green companies

Green Business is one of this blog’s main content categories. The following are some of the business-related posts that have been published on The Green Spotlight:

Green products are one subset of the green business category. The following are a few of our posts related specifically to green products:

Additional posts on sustainable business topics, including a post on 2015’s “Best for the World” B Corporations, will be published on the blog in coming months. Check back soon for more.

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April 26, 2015
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The rapid rise of the global fossil-fuel divestment movement is a very promising and heartening sign of real progress.

A growing number of people are trying to “put their money where their mouth is” (i.e., where their values are). They want to stop giving their unintentional financial support to destructive, polluting companies and industries, such as the fossil fuel industry, and to shift their support over to clean, forward-thinking companies and industries that aim to have a positive impact on our world.

Putting your money where your mouth is might involve more than just being selective about which stores you go to and which products you buy. You could be unwittingly giving some of your money to companies you don’t want to support, through your accounts and investments: e.g., mutual funds, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401Ks), or any other stock-based accounts or investments. If you look at the list of company holdings that are part of your accounts’ portfolios, you might discover that Exxon and other oil/gas companies are in there, or Walmart, or Monsanto, or Koch Brothers-owned companies (also see the Buycott campaign/app), or McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or cigarette companies… Even if you don’t have any stock-based accounts of your own, there’s a good chance that your city, your college’s endowment fund, your church, or your pension provider invests in companies that don’t align with your values. Institutions like these are increasingly being confronted by local and national divestment campaigns.

_DshqZRQ_400x400Fossil Free maintains this list of the hundreds of institutions (including colleges and universities, cities and counties, religious institutions, and foundations) that have committed to divesting from fossil fuels. They include: Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the City and County of San Francisco; Seattle, WA; Dane County, WI; Ann Arbor, MI, and many, many more. Countries committed to divest billions of dollars at the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, and many world leaders have spoken out in support of the divestment movement; they include Desmond Tutu, Ban Ki-Moon, Christina Figueres, Mary Robinson, and even the President of the World Bank. People and institutions are divesting from fossil fuels for a variety of reasons. In addition to the values motivation, or to limit the political influence (lobbying budgets) of oil and gas companies, some are simply divesting because they feel that we’re approaching (or have already hit) “peak oil” and/or that fossil fuel reserves will soon become “stranded assets” and fossil fuel stocks are going to rapidly or drastically drop in value.

942A5VXM_400x400At the Divest-Invest site, you can pledge to divest from fossil fuels or to invest in clean stocks, and learn more about the issues and options. (Also see the links below.)

Whether or not you have any accounts that can be divested from fossil fuel or other harmful companies, you should think about investing some money in clean energy or other socially beneficial companies. If you want to switch your mutual fund or retirement accounts over to—or start a new account with—a “socially responsible investment” (SRI) fund, there are many to choose from. Going this route does not necessarily mean that you have to settle for a lower return on investment. SRI funds often perform as well as (or even better) than market averages. (See some performance stats here and here and here.) And socially responsible investing has become much more popular in recent years: U.S-based SRI assets jumped 76% between 2012 and 2014 and reached $6.57 trillion, according to US SIF. You can learn more about fossil-free funds and other SRI funds at the following sites:

A few funds that are fossil-fuel free (to date) include: Green Century Fund (both of their funds: Balanced and Equity), Green Alpha FundsParnassus Endeavor FundCalvert Investments’ Green Bond FundPortfolio 21 Global Equity Fund, and Pax World Global Environmental Markets Fund.  A couple of fossil-fuel-free indexes have been developed, as well:  FFIUS Fossil Free Indexes, and FTSE ex Fossil Fuel Index.

Note: In addition to the relatively new fossil-fuel-free criterion (which most SRI funds do not yet meet), there are a number of other environmental and social issues and criteria that SRI funds can screen for, in areas such as: pollution/toxics, nuclear power, defense/weapons, human rights, animal welfare, executive pay, labor relations, diversity, tobacco, alcohol, and many others. (When you click on the link above, select the Screening and Advocacy tab to find out how/whether various funds address each issue.) Note: It’s important that you look at each fund’s holdings and portfolio policies, as many SRI funds do include some companies that are widely seen as problematic (including oil and gas companies); some but not all of those funds explicitly try to influence and improve those companies’ policies through shareholder activism.

