I was backpacking with three friends this past weekend in Point Reyes National Seashore and our equipment was a smörgåsbord of outdoor retail brand names: Marmot, The North Face, REI, Therm-a-Rest and Patagonia, to name a few.
What do these five brand names have in common? They are all part of the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) Eco Working Group and have helped to create the recently launched Eco Index. Green Biz.com, Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal have done a great job of describing the new tool, designed for use by a diverse group of stakeholders from product designers to suppliers to help companies assess their products across the product life cycle: materials, packaging, product manufacturing and assembly, transport and distribution, use and service and end of life.
The Eco Index is inviting all brands, suppliers and retailers of outdoor apparel, footwear and gear to participate in a pilot test. Rather than repeat here what has already been said in the previous posts, this piece focuses on answering the question, “Why should companies pilot the new Eco Index?” I conclude with three tips to consider if you are going to participate in the pilot.
I have witnessed the Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) grow from a seed of an idea by Melinda Kramer, its founder and co-director, to an organization that is making a global impact by connecting grassroots women environmental leaders to what they need most: resources, training and advocacy.
After attending WEA’s recent Weaving the Worlds Gala, I was struck by its success, professionalism and authenticity. Green business luminary Joel Makower sat on the host committee this year. In his invite to the event, he called WEA an “extraordinary global organization” and said
Over the past few years, I’ve watched WEA blossom into a powerful force, connecting women around the world who are in the middle of a revolution that few of them know exists. WEA’s leadership team has transformed communities and lives by connecting visionary women environmental advocates, organizers and entrepreneurs from around the world who were working on the frontlines of environmental, social and economic sustainability in their communities. It is, simply put, one of the most important and hopeful organizations I know.
All this lead me to ponder the question, what has made WEA such a powerful force? I see three strategies WEA has used to nurture its success:
At the Bay Area Open Space Council’s 11th Annual Regional Conference yesterday, Ashley Boren, executive director of Sustainable Conservation, presented to a sold out conference about one of its new program areas: ecosystem services.
I actually worked for Sustainable Conservation in its early days. It has grown from a start-up to an effective organization that “advances the stewardship of natural resources using innovative, pragmatic strategies that actively engage businesses and private landowners in conservation.” Its trademark approach is that protecting the environment can also be good for business. The organization’s climate, air, water and biodiversity initiatives promote practical solutions that produce tangible, lasting benefits for California. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to build strong partnerships with business, agriculture and government–and establishing models for environmental and economic sustainability that can be replicated across California and beyond.
Did you know that only five minutes of exercise in nature can boost your mood and improve self-esteem?
At the Bay Area Open Space Council’s 11th Annual Regional Conference yesterday, Daphne Miller, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, UCSF spoke about the “Park Prescription”: prescribing to patients they spend time in nature. While the convergence of natural lands and health is still a fringe topic, it is a growing area of peer-reviewed research.
Miller explained that she has actually started to give park prescriptions in her office. By using two web-based resources, the California State Parks Find Recreation website and the Bay Area Open Space Council’s Transit to Trails website, she can provide patients a concrete “prescription”: directions with maps and distances to open space areas.
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.