3p Contributor: Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a senior editor at TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist with a passion for storytelling and sustainability. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Earth911, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and the Daily Meal.

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian with an interest in climate resilience, clean tech and food justice. You can contact her at mary@triplepundit.com or @mary_mazzoni on Twitter.

Recent Articles

Tom’s of Maine Awards $510,000 to Nonprofits in All 50 States

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Backyard Growers’ School Garden Program in Gloucester, Mass. has planted five gardens and harvested 500 pounds of greens for students with the help of $10,000 in Tom’s of Maine sponsorship funding received in 2013.

The Backyard Growers’ School Garden Program in Gloucester, Mass. has planted five gardens and harvested 500 pounds of greens for students with the help of $10,000 in Tom’s of Maine sponsorship funding received in 2013.

The votes are in, and 51 nonprofits from across the country will be able to give back more in their communities as winners of the Tom’s of Maine 50 States for Good community giving program.

Now in its sixth year, the 50 States for Good program rewards grassroots nonprofits with a total of $500,000 in project funding. Back in August, the natural personal care brand asked the public to nominate their favorite nonprofit organizations on social media, and thousands of entries poured in.

This year, for the first time, the program features 51 winners, one from each state and the District of Columbia — bringing this year’s project funding total to $510,000, with each organization receiving a $10,000 donation. (Scroll down for the full list of winners.)

“For the first time, we’re awarding more than $500,000 to support organizations and volunteers on the front lines of making communities stronger across the country,” said Susan Dewhirst, goodness programs manager at Tom’s of Maine. “Every community advocate we heard from – reflected in thousands of nominations – has a unique and special vision for bringing a lasting, positive impact to where they live.”

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TriplePundit’s Sustainable Holiday Gift Guide

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday December 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments

3143621640_049229f351_zWith a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

When you have people and the planet on your mind, holiday shopping can be kind of a drag. Sure, you want to brighten your loved ones’ holiday season, but not with yet another mass-produced trinket that’s destined for the landfill before Valentine’s Day.

Skip the trip to the big-box store, and gift your friends and loved ones with durable, useful items that align with your own values. To save you some time sifting through the ever-growing — and often greenwashed — list of “eco-products,” this week we rounded up 15 sustainable presents that are sure to please everyone on your list. Holiday shopping = done.

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Talking Diversity at Net Impact ’14

Mary Mazzoni
| Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

net impactThree years ago, Forbes Insights surveyed companies with more than $500 million in revenue and asked them about innovation and company culture. Of 321 polled, 85 percent agreed or strongly agreed that diversity was key to driving innovation in the workplace. A study released in October, this one co-authored by economists from MIT and George Washington University, found that gender diversity in the workplace helps firms be more productive. A 2013 Deloitte study concluded that cultivating “diversity of thought” at an organization increases innovation and problem solving. I could go on.

Despite mounting data that insists diversity is key to the sustainable growth of any business, it has been pigeonholed as an HR function for decades. But as the younger generation enters the workforce — with an expectation of “purpose, not just a paycheck” — companies are beginning to move beyond the status quo and infuse diversity into their core business practices.

“Diversity and inclusion is not a new topic of conversation. We’ve been talking about it for a very long time, but the dialogue is changing,” Cecily Joseph, VP of corporate responsibility and chief diversity officer for Symantec, said in a panel discussion at the 2014 Net Impact conference in Minneapolis. “[Diversity and inclusion] sat in HR for many years, and I think companies aren’t happy with the end result.”

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Five Years Later: Has There Been Sustainable Change in the Financial Services Sector?

Mary Mazzoni
| Saturday November 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Thought leaders assemble to discuss the future of the financial services industry at BSR '14.

Thought leaders assemble to discuss the future of the financial services industry at BSR ’14.

The 2014 BSR conference in New York City last week attracted thought leaders from all industries, who gathered to commiserate on timely topics like climate change, sustainability reporting and the circular economy. Of course, a substantial portion of attendees represented BSR member companies — a list that includes more than 250 multinationals that have pledged to “improve their sustainability performance.”

It may come as a surprise to you, but 15 percent of BSR members are part of the financial services industry. Less of a shock: This figure has grown significantly since the financial crisis of 2007-2008 (and continues to climb), as banks and investment firms struggle to rebuild from within and regain consumer trust.

As John Hodges, director of financial services for BSR, put it while moderating a panel discussion at the conference: The financial crisis marked “the only time in [BSR’s] 20-year history that an entire industry was going through a corporate responsibility crisis at the same time.”

After the dust settled, governments, advocacy groups and other stakeholders began to focus intensely on creating a more responsible financial services industry. But how much has really changed in the past five years? Do these companies interact differently with their clients on sustainability issues? Are they really modifying their core business practices in the interest of corporate social responsibility (CSR), or is this just another marketing game? These are only a few of the questions asked last Thursday in New York.

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3p Weekend: How 7 Companies Are Celebrating America Recycles Day

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Elementary students in Charlotte, North Carolina gear up for a recycling event sponsored by Repreve.

Elementary students in Charlotte, North Carolina gear up for a recycling event sponsored by Repreve.

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Tomorrow, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day — a national celebration promoting recycling organized by Keep America Beautiful. Eco-minded folks in communities across the country will mark the holiday by purging their homes of recyclable items and disposing of them responsibly. Top companies also plan to commemorate ARD by hosting recycling drives, spearheading education campaigns and offering friendly reminders of the importance of recycling.

1. Unifi

You may not know Unifi by name, but the Greensboro, North Carolina-based company is behind the Repreve recycled fiber brand, which appears in everything from clothes to car seats.

For America Recycles Day this year, Repreve is linking up with Marvel Universe LIVE! to raise awareness about the importance of recycling. The national initiative spearheaded by the two companies encourages children to take responsibility for recycling at home and in their everyday lives, teaching them that they can become ‘superheroes for the environment.’

Repreve and Marvel kicked off the multi-city initiative in Charlotte, North Carolina this week, teaming up with Charlotte–Mecklenburg Schools, the Boys and Girls Club of the greater Charlotte area and Mecklenburg County Solid Waste Division to host a city-wide recycling contest for youth.

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Toyota’s Social Innovation Umbrella

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Latondra Newton just took on a new role and has been asked to unite – for the first time – Toyota’s North American social innovation activities. We sat down with Newton at Net Impact '14 to find out what that means.

Latondra Newton just took on a new role and has been asked to unite – for the first time – Toyota’s North American social innovation activities. We sat down with Newton at Net Impact ’14 to find out what that means.

The 2014 Net Impact conference gathered like-minded people from all walks of life: Students, C-suite executives and members of the media sat side-by-side in panel discussions addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, and folks from across industries mixed and mingled to inspire solutions to those challenges and more.

During the hustle and bustle of the conference, I had the chance to sit down with Latondra Newton of Toyota North America. She just took on a new role and has been asked to unite – for the first time – Toyota’s North American social innovation activities, including philanthropy, community relations, and diversity and inclusion. She is also charged with overseeing the Toyota Mobility Foundation, which was created earlier this year to address mobility challenges around the world.

If it sounds like a tough job, that’s because it is, but Newton has met the challenge head on. During our chat, we touched on what social innovation means to Toyota and some of the company’s far-reaching community relations programs — some of which were even news to me. For example, did you know Toyota’s manufacturing processes helped streamline food delivery after Hurricane Sandy? I surely didn’t.

Read on for that story and more.

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Is Post-Financial Crisis CSR For Real?: Exclusive Interview at BSR ’14

Mary Mazzoni
| Saturday November 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments
TriplePundit sat down with Andrew Plepler, global corporate social responsibility executive for Bank of America, at BSR '14 to find out what has changed since the financial crisis when it comes to CSR.

TriplePundit sat down with Andrew Plepler, global corporate social responsibility executive for Bank of America, at BSR ’14 to find out what has changed since the financial crisis when it comes to CSR.

Since the financial crisis of 2007-2008, skepticism (and even downright hatred) of the financial services industry has been high — and many would say for good reason. To that end, governments, advocacy groups and other stakeholders have focused intensely on creating a more responsible industry. But how much has really changed in the past five years? Is the industry really modifying its core business practices in the interest of corporate social responsibility (CSR), or is it just smoke and mirrors (again)?

At the 2014 BSR conference in New York City this week, a group of expert panelists assembled to discuss just that. The conversation was dynamic and drew enthusiastic participation from audience members across multiple industries. (Stay tuned for more coverage of this thought-provoking panel discussion next week on TriplePundit.)

I had the chance to sit down with Andrew Plepler, global corporate social responsibility executive for Bank of America, before the panel on Thursday. Plepler has been with B of A for more than a decade — meaning he was the guy who bravely pitched CSR ideas in board rooms before the crisis, with members who may or may not have been receptive. Now, five years later, he’s working on annual CSR reports and serving as the smiling face on videos explaining what responsibility means for the company. Since he’s seen the issue come full circle, I was intrigued to hear his thoughts.

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3p Weekend Conferences: CSR and Planning for the Unplanned at BSR ’14

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday November 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

From left to right:

From left to right: Melanie Janin of BSR (moderator); Gabi Zedlmayer, vice president and chief progress officer for HP; Paul Massey, executive vice president of Weber Shandwick; and Koichi Kaneda, senior director of CSR for Takeda Pharmaceutical speak about planning for the unplanned at BSR 2014.

Two years ago, shortly after the 2012 BSR Conference in New York, Hurricane Sandy struck the city. Few anticipated the severity of the damage brought on by rising floodwaters, which reached 17 feet in some areas. Gov. Andrew Cuomo estimated that the total price tag for the storm will reach $42 billion, the New York Times reported.

The unforeseen and catastrophic damage caused by Sandy serves as a chilling reminder that unplanned events lurk around every corner — that everything can change in the blink of an eye.

As our planet warms, studies show such unprecedented storms, hurricanes and floods will only become more commonplace. But of course, natural disasters aren’t the only unexpected events that can shake people — and businesses — to their core. From stock market jolts and dislocation to man-made tragedies like the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, such shocks to the system come in many forms — and businesses are now expected to plan for the unplanned and to jump into action when disaster strikes the communities in which they operate.

At the 2014 BSR Conference, a group of though leaders assembled to discuss just that in a panel entitled “Planning for the Unplanned: The Role of Corporate Responsibility in Unforeseen Events.” We pulled some of our favorite quotes from the panel, so you can feel like you were there — even if you couldn’t make it to New York. 

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Photo Gallery: Tour the Volkswagen Autostadt in Wolfsburg, Germany

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday October 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments
Volkswagen's Autostadt in Wolfsburg, Germany houses more than 600 works of art -- some even on the sides of its buildings.

Volkswagen’s Autostadt in Wolfsburg, Germany houses more than 600 works of art — some even on the sides of its buildings.

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

When it came time to buy my first car, my dad and I drove down to the used car dealership, and we wound up buying the first one we saw. Here in the states, this is a fairly common occurrence. ‘See it, like it, drive it, buy it’ is the typical car-buying process for millions of Americans, myself included.

So, you can imagine my surprise as I sat down to lunch last week at the Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg and learned that buying a new car often takes months for Europeans. Forget picking one out and driving it off the lot. Across the pond, most families work directly with an automaker to customize every aspect of their new ride. They then wait weeks for their custom vehicle to be produced.

After all that waiting, many European drivers crave a bit of pomp and circumstance when they pick up their new car. That’s why thousands of car-buyers journey here to Wolfsburg every year. They often make a weekend of it — staying at the Ritz-Carlton, touring the stunning countryside and visiting the Autostadt, Volkswwagen‘s theme park and educational center that focuses on “people, cars and what moves them.” During their stay, buyers head to the Car Towers, the world’s largest delivery center, to pick up their ride (picture an enormous vending machine — but filled with cars).

But car-buyers aren’t the only people who visit the Autostadt. In fact, the park attracts around 2 million visitors each year — more than 29 million since the official opening in 2000 — making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany. I had a chance to tour the park, which sits on the site of an old industrial complex and puts the automaker’s efficient and sustainable design on display. Click through for the virtual tour to catch an glimpse for yourself.

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The Business Guide to Talking About Carbon

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment

8211403515_09f016001a_zCarbon offsetting gained international awareness back in 1997 with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, which sanctioned offsets as a way for governments and companies to meet their greenhouse gas emission targets.

After a few years, offsets gained something of a stigma in the environmental community. Thoughts drifted to wealthy celebrities using offsets to justify weekly use of private jets or Coldplay’s infamous mango tree debacle, and critics were quick to bemoan offsets as an easy pathway to greenwashing or a half-hearted attempt to quell eco-guilt. But the market has changed drastically in the past 17 years.

“I know you mentioned in an article about the Coldplay thing, and that’s the ugly elephant in the room that nobody likes to talk about who’s in this industry,” Nancy Bsales, manager of carbon solutions for TerraPass, said with a laugh in a recent interview. “But over the years the transparency and the quality of offsets has improved tremendously. There are so many strong standards out there that a company or an industry can be very confident that what they’re doing is real.”

Rather than a bandage tasked with covering up environmental indiscretions in one fell swoop, today’s carbon market actually offers a deeper fix. “On a corporate level, when companies look at [offsets], they look at them as a way to bridge the gap,” Bsales continued. Even for companies that are on top of their game as far as efficiency and utilizing new technologies, emissions are still created, she noted, and that’s where offsets come in.

“So what do you do with what’s left? And that’s when you take into account the market-based tools of renewable energy credits or carbon offsets,” Bsales said. “And then the real approach is supposed to be: On a yearly basis [companies] are supposed to become so much better at efficiencies and technologies that [they] need less and less offsets. That is the true goal that we want everyone to look at.”

Despite these changes in the marketplace, some companies may hesitate to incorporate offset decisions into their sustainability communications — whether it’s because they’re new to sustainability or simply worried of being nailed for greenwashing. We sat down with Bsales to get her top tips for sharing your offset decisions effectively — and making them a highlight rather than an afterthought in your sustainability communications.

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Photo Gallery: How e-Golf Batteries Are Made

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Christian Buhlmann (center), Volkswagen Product Communications, shows a cut-away model of a completed e-Golf battery to a group of journalists at Volkswagen's battery plant in Braunschweig, Germany.

Dr. Werner Meyer (left), head of production from battery systems at Volkswagen Braunschweig, and Christian Buhlmann (center), Volkswagen Product Communications, show a cut-away model of a completed e-Golf battery to a group of journalists at Volkswagen’s battery plant in Braunschweig, Germany.

Last month, I was lucky enough to be one of the first Americans to hop behind the wheel of the 2015 e-Golf, Volkswagen’s first fully-electric vehicle for the North American market. The car offers a smooth ride and a good deal of pep, with a best-in-class torque of 199 foot-pounds (the standard torque measure).

Its 24.2 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery is no slouch either, providing 70 to 90 miles of range on a single charge. Like the e-Golf’s electric motor and transmission, the battery was developed in-house and is made at Volkswagen’s manufacturing facility in Braunschweig, Germany.

The Braunschweig plant, the oldest in operation for Volkswagen Group, has been manufacturing conventional batteries for more than 75 years. Eighteen months ago, it began producing batteries for the automaker’s first electric vehicle, the E-Up! (available in European markets only). Earlier this year, Braunschweig added batteries for the European and North American e-Golf models to its portfolio, and it’s now the only plant to churn out batteries for Volkwagen’s two electric vehicles.

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Interview: Todd Taylor on Darden’s ‘Restaurants of the Future’

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday October 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

olive garden It’s no secret that restaurants run on slim profit margins, and restaurants with tight budgets and minimal resources often put sustainability on the back burner. This often comes at a high cost to the environment – including unnecessary energy and water use, as well as exorbitant amounts of waste sent to local landfills.

Responding to these issues, Darden Restaurants, the Fortune 500 restaurant giant known for brands like Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze, has made a commitment to reduce the physical footprint and amount of resources used at its more than 1,500 restaurants across the country.

The restaurant chain has already begun constructing new restaurants using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Whether a location is LEED certified or not, Darden’s commitment is carried through to its restaurant design elements, which include LED lighting, low-flow sinks, water efficient landscaping, energy management systems and more. Darden also recently launched restaurant Sustainability Teams — self-selected, passionate employees tasked with keeping the company steadfast in its conservation goals.

Darden has set out to utilize innovative technology in all corners of its restaurants, appropriately dubbed ‘restaurants of the future.’ Keeping an eye on the latest technology and the needs of its seven distinct restaurant chains — which also include Seasons 52, the Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House — Darden now utilizes sustainable technologies that were not available even a decade ago, such as water-efficient pasta cookers, recyclable carpet, automatic light dimmers and organic recycling processes, the company said.

I sat down with Todd Taylor, vice president of design for Darden Restaurants, to find out what these ‘restaurants of the future’ look like — and how the company hopes to expand the concept moving forward.

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Ford Edges Closer to ‘Growing’ Its Own Car Parts

Mary Mazzoni
| Monday October 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Is that popcorn? Nope, it's a batch of freshly made soy-based foam. Ford now uses this bio-based material in every vehicle sold in North America.

Is that popcorn? Nope, it’s a batch of freshly made soy-based foam. Ford now uses this bio-based material in every vehicle sold in North America.

Researchers at Ford Motor Co. have been working to replace petroleum-based plastic with renewable alternatives for nearly 15 years. Back in 2000, Debbie Mielewski, senior technical leader for sustainable materials at Ford Research, and her team devised a chemical formula to replace petroleum-based automotive foam with foam made from soybean oil.

It wasn’t always easy. As Mielewski explained to a group of journalists in the research lab last week, the first soy-based foam the team tested was “the most miserable, stinky, terrible foam ever. It smelled like burnt popcorn.”

But, she continued, the team had plenty of time to perfect the formula. Why? To put it bluntly: because the rest of the company wasn’t expecting much anyway.

“Way back in 2000, people said: ‘Why the heck do you want to do this? Petroleum is cheap; we’ve been doing it for 50 years with the petroleum-based chemicals. Why would we want to change it?'” Mielewski recalled that she and her colleague Ellen Lee were “thrown out of every conference room in the whole company.”

As the researchers continued their work, it often seemed as if the department wouldn’t live to see the results. But, in the innovative spirit of his great-grandfather, Executive Chairman Bill Ford wouldn’t hear of it. “Every time the project was about to be shut down due to resource constraints, we would hear from behind the scenes that Bill Ford met with somebody and that we were going to keep going,” Mielewski said.

Finally, after years in the laboratory, the team’s hard work paid off. In 2007, Mielewski, Lee and their colleagues completed a soy-based foam that met every specification Ford had in place for its automotive foam. “That’s when the magic sort of happened for us: Oil went from $40 a barrel to over $160 a barrel,” Mielewski continued with a smile. “The phones started ringing off the hook, and they said, ‘You know that really crappy idea? That’s a good idea.'”

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3p Weekend: 5 Things Employers Need to Know About Millennials

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday October 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Want to learn more? Join TriplePundit, SAP and our special guests at #SAPsocent on October 23 at 9 a.m. PST / Noon EST for a special Twitter Chat about millennials and social entrepreneurship. Click here for more info.

Business MeetingWith a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

According to a study conducted in 2012 by leadership strategist Erica Dhawan75 percent of the global workforce will be made up of millennials by 2025. We all know millennials love their smartphones and are more likely to shun car-centric suburban life in favor of big cities — but those aren’t the only things that make this generation tick.

If employers are looking to attract and retain top talent, they’d be wise to learn these five things about millennials.

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The Mustang Gets an EcoBoost for Its 50th Birthday

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday October 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

2014-10-14 14.44.29I’ve always wanted a Ford Mustang. As a youngster, I often daydreamed about cruising down the highway with the top down and the wind in my hair. Many a homeroom game of MASH ended in disappointment — not because I got stuck living in a shack or married to a boy who pushed me down at recess, but because the luck of the draw left me with something other than a Mustang.

I never would have guessed that the first time I’d sit behind the wheel of my dream car would be as an environmental journalist — about to punch the pedal of the most fuel efficient Mustang ever made.

For the model’s 50th birthday, the folks at Ford Motor Co. decided to do things a bit differently by launching the first Mustang with EcoBoost. Available with both manual and automatic transmissions, the EcoBoost model promises 32 miles per gallon on the highway. Now, before you get too excited, I’m not talking about the V8 version — or even the V6. The 2015 Mustang EcoBoost comes equipped with a 4-cylinder engine. But at 2.3 liters and 310 horsepower, it still has a good deal of pep. The 320 pound-feet of torque doesn’t hurt performance either. In fact, the EcoBoost produces more horsepower and torque than the Mustang GT engines did just 10 years ago.

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