SAP’s ‘Autism at Work’ Initiative: An Insatiable Appetite for Improvement

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday April 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments
A candidate in SAP's Autism at Work program uses robotics technology to demonstrate problem-solving skills and creativity while adjusting to a new work environment.

A candidate in SAP’s Autism at Work program uses robotics technology to demonstrate problem-solving skills and creativity while adjusting to a new work environment.

In May of last year, SAP announced the launch of Autism at Work – a unique global initiative to employ people with autism and related conditions.  The ultimate goal of the program is to have 1 percent of the company’s total work force, or about 650 people in today’s numbers, represent people on the autism spectrum by 2020. Beyond these hard figures, the software solutions giant hopes to achieve what it calls “on-boarding equivalency,” meaning that the company has reached a point that it takes the same amount of effort to hire and train a candidate with autism as someone who is not on the spectrum, Jose Velasco, who heads up the program for SAP in the U.S., told Triple Pundit.

“Our idea is that we want to reach that level of maturity within the organization by 2020 — hopefully before that,” Velasco explained.

To achieve its goal, the company embarked on several pilot programs around the globe and has already hired seven candidates on the spectrum in Germany, as well as three candidates in Ireland. This year, the pilot will extend to two of the company’s facilities in Canada, as well as two locations here in the U.S. — comprising seven to nine candidates who are starting work at the company’s Palo Alto, Calif. and Newtown Square, Pa. facilities. All totaled, the company will hire 14 candidates on the autism spectrum by the end of April, with plans to extend the pilot to Brazil later this year.

“We very strongly believe that in order for us to get better at employing people in the spectrum we have to start by walking first,” Velasco said. “Throughout the year of 2014, we’ll continue to learn. We’ll design our processes, fortify our processes …. And towards the beginning of next year, we’ll start hiring more people on a larger scale.”

This is all fantastic news, but you may be wondering: Why is SAP doing this in the first place? Surely the company’s status allows it to take its pick from top candidates in the IT field, so why rock the boat? Velasco boils it down to one central corporate philosophy: “An insatiable appetite for improvement”.

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Twitter Chat with Heineken: What Does It Mean to Brew a Better Future?

Marissa Rosen
| Thursday April 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Join TriplePundit and CSRwire at #BaBF for a live Twitter Chat with HEINEKEN on April 30, 2014 at 8am PST / 11am EST / 5pm CETtwitter-heineken

We’re thrilled to announce another live twitter chat in partnership with CSRwire on April 30 featuring Heineken in conjunction with the release of the company’s latest sustainability report.

Heineken proclaims that sustainability has been an integral part of business operations throughout its 150-year history. Now, in 2014, the beer giant’s commitments are coming to life through its Brewing a Better Future (BaBF) Program and its long-term approach to creating shared, sustainable value in four areas that it can impact directly: protecting water resources, reducing carbon emissions, sourcing sustainably and advocating responsible consumption.

Heineken recently published its 2013 Sustainability Report, which outlines the company’s progress on the way to meet its 2020 sustainability commitments. The full 2013 report can be viewed at A summary of the details can be seen on TriplePundit’s Podium.

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Is Crowdfunding an Answer for Ethical Fashion?

3p Contributor | Thursday April 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Salts Organic Clothing strives to make beautiful wearable eco fashion for women.

Can organic clothing be wearable and sustainable?

By Jennifer Graham

Salts Organic Clothing has been plugging away at the organic ethical fashion game since 2005, before the term “eco fashion” even existed.  Through the company’s nine-year journey, lessons both soft and hard have been learned about selling people on the value of thinking sustainable in fashion.  Salts has been a lone producer manufacturer (me and my sewing machine), a local manufacturer (local small factories) and is now looking to find an ethical business model that is environmentally AND financially sustainable.  Salts has had two retail outlets on their home of Vancouver Island, the last one closed in November 2012. This spring Salts Organic Clothing came back with a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter and a new attitude about how to reach the masses with the viability and wearability of eco-friendly clothing.

There is a terrible catch-22 in the business of selling organic fashion.  The people who believe in what you are selling are not, by and large, “consumers.” That is, they aren’t the shoppers who are wreaking havoc on the planet and in sweatshops with their fast fashion consumption choices to begin with.  In fact, this group is the opposite and tries to make a point to not buy new at all.  Great for the planet, but doesn’t work well for the business of growing eco-friendly clothing as a mass appeal concept.

The next catch is that the consumers of mass fashion aren’t yet sold on the need for change.  They are hard to reach, and unless you have major name brand appeal, they rarely notice a small, ethical company’s existence.  

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Georgetown University Offers $5 Million Community Energy-Efficiency Prize

RP Siegel | Thursday April 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

GUEP logoIn the wake of increasingly grim news on the climate front, and a deadlocked Congress unable to overcome resistance and take action, there is some good news coming out of Washington after all. Not from the federal government, but from Georgetown University,

This week the university announced the launch of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a $5 million competition that challenges communities to come together, develop and implement a plan to dramatically reduce energy consumption. Fifty communities in 25 states, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Knoxville, Tenn., have already signed letters indicating that they intend to compete.

The formal opening ceremony took place on April 23, featuring Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy; John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University; and Ellen S. Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation.

Why Georgetown? Somebody had to do it.

I asked Dr. Francis Slakey, executive director of the Prize, how it came to be the university that took action on energy efficiency. He said, “In 2012, we held a brainstorming session at Georgetown University with mayors, city planners and environmental managers from around the country. Everyone had the same problem: They wanted to create a more energy efficient community, but they struggled to win the buy-in of their residents. Adoption rates of energy efficiency technologies were stuck at 5 percent or even 2 percentand it had been that way for decades.

“We needed a catalyst that would inspire action and create breakthrough solutions. Historically, there’s been an effective model to solve stuck problems: Hold a competition and offer a prize. Thus, the Georgetown University Energy Prize was born.”

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Climate Change: The Externality That Came in From the Cold

3p Contributor | Thursday April 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

2904325086_9b94400786_zBy Julie Fox Gorte

An externality is something that costs nothing on the part of the person or enterprise that creates it, but imposes a cost or conveys a benefit to others. The world is full of them. My children create them by Skyping with their friends at elevated decibel levels all night. Externalities come in all sizes too. Fortunately for my neighbors, the Skype externality stays within the walls of my house. Companies that emit tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) create externalities that are bounded only by the size of the planet. They get so big, in fact, they aren’t externalities anymore.

A company that emits carbon dioxide is affecting the entire planet for at least a century. And countries—like the United States—that do not have national regimes regulating and curtailing GHG emissions are affecting all other countries. If Holland disappears beneath rising seas, it won’t be primarily because of Dutch emissions; the Netherlands emits less than 1 percent of the world’s GHG emissions. Countries like Kiribasi, the Maldives, and the Seychelles, all of which are likely to disappear beneath the ocean due to climate-induced sea level rise, have GHG emissions that round to zero. Climate change, something they didn’t create, is probably going to destroy them; that’s about as bad as negative as an externality gets.

But the big emitters don’t get to really externalize these costs forever either. Nearly every enterprise is likely to be affected somehow by the increasingly torrential rains, prolonged droughts, severe storms, and sea level rise that come with a warming globe.

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Is This a New Golden Age of Innovation?

3p Contributor | Thursday April 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment

2899482713_75ae9251cc_zBy Tate Cantrell

The Greeks of old described the development of man — starting with a painful decline from the Golden Age down through the ages of Silver and Bronze to the age of Iron, where we slave away without the enlightenment of legends. We are in the midst of a new Golden Age, and as with many societal advancements today, at the core of this is the power to compute.

In fact, access to computing resources has never been easier, and new forms of collaboration have given us opportunities to innovate like never before. Previous old and stale business models, like taxis and hotels, are no longer out-of-date, but are now revived with new services and collaboration. Social collaboration gives us nearly instant feedback on the satisfaction of our constituents, paving the way for the tenets of a Golden Age: peace, harmony, stability and prosperity.

So, how did we arrive at this technological enlightenment? At some point, technology crossed over and began to influence sociology, but how? Well in a single word: silicon. From the concept defined in the early Turing machines of World War II fame, to the first transistors of silicon, to today’s massively powerful super chips, the history of technology and its influence on our social ethos has been all about a more efficient approach to using silicon atoms. As we harnessed these atoms into smaller transistors, we have produced faster computers and, over the decades, developers have created an abundance of platforms on which to build the next new product.

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Women in CSR: KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Sustainable Life Media

| Thursday April 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.

koann-blog-bwTriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.

KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz: I am Founder and CEO of Sustainable Life Media, the company, and Sustainable Brands, our service brand. SLM was originally launched in 2004 and I spent a good two years prior to that, while running my own management consultancy, absorbing everything I could get my hands on related to sustainability and business.

As far as my role at SLM, like every entrepreneur, I wear many hats and, at the beginning, I wore all the hats. I wrote our business plan, raised our funding, set up our first website, sold our first sponsorship, organized our first conference and hired our team. Of course building a business with scaleable meaningful impact requires its leader to shift from building a product or service to building an organization, so putting a great team in place is number one, and I feel incredibly grateful every day for ours. At this point, as much as I love being hands-on, I’m working hard to make myself irrelevant to the day-to-day things so I can focus on expanding our offering and impact.

