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(PHILADELPHIA) -- Two friends from Philadelphia are on a mission to reduce the city's recidivism rates by running a pizza shop run exclusively by formerly incarcerated men and women.

"We're changing the quality of life for our community by being the hand that feeds and teaching others to do the same," co-founder Kurt Evans told ABC News' Good Morning America.

Lifelong friends Kurt Evans and Muhammed Abdul-Hadi have always had a passion for giving back to their community. After several months of planning, the two decided to combine their love of pizzas and their passion to serve by opening up Down North Pizza in the heart of North Philadelphia last month.

After seeing how incarceration impacted their families and how many of their loved ones couldn't find employment after leaving prison, Evans and Abdul-Hadi knew the pizzeria was the perfect way to help reduce Philadelphia's recidivism rate.

Employment is associated with reduced recidivism, or the likelihood of a former felon to reoffend upon release, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Known for its Detroit-style pizzas, Down North Pizza provides culinary career opportunities at a fair wage for individuals previously involved in the justice system. Each of its eight employees was taught various skills in the kitchen as a stepping stone back into society.

"We just want to meet people where they're at and help them along the way," Evans told GMA. "It was very important for us to help these people coming from the system and break the cycle of mass incarceration."

Employees who require short-term housing units are also offered six months of free rent at the upstairs apartment, ultimately allowing workers time to save funds for permanent living.

Since opening in March, lines have been out the door.

Michael Carter, who was the first hire at the eatery and had years of prior experience in the kitchen, said working at Down North is about more than just making pizzas.

"I fit the criteria because of my own story. I was locked up in 2015, about two weeks before my youngest daughter was born," Carter told GMA. "I was happy to be a part of the mission and be able to push the line for social justice."

Evans and Abdul-Hadi said they hope to be an example for Black businesses and encourage other establishments to find ways to give back to their communities.

"If you want to get involved, you can start by partnering with local organizations that are like-minded," Evans told GMA. "Usually the community is speaking to you about what it needs, you just have to listen."

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HipDot

(NEW YORK) -- If you are an equal parts fan of peanut butter candy and beautiful makeup, there's a new collab that has your tastes written all over it.

HipDot Cosmetics has teamed up with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to create a full makeup collection.

The latest limited-edition launch features five pieces that will eventually double as collector's items.

There's everything from a "Milk Chocolate" eyeshadow palette to scented lip balms.

“Reese's candy has satisfied millions of taste buds for so long, and when the opportunity came along to offer fans a new way to tap their other senses, it was too sweet of a deal to pass up," Jeff Sellinger, CEO of HipDot Cosmetics, said in a statement given to ABC News' Good Morning America.

He added, "We're excited to be working with this legendary household brand."

Another standout item from the collection is the Reese's Double Ended Brush Set. With the candy brand's signature bright yellow and orange hues, each synthetic brush head will give makeup lovers the freedom to define, pack, smudge or blend with ease.

With items starting at $14, the entire collection is vegan and certified cruelty-free like all other HipDot products. It also will be hitting digital shelves on HipDot's website, Ulta.com, Hersheyland.com and Hershey's Chocolate World locations.

In addition to Reese's, Hipdot has also previously launched Hello Kitty, Peeps and SpongeBob SquarePants-inspired collections.

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(NEW YORK) -- The popular cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase will become a publicly traded company listed on the Nasdaq Wednesday.

The direct listing will mark the first time a major digital currency platform has gone public in the U.S.

Nasdaq set an initial price of $250 per share and Coinbase will be traded under the ticker symbol "COIN."

Coinbase was founded in 2012 and is currently the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S. by trading volume. The platform has some 56 million verified users.

"We've had a number of ups and downs on our way here. Through luck and skill, Coinbase succeeded where many predicted it would fail," CEO and co-founder Brian Armstrong said in a company blog post Wednesday. "We weathered the ups and downs through innovation and keeping our eye on the long term. Today’s listing is a milestone, but it’s not as important as every new day in front of us."

He added that the company's mission is to "increase economic freedom in the world."

Coinbase users primarily trade Bitcoin and Ethereum. Both cryptocurrencies were trading at new all-time highs ahead of Coinbase's public debut.

Analyst Daniel Ives of Wedbush Securities called the listing a "potentially a watershed event for the crypto industry" and something Wall Street "will be laser focused on to gauge investor appetite."

"Coinbase is a foundational piece of the crypto ecosystem and is a barometer for the growing mainstream adoption of Bitcoin and crypto for the coming years in our opinion," Ives wrote in a note Tuesday.

As cryptocurrency goes mainstream, more companies are jumping on the bandwagon.

PayPal said late last month that it was giving its users the option to pay with cryptocurrency at the millions of online retailers that accept its payment service. Just a week before PayPal's announcement, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his electric vehicle company was now accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment.

Bitcoin has skyrocketed in value over the past year. It went from trading at less than $10,000 in April 2020 to over $63,000 in April 2021.

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(NEW YORK) -- Women often talk about finding financial freedom, but single women especially need to think about being financially whole, according to Tiffany Aliche, a personal finance expert who is known as "The Budgetnista" to her hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

"The goal is to really holistically look at your finances, not just, 'I want to be financially free,'" Aliche, whose new book Get Good With Money focuses on the 10 components, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "Single women in particular should be hyper sensitive to holistically looking at their finances and taking it one step at a time."

Financial wholeness, according to Aliche, is achieved when the 10 core components of a person's financial life are in order. Those 10 components include budgeting, savings, paying off debt, earning good credit, learning to earn, investing, insurance, creating net worth, having a money team and estate planning, according to Aliche.

"Ask yourself, 'Do I have a budget? Great. What about a savings plan?,'" explained Aliche. "And accumulate those 10 steps along the way."

For many women, the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic has added financial stress this year. It has put millions of women out of work, and forced many women to tap into their retirement and savings accounts to be able to live.

In the midst of that crisis, here are five tips from Aliche to help women, and single women in particular, become financially whole:

1. Make a name for your 'later lady' and plan for her.

Aliche has created an image of herself in retirement and named her "Wanda," and that's who she thinks of when she is making decisions about investing her money.

"There was a study that was done that said people don't set aside for retirement because they're disassociated from their older self. They don't see themselves as ever getting older," Aliche said. "So my older self is Wanda, and I almost think of her as my grandmother self, or my later lady."

Aliche said she thinks of Wanda, for example, when deciding whether to maximize her Roth IRA in addition to her 401(k) retirement account.

"You get tax breaks now with a 401(k) or traditional IRA, but with Roth IRAs you get tax breaks later," she said. "So I think, 'OK, I've got my match at work. Now let me take care of Wanda. Let me max my Roth IRA because although I don't a tax break on the front end, I will, when I'm Wanda's age, be able to withdraw that money and the growth tax free.'"

"I think to myself, 'Do I want a tax break for Tiffany now, who is able to work and is young, or do I want Wanda to get a tax break who is like, 'Girl, don't have me working out here at 80,'" Aliche added.

2. Split and save your money.

Aliche advises women to "save like a squirrel" by splitting their money well before it even hits their checking account.

"I want you to go to your [human resources] department, go to your payroll department and say, 'Instead of putting all of my money in my checking account, could you also put some of my money in my savings account,'" she said, explaining that adding a direct deposit to your savings account will allow you to split your money "without having to worry about being disciplined."

"And make sure that savings account is an online-only savings account because doing so makes it inconvenient," added Aliche. "Inconvenient money gets saved."

3. Be strategic after filing taxes.

If you owe money after filing your taxes, Aliche recommends considering meeting with an accountant to make sure you did your taxes correctly.

If you did file correctly and if you cannot afford to pay what is due, an accountant can help you arrange for a payment plan, according to Aliche.

If you get money back, Aliche said to look closely at where you are in your life before automatically spending or investing the money.

"Take care of your health and safety bills first and foremost. Don't put it towards anything else other than the things that maintain your health and safety," she said. "You need food to eat and a safe place to live. Make sure that is priority."

If you are set on your immediate expenses, Aliche said to then make sure you have your emergency fund funded.

How much to save in an emergency fund depends on what industry you are in and how quickly you can replace your income, i.e. get another job, according to Aliche. She recommends saving for a minimum of three months' expenses.

Only after making sure you have money saved for your current and future expenses should you consider, first, paying off high-interest debt and then, last, investing the money, according to Aliche.

4. Know when to hire financial help and when to DIY.

Aliche's rule of thumb is to hire a financial adviser if you have $250,000 or more in assets to invest. Otherwise, she says advisers' fees are typically too expensive to make it worth the money.

"The truth is you really don't need all of that if you just did the financial fundamentals," said Aliche. "If you have a retirement account at work and you do a target date account where you set the target date you want to retire, that is done."

"If you're investing for wealth, choose a mutual fund, which is similar to a target-date fund, and set it up to put $50 every month, for example," she said. "If you just did that you'd be leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else."

Aliche said the exception to the rule is that hiring a fee-only certified financial planner can be worth the money. That is someone you could hire for $100 to $500 an hour to review major financial decisions, like whether or not to return to school.

5. Learn to earn money.

"Everybody should know how to make additional money," Aliche said of her "learn to earn" philosophy.

One way to make money outside your full-time job is to monetize your skill set, according to Aliche.

"I used to be a preschool teacher for over 10 years and when I did so, I used to tutor and babysit," she said. "What skill set can you use to make money as your side hustle?"

At work, one way to earn more money is to create what Aliche calls a "go me" file to have a record of your accomplishments that make you an asset to your employer.

"When you help to make the company you work for money or help to save the company you work for money, when that happens, put it in a file or write it down so when you go for a review or you ask for a raise, you can quantify your ability to do so," she explained.

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Willow Wisp Organic Farm

(NEW YORK) -- About 120 miles northwest of New York City along the Delaware River, Greg Swartz and his wife, Tannis Kowalchuk, own and operate Willow Wisp Organic Farm, where they carefully cultivate 45 different kinds of vegetables and several dozen varieties of culinary herbs and cut flowers.

It is organic farming like this that is at the root of regional environmental responsibility and -- below that -- biodiverse soil surface is an infrastructure for nutrient-dense produce that plays a pivotal role in a healthy food system.

ABC News' Good Morning America spoke to the vegetable farmer, whose produce is on the menu at several of New York City's most-lauded restaurants, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten's spots such as ABCV and The Mercer Kitchen, to discuss the importance of support for local farming and its direct impact on the environment.

How good farming helps the environment

Local farms yield produce that's fresh and flavorful

"The first part, which I would argue is maybe the most important, is that fresh produce is better," Swartz said, adding "the flavor and quality of produce grown for local distribution, as opposed to national or international distribution, is really different, because varieties are chosen to ship well and stand up to the rigors of being shipped and uniformity -- forgetting the importance of flavor."

Start with the soil

Organic farming boils down to "managing healthy soil," Swartz said. "A healthy crop is actually a byproduct of healthy soil."

"Secondly," he said, "the closer that you can eat a vegetable to its time of harvest, that means it has higher nutrient density -- which is also closely tied to its flavor."

He explained that "soil is actually alive" and "a handful of healthy soil, on average, has more than 1 billion living organisms -- where one thing eats another, and energy transfers through the system to make it work in balance."

"We want all of those critters -- everything from bacteria to fungi to nematodes to arthropods (bugs) -- we want the maximum number and diversity of those organisms, because those release nutrients that then the plant picks up," Swartz added.

Plus, this type of farming creates higher levels of organic matter, which makes the soil "more resilient to extreme conditions whether that be flooding, excess rain or drought."

Reducing carbon emissions near local, organic farms

"Organic farms sequester significantly more carbon per acre than conventional farms," Swartz said, citing a decades-long study from the Rodale Institute that compares the two side by side.

As a society, he explained, our largest environmental goal should be to reduce our carbon emissions.

"So if we can do that at the same time that we are growing healthier food, then why wouldn't we? It's a win-win," he said.

Swartz added, "it's really important to have viable land-based businesses -- for the preservation of open space."

Without large farms, those spaces could be commercialized or developed and paved over.

Organic vs. conventional commercial farming

Traditional commercial farming uses chemical-based pesticides to ward off insects, yield higher crop count and eliminate weeds, but with it come negative repercussions on the immediate and regional environment.

"Petrochemical fertilizer is, first of all, very strong, and it's water soluble, which means that the plant picks some of it up and the rest of it washes down through the soil profile into groundwater," Swartz said. "The intensity [of those chemicals] ends up putting the soil ecosystem out of balance."

Those chemicals from agricultural runoff can also reduce the nutrient load of surrounding areas, such as rivers, bays and oceans, which creates dead zones, bodies of water that have little to no oxygen and can't sustain sea life.

Source-identified food is easier than ever

Even without immediate local access to farmers markets, Swartz said there has been an influx of online platforms and outlets that are a great way to connect people to high quality produce.

"To find those farms that are growing really high-quality produce in a way that's helpful to their local environment is really important," he said. "By buying those products, you're voting with your dollars to support good practices and also a viable local food system."

Brands such as Ugly Produce and Misfits Market offer customers commercial produce at a cheaper price for fruits and veggies that may be misshapen or otherwise not appealing for a commercial retail shelf.

Helping feed local communities even amid a pandemic

Farms like Willow Wisp were able to help provide a portion of their fresh crops to local food insecure communities and eventually gain government funding to make a profit.

"We started very early last spring working with our local food pantries to donate product," he said, "which segued into our county government having the funding to purchase our products, and we delivered the fresh veggies directly to the food bank."

Top tips from a farmer for shopping small farms seasonally

With a diversity of products offered year round, Swartz said if you can "shift your diet and find creative ways to work with those ingredients, then you're continuing to support that local farm system and arguably lots of health benefits eating seasonally."

"Think of it as a culinary challenge. Limit your choices from the limitless palette of the global food system to the regional, cause it coaxes you into being more creative with your cooking," he explained.

Moreover, the decision to eat locally and seasonally can help give home cooks a nudge to discover new dishes.

Swartz's farm is a vendor seasonally from April through December two days a week at Union Square Greenmarket and the Armory Farmers Market in Brooklyn.

"My main job when I'm at farmers markets is actually offering cooking advice, because people aren’t familiar with everything we grow or what's happening in that season," he said.

Swartz said right now one of his favorite spring crops is Jerusalem artichokes, which can be roasted like a potato or mixed in and roasted with root vegetables, added to soups or sliced raw into a salad.

Top spring produce picks for home cooks

Fresh woody perennial herbs like tarragon, thyme, rosemary and sage are all at their peak for flavor and freshness.

"We're at the beginning of greens for the season," he said, including baby bok choy, arugula, radishes, Japanese turnips and Little Gem lettuce.

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(NEW YORK) -- Bernie Madoff, the disgraced former financier who ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history, has died, sources confirmed to ABC News.

The 82-year-old died of natural causes while being housed at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, sources said.

Madoff, who had been on dialysis and in a wheel chair, died a "broken man," his attorney told ABC News on Wednesday.

"His health just continued to deteriorate over the past several months," Madoff's attorney Brandon Sample told ABC News. "He had been in a special care unit, almost like hospice, for some time."

He died 12 years into a 150-year prison sentence.

Madoff earned global notoriety by defrauding thousands of investors, to the tune of nearly $65 billion, using a Ponzi scheme that unraveled shortly after the Great Recession of 2008.

"It's the end of a life that represented a remarkable breach of an astounding number of people's trust," said Randall Jackson, who was part of the team of federal prosecutors that prosecuted some of Madoff's enablers and accomplices and who's now a partner in private practice at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

"During the course of the entirety of the Madoff Securities prosecution we were certainly aware and really in awe of the depth of the deception and the depth of the harm that was orchestrated," Jackson told ABC News on Wednesday. "It's really a sad reflection of what people can do in terms of a breach of trust in the business."

Madoff's lavish lifestyle and dramatic downfall were the subject of a 2017 HBO film called "The Wizard of Lies," based on a book of the same title by New York Times financial journalist Diana Henriques. Madoff was played by Robert De Niro. Madoff also was the subject of a 2016 ABC miniseries, "Madoff," starring Richard Dreyfuss.

Prior to the economic crash of 2008, Madoff was a celebrated figure on Wall Street as the head of the what appeared to be the wildly successful Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities firm. Madoff founded the firm as a penny stock trader in 1960. Prior to his downfall, Madoff also briefly served as chairman of the NASDAQ.

Madoff married his high school sweetheart, Ruth Madoff, in 1959. The couple had two sons and owned lavish properties, including a Manhattan penthouse, a Palm Beach waterfront home and a Hamptons beachfront home.

Madoff's fall from grace was swift: He was arrested in December 2008 after his family contacted investigators when he confessed to his sons that his business empire was a sham.

Bernie Madoff and Ruth Madoff attempted suicide on Christmas Eve 2008. Ruth Madoff told CBS news in 2011 that she and her husband downed pills after their sons had contacted federal authorities, but ultimately their attempt was unsuccessful and "we woke up the next day."

His crimes were remembered for upending the lives of thousands, heightening the agony associated with a brutal economic downturn. Many victims said they lost everything. One investor, who lost $1.4 billion, died by suicide in December 2008.

In March 2009, Bernie pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies, admitting his conduct "was wrong, indeed criminal," and in June 2009 he received a maximum sentence of 150 years.

"When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from this scheme," Madoff told the judge at his plea hearing. "However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible, and as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would eventually come."

Madoff told investors that he developed a unique investment strategy, which he explained to the judge, "to falsely give the appearance to clients that I had achieved the results that I believed they expected."

The judge, Denny Chin, told the courtroom at the time the sentencing was symbolic for a crime that displayed "extraordinary evil" and "took a staggering human toll."

In court, Madoff said that when he started the scam, he thought he would be able to "work my way out." He maintained that he acted alone, adding, "How do you excuse lying to brother and sons? How do you excuse lying and deceiving a wife who stood by you for 50 years and still stands by you? There is no excuse for that, and I don't ask for forgiveness."

Finally, he turned to face some of his victims in court. "I'm sorry," he said.

When Chin read the sentence, the courtroom erupted in applause.

As Madoff went to prison, tragedy soon overtook his family.

In December 2010, around the two-year anniversary of Madoff's arrest, his son, Mark Madoff, hanged himself in his New York City apartment, The New York Times reported at the time. Mark Madoff also was under investigation, though his father maintained that he acted alone in running the Ponzi scheme.

Bernie Madoff's only other son, Andrew Madoff, died of cancer in 2014.

In the decade since Madoff's arrest, Justice Department officials have worked to create a fund for his victims and have distributed more than $2.7 billion to nearly 38,000 defrauded investors as of April 2020.

The Madoff Victims Fund has received over 65,000 requests for compensation from investors in 136 countries. DOJ officials have pledged return over $4 billion to victims via the MVF, which was amalgamated in part from civil and criminal forfeitures sought against Madoff and his co-conspirators.

After serving more than a decade behind bars, in February 2020 Bernie Madoff's lawyers sought a "compassionate release," saying he suffered from terminal kidney failure and other chronic conditions.

At the time, he told the Washington Post he wanted to repair his relationship with his grandchildren before he died.

"I've served 11 years already," he said. "And, quite frankly, I've suffered through it."

His plea was denied.

"The pain experienced by the victims of Mr. Madoff's fraud is not diminished by his death, nor is our work on behalf of his victims finished," Irving Picard, the trustee liquidating Madoff's firm, said in a statement Wednesday. "My legal team and I are committed to continuing to identify and recover Mr. Madoff's stolen funds and return them to their rightful owners."

Lisa Baroni, one of the prosecutors who sent Bernie Madoff to prison, recalled Madoff's sentencing as her "most memorable day in a decade as a prosecutor."

"I can't imagine we will see a securities fraud that is as brazen as Madoff's and that lasted as many decades -- we were able to prove that it began in the 1970s and ended with his arrest in 2008," Baroni added.

She continued: "No one expected Madoff to serve his full 150-year sentence, but it was meant to symbolize his greed and malevolence."

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK] for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.

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(LOS ANGELES) -- Arclight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres are closing down for good after months of losing business due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"After shutting our doors more than a year ago, today we must share the difficult and sad news that Pacific will not be reopening its ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres locations," they said in a statement to KABC-TV Monday night.

"This was not the outcome anyone wanted, but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options, the company does not have a viable way forward," they added.

Among the theaters shuttered will be Cinerama Dome, one of the most popular movie theaters in Hollywood, the country and the world, which has towered over Sunset Boulevard since 1963 and appeared in various films -- most recently Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Pacific Theatres operates about 300 screens in California -- the heart of the film industry.

In their statement, the company thanked their employees and devoted customers.

"To our guests and members of the film industry who have made going to the movies such a magical experience over the years: our deepest thanks.  It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve you," they said.

After hearing the news of the future closures, celebrities reacted on Twitter.

"I'm so sad. I remember going to the Cinerama Dome to see Star Trek IV with my dad when I was little. So many memories since then," actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt tweeted.

"This really makes me sad. I have so many incredible memories of the #CineramaDome and of watching movies at #ArclightCinemas pic.twitter.com/rPrFtFMnja," Josh Gad wrote.

"This is gut-wrenching for the employees and movie-lovers. I will always be grateful #MyBigFatGreekWedding premiered at the ArcLight and played at Pacific Theaters. Thank you," Nia Vardalos tweeted.

"Well this sucks. Every single person who worked at the Arclight loved movies, and you felt it. Sending love to every usher, manager and projectionist who rocked that blue shirt and made it such a special place," director Rian Johnson wrote.

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Tesla

(NEW YORK) — Electric vehicles are transforming how Americans "refuel." There are changes happening inside the cabin, too. No more start/stop buttons. Radio dials now programmed into massive tablets that are mounted to the center dash. Simple functions like heated seats and climate control operated via an oversized screen.

Automakers are making EVs incredibly austere and geared toward motorists who are accustomed to doing just about everything on their mobile phones.

"A lot of it is playing 'follow the leader,'" explained Ed Kim, vice president at AutoPacific. "Tesla's Model S established the idea that a premium EV has a giant screen. There can be a strong tendency to emulate your benchmark. Right now Tesla is the benchmark."

Teslas attract buyers who are "tech savvy and have a high level comfort with technology," Kim said. Legacy and mainstream automakers, desperate to steal sales from Tesla, are mimicking the giant tablet-like screens and unembellished interiors found in every Tesla vehicle.

These ultramodern and experimental interiors have their drawbacks -- and detractors. Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com, said large screens can be very distracting. They could also malfunction.

"The thinking is the computer is smarter than you. Without fail, I've come across a situation that the computer didn't know what to do," he told ABC News. "And if the screen goes down, everything doesn't work."

Dustin Krause, director of e-Mobility North America for Volkswagen, argued that futuristic technology should not deter American drivers, many of whom are still wary and unsure about EVs, from buying one. In Volkswagen's ID.4 crossover, a screen is not required to switch songs or turn on the ventilated seats.

"You just have to say 'Hello ID' to activate the voice assistant," Krause told ABC News. "Asking a car to do functions isn't so unusual -- consumers use [Apple's] Siri and [Amazon's] Alexa. It becomes second nature to most ID.4 drivers.”

He and a few engineers even tried to trick the system by saying "My butt is cold" instead of "Turn on the heated seats." The car was able to get the job done. The only command that's not possible? Rolling down the windows. Though that, too, could change in the near future.

ID.4's engineers decided against a humongous screen. But they converted the gear shifter to a twist knob and eliminated the start/stop button. Krause said the goal was to create a "simple and intuitive cockpit" and an "uncluttered center console."

"Just press on the brake pedal when you sit in and the car will start up," he said. "Select park and when you exit the vehicle the ID.4 will shut off."

He added, "We're trying to make the transition to an EV easy.”

Ford went to great lengths to solicit customer feedback when designing the slinky Mustang Mach-E SUV. It set up studios in the U.K., China and Michigan, inviting locals to sit in and rearrange a mock interior of the electric SUV that was made of Styrofoam. Designers watched from the sidelines and took notes, tweaking their sketches based on how participants reacted to the cabin.

"With this BEV [battery electric vehicle] platform, we got this opportunity to reimagine and reconfigure the space," Josh Greiner, senior interior designer of the Mustang Mach-E, told ABC News. "We were able to design exactly what we wanted and let the chassis kind of follow.”

The Mach-E features one of the largest screens in the EV segment -- 15.5 inches -- and many of the controls, including drive modes, are only accessible via the screen. The interior is also simplistic and sparse, which was intentional. Greiner referred to it as a "calm and serene environment."

"Everything on the Mach-E is digital, even the door handles," he said. "We didn't want levers and switches cluttering the interior.”

Ford's best-selling cars and trucks, like the F-150, are largely immune to the trend, Greiner said, adding, "You're more progressive about tech if you buy a BEV. This is for a very specific customer.”

The team behind BMW's upcoming iX Sports Activity Vehicle went for a dramatic interior, taking inspiration from modern architecture.

"We wanted to create something like a loft on wheels," said Adrian Van Hooydonk, BMW Group's design director. "A cozy seating arrangement, a large flat screen and not much more to be honest.”

The vehicle was designed "from the inside out" and the hidden speakers, slim instrument panel, lack of buttons and panoramic glass roof give the cabin an airy, spacious vibe.

"We're not switchless but we definitely have a lot less switches," Van Hooydonk said. "We've been able to reduce elements by combining them.”

The all-electric Kia EV6 crossover, which goes on sale in the second half of 2021, comes with a high-tech curved infotainment screen and seats made from recycled plastics.

Designing an "inspiring space" was the "most important thing for us," said Jochen Paesen, Kia's vice president for interior design. "We believe EV6 can inspire customers by boosting their creativity.”

A vertical, 11.15-inch screen replaces nearly all of the switches, buttons and knobs in the Polestar 2. Like the ID.4, the electric sedan has no dedicated start/stop button and navigation, entertainment and climate control are all handled on the screen. Polestar 2's inclusion of Google’s native infotainment system, an industry first, separates itself from the pack. The avant-garde, minimalist interior is a traditional Scandinavian design.

"The car is now part of your connected life -- if you want it to be," Polestar Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Goodman told ABC News.

The average screen size in vehicles is now 8 inches, according to AutoPacific research. Kim said consumers generally want more screen real estate, not less.

"There are functional benefits to having larger screens: Bigger fonts that are easier to read and less squinting. Larger screens do not necessary mean more distractions," he said.

There are limitations of the technology, even for Kim. He gave the examples of Tesla's Model 3 windshield wipers being controlled through the screen and the digital gear shifter on the Model S.

These redesigns "may be out of the comfort zone for a mainstream consumer," Kim acknowledged. "A difficult interface can absolutely turn off buyers, especially older ones.”

Brauer suggested that automakers are doing away with traditional buttons to reduce costs.

"It's a lot cheaper to engineer a digital user interface than it is to produce multiple hard controls involving dials and springs and buttons," he said.

When Mercedes-Benz officially unveils its much-hyped all-electric EQS sedan on April 15, consumers may be in for a shock.

The sci-fi interior is the most extreme of any EV on the market. A curved, 56-inch wide "Hyperscreen" consisting of three separate displays cocoons the interior. Scratch-resistant aluminum silicate protects the display and the screen's advanced molding process reduces glare and distortion across the entire width of the vehicle, according to the company.

Gorden Wagener, chief design officer at Mercedes-Benz, said he first saw renderings of a 3D screen five years ago and "loved it."

"I had to make it happen," he told ABC News. "The car is super futuristic and revolutionary. As a designer, I am always aiming for reduction."

The start/stop button is the sole physical switch in the entire vehicle. The screen allows access to all functions but drivers can also depend on the A.I. voice assistant. Wagener admitted that voice commands will likely make even screens obsolete one day.

"The EQS is the first of its kind -- years ahead of anything else you can buy out there," he said. "We have entirely reinvented the car."

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(NEW YORK) — There's been a flurry of news about vaccine "passports" of late. New York State created its own digital pass; Florida and Texas attempted to outlaw them; and Baltimore's former health commissioner wrote that we shouldn't be using the word "passport" at all, which she called a divisive phrase that and could trigger backlash against vaccinations.

So what exactly are these credentials?

What is a vaccine 'passport?'

While we typically think of passports as government-issued travel documents, many people are using the same term to refer to digital certificates to prove vaccination status, used to gain entry into events or businesses, such as a QR code on a smartphone that you would show before entering a stadium.

When used to describe domestic health certificates, the term "passport" is already controversial because of connotations of authoritarian government and fears of Big Brother. The idea, however, is not new. Vaccines have long been required for travel, to attend public school and work in certain industries, like health care.

"There is no domestic passport," said Arthur Caplan, founding director of New York University's Division of Medical Ethics. Misconceptions about vaccine passes could potentially scare people, he explained, leading them to believe they'll be pulled over or stopped and asked to show vaccine papers, which isn't the case.

"That's what makes people nervous, and it's a term that we should stop using domestically," said Caplan, who uses "vaccine authentication" and "certification" to describe digital proof of vaccination.

The White House has distanced itself from any sort of federal vaccine certification or pass, preferring instead to leave the issue to private businesses and states. Vaccines are currently in use under emergency use authorization, meaning that they are not mandated by the federal government -- although they can be by state and local governments as well as employers per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- so encouraging people to get the shots is a priority for public health officials.

"There will be no centralized universal federal vaccinations database, and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a March press briefing. "We believe it will be driven by the private sector," Psaki added.

New York became the first state to offer digital proof of vaccination. The Excelsior Pass smartphone app allows fully vaccinated residents to show a QR code to businesses as proof of their vaccination status. People with recent negative COVID-19 tests can similarly use the app to enter events. "Participation in Excelsior Pass is voluntary," the state notes. "New Yorkers can always show alternate proof of vaccination or testing, like another mobile application or paper form, directly at a business or venue."

The Vaccination Credential Initiative, a group of public and private organizations, is working to provide guidelines for digital proof of vaccination to businesses like airlines.

As for not centralizing federal vaccine data, Caplan thinks that's a misstep. "We'd be moronic not to set up a system that doesn't permit re-accessing who might need a booster shot," he said.

What are the benefits showing proof of vaccination to enter businesses?

In short, a chance to resume to life a bit more normally in certain settings.

"They're digital opportunities to demonstrate that people have been vaccinated, so as to gain access to places where it's perceived that that's going to increase safety," said Eric Feldman, a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

Vaccine certification could also benefit beleaguered businesses, which may be able to open at higher capacity if patrons and staff are vaccinated.

As for legal issues related to denying a customer entry into a restaurant, Fedman noted that private establishments currently set all kinds of rules about who can enter the premises. "So long as those rules are not in violation of clear categories that would represent discrimination, my guess is that they're on fairly solid footing," he said.

Colleges and universities, including Cornell University and Rutgers University have already announced that they'll require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for in-person students enrolling in the fall.

"They're saying if you want to come to school here and hang out on campus, you have to get vaccinated," Feldman said. "Do they have a good public health justification for that? I think they do."

With only a quarter of U.S. adults fully vaccinated, vaccine certifications "are going to be essential to keep people safe and help those that have taken the steps to protect themselves and others get back to things they love," said Dr. Jay Bhatt, an internal medicine physician and instructor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and ABC News contributor.

"We are in an arms race between vaccines and variants," Bhatt added. "We can't afford to have unvaccinated people be in environments where the virus wins, leading to surges."

Why is this controversial?

Critics on both sides of the aisle have concerns.

The governors of Texas and Florida issued executive orders attempting to bar state entities and in some instances, private businesses, from requiring vaccination proof to receive services, on the grounds that such requirements infringe on individual freedom and privacy.

"Unfortunately, it's just another instance of the degree to which public health around COVID-19 has been so extraordinarily politicized," Feldman noted. Still, he's worried about states and businesses pushing people too hard to comply with public health directives.

"We've seen what happens with mask mandates, where reluctance turns into outright refusal, revolution and fury among people who feel like their civil liberties and their fundamental rights to make decisions about their own health and well-being are being challenged," he said.

Others have suggested that requiring proof of vaccination might deepen existing inequities and worsen the digital divide.

"Vaccine passports can pose an ethical and moral issue for BIPOC and other at-risk communities that have difficulty getting the vaccine because of access, their work times, and other life responsibilities," Bhatt said, noting that workplaces should provide support and time off or on-site vaccinations for vulnerable populations.

The potential for creating a two-tier system, where individuals with better access to the vaccine are able to gain access to restaurants and sporting events, creates an ethical predicament, according to Feldman.

"That may turn out to be a litigated issue as a civil rights matter," he said.

Caplan brushed off the equity argument on the grounds that increased vaccine supply should enable everyone in the U.S. who wants a vaccine to be able to get one in the coming months.

"This isn't to penalize those who don't vaccinate," Caplan said. "It's to reward those who do and for the government to be able to keep track so we can respond if there's a new outbreak or we need boosters.”

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(BESSEMER, Ala.) -- Amazon has secured an apparent victory as warehouse workers in Alabama voted not to form a labor union.

Of the some 3,200 votes cast in the closely-watched union election, a total of 1,798 votes were against unionization, compared to 738 in favor of it, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Even accounting for the 505 challenged ballots, Amazon has cinched enough "no" votes to defeat the organizing efforts.

Workers needed a majority of "yes" votes in order to form the union.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which workers were seeking to be represented by, said Friday that it plans to file objections to Amazon's conduct surrounding the election with the NLRB.

"We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote," union president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement Friday morning.

Appelbaum accused Amazon of requiring employees to attend lectures where the company demanded they oppose the union, as well as "spreading misinformation" online and other alleged union-busting tactics.

"We demand a comprehensive investigation over Amazon's behavior in corrupting this election," he added.

Amazon issued a statement Friday thanking employees for participating in the election.

"It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true. Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us," the company said. "And Amazon didn’t win -- our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union."

"Our employees are the heart and soul of Amazon, and we’ve always worked hard to listen to them, take their feedback, make continuous improvements, and invest heavily to offer great pay and benefits in a safe and inclusive workplace," Amazon added. "We’re not perfect, but we’re proud of our team and what we offer, and will keep working to get better every day."

The organizing efforts at the Bessemer Amazon facility drew the attention of lawmakers and even President Joe Biden. It would have marked the first time Amazon workers in the U.S. formed a labor union if the bid had been successful.

A total of 3,215 workers participated in the landmark vote, the RWDSU said in a statement earlier this week. There are some 5,800 workers at the Amazon facility, meaning voter turnout was approximately 55%.

The RWDSU also said hundreds of ballots have been challenged, "mostly by the employer," that will need to be addressed after the public count.

Many labor experts viewed the historic and closely-watched unionizing efforts at one of the largest employers in the U.S. as potentially influencing workers elsewhere if it were successful, and possibly having a chilling effect on organized labor efforts if not.

The organized labor movement has languished in the U.S. in recent decades.

In 2020, the percentage of wage and salary workers in the U.S. who were members of unions was 10.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1983, the first year comparable union data is available, the union membership rate in the U.S. was 20.1%.

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(NEW YORK) -- Nearly four years ago, a photo tweeted from the Bahamian island of Exuma of two flimsy cheese slices laying lifeless atop some whole wheat bread with a soggy-looking side salad went viral and perfectly captured the failed Fyre Festival experience.

Now, Trevor DeHaas, an attendee who rose to overnight internet notoriety for that less-than-appetizing snapshot, is attempting to cash in for a good cause on the digital piece of history just weeks before the anniversary by auctioning it as an NFT (non-fungible token).

"Meme. Cultural touchstone. Cheese sandwich," the NFT description reads on Flipkick's auction page. ‍"From an inauspicious dinner, photographer Trevor DeHaas captured the most iconic image from 2017's most famous debacle -- the Fyre Festival. Two limp white slices on wheat bread lay, like the lifeless body of Icarus, bemoaning the hubris of man. A timeless image of inestimable cultural import, sold now as a singular NFT."

"This tweet NFT includes a transfer of copyright to the buyer. The winning bidder or their representative should contact Flipkick of New York to execute transfer agreement," the company wrote.

DeHaas told Good Morning America that the digital investment opportunity was inspired by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who recently sold his first tweet for $2.9 million.

"With NFTs being in a red-hot market and someone willing to pay over $2 million for a tweet, I knew I had to use the opportunity to my advantage. I immediately thought of my viral tweet of the cheese sandwich from Fyre Festival," he said. "As a photographer, it will never feel normal that a picture I took with an iPhone 6 using flash is the most valuable/viral picture I've taken to date," he added with a laugh.

But DeHaas also said there's a greater underlying motivation for the upcoming blockchain sale -- to help cover ongoing medical expenses for his decades long battle with IgA nephropathy, or Berger's disease, and a possible upcoming surgery.

"I'm currently on the waitlist in the Bay Area for a kidney transplant. Even with medical insurance, a transplant will still be costly," DeHaas said, pointing out the surgery would be added to an already growing list of expenses with daily dialysis, weekly blood tests, weekly nephrologist visits and transplant evaluations. "I'm hoping to get at least $50,000 from the NFT sale, and that would all go towards my current medical expenses and future transplant expenses."

"Even if the NFT doesn't sell, that's OK with me. I would be disappointed, but seeing all these stories about me helping shed light and bring awareness for the need for organ donors in the country will make it all worth it," he explained. "I've been using my platform for years to talk about the need for deceased and living organ donors. While most people might be interested in the NFT sale, if I can get at least one person to become an organ donor, the attempt to sell the NFT will all be worth it."

DeHaas originally listed the NFT himself, but quickly partnered with Flipkick, a company that helps digital and traditional artists monetize their work through NFTs, after he saw the sale involving another Fyre-related NFT from the festival's co-founder, Ja Rule.

"[I thought], if they are helping Ja Rule with his Fyre Fest NFT, maybe they would be willing to help me," DeHaas said, adding that he later found out the rapper is also a partial owner of the company.

"Ja Rule is not selling the cheese sandwich NFT. I am. Flipkickio, which Ja is a partner in, and myself have teamed up to sell the NFT. I do understand why the media is phrasing it as if Ja is selling the NFT but that’s not telling the full story," he clarified in a tweet.

While Flipkick will get a commission fee from the sale, DeHaas said he would receive "most of the proceeds" and reiterated "the proceeds will also be used to make sure my kidney donor doesn't experience any financial hardship from saving my life with their donation."

"Like I said, this NFT might not even sell, but at least I'm helping educate others on the need for deceased and living organ donors in our country."

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Starbucks

(SEATTLE) -- Starbucks' latest initiative is a simple concept to help reduce single-use plastic -- simply order, sip, return and repeat.

The coffee chain announced a new two-month borrow-and-return trial program launching at five Seattle store locations that will allow customers to order a beverage in a reusable cup, which will replace the use of up to 30 disposable cups.

Starbucks partnered with Ridwell, a Seattle-based recycling service, to offer customers an at-home option to return their borrowed cup.

Michael Kobori, Starbucks' chief sustainability officer, explained in a press release that this will bolster their efforts in a commitment to promote reusability.

"We understand the interdependency of human and planetary health, and we believe it is our responsibility to reduce single-use cup waste," he said. "We will lead the transition to a circular economy."

This program marks the latest step in the company's target goal to reduce 50% of waste and single-use cups sent to landfills by 2030.

How it works

1. Order your beverage in a reusable cup and pay a deposit.

Customers can order any beverage that will come in the newly designed reusable cup in-person at a participating Starbucks café or drive-thru. If a customer wants their drink in a reusable cup, they tell the barista and pay a $1 refundable deposit.

2. Return the cup and receive a credit and bonus stars.

After the customer is finished with the drink, they scan their cup at a contactless return kiosk, which will be located in the lobby or drive-thru at participating locations, and drop the cup in the designated opening. After that, simply scan their Starbucks App to have the $1 credit and 10 Bonus Stars applied to their account.

3. Each cup is professionally cleaned and sanitized.

Starbucks has partnered with GO Box, a reuse system operator and service provider, to collect borrowed cups from stores daily that are then professionally cleaned and sanitized with commercial-grade dishwashing equipment, and put back into circulation within 48 hours.

The new pilot effort and sanitizing standards are done in addition to the coffee chain's cleaning protocols that follow public health guidelines to help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the company said.

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(NEW YORK) -- Citigroup said it has incorporated environmental, social and governance scores (ESG) to its securities services data platform to let clients better analyze the sustainability exposure of their investments.

The major update comes to Citi Velocity Clarity, the bank's online data and analytics platform that aims to help users stay up to date on the latest metrics about their investments.

The sustainability measures will be provided daily by data firm Arabesque S-Ray, according to the bank, and include visualization tools to better analyze ESG information.

"The ability to understand ESG exposure has become imperative across the entire industry as investors, advisors and regulators are increasingly asking for transparency from asset managers and asset owners," Fiona Horsewill, the global head of data for Citi Securities Services, said in a statement.

"With this latest addition to Citi Velocity Clarity, we offer our clients the ability to understand their ESG exposures inherent within their portfolios and report on their investments from a sustainability perspective," Horsewill added.

Elree Winnett Seelig, the global head of ESG for markets and securities services at Citi added that "providing access to data is a critical foundation" when looking at ways to facilitate the transparency of ESG factors in the market.

ESG has become the latest buzzword in the investing world, as consumers put more pressure on businesses to operate sustainably.

Larry Fink, the CEO of the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock, called climate change a business and investing priority in his 2021 letter to company leaders released earlier this year.

"Over the course of 2020, we have seen how purposeful companies, with better environmental, social, and governance (ESG) profiles, have outperformed their peers," Fink wrote, citing internal data.

"But the story goes deeper. It’s not just that broad-market ESG indexes are outperforming counterparts," Fink added. "It’s that within industries -- from automobiles to banks to oil and gas companies -- we are seeing another divergence: companies with better ESG profiles are performing better than their peers, enjoying a 'sustainability premium.'"

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 (NEW YORK) -- Americans saved or paid off debt with most of their pandemic stimulus payments, according to surveys from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

For the second round of relief checks that gave $600 to eligible Americans and were issued at the end of December, survey respondents said they spent or planned to spend 25.5% of the total. Respondents said the other 74% went or would go toward paying down debts (37.4%) or savings (37.1%).

Respondents on average reported that 16% of the checks went toward essential spending, 6% toward non-essential spending and 3% toward donations.

For the third round of stimulus checks, which gave $1,400 to eligible Americans in March, respondents said they spent or expect to spend 24.7% of the total, save 41.6% and use 33.7% to pay down debt. Of the amount used for spending, an average of 13% is expected for essential items and an average of 8% on non-essential items.

The latest data on the second and third checks is in line with results from an earlier survey from the New York Fed on the first round of relief payments issued last year -- where respondents said they spent 29.2%, saved 36.4% and used 34.5% to pay down debt.

The fresh data on the second round of checks skewed slightly based on income levels, the researchers added, with lower-income households reporting higher amounts of their second stimulus checks to pay down debt (44% of the total) than higher-income households (32%). Similarly, lower-income households reported spending slightly higher amounts (27%) compared to higher-income households (24%).

Moreover, lower-income households reported spending 20% of their second checks on essentials, versus 12% for higher-income households.

The findings were drawn from the New York Fed's monthly Survey of Consumer Expectations, a nationally representative online survey of about 1,300 U.S. households. Data for the second and third checks were based on the January and March 2021 surveys, which respectively had 1,062 and 1,007 respondents. Data on the first round of checks was from the June 2020 survey, which was based on 1,423 respondents.

New York Fed economists said in a blog post announcing their findings that the results of the survey indicate an environment that continues to be marked by high unemployment and high uncertainty over the duration and economic impact of the pandemic.

