Hearing about Coca Cola Enterprises’ (CCE) new sustainability initiative in the UK designed to boost the reuse and recycling of plastic bottles, my expectations were pretty high. After all, CCE, the largest Coca-Cola bottler in Western Europe, is known to be taking sustainability seriously and is even considered one of the leaders in exploring consumer behavior change.
Therefore I hoped the ‘Don’t Waste, Create’ campaign would be strong, maybe even as progressive and exciting as CCE’s ‘Recycle for the Future’ study, wherein the company teamed up with university researchers to closely observe the dynamics that drive waste disposal and recycling in the homes of 20 French and English families.
Unfortunately I was dead wrong. If ‘Recycle for the Future’ was all about the future of using brand marketing to encourage recycling, ‘Don’t Waste, Create’ campaign is all about the past and not necessarily in a good way.
In fairness, maybe my expectations of CCE were too high in the first place because of its impressive track record, but please read the following description of the campaign and tell me if it doesn’t have a ‘90s feel to it:
The latest example that more is not necessarily better comes from CVS, where its absurdly long paper receipts have generated a public outcry on social media. It wasn’t the first time customers complained about the wasted paper, but the receipts got a lot of attention last week after Matt Brownell reported on Daily Finance about a coworker at AOL who bought a single item at CVS and received a 38-inch receipt.
CVS explained that this was its way to inform its ExtraCare rewards program members about coupons and rewards. In the age of apps and eReceipts, that answer felt unsatisfactory to many and the outcry became viral with the help of Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, where a new account, ‘CVS Receipt’ gave people a stage to demonstrate their irritation creatively:
— Frank Cappiello (@frankjcapp) August 28, 2013
From time to time you see an article or study challenging one of your beliefs. This is exactly what happened to me when reading a recent article about ConvergEx, a brokerage firm warning its clients that the ripple effects the sharing economy could be “catastrophic.”
The argument ConvergEx made was that the sharing economy can hurt the overall economy because people share and rent rather than buying stuff. This behavior shift might lead them to become more risk-averse and even think twice before getting into debt.
The crisis-sparked renting and sharing economy could have an effect similar to that of the Depression, in which the consumer psyche is morphed to constantly imagine a worst-case-scenario. The recent recession, arguably, could be fostering a generation of ‘renters’ and ‘sharers’ (as opposed to ‘savers’) who are wary of potentially risky investment vehicles or financial instruments.
You might wonder what’s so bad about people who are wary of potentially risky investment vehicles but it only means you’re not working for a brokerage firm.
Nevertheless, questioning the value of the sharing economy isn’t a bad thing, so I decided to take a closer look at the main claims ConvergEx makes in order to determine if they have merits.
Living within your means can have a negative impact on the economy. Is this a bad thing?
“Materiality is like packing a backpack for a hike: you can only bring the supplies that are absolutely critical, otherwise the weight will slow you down and eventually bring you to your knees.”
This great quote by Gary Niekerk, Director of Global Citizenship at Intel, opens Redefining Materiality II, a new report written by Marcy Murninghan for AccountAbility, which aims to help companies understand the current materiality landscape, or in other words – what they should take into consideration now when packing their backpack.
You might think that 10 years after AccountAbility published its first Redefining Materiality report, it would be easier for companies to figure out what’s material and what isn’t when it comes to environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. Yet, in a way it looks like things have become more complex. “The boundaries between corporations, the environment and society continue to blur,” explains Ted Grant, Head of Global Research and Development at AccountAbility.
But not to worry, the report is here to help. Here are five important lessons:
1. Shareholder resolutions are a good indicator of present ESG concerns – One of the questions companies constantly struggle with is what ESG issues are highly material to investors and other stakeholders. The resolutions shareholders file in an effort to influence companies’ policies and practices provide a good indicator on what these issues are.
Farmigo has been one of the startups getting more attention in the food sector, with a mission of creating a healthy alternative food system and $10 million in funding so far to make this a reality. In its four years of operation, the company has been evolving from an online software provider helping farms to manage their CSA subscriptions to creating and managing communities of people interested in buying local food directly from multiple farms.
Now the company is getting ready for its next evolutionary step, enabling entrepreneurs, or Champions, as Farmigo calls them, to start their own food communities. To learn more about the new program, I talked with Benzi Ronen, Farmigo’s co-founder and CEO. Here’s an edited version of the interview:
TriplePundit: Can you tell us about the new Champions program and how it is different from your current model?
Benzi Ronen: In general, Farmigo has been looking at the different ways we can get healthy food to consumers around the country. When we started the company four years ago, that was our mission. Initially, we started off by focusing on farms that want to sell directly to consumers, like CSA models. We come from a background of software, so we built an internet technology to enable farms to manage a farm-direct business.
Jeff Bezos is “someone who is constantly looking at the long term, says journalist Brad Stone, the author of the upcoming book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. “Unlike the typical financial investor, moreover, Jeff Bezos really is focused on the long term,” writes Henry Blodget on the Business Insider.
