Shrink the Solar Power Inverter and Google Will Pay You $1 Million

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday July 28th, 2014 | 9 Comments

LITTLE_BOX_POWER_INVERTER_GOOGLE_2What’s the size of a clunky ice cooler and essential to that off-grid lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of? If you guessed a solar power inverter, then you may be just the techie Google is hoping to hear from. At a time when computers can fit in the palm of your hand and miniaturized pacemakers can be less than 42 millimeters in size and less than 2 cubic centimeters in volume, it may seem surprising that we’re still dealing with solar inverters that can be as big as your grandmother’s knitting chest.

Google’s Green Team has come up with an ingenious answer: Offer what every hobby industrialist has always wanted – $1 million for the guy or gal that can come up with a way to shrink the technology.

For those who are unacquainted with power inverters, it’s that essential piece of equipment that allows us to actually utilize the power we gain through the solar panels or wind turbines. It converts the direct current (DC) that’s stored from say, a solar array, to the alternating current (AC) we use to power appliances.

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A Proud Day To Be A Hockey Fan: NHL Releases First Sustainability Report

Michael Kourabas
| Monday July 28th, 2014 | 1 Comment

2552191337_240b64d637_zGrowing up as a hockey-obsessed kid in a small New York suburb, there was no single event to which I looked forward more than The Day the Lake Froze Over.

For most of my hockey-playing years, I had the great fortune of living across the street from a large lake (Lake Mahopac), and a short drive from a smaller pond (Teakettle Spout), the latter of which attracted a disproportionate amount of pickup hockey talent.  I still remember rushing out the front door on Saturday mornings to check the integrity of the ice — “Solid enough to skate on?” — or waiting for the inevitable phone call imploring me to get down to Teakettle because a game about to get underway.  None of us who gathered on those lakes and ponds took for granted the free ice-time we were afforded, but I don’t think any of us considered that these opportunities might, some day, disappear.

This same spirit — that of the eager kid entertaining his or her professional hockey playing fantasies on the local lake or pond — animates much of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) first Sustainability Report, which was released last week.  The NHL’s report is the first of its kind in major professional sports, and its scope and ambition are impressive.  Hopefully, the work the NHL did on its inaugural report will set the tone for the rest of professional sports and encourage the other major leagues — the MLB, NBA and NFL — to follow-suit.

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Profitability, Customer Experience Not Correlated with CSR Performance

3p Contributor | Monday July 28th, 2014 | 1 Comment

closeup of handshakeBy Chi-Pong Wong

We have seen recent report cards on corporate social responsibility (CSR) with remarkable results from institutions like Tata, Morgan Stanley and Infosys. The question is: Have these and many other CSR maneuvers made notable global impacts?

Well, not quite. By examining the CSR scores of those multinational companies that are top rated in customer experience (CX) or annual profit respectively, one would find that their overall CSR achievements are far from ideal. And from a different angle, flag-waving CSR winners did not capture sizable market shares to make a difference.

This study demonstrates that institutions renowned in CX or net earnings are not necessarily rated highly on their CSR activities – contrary to what many believe.

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Alabama-Mississippi Waterway Upgrade Offers Clues to Energy Efficient Future

| Monday July 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Tenn Tom Waterway energy efficiency improvements

If you’re not familiar with Tenn-Tom now, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot more about it in the future. Tenn-Tom is the Tennessee-Tombigee Waterway, a huge public infrastructure project with a history that dates back to the earliest explorations of the North American continent in the 1500s. After literally centuries of dreaming, Tenn-Tom finally became a reality in 1984.

Built and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the 30-year-old Tenn-Tom is now due for an upgrade. USACE is using the opportunity to showcase a new, energy efficient approach to infrastructure improvements. If your business is contemplating an infrastructure upgrade, this is a good one to watch for best practices insights.

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Harnessing the Benefits of Employee Volunteerism at Mid-Size Companies

3p Contributor | Monday July 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Outerwall Image 4By Jackie Norris and Nicole Trimble

Over the last decade we’ve seen a steady increase in corporate volunteer programs in the U.S. Since the global recession, in particular, companies of all sizes – from startups to the Fortune 500 ranks – have embraced employee volunteerism as a fiscally responsible way to supplement and expand on their existing community giving initiatives. But it appears mid-size businesses may not be harnessing the full potential of volunteer programs and are overlooking the wide range of benefits they can provide.

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Financing Conservation Through Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES)

3p Contributor | Monday July 28th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on CityMinded.org.

thumbBy Meghna Tare

Rising opportunity costs and population growth are resulting in land use change and declines in critical ecosystem services. The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment found that 60 percent of the Earth’s ecosystem services are being depleted at a very rapid rate.

