3p Contributor: Ali Hart

Ali Hart Ali Hart is a media strategist and content producer with a passion for behavior change, collaboration and storytelling. Her background in the Entertainment industry, penchant for humor and MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School are Ali’s secret weapons in her quest to make sustainability inconveniently fun.

Recent Articles

TEDxPresidio: Re-Inventing Capitalism

Ali Hart
| Thursday September 13th, 2012 | 1 Comment

On Saturday, September 8th, 2012, a few hundred forward-thinking folks gathered at TEDxPresidio at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco to talk about what’s on the minds of many these days: re-inventing capitalism.

Despite the event’s theme, many of the presenters didn’t focus on the system itself, but the individuals who comprise it. You. Me. Us. Dissatisfaction with the current economic climate and a “business as usual” attitude fueled the day’s discussions, which highlighted alternative models, personal development and better education.

Van Jones, former Green Jobs Czar and founder of Rebuild the Dream, illuminated a particular paradox in our current system: education, a path that historically led people out of poverty, now leads people to poverty through debt and a dearth of employment opportunities.

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ShareNY: Is the Sharing Economy the New Economy?

Ali Hart
| Thursday November 24th, 2011 | 3 Comments

On Saturday, November 19th and 20th, Shareable and Parsons Desis Lab hosted ShareNY, a conference on the sharing economy in New York City. If your reaction is, “But New Yorkers don’t share!” you’re probably forming judgments based on bad Hollywood movies. NYC is quite a shareable city; people live in apartment buildings (often with roommates), take public transit together (sharing many awkward, annoying and amusing moments) and share bikes – beginning in 2012.

The sharing economy has a lot of names – collaborative consumption, peer-to-peer, access economy, the mesh – but it’s essentially built on person-to-person transactions that create social benefit within a local community. Though a global community, airbnb is probably the most recognized example to date.

One of the questions posed at the start of the conference was, “Is this an alternative form of capitalism or an alternative to capitalism?” I would argue that it’s both. The sharing economy is comprised of social enterprises and non-profits – some enable monetary transactions while others promote barters of goods and services. Employing both models is an intelligent way of garnering a broader appeal since people on one end of the spectrum are enticed by the ability to make extra cash and those on the other side simply want to build relationships, trust and community (and, of course, there are a whole bunch of folks in the middle).

Finding ways to profit from what we already own is quite capitalistic – and opportune in a recession. While our traditional economy continues to flail, what emerges is one spurred by resourceful communities of people building trust in each other instead of Uncle Sam. What’s more, it’s an industry built on shared values instead of a particular line of business. Here’s how a few companies from ShareNY could change your life:

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Subtly Shooting for Sustainability

Ali Hart
| Wednesday November 9th, 2011 | 0 Comments

One of my favorite conversation topics is “how do we reach people who don’t care about sustainability?” For some reason, I’ve often discussed this in the context of hunters and gun owners. To my surprise, someone who could speak very intelligently on this subject presented at the 2011 Net Impact Conference.

Adam Morehead runs Legion Firearms in Temple, Texas. While you won’t see explicit mention of sustainability on the website, Morehead has baked it into his business. For example, lubrication is a major component of gun care and lubricants are conventionally petroleum-based. Morehead worked with a company to develop Anywear, a bio-lubricant that’s fully biodegradable within 28 days. But that’s not the main selling point. What is? It’s simply a better performing lubricant.

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Would You Survive at the Bottom of the Pyramid?

Ali Hart
| Tuesday November 8th, 2011 | 0 Comments

The following post is part of TriplePundit’s coverage of the 2011 Net Impact Conference in Portland, Oregon. To read the rest of our coverage, click here.

Last week, I was in Portland, Oregon for the 2011 Net Impact Conference. About 2,600 attendees converged on the city, most of them members of Net Impact’s student chapters. While a majority of the sessions were typical panels, there were also some unique workshops.

A fan of experiential learning, I entered a session called “Would You Survive? Base of the Pyramid Urban Slum Simulation” with very little knowledge of what would unfold or how my fellow conference attendees would transform around me.

