Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Oh my... The invasion of the Octopi!

Swarms of Octopus Are Taking Over the Oceans:

That is interesting. I had not heard Octopuses (octopi) were the "weeds" of the oceans. But it is interesting to find larger animals that can be a litmus test of the ocean environment.

Oceans are not sucking up CO2 at the same rate as they used to. Acidification is moving up quickly. Reefs are under massive threat.

Weeds are mother natures way of getting something growing in bad soil and going in destroyed areas.

Here's the original study in Scientific America:
Octopus and Squid Populations Exploding Worldwide
Fast-breeding cephalopods exploit gaps left by extreme climate change and overfishing 

By Alexander ArkhipkinThe Conversation on May 25, 2016

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Contura Coal Goes Public -- jumping off of the coal train!

Contura Energy is going public. (CTRA).

On the one hand, they have a lot of metallurgical coal; on the other hand it seems like a rather bad investment -- especially long-term.

All the proceeds will go to buy out existing stock holders. Existing shareholders are based on creditors... Alpha Resources went bankrupt and the Contura Energy company rose out out of the ashes.  (After Peabody went bankrupt also in 2016, about half of US coal miners, and about half of US coal production comes from bankrupt mining companies.)

At some point, coal should hit peak simply because we eventually run out of it... But based on reduced demand, it appears to have peaked in 2012 (see peak coal).

Coal really should be taxed because of the massive negative externalities. No one anywhere can think that the cost of coal at the meter in anyway resembles to true cost of burning coal. Many of Contura's mines are strip mines, so the added environmental costs are huge in those local areas. Health impacts affect hundreds of millions of people and contribution to deaths is millions.

Remember one of the dirty little secrets of coal: Coal Ash.

Environmental impact of coal. The true costs of coal, including externality costs, could easily be at least twice what we pay for it per ton. One estimate in Europe is that hidden coal costs are 1-2% of GDP.

Plus there's the major contribution to greenhouse gases.

China, the world's largest consumer of coal (50%) is back-peddling on coal at an astounding rate. At one point, less than 10 years ago, they had 2 new coal-powered plants coming on-board every week. Now, they may have only a handful more (finished). Like the US, we can expect China to continue converting their coal to NatGas.

As a percentage of the world primary energy mix, coal has dropped below 30%, never to return again. In the US, NatGas has switched with coal as the primary source of electric generation (coal dropping from about 40% ten years ago to only about 30% now). NatGas is so much cheaper, cleaner, safer. Plus the renewables are really starting to be competitive and gain critical mass. Many wind and solar projects are getting to be cheaper per KW than coal (before considering externalities).

India is the other big wildcard. In many cases they are aiming to skip the smokestack technology and go straight to solar. In many cases, India has serious water issues (since mass amounts of water are needed to run steam turbines in conventional energy).

So, is it a good investment to buy into the Contra IPO? All the money goes to giving existing shareholders a parachute so that they can get out of the coal plane -- well, off of the coal train, technically.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Let's Trash it! New Garbage Patch in the South Pacific Is 1.5x Texas. Weather Channel

Newly Discovered Garbage Patch in the South Pacific Is 1.5 Times the Size of Texas, Study Says | The Weather Channel:

Let's TRASH it !

Speaking of trash.

We keep making it.

We box it, we stack it.

We keep spreading it liberally around the world.

We keep taking the planet for granted. !!!

...

Check out the Great Pacific Garbage Patch at Wikipedia.  Note the visualization of ocean flows using ocean buoys (off to the right).
(Title: Garbage Patch Visualization Experiment.webm Author: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio Date: 

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Okay. Coconut oil really is good for you, no BS

I was surprised to see what seemed like a reputable source questioning the good health values of coconut oil. See our blog post here.

But I like this discussion much better by Dr Hyman. He discusses how coconut oil always has been good for you. The "battle against cholesterol" is generally a bogus war being won by billions of dollars in Staten drug pharma. Hyman discusses island countries that have no cancer and no heart disease, but eat tonnes of coconuts off the trees!

In short, coconut oil increases your good cholesterol (HDL) and improves your cholesterol ratio. What it might do to total cholesterol is in no way relevant. It leads to heather outcomes and lower risk of heard disease.

