3p Contributor: Akhila Vijayaraghavan

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

Recent Articles

GE Captures Landfill-Bound Fridge Insulation for Reuse

| Wednesday September 19th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Recycling of larger appliances does pose a problem not simply because they are cumbersome to transport. Machines like refrigerators, air conditioners, freezers contain hazardous substances and potent greenhouse gas emissions, which can contaminate the environment. Breaking these machines down safely at the end of their useful life is a challenge for many recyclers.

That means it’s also a problem for those companies that want to provide an end-of-life recycling option to their customers. That’s why GE is working towards a comprehensive recycling policy for their appliances.

The company announced its partnership with Appliance Recycling Centers of America (ARCA) last year, and has helped to support North America’s only UNTHA Recycling Technology (URT) System. The URT system does away with manual or semi-automatic disassembly of appliances. It is a 40-foot tall machine designed to process large appliances like refrigerators and reducing them to smaller components. The machine can recover around 95 percent of the foam insulation from appliances like refrigerators or freezers. The foam can be reused in new products – saving forward-thinking companies money on raw materials.

In the span of a year, according to a GE press release, the company has used this machine to process 100,000 refrigerators and freezers, which has kept out an estimated 5.5 million pounds of material from landfills. 89 percent has been reused for new products and 11 percent has been diverted towards fuel in cement manufacturing.

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Private Sector Plays Important Role in Reviving Dying Carbon Economy

| Tuesday September 18th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Just yesterday I was having a discussion about how the carbon market is ‘dead.’ Today I read that, according to Business Green it is up to the private sector to safe the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) from collapse. 

What is CDM? 
The CDM was developed after the Kyoto Protocol was formed. According to the official UN definition, it allows “a country with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries.” This basically means that industrialized nations can invest in emissions reduction in emerging economies. Such projects create saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which allows companies in richer countries to offset their emissions, thereby still meeting the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol.

Why is the CDM Suffering? 

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SAP Invests in Employee Volunteerism in Emerging Markets

| Friday September 14th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Many companies struggle to get their employees engaged, even in programs as straightforward as volunteering. Some organizations have a policy of allowing employees time off to give back to their communities. These policies strike a good balance of employee engagement and corporate volunteerism. Some (Cisco, Gap and Target, to name a few) pay employees for time taken to volunteer in such programs.

Still other companies like Samsung go a step further, allowing the families of their employees to join in as volunteers for their programs. Some companies commit to an NGOs and make it mandatory for their employees to spend some time volunteering two or three times a year.

Software company SAP has taken a different approach.

The company is working on a different model which involves a ‘paid social sabbatical.’

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Ban Styrofoam? LA Schools & Jamba Juice Say Yes

| Thursday September 13th, 2012 | 2 Comments

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that there has been a major shift in the way school lunches are being served in the district. The Los Angeles Unified School District has begun using recyclable and compostable paper cafeteria trays instead of the styrofoam lunch trays.

The paper reported that two years ago, students at Thomas Starr King Middle School in the Los Feliz area of LA started a campaign that led to last week’s move. The students were moved to activism after their 6th grade class studied the impacts of trash on the environment. They found out that lunch room trays were not being recycled and started bringing their own plastic trays that could be reused. In addition to this, groups of students stood guard by trash cans and reclaimed the trays before they could be trashed. Over a thousand trays that were saved and they were strung up on a tree which got everyone’s attention. Indeed, David Binkle, the district’s deputy food services director looked into the matter of bringing about a radical shift in the policy.

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Cathay Pacific Airlines Bans Shark Fins

| Tuesday September 11th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Walked around Sheung Wan area yesterday, I was surprised to see these fresh shark fins being dried on the sidewalk openly on a busy street just 3 blocks from the nearest MTR exit!

In a welcomed move, Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific recently announced a ban on the transportation of shark fins on their carriers. Although demand for traditional shark fin soup continues to thrive, the airline has taken a proactive move by banning shark fins for moral and sustainability reasons.

The Standard reports that, “Cathay Pacific has decided to stop shipping unsustainably sourced sharks and shark-related products. There is very compelling scientific evidence to support that this is the right thing to do for a company committed to sustainability.”

Although shark fishing is illegal, it still continues and every year, an estimated 30 to 73 million sharks are killed just for their fins. Sharks are an apex species which are extremely important for ocean ecosystems and they are responsible for keeping the ocean healthy. Sharks are severely threatened and many species are highly endangered and in danger of dying out. A  recent Pew Environment Group study found that even species classified as ‘endangered’ are regularly being served in restaurants throughout the United States.

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PUMA Launches First “Sustainable Store” in India

| Monday September 10th, 2012 | 1 Comment

PUMA has been the frontrunner in sustainability innovation for many years now. They have been working towards a toxin-free line of products, compostable clothing and, have been using interesting methods to get consumer base involved with their sustainability efforts. More importantly, they are also the first company to put a financial value on their environmental impact which has put them in a league of their own when it comes to industry best practices.

Ever since PUMA’s clever little bag became the company’s icon a couple of years ago, the retailer has pushed itself. However, it did come as a surprise when it announced the location of its first self-sufficient, sustainable store in Bangalore earlier this month. Bangalore is India’s high-tech city and a growing metropolis with a large expat population. It is, therefore, an ideal place for PUMA to introduce its sustainable store. However, the company’s rationale of launching its first ever fully sustainable store in India is rather baffling on the surface.

