Social entrepreneurship—the art of creating programs with a transformative business model focused on bringing about large-scale, positive change—plays a critical role in building a more sustainable future by increasing income, improving environmental quality, creating jobs, and enhancing quality of life. But just like any start-up, there comes a time when a great idea needs an infusion of cash to have a large-scale impact. That is where the The Skoll Foundation comes into play.
The foundation, through its Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, funds social entrepreneurs working to solve global challenges, such as poverty, deforestation, water scarcity and access to health care. The award is a change agent’s dream: unrestricted funding and support to take a promising solution to scale.
Jeff Skoll, the first president of eBay, is the force behind the award, the flagship program of the Skoll Foundation, as well as the annual Skoll World Forum in Oxford. As a successful business entrepreneur, Skoll is using his wealth to “to drive large-scale change by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and other innovators dedicated to solving the world’s most pressing problems.”
In conversation with Dan Crisafulli, Director of Ecosystem Investments and Partnerships at the Skoll Foundation, I had the chance to discuss the highlights of its current portfolio and tease out six trends in social entrepreneurship.
EcoStrategy Group’s new report, Trends in Sustainability Reporting: A Close-Up Look at Bay Area Companies, provides a helpful overview of the business value for reporting on environmental sustainability and a solid checklist of issues to take into consideration if you are about to embark on a sustainability report.
The study analyzes how the top Bay Area companies report on their sustainability efforts and rates their performance based on 14 specific attributes including: materiality, stakeholder relevance, target setting/tracking and completeness.
The report begins by exploring the question, “Why Companies Report?” I find two of the answers most compelling: to respond to increasing volume of inquiries and to manage reputation and brand image.
It includes an assessment of what elements make a sustainability report stand out.
Here is an option for what to do with your employees the week of Earth Day: host a live viewing of “Creating Value Through Sustainability,” an educational forum and worldwide Webcast on the triple bottom line, presented by the MIT Enterprise Forum in collaboration with the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute on April 20.
The forum features a lineup of high-profile speakers (unfortunately no women in the mix–what’s up with that?), including:
- Matt Kistler, Senior Vice President, Sustainability, Walmart;
- Eric Hespenheide, Global Leader, Climate Change and Sustainability, Audit and Enterprise Risk Services, Deloitte & Touche LLP;
- Paul Murray, Director of Environmental Safety and Sustainability, Herman Miller, Inc.; and
- James Modak, Chief Financial Officer, Suniva, Inc.
Topics to be addressed include how to successfully implement sustainability strategy into everyday business decisions; how to create financial value while meeting societal and environmental needs; how to determine key sustainability drivers that impact business; and how to increase business success through an effective sustainability strategy.
The satellite broadcast and worldwide Webcast are available at no charge. Click here for more details on registering.
Do you want your written communications to inspire new actions?
Over the weekend, I was reading a few of the books in my pile on organizational change and motivation and I started thinking about how these concepts could be integrated into my current sustainability writing projects.
How can we create CSR reports, corporate sustainability web sites and annual reports that cause a change and inspire new actions? I recently heard at a green conference that the CSR report is dead. Consider the following four guidelines to bring your written materials to life: tell stories, paint a detailed vision, but make a specific request, engage people’s emotions and use non-controlling language.
Earth Day is only six weeks away (April 22nd). Are you ready?
While we all know that a commitment to sustainability goes beyond going green one day a year, Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to remind employees of your commitment, highlight programs and accomplishments and launch a new campaign.
Pick Something Tangible and Visible
While greening your data center, reducing packaging or cutting energy use might be your most strategic corporate initiative, Earth Day is the ideal time to focus on a tangible and visible campaign that engages employees and inspires action. Consider asking for a public commitment to take a specific action and identify clear metrics for tracking your progress.
Four campaign ideas are detailed below:
- Adopt a “Double-Sided” Policy
- Chuck the Cup
- Ban Bottled Water
- Personal Sustainability Practices
What do you think of when you hear Deloitte?