If you would like to have an investment advisor assist you in selecting a fossil-free or other SRI fund, these are a couple of advisory firms that I am aware of:

(You can also do a web search to find firms or advisors who specialize in SRI or clean energy investment or fossil-fuel divestment and who are also based in your area.)

logoAnother way to invest your money is to make a direct investment in a social impact venture, AKA a social enterprise. One place to find some social enterprises and funds that anyone can invest in is CuttingEdgeX. Among their current offerings (which are called Direct Public Offerings) are the RSF Social Investment Fund and the Calvert Foundation’s Community Investment note at Vested.org. For a list of some other funds that are available to everyone (but with a focus on food and farming-related enterprises), also see the top section of this page.

Some people are also able to invest their money in local, distributed solar projects in their area or elsewhere (on housing, schools, etc.). These are two platforms that allow people to do that—though unfortunately, for now, most of these platforms’ offerings are only open to California residents, due to current securities regulations (which could change in the future):

(Note: Having solar panels or a small-scale wind turbine installed on your own property is another good way to invest your money and get a solid return on investment.)

Most direct investment opportunities are only open to “accredited investors” (who, basically, are people wealthy enough to endure the risk of losing a considerable amount of money on investments: an accredited investor is currently defined as someone with an individual income of more than $200,000/year or a joint income of $300,000, for the past two years; or a net worth exceeding $1 million, individually or jointly with one’s spouse). If you are an accredited investor, there are all sorts of social enterprises you can invest in, e.g., through groups like these:

And there’s yet another way that everyone can make a difference with their dollars: Move your regular (checking/savings) accounts (as well as any credit card accounts) out of the huge, greedy, bail-out banks (e.g., Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.) and into a local credit union (credit unions are non-profit cooperative banks that share profits with their members) or a small community bank that won’t charge you ridiculous fees for basic transactions with your own money; won’t gamble with your money, your mortgage, and the economy for short-term gains; and that will give back to its members and your community. There are also a few banks that have an explicit social and environmental mission (and are certified B Corporations), such as:

The Sierra Club offers a credit card with Beneficial State Bank. (Most affinity cards are affiliated with the big, bail-out banks. This is one of the few that isn’t.)

Efforts are also underway to create Clean Energy Victory Bonds, which would be treasury bonds where all the funds raised go to support clean energy in the United States. Click that link to learn how you can support this initiative.

 

Other general resources for further information:

Related posts:

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

Climate and Energy-Related Solutions and Resources

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February 27, 2015
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It’s not always easy to tell which products are green, how green they might be, or in what ways they are green. There are no standard, universal definitions for the terms “green,” “environmentally friendly,” or “natural.” However, the FTC has recently created more stringent guidelines to prohibit marketers from making fraudulent environmental claims about their products.

Finding products that have achieved green certifications (from groups that have rigorous standards) can help you separate true green claims from “greenwashing.” So look for eco-labels from legitimate, independent, third-party certifiers (as opposed to industry- or self-administered programs); several third-party certifiers are listed below.

Manufacturers that have had their environmental product claims independently assessed, verified, and certified by a third-party group can feature the corresponding eco-label on their certified products. Be aware that some certifications only verify specific single-attribute claims (e.g., energy efficiency, organic status, recycled-content percentage, indoor air quality/emissions, or biodegradability), while others review multiple attributes related to a certain kind of product (e.g., forest products, paints, cleaning products, etc.). Green attributes can relate to the design, manufacturing, and/or operational (use) impacts of a product, or they can address the full lifecycle impacts of the product: from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal/recycling/reuse.

Bear in mind, though, that many small companies can’t afford to put their products through a costly certification process, so there are some very-green products that do not have green certification labels. Therefore, it can also be helpful to look carefully at product ingredients and read up on the company’s claims and any outside analysis of those claims. But first, you should have a basic understanding of product stewardship and the criteria and attributes that might make a certain product greener than others of its kind.

Products’ green attributes tend to fall into these four general categories:

  • Public / Environmental Health: pollution reduction during a product’s lifecycle (e.g., reduction of toxic inputs and by-products, and reduction of fossil fuel/energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, etc.); protection of air, water, and soil quality and climate stability
  • Individual / Household Health: minimized exposure to toxins/hazards for product users’ health and safety
  • Resource Conservation: conservation of natural resources, including water, raw materials (e.g., trees, minerals), land/habitat, soil; reduction of resource extraction, resource use, and waste
  • Social Responsibility: supports safe, responsible, and equitable labor practices, local economies, fair trade, human rights, humane treatment of animals, community vitality

[Note: I’ll be adding additional examples of specific product attributes within these categories soon.]

