3p Contributor: Nick Aster

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He was instrumental in the creation of TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years as well as an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

Recent Articles

Video Interview: Ory Zik, Founder and CEO, Energy Points

| Thursday April 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments

I just got back from the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara and put together a handful of great video interviews.  You can follow along on our conference page here for all of them, as well as past years’ coverage.

logo-energypointsOry Zik is the founder and CEO of Energy Points, Inc. Energy Points uses analytics and big data to enable enterprises to maximize energy productivity and strategically de-risk their resource supply chains. Its integrated source-to-site energy analytics directs intelligent data-driven use of electricity, water and waste.

I had a chance to sit down with Ory last week at the WSJ ECO:nomics conference to learn a little more about Energy Points and how the company helps make sense of complex data in the energy supply chain. Ory is also an occasional contributor to Triple Pundit.

Video after the jump…

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Video Interview: Suzanne Shelton, President & CEO, Shelton Group

| Wednesday April 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

I just got back from the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara and put together a handful of great video interviews.  You can follow along on our conference page here for all of them, as well as past years’ coverage.


Suzanne Shelton is founder, president and CEO of Shelton Group, an advertising agency focused exclusively on motivating mainstream consumers to make sustainable choices.  She’s also one of the more insightful and energetic conversationalists you are likely to run into at a conference and has a lot to say about what it takes to get consumers to take sustainability seriously.

Last week, Suzanne led a lunchtime discussion at WSJ ECO:nomics on the fact that, while companies have come a long way in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR), engaging the end consumer is still required to really accomplish their goals.  Suzanne was kind enough to sit down with me for a whirlwind conversation on the subject.

Watch the whole thing in the video after the jump:

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Video Interview: Raj Mamodia, CEO of Brillio

| Tuesday April 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

I just got back from the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara and put together a handful of great video interviews.  You can follow along on our conference page here for all of them, as well as past years’ coverage.

logo-brillioBrillio is a $100M startup that’s set to launch in the next few weeks. A global technology consulting firm, Brillio is focused on leveraging emerging technologies in, among other vertical markets, the energy/utilities industry. With innovation ‘hot spots’ due to open in the U.S. in 2014, Brillio is investing in new market opportunities to help organizations achieve competitive dominance beyond strategic advantage and quality management.

I had a chance to sit down with Raj Mamodia, Brillo’s CEO, to learn more about how Brillio will help companies, especially utilities cope with fast changing technology, fast changing customer behavior, and the basics of running complex operations.  The goal, from a sustainability perspective, is to greatly increase efficiencies that can save not only money, but many negative externalities that the energy sector faces.

Watch the video after the jump:

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Video Interview: Peter Graf, CSO EVP at SAP

| Monday April 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

I just got back from the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, Calif. and put together a handful of great video interviews.  You can follow along on our conference page here for all of them, as well as past years’ coverage.

logo-sapED NOTE: Please join us on April 11th as we talk with Peter Graf of SAP, Aron Kramer from BSR, & Nigel Topping of CDP on Twitter. Register here to join us.

Peter Graf is SAP America’s chief sustainability officer.  Last week, he led conversation at WSJ ECO:nomics on the use of IT to drive sustainability, covering sustainable design, product stewardship networks, employee education, transportation management, recycling administration and aligning incentives with sustainability interests.

I had a chance to sit down with Peter and talk about SAP’s recently released integrated report, the process for putting it together and how it has benefitted the company. We also talked about some of the company’s recent accomplishments in committing to 100 percent renewable energy and a new foray into free online sustainable business education.

Watch it all in the video after the jump:

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Video: The Basics of Palm Oil in Honduras

| Thursday April 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Endless palms near Progresso, Honduras (From Google Maps)

Endless palms near Progreso, Honduras (From Google Maps)

Landing at Honduras’ San Pedro Sula International Airport treats the passenger to a vista of nearly endless plantations of densely planted palm trees.  Specifically these palms are elaeis guineensis - the most common variety of palm grown for its oil, and a booming cash crop, not only here, but especially in Southeast Asia.

TriplePundit readers are acutely aware that the growth in palm oil plantations is among the most serious causes of deforestation in tropical regions, particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia where Phil Covington recently looked into the problem.

Honduras is a minor, but growing player in the palm oil scene. Fortunately, most of Honduras’ new palm oil plantations are replacing other crops, especially bananas, rather than virgin forest.   Nonetheless, the rapid growth in this crop – used as an ingredient in everything from soap to margarine to biodiesel – presents numerous social and environmental challenges.  Among these are worker safety, pesticide use, agricultural waste, economic development and indeed pressure to expand into high value natural areas.

I’ve just returned from a brief trip to Honduras to visit the first Rainforest Alliance certified palm oil cooperative -Hondupalma.  I’ll be getting into the details of how Hondupalma works (it’s an interesting co-op of over 500 families) over the course of the next week or two.  But first, I thought a brief introduction to the actual process of producing palm oil would be interesting.