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Shared Value & Partnerships: The Makings of a Collaborative Economy

Ali Hart
| Tuesday November 8th, 2011 | 1 Comment


The following post is part of TriplePundit’s coverage of the 2011 Net Impact Conference in Portland, Oregon. To read the rest of our coverage, click here.

Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer arguably popularized the concept of shared value in their Harvard Business Review article earlier this year entitled, Creating Shared Value. They define it as “creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges.” At the 2011 Net Impact Conference, shared value was the focus of a session topic, proving that this idea is bubbling up in business.

Participating on the panel was Enterprise Holdings, Inc., which owns and operates Alamo, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car brands. Lee Broughton, Head of Corporate Sustainability for Enterprise Holdings, Inc., relayed that Enterprise is the largest owner of passenger vehicles in the world, with a fleet of 1.6 million in the US alone. As recently reported here, Enterprise released its first sustainability report and has taken on the challenge of improving urban mobility. Not only is the company investing in alternative fuel research, but also it’s investing in EVs.

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Behind-the-Scenes at Net Impact 2011

Ali Hart
| Monday November 7th, 2011 | 3 Comments

The following post is part of TriplePundit’s coverage of the 2011 Net Impact Conference in Portland, Oregon. To read the rest of our coverage, click here.

Last week at the 2011 Net Impact Conference, many attendees were questioning certain operational aspects of the conference. In an effort to better understand the decision-making behind the event, I asked Maggie Davies, Net Impact’s Deputy Director, to shed some light on these issues. Immersed in post-conference wrap-up, Davies made some time to answer me via email. Here’s what she had to say:

Many conference attendees were disappointed with the food provided at the conference. How were the menus decided? And why were products like Lays Classic Potato Chips and Pepsi brand sodas served considering they’re not exactly aligned with sustainability?

For the past 18 conferences, Net Impact had hosted our event on business school campuses. We have far outgrown the capacity of most business schools to be able to host everyone who would like to attend, and so this year was our first in a convention center.  We learned a lot of things this year about hosting a conference at a convention center, and one of those lessons was our old model for providing food for our attendees wasn’t applicable. For example, we can no longer bring in donated food or beverage items without a surcharge, and we didn’t have ability to select from a variety of caterers that compete on price.  As a result, we had to make some tradeoffs with our menu and it is one of our top priorities for improvement next year.

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Turn That Pointing Finger Around: Consumers Bear Burden Too

Ali Hart
| Thursday November 3rd, 2011 | 1 Comment

The following post is part of TriplePundit’s coverage of the 2011 Net Impact Conference in Portland, Oregon. To read the rest of our coverage, click here.

At the 2011 Net Impact Conference in Portland last week, representatives of a range of brands expounded upon their sustainability efforts. While conferences are often a chance for companies to tell us about all of the initiatives they’re implementing to improve our world, it seemed that some brands had an eyebrow-raising message for their audience: turn that pointing finger around.

Companies undoubtedly have a big role to play in sustainability, especially since they’re profiting from the natural and human capital they employ. However, something that comes up often is the idea that it’s us – citizens – who need to consider our impact as we use their products.

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SB11 Follow-Up: Unilever Answers My Hanging Questions

Ali Hart
| Friday July 1st, 2011 | 0 Comments

Earlier this month at Sustainable Brands ’11,I interviewed Eric Ostern, Unilever’s Senior Manager of Corporate Responsibility and Community Relations, about the company’s Sustainable Living Plan. In my wrap-up, I noted that I had two questions left unanswered. Lucky for me — and you — the answers landed in my inbox yesterday. Here they are:

3P: Has Unilever considered converting some of its liquid products to powder to reduce water use, packaging materials and GHG emissions associated with transport?

EO: Unilever is exploring a number of different technology solutions to reduce GHG emissions, water and waste in our products and packaging across their lifecycle. 