Stone and Blodget aren’t alone. After the news broke last week that Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million, everyone, from the commentators to reporters seemed to share the notion that Jeff Bezos is a long-term guy.
But is it true? Does Jeff Bezos really have a long-term view? I decided to look at it through Amazon’s record on sustainability – after all, in business, adopting a sustainable approach and long-term thinking go hand-in-hand, and usually you can’t have the one without the other.
But Jeff Bezos seems to think he can.
Jerry Seinfeld once said: “One of the great mysteries to me is the fact that a woman can pour hot wax on her legs, rip the hair out by the root and still be afraid of a spider.” I have a feeling a new study on what purchasing designer handbags and shoes means for women will only add to this mystery.
The study, which will be published on the February 2014 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, suggests some women also seek these luxury items to prevent other women from stealing their man. The researchers found that “women’s luxury products often function as a signaling system directed at other women who pose a threat to their romantic relationships.”
I have to admit these results seemed a bit weird to me at first, but maybe this was only because I’m a man and never really understood why anyone would be interested in buying a $38,000 handbag. Still I was intrigued by the study and what its findings mean for the future of sustainable consumption. After all, if we want to reach a more sustainable future, we need to do a better job understanding the way all consumers think.
Who has even heard of Kering? Until a few months ago it was knowns as PPR. However, you might know some of the 18 brands it owns like Puma, Gucci, Stella McCartney and Saint Laurent.
While the Kering name might be unknown to many it is actually one of the prominent leaders in the business sector when it comes to sustainability, from the release of the first-ever Environmental Profit & Loss account (EP&L) by Puma in 2011 to Kering’s involvement in creating the B Team earlier this year.
Kering is the quiet type among the group of sustainable leaders which is why I was glad for the opportunity to meet with Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Laurent Claquin, head of Kering Americas at a recent New York media briefing. (Full disclosure: Kering picked up the tab for the lunch).
Our conversation focused on the company’s overall approach to sustainability and the challenges it faces moving forward. The following summarizes some of the main issues raised in this conversation. They showcase the path Kering is taking and also provide some good lessons to other companies interested in following in their footsteps.
Last week, we witnessed a new wave of one-day strikes of fast food workers fighting to achieve an ambitious goal: increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. These strikes brought back to public attention the debate over minimum wage and its economic and social impacts, as well as the unavoidable question: How much would a Big Mac actually cost if workers at McDonald’s were being paid $15 per hour?
While the answer to this question provides some sort of indication as to the level of change required of McDonald’s and other fast food chains to provide their employees with a decent paycheck, it probably doesn’t help us much in understanding the issue we’re facing.
Why? Because the issue here is not about pricing or even human rights, but about innovation and design thinking. The question we should ask is not if McDonald’s can adjust its pricing model to a new wage level or not, but in what way McDonald’s will choose to redesign its business model.
First, let’s get the Big Mac question off the table. The Daily Beast created a McPoverty calculator that lets you see how your extra cents could translate into real-life wages based on the work of economists Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Robert Pollin. Using this calculator, the price of Big Mac would need to increase by 22 cents to enable workers at McDonald’s to make $15.23 per hour, or $31,671.83 per year.
Having the largest university endowment in the U.S. ($30.7 billion), Harvard finds itself in a club it might not want to be a part of. This club includes companies like Apple, McDonald’s, H&M and Walmart and the common denominator is that its members often find themselves under close scrutiny over social and environmental issues, even if they’re far from being the only ones having them, due to their size and impact.
In Harvard’s case, the issue is the divestment campaign, which is trying to convince universities and colleges to divest their endowments’ investments from 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies.
If Harvard agrees to divest its investments, it could be a game changer for the campaign, probably making it a lot easier for other universities to do it, too. So far, Harvard has been very firm in its refusal to divest itself from fossil fuels. “We always appreciate hearing from students about their viewpoints, but Harvard is not considering divesting from companies related to fossil fuels,” Kevin Galvin, a university spokesman told The New York Times last December.
Yet, last week Harvard Management Company (HMC), which manages the university’s endowment, announced that Jameela Pedicini will become its first vice president of sustainable investing. “We will be looking to Jameela as our subject matter expert on current industry practices, possible partnerships related to ESG investing, and on issues of interest emerging on Harvard’s campus,” said Kathryn Murtagh, HMC’s managing director.
So what does this appointment mean? Is Harvard getting closer to saying ‘Yes’ to the divestment campaign, or is it just a lip service gesture to the students?
When was the last time you went to a fast food restaurant and decided what to eat based on calorie information? If you have hard time remembering, apparently you’re not alone.
Huffington Post reports researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) found that when participants were given calorie guidance, such as recommended calories per meal or per day before eating at McDonald’s, where calorie labeling is already available, they consumed no fewer calories than if they were given no calorie advice at all.
This research can be added to a growing body of evidence that question the impact of calorie labeling in restaurants, which some restaurants have already put in place and all others (if they have more than 20 locations) will need to add in next year or so to meet Obamacare’s requirements.
“Most people are not going in and doing very specific math to figure out how many calories for each meal they should have. They are focusing on the entree only or deciding if they eat more now, they will eat less later,” explains Prof. Julie Downs of CMU who led the study.
But is this really the case? Does menu labeling really have no impact on consumer behavior?
In one of my cupboards at home I have an broken DVD player waiting to be recycled. It has been waiting there for two years. I feel bad every time I open this cupboard since I know that I’m now one of the 68 percent of U.S. consumers stockpiling electronics and I hate to be part of this statistic.
The reason we have this huge stockpile is not necessarily because consumers (me included) are lazy or don’t care, but because it’s quite difficult to find a convenient recycling program for these products. The e-recycling system is still very much based on the options retailers provide us with, and as a new report released by the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETB) shows, most retailers still do a poor job helping consumers responsibly recycle their old electronic products.
Released for the first time, ETB’s report card on electronics retailers and their programs gave three retailers, Staples, Best Buy, and Office Depot the highest grades (B+ or B), as all three “have robust programs that let consumers bring our items back to their stores for recycling.” Four more retailers got a C or D and nine retailers, including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and Costco, got an F.
“Staples, Best Buy, and Office Depot are leading the charge to meet consumers’ demand for recycling options, but there is a much bigger number of disappointing laggards who are selling us billions of dollars of electronics each year and doing nothing to help consumers recycle them later,” said Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator at ETB.
Israelis – my people – are usually very innovative, working constantly to develop the next great idea. Sometimes these ideas become successful products and sometimes they don’t. One of the latest ideas from Israel trying to make its way into the first group is the cardboard bike.
There’s only one little problem: Its developers might have chosen the wrong platform to bring their product to market – crowdfunding.
It all started when Izhar Gafni, the inventor of the cardboard bike, and Nimrod Elmish the CEO of Cardboard Technologies were looking to raise $5.5 million to build a factory. They thought a crowdfunding campaign might be a good fit to raise at least some of the money given the nature of the product.
“Because we want to include as many people as possible in this green revolution, we launched this Indiegogo campaign. The funds we raise will allow us to establish the first cardboard bicycle production line, thereby creating jobs, affordable transportation and a cleaner environment,” explained Elmish.
Now that most American and European retailers have signed on to plans to improve factory safety in Bangladesh, there seems to be a notion that the business world acted responsibly, more or less, following the factory building collapse that killed 1129 workers last April.
After all, as Bobbi Silten, senior VP for global responsibility at Gap said, “We may have two plans…but we have one shared purpose and that purpose is to improve worker safety in garment factories in Bangladesh.
We might even feel that the world is a bit of a better place now and hope we can get back to business as usual, aka buying cheap clothes from H&M, Walmart, Gap, Zara and other fast fashion retailers with little less guilt.
But is this really the case? Is fast fashion any more sustainable now due to the new safety plans? And how far are we really from the next tragedy? This might be a good time for a retrospective look at the events that took place after the latest tragedy in Bangladesh. Here are five lessons we can learn from them that might provide us with the answers we are looking for.
1. Businesses act incrementally, not systemically – “At the moment there’s a bias towards action, which is a good thing, but there’s a danger of that action being inevitably being about incremental change rather than some of the radical steps shifts and transformation that we require,” Peter Lacy, managing director at Accenture Sustainability Services explained last year in an interview with Jo Confino.
The response we saw to the tragedy in Bangladesh reflects this notion. While workers’ working conditions will probably be a bit better now, the supply chain they’re part of is still very unsustainable. For example, an article in the New York Times earlier this week explained how “Bangladesh’s garment and textile industries have contributed heavily to what experts describe as a water pollution disaster.”
What you’re eating for lunch today – chicken sandwich? Pasta pesto? Green salad? I don’t know about you and actually haven’t decided yet for myself either, but I know what Rob Rhinehart will have.
Hold your Charlton Heston jokes, he is probably going to have a bottle full of Soylent, a liquid food replacement he developed that is made from “broken-down multivitamins, raw elements like potassium and magnesium purchased from lab supply stores, and olive and fish oils, among other ingredients.”
This liquid food includes the essential ingredients the body needs to thrive explains Rhinehart, a 24-year-old programmer from Atlanta, who is the co-founder of a new startup by the same name (Soylent). In the last five months, he has been living on Soylent almost exclusively, with very occasional solid meal here and there, testing on himself the impacts of what he sees as “a more efficient way to stay nourished.”
And the results so far? Rhinehart reports improved concentration and strength as well as weight loss. “By every objective measure, I’m an incredibly healthy person,” he told Gawker’s Adrian Chen two months ago. “It’s been a huge change, not just in terms of sleep and gym performance but cognition. I can say I feel much more alert, and more patient, and optimistic.”
One adjective I might add to the list is visionary. While Rhinehart by no means suggests his new liquid drink is meant to revolutionize the food system, he certainly sees it as a way to provide a nutritious and efficient alternative to people who see food as more of a tiring chore aimed at keeping us energized and want to reduce the hassle of energy consumption to minimum.