TODAY – Twitter Chat: General Mills with TriplePundit and CSRwire

Marissa Rosen
| Wednesday April 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

GenMillsSusty

Join #GenMillsSusty on Apr. 23, 2014 at 12pm PST.

How can food companies source their ingredients most sustainably – and protect the resources and communities upon which their businesses depend?

On April 16th, General Mills marked its 44th anniversary with the release of its 2014 CSR report – voluntarily disclosing progress on its social and environmental goals – including sustainably sourcing 100 percent of its 10 priority ingredients by 2020. That represents more than 50 percent of the company’s annual raw material purchases and includes oats, wheat, dairy, palm oil, cocoa and vanilla, among others.

The challenge ahead is significant. From finding the right partners to improving farmers’ profitability and the sustainability of their farming techniques, General Mills will need to not only focus on immediate social and environmental impact but also on sustaining its business for the long-term?

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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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Seafood and Impact Investment: Where the Money is Needed and Why It’s Not Flowing

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 | 2 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 AllCrypt.com 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
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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Procter & Gamble Provides 7 Billion Liters of Safe Drinking Water Around the World

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

drinkingwaterUnsafe drinking water causes all sorts of problems. Eighty-eight percent of diarrhea cases globally are linked to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene. Diarrheal disease kills 1.5 million people a year, mostly young children.

More than 1 billion people globally lack safe drinking water and over 1,600 children die every day from waterborne illnesses, which is more than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. Procter and Gamble (P&G) would like to ensure everyone has access to safe drinking water. The global giant’s nonprofit Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program (CSDW) recently provided its 7 billionth liter of clean drinking water to a family of four in Brazil — the nonprofit’s newest location and the largest country of operation in South America. Like many in the region, the only water source for the family is a contaminated river, and it represents one of almost 5,000 households the program will reach in the Brazilian state of Mias Gerais.

CSDW is part of P&G’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment to save one life every hour by the year 2020. The program has worked with over 140 partners since it began in 2004, and the 7 billion liters of water it has provided since its inception is equivalent to a liter of clean water for every person on the planet. That amount of clean water has prevented almost 300 million days of diarrheal illness and helped to save over 39,000 lives.

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Twitter Chat Recap: Can Corporate Sustainability & Economic Growth Coexist?

| Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

tweet-jam-sap

What does it mean for a technology company to lead with sustainability? How can technology companies leverage their expertise and scale to make exponential social and environmental impact? Moreover, how do you sustain your impact while growing your business?

Last week,  CSRwire’s Aman Singh and I convened a twitter chat with with SAP’s @PeterGGraf, BSR’s @AronCramer, CDP’s @TopNigel. We discussed the intricacies of pursuing sustainability alongside business growth and social prosperity.  It was one of our widest reaching twitter chats yet with 232 contributors, 1,388 tweets & over 9 million impressions.  [PDF with full stats here]

Didn’t have a chance to participate? We’ve got the bulk of the chat re-capped below in Storify format. Just take a look after the jump….

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The Link Between Walmart, Food Stamps and CSR

| Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 | 2 Comments

WalmartIn Jacob Kornbluth’s film “Inequality for All,” entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer says: “The most pro-business thing you can do is to help middle-class people thrive.”

I thought about this quote while reading a new report, “How Taxpayers Subsidize America’s Biggest Employer and Richest Family,” published on April 15 (aka Tax Day) by Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of progressive organizations. The report estimates that Walmart workers relying on public assistance programs due to low wages cost American taxpayers $6.2 billion a year.

Another interesting figure presented in the report was that Walmart has captured 18 percent of the SNAP (food stamps program) market. Using that figure, the authors estimate that “the company accounted for $13.5 billion out of $76 billion in food stamp sales in 2013.”

It got me thinking that if a substantial number of Walmart’s employees in the U.S. (1.3 million in total) receive food stamps, then the company actually profits twice from paying low-wages – not only does it reduce its costs, but it also increases its income by receiving food stamps from its employees shopping at Walmart.

But is this really the case? Is Walmart that far away from the vision Nick Hanauer offers in quote? And if so, what does it say about its commitment to corporate responsibility or its “responsibility to lead”?