I shot some video while I was there.   Take a look after the jump…

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Tweet Jam: Sustainable Fashion

| Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 7 Comments

3p-tweet-jamAs part of the kickoff to our new series on sustainability in fashion, we’ve decided to try something new: a Tweet Jam. It’s a one hour conversation with a panel of experts to which everyone is invited.

This time we’ll be teaming up with Business Fights Poverty to lead the conversation about key sustainability topics facing the fashion industry. We’ll explore sustainability trends in fashion throughout the lifecycle: from the cotton fields all the way to the landfill.   In the expansive scope of sustainability, how do brands decide where to focus and how to prioritize?  How effective are their efforts for people and the planet?

We’re On:
The Jam is on – please visit the twitter client of your choice and search for #3pChat, or follow along live below:

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Yerdle’s Critics Miss the Point

| Tuesday February 25th, 2014 | 8 Comments


In case you’re not familiar, yerdle is an online marketplace in which people can give away things they no longer want, or lend things out they don’t use very often.  It’s a classic sharing economy concept with big potential to make more efficient use of goods that would otherwise be thrown away.

Salon’s Andrew Leonard wrote a fairly scathing review of yerdle’s new credit system on the grounds that it dishonestly suggests the service is free. He further implies that yerdle is yet another PT-Barnum-style huckster start-up tech company claiming to offer something for nothing with a secret future business plan that will somehow screw people.

On the first point, Leonard is correct.  Yerdle’s new credit system requires users to give away things and do other tasks in order to earn credits which can then be exchanged for goods.  There’s talk of being able to buy credits with cash in the future.  For all intents and purposes this means you can’t get anything “for free” on yerdle anymore – you have to do something, whether it be give away products of your own or some other action. The point is, there’s a cost even if it isn’t expressed in dollars.  So, yerdle might indeed want to reconsider their use of the word “free.”  But the notion that yerdle has much in common with a bait and switch tech company is unfair.

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LIVE! Stories & Beer: Fashion and Sustainability

| Wednesday February 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

stories-and-beer We hosted another Stories & Beer Fireside Chat on Wednesday, Feb 19th at 6:30pm Pacific (9:30pm Eastern) at the Impact HUB San Francisco – and online via web cam.

This month we focused on sustainability in the fashion and apparel industry, and explored sustainability trends in fashion throughout the lifecycle: from the cotton fields all the way to the landfill.  In the expansive scope of sustainability, how do brands decide where to focus and how to prioritize?  How effective are their efforts for people and the planet?

TriplePundit’s Founder, Nick Aster, took an hour or so to chat with with Paul Dillinger, Head of Product Innovation for Levi Strauss & Co and Eve Blossom, Founder of Lulan Artisans. The entire conversation can be viewed here. 



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Learning from the Atlanta Snowpocalypse: Urban Planning & Stakeholder Management

| Friday January 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments

atlanta-snowOn Wednesday, Atlanta and its suburbs were brought to their knees by a minor ice storm.  Thousands of people were stuck, sitting in vehicles, for as long as 20 hours. The lucky ones found refuge in schools, offices and Home Depots. CNN (based in Atlanta) has been going berserk devoting half their front page to the story with large font headlines asking “How did this happen? Who’s to blame?” … well, fundamentally, those are very easy questions to answer, and it’s not about a lack of snow plows…

The Atlanta area (the central city and many dozens of independent suburbs) has been allowed to sprawl to as much as 100 miles in diameter (almost the size of Los Angeles with a third of the population).  Almost none of this sprawl is navigable without a car. Even if you wanted to walk, sidewalks are missing. Transit may technically exist but is far flung and inconvenient. One hour commutes to work are not considered all that unusual.  Mix this reality with a little snow and lack of coordination and you get unspeakable gridlock.  So that’s how it happened, and that’s why sprawl is to blame.

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Sharing Economy Revolution Turns Violent in Paris: What Can We Learn?

| Monday January 20th, 2014 | 17 Comments

uber-parisParisian cabbies have unleashed hell on Uber cars over the last week, smashing windows and slashing tires. They see Uber as unfair competition…

One of the reasons we love the sharing economy is its ability to turn an entrenched industry on its head for the greater good. Generally the entry of a sharing economy concept into an industry means more efficient, cheaper access to a service and often new economic opportunity for enterprising individuals. It also often results in less consumption of energy or material as people “rent” goods like tools or even cars rather than owning them.

However, turning an industry on its head is not always a graceful maneuver.

Lets take taxis.  Taxis are a notoriously entrenched industry in most cities. Heavily connected and governed by  deeply bureaucratic rules and complicated commissions, their numbers, fares and availability are highly regulated.  As a result, in many cities, getting a cab can be both expensive and difficult – and in the case of San Francisco, futile. New companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have created a secondary market for rides, powered by fast, reliable mobile technology and generally driven by independent people who simply happen to own a car and are looking to make a few bucks on the side. The result has been a huge increase in available rides at competitive prices – and a lot of upset bureaucrats and cabbies.

So are taxi drivers justified in being angry?

