3p Contributor: Melanie Colburn

Melanie Colburn Melanie Colburn is a sustainable business writer and consultant based in San Francisco. Melanie's done some interesting work in corporate social responsibility and sustainability-- with organizations like Autodesk, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and Nestle. She holds an an MBA with honors (Sustainable Business) from San Francisco State University and a BA with honors from University of California, Berkeley. Contact her at melanie.a.colburn[@]gmail.com and @MelanieAColburn on Twitter.

Recent Articles

Walmart: 2013 Global Responsibility Report Released

Melanie Colburn
| Wednesday April 24th, 2013 | 3 Comments

Join us today, April 24th at 4pm Central time for a Twitter chat with Walmart on their Global Responsibility Report.
Walmart 2013 Report

This week, Walmart released its 2013 Global Responsibility Report. At 172 pages, it’s a monster to wade through. Other multinational retailers don’t come close: Carrefour’s latest report comes in at 75 pages, while Tesco’s hits 70. The sheer breadth and depth of it (realizing that there is much more that didn’t make it to publication) is a testament to the deep investment and rigorous approach the company is taking to pursue its sustainability strategy.

Highlights include progress in 10 areas: philanthropy, scaling the sustainability index for products, women’s economic empowerment, strengthening sourcing from U.S. manufacturing, renewable energy, hunger relief and healthier food (both topics in line with its mission and consumers’ concerns), veteran employment, workforce diversity (particularly regarding women), and job opportunity creation.

Given that the report is so impressively comprehensive, in what areas might stakeholders like to see more discussion? A fuller accounting of water impacts would have been welcome, both in the GRI index and as a standalone subsection. While the report touches on the area, it would be interesting to see how water is accounted for in the supply chain and how its retail facilities manage water impacts. Furthermore, I would love to know from the upcoming 3p Twitter chat with Walmart what sustainability areas they considered covering in depth but chose not to focus on.

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HP’s Conflict-Free Supply Chain Initiative is an Industry First

Melanie Colburn
| Wednesday April 24th, 2013 | 0 Comments

HP-mining.jpgLaptops, smart phones, tablets—these are among our favorite electronic gadgets. We use them to do laudable things—stay connected in emergencies, democratize access to education, mobilize the workforce. Good things. So it stings to be reminded that our electronic toys and so many other popular products often rely on raw materials with ethically questionable sources.

HP is facing this supply chain issue head on. Last week, the firm announced plans to achieve a conflict-free supply chain by encouraging suppliers to earn certification as a Conflict-Free Smelter (CFS). HP is hoping to lead the industry in the use of conflict-free smelters and refiners, an important component in an ethical supply chain in the IT industry. HP also became the first IT company to publicly release its supply chain smelter list and seek independent review for its smelter identification process.

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A New Marketplace for Goods of Change

Melanie Colburn
| Tuesday April 9th, 2013 | 1 Comment

The Union Co. is a new online retailer seeking to become a clearinghouse for cause-related goods. The Union offers an assortment of just over 200 hand-selected, cause-related products, and is still growing. The co-founders, Mitch Ahlenius and Benjamin Juhlin, brought the site live in January, officially launched in March and reached profitability in the first three weeks. They are adamant that new clients resonate with the company’s goals and their mission to change the way people purchase everyday items.

Every purchase provides an in-kind donation to someone or somewhere in need: a tree planted, a condom distributed, school supplies in the developing world, music education. The causes The Union targets are huge intractable challenges: AIDS, community development, education, environment, health and hygiene, homelessness, hunger and nutrition, job creation, peace, post-war, sex trafficking, water, youth.

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Can Obama Give U.S. Clean Energy Manufacturing a Fighting Chance?

Melanie Colburn
| Friday April 5th, 2013 | 0 Comments

Wind TurbineOn March 26th, Assistant Secretary of Energy, Dr. David Danielson, announced the launch of a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI). The twin aim of the initiative is to increase U.S. competitiveness in the production of clean energy and in manufacturing, by increasing energy productivity.

The Obama Administration has called for $1 billion in total one-time funding to award competitive grants to create a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). Up to 15 institutes will be tasked with creating regional networks that bridge academia, suppliers, and related industries around focused specialties in clean tech energy.

This is part of President Obama’s plan to revitalize American manufacturing, as he presented in his 2012 State of the Union address, where he called for $1 billion in funding for regional manufacturing innovation hubs. At the State of the Union, the President said that his blueprint for the American economy “begins with American manufacturing,” which the Obama Administration sees as critical for jobs, economic recovery, and national security.

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