are intrinsic to the long-term growth of consumer companies. To gain a complete view of a corporation’s performance financial fundamentals and sustainability fundamentals must be evaluated side by side. For this reason multiple company departments are funding sustainability projects, especially those pertaining to supply chain, energy, and risk management. Not surprisingly, in 2015 the majority of corporate spending on sustainability consulting did not come from companies’ sustainability teams, but from multiple parts of the organization.1

The behavior of global consumers is shifting, and already a significant percentage are willing to pay more for goods and services from environmentally and socially responsible brands. To capitalize on this shift in consumer preference, companies can benefit from increasing their investment in sustainable product development and marketing. International consumer companies are already reaping the rewards of sustainability initiatives and campaigns. Since 2008, Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living’ program has saved over $400 million in costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 1 million tons, while increasing global sales by 26%.2

Sustainable supply and demand of consumer goods is on the rise, and this is good news for everyone. 

Read our white paper to learn more

Carbon risks & opportunities in supply chains

Erika Whillas

Creating greenhouse gas inventories through life cycle analysis 

Increasingly, companies and brands are facing scrutiny from stakeholders on their environmental performance. Consumers, shareholders and regulators are demanding greater transparency, particularly from those entities with global and resource-intensive supply chains. In order to address this scrutiny, and identify risks and opportunities, companies are monitoring and reporting on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions throughout their supply chains and product portfolios.

An efficient way to begin this process is through comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of products. Product LCA provides a quantitative understanding of potential risks along a product’s life cycle, helping to identify inefficiencies and hotspots in supply chains and develop an inventory of GHG emissions. The use of GHG inventories can inform risk assessment, identify optimization opportunities, and forecast costs of regulation associated with GHG emissions and resource consumption.1 Understanding supply chain GHG inventories can help companies achieve three key business goals:

  1. Identify key commodities and practices with the greatest sustainability challenges

  2. Inform investment in ‘material’ sustainability issues

  3. Improve corporate reputation and accountability

    through public performance disclosure 

This paper will briefly explore the evolving landscape of these business goals, and discuss the risks and opportunities available to companies when investigating the GHG emissions of their supply chains. 

A new calculator aims to make business sustainability choices easier

Erika Whillas

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 1.32.57 PMFor companies trying to amp up their sustainability profiles, there’s no lack of challenges: from material sourcing to water consumption, electricity use to carbon production, every sustainability issue is a moving part, one of many interconnected concerns. A new calculator coming out in June aims to clarify the process and make it easier for companies to identify the economic and environmental impacts of every factor – and adjust their operations accordingly. [more}

CoClear: Software to Pinpoint Where Sustainability and Profits Meet

Erika Whillas

culogo

CoClear_promo_no_logoIf companies knew how much money could be saved by going green it might be easier to design products that use less energy, water, and other resources. That’s the idea behind new software developed at Columbia University, and expanded upon by CoClear, a Harlem-based startup. The software lets companies compare the costs and benefits of making a product more sustainable so that investments that produce the highest return can be prioritized. The software will be on display at the Data Science Institute’s Demo Day on March 31.

Read full article: Software to Pinpoint Where Sustainability and Profits Meet

CoClear white paper now available from Sustainable Brands

Erika Whillas

SB-logo

Despite the economic incentives, many companies are still failing to adequately analyze and reduce GHG emissions. Reasons for this include:

  • Businesses fail to understand the direct economic benefit to their bottom line and valuation by reducing their GHG emissions
  • Businesses lack an understanding of how to effectively align their operations with their carbon emission goals.
  • Businesses lack the tools required to accurately collect and analyze carbon emission data across their operations and distribution channels.

Read 'The Smart Economics of Carbon Accounting: Developing a 2020 Vision for Your Brand’s Environmental & Financial Impact'

Climate Change's Bottom Line

Erika Whillas

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 1.37.06 PM

It was 8 degrees in Minneapolis on a recent January day, and out on Interstate 394, snow whipped against the windshields of drivers on their morning commutes. But inside the offices of Cargill, the food conglomerate, Greg Page, the company’s executive chairman, felt compelled to talk about global warming.  It would be irresponsible not to contemplate it,” Mr. Page said, bundled up in a wool sport coat layered over a zip-up sweater. “I’m 63 years old, and I’ve grown up in the upper latitudes. I’ve seen too much change to presume we might not get more.” read more http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/business/energy-environment/climate-changes-bottom-line.html?_r=0

What you need to think about when selecting carbon accounting software

Erika Whillas

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 3.52.29 PMFoundationFootprint™:

Carbon accounting is about more than just the environment - it's about being smarter about the way you do business. Whether it's lifting brand value, reducing costs or improving compliance, there's never been a better time to start thinking about measuring your carbon footprint.Here’s what you need to think about when purchasing carbon accounting software:

  • Getting the best picture possible – Will it give you a true picture of your resource use and carbon footprint, and the implications for your business?
  • Improving efficiency – Can it automate, integrate and simplify? Does it bring transparency and auditability to your reporting process?
  • Insight vs reporting – Does it turn data into information to support decision making and boost your bottom line?