We are guided by the major foot printing analysis we have conducted for GHG emissions, water and waste.  We analyzed 1,600 representative products in 14 countries covering 70% of our volume sales using a lifecycle approach.  From this we can see that our largest impacts are in the sourcing of raw materials and the way consumers cook, clean and wash with our products.  Over two-thirds of our greenhouse gas emissions are tied-up in consumer use, and of the water we can measure, less than 1% is in the water contained  in the product; the rest is in consumer use (this excludes water used in agriculture).  So we are putting our resources behind tackling the biggest impacts, such as providing laundry detergents which give a great performance at low temperatures, reducing the resin in our Suave shampoo bottles which has saved the equivalent of 100 million plastic bottles over four years, and reducing the amount of water consumers need to use when rinsing by hand from three buckets to one with Comfort One rinse fabric conditioner and Surf Excel laundry detergent in India.

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Interview: Eric Ostern on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan

Ali Hart
| Wednesday June 15th, 2011 | 4 Comments

Last week at Sustainable Brands ’11 in Monterey, I had a chance to sit down with Eric Ostern, Unilever’s Senior Manager of Corporate Responsibility and Community Relations to learn about some of the progress Unilever has made since the launch of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan last fall.

3p: What distinguishes the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan from other sustainability efforts?

EO: The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is really a comprehensive plan that is integrated into our business model and the plan has three core features. The first is that it runs across our entire portfolio including all of our brands and the 170 countries in which we operate. Second is that the plan covers not just the manufacturing facilities, but it also covers the entire lifecycle of our products, from how they’re sourced and manufactured, all the way through consumer use and disposal. And the third thing that makes the plan unique is that it’s not just about the environment. We find is that there are a lot of plans that focus on the environmental impacts associated with one’s manufacturing facilities but this plan has a social and economic component as well.

3p: The plan was launched in the fall of 2010 and it’s now June of 2011. Can you speak to any progress thus far?

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Why Sustainability Needs a Makeover

Ali Hart
| Tuesday June 14th, 2011 | 3 Comments

Even though the sustainability movement has come a long way, it’s clear that it could benefit from some rebranding. At Sustainable Brands ’11, key insights from consumer research shed some light on where practitioners can refocus their efforts.

OgilvyEarth recently released results of a 2011 study called Mainstream Green: Moving sustainability from niche to normal. The study focused on what OgilvyEarth refers to as the Green Gap – the gap between what people say they intend to do and what they actually do when it comes to green. Here are some key findings:

Half of Americans think green products are targeted to rich elitist snobs or crunchy hippies. These are not particularly appealing archetypes, especially for something that needs a critical mass. If we want sustainability to reach the mainstream, we need to stop with the niche marketing. As OgilvyEarth’s Freya Williams says, we need to be Bud Light, not Stella Artois. A return to Marketing 101, with a goal of mass appeal, would rely on the fact that humans have a herd mentality and the majority of us just want to fit in. OPower embraces this and influences people to reduce their energy use by comparing them to their neighbors.

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Panera Cares Proves People Care

Ali Hart
| Monday June 13th, 2011 | 7 Comments

Ronald Shaich is the founder of Panera Bread, the best performing restaurant stock when measured over the last decade. But that isn’t enough for Shaich, especially when 1 in 6 Americans live in “food insecure” homes. A few years ago, he was inspired when he saw a news report that covered Same Café in Colorado, an establishment that fed everyone at whatever price he or she could pay. Shaich began to study other models and became interested in “community cafés,” which were part of a powerful movement but the facilities were small and often operating out of the back of a church.

When Shaich began conceptualizing the Panera Cares Community Café – a pay-what-you-can model – he was determined to replicate the full Panera Bread experience. As the CEO of a public company, he had to fight an uphill battle with his shareholders to prove that it made business sense. Essentially it would be the same costs as his other stores but the net income was much harder to determine. To navigate this, they decided to create the Panera Foundation to cover the café’s expenses; Panera corporate’s gift to the foundation was the physical asset of the café. The two would operate as separate entities with full transparency. But how would the café actually work?

