3p Contributor: Jen Boynton

Jen keeps things running around here as Editor in Chief. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School.
She's an expert in social media for CSR and stakeholder engagement and, in her spare time, teaches courses in sustainability reporting certified by the Global Reporting Initiative.

As of March, Jen has been raising a baby so sustainable she even poops green!
Hit her up at jen at triplepundit dot com or on twitter @jenboynton to discuss diapering strategies or sustainability reporting methodology.

Recent Articles

Walmart Unveils Virtual Sustainability Shop

| Tuesday February 24th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 1.29.35 PM

Now at Walmart.com

It’s about to get a lot easier for Walmart.com shoppers to make the responsible choice. On the heels of last week’s jaw-dropping commitment to increase wages for Walmart employees, the retailer announced this morning at the Walmart Milestone Meeting that it will now be highlighting the 10,000 “best in class” sustainable products across 80 categories as Sustainability Leaders. That means that shoppers looking for anything from soap to printer ink can easily see which product is the most responsible by looking for the Sustainable Leaders badge.

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Sustainable, how? You might ask. In 2009 Walmart.com worked with the Sustainability Consortium (TSC) to create supplier scorecards to rank suppliers and encourage them to improve operations and become more sustainable — by using energy more efficiently or increasing the recycled content of their products. After tackling suppliers and incentivizing corporate buyers to choose the products that scored well, Walmart is on to the final challenge in the list: consumer education. Through the Sustainable Leaders program, Walmart will be highlighting the environmental leaders in every product category. Customers who want to know the details, what makes each Sustainable Leader qualify, can click through to read about TSC’s process and criteria. Go a click further and they can see fact sheets like this one on polyester textiles, which describes what TSC looks for from product manufacturers.

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Your Seafood: Now Fair Trade Certified

| Wednesday February 18th, 2015 | 5 Comments
Hayunan Wangse flys a kite with a fishing lure that mimics a flying fish on the surface , 11th July 2014, Waepure, Buru Isand, Indonesia.  He hopes 'Fair Trade' will bring improvements to his village.

Hayunan Wangse flys a kite with a fishing lure, which mimics a flying fish on the surface, on July 11, 2014 in Waepure, Buru Island, Indonesia. He hopes ‘Fair Trade’ will bring improvements to his village.

Look out Whole Foods: Safeway is pulling ahead when it comes to seafood transparency.

Whole Foods met its match when Safeway was ranked slightly ahead for seafood sustainability by Greenpeace back in 2011. Both retailers had much to celebrate when they came out with the NGO’s first ever seafood rating of “good.”

Safeway hasn’t taken its foot off the gas pedal in recent years, though. The company has continued to push ahead toward an audacious goal of 100 percent sustainable sourcing for all fresh and frozen seafood by the end of this year. The grocer’s latest commitment brings it up to par with your local farmers market when it comes to worker transparency.

Sustainable seafood awareness and availability have moved in leaps and bounds thanks to the hard work of organizations like Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Future of Fish. These organizations work simultaneously on consumer education and seafood supply issues to ensure that when consumers set out to make a responsible purchase, they find good product availability on the shelves. But much of that seafood advocacy work has focused on environmental issues. Social issues — from forced labor and child labor to a lack of workplace safety precautions — remain a huge area of concern worldwide. Which is why the latest partnership between Fair Trade USA and Safeway is so exciting.

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Business Leaders and #BlackLivesMatter

| Wednesday December 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Ferguson protests in Washington, D.C. on November 25th.

Ferguson protests in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 25.

We’re in a scary moment in the U.S. Police keep killing unarmed people, and a lot of those individuals who have lost their lives happen to have brown skin. The failed indictments of Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo — police officers responsible for the deaths of unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner — have communities around the country on edge.

TriplePundit is a business publication. At first glance, this issue may not seem like it’s in our scope. Is it even appropriate for us to speak about protests that are spilling into the street if they don’t have a direct impact on the business world? Or do they? I decided to take a little editorial leeway and explore the issue.

The question remains: Do issues of societal unrest have a place in corporate responsibility conversations?

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Series RE-Launch: Sustainable Apparel Part II Debuts Tomorrow!

| Tuesday November 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments


Loyal readers will remember the tremendously successful series Sustainably Attired we ran this summer to explore the lifecycle of fashion. We’re thrilled to announce that Levi Strauss & Co., a longtime proponent of sustainability in the supply chain, has returned for another round. Of course, the company’s environmental programs aren’t limited to supporting our editorial efforts. In fact, just today the denim giant announced a new partnership with the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corp. to provide financial incentives for garment suppliers in developing countries to upgrade environmental, health, safety and labor standards.

We’ll launch part II of this series tomorrow with a focus on consumers: We’ll examine how purchasing and clothing care choices affect the overall environmental impact of our clothes. Since we’re heading into the holiday season, we’ll also dedicate plenty of attention to purchases you can feel good about gifting. You’ll hear about Levi’s initiatives, as well as those from other leaders in the space.

Tomorrow we’ll kick off with a piece that examines what happens at the end of a consumer’s time with a garment. If it’s donated, what happens next? What happens to the clothes too worn to wear? Are our hand-me-downs finding a second life in our communities, or are they shipped to a far-away country?

If you have themes you’d like us to explore, let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Orangeadnan, Flickr

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Chevron Tries to Buy Local City Election

| Thursday October 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery, as viewed from 15 miles away in Larkspur, CA

The 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery, as viewed from 15 miles away in Larkspur, CA

Chevron is spending big bucks — $3 million to date — on the outcome of mayoral and city council elections in the town of Richmond, California, a city with just over 100,000 residents. You’ve got that right — the company has spent about $30 per resident.

Why all the muss and fuss over a local election? Well, Richmond is the home of a major refinery for the oil and gas producer. The refinery was the site of a 2012 explosion and fire that sent over 15,000 area residents to the hospital with respiratory distress, rashes and other ailments. In 2013, the city of Richmond sued the corporate giant, alleging that the blaze was the result of  “a continuation of years of neglect, lax oversight and corporate indifference to necessary safety inspection and repairs.” (as quoted in SF Gate).

At the time, Chevron promised to vigorously fight the lawsuit, claiming that it is “a waste of the city’s resources and yet another example of its failed leadership,” claiming that the lawsuit was designed to shift focus away from a “dysfunctional” city council.

Well, it seems that vigorous fighting includes trying to buy a Chevron-friendly city council that will be more magnanimous to the local employer. According to KQED, “A new council majority sympathetic to Chevron could squelch the suit or pave the way for a settlement more favorable to the oil giant.”

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BP Op-Ed: Gulf Impacts Not So Bad!

| Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Workers continue clean-up efforts as part of the Deepwater Horizon Response in Grand Isle, La., June 5, 2010

Workers continue clean-up efforts as part of the Deepwater Horizon Response in Grand Isle, La., June 5, 2010

BP is in hot water for an “op/ed” it published on Politico from senior vice president of U.S. communications and external affairs, Geoff Morrell.

Unsurprisingly, his position is that the long term impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill weren’t so bad, and the company’s $27B dollars in cleanup were sufficient to offset any long term impacts.

The LA Times does a great job outlining all the impacts Morrell missed:

The answer, if you study the findings of experts, is that the spill has had massive impacts. These include immediate effects on sea fowl, marine mammals, and coral; and long-term effects on dolphins, sea turtles, fish and wildlife populations, and the gulf food web. Moreover, many effects are still imponderable at this time, because no one has studied an oil spill of this magnitude in a unique ecosystem such as the gulf. Assessing the damage may take decades, covering generations of animals.

As for why Politico would publish such a thing? Internet sleuths are blaming that on the fact that BP has been a frequent advertiser on Politico’s Playbook, a daily briefing on DC’s big stories of the day.

The op-ed was not marked as sponsored content, but one wonders if it was published thanks to a health dose of quid pro quo.

Not one to shrink down from a good old fashioned brouhaha, BP has responded to the kerfuffle by issuing a statement. Here it is in its entirety:

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Dell, Google Technology Inspires Oakland Middle Schoolers

| Friday October 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments
7th grader Jose Morga explains how his used a Dell Chromebook to design their experiment to test the composting ability of worms in space.

Seventh grader Jose Morga explains how his team used a Dell Chromebook to design their winning experiment to test the composting ability of worms in space.

“Sometimes they just need to bang on something really hard,” principal Claire Fisher explains to me when discussing middle schoolers at Urban Promise Academy and the need to maintain the drums in their music program. The middle school keeps energetic students banging away through a variety of grants, fundraisers, and general elbow grease from a pack of community members who are committed to improving Oakland’s Fruitvale district.

Fruitvale’s BART station gained national notoriety as the location of the fatal police shooting of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant. Urban Promise Academy (UPA, pronounced oo-pah) is a small middle school with a student body that is 87 percent latino or hispanic. Fifty-six percent of the students are English Language Learners, and 90 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. In short, it’s a group of students who didn’t start out with a lot of advantages. But UPA is not interested in focusing on the past, it is interested in getting these students to “college, career and beyond.”

Part of that preparation means making sure that they have an opportunity to engage with the technology that they’ll need in the future. There are many sections of Oakland where upwards of 50 percent of the residents don’t have computers or internet access at home, so the pressure is on schools to introduce the students to the technology that will help them be successful in life.

UPA has partnered with Dell to put Chromebooks in the classroom.

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Fair Trade Goes Full Circle on Supply Chains

| Wednesday October 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

This is part of a series on “The Future of Fair Trade,” written with the support of Fair Trade USA. A 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, Fair Trade USA is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. To follow along with the rest of the series, click here.

Rwandan coffee grower Mukantelina Soline is able to pay for school fees and electricity with the extra income she earns from her Fair Trade cooperative

Rwandan coffee grower Mukantelina Soline is able to pay for school fees and electricity with the extra income she earns from her Fair Trade cooperative.

In honor of Fair Trade month, Fair Trade USA created a great infographic to explain how fair trade really works to improve workers’ lives and, in turn, the health of our ecosystem. While certifications like Organic ensure that farmers and a consumer’s family won’t be exposed to harmful pesticides, Fair Trade USA focuses on the producers and the well-being of their families. What organizations like Fair Trade have found is that a focus on the health of workers far up the supply chain leads directly to a higher-quality product and a healthy planet. That is to say, Fair Trade goes full circle. Here’s how they do it.

Improving lives

Fair Trade means that workers — from farmers to factory workers — get a fair wage for the goods they produce, through a guaranteed minimum purchase price. Workers on Fair Trade farms also have the right to organize into unions if they wish and the right to safe working conditions. Forced child and slave labor are strictly prohibited.

Workers and farmers decide collectively how to spend the Fair Trade premium on community development: building schools, clinics, improving roads, offering school scholarships, or whatever the community needs.

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Mismatched Socks Sold to Cure Blindness

| Friday September 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Stylish mismatched socks for men and women

SWAP Socks offers stylish mismatched socks for men and women.

The latest entrant in the one-for-one model popularized by TOMS shoes is SWAP Socks, makers of fashionably-mismatched socks. SWAP Socks will give 50 percent of its profits to the SEVA Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing sight to visually-impaired people around the world (coincidentally, the same partner TOMS chose for its eyeglass partnership).

Why focus on the visually impaired?

Well, for starters, blindness can be debilitating not only for an individual but also for a whole family because it pulls a potential-earner out of the workforce, and worse, often requires another family member to stay home in a caretaking capacity. These impacts are most stark in the developing world. The statistics are dramatic: 246 million people struggle with low-vision and 39 million live completely blind worldwide. Ninety percent of these  live in the developing world, and 80 percent of these cases can be prevented or cured with routine or simple eye care — from antibiotics to outpatient cataract surgery.

I got to learn about how debilitating total blindness can be at the kickoff event for SWAP Socks’ Indiegogo campaign, held at Opaque restaurant in San Francisco. 

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Can the VC Community Disrupt Serial Incarceration?

| Tuesday September 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Defy Ventures graduates Coss Marte Lasyah Palmer and Jamel Graham speak on stage at SOCAP 2014

Defy Ventures graduates Coss Marte, Jamel Graham and Lasyah Palmer speak on stage at SOCAP 2014

There is nothing the startup community loves more than a good disruption. And what better to disrupt than the prison-industrial complex — after all, a staggering 100 million Americans have criminal records and keeping them locked up costs us $63.4 billion a year.

As of last October, the U.S. incarceration rate was 716 per 100,000 people. While the United States represents about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Worse still, 76 percent are rearrested after release and of those 89 percent are unemployed at re-arrest. So, we see the connection between crime and poverty in action.

One former member of the investment community is turning to a uniquely American solution to solve the problem: entrepreneurship.

The formerly incarcerated are not without skills. Think about it: Drug sales require cash flow management, sales and marketing. Robberies — successful ones at least — require strategic planning. Catherine Hoke — who comes from the venture capital and private equity world — founded Defy Ventures in 2010 to show ex-convicts (she prefers the term “Entrepreneurs in Training” or EITs) how to use the skills they already have to develop legal businesses.

Hoke spoke at SOCAP 2014 about Defy Ventures’ model. The nonprofit provides training to EITs in skills like leadership, business plan development, finance, sales and marketing — and even things like etiquette: how to dress for a meeting and how to shake hands in a business setting. The program’s mentors and teachers include startup luminaries like Seth Godin and Tim Draper. As inspiring as the Defy Ventures story was, I was skeptical. How could 300 hours of training really disrupt a life, disrupt a community? After all, people have been trying to solve the cycle of urban poverty and prison for decades, and the number of people in prison just keeps increasing.

My skepticism vanished when I chatted with three Defy graduates about their experiences in the program.

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SOCAP14: Q&A with Impact Weaver Award Winner Lindsey Engh

| Friday September 5th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lindsey EnghThe first annual Impact Weaver Award recognizes the internal leaders that work behind the scenes to build the team and operational infrastructure that make up a successful organization.

Friday Consulting, in partnership with Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) launched this award to recognize the unsung heroes of social entrepreneurship. Friday Consulting’s Founder, Shivani Ganguly, notes, “We frequently praise the founders of social enterprises for their vision and willingness to take on the challenges and great risks that come along with building a successful venture. However, we tend to forget about the internal leaders that build the team and make the hundreds of strategic and tactical decisions needed to bring the vision to fruition.”

Triple Pundit: Congratulations on winning this year’s Impact Weaver Award! Can you tell us a little bit about you and your company?

Lindsey Engh: Hi! I’m Lindsey, and I’m lucky enough to work with an incredible team to make Impact Hub Seattle a reality. Our revenue model is based on coworking, events, and educational workshops, but at our core we are a community of individuals working at the intersection of technology and social good. We believe that strong human relationships underline everything we do, and we also recognize that everyone has a unique set of skills and passions that, when recognized and activated, can change their sense of self-worth, which in turn, changes the world one person at a time. Our mission is to equip every individual who walks through our doors with the tools they need to make their most impact possible.

As for myself, most of my time is spent at Impact Hub — I’m a co-founder and manage most day-to-day operations. I’m pretty easily excited by a delicious Jasmine Pearl tea, T-shirt cycling weather, excellent non-fiction, my bike, going to bed early and waking up even earlier (4 a.m.!), dancing, and a cozy grey Seattle day spent curled up reading.

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SOCAP14: Q&A with Impact Weaver Award Winner Mary Voelbel

| Friday September 5th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Mary VoelbelThe first annual Impact Weaver Award recognizes the internal leaders that work behind the scenes to build the team and operational infrastructure that make up a successful organization.

Friday Consulting, in partnership with Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) launched this award to recognize the unsung heroes of social entrepreneurship. Friday Consulting’s Founder, Shivani Ganguly, notes, “We frequently praise the founders of social enterprises for their vision and willingness to take on the challenges and great risks that come along with building a successful venture. However, we tend to forget about the internal leaders that build the team and make the hundreds of strategic and tactical decisions needed to bring the vision to fruition.”

Triple Pundit: Congratulations on winning this year’s Impact Weaver Award! Can you tell us a little bit about you and your company?

Mary Voelbel: I’m a Minnesota native with a penchant for social justice issues and a passion for international experiences. I earned my BA in Psychology from The Colorado College before launching my career as the Center Director for SCORE! Educational Centers in the Bay Area. Following my passion for travel and culture, I spent a year teaching English in Chile through the Ingles Abre Puertas program designed in collaboration by the United Nations and the Chilean Ministry of Education. Before returning to the U.S., I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina to continue my work in teaching, community outreach, and customer relations roles. After two and a half years working abroad, I had a soft landing back into the States, when I earned my Master’s in Human Development & Psychology from Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Upwardly Global brought me back to the Bay Area! We are a national nonprofit that connects highly skilled immigrant and refugee professionals with U.S. employers looking for global talent. There are 1.8 million skilled immigrants with the legal right to work, who are unemployed or severely underemployed — engineers that are driving cabs, accountants working as security guards and doctors working as nannies. Upwardly Global provides the training needed to navigate the U.S. job search and partners with employers to access this often hidden talent pool. We currently have offices in the Bay Area, Chicago, New York and Detroit and are serving job seekers through our online program in 40 different states.

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The Case for Public Relations

| Monday August 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

pr-certs-titleThe wires have been buzzing for weeks over public relations (PR) superpower Edelman’s refusal to rule out working with climate deniers. This news spread like a Yosemite wildfire.

