Climate Change: Sell the Sizzle

3p Conferences
| Tuesday November 4th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 1.27.16 AMBy Felicity Carus

The day before the Sustainable Brands 2014 conference in London opened, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its first major report since 2007. At 1,552 pages long, the Synthesis Report is indigestible to all but the most die-hard climate activist, policy wonk or scientist. But its central message boils down to this: We must quit fossil fuels altogether by 2100 or face catastrophe.

This is not news people want to hear; not even sustainability professionals who have flown in from Hong Kong or Israel want to hear it. So, how can we expect the man or woman zooming past the Lancaster Hotel next to Hyde Park to get out of their cars and onto the bus, particularly when it’s raining in London?

The fact is that climate catastrophe is not even news at all. Sure, the world is a different place since the last IPCC report came out in 2007: The U.S. has a climate-changing president; the financial crisis took a chunk of money out of everyone’s pocket; and the momentum for action at the Copenhagen in 2009 has run out of steam despite the frenetic pace of adoption for solar and wind.

But the storytellers — the journalists, the brand strategists and sustainability marketers in this particular sustainability narrative – have failed to connect consumers enough to inspire engagement with this crisis on any significant scale to make a real impact.

Today’s workshop led by Daianna Karaian, senior brand strategist at Futerra, examined effective storytelling because “the connection with brands and consumers was often broken.”

“We look at our customers through market research or reams of data – that’s massively important, but at the end of the day it’s even more important to remember that our customers are real people, just like us.”

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Is ‘Connect a Million Minds’ Improving STEM Skills?

3p Contributor | Tuesday November 4th, 2014 | 2 Comments

TWC at STEAM Carnival

By Phil Preston

In an increasingly technical world, there is a shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills in the workforce. I asked Time Warner Cable’s VP of Community Investment, Milinda Martin, about the impact of their flagship Connect a Million Minds program.

In a recent announcement, Symantec committed to engaging one million students in STEM skills by 2020. Time Warner Cable has been on this path since 2009. It saw the lack of STEM skills as a constraining factor on its future workforce and decided to look for win-win outcomes.

Phil Preston: The Connect a Million Minds initiative appears to work on many levels. It is framed as a philanthropic project, however it also has elements of shared value because, indirectly, you are improving your future workforce, the competitiveness of American industry and your own business prosperity. Can you tell us how the focus on STEM skill development came about?

Milinda Martin: We selected STEM for a variety of reasons, and you have hit on one in your introduction: We need STEM-educated workers for our industry. We know that the U.S. is not training enough students in these skills to the point where there is a gap between open positions and skilled workers taking them — not just in cable, but in all STEM-dependent industries. However, that was just one reason why we chose Connect a Million Minds as our philanthropic platform.

We also want to positively impact communities, and we know that STEM jobs are high paying and can lift a family out of poverty. We feel that financially stable communities not only are better for the individuals that live in them, but also for the businesses that provide services to them.

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Watch Out for That Cliff: The Urgency of Driving Sustainability in Business

3p Contributor | Tuesday November 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Thought leaders discuss the future of sustainability in the HP Living Progress Exchange at SXSW Eco 2014.

Chris Librie (center) and thought leaders discuss the future of sustainability in the HP Living Progress Exchange at SXSW Eco 2014.

By Chris Librie

Picture Indiana Jones in the blockbuster film “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He’s galloping on a white stallion in hot pursuit of a convoy transporting the lost Ark. In true action-hero style, Jones leaps from the horse and drops himself inside the truck carrying the artifact. Eventually, Jones takes control of the truck. As the convoy continues down the winding jungle road, a car pulls up alongside — its occupants intent on taking out our hero. The two vehicles barrel toward a sharp S-curve. In the final second, Jones makes a sharp turn, narrowly avoiding the cliff. The second car and its passengers are shown falling to their demise.

What does this adrenaline-charged scene from the popular action film have to do with sustainability?

“We must have a sense of urgency,” said Brad Tomm, senior manager of campus operations and sustainability at Zappos. “We cannot merely slow down. We must steer completely away from the cliff.”

Tomm shared this analogy during a HP Living Progress Exchange (LPX) discussion forum at the recent SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas. The LPX, hosted by HP and moderated by GlobeScan, brings together sustainability experts and opinion leaders to learn from each other, inspire fresh thinking and share best practices. In addition to Zappos, I was joined in one of two LPX sessions by leaders from ZipCar, Conservation International, Adobe, The North Face, National Audubon Society, Chicago Botanic Garden and SolarCity.

And this week, HP is hosting two more LPX sessions at Sustainable Brands London, as well as launching an ongoing global online discussion — open to everyone — on the Convetit Think Tank.

It’s not that we spend a lot of time discussing 1980s adventure films in our HP Living Progress Exchange, but Tomm’s analogy is a good one.

We, as a society, are barreling full-steam ahead toward a future that can’t sustain us.

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GM Goes Batty Over New Use for 2015 Corvette ‘Glue’

| Monday November 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment

GM bat conservation 2015 CorvetteWe’ve been sharing the green love for General Motors’ gas-electric Chevy Volt and the all-electric Spark, and for obvious reasons not so much when it comes to the company’s beloved but notoriously thirsty Corvette. However, the new 2015 Corvette demonstrates that a mix of technology and imagination can help preserve the identity of an iconic brand while setting a course for future improvement.

On the tech side, the new 2015 Corvette Stingray and and Z06 sport a new eight-speed automatic transmission that boosts the EPA highway rating to 29 miles per gallon, a 3.5 percent increase over the six-speed version.

What’s even more interesting is the unusual choice that GM has made for recycling leftovers from manufacturing the 2015 Corvette. Hint: Yes, it involves bats.

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Legacy Vital Records Company Receives Sustainability Facelift

Sarah Lozanova | Monday November 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

ariaWant to learn more about integrating LEED into a sustainability report? We’re bringing our GRI certified sustainability reporting course to Las Vegas and including a special section on LEED. This course is hosted by ARIA- MGM Resorts International and will be complemented with information on LEED requirements, Energy Efficiency, and a tour of the Aria’s efficiency measures! For more info or to sign up, click here.

Iron MountainIron Mountