Friday, May 25, 2012

Corporate Social Responsibility

As our global market continues to expand, it seems countries are stressing the need for sustainable development. Sustainable development encourages economic growth by utilizing resources to meet human needs while preserving the environment for present and future generations. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one area where countries are particularly focused when it comes to sustainable development. CSR is a practice that encourages companies to act in a responsible manner, in order to protect social, environmental, and economic interests of the public. There has been a recent progression throughout the world, formally adopting CSR requirements and encouraging companies to practice environmentally responsible decision making. In the U.S. the “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) certification system is utilized to encourage companies to meet specific “environmental benchmarks” in their development and manufacturing process. The U.S. Green Building Council gives a specific certification to companies depending on the level of environmental achievement. The New York Times reports that companies such as Volkswagen have strived to achieve this certification. Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee received platinum (the highest) certification in 2011. Other auto companies such as Chrysler, G.M. and Honda have also achieved certification for their plants throughout the U.S. This is just one example of programs in the U.S. encouraging corporations to implement environmental awareness into their business plans. Corporate social responsibility is not just a trend in the U.S., but has seen developments in other areas in the world as well. The LEED system is an internationally recognized certification and G.M. is also seeking to achieve LEED certification for its manufacturing plant in Brazil. The plant seeks to use environmentally innovative automobile manufacturing practices to achieve LEED certification at the end of 2012. The EU has also made progress with their “Renewed EU Strategy 2011-2014 for Corporate Responsibility,” issued by the European Commission. The EU has set objectives that include transparency and reporting requirements for corporations’ environmental activities and information. The EU has also set corporate social responsibility commitments that companies should strive to achieve. The EU, like the U.S. with its LEED program, encourages environmentally friendly behavior by creating an awards program for industries who meet certain objectives. Spain has adopted a law that requires state owned enterprises and businesses with over 1,000 employees to compile and submit an annual sustainability report. China has also shown an interest by issuing a corporate social responsibility guide for state owned enterprises so that these companies can initiate a socially responsible management system. Corporate social responsibility plans are one way in which countries implement sustainable development and these development programs continue to be hot topic issues in the global environment. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. At this conference over 130 heads of state and government and approximately 50,000 business leaders, mayors, activists and investors will review the progress of sustainable development programs and address the issues countries have faced in implementing these programs. As the New York Times reports, “Rio offers a generational opportunity to hit the reset button: to set a new course toward a future that balances the economic, social and environmental dimensions of prosperity and human well-being.” -Whitney Wilson, Legal Intern

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Green is a Golf Course?

Each May the Jacksonville area becomes the center of the golfing world when the PGA Tour’s flagship event, The Players Championship, makes its annual stop at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. Golf enthusiasts from around the region descend on Ponte Vedra Beach to get a glimpse of the game’s greats amongst a natural setting of lush pine forests, sparking lakes, and rugged swampland. Although it may appear that golf is a sport dependent on a pristine natural environment, there are many aspects of golf course construction, maintenance, and management that are not very green—regardless of the color of the fairways themselves. The construction of hundreds of new courses across America during the last real estate boom, beginning in the 1990s, required the destruction of thousands of trees located in formerly undeveloped, natural areas. The subsequent installation of non-native grasses preferred by the golfing industry requires heavy maintenance to keep healthy. This means a lot of water. As fresh water becomes scarcer it is becoming more and more difficult to supply the heavy demands of golf course irrigation systems. In addition, course superintendents use large amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, and other contaminants to keep the grasses green. This may lead to pollution of groundwater systems, as well as adverse health effects for those handling the chemicals. Chemical usage may also have negative impacts on wildlife around the course. Fortunately, growing concern for sustainability is starting to bring serious changes in the golf community. Golf course superintendents and the PGA Tour are adjusting practices to help decrease their environmental footprint. “Organic” golf courses that attempt to use no pesticides or fertilizers are emerging. Superintendents have massively changed their irrigation systems to limit freshwater usage on the course. Some courses designed recently have been constructed atop brownfield sites, such as the TPC Scottsdale, which was built over a trash dump. The PGA Tour now provides recycling programs at all its tournaments, and events such as The Players Championship support environmental causes as part of their charitable efforts. TPC Sawgrass is also a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. The program stresses the idea that courses should be used as a place for people and wildlife alike to enjoy the resources of our shared natural surroundings. These green initiatives are a positive step in making golf a sport that adds to, rather than retracts from, a healthy sustainable environment. -Nick Barshel, Legal Intern