Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge website published an article this week called Top Ten Legal Mistakes Made by Entrepreneurs. If you are starting up a business or thinking about doing so, reading the article may help you avoid some costly errors. For instance, did you know that you may not be able to get patents for your inventions in foreign countries after the invention has been publicized? Do you understand the importance of the Section 83(b) election? Are you aware that venture capitalists often rate the judgment of entrepreneurs by their choice of legal counsel?
While you’re there – bookmark the HBS Working Knowledge site or add it to your iGoogle page!
Sustainability consulting firm Natural Logic has announced they will present a four-part webinar series titled, Coming to Grips with Carbon: How to Measure and Reduce Your Footprint.
The online events will be held on October 18 and 25th, and November 1st and 8th. The series will provide business leaders with practical guidance from leading practitioners on the key issues related to carbon management, including: measuring carbon footprint, reducing emissions, and making sense of emerging opportunities for carbon trading and offsets. Advance registration is required. [Disclaimer: I am helping to produce the series for Natural Logic].
Kyle Tanger, president of Clear Carbon Consulting will present at the October 25th session. I talked with Kyle about his fast-growing consulting practice (he is working with WalMart and other large companies) and asked him what he believes is driving businesses to embrace carbon reduction. “Companies inevitably find projects that have very attractive pay-back periods in financial terms,” Kyle said. “I can’t think of one client that hasn’t recognized that.” More inside…
The Skoll Foundation (created by Jeff Skoll, the first employee and first President of eBay) is now accepting new applications for its social entrepreneurship awards. These three-year awards “support social entrepreneurs whose work has the potential for large-scale influence on critical challenges of our time: environmental sustainability, health, tolerance and human rights, institutional responsibility, economic and social equity, and peace and security…. Skoll social entrepreneurs are innovators who have tested and proved their approach and are poised to replicate or scale up their work.”
Past recipients include an impressive group of social enterprise pioneers: Benetech, College Summit, Global Footprint Network, Institute for OneWorld Health, Room to Read, and TransFair. It is worth a visit to the site to learn about the enterprises they have supported in the past. Even if you are not quite ready to compete for this award, it is a good one to keep on your radar.
To be considered for funding in advance of the 2008 Skoll World Forum, applicants must submit their Online Application no later than September 24, 2007.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), together with consulting firm KPMG, has recently released, Reporting the Business Implications of Climate Change in Sustainability Reports, the results of a survey that analyzes sustainability reports published in 2006 by 50 leading international companies. It is an interesting read – well-organized and complete with charts, graphs, and mini case studies.
Key takeaway: The survey found that while almost all companies included climate change issues in their sustainability reports, they focused far more on potential opportunities vs. financial risks. The authors note that, “This is in stark contrast with recent new evidence that climate change presents serious global economic risks if measures are not taken.” On the other hand, “…a surprising two-thirds of companies reported new business opportunities from climate change, mostly in the area of emissions trading and carbon credits.”
An article posted on the socialfunds.com website a few days ago discusses the report and its findings. The article’s author, Anne Moore Odell, quotes an SRI fund executive who believes that companies may be reluctant to acknowledge climate changes risks because they prefer to treat losses from droughts, hurricanes, etc. as extraordinary events and therefore “below the line.” Admitting that climate change is causing such disruptions may require accounting for them above the line, which could have significant financial impact.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have read a number of reviews of the new book, The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, by Daniel Brook. The most interesting of these was written by Astra Taylor on Salon.com.
I have not read the book, but Taylor offers a good summary and analysis of its key points. The Trap argues that 20-somethings are now being forced to choose between living by their ideals or making a living. Taylor observes that,
Brook’s primary point will be familiar: Compared with our parents at the same age, we’re working longer hours for less money, reduced job security, slashed benefits and fewer social services… Let your student loans fall into default, rent a cheap, dingy room, go without healthcare, plan on staying childless; that’s the price you pay for following your passion or adhering to your ethics.
Socially-conscious MBA students may beg to differ with Brook that the only options available to young workers today are to be a “sellout” or a “saint”. According to the recent Net Impact survey, “MBA Student Opinions on the Relationship Between Business and Social/Environmental Issues“, 79% of students say they will seek socially responsible employment at some point during their careers; 59% say they will do so immediately following business school.