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IKEA & UNICEF Partner to Give 74 Million Indian Children Better Lives

| Monday September 10th, 2012 | 0 Comments

The partnership between IKEA and UNICEF has worked towards providing a better live for over 74 million children in India. The partnership was launched with a campaign in the state of Uttar Pradesh to promote children’s welfare. This was expanded to include the state of Andhra Pradesh in 2006, especially targeting the cotton industry to end child labour.

According to CSRwire, in 2008, the partnership expanded to fifteen states with the aim to promote child rights, survival, growth and development. It is estimated that more than 28 million children are engaged in child labour and an estimated 4,700 children under the age of five die every day.

The CEO of the IKEA Foundation has said, “By working together for the past 10 years, and contributing more than €100 million ($125 million US*) to UNICEF projects in India so far, we have created opportunities for more than 74 million children. By thinking long-term and teaming up with UNICEF, we’re giving hope to many millions of families.”

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The Social Responsibility of Business is Natural Resource Protection

| Friday September 7th, 2012 | 4 Comments

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ve asked our writers (and guests) to respond to the question” What is the Social Responsibility of Business?”  Please comment away or contact us if you’d like to offer an opinion.

One cannot write about the ‘social responsibility of business’ without mentioning Milton Friedman who stated in 1970 that, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.”

This view is now considered to be outdated and conservative as more and more businesses are finding their value outside of simply making a profit.

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Belgium-Based Ecover Acquires Method to Create Largest Green Cleaning Company

| Thursday September 6th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Belgium-based company Ecover, manufacturer of ecologically sound home cleaning products, has recently acquired San Francisco-based cleaning product company Method. This tie-up has created the world’s largest green cleaning company with a collective sales of more than $US200m (£126m) and 300 staff. 

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Merck Donates Cervical Cancer Vaccine to Uganda

| Thursday September 6th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Global healthcare leader, Merck, has recently partnered with the Republic of Uganda to distribute free vaccines for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer, affecting up to 3,500 women in Uganda and is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which is transmitted through sexual contact.

For most people the virus clears up on its own, but for some it can cause vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and anal cancer and genital warts in men and women. Since there is no way to predict who will clear or not clear the virus, the vaccine is a very efficient way to cut down incidences of cervical cancer.  

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Tom’s of Maine Partners with TerraCycle to Launch New Recycling Initiative

| Thursday September 6th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Tom’s of Maine has partnered with TerraCycle to launch a recycling initiative to give a second life to product packaging with the launch of the Tom’s of Maine Natural Care Brigade.  Tom’s of Maine is a leader in natural oral and personal care products and TerraCycle is a recycling and upcycling pioneer.

The free collection program enables consumers to keep packaging from Tom’s of Maine products and other brands out of landfills. To celebrate the launch, the company has announced the TOM’s Less in Landfills Sweepstakes, through which Brigade participants can earn $1,000 for the non-profit or school of their choice. 

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Whole Foods Demonstrates the True Value of Waste Cooking Oil

| Wednesday September 5th, 2012 | 1 Comment

Up until a few years ago, cooking grease had virtually no value but now it goes for 38 cents a pound. Rising gas prices have even made restaurant grease very attractive to thieves. There has been several cases over the past few years where people have been busted from stealing grease to make their own biofuel.

One company however, has figured out a way to recycle cooking grease back into its own operations, thereby eliminating the need for external disposal all together. Sustainable Business reports that the Massachusetts kitchen that prepares food for 62 Whole Foods stores in the North Atlantic region uses it own old cooking oil to generate virtually all of its electricity.

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Global Food Companies Desperately Require Supply Chain Upgrades

| Wednesday August 29th, 2012 | 0 Comments

According to Environmental Leader, there needs to be a sharp focus on the way that food companies manage their supply chains. According to Verdantix, an independent analyst firm, which benchmarked the sustainable supply chain strategies of the 12 largest global food firms, only four make the cut. Their report  Sustainable Supply Chain Benchmark: Food Sector states that only Danone, Heinz, PepsiCo, and Unilever have invested in wide-ranging codes of conduct to guide their suppliers’ environmental performance. 

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Space Exploration Has Put More Focus on Earth

| Tuesday August 28th, 2012 | 1 Comment

The last couple of days have been abuzz with the announcement of Neil Armstrong’s death. The obituaries and remembrances of Apollo 11’s iconic mission have flooded the media. That glorious mission that landed three men on the moon on July 20th 1969, which was thought impossible by many, was a fantastic success.

The achievement of the crew was relayed via television and its footage held the whole world spellbound. Back on Earth, they were treated like heroes, and the possibilities of what humankind can achieve triggered off the imaginations of generations to come. 

However one of the things that is often overlooked is that the moon landings also put a sharp focus on Earth. All of space exploration has led to more knowledge about the cosmos but also the innate frailty of our planet.

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Obama’s Plan For Improved Gas Mileage is Delayed

| Monday August 27th, 2012 | 3 Comments

Environmental Leader reports that the new U.S. gas mileage standards for cars was supposed to be released on August 15th, but it has been delayed. The final rule will make it mandatory for car manufacturers to raise the average fuel economy of cars and light-duty trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo — which together account for more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States — as well as the United Auto Workers and the state of California, all signed onto this agreement.

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