Biodiversity and ecosystems provide invaluable services and products to the society. These include food, water, and protection from erosion, recreational services, medicinal products, and climate regulation. Despite this significant economic, social, and cultural value of biodiversity and the associated ecosystem services, biodiversity is lost at a rapid rate. The need for policies that promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services is more important than ever.  World Resource Institute (WRI) estimates the value of ecosystem services to be US$33 trillion a year, nearly twice the value of the global gross national product (GNP) of US$18 trillion.

Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) are agreements whereby a user of an ecosystem service makes a payment to an individual or communities whose practices like land use or deforestation directly affects the use of that ecosystem services.  Ecosystem beneficiaries include downstream hydroelectric utilities that use clean water for their day-to-day operations. Payment for such management practices reduces soil erosion. Soil erosion and sediment buildup have negative effects that impact the efficiency of dams and the cost of energy. Interest in PES has been rapidly increasing over the past few years and according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) these projects channel over $6.53 billion annually. Over 300 PES projects are implemented in countries like India, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Australia. These schemes flourish wherever private companies, public-sector agencies, and non profit organizations like Conservation International (CI) have joined hands in addressing various environmental issues.

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Pact Apparel Launches Fair Trade Certified Line

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday July 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

PACT apparel teePact Apparel, which brand itself as an “ethical and organic apparel basics brand,” announced it is releasing an organic cotton Fair Trade certified line.

The line contains 78 different products with 19 different styles, including baby clothes. For grown-ups, the line features basics like underwear, leggings, camisoles, T-shirts and long johns. In May, Pact launched a Fair Trade certified women’s T-shirt sold exclusively at Whole Foods. This new line will be sold at retailers across the U.S. including Whole Foods and Amazon.

The Fair Trade certified line is produced in a factory in India. For every purchase of a Fair Trade certified garment, Pact will donate a percentage of the sales to a worker-controlled fund. The workers will vote on how to spend the funds which include a disaster relief fund for factory workers, a scholarship fund for workers’ children, infrastructure improvements in their local communities, or a cash bonus.

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3p Weekend: 11 Companies That Hire the Formerly Incarcerated

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday July 25th, 2014 | 10 Comments
Isidore Electronics Recycling provides job opportunities for previously incarcerated Los Angeles residents while finding a new home for e-waste.

Isidore Electronics Recycling provides job opportunities for previously incarcerated Los Angeles residents while finding a new home for e-waste.

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.

It’s no secret that finding a job after being released from prison is an often insurmountable task, leading to skyrocketing recidivism rates across the country. While many companies are hesitant to hire the formerly incarcerated, a number of enterprises are taking a chance on these men and women — and, in turn, giving them a second chance at life.

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Follow Up: Twitter Chat with Mars, Inc. – #MarsSusty

Marissa Rosen
| Friday July 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

mars-twitter

In keeping with its commitment to transparency and stakeholder engagement, on July 24, 2014, Mars, Incorporated held a live Twitter chat in collaboration with Aman Singh and TriplePundit to offer an in-depth discussion about sustainability at the food manufacturer.

Mars, Inc. published its fourth annual Principles in Action Summary this month, which details the company’s approach to business, its progress, and the shared challenges facing both its business and society.  The Principles in Action Summary underscores its commitment to put Mars’ Five Principles into action to make a difference to people and the planet through its performance.  Mars remains a private, family-owned business dedicated to the objective first expressed by Forrest E. Mars, Sr. in 1947 – to create a mutuality of benefits for all its stakeholders through its operations.

The Summary outlines the particular challenges and accomplishments associated with manufacturing food across a number of global iconic brands such as M&M’S, Snickers, Pedigree, Wrigley’s EXTRA, Uncle Ben’s, Whiskas and more.

In partnership with TriplePundit, Mars discussed via Twitter chat how it, as one of the world’s leading food manufacturers with more than 130 manufacturing sites, handles sustainability. Attendees learned about the company’s biggest goals, challenges and accomplishments in meeting milestones and plans for the years to come.

In case you missed it, here’s the Storify summary of the conversation along with additional follow up on questions that we couldn’t get to in time! 

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One Year On: Bangladesh Worker Safety Alliance Charts Progress

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday July 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

bangladesh garment workerBangladesh’s Rana Plaza building collapse and the deaths of more than 1,100 workers in April 2013 triggered calls for better conditions in the garment industry. From that singular event, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety was created to drive improvements, but a year later and despite some real progress, there is still much more to do.