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How SunChips Beat the Noise

Ali Hart
| Sunday June 12th, 2011 | 0 Comments

You probably remember when Frito Lay’s SunChips brand launched their compostable bag in April 2009 to a surprising reception. The company knew that their 100% compostable bag (that was developed over three years) was loud, but they didn’t think it would lead to the backlash that ensued. SunChips even considered the sound a differentiator and incorporated the louder bag into its Canadian marketing strategy, calling it The New Sound of Green. In the US, there was a note on the bag acknowledging the noise to the tune of “this bag is louder because it is compostable”. As Rocco Papalia, SVP of Advanced Research for PepsiCo revealed at Sustainable Brands ’11, the sound of the bag “seemed like a small price to pay” compared to its benefits. It turned out that it was a large price to pay for customers and it resulted in an 11% decline in US sales over the 18 months since it’s introduction, and a whole lot of noise online and on the SunChips hotline. As a result, SunChips pulled the bag off of shelves. (Interestingly, the company handled the situation a bit differently in Canada, telling anyone who complained about the noise that they would send them free earplugs.

Check out the video below:

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Emotional Economics: Measuring What Matters

Ali Hart
| Friday June 10th, 2011 | 2 Comments

Since the economy came crashing down on us in 2008, there’s been a growing consensus that our economic system as we know it is not sustainable. What we’ve since learned is that money is fiction and the security we think we’ve been building all these years is a myth. Other than its dysfunction, nothing in the conventional economy seems real. So what does the new economy that everyone’s talking about look like?

A clear theme at Sustainable Brands ’11 is the importance of our emotions, particularly happiness. In 1972, Bhutan’s former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck established the term “gross national happiness” which aims to measure quality of life or social progress as opposed to gross domestic product, which is only concerned with financial gains. Jules Peck of Abundancy Partners in the UK has applied this concept to the globe with the Happy Planet Index (HPI). Costa Rica took first place out of 143 countries measured in 2009. The US came in at an embarrassing 113. The measurement isn’t about happiness per se, but about a country’s ability to provide for the well-being of its people without exceeding the limits of equitable resource consumption. An economy that achieves this balance is considered a Wellness Economy and, according to Peck, requires a decoupling of intensity and scale. He goes on to say that if you design an economy right, you don’t need to rely on growth. So what do you need?

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The Secret Sauce is People. It’s People!

Ali Hart
| Thursday June 9th, 2011 | 4 Comments

At Sustainable Brands ’11, there’s much talk about, well, brands. But what powers those brands? Employees. People. In the pursuit of innovation, competitive edge and profits, many companies lose sight of the real force behind their brands. Similarly, companies striving for sustainability often focus on their environmental impacts to the neglect of the social side.

According to Paul Herman of HIP Investor, this mentality is partly a byproduct of our financial statements. Where do you find people, our most important asset, on a balance sheet? Under expenses. People are seen as a cost on an income statement which is why when a company tries to maximize profits by cutting costs, employees are often the casualties. If we were to rethink our balance sheets and consider people assets, what would make them appreciate? Experience, knowledge, purpose, relationships and innovation. Interestingly, “training” is also listed as an expense on the balance sheet. As Herman notes, we constantly talk about declining resources but people are our only increasing resource and our financial statements don’t recognize it. Why is there such a disconnect here? When the best companies to work for financially outperform others, at what expense are we expensing people?

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Toaster Takeover: The Sensor Revolution is Coming

Ali Hart
| Wednesday June 8th, 2011 | 2 Comments

Have you ever wondered what your toaster would say to you if it could talk? According to Peter Hartwell, an HP technologist, it will soon talk and it will say “if you clean me, I will be 20% more efficient.” Your refrigerator will also tell you what’s in it, what’s spoiling and maybe what you need to buy.

In his plenary talk at Sustainable Brands ’11, Hartwell referred to the internet as a brain for the earth, except it’s blind, deaf and dumb. Sensors, he believes, are the next huge thing and will bring awareness to the equation. HP Labs has coined their sensor technology CeNSE: Central Nervous System for the Earth. The idea is that through sensors, products will soon be able to tell people how to use them more efficiently and, thus, more sustainably. Take the smart meter. While it has done an incredible job of helping homeowners see their energy use and lower their bills through behavior change, one complaint is that users don’t really know what to do with the data. Sensors can fill this gap. Instead of just giving you a total use number, a sensor would go beyond to tell you the information you need to change. As Hartwell says, sensors will help you find the problems that you didn’t necessarily know you were trying to solve.

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