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Southwest Airlines in Hot Water Over Seaworld Blackfish Controversy

| Wednesday January 15th, 2014 | 18 Comments
Shamu One

Shamu One

Despite apparent record profits, SeaWorld is in the thick of an emotional controversy about the ethics of keeping dolphins and whales in captivity for the purpose of putting on shows. It all stems from last fall’s documentary, Blackfish, which depicts the life of Tilikum, a captive orca who has killed three people over the years. The film alleges his behavior is the result of psychological trauma brought on by being in captivity and goes on to discuss many other ethical downsides to whale and dolphin shows.

Let me get my bias right out on the table – I think dolphin and orca shows are ridiculous, though I’m willing to give SeaWorld the benefit of the doubt that they have at least a modicum of conservational value somewhere buried between the roller coasters and popcorn stands. SeaWorld does make some effort to create an educational experience for visitors, but it is definitely not a zoo. Its primary mission is entertaining and making money.

However, this post is about Southwest Airlines, one of SeaWorld’s promotional partners and the latest target of attention by folks rallying to put a stop to cetacean captivity performances. The hope is that pressure on Southwest will reach SeaWorld.

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Last Chance! Win a Trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

| Sunday December 15th, 2013 | 1 Comment

The UAE flag flies over "heritage village" - a recreation of older times as modernity looms in the distance

For the last three years, TriplePundit has enjoyed a close partnership with Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company and the masterminds behind Masdar City.  This year we’re kicking things off again by helping out with a blogging contest that will send one lucky writer to Abu Dhabi next month for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and the World Future Energy Summit.

The theme of the contest is on  “smart cities and sustainable development” and the rules are pretty straightforward: Write a 500-600 word story addressing the following question:

How can cities contribute to the advancement of sustainable development and address issues including water, energy and waste?”

A selection of the best of the posts will be published here on 3p and elsewhere and the lucky winner will be off to the middle east for a truly fascinating experience.

Think you’ve got what it takes?  Hop over to the official rules and entry page and get your blog post ready. You’ve got about a month to get your submissions in.  The deadline is January 3rd.

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Storify: #SodexoCR Chat Summary

| Friday December 13th, 2013 | 2 Comments

Earlier this week, in partnership with CSRWire, we convened a Twitter Chat with Sodexo for an inside look at the company’s commitment to corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Our guests included:

  • Sodexo’s Neil Barrett: Group Vice President, Sustainable Development
  • Sodexo’s Tom Mackall: Vice President, Global Labor Relations
  • John Friedman: Director, Global Corporate Responsibility Communications and contributor to CSRwire’s commentary section Talkback

Moderated by TriplePundit’s Nick Aster & CSRwire’s Editorial Director Aman Singh, Sodexo’s leaders shared their ambitions, answer questions about their commitments and seek feedback from the CR/sustainability community.

If you missed the chat, below is a storify summary of the chat you can read any time:

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How Novozymes Integrates Sustainability into the Business

| Monday December 9th, 2013 | 0 Comments
The path towards deep integration of sustainability - according to Novozymes

The path towards deep integration of sustainability – according to Novozymes

While in Copenhagen last week, I had a chance to talk to Novozymes’ Head of Sustainability, Claus Stig Pedersen about what “sustainability” actually means to the company. It turns out, quite a bit.

Novozymes makes enzymes. By definition, enzymes make reactions more efficient, faster, and they often reduce chemical by-products. As such, Novozymes has a good reason to integrate sustainable principals into its operations. Their strategy and thought processes are valuable for many companies to consider.

Pedersen offered me a chart (which I attempted to recreate above) that outlines the way he sees sustainability being integrated into a company.  It’s pretty logical and may feel very familiar. At the most basic level, sustainability is about compliance and avoiding risk. It’s also a PR move – to keep potential critics at bay. As a company begins to understand what sustainability is really all about, financial savings start to become apparent – especially as a result of efficiencies in resource and energy use.  At the highest level, sustainability begins creating new business segments, new products, and growth.

But what does it take to get to that highest level and perhaps beyond?

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Enzymes: Unsung Heroes of Sustainability

| Wednesday December 4th, 2013 | 1 Comment

enzymeI’m in rainy Copenhagen this week attending Novozymes’ 2013 Household Care Sustainability Summit.  As its name implies, the summit brings together sustainably-minded makers of laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid and other household cleaning products. It might sound like a dry topic without a great deal of impact on the world, but when you look at the indirect effects that cleaning products have, it gets a lot more exciting.

Case in point: most 3p readers are familiar with the story of Cold Water Tide. To refresh your memory, some years back Procter and Gamble did a life cycle analysis of Tide laundry detergent and found that when it came to its energy footprint, by far the most significant component was not the manufacturing or the transportation.  It was, in fact, the heating of water at people’s homes to run their washing machines. Not content to shrug their shoulders at something outside their direct control, P&G redesigned a version of Tide to work in cold water. When used this way, Tide’s energy footprint and customer’s electric bills were drastically cut.

They key to making a detergent that functions well in cold water? Enzymes.

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