But…will they find jobs to match these ideals? A Newsweek article posted yesterday reports that graduates of the class of 2007 are finding the job market is receptive to those who want to do good by the environment.
The Business Development Institute and PR Newswire are putting on a half-day conference in New York on Tuesday, July 24th that will feature “green communications” case studies presented by corporate executives from Ford, HSBC, Interface, National Geographic, and the U.S. EPA. If you can’t be there in person, sign up to view a free webcast of the event. The agenda sounds interesting: HSBC will discuss its 5-year, $100 million Climate Partnership program; Ford will describe its marketing and communications strategy for the Escape Hybrid; and the director of marketing for the U.S. EPA Climate Leaders program will talk about its successful marketing plan.
The Economist magazine website has a nice little feature called “What’s in the Journals?” The page profiles a small number of recent articles from top-notch business journals with links to view the articles online (registration sometimes required). For those of us who are reluctant to shell out for pricey subscriptions to journals we don’t actually have time to read, this is a great service!
One of the articles reviewed in the latest column is called “The New Principles of a Swarm Business,” published in the Spring ’07 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. The “collaborative innovation” principles described in the article may be particularly interesting for social entrepreneurs:
…members of a swarm typically reject the traditional business notion of building shareholder value as the basis for their decisions and actions. In its place, the swarm works toward the collective interest of stakeholders, which is broadly defined as any party that can affect or is affected by the innovation….shareholders but also employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and even competitors…
A provocative article from the summer issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, titled “Microfinance Misses Its Mark,” is available for free on the SSRI website. The author, an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, states that, “…my analysis of the macroeconomic data suggests that although microcredit yields some noneconomic benefits, it does not significantly alleviate poverty.” The article’s subheading summarizes his conclusion:
Despite the hoopla over microfinance, it doesn’t cure poverty. But stable jobs do. If societies are serious about helping the poorest of the poor, they should stop investing in microfinance and start supporting large, labor-intensive industries. At the same time, governments must hold up their end of the deal, for market-based solutions will never be enough…
Comments have been posted there by readers raising some good questions and objections to the viewpoint expressed in the article. Worth checking out for those interested in microfinance and global development. And while you’re there, consider subscribing! The Stanford Social Innovation Review “is a quarterly journal that brings the best in research and practice-based knowledge to individuals and organizations working for social change around the world.” You may also be interested in their Social Innovations podcasts offered for free online at http://www.siconversations.org/.
As more businesses claim to be “green,” “sustainable,” and “socially responsible,” will true social entrepreneurs find it difficult to stand out in the marketplace? An organization called B Lab has recently launched a new ratings system to help skeptical consumers and investors to distinguish between truly responsible companies and those who simply run good PR campaigns. Companies who are certified as “B Corporations” must meet comprehensive social and environmental standards as well as agree to build stakeholder interests into their corporate governing documents. Companies must supply documentation to support their applications and are subject to random third-party audits. The organization plans to spend millions of dollars each year to promote the B Corporation brand as a trustworthy “seal of approval” for responsible businesses.
In recent years, a number of certifications and ratings systems have been developed by associations, independent consumer groups, and socially responsible investing firms. Could B Corporation be the one that breaks through to wide acceptance and recognition? A few things seem to make it uniquely positioned for success…
The consulting firm SustainAbility, in partnership with The Skoll Foundation, has produced a fascinating 52-page report called Growing Opportunity: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Insoluble Problems. It was released in late March, 2007. The PDF is available for download from both Greenbiz.com and the Sustainability website (registration required). Highly recommended summer reading!
The report springs from a quantitative survey of 100 social entrepreneurs around the world. It attempts to assess the current state of social entrepreneurship and the possibilities presented by new mindsets, the challenges entrepreneurs face in scaling their organizations and the opportunities for greater collaboration with corporations and others. In particular, the discussion of funding challenges and options could be of great value to anyone starting or growing a social enterprise. The report also offers “deep dives” in the areas of clean energy and healthcare.