Dr Hyman complains that the FDA shows a bias toward the existing huge organizations, avoiding the most basic foundations of health and science. Hyman observes how they caution against cholesterol, without scientific foundation, yet allow sugary cereal and soft-drinks.  After watching them tap-dancing around the labeling for GMO, you gotta believe it. (GMO labeling is required, but it does not have to be on the purchase label, just off in space on a web site somewhere.)

Doc H argues that coconut (oil) is still one of the most healthy and wholesome super foods in existence. He presents the evidence. He wrote the book. It looks like he's got it right.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bees in Peril. Costco Connection - July 2017

The Costco Connection - July 2017 - Page 34-35:

Bees in Peril: Working together to find a solution

What to do when the canary (bees) stops singing (buzzing)?

This is a great (short) overview of where we stand on bee front, written by Stephanie Ponder. (You gotta wonder if that's a pseudonym!:0)

This should worry people everywhere for soooo many reasons. The economic impact of a massive, or total loss of bees, is obvious. But bees are simply an indicator of our unhealthy impacts. It's like amphibians (frogs). Frogs live in both the water and the land, so a little pollution in one or both, can totally wipe them out.... giving a strong indicator of what destruction a lot of pollution will do.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is not so much the problem anymore. The big killer now is the vorroa mite.

We still having a die-off of 40% of the bees each year, continuing to make a huge challenge for the beekeepers to maintain and replenish. This is hard to wrap the mind around. Imagine, that 40% of your cattle crop died each year. Beekeepers are going through some major gymnastics to try to replenish the hive(s) each year.

The 4Ps are pests (vorroa mite), pathogens, pesticides and poor nutrition.

Massive monoculture like almonds are providing poor nutrition (and no diversity). The article compares the mono-crop of flowers to a human diet of 100% steak. Farmers are introducing (or not killing) flowers and wild-flowers among the mono-crop. This also suggests that the monocrop itself is not so healthy.

SustainZine has prior blogs related to CCD and healthy Bees. Think of bees as the Canary in the Coal Mine. When the canary dies, its a pretty strong hint that all is no longer well in the mine; when the bees die en mass, all is not well on the land.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Coconut oil isn't healthy. It's never been healthy.

Coconut oil isn't healthy. It's never been healthy.:
by Ashley May.
*** See our update pertaining to this article. It seems like Ms May, may have overstated her case against the coconut. See the update here... okay-coconut-oil-really-is-good-for-you. ***

Like many such as the poor egg with its off-the-charts level of cholesterol, several foods have gotten a bad rap.

Coconut oil got a bad rap, then got a good rap, and now it's bad again.
*** I'm sooo confused !!!! ***

I have a Coconut book Bible on all the healthy benefits of coconuts and coconut oils, Coconut oil for health: 100 amazing and unexpected uses for coconut oil, by Brett Brandon, 2015.

So coconut oil for weight loss is apparently not true. Like that's never happened before!

Related to the health benefits, it's all about saturated fats. High levels of saturated fats can, and will, kill you.

So aiming for uses of coconut oil outside your body, seems like a good thing. But ingesting it, not so much so.

Honey might be a better homeopathic remedy for antibiotic, antiseptic cures and also allergies (local raw honey). Studies on honey curing allergies are inconclusive.

Glad to clear this all up, like the Mississippi River during floodwaters,

Well, gotta go put coconut oil on the scar on my knee that I'm trying to clear up.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Tesla Solar Roofs. Better, Cheaper, Stronger, Longer

Tesla Solar | Tesla:

Here is the information to order your roof from Tesla (that has now merged with SolarCity).

The tempered glass tiles are much stronger, much cheaper and last long (lifetime of the house or infinity warranty, whichever comes first).

Oh, and then there's the PV electricity generation, above that. It is 30-years warranty on the PV, it seems.

This is something that is called an "irrefusable" value proposition. Especially if the house (building) is new, or an older roof that should be replaced within a few years.

Here's how it works. Most of the roof tiles are not PV. Only 30% to 40% of the roof would be in prime solar view.  The PV panels are about $40 sq ft, but the averages should be about $22. That also depends on the sizing of the system, no need to over produce in most cases (states).

Here's Tesal's Specs and Sizing Calculator.

Apparently, from the street, you can't tell the difference between regular and PV tiles. Top view (helicopter) view you can, although it should be far less conspicuous than the usual PV panels.

Also, remember those 5 GigaFactories for batteries and cars going up around the worlds. Well, couple in US and next one in Europe (?UK?).

The pricing for preorder that started in May 2017, includes an installed 14kWh Powerwall  2 system. With battery backup, they entire building could go off grid, assuming the local power company and state law allow it. A generator (fuel cell) would do the trick.

Of course, hooking to the grid provides the opportunity to sell back to the grid and assist with peaking. This type of building can help twice with peaking.  The excess electricity during peak times (heat of the day, usually) can be sold back. The batteries can be used as well at peak. They can be replenished in off times by the PV system or during low-load off-hours by the power company.
This idea of battery pack backup can also apply to your favorite EV car as well. Dare I say Tesla or Bold. If the car will not be used today, why not use it to help with peaking loads, if needed, as needed?

For an existing home/building, you will want to do an energy audit and reduce the energy usage first, then size and install the roof (with power system).

Very cool.

This appears to be a game changer.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wikipedia founder to fight fake news with new WikiTribune site

Wikipedia founder to fight fake news with new Wikitribune site | Technology | The Guardian:
Way to go Jimmy! You will now Jimmy Wales a founder of Wikipedia, that GREAT crowd sourcing information repository in the sky.
It is unclear when WikiTribune will actually launch. More than 10,000 subscribers agreed, in advance, to pay a monthly fee for this quality news. You can still join up at www.WikiTribune.com and encourage the effort.
It seems that using crowds, we can attack bogus news and untruths!  Jimmy thinks so, and a lot of other people do too.
The news is broken in soooo many ways, and the WikiTRIBUNE approach may be the single best way to fix the news. Or at least partially fix it.
Fact-based journalism with a Wikipedia twist, the site that brings you the world's largest 'pedia.
Or we can continue to perpetuate the junk news, fake news, and big-advertiser skewed news.
It is a free subscription, actually, but if you pay a little for the monthly subscription, it will be a sustainable source of real, and unbiased news.
And, you too, can become an author. And you too can become an editor.
I assume this will work much like the articles in Wikipedia that have tighter controls. Where bias is noted and flagged, and comments that are unsupported have prominent warnings like[citation needed].
I've long thought that we should be able to utilize technology to clobber the bad, bogus and fake news, while promoting high-quality, fact-based news. Wikipedia has been great, but it works best for historical facts, science and current popular facts/figures. Projections and commentary, not so much so. 
In the world of the information cocoon, and all people can create their own content, news has only gotten worse and worse.
Maybe, just maybe, WikiTribune is a way to overshoot the bots and the media silos and the paid information propaganda.  This could bring us back to discussing the full range of facts at one time, not just the left or the right half.
Maybe. Gotta hope. 
The Skimm. Here's another place to find actual, real live news summaries, with a twist. This is daily snippets, or the Daily SKIMM of the news, visit http://www.theskimm.com/. This is short, sweet and fun presentation of the news. Couple ways to read the Daily Skimm, but I get it in my email every day. It is actually targeted toward young(er) urban women, say 22 to 34. Short, sweet, and very unbiased. For politics it says something like: well the DEMs say this, and the GOP want this, but here is what will probably happen. This is great because you don't have to read where the left lies, and the right lies, and then guess what's a pretty accurate truthful spot in the middle.
Pretty funny reading stuff that the youth will pick up on, but the older crowd will probably miss.
Paid advertising. Full disclosure as to ownership conflicts, appears related to adds and articles.
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Friday, April 7, 2017

Panera, getting clean and serving up Krispy Kreme

Panera, as you know, is the casual dining, yet healthy, place to eat out (and now with a lot of delivery). Now that we are not so concerned about the salt in the menu (sometimes up to 1,000mg for a meal) it seems Panera is really living the wholesome live and riding the healthfood craze. Early in 2007, Panera was talking about totally cleaning up its already pretty squeaky clean act. (See company press and this WSJ article.)

