You might think I am crazy for even suggesting that increasing profits is the social responsibility of business. After all, this article is published on TriplePundit, where we usually focus on the triple bottom line of integrating people, planet, and profits into business, instead of just profits, profits, and more profits.
The famous phrase, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” comes from the title of Milton Friedman’s 1970 article in The New York Times Magazine. It has been echoed countless times from folks in business, free market, libertarian, conservative, and/or republican circles. It has been ridiculed numerous times from folks in progressive, statist, socialist, liberal, and/or democratic circles. However, the phrase is accompanied by an all too often neglected (by supporters and detractors) caveat, that increasing profit must be sought without the initiation of force.
The role of profit and loss
All things being equal, the profit and loss of a business tells an owner how well (profit) or how poorly (loss) a business is meeting the wants and needs of individuals in society. This is true for a small mom-and-pop shop, or the largest of corporations. It doesn’t matter whether a business services a few folks locally, or a mass of population internationally, the role of profit and loss is still the same in any business situation.
Last week, we saw an uproar of protests for and against Chick-fil-A, not because of the company itself, but because of the founder, Dan Cathy’s, position against the legality of gay marriage. Cathy runs his company based on his religious convictions. His biblical understanding also informs his position on gay marriage.
Most individuals who advocate for sustainability tend to also be in favor of gay marriage rights, and may even agree with the protest against Cathy and Chick-fil-A. But what if that same religious conviction inspired action towards environmental sustainability? How would that change not only what we think of, but whether we do or do not buy from Chick-fil-A?
Setting aside politics
Since there is so much emotion based on the gay marriage political positions, before we digress into Chick-fil-A’s environmental sustainability, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and cast it aside for the moment.
Have you ever gone to your primary doctor, only to be referred to a specialist, and the specialist was clueless as to why you went to see him/her? Or maybe received a health assessment based just one point of view rather than the whole picture? There are walls built up between disciplines and occupations in the healthcare field. With the construction of their new Waterfront campus, George Brown College in Toronto, Canada, is seeking change that, creates not only a collaborative learning environment, but collaboration for the health profession.
A space built for collaboration
I got a sneak peak at the building under construction. The first thing you notice when you enter are the massive windows that allow natural daylight to enter the building. Perhaps that is symbolic of what George Brown College is trying to do in the Health Sciences – break down walls.
When I first heard the name Evergreen Brick Works, I thought I was going to be touring a brick factory that happened to be going green. Although in the past, the site was manufacturing plant for bricks, at present that is no longer case. Granted, in one way, Evergreen Brick Works is continuing the legacy of its predecessors, creating building blocks. But instead of physical brick and mortar, Evergreen Brick Works seeks to be a convergence zone for innovative ideas, i.e. creating building blocks for a sustainable future.
Evergreen Brick Works (EBW) is based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, just a short hop away from downtown. It was created by, and is home to, Evergreen, a Canadian national charity, “that makes cities more livable.” Cisco covered travel costs for me to Toronto, so I could to learn about their Smart+Connected concept and technologies first hand. Part of this concept is Smart+Connected Communities. Evergreen Brick Works is one of Cisco Canada’s technology partners.
The greener future
Stepping foot onto EBW, I could not understand what the site was about, but it felt right. I was greeted by a farmers market, serving locally baked breads and selling locally grown vegetables. A cafe piqued my interest for building community over food and libations. A garden market caught my curiosity, bringing native plants and organic and heritage food plants to the community. A formerly dead quarry was transformed into a living pond and restored ravine. I thought I was in green heaven. No wonder, in 2010, National Geographic named EBW as one of the top 10 geotourism destinations.
Nestled a few blocks away from the Embarcadero in San Francisco is an enigma in the clean technology startup world, Cleanwell. I say enigma, because when you think of the term clean technology (cleantech), images of renewable energy, recycling, and information technology come to mind. However, not only will this clean technology from Cleanwell help you clean your hands and surfaces, it harmonizes with the power of nature to do it.
Cleanwell was incubated at IDEO utilizing human-centered design, beginning with a hand sanitizing product that you can easily carry in your pocket or your purse. You might think that hand sanitizers are a dime a dozen, but the key differentiator is Cleanwell’s active cleaning ingredient.
Earlier this week, Cisco Canada unveiled its Innovation Centre in Toronto. The Innovation Centre serves both as a showcase and as a testbed for Cisco and its partners for integrating networking and building technology. Cisco covered travel costs to Toronto, for me to learn about their Smart+Connected concept and technologies first hand, including the Innovation Centre. Some of these innovations may be invisible (as is nearly any building technology), hidden behind walls or ceiling tiles or back rooms. Yet, others are quite visible and a little more tangible. Which of these innovations might influence sustainable building?
Power over ethernet
When you think of ethernet, you would usually think of digital data transfer via internet or internal network. However, ethernet can also carry low voltage electricity. The combination of data and power over one piece of wire has the potential to revolutionize building technology.
Not only will there be savings, from not needing additional copper lines to power low voltage devices, but these devices can be part of an integrated network. You can then monitor, measure, and control a device usage. This may even help you get a LEED certified building, obtaining a few credits by taking advantage of not installing copper wire.
You may know Cisco as a company that designs, manufactures, and sells networking equipment. At a quick glance, it may appear that Cisco is just another business to business IT company that has little to do with with sustainability.
However, a deeper look may show that Cisco may play a pivotal role in moving sustainability forward, not only for business, but for communities around the world. We’ve covered a few of their sustainability initiatives in the past.
How is Cisco embedding its core competencies with sustainability for building smart and connected communities now and in the future?
Appropriate engagement encompasses the personal dimension of sustainability. The appropriate engagement strategy was developed by organizational and personal productivity expert and developer of Getting Things Done (GTD) David Allen.
David Allen was a featured speaker for a group of entrepreneurs at the inaugural Green Business Base Camp (GBBC) last week in Los Angeles, CA. GBBC is an accelerator for Green Business and Cleantech Entrepreneurs. During his talk, Allen described what it means to not only feel more engaged, but actually be more engaged with our everyday actions.
What do mushrooms and algae have to do with brewing beer? Isn’t beer made from malt, hops, water, and yeast? Well, if Brandon Pitcher of 5 Kingdoms Development can make his vision a reality, mushrooms and algae, alongside many other biological organisms, may just become part of the sustainable beer brewing process.
Pitcher’s company name, 5 Kingdoms Development, hints at his brewing process. It utilizes the five biological kingdoms found in nature. Instead of the traditional process where inputs are used and waste created and discarded, this sustainable process attempts to close the loop, creating a model for zero waste and zero emissions.
Here is a diagram of the envisioned brewery flow model, developed by Brandon Pitcher of 5 Kingdoms Development, George Chan, Jim Leuders and ZERI. It contrasts the traditional brewing process with the Zero Emission Industry Material Flow brewing process.
Pitcher’s participated in a start-up pitch contest at the Green Business Base Camp last week. It was perfect timing for 3p’s quest for sustainability in the brewing industry. Let’s touch on a few of these innovations Pitcher is bringing to brewing from the five kingdoms.
There are a ton of sustainable business ideas out there. Some of these ideas gradually build upon prior technology. Other ideas catapult us beyond our imaginations. So what should an entrepreneur do? If we ask environmentalist and entrepreneur, Paul Hawken, he suggests to be bold and fail.
Hawken gave the opening keynote to a group of entrepreneurs at the inaugural Green Business Base Camp (GBBC) in Los Angeles, CA. As the name implies, GBBC is an accelerator for Green Business and Cleantech Entrepreneurs. Hawken reflected and shared his entrepreneurial insights from past experiences.
Entrepreneurs have the unique ability, not only to identify what people need in the future, but also to jump on it and try to make that possible future a veritable reality.
We’ve covered many Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in the past. But does this sort of social responsibility also apply to chefs, especially world renowned chefs? Do chefs have a responsibility to incorporate sustainability practices, environmental or social, into their discipline? Or should a chef focus solely on their culinary artistry?
Good food for the sake of good food
Thomas Keller and Andoni Luis Aduriz are two famous chefs that suggests a chefs sole purpose is to create good food, and not much else. As a New York Times article puts it, “they are united in the belief that their responsibility as chefs is primarily to create breathtakingly delicious and beautiful food — not, as some of their colleagues think, to provide a livelihood for farmers near their restaurants, to preserve traditional culinary arts or to stop the spread of global warming.”
Imagine you are a commercial video production company striking a set. You are in a time crunch, so the easiest thing to do is throw everything away, even perfectly (re)usable goods.
EcoSet solves the problem of diverting waste produced from film sets. Instead of a final resting place at the landfill, EcoSet finds a happy home for these goods.
You may remember TriplePundit covered a “behind the scenes” look at a Target commercial shoot, where EcoSet coordinated sustainability efforts. Recently, I took a peek at the “behind” the “behind the scenes.”
Just kidding! Happy April Fools 2012 :-)
Facing a never-ending shortage of funds for local initiatives, several city governments in California have started turning in cans to make a few extra bucks.
Specifically, the recycling materials in question are plastic and glass beverage containers, as well as aluminium cans associated with CRV (California Redemption Value). At the point of purchase, the State of California takes 5 or 10 cents for each container (contingent upon the container being lesser or greater than 24 ounces). The consumer can then redeem used beverage containers at CRV recycling centers to receive a refund. If CRV funds are not redeemed, the remaining funds rollover to the State Treasury, either used to run the CRV program, or to be appropriated by the state’s legislature.
Local governments in California seeking ways to balance their budgets are looking to CRV to solve their budget woes. In order to recoup what would have been thrown away (both monetarily and materially), they have begun mass recycling of CRV beverage containers at the local level. It started in major metropolitan areas, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, but has spread to smaller population centers, such as the Salinas Valley and Eureka.
With the price of fuel rising, many folks are looking for alternatives. The challenge facing many alternatives, especially when it comes to fueling multi-million aircraft, is that it has to fit into the existing infrastructure.
Two companies may have found a solution, creating drop-in jet fuel from biomass. Not only have the companies created the jet fuel, but the fuel has also passed rigorous military testing.
The two companies in this jet fuel collaboration are Virent and Virdia. Each company specializes at a process along the value chain of creating the jet fuel from biomass. So how does this process of going from biomass to jet fuel work?
This post was submitted for the United Nations World Environment Day blogging competition sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Please “Like” it on Facebook or Tweet using the hashtag #WED2012.
The green economy may not include me. This might sound shocking because, not only do I contribute to a publication focused on green and sustainable business news, but I graduated from a school that focuses on sustainable management. With a cogent résumé towards a green economy, why might the green economy not include me?
I have two deep passions in my life. There is sustainability me and then there’s liberty me. By sustainability, I mean meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. By liberty, I mean having the ability to do as one chooses, granted that one does not infringe on another persons liberty by the use of force.
Think of the green economy as the goal. This is the what. There is no problem here. However, the qualm I have with the green economy is not because of the what, but the process, the how. How do we move towards a green economy? The two polar methods of how to run an economy, green or not are: centralization or decentralization. One is inclusive of liberty minded folks, the other is not.