In Episode 77 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on September 22, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Dr. Jay Udani founder and CEO of Medicus Research, a contract research organization for the natural health products industry, including botanical drugs, dietary supplements and functional foods.

Dr. Jay Udani of Medicus Research

Dr. Jay Udani of Medicus Research

Dietary supplements give people choices in their health care. Whenever manufacturers of dietary supplements make formal claims – such as “supports healthy joints” – the supplements must undergo clinical trials and testing, akin to pharmaceutical testing.  Dick and Dr. Udani discuss how both enforcement of and consumer interest in clinical trials for dietary supplements is increasing.  Even major food manufacturers, such as yogurt manufacturer Dannon, have received letters from the FDA about their formal health claims.

Whereas pharmaceuticals are chemicals that interact with the body by targeting a pathway or organ, dietary supplements assist the body in better performing normal, healthy functions.  As a result, clinical trials of supplements must be done on healthy people. Supplements can take longer than drugs to show effects so the best way to test the efficacy of supplements is for the individuals in the clinical trials to track how they’re feeling over time.  Udani’s research program uses iPods to monitor individuals, whose responses may be both subjective and objectively measurable. When evaluating a clinical trial, consumers should examine how the supplement was tested, the population used and the measuring tools.

When taking dietary supplements, does clinical testing matter to you?
Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Dr. Udani: Episode 77 of The Wendel Forum (27:52 mins; mp3)

Medicus Research Website: http://www.medicusresearch.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rylons

In Episode 75 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on September 1, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Gary Eberhart, who serves on the board of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, which serves 32,000 children and adult students at 56 campuses, making it one of the largest school districts in California.

Gary Eberhart

Amid decreasing budgets and increasing energy costs, the Mt. Diablo School District secured a $350 million bond from the community to add solar energy to 51 of the district’s schools.  Eberhart and his fellow board members determined that purchasing a solar energy system through a bond program would be more cost-effective than buying power from a solar provider under a long-term purchase agreement. Specifically, Eberhart, who has served on the school board for 17 years, determined they could invest the estimated $220 million savings back into the schools over the system’s 30-year life expectancy.  The bond measure was approved by 60 percent of the community.

Mt. Diablo’s 12.2-megawatt system is the largest program in the world for a school district and will meet 92 percent of the district’s energy needs.  After a competitive selection process for the contractor, the installation took one year and all but a handful of the 51 systems are now up and running.  The solar panels were installed primarily in parking lots and on playground structures, which Eberhart says look better and are easier to maintain than roof panels.  The solar energy systems are also providing a unique educational tool for students, who can monitor energy and cost savings through real-time data.

Could your school district use solar energy?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Eberhart:   Episode 75 of The Wendel Forum (27:43 mins; mp3)

Mount Diablo Unified School District Website: http://www.mdusd.org/Pages/default.aspx

Information about the Bond Program: http://mdusdmeasurec.org

Strategic Facilities Planning, Eberhart’s Company Website: http://www.strategicfacilitiesplanning.com

960 KNEW AM Radio Website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s Online Profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

Benefit Corporation gives entrepreneurs and investors an additional choice when determining which corporate form is most suitable to achieve their objectives.  Benefit Corporation is a new class of corporation that:

  1. has a corporate purpose of creating a material positive impact on society and the environment;
  2. redefines fiduciary duty to require consideration of the interests of employees, community, and the environment; and
  3. reports on its overall social and environmental performance using independent, credible, and transparent third-party standards.

Maryland, Vermont, and New Jersey have already passed Benefit Corporation legislation.  Legislation is moving forward with strong bi-partisan support in Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and Hawaii.

On Thursday, June 2, the Alameda County Bar Association will host a discussion about this national movement and efforts in California with Donald Simon, a partner at Wendel Rosen and one of the co-chairs of the legal working group which drafted California’s Benefit Corporation legislation (AB 361 – Huffman).

To learn more about Benefit Corporations go to http://www.bcorporation.net/publicpolicy

SPEAKER
Donald Simon, a green business practice partner at Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP, primarily focuses on matters related to construction law, green building and environmental policy.  He has broad experience representing public and private clients on issues of contract litigation, regulatory, and general business.  Donald co-founded the firm’s Green Business Practice Group and led the firm’s internal sustainability efforts and green business certification.  Wendel Rosen is a certified B Corporation.

For more information about the event, please contact the Alameda County Bar Association at (510) 302-2201.

What are your thoughts on bringing this new corporate form to California? 

 

 

Climate Change Education

March 28, 2011

The San Francisco Superior Court, Judge Ernest Goldsmith presiding, has handed the plaintiffs in the matter of Irritated Residents, et al. v. California Air Resources Board, et al. (CARB ruling), a significant victory – for the moment.  Judge Goldsmith ruled that the California Air Resources Board failed to properly consider alternatives to their championed cap-and-trade program, a main tenet of California’s landmark global warming law, AB 32.  The regulators must now go back and consider other alternatives to a cap-and-trade program, which certain people contend (environmental activists amongst them), does not adequately address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions.  While this ruling does not defeat California’s efforts to tackle climate change, it most certainly slows it down by sending the regulators back to the drawing board for the time being.

But, what is the real significance of this ruling?  Who really understands the CEQA issues (besides lawyers and certain interested parties) that were at issue here?  Indeed, while many people seem to harbor strong opinions about the general subject of climate change , its cause(s), and the steps that we should take to address it, it is not clear how many people actually know enough about the nuances of the topic to opine in such definitive fashion.

To this end, in the upcoming weeks on The Wendel Forum radio program, we will speak to the Alliance for Climate Education (“ACE”), a Bay-Area non-profit group whose mission is to educate high school students on the science behind climate change and inspire them to take action to curb the causes of global warming.   ACE developed its unique education programs to address this problem because no public agencies, schools or organizations working to educate youth on climate science existed at an appropriately large scale.  In just two years of operations, ACE has become the national leader in high school climate education, with an effective offering that includes the ACE Assembly, Student Action Programs and Leadership Trainings.

Stay tuned to The Wendel Forum to learn more about climate science, ACE, and their significant efforts to educate our children about the issue and what they can do to help address the problem. 

Post Links:

Court’s ruling in the matter of Association of Irritated Residents, et al. v. California Air Resources Board, et al., PDF, linked here:  CARB ruling.

Alliance for Climate Education: http://www.acespace.org/

Walking to work the other day, I saw a Toyota Prius festooned with advertisements for a local auto body shop.  While I certainly noticed the Prius as I stood waiting to crossing to the street, what really caught my attention was the prominent representation that this auto body shop was “environmentally friendly.” 

What, I wondered, could that mean?  While the Bay Area Green Business Program has worked with auto body shops to help them become certified as a green business, this program doesn’t focus on the marketing message of any particular business.

Since I had no idea what the auto body shop’s marketing message meant, I jumped on the internet to see if I could find an explanation.  What I found was that there were a lot of apparently “environmentally friendly” auto body shops.  As I perused their various web pages and/or advertisements, I became convinced that these auto body shops (and/or their attorneys) had probably never heard of the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides

Fresh off of a revision, the new and improved Green Guides attempt to offer understandable guidance for often incomprehensible environmental marketing claims.  The main points of the Green Guides are: 1) advertisers need to be able to substantiate their claims – i.e., they have to have a reasonable basis for making the claim; and 2) the more specific a claim is, the more likely that it will not run afoul of the FTC’s guidelines.  You see, the FTC looks at all advertising from the consumer’s perspective: what message does the advertising actually convey to consumers?  The Green Guides view environmental claims by the meaning that consumers give them, not necessarily the technical or scientific points that the advertiser is trying to make.   In other words, if a consumer could be mislead by the message, the message is misleading.

So, what do you do to ensure compliance?

First, read the guidelines.  They are written in easy to understand prose.  There are a lot of guidance examples, and the categories are broken down by specific types of claims.  The Green Guides and other useful information about the Guides can be found at http://business.ftc.gov/advertising-and-marketing.

Second, common sense should be your guide.  If you do not have competent and reliable scientific evidence, which the FTC views as “tests, analyses, research, studies or other evidence based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area conducted and evaluated in an objective way by qualified people using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results,” you should think twice about your claim.  It doesn’t matter what you hoped to achieve with your ad, it only matters what the consumer would be able to understand from your ad.

Third, err on the side of caution.  Specific points are advisable over general claims.  An unqualified general claim of environmental benefit may convey that the product has far-reaching environmental benefits, which may not be true (or, at least, understood by the consumer).  So, in the case of those auto body shops, their claims of being “environmentally-friendly” would not be deceptive if that representation were followed by clear and prominent language limiting the “friendly” representation to the product attribute for which it could be substantiated, and if the context didn’t create any other deceptive implications.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to educate yourself on useful (and not-so-useful) marketing concepts.  A survey released this week of nearly 300 members of Sustainable Industries’ audience, conducted by the Sustainable Branding Collaborative, a Portland-based firm, shows that what most consumers and businesses want is transparency.  Don’t make claims that you can’t support.  A link to the report can be found on the Sustainable Industries website.  Or, you can check out our friends over at BBMG.  They released a 2009 Conscious Consumer Report, which explores the consumer’s confusion and limited reliance on trust marks – labels that attempt to “certify” a product’s environmental attributes.  BBMG has found that consumers cannot readily understand the clutter of the hundreds of trust marks that are in the marketplace today.

So what’s my message on environmental marketing claims?  Say what you mean, mean what you say, and above else, you better be able to prove it.

Having talked about the success to date of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) (the requirement that utility companies purchase a portion of their power from renewable energy sources) on February 12, I was gratified to see that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) took notice and released a report in response on February 18.  Given the depth of the report, I admit that they must have been working on it before I spoke. However, rumor has it that the release date was accelerated after I addressed the subject.

Seriously, the DRA makes important points about the effect of the RPS on California’s move to renewable sources of power. In order to meet the 20% threshold by 2010 (with a flexible extension to 2013), California’s utilities put a premium on certainty of project completion over price. Thus, when evaluating two renewable power projects, the utility has an incentive to select the project with the higher cost of power, but the greater likelihood of coming on line. The report, citing information supplied by utilities, lists three factors that are most likely to account for a project’s failure to come on line: inability to get financing, inability to get permits, and lack of transmission capacity.

Compare the obstacles facing renewable power projects with a new natural gas turbine power plant. The natural gas power generator is a type of generator with a long history of successful operation (easier to finance), will probably be located near existing similar generators (lower permit costs) and will be at the nexus of existing transmission lines (lower transmission risk). These differences give the natural gas plant a significant advantage because, putting aside differences in generation costs, the transaction costs and risks are much lower than with most renewable power projects. However, this creates a negative feedback loop we should not build renewable power projects until the cost comes down and the cost cannot come down until we build renewable power projects. Thus, California and other states must break the feedback loop by continuing the drive to renewable power sources until renewable power achieves parity with fossil fuel. 

 

View the DRA report,

We’re hitting the waves!

February 1, 2011

The airwaives, that is. Wendel Rosen is proud to announce that we’re launching a new radio program, “The Wendel Forum.”   This will be a weekly spot during The Green Morning line up Saturday mornings at 11:26 a.m. on Green 960 AM radio. You may also listen to it live online at thegreenmorning.org.  Green Business Practice Partner Richard “Dick” Lyons will serve as our host. We hope you’ll tune in and then join us here for feedback and discussion!

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