This WSJ article has a good discussion of the buyout by a private conglomerate JAB of Panera. The company's already well priced stock jumped almost $100 over a couple days to about $310 today. (See PNRA stock trend for a month.) Going private has lots and lots of advantages for a company. There's all the reporting and restrictions of a publicly traded company. Plus, you need to tell investors how you have done and what you plan to do. Surprisingly, competitors read these same annual reports and utilize the public information to their competitive advantage.

Apparently JAB Holdings will allow PNRA to run with relative autonomy, or so believes CEO Ron Shaich. They do expect some synergies with the sister companies, especially when entering other countries.

JAB is a German family owned holding company that has acquired lots of companies including the coffee kup craze of Keurig Green Mountain and the sugary delight of Krispy Kreme.  The coffee thing with K-cups, Peets, Caribou and Mighty Leaf Tea all make a lot of synergy sense. But Krispy Kreme seems like a bit of a head-scratcher.

You know how you have the diet craze with salad at the fast-food restaurant; something for the carnivore and the vegan -- in the off chance they travel together. How about Krispy Kreme at the Panera restaurant; wholesome-healthy and the sinful-decadent? Something for both the angel as well as the devil in the family.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Biomagnification: Pollutants Found in Deep-Sea Animals

Okay, we all know how biomagnification works. Pollutants including heavy metals such as mercury are absorbed at the bottom of the food chain, and then they are amplified all the way to the top of the food chain. at the top of the chain are such animals as sharks at sea and lions on land.
In terms of mercury biomagnification (wikipedia) works like this. Organisms absorb mercury very efficiently, but it takes far longer to excrete. Algae absorb mercury from seawater readily, so even small amounts in the water are absorbed and retained. Fish eat the algae, bigger fish eat the smaller fish, and so on. At all levels the mercury is retained (in fatty tissues) at a far better rate then it is excreted. Ultimately it accumulates and amplifies in predator fish like swordfish and sharks as well as birds of prey like eagles and osprey.  And, of course, at the apex of the food chain is humans. A mother breast feeding would, of course, pass it on in concentration to her baby.
See fish you should avoid eating (very much of) here.
It turns out that we are building up pollutants at the bottom of the ocean at an ugly and alarming rate. This is emphatically demonstrated by a recent study in Nature. An easier short read is in the WSJ by Kincaid.  Animals at the bottom of the ocean (4 miles deep) had amazingly high concentrations of pollutants, 50 times more than one of the worst polluted rivers in the world (in China). The pollutants included chemicals that don't naturally decay but have not been produced (much) in decades. These POPs should mostly be in landfills; they were largely used in electronics. But they will continue to reek havoc to the environment for centuries to come.
With about 65% of POPs in landfills, there's a huge amount out sloshing around in the environment, all the way from the North Pole to the Mariana Trench. Plus, as the landfills fail, as they always do, eventually, ... That's ugly... so very ugly...
Sorry, no positive spin for this. Not enough lipstick to cover this ugly pig.

Reference
Jamieson, A. J., Malkocs, T., Piertney, S. B., Fujii, T., & Zhang, Z. (2017, February 13). Bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants in the deepest ocean fauna. Nature Ecology & Evolution,  1(51). doi:10.1038/s41559-016-0051 Retrieved from: http://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-016-0051

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Finally, a great GOP plan to address climate change. Who's Who

The unbelievable list of Who's-Who from the GOP world have joined together (Climate Leadership Council) to come up with a very workable, market-based, approach to address climate change. Schultz and Baker have been around since the Reagan era. One of their crowning achievements was related to getting the world to reduce all of fluorocarbons (like Freon) which was wiping out the protective ozone layer of our atmosphere. You rarely hear the discuss on the ozone layer, right? Schultz and Baker are a big part of the reason why. The world-wide agreement on fluorocarbons is know as the Montreal Protocol.

Here is a great article by Schultz and Baker, both from Ronald Reagan era Republicans. A Conservative Answer to Climate Change.

First, to address climate change, has some scary implications. It really is unnerving if there is no energy policy in the US. In this report, we may have the only energy policy forming since the attempt by President Carter to have an energy policy. Obama tried to use the EPA to regulate fossil fuels and more, which is no substitute for an actual energy policy that is congress/legislative based.