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3p Interview: A Conversation With an Electric Road Warrior

RP Siegel | Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

barstow 3-31Norman Hajjar is a man with a penchant for travel, adventure and a strong sense of curiosity. Years ago, when he lived in Venice, Italy, he wondered what it would be like to get off the familiar canals and see some of the surrounding area by boat. He wanted to get a feel for what the place was really like. He took 10 days and an old boat to find out, even though he knew next to nothing about boating. What he found was that he spent a great deal of time worrying about when and where he could fill up his gas tank so he wouldn’t end up stranded in some dark lagoon.

Years later, he developed a keen interest in electric vehicles. Having worked on Madison Avenue, he left to start Plug Insights, a research division of electric vehicle software and analytics company Recargo, Inc. Now he spends his days collecting information about these cars and the people that drive them, providing reports to those who are interested.

So it makes sense that he would set out to set a new record with a 12,000+ mile road trip in a Tesla Model S, to get off the beaten track once again and see what it would be like to see America “through the windshield of an EV.” He was wondering what kind of reaction people in remote areas would have to a car like this. Perhaps you could say he has taken it upon himself to go out and survey the boundary between today and tomorrow, to get a feel for how far we’ve come in the transformation of transportation and how far we still have to go.

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Department of the Interior Launches Landscape Mitigation Strategy

| Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

InteriorMitigationStratLaunching a landscape-based mitigation strategy on April 10, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell took a bold step forward in the management and stewardship of U.S. public lands. Harnessing a variety of new tools and taking a holistic, science-driven and collaborative public-private sector approach to public lands management and stewardship, the Department of the Interior’s landscape-scale mitigation strategy aims to reconcile the often conflicting goals of development and conservation.

With the new strategy, the department aims to encourage the dual objectives of smart development and conservation by providing “clarity and consistency to more effectively avoid, minimize and compensate for impacts on public lands.”

As Secretary Jewell explained in a press release: “This strategy outlines the key principles and actions we need to take to successfully shift from a reactive, project-by-project approach to more predictable and effective management of the lands and resources that we manage on behalf of the American public.

“The goal is to provide greater certainty for project developers when it comes to permitting and better outcomes for conservation through more effective and efficient project planning. Through advances in science and technology, advance planning, and collaboration with stakeholders, we know that development and conservation can both benefit – and that’s the win-win this mitigation strategy sets out to achieve.”

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Big Job: More Than 50 Percent of Worker Safety Inspections Complete in Bangladesh

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Bangladesh _8719712845_ef0d805516_zThe Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has completed inspections at more than 50 percent of the nearly 700 factories from which members of the alliance source.

The alliance, formed last year in the wake of the February 2013 garment factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers, has a five-year mission to address garment-worker conditions in Bangladesh. The incident also exposed unconscionable conditions there, including child labor, staff beatings, ignoring fire safety rules and threatening trade union members with murder, recent investigations have revealed.

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Clean Energy Sector In Illinois Continues To Grow, Survey Results Find

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

windturbinesThe results of the first comprehensive survey of Illinois’ clean energy sector found that there are currently 96,875 people employed in the sector throughout the state. That is more than the combined total of people working in real estate or as accountants, and enough to fill Soldier Field in Chicago 1.5 times over. The survey was conducted by BW Research Partnership for Clean Energy Trust in partnership with Environmental Entrepreneurs, The Environmental Law & Policy Center and The Natural Resources Defense Council. An interactive website was created to showcase the survey results.

The Illinois clean energy sector will add its 100,000th worker in 2014, according to projected growth rates. Forty percent of Illinois clean energy businesses surveyed plan to hire more workers in 2014, a pace that equates to a job growth rate of 9 percent. Companies working in renewable energy made up 21 percent of the clean energy businesses in Illinois, while 62 percent of clean energy businesses in the state are mainly focused on energy efficiency, including low energy lighting, heating and cooling controls, and smart grid technology.

Illinois efficiency standards require that utilities reduce electricity demand by 2 percent each year but spend less than 2.015 percent of rates paid by customers on efficiency projects. Illinois is the No. 1 state in the U.S. for green buildings.

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