You might think of a professional services firm or Big Four auditor. Today, the company has also put a big green stake in the ground, both looking internally to green its operations and as an offering in its consulting practice.
Two aspects of this work are worth noting: Deloitte’s internal green team, working to engage employees in sustainability, and its Green Sync™ tool.
I had the chance to have an e-mail exchange with Thomas Dekar, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP, regional managing principal of the North Central Region and corporate responsibility officer for the Deloitte U.S. Firms. He shed some light on the origins of Deloitte’s programs and offerings.
Read on to learn about Deloitte’s best green business practices for engaging employees in sustainability.
It is tough being a socially responsible doggie owner. Between the necessary poo-bags, toys, food and treats, I know my personal footprint went up after I got my pooch.
But Spot Pet Care has come out with a new product, Spot Pet Treats, that makes it a bit easier to be a greener pet owner. According to its web site, the treats are “made from livestock humanely raised on sustainable US ranches.”
I had the opportunity to speak with founder Caroline Shin. She has always wanted to work with animals and after starting other successful businesses, she recently opened Spot Pet Care, a pet groomer/store in Mill Valley, California. I’ve taken my dog there to be groomed, but never realized the store has installed state-of-the art equipment to minimize water used during baths.
By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact
On the most mundane level, green teams focus on practical issues, such as eliminating bottled water or improving recycling at the office. On the more ambitious front, they can educate individuals to be agents of change and raise awareness of strategic sustainability issues, inspiring innovative, greener solutions.
Sustainable Systems at Work is a new discussion course available to companies looking for a way to engage employees in an organization’s sustainability initiatives and inspire them to take action.
Developed by the The Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI), the program has been piloted by leading companies as Starbucks and Intel–to date more than 100,000 people have completed the curriculum.
For a potential client, I have been spending some time thinking about the various strategies for inspiring new, greener behaviors and how one gets new solutions to spread throughout a corporation. How long does one need to commit to a new behavior before it becomes a new habit? Will a friendly competition between offices spur action? In the midst of pondering these questions, I stumbled upon the No Impact Experiment, sponsored by the No Impact Project.
The No Impact Experiment challenges participants to go on a one-week carbon cleanse–a chance see what a difference no-impact living can have on our quality of life. According to the web site, “It’s not about giving up creature comforts but an opportunity for you to test whether the modern ‘conveniences’ you take for granted are actually making you happier or just eating away at your time and money.”
While I already live a rather green lifestyle, I know there is room for improvement. And since I am contemplating asking employees to commit to new behaviors, I thought it would be a good idea to try the No Impact Program. 3p writer Carly Smolak gave it a shot last October, and I figured now it was my turn.
While there have been many “best of 2009″ stories posted recently, I think Joel Makower’s blog this week does a great job of summarizing the key green business trends, the good news and the bad news, over the past decade. It is the perfect warm up for the upcoming GreenBiz.com State of Green Business Forums, to be held in San Francisco and Chicago.
Is the glass half full or half empty? Makower is a bit indecisive, presenting three reasons why he is discouraged and three reasons he has great hope for the decade ahead. I’m going to skip the reasons he is discouraged and jump right to three reasons to see the glass half full.
By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact
There seems to be a growing buzz about green teams these days as companies struggle to find the best way to engage their employees in sustainability. GreenBiz.com and Green Impact recently released a new report Green Teams: Engaging Employees in Sustainability–a great resource for companies and organizations just beginning to think about creating a green team and for those ready to take their existing program to the next level.
Based on interviews with green team leaders from Intel, Yahoo!, eBay and Genentech, as well as a review of the latest literature on employee engagement and green teams, the report provides an overview of the best practices companies are using to support and guide green teams.
It makes the business case for green teams, includes tips for getting started, identifies four emerging trends and details 10 best practices for supporting green teams.