The following are some of the major certifiers of green product claims, as well as some other relevant standards, rating systems, and online assessment tools and resources. This is not an exhaustive list:

General: Multiple-issue / multiple-attribute

Certifiers/Eco-Labels:

  • Green SealGreenSeal
    standards and certifications for numerous types of household and institutional products; see list below
  • SCS Global Services
    4269numerous types of certifications, including “Environmentally Preferable Product” lifecycle assessment; FSC; FloorScore; FairTrade; specific product claim certifications, e.g., recycled content, etc.
  • UL Environment
    CradletoCradleCertifiedECOLOGO lifecycle certifications, as well as Greenguard chemical emissions certifications and single-attribute claim validations

Other general green product standards and ratings:

  • GoodGuide product ratings (website and app)ecologo-logo

Issue-specific

Certifications/Eco-Labels:

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Industry- or Product-specific

Certifications/Eco-Labels:

  • Green Seal (see logo above) has certifications and standards for numerous types of products (e.g., household/cleaning products, hand soaps and cleaners, institutional cleaning products, personal care products, paints and coatings, printing and writing paper, windows, adhesives, paper towels and napkins and tissues, food packaging; cleaning services, hotels and lodging, and restaurants and food services, etc.) fsc
  • Electronics: EPEAT registered products (managed by the Green Electronics Council)
  • Flowers and Potted Plants: Veriflora “Sustainably Grown”
  • For other ecolabels (in the U.S. and in other countries), see the Ecolabel Index.

There are also green certifications for services. While this post is focused on products, rather than services, here’s one example of a green service certification: the Green Shield Certified certification for pest control companies that use good Integrated Pest Management practices (including avoiding use of the most toxic pesticide products).

Other industry-specific green product standards, assessment tools, directories, and other resources:

 

Also keep in mind that companies that are greener than others (e.g., companies that have greened their internal operations and have active green commitments) are more likely to make and use green products. So also look for products (and services) from companies that have been certified as green:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good
Beneficial Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014

 

Related posts:

For additional information on green products, see:

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December 26, 2014
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B Corporations (known as B Corps, for short) are “a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of May 2014, there are now more than 1,000 certified B Corporations, in 33 countries and 60 industries. Among the most well-known companies that are certified B Corporations are: Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s, Method, and Seventh Generation.

Each year, B Lab recognizes a group of B Corps as “Best for the World” honorees for creating the most positive social and environmental impact. These companies have earned an overall score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community, and the environment. These are businesses that go beyond simply being benign or reducing their harm to society; they strive to be beneficial and could even be considered benevolent. (For more information on B Corp certification, see our previous post on this topic.)

I’d like to highlight a small selection of this year’s “Best for the World” companies, within a few types of industries:

Financial

Energy/Solar

Consumer Products

There is also an Environment sub-group of Best for the World honorees, for the companies that scored in the top 10% of all B Corps within the environmental impact category. And there are sub-groups for the top 10% companies for worker impact, as well as community impact.

Click here to find other B Corps (you can search by location, name, industry, keyword).

Note: B Corporations and “benefit corporations” are similar but different things. For an explanation of each and the difference between the two, please see our previous post on this topic:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good

You might also be interested in this post on green and socially responsible business:

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

 

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May 5, 2014
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If you want to avoid buying clothing that was made in sweatshops (characterized by unsafe conditions, unethical labor practices, and poor wages); and/or you want to buy clothing that is made from natural and organically grown fabrics, rather than from synthetic, petrochemical textiles or from fibers grown with toxic pesticides, you should probably—at least for the time being, until the industry shifts—avoid buying most of your clothing from major retailers, especially those that sell clothes for super-low prices. Those “fast fashion” clothes are not just cheap in price. In most cases, they’re also cheaply made (so they’re not durable), and the people who make them aren’t making a living wage. As President Benjamin Harrison said, “I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.”

Furthermore, those workers work long hours in dangerous factories: facilities without proper health and safety standards, audits, or enforcement. (For example, in recent years, more than 1,800 garment factory workers have died on the job in Bangladesh, mostly due to unsafe buildings that collapsed on them. Some clothing retailers, such as Walmart and the Gap, have so far resisted signing onto a new building safety agreement, and instead have proposed weaker initiatives of their own.)

Look for well-made and durable, certified Fair Trade or domestically made (Made in the U.S.) clothes, made of certified organic, natural materials (such as organic cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo) or recycled materials, by ethical and sustainable brands [follow the links below to find some]; or buy clothes second-hand. And most importantly, don’t buy way more clothing than you need, and be sure to donate your unwanted/extra clothing.

Apparel Product Assessments and Vetted Brand Listings:

Check the Apparel section of GoodGuide (which also has a mobile app):

…and look for clothing labels that indicate certification with the Global Organic Textile Standard, as well as Fair Trade Certified,

…as well as clothing companies that are Certified B Corporations.

Also check out the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and its preliminary Higg Index, which aims to measure the environmental (and, in a later phase, also the social) performance of apparel products. In addition, there is Greenpeace’s international Detox fashion campaign, which has challenged major clothing brands to get their suppliers to make non-toxic clothes and to eliminate their release of hazardous chemicals, especially those that are contributing to water pollution.

Selected Companies/Brands:

These are a few brands that take the environmental and social impacts of their products more seriously than most other brands. Most of the following companies offer organic and/or Fair Trade clothes. Be sure to check out their “Sale” (or “Specials” or “Clearance”) pages to find discounted products.

  • Coyuchi  (see their pajamas and robes)

If you know of other relevant brands and you would recommend their products to others, please mention those brands in the Comments section.

 

For further information on this topic, you might want to read this book:

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth Cline. (Also check out the author’s Shopping Directory.)

 

Other recent posts on green products:

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October 31, 2013
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Benefit corporations and Certified B Corporations aim to benefit society and our shared environment—rather than just the company’s traditional “bottom line.” More and more companies are choosing to be triple-bottom-line benefit businesses.

Benefit Corporations are “a new class of corporation that:

  1. creates a material positive impact on society and the environment;
  2. expands fiduciary duty to require consideration of non-financial interests when making decisions; and
  3. reports on its overall social and environmental performance using recognized third party standards.”  (Source: BenefitCorp.net)

Benefit Corporation status affects requirements related to corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency. It does not affect a company’s tax status.  To learn about the legal basis for benefit corporations, click here.

The Benefit Corporation corporate status is now (as of June 2013) legally recognized by 17 states and the District of Columbia.  Benefit Corporation legislation has passed in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, and New York (as well as DC), and legislation is currently moving forward in at least nine other states. For state-by-state information, click here.

Here is a searchable list of some of the businesses that have registered as benefit corporations.

Certified B Corps                                       

A non-profit organization called B Lab certifies corporations as Certified B Corporations (or B Corps). Note: Benefit corporations and Certified B Corporations are similar, but different. Benefit corporation is a legal status administered by the state, and benefit corporations do not need to be certified as B Corporations or certified by any other third party. Some benefit corporations choose to become Certified B Corps, and some (but not all) Certified B Corps have the “benefit corporation” legal status, as only some states and countries currently recognize and grant that status.

Certified B Corporations have been certified as having met a high standard of overall social and environmental performance: they have achieved a verified minimum score on the B Impact Assessment.  They also have access to a portfolio of services and support from B Lab to help them with marketing, sales, raising money, and learning from and doing business within the Certified B Corps community.

As of June 2013, there are 775 Certified B Corporations, in 27 countries, and in 60 industriesClick here to find a B Corp (search by location, name, industry, keyword).

These are a few of the top-scoring, “Best for the World” B Corp companies of 2013:

  • Preserve personal care products (toothbrushes and razors) and housewares

And companies like Sun Light & Power, Sungevity, Better World Books, and other B Corps companies have been deemed “Rockstars of the New Economy” by Fast Company magazine.

Newer post on this topic [added May 2014]: Beneficial and Benevolent Businesses: Top B Corps of 2014

Related post: Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

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July 2, 2013
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More than a dozen of the Green Spotlight’s previous posts have referenced green products. Below is a list of many of those posts, which have covered everything from building- and home-related products to films, chocolates, and other types of goods. Many of the products mentioned in these posts would make good and useful gifts (for holidays, birthdays, etc.).

At the bottom of this post, I’ve also added links to some books for eco-minded readers.

Home/Building Products

Other Products

Books

The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places, by Bernie Krause

Or if you’re interested in books on green business, check out the book listing at the bottom of our Green Business post.

You can find a wide selection of books on sustainable living from Chelsea Green Publishing and from New Society Publishers.

And here are a bunch of other books on sustainability topics.

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November 26, 2012
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Below is a listing of companies that offer green dwellings in the form of modular, prefab/manufactured, compact and/or mobile structures. These days, there are many such options available that are not only green, but also beautiful, well-made, and often low-cost. Some of these structures are homes or cabins/cottages, while others can be used as an addition, a backyard studio, office, in-law unit/guest house, or some other type of “accessory dwelling unit.”

They come in a wide range of sizes, from teeny-tiny one-room spaces (e.g., 100 sq. ft.) and small units (see the Tiny/Compact Structures section below) to conventionally sized homes. They are also available in a wide variety of styles; some have traditional designs, while others have a very modern look. Some are available as plans and/or DIY kits, and others have designated builders. Many can be modified or customized.

Prefab (factory-built) homes have many benefits. They can be built more efficiently (e.g., less material waste), more quickly, with more precision and durability (i.e., higher quality), and they typically have more predictable costs (and often cost less) than site-built homes.

The levels of greenness vary among the following options, but all of them tout some green features.

This is not a comprehensive listing; there are many other companies that make similar types of green structures. I’ve provided links below to other directories that list additional options. If you know of another green modular, prefab, mobile, or small home designer or manufacturer that you would recommend, please share it in the Comments.

Note: The asterisk (*) shown after certain listings indicates that those companies seem to offer at least one low-cost/affordable option. Some of the other companies might also offer such options, but specific pricing isn’t available on all of the websites; in some cases, one must contact the company for pricing information.

Blu Homes (offices in CA, MA, and MI)

BlueSky MOD (based in Toronto, Canada)

Clayton i-house

Clever Homes (based in CA)

Deltec Homes (based in NC)

Eco-Infill (based in CO)

EcoMod Structures (based in WV) *

FabCab

IdeaBox (based in OR)

Jot House *

Lindal Cedar Homes (see Mod.Fab and Lindal Architects Collaborative; Lindal has an international network of dealers) *

Living Homes (based in CA)
C6 = their low-cost option*

Marmol Radziner Prefab (based in CA)

Method Homes (based in WA)

New Old Green Modular Home (from New World Home)

OHOME (Healthy Buildings Technology Group; based in CA)

OMD (Office of Mobile Design; based in CA)

Piece Homes (Davis Studio Architecture + Design; based in CA)

Rocio Romero LV series (based in MO) *

Stillwater Dwellings (based in WA) *

Studio 101 Designs (based in CA)

2morrow Studio (based in VT) *

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country) *

Xtreme Green Homes (based in NC, SC, and VA)

ZETA Communities (modular multi-family developments; based in CA)

For a listing of MANY other types of modular/manufactured homes (some of which have green features), see this compendium.

Books on green prefab homes:

Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefabulous + Sustainable: Building and Customizing an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefab Green, by Michelle Kaufmann

Prefab, by Allison Arieff


Tiny / Compact Structures  *
(some of which are mobile)

Many of the companies listed above offer one or two options for small dwellings, while the following companies specialize in small structures:

Ecopods (based in Ontario, Canada)

GreenPods (based in WA)

kitHAUS (based in CA)

L41 Home (based in BC, Canada)

Leaf House (based in the Yukon, Canada)

Little Green Buildings (made w/ SIPs; based in WA)

Little House on the Trailer (based in CA)

Modern-Shed (based in WA, with dealers in all states)

Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. (house plans and some pre-built homes; some are mobile)

Wee Cabins (based in MN)

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country)

YardPods (based in CA)

m-ch (Micro Compact Home; based in Germany)

For a listing of many other types of small homes (some of which have other green features), see this Tiny House Directory.

Resources on small homes:

Tiny House Blog

Small House Society

The Small House Book, by Jay Shafer

Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities, by Shay Salomon

And here’s a listing of other books on compact design.

 

* Low-cost/affordable option(s) available

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July 30, 2012
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This post provides a list of links to green-business-related organizations, associations, websites, books, and other resources, which are useful not only to people who own, manage, or work for companies, but to all of us—as consumers and citizens who are affected by business decisions and corporate practices every day. The resources are organized into the following categories:

  • Green Business (general)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Environmental & Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Financing, and Investing
  • Clean, Green Jobs
  • Local Economies / Community Investment and Resilience
  • Confronting the Corporate Corruption of Government
  • Ecological Economics
  • Online Media
  • Books

[Note: New links were added to this post in April 2012.]

Green Business (general)

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February 20, 2012
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