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6 Ways Tablets Have a Beneficial Impact on Classrooms and the Planet

3p Contributor | Thursday April 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Jessica Oaks
While most of us grew up in a generation where textbooks, notepads and No.2 pencils were classroom necessities, the digital age is quickly changing the landscape of schools across the country. What students used to get in half a dozen textbooks is now available in the palm of their hand, in the form of a tablet.

Though some worry that the introduction of tablets into the classroom will only increase a student’s digital dependence and cripple them for “real world” experiences, the truth is that the use of tablets introduces a whole new set of tools to the classroom, and can benefit students in many ways. Tablets are bringing both an environmental and an educational impact to the classroom.

1. A new way to communicate

For years, students and parents have complained about the use of standardized testing, arguing that it leads to standardized teaching and leaves many students in the dust, particularly those with learning disabilities. Tablets change all that by arming teachers with an array of teaching tools, including interactive games, video presentations and more. Now, teachers have a new way to reach students who have had difficulty engaging with plain text on a page.

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Sustainable Textiles: Harnessing a Spark in Customer Engagement

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Grasiela Edit_AppalatchIf there is one truism that sums up sustainable marketing today, it is that product sales don’t make a business successful, productive customer engagement strategies do. Levi Strauss and Co.’s popularity as a sustainable producer relies on its ability to continually tap into the values of its customers and reflect that vision in how it sells its products – as well as how it makes them.

It puts recycling and human rights, for example, at the core of its business model because it believes such ethics are part of its own vision, and because it knows that these are key concerns for many customers. Its success as a respected clothier is dependent not just on the quality of its product, but also on its ability to convey its understanding and loyalty of those customer values.

As one survey conducted last year by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan Review and the Boston Consulting Group discovered, customer opinion is at the core of many of the green changes that businesses are making today.

“[Companies] are 80 percent more likely to increase collaboration with customers as a result of sustainability than are companies that did not change their business model,” say the authors. “They are also much more likely to collaborate with competitors, suppliers and across their own business units.”

But can customers’ green values and engagement in sustainability be enhanced by business strategies?

Several businesses we consulted recently gave a resounding “yes” to this question. Business strategies and ethics do help to shape a progressive sustainable culture. Yet interestingly, each source we consulted had a different take on what was most crucial to the success of that goal.

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Sustainable Seafood and Impact Investing: Getting the Money Where Its Needed

3p Contributor | Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Fishermen in Kovalam, Kerala, South India.

Fishermen in Kovalam, Kerala, South India.

By Cheryl Dahle

For years, fish have been the comparative Rodney Dangerfield of food systems work: They get no respect. While certified organic produce, grass-fed beef, farmers markets, and the slow food movement have become darlings of hipsters and impact investors alike, fish (farmed or wild) hasn’t enticed the same degree of attention or fervor.

To be fair, the topic is more complex and less accessible than many land-based food issues. Unsustainable fishing practices and their impact is mostly hidden underwater, save for a lone documentary or video clips of developing world fishers “harvesting” with dynamite.

Despite recent encouraging efforts to spur an impact investing revolution in fisheries (Future of Fish’s work in grooming disruptive seafood industry entrepreneurs, the Fish 2.0 business plan competition, and Bloomberg’s $53 million commitment, to name a few), we’re still a long way from a developed investment marketplace that would become a powerful engine for change.

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3p Interview: Recyclebank Goes Retail With OneTwine

RP Siegel | Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

One Twine Logo squareIn today’s highly connected world, never has the value of a good reputation been higher. Indeed, many companies have cited concerns about “reputation risk management” as a key driver behind their moves to incorporate sustainability into their business practices.

Then, there are those companies for which the primary raison d’être is to help usher in a more sustainable economy. The reputation — and the implicit trust that the public has come to place in a such a company — could be a valuable asset that can help expand that company’s business.

Take Recyclebank, for example. As part of its mission to “realize a world where nothing is wasted,” and to “inspire people to live more sustainably,” it has partnered with numerous companies to recommend and reward environmentally responsible behavior by their members — with credits that can be used towards the purchase of carefully vetted products that enhance and encourage a sustainable lifestyle. As it approaches its 10-year anniversary, the program has grown to include more than 300 communities and 4.5 million members. Recyclebank members have taken more than 20 million actions, increased their recycling by an average of 157 pounds per household and received over $60 million in reward value.

This week, Recyclebank is taking another step towards the realization of its vision, with the launch of OneTwine, an online retail shop that allows customers to redeem their Recyclebank points, pay cash, or any combination of the two. OneTwine will feature products in the household, health and beauty, children, pets, gear and gadgets categories. The primary goal of OneTwine will be, in the words of Recyclebank CEO Javier Flaim, “taking the guesswork out of finding products that consider their total impact on our planet, and in the process giving people another way to incorporate sustainability into their lives.”