Deloitte, the firm originally known for its accounting and audit services, has begun to integrate sustainability into its core business functions, including strategy, consulting and tax services. It also recently launched the Center for Sustainability Performance (CSP) to provide on-site client training, research and development, with a focus on corporate sustainability measurement and reporting.
The CSP just announced a new training, Sustainability Measurement and Reporting: Tools, Methods, and Metrics, a two-day workshop on January 14, 2010 in Waltham, MA, led by Mark W. McElroy, director of research at Deloitte’s CSP.
Deloitte has coined the term “Sustainability Management” (SM) as a new and credible management function that is here to stay. And as we know, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
The goal of the workshop is to help make sense of the range of tools, methods, and metrics currently available for measuring and reporting sustainability, as well as new solutions just over the horizon.
REGISTER BY JAN. 7th for a discounted price of $1,195.
I had the pleasure of attending Sustainable Silicon Valley‘s (SSV) two-day Sustainability Change Agent Training with Alan AtKisson, November 16th and 17th. It was a packed workshop full of information and interactive exercises. Parts of it fully engaged me and parts of it left me feeling frustrated, so I decided to wait a few weeks before writing about it. I wanted to see which concepts and tips stuck with me.
AtKisson, a sustainability consultant and author, has built the workshop around the principles explored in his recent book, The ISIS Agreement: How Sustainability Can Improve Organizational Performance and Transform the World. Chapters 7-10 cover much of the information presented in the workshop. The unique thing about the training, and where the real learning took place for me, is AtKisson’s interactive approach that included story telling, singing and small group and one-on-one exercises.
More than 70 participants from a range of sectors participated. Sustainability directors from large Silicon Valley companies such as Intel, Yahoo! and Palm, sustainability managers working for municipalities, NGOs and consultants gathered to learn about the ISIS Method–a methodology for transformation that integrates indicators, systems, innovation and strategy.
After letting things percolate a few weeks, my favorite three tips to be a more effective sustainability change include:
I have been a big proponent of cross-sector dialogue for years and believe that when businesses, NGOs and governmental agencies can work together, more innovative and creative solutions can emerge. My pet peeve with such dialogues is that they often are all talk and no action.
Tuesday, at meeting at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland office, I and a two other members of the press had the opportunity to sit down and chat with a few members of the Business NGO Working Group, a project of Clean Production Action, whose mission is to “design and deliver strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials and environmentally preferable products.” Its lively International Director Beverly Thorpe stressed that the Working Group members really do roll up their sleeves and work through the tough issues. And with a current focus on implementation and policy reform, they are a group worth paying attention to.
The Working Group is a unique collaboration of business and NGO leaders who “are creating a roadmap to the widespread use of safer chemicals in consumer products.” They were here in the Bay Area this week for their annual meeting. Starting in 2006, with twenty-two organizations from the environmental community and the electronics, health care, furnishing and retail sectors, today the group has grown to 170 participants, working on three key initiatives: Safer Chemicals, sustainable materials and public policy reform.
I was recently asked to highlight some of Hewlett-Packard’s environmental printing programs, but after reviewing the materials the PR folks sent, I decided the more interesting story was to reflect on how HP got listed #1 in Newsweek’s recent rankings of green companies, as well as ranked highest in the category of electronics by Climate Counts.
So to find out why, I referred to an interview I conducted (for a piece I did on Tips for Getting Your Sustainability Project Off the Ground) earlier this year with Bonnie Nixon, HP’s director of environmental sustainability. I went back to those notes to help answer the question, “What Does it Take to Be #1?”
Fast Company reflected on this same question last month and concluded, “What was confirmed to me is that behind every major corporate transformation story is a truly heroic man or woman. While I am sure HP has a team of hundreds who have contributed strongly to this position as number one on the Newsweek list, I was certain after spending more time with Nixon that she was an integral part of it.”
Five critical factors make a company like HP stand out: