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

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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Video: Michelle Obama on Work-Life Balance

| Tuesday July 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment

michelle obamaApparently Michelle Obama brought a four-month-old Sasha with her to an interview for the Vice President of Community and External Affairs at University of Chicago Hospitals, and she was only willing to take the job if it came with tons of workplace flexibility.

I’m working from home today with my own four-month-old (who is thankfully going on 90 minutes in what is usually a 60-minute nap), so this video struck home for me.

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Killing 6 Birds with 1 Stone: Harder Than It Sounds

| Tuesday July 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment

5-sales-woman-at-ndzilo-store-maputo-mozambique-300x200 Two years ago I reported on an inspiring project kicking off in Mozambique: clean cookstoves, powered by locally produced ethanol made from locally grown cassava, sold neighbor-to-neighbor. CleanStar Mozambique attempted to tackle deforestation, land degradation, malnutrition, poverty, indoor air pollution and carbon emissions with one innovative initiative.

It appeared they’d thought of everything: The plan featured plenty of job development with a biofuel plant in the Sofala province, contracts with local farmers to grow cassava, a locally relevant marketing plan, and a pack of international investors to give the project a boost.

However, the project faced formidable challenges from the beginning.

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Symantec Bets on Next Generation of Cyber Security Workers

| Wednesday June 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment
In 1983, the field of Cyber Security didn't exist, but if it had, it would have prevented Matthew Broderick's character in War Games from hacking the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

In 1983, the field of cyber security didn’t exist, but if it had, it would have prevented Matthew Broderick’s character in “War Games” from hacking the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Cyber security sounds awfully complicated, and, well, dashing, doesn’t it? The type of thing a hacker-meets-James-Bond fellow might do during the day to cover expenses while he builds the next BitCoin at night?

Symantec wants you — and the young people of America — to know that not only is this career path well-paying and approachable, but also, in many cases, it doesn’t even require a college degree.

The security software giant isn’t just getting the word out, it’s launching an initiative to educate young people and train them for the field. The Symantec Cyber Career Connection (SC3) launched yesterday to address the global workforce gap in cyber security positions.

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President Obama Takes On Seafood Fraud and Illegal Fishing

| Tuesday June 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the Opening Session of the "Our Ocean" Conference June 16, 2014 [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the Opening Session of the “Our Ocean” Conference June 16, 2014.

When we started this series on Sustainable Seafood, we couldn’t have imagined that it would culminate with action taken at the highest level of U.S. government. Thanks for reading, Mr. President!

This morning, President Barack Obama announced an initiative to tackle seafood fraud and illegal fishing in the United States. His announcement coincides with the Global “Our Ocean” conference convened by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. In President Obama’s announcement, he referenced the negative financial repercussions of overfishing as one of the key reasons for the initiative:

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to undermine the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks, both in the United States and around the world.  Global losses attributable to the black market from IUU fishing are estimated to be $10-23 billion annually, weakening profitability for legally caught seafood, fueling illegal trafficking operations, and undermining economic opportunity for legitimate fishermen in the United States and around the world.

As Beth Lowell of Oceana noted in an earlier post, between 20 percent and 32 percent of seafood imported into the U.S. comes from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. “These pirate fishermen often use illegal gear, fish in prohibited areas or catch endangered and threatened species. Illegal fishing is a major threat to the worldwide fishing industry, undermining decades of conservation measures and provoking billions of dollars in economic losses.” Oceana sites traceability — that is, tracking seafood from catch to plate — as one of the key solutions to the global problem.

President Obama’s initiative starts with stronger guidelines and better enforcement of existing traceability standards: 

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Water: The Latest Trend in Eco-Clean

| Friday April 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Steam was once the energy source of the future. Is it key to keeping our homes clean?

Steam was once a miracle power source. Does it have a new role keeping our homes clean?

Remember when people boycotted movie theatre popcorn because of the high saturated fat content of the coconut oil used to pop the kernels? Time marches on, and coconut oil becomes the latest health fad.

Trends come and go in the world of eco-cleanliness, too. Now that I’m out on maternity leave, my inbox and mailbox have become full of articles and resources on keeping my home and baby clean without caustic chemical agents. Or maybe they were always full of this sort of info, but now that I have a little one at home, I’m paying closer attention. But I digress. Water. I was surprised to learn in our baby care class that even organic, sensitive skin wipes are passe. All the cool kids are using a simple washcloth (disposable or reusable) and warm water to clean their baby’s booty. It makes sense, really. The alcohol in wipes can dry delicate skin, and let’s be honest, adults don’t soap up after every BM, so why should the babies?

The world of home cleanliness has it’s own player in the “water-clean” movement too: Steam cleaning is all the rage.

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Stories & Beer: Corporate Sustainability Reporting

| Thursday March 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

stories-and-beer It’s time for another Stories & Beer Fireside Chat on Thursday, March 20 at 6:30pm Pacific (9:30pm Eastern) at the Impact HUB San Francisco – and online via web cam.

Please join us in person at Impact HUB San Francisco for our latest “Stories & Beer Fireside Chat” on Thursday, March 20th at 6:30pm when TriplePundit’s Founder, Nick Aster, will be chatting with Dan Fibiger of GAP Inc and Erin Decker of Salesforce.

In this chat, we’ll go behind the scenes with two seasoned sustainability reporters at major corporations. We’ll aim to ask and answer: How does sustainability reporting play out in the trenches? Erin and Dan will share tips and lessons learned. The chat will be valuable for anyone interested in bringing increased transparency to their organizations’ transparency or getting into the sustainability reporting field.


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