I spoke with Flaim by phone, a few days before the OneTwine launch announcement.

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Stopping Keystone XL: The Message is Getting Through

3p Contributor | Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 | 5 Comments

6222453924_7492197980_zBy Tom Steyer

This past Friday, we received the welcome news from the State Department that the review period for the Keystone XL pipeline would be extended – a decision that offers both an opportunity and an acknowledgment.

First and foremost, it’s an opportunity for the State Department to address the inherent flaws in its environmental review by looking at Keystone XL through a simple prism: Is the pipeline truly in America’s national interest?

The answer is equally simple: No.

From extraction to refining, tar sands crude is more dangerous and dirtier than conventional oil. Most troublingly, it is a dangerous step toward unlocking the Alberta tar sands and allowing Big Oil to maximize it’s extraction of some of the world’s dirtiest oil – with serious consequences for our climate. Apart from the environmental risks, we still have no guarantee from TransCanada that the refined oil would remain in the United States – or contribute to American energy independence in any way.

Despite the fear mongering, misinformation and attack ads designed to scare Americans into believing Keystone XL is in this country’s best interest, the State Department’s decision to extend the review process acknowledges the truth of the matter: Americans deserve to know exactly how the Keystone XL pipeline will impact our lives and our communities.

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SolarCoin: Scaling Up Sunshine-Powered Money

3p Contributor | Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series on electricity-backed currency. In case you missed it, you can read the intro post here and the second installment here

By Sam Bliss

SolarCoin-accepted-here3Dozens of new digital currencies are jockeying for a spot on the swell of popularity that Bitcoin is riding — and arguably created. Currency trading market lists well over 100 ‘altcoins,’ with new types of online money popping up nearly every week.

But very few have caught on. Most of these currencies – StoopidCoin, GamersCoin, DigiByte, GermanyCoin, and more — are worth mere fractions of a U.S. cent.

You see, any currency has value — but only if a large community uses and accepts it as payment. For SolarCoin, the new digital currency designed to promote solar electricity production, this need to scale-up is the primary barrier to gaining value as a form of money.

In other words, if SolarCoins are going to be able to buy goods and services, then the currency must become popular.

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From Singapore to Argentina, Cities Get Serious About Local Food

GreenFutures | Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Hydroponik chiliesBy Anna Simpson

Unlike its neighbors, Singapore does not consider itself an agricultural nation. Rightly so – for now, at least. Whereas Malaysia is self-sufficient in poultry, pork and eggs, cultivates fruit such as mango and papaya for domestic consumption, and exports cocoa, cereals and flour – Singapore depends on imports for 90 percent of its food. Too many people and not enough land has long been the situation, but are perceptions of what’s possible within limited resources about to change?

Michael Doherty thinks so. He’s the founder of a U.S.-based company called Bitponics that aims to simplify local growing, using sensors to measure pH levels, nutrients, temperature and humidity. In 2013 he came to Singapore for a residency with the Art-Science Museum, exploring local responses to ‘aquaponics’ – a closed-loop system to grow edible plants in nutrient-rich water. (The detritus in the water is eaten by little fish, whose excrement in turn nourishes the plants.) Doherty focused on the aesthetics of the system, looking to improve its cultural fit by working with local artisans and materials.

Since then, he’s been working with the startup Homegrw to turn the concept into a local reality – and it’s taking root. By the time Chinese New Year came around, the startup had rice and red fruit at the ready, grown at the People’s Park Complex in Chinatown. “Didn’t we say these systems produced culturally relevant food?” – the team boasted to hundreds of fans on Facebook.

The challenge, for Doherty, is familiarity. “There is a huge disconnection between food and how it is produced. I’ve worked with many students here. When they plant a seed and see it grow, and then in a few weeks have a head of lettuce, it’s like magic to them…”

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Colgate-Palmolive Commits to Recyclable Packaging

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

colgateColgate-Palmolive recently committed to making 100 percent of its packaging fully recyclable for three out of four product categories by 2020. The three categories set to go recyclable are home, pet and personal care. Colgate has also committed to developing a completely recyclable toothpaste tube or package. In addition, the company agreed to increase the average recycled content of its packaging from 40 percent to 50 percent, and reduce or eliminate the use of PVC — a hard-to-recycle resin — in packaging.

As You Sow (AYS)  filed a shareholder resolution with Colgate in 2012, asking the company to explore the feasibility of adopting an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) strategy for post-consumer packaging. For those who aren’t familiar, an EPR is a corporate and public policy that shifts responsibility for collecting and recycling from consumers and governments to producers. Canada and several European countries require companies to be responsible for post-consumer packaging by paying some or all of the cots for collection and recycling. Here in the U.S., 24 states have EPR laws on the books that mandate producer responsibility for collecting and recycling consumer electronics.

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