Find out more about what you need to have on your checklist when looking at carbon accounting software with the

FoundationFootprint™

Buyers Guide to Carbon Accounting.

A Columbian Collaboration: CoClear

Erika Whillas

core-impulse

The name Columbia means something different for every student and affiliate of the University. ForErika Whillas, Chief Product Officer of the sustainability consultancy CoClear, Columbia was both an inspiration for an unexpected direction in her studies and a meeting ground for the beginning of an exciting startup career. Hailing from Australia, Whillas was pursuing an MPA in the School of International and Public Affairs when she met Sally Paridis—also an Aussie and a graduate student in the Sustainability Management program—in an Industrial Ecology class. Paridis, who had been mapping out an idea about a sustainability startup for a while, found the perfect partner in Whillas, an information architect with a web production background and a newfound interest in climate and energy politics upon studying at Columbia. The professor of the Industrial Ecology class that brought them together, Dr. Christoph Meinrenken, also joined the team as chief data scientist. In 2011, CoClear, the brainchild of their collaboration, was finally launched.

Read full article on CORE Impulse

 

Combining Life Cycle Assessment with Data Science to Inform Portfolio-Level Value-Chain Engineering

Erika Whillas

industrial-ecology

A Case Study at PepsiCo Inc.

Christoph J. Meinrenken, Beth C. Sauerhaft, Anthony N. Garvan, and Klaus S. Lackner 

Summary: Life cycle assessment (LCA)-based analyses of company value chains can inspire profound modifications to products’ design, material procurement, manufacturing, energy/water use, distribution, use, and disposal. However, such modifications often create trade-offs, improving some aspects while worsening others. How can firms decide whether or not to carry out such modifications? Or prioritize between different options to choose the one delivering the most competitive advantage? Typically, firms’ metrics fall into two groups: (1) product-level metrics across the life cycle, including up- and downstream of facilities (e.g., product carbon footprints); and (2) facility-level metrics (e.g., plants’ annual energy cost). Neither is sufficient for firm-wide cost-benefit analyses of modifications that affect multiple products and value-chain stages. Whereas facility-level metrics do not capture up- and downstream effects—where often most cost and environmental impacts originate—life cycle methodologies are currently not mature enough to be applied at the scale of entire product portfolios. We present a pilot system of key performance indicators (KPIs) that evaluate 3,337 products across 211 brands and five countries of PepsiCo, Inc. KPIs are firm-wide, annual figures (environmental, operational, and financial) across the value chain (cradle to grave) and can be determined at any level (single product, brands, or regions). Uncertainty analysis is included. In addition to KPIs for base cases, the system characterizes KPI impacts for any considered modifications (what-if scenarios). In a detailed case study, we present background about how and why PepsiCo used the system to evaluate all aspects of a strategic value-chain modification. For 7 of the 211 brands, this resulted in avoiding an 8% increase in greenhouse gas emissions and a 7% to 10% increase in procurement costs. It also saved PepsiCo an estimated #200 years full-time equivalent employee time (or al- ternatively #US$30 million in LCA consultant fees) had the LCAs of the 3,337 SKUs been carried out by traditional methods. This cost efficiency of the KPI system enables consider- ing environmental impacts with more-traditional business metrics side by side. As a result, environmental impacts can be considered on a routine basis as part of integrated strategy and business planning. We discuss implementation considerations of the KPI methodology and future improvements.

Full report available through Yales' Journal of Industrial Ecology

The Smart Economics of Carbon Accounting

Erika Whillas

CEO-press-conferenceWhy is it important for companies to understand their carbon emission footprint? There are three major reasons for companies to better understand and manage their carbon emissions:

- Economic drivers - Regulatory requirements - 2020 vision

 

Measuring and managing carbon footprints is a challenge many companies still fail to adequately address. A shift in corporate mindset from “tracking and disclosing” to “actively managing” carbon emissions would result in direct economic gains for companies.

Read the white paper to learn more