"As the economy reopens and fear and uncertainty recede, the high levels of saving should facilitate more spending in the future," the researchers added. "However, a great deal of uncertainty and discussion exists about the pace of this spending increase and the extent of pent-up demand."

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(WASHINGTON) -- In the weeks leading up to Earth Day shoppers will see messages about companies' commitment to combating climate change or even products claiming to have a more positive impact on the environment than others by generating less waste or being produced with less energy.

And it can be hard to tell which of those statements are true.

One study from an international consumer protection group called ICEPN found as many as 40% of company claims about sustainability were misleading or overstate their impact on the environment -- a practice commonly known as "greenwashing."

And as the Biden administration continues to push for climate change to be a top priority more advocacy groups and businesses are honing in on greenwashing as a problem the government needs to address.

Companies like Patagonia, the popular outerwear business known for its commitment to sustainability, say those claims not only hurt consumers and the reputation of brands trying to minimize their environmental impacts, but also delay action seriously needed to address the climate crisis.

Jenna Johnson, the head of Patagonia's apparel division, said the company has always emphasized having as little impact on the planet as possible since it was founded by Yvon Choinard in 1973.

She said even a company like Patagonia struggles to sort through greenwashing from potential suppliers and other companies claiming they follow the best practices for the environment.

"It happens a lot. There's a lot of really strong marketing claims and a lot of products out there that feel fantastic and like they're moving in the right direction in terms of responsibility. But as you dig in, you find sometimes that it's more talk than actual actions," she told ABC News.

Johnson said this is a problem not only because it hurts consumers and companies that have robust environmental programs in place, but also because it delays real action on climate change.

"You could imagine if the oil and gas companies, for example, if they actually were funding and putting in place the actions that they're talking about around environmental and social goals, if they were truly driving impact within their organizations to move in that direction, we wouldn't be in the climate catastrophe that we're in today," she said.

"So saying is one thing, we can educate customers through marketing campaigns for sure that's important, but if we don't have action to back it up, we lose the trust and the confidence of the customer. And for those of us who are really working hard -- diligently every day to be honest -- and transparent and make progress, it erodes trust and credibility across the board, across brands."

The Biden administration is talking about taking more action to crack down on greenwashing, including creating new climate change units at financial agencies like the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Three environmental groups, including Greenpeace, filed the first-ever greenwashing complaint to the Federal Trade Commission last year against the oil company Chevron. They accuse Chevron of violating advertising guidelines from FTC known as the "Green Guide" that define how certain terms should be used and tells companies not to exaggerate or be overly vague about how their work impacts the environment.

Anusha Narayanan, climate campaign manager for Greenpeace USA, said they see the Biden administration's focus on climate change as a signal they could be more receptive to complaints about greenwashing.

"The Biden administration has been pretty committed to tackling the climate crisis and we believe that the FTC under the Biden administration will be receptive to this complaint and would take Greenwashing seriously," said Anusha Narayanan, climate campaign manager for Greenpeace USA.

The complaint accuses Chevron of producing ads about the company's commitment to new energy technology while not acknowledging the damage caused by burning fossil fuels and that clean energy investments make up less than 0.2 percent of its capital expenditures.

Narayanan said Greenpeace sees greenwashing as part of a bigger problem of people using talk about climate change to delay taking action, including drastically reducing or eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

"It's delaying action from happening, so it allows Chevron to operate business as usual and continue to burn fossil fuels. And then it distracts the public and consumers from seeing the real solutions we already have at hand to tackle the climate crisis and build a renewable energy future," she said.

Chevron called the allegations "frivolous" in a statement to ABC News and said they plan to invest $3 billion between 2021 and 2028 to advance the transition to cleaner sources of energy.

"We are taking action to reduce the carbon intensity of our operations and assets, increase the use of renewables and offsets in support of our business and invest in low-carbon technologies to enable commercial solutions," a Chevron spokesman said in the statement.

An FTC spokesman declined to comment on the complaint. As an enforcement agency, the FTC can investigate or bring complaints against companies accused of misleading consumers but cannot set new regulations on advertising.

Greenwashing doesn't only involve advertising, companies handling investments on Wall Street have also been accused of capitalizing on investors' desire to do good without actually taking steps to improve their impact on society or the environment.

Tariq Fancy is the former chief investment officer for sustainable investing at BlackRock, which manages nearly $9 trillion in assets. He said it was clear to him after working there that sustainable investing was more about marketing.

"My concern is that when they say that they're doing a bunch of things that are really helpful and the public believes that, it creates a placebo effect where we delay action -- and every year matters at this point," he told ABC News.

Fancy said he thinks the only way to push companies into action and avoid greenwashing is if the government gets more involved, including enacting regulations like a price on carbon and requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

BlackRock agreed the government should do more to regulate greenwashing. The company recently hired a former top climate official from the Obama administration, Paul Bodnar, to lead their sustainable investing efforts and CEO Larry Fink said he thinks coordinated involvement of governments all over the world will be necessary to decrease emissions and limit global warming.

"BlackRock believes greenwashing is a risk to investors and detrimental to the asset management industry's credibility, which is why we strongly support regulatory initiatives to set consistent standards and increase transparency for sustainable portfolios," a company spokesman said in a statement to ABC News.

Under the Biden administration the SEC could be poised to get more involved in what companies claim about their investments based on environmental or social values, a practice called Environmental, Social and Governance or ESG investing.

Acting SEC Chair Alison Lee said last month that the events during 2020, from the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd's death and the connection between racial justice and climate risk have proven that social values cannot be separated from the business world.

"Human capital, human rights, climate change -- these issues are fundamental to our markets, and investors want to and can help drive sustainable solutions on these issues. We see that unmistakably in shifts in capital toward ESG investing, we see it in investor demands for disclosure on these issues, we see it increasingly reflected on corporate proxy ballots, and we see it in corporate recognition that consumers and investors alike are watching corporate responses to these issues more closely than ever," Lee said recently in remarks to the Center for American Progress. "That's why climate and ESG are front and center for the SEC."

Patagonia's Johnson said even though regulations can be challenging and expensive for companies to deal with, holding companies accountable for their statements is the right thing to do when it comes to the environment.

"It's expensive business and the government, alongside civil society, working together, working in tandem," Johnson said. "That is how we are going to save the planet."

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KJC Kennel Club




   

 




JET

2007-2009

"Always in our Heart! "