Now, journalists love to hate publicists so the schadenfreude was predictable. The Edelman tale was made even more delicious with a bungled and complicated response which included a leaked email and an unscripted call from the company president to one of the first reporters to pick up on Edelman’s unsavory client roster (ALEC, API).

But is Edelman’s shakedown fair?

PR gets a bad rap from journalists because it’s perceived as a game where getting a client name into a story matters more than its newsworthiness.  That means that over-zealous PR reps can sometimes come on too strong in ever-present pursuit of a mention. When it comes to stories about sustainable companies and products, that might mean a PR team promoting companies and their initiatives as sustainable when they don’t really have the chops to back it up. Reams have been written about this as well: Earth Day is a favorite time for taking stock of the numerous pitches that end up in our email boxes. At best the products being offered are useful; at worst Earth Day is used as a cheap opportunity to pimp more product.

However, public relations pros have an important role in our collective efforts to improve many companies’ sustainability efforts.

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Community Engagement in the Gaming Industry

| Tuesday August 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments

slot machineGambling is fun — the rush, the bright colors, the chance to press your luck and win big money. But let’s be honest. Vegas is often synonymous with excess — cash, sex, fashion, food and booze, which isn’t exactly sustainable. When you’re up, you’re up, and you can easily spend a month’s rent on party time. But at the end of the day, every tourist destination has effective ways of removing dollars from its guests’ pockets, and people are free to participate or leave their cash in the bank. There are plenty of vacation destinations, and over 39 million people choose Las Vegas for theirs every year — and 85 percent of them are repeat visitors.

Such is my dilemma with the gaming and hospitality industry. Casinos make people happy; they are a popular vacation destinations, and they are job creators (46 percent of the workforce in southern Nevada is employed in tourism). But casinos can also have plenty of negative economic impacts.

Nevertheless, every company on the planet can work to operate more sustainably and improve the community where it does business. Every company has many good people working at it too, and I’ve never met a member of a corporate sustainability team I didn’t like. Last week I got to meet the team at MGM Resorts, on the occasion of the Women’s Leadership Conference, sponsored by the MGM Foundation. The conference was a gathering of more than 800 women (and a few men), aimed at inspiring and motivating executives to move forward in their careers. While the conference had a few too many motivational speakers for my personal taste, I was clearly in the minority. Just take a look at some of these tweets from happy attendees:

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Review: MGM Resorts CSR Report

| Tuesday August 5th, 2014 | 1 Comment

MGM Resorts employees perform in a show about sustainability.

Las Vegas — land of excess — seems like a strange home for corporate responsibility. But even casinos (or “gaming and hospitality companies,” as MGM Resorts prefers to be called) find value in looking deeply at social and environmental issues related to their operations. It makes sense since these are enormous operations. MGM Resorts employs 62,000 people at 23 resorts worldwide. Many of the 39 million people who visit Las Vegas annually will stay at an MGM property like Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Luxor, New York-New York or Circus Circus. That’s a lot of people descending on a desert property, with a huge potential environmental and social impact. But as I learned, MGM Resorts is deeply focused on both employee satisfaction and minimizing its environmental footprint.

Diversity, philanthropy, sustainability

MGM’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program is focused on diversity and inclusion, philanthropy, and sustainability (the company’s word for environmental efforts). Diversity is a core focus and approximately 65 percent of MGM Resorts’ employees are minorities. MGM Resorts was the first organization in the gaming and hospitality industry to voluntarily adopt a formal diversity and inclusion policy in 2001, and the CSR reporting initiative grew out of the reporting efforts on that policy. Environmental efforts were added to the report in 2005.

The report is titled “Inspiring our World,” which is also the name of the MGM Resorts’ employee show. The Vegas-style production was developed by and for employees to “deepen the company’s corporate culture and motivate employees to excel in guest service while making positive contributions to the communities they call home, embracing diversity and being exceptional environmental stewards.” According to Phyllis A. James, MGM Resorts International Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer , the goal was to showcase the value of sustainability and share some of the big wins MGM Resorts had made in the world of sustainability. Unfortunately for us, the full video is unavailable online so we have to be content with b-roll.

The Inspiring Our World show is a fantastic example of using the company’s core skill set — entertainment — to both drive employee engagement and share the message of sustainability in a non-linear way. No one says CSR reporting needs to come through boring .PDFs full of graphs and charts (although they can certainly help). Wouldn’t it be incredible if MGM Resorts created a similar show in future reporting cycles to talk about their sustainability? That would win them some awards for innovation and certainly lots of press from the sustainability world.

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