Reversing decades of sweatshop conditions suddenly exposed by the building collapse will take time and a lot of money. Work to bring Bangladeshi factories used by North American retailers up to acceptable fire and building safety standards will cost more than $100 million and take at least 18 months to complete, according to the alliance’s first annual report released this week.

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White House Launches $10 Billion Rural Infrastructure Fund

| Friday July 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

rual_council_meeting With a $10 billion inaugural commitment from national cooperative bank and Farm Credit System member CoBank, the White House Rural Council on July 24 launched the Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund. The private investment fund aims to spur good job creation across rural America by investing in infrastructure and institutional development projects.

Illustrating the symbiosis inherent in public-private partnerships, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies will help identify promising rural development projects for the fund manager, Capital Peak Asset Management. Capitol Peak, in turn, will work on recruiting additional fund participants and raising investment capital.

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New Ethical Shopping App features CSRHub Sustainability Ratings

CSRHUB | Friday July 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment

The following is part of a series by our friends at CSRHub (a 3p sponsor) – offering free sustainability and corporate social responsibility ratings on over 8,900 of the world’s largest publicly traded and private companies. 3p readers get 15 percent off CSRHub’s professional subscriptions with promo code “TP15.″

As previously seen on the CSRHub blog.

Ethical Barcode app powered by CSRHub API We are excited to announce Ethical Barcode has released a new app that lets you uncover what you’re truly supporting when you shop. Scan barcodes quickly at the grocery store, and make an empowered, ethical decision on what to buy. Ethical Barcode is using the newly updated CSRHub Specification for REST Access (CSRA) API to power CSRHub ratings into the app. Use Ethical Barcode to empower your next trip to the grocery store and instantly find out which companies really share your values on child labor, animal testing, deforestation and other ethical issues.

The app is already receiving some great reviews at the Google Play store:

“Just what I needed! It’s now convenient to shop cruelty free. I’m so excited!” – KGV

“This app lets you know how sustainable a product is just by scanning the barcode. It is great helping you do your part to protect our planet!” – P Hader

Learn more at ethicalbarcode.com/  and download for Android or Apple today.

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The A to Z of Unusual Renewable Energy Sources

3p Contributor | Friday July 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment

windfarmsunset By Hannah Corbett

The use of renewable and sustainable energy sources is growing worldwide. Subsequently, new technologies for sustainable energy are ever-emerging, and some are rather unusual. Outside of the more commonplace solar, tidal and wind energy sources, researchers have uncovered some uncommon ways of producing and harnessing renewable energy, and decreasing worldwide dependency on fossil fuels.

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Ashoka’s Vision to Develop an International Age of Social Entrepreneurship

3p Contributor | Friday July 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Nathan Edwards

The ashoka tree has been the symbol of Ashoka since its inauguration in 1980. (Image by Nathan Edwards)

The ashoka tree has been the symbol of Ashoka since its inauguration in 1980. (Image by Nathan Edwards)

The world of international development has been regularly challenged by growing social issues. The need has emerged for institutions other than the government to address many of these matters. Ashoka is one non-government organization that has taken the reins.

Ashoka houses a peer network of social entrepreneurs who work to create systematic change to global issues by means of public policy. The organization has brought together thought leaders from both the private and public sector who share a vision for a future where everyone has the ability to ignite change.

The international non-government organization was founded by Bill Drayton in 1980 in India. It has since expanded around the world with a network of 3,000 fellows present in 70 countries and a headquarters in Washington, D.C. I am privileged to be working as an intern in the Ashoka Brasil office located in São Paulo this summer.

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Sustainable Purchasing 101: Tools for Buying Greener Products

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

commercial office space By Scot Case

Sustainable purchasing is an effort to buy greener, healthier, and more sustainable products from greener, more sustainable companies. It is based on the simple concept that every single purchase has hidden human health, environmental, and social impacts and that it is possible to reduce adverse impacts by buying better products.

The hidden impacts occur throughout a product’s supply chain: from the point raw materials are scraped out of or harvested from the earth, to the preparation of the raw materials, the manufacturing processes, the packaging, use and ultimate disposal of the product, including all of the transportation requirements throughout the lifecycle. The cumulative total of the impacts defines the product’s sustainability footprint.

Sustainable purchasing means buying products with improved sustainability footprints that also meet price, performance and quality requirements.

Consumer tools

At the consumer level, sustainable purchasing involves shopping for products with specific environmental or social benefits, particularly those products that have been certified to environmental leadership standards.
Some of the environmental attributes of most interest to consumers include recycled-content, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, biodegradability and safer materials.

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