For decades, economists have linked a market based approach to address the non-sustainable use of energy in the US and globally. One approach is to build a more complicated approach for putting a price on carbon, cap and trade (Emissions trading). A simple tax is so much more straight forward. In this case, they want to take the carbon tax and rebate it back to the population in the form of dividend rebates. The estimate is that the bottom 70% of the population, income-wise, will have a net benefit from this plan. Revenue neutral.

From an international security issue, it reduces the money we send to other countries in order to use more fossil fuels ($1T over every couple years). The large producers of the world are not necessarily friendly to us: Russia, Venezuela, Saudi, Iran. Much of the terrorism of the world is also paid from from oil moneys (ISIS and the renegades in Nigeria).

The beauty of this approach -- above and beyond environmental benefits -- is that people can take that dividend money and pay even more for gas and gas-guzzling vehicles. Or, even better, use if for something they value more.

I've been very disappointed in the GOP; they have let the deniers drown out the engagement of addressing such the critical issue of the non-sustainability of fossil fuels. A smart market approach will work nicely and solve lots of problems simultaneously. This approach will apparently reduce carbon emissions by 2x from  Obama's EPA approach to "clean energy", and 3x what dumping the plan an reverting to business as usual (BAU).  As one of the authors and economist Greg Mankiw says, "this is pretty close to a panacea in the way that it solves lots of problems as once". No need to subsidize renewable; let the best solutions rise and the worst dwindle.

Consider this dividend-tax as insurance. You buy insurance to reduce future risks and costs. This plan starts to steadily reduce carbon emissions.

Everyone wins with this plan. Well, except maybe coal, oil and gas companies and countries.

Now these guys need to go convince Pres Trump and his merry band of fossil burners. Surprisingly, it might just work.

Also see Amy Harder Feb 8 blog on the topic in WSJ. She discusses the meeting of the Climate Leadership Council with Pres Trump where they voiced that they were "cautiously optimistic".

Friday, January 20, 2017

CO2 xGame Winners in Canada. Losers in USA?

Wow. What do you do when the horses are already outta the gate?
What do you do with the CO2 is already into the atmosphere? This is the idea of capturing that 400 parts per million of CO2 out of the atmosphere after it's already, well, up in the error -- oops... I mean -- up in the air.
Here are the winners of the XGames competition on CO2. This $20M competition is to figure out ways to carbon capture and sequester (CCS). Unlike some industrial byproducts, CO2 can have a value (bottling, for example, to give you that happy fizz in your pop).

Here's some info on this big competition in Canada: CBC News discusses competition sponsored by Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance and U.S. company NRG.

One of the 9 finalist, Ingenuity Labs, emulates photosynthesis to remove carbon dioxide from smoke stacks and such. They use a photosynthesis-like process to extract the carbon and make several industrial products out of the extract. True, this is a lot like planting a tree, but you have to wait 20 years for the wood, vs the immediate gratification of industrial products.

A very cool concept is by Carbicrete. Take out CO2 from an emissions source (say a smoke stack) and infuse it into concrete where the carbon is happily sequestered and it actually strengthens the concrete. (Note that concrete is a leading industrial source of CO2 emissions.)

While Canada is moving full forward with sustainability initiatives, the US is set to make a major shift in the other direction. Trump's Pruitt pick for the EPA might result in two departments of Energy. (Facts and miss-facts about Pruitt.)

The US has never had an energy policy. Carter was the last to propose one. Obama kinda had one, but without any legislative support, he was force-feeding it through the EPA. No matter who you are, that's not the right way. So the Clean Energy Plan, is about to get the can!...

That means the the job of the CCS might turn out to be far, far bigger in the future, as we try to burn up the last century or so of fossil fuels over the next hundred years.

We here at SustainZine consider "conservative" this way: The bestest, cheapest, cleanest gallon of gas is the one never extracted, never processed and never burned. The bestest, cheapest, cleanest tonne of coal is the one never extracted, never processed, and never burned (scrubbing or no scrubbing).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sustainable Long-term good for R&D, Patents and Profits

Here's exerts from the blog over at IPzine, a sister blog spot.

