With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
According to the nonprofit B Lab, “B Corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.”
We at Triple Pundit received our B Corporation status last month — joining more than 950 other forward-thinking companies across all industries that are are well known for their positive impacts on both people and planet.
Now, we want to hear from you. What’s your favorite B Corp? Tell us about it on social media for a chance to win a $100 gift card to Indigenous.
“I would buy more sustainable clothing, but…” Sound familiar? Even in the middle of the green bubble that is San Francisco, we at TriplePundit hear this phrase all too often, usually followed by a series of hurdles including accessibility, price, information and lack of variety in clothing styles.
Over the past two months, TriplePundit’s sustainable fashion media channel has uncovered emerging solutions to each of these obstacles. While we’re encouraged to see that large mainstream brands are at last moving in a more responsible direction, it has been the smaller pioneers who have conceived of the products and models that are revolutionizing the industry.
Companies like NAU, Threads4Thought and Patagonia offer diverse product lines appealing to a variety of consumer preferences. Websites such as Modavanti and apps like Orange Harp enable people to make responsible purchasing decisions at the tap of a button or touch screen. Brands like OSMIUM and Appalatch have cracked the nut toward selling clothing made in the USA at reasonable prices. Indigenous’ Fair Trace tool tells the story behind each of its products by connecting the consumer to individual artisans with the simple scan of a QR code.
Unfortunately, most consumers are not yet familiar with these breakthroughs, and so, continue to shop as they always have. At the same time, more consumers every year report that they are willing to shop more responsibly (and even pay a bit more), if given the opportunity. In a world where most closets are filled with the likes of mainstream “fast fashion,” there is a cavernous gap between these reports and actual behavior. This begs the question: What do consumers mean by “opportunity”?
General Mills just issued its 2014 Global Responsibility Report. I received an advanced review copy and spoke with Chief Sustainability Officer Jerry Lynch to get his perspective. The 121-page report is organized into five major sections: Health, Environment, Sourcing, Workplace and Community. These are consistent with the company’s mission of “Nourishing Lives- making lives healthier, easier and richer – for 147 years.”
Triple Pundit:One statement in the introduction really impressed me. “Our business depends on the availability of natural resources and the strength of the communities where we operate.” This neatly sums up the reason why companies should care about and invest in corporate social responsibility and sustainability. It’s the awareness that companies do not exist in a vacuum, and that in fact all of their inputs (raw materials) and outputs (sales) are in constant interaction with ecosystems that are subject to continuous change and are sensitive to factors that they themselves can have a significant impact upon.
Jerry Lynch: Thank you.We take the output of Mother Nature, then add value to it for our consumers. So if the front end of that business model breaks down, we’re in a world of hurt. The focus of our work is to conserve and protect our natural resources and the communities that our business depends on. So it’s really a hard-nose business imperative behind this.
3p:What do you see as your major challenges in achieving this?
JL: We’re looking at increasing demand for food as population grows and more people are moving into the middle class. This is happening at a time when Mother Nature is facing major challenges.
Citi Bike is hitting some bumps in the road as NYC Bike Share, the operating company, struggles to meet revenue targets and deal with ongoing operational snags, according to recent news reports. As the popular New York City bike-share program — which, unlike most programs, does not use public money — approaches its first anniversary, NYC Bikeshare is seeking to raise $20 million through investors and sponsors to smooth out problem areas and eventually expand. But, despite the program’s popularity, new sponsors have reportedly been hesitant to jump on board, concerned that heavy branding from Citibank, the namesake corporate sponsor, on bikes and kiosks would drown out any real marketing opportunity.
So, should Citibank, which — lest we forget — received $476 billion in bailout funds in the wake of the financial crisis, bail out the fledgling bike-share program in a good-faith CSR gesture? Or should NYC Bike Share shoulder the blame for poor management and revenue planning?
Climate change is making the news for a number of reasons, including Showtime’s new series called “Years of Living Dangerously.” The rise in greenhouse gas emissions is responsible for climate change, and the majority of scientists agree that most of the increase is caused by human activity.
That said, there is a bit of good news when it comes to U.S. GHG emissions. The Los Angeles Times reports that greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. decreased by 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012. The report is based on the EPA’s recently released inventory, which cites “multiple factors” for the decrease in emissions — including reduced emissions from electricity generation, fuel efficiency in vehicles, a decrease in the price of natural gas and reductions in miles traveled. Greenhouse gases in 2012, according to the inventory, were 10 percent below 2005 levels. Since 1990, U.S. emissions have increased at an average annual rate of 0.2 percent.
Toddlers and preschoolers exchanging toys through the sharing economy – no, it’s not a scene from Portlandia’s recent sketch spoofing collaborative consumption, but the idea behind a startup that rents out Lego sets to kids and other fans of the iconic plastic bricks.
Billed as a “Netflix for Legos,” Pley ships its members a new-to-them Lego set, lets them play with it as long they like and sends customers another set once the previous toys are returned. The company offers a 15-day free trial and has three subscription plans that include all shipping costs: $15 per month to rent out small Lego sets, $25 a month for medium-sized sets and $39 a month for the largest sets.
There have been countless keynote sessions and workshops that have piqued my interest at the Annual Social Enterprise Alliance Summit, but one in particular that I would like to share is from a personal interview I had with Eric Weinheimer after the “State Of The Art on Employment Social Enterprises” session.
During the session Eric had mentioned “the thing no one is talking about” in regards to social enterprise and the strain it can put on your infrastructure if you are not adequately prepared. He drew the comparison of The Little Rascals and how often, when confronted with a troubling situation, the group would say, “Let’s put on a show!” This is similar to how some people view social enterprise. When you feel the pressure of X, Y or Z in your business or industry your instinct may switch to “Let’s become a social enterprise!”
It can seem like a quick fix to a problem. But when you do not have the necessary resources to support your goal then ultimately you end up with an unstable and unsustainable business.
Women are making leaps and bounds in the business world. Whether they are benefitting their employers by sales forecasting, overcoming roadblocks in volunteerism or leading their organizations to greatness as CEOs, they are finally being recognized by companies nationwide. Here are three examples of businesses that are honoring their female employees for all that they do.
1. Anita Borg Institute
ABI (the Anita Borg Institute) awarded Bank of America the Top Company in 2014 for Women in Computing. ABI is a nonprofit organization which has dedicated itself to inspiring, guiding and connecting women in technologically innovative organizations. They chose Bank of America as this year’s winner for their Computing ABIE Award, which will be presented on May 8th at the annual Women of Vision Awards Banquet in Santa Clara, Calif, because of its representation of women among its team of technological experts (and with only a 3 percent turnover rate). Bank of America’s Global Technology & Operations Executive Cathy Bessant says that the company is developing women to be great technologists as well as great leaders, and although they have made great progress there is still much to be done.
It’s time for another Stories and Beer Fireside Chat on Thursday, April 17 at 6:30pm Pacific (9:30 Eastern) at the Impact HUB San Francisco – and online via web cam.
Please join us in person at Impact HUB SF – or online – for our latest “Stories & Beer Fireside Chat” on Thursday, April 17th at 6:30pm when TriplePundit’s Founder, Nick Aster, will be chatting with Damien Fagan and Jesse Friedman of Almanac Brewery.
In this chat, we’ll talk with beer entrepreneurs whose farm-to-bottle practices aim to revolutionize the big environmental impacts within the industry. Damien & Jesse will share their entrepreneurial stories about what it’s like to compete with the big boys. The chat will be valuable to anyone interested engaged in changing an industry, or just interested in enjoying a responsibly produced beer.
Video will start about 7pm pacific, but don’t worry you can watch any time after that:
In an increasingly urbanized, technologically complex and consumption-driven society, it’s easy to lose sight of the advantages and benefits to be realized, as well as our fundamental reliance on, ecosystems and the services they provide.
Yet even as our preoccupation with jobs, economic growth and development has continued to intensify, we’ve been gaining greater understanding, and appreciation, of the value of ecosystems and ecosystem services — not just in terms of environmental health and safety, but for their economic and broader social value as well.
On April 9, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Oxfam America released, “The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems,” a report that highlights the remarkable economic value and benefits realized by coastal ecosystem restoration projects carried out right here in the U.S.
What method of electricity generation is cheaper than solar, wind, oil or even coal? Trick question; it’s energy you don’t need to produce in the first place. Energy efficiency programs aimed at reducing energy waste cost utilities only about 3 cents per kilowatt hour, while generating the same amount of electricity from sources such as fossil fuels can cost two to three times more, according to a new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
The report, “The Best Value for America’s Energy Dollar: A National Review of the Cost of Utility Energy Efficiency Programs,” looks at the cost of running efficiency programs in 20 states from 2009 to 2012 and finds an average cost of 2.8 cents per kWh — about one-half to one-third the cost of alternative new electricity resource options. The report analyzes energy efficiency costs from states across the country, including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.
“Why build more expensive power plants when efficiency gives you more bang for your buck?” said Maggie Molina, utilities, state and local program director for ACEEE and author of the report. “Investing in energy efficiency helps utilities and ratepayers avoid the expense of building new power plants and the harmful pollution that plants emit.”
There are many criticisms leveled at Walmart, one of the world’s largest retailers. However, Walmart is fast becoming a leader in corporate sustainability. The retailer’s latest announcement is one good example. Walmart recently announced that it will buy LED ceiling lighting fixtures for new supercenters in the U.S., stores in Asia and Latin America, and Asda locations in the U.K. This is the company’s largest purchase of LED lighting.
LED fixtures will use 40 percent less energy and help the company reach its goal to reduce the kilowatt hours (kWh) per square foot of energy required to power its buildings by 20 percent globally by 2020. The installation of the LED ceiling fixtures will begin at Asda, Walmart’s stores in the U.K. A total of 200 new Walmart stores will install the LED fixtures over the next two years.
Sales floor lighting accounts for about 90 percent of the total lighting usage in each building. Switching to LED fixtures will reduce energy use by more than 5 percent per store in the U.S. alone and will save an expected 340,000 kWh per store. That equals $34,000 in savings per year in each store — or removing 327,360 metric tons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere. The LED fixtures are expected to save a total of 620 million kWh over the next 10 years.
It’s something of an open secret that America isn’t quite a representative democracy. Sure, we have the trappings of a democratic government — an elected legislative branch; (partially) elected Presidents; an (ostensibly) independent judiciary — and perhaps our system did, long ago, hew a bit closer to the Platonic ideal of our founders, but we have since lost our way.
Fortunately, there has recently been an awakening to this issue in the media. In the wake of the Great Recession and the various Occupy movements — and the realization that nothing has fundamentally changed and nobody meaningful prosecuted as a result of the revelations about how government policies and financial fraudsters aided and abetted the most epic economic collapse since the 1930s — more and more attention has been paid to the relative power of the “1 percent” and the growing scourge of income inequality on our “great experiment.”
Most recently comes a study from political science professors at Princeton and Northwestern, concluding that America is, as the incomparable Hamilton Nolanput it, actually more like an oligarchy. The authors of the study, Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern professor Benjamin Page, put the conclusion in even more chilling terms: “[E]conomic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”
In other words, it is corporations and wealthy individuals — not unions, public interest organizations or regular humans — who control the levers of power in America.
Editor’s Note: This is the second post in a three-part series featuring Tech Networks of Boston. In case you missed it, you can read the first post in the series here.
Susan Labandibar, President and CEO of Tech Networks of Boston
In part one of this series, we described how this small, Boston-based professional information services company has built sustainability into its strategy from its inception in 1994 with a commitment to making its own operations as resource-efficient as possible.
Founder and CEO Susan Labandibar understood that engaging her employees in the company’s sustainability strategy would be critical. From the beginning, she has adopted a hiring process that ensures staff additions share her passion for maximizing human and environmental resources, and maintained a commitment to building a culture that maximizes the value generated by its human assets. “This commitment is a key element of a genuinely sustainable business strategy,” Labandibar stated.
However, the obvious benefits of this type of strategy are frequently overlooked or even ignored. Supported employees who feel that they are fairly treated, enjoy their work environment, and appreciate what the firm stands for in its approach to customers, the community in which it works and the natural environment are more productive in their work and remain with the firm over a longer period.
Employee retention is significant in financial terms. The cost of finding, hiring and training professional staff is estimated by human resource management firms to be 1.5 times the base salary of an employee. This measure does not include the lost productivity or the negative impact on clientele due to staffing shortages.
Large retail chains are no longer putting sustainability on the back burner. Within the last five years, big brands have been pursuing bold moves to stake their claim in complying with growing customer demand for quality products with a socially driven or environmentally sustainable mission attached.
Such is the case for brand giant Whole Foods that in 2012, introduced an ingredient certification process for all of the personal care products it sells. Walmart is equally pushing the sustainability needle on its offerings, having recently made headlines for its latest venture to offer cheap, organic food products across 4,000 stores.
Following suit is retail giant Target, which recently unveiled its latest move toward expanding sustainable, organic and natural product offerings. Housed under its “Made to Matter—handpicked by Target” program, 120 new organic or natural health, wellness, grocery and beauty products will roll out to all of Target’s 1,754 stores over the next several months. The collection promises to make it easier to find products made with simple, recognizable ingredients with unbeatable prices.
San Diego: Apr 24 – Apr 27 Social Venture Network Spring Conference SVN conferences convene and connect influential, innovative business leaders, impact investors and cultural entrepreneurs to create an experience where attendees can share the ideas and resources they need to succeed and grow. Register here.
New York: May 13 – May 14 Shared Value Leadership Summit For business leaders and problem solvers who see exciting market opportunities at the intersection of business goals and societal challenges, the Shared Value Initiative is the leading community shaping research, partnerships, and practices. Register here.
Southern California: May 19 – May 21 Fortune Brainstorm Green As the premier conference on business, sustainability, and green investing, Brainstorm GREEN delivers fresh thinking, actionable solutions, and unparalleled opportunities to build top-level relationships. Register here.
London: May 20 – May 22 2014 Global Sustainability Standards Conference Listen to progressive companies and governments and leaders from Fairtrade, Forest Stewardship Council, Marine Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance, and other influential certifications discuss what brings the whole standards movement together: Trust. Register here.
San Diego: Jun 2 – Jun 5 Sustainable Brands 2014 Discover what happens when brand strategists & designers connect with sustainability teams to drive innovation. 20% discount with code NW3pSB14sd. Register here.
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