A recent study shows how long-term focus pays off. This study concentrated on switching the CEO compensation to longer-term. From that point forward, what happened, on average to several things related to the performance over time.

Great study was by Flammer and Bansal (2016) and summarized in the WSJ, CEOs should focus on the long term, a study says. Although the study is coming out soon in the Strategic Management Journal, you can find it here.

The researchers selected companies that were long-term focused based on those companies that had a long-term compensation package presented to the board that was narrowly approved. The narrowly approved implies that this was a bit of a surprise to the executives resulting, potentially, in a paradigm shift toward longer-term focus. The board voting was reviewed from 2005 through 2012 so that there would be room for performance analysis.

There are many positives related to long-term focus all around. Companies with a long-term focus do better all around (profits, net profit margin, sales, stock price, etc.). Those long-term focus had a statistically significant improvement over the longer term (2 years and longer). Interestingly, they had a small dip insignificant dip in the short term.

[Methodology and results related to patents is discussed here in the IPzine blog. There are lots of assumptions made about the close vote by the board to align compensation with long-term results in conjunction with the subsequent financial performance of these publicly traded firms. Patents were monitored to see how they cited past patents and the citations of the companies patents in the future. This gives a good proxy of the value of the patents and how revolutionary they are (to the firm).]

Verdict. Boards should focus on long-term for compensation. This means that they have to be willing to take lesser profits in the short term.

There are also very strong correlations to the KLD factors, collectively and all four components: employees, environment, consumers and society.
Verdict. Corporations should focus on sustainable, long-term targets for goals and for compensation.

They have some limitations to this study, but they also combine it with good literature support for long-term-centric management practices. And minimizing the principle-agent problem common to executive compensation.
We want everyone highly motivated by the long-term, sustainable success of businesses (& not-for-profits & Gov)...
Anything else is, well, short-sighted!

References
Azoulay P, Graff Zivin JS, Manso G (2011). Incentives and creativity: evidence from the academic life sciences. RAND Journal of Economics 42(3): 527–554.
Flammer, C., & Bansal, P. (2016). Does a long-term orientation create value? Evidence from a regression discontinuity. Strategic Management Journal. doi:10.1002/smj.2629



Monday, December 5, 2016

World Soil Day the down-and-dirty on Ag

When you eat, and as you eat today, give thanks to the soil that made it all possible.
USDA on Soil Day. December 5th.

Today is World Soil Day, and the the truth is in the soil. Neglect the soil long enough and all you have is depleted crops. AND no, it does not come in the usual 6-6-6 fertilizers that concentrate on only 3 components in the fertilizer while neglecting how the soil got depleted in the first place.

It has to do with cycles. Farms were never meant to have all the crops hauled away to the cities, with no mechanism to return the nutrients. We experienced this during dust bowl of the great depression, where top soil had been depleted and the ag practices tilled the land so the remaining topsoil was readily blown away.

We all need to think more about closed-loop ag systems. All crops begin with the nutrients and the soil. We neglect and deplete them at our own demise.

Eat well today, and think about fertile soil and healthy food systems.

Bon Appetite.

Corps report on sustainability, kinda

Good news corporations are reporting on sustainability-related issues, especially those risks associated with operating a business that does not account or consider the areas where they are not sustainable. Operations in the UnSustainable Zone have lots of risks such as, for example, the company may not really be profitable. Cheap coal, is not nearly so cheap when you figure in all the negative externalities: pollution, health, CO2, coal ash...

Check out this WSJ article about the reporting, or lack thereof, of sustainability by large companies. First, 81% of companies report something, but 52% of those reporting used "boilerplate language to flag the risks without articulating management response strategies."  That would mean, if I understand it correctly, that only 42% of big firms report meaningful information on sustainability and the risks to the organization. But using Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, or SASB, would give the reader/investor meaningful information about the true profitability (economic profit) and the underlying risks. (See wikipedia on SASB or SASB.org.)

I know what you are thinking... These area the same types of risks that Sarbanes-Oxley was supposed to address. If the risks are real, and material, then they must be meaningfully assessed and reported. Right?



Top Companies Are Disclosing Sustainability Risks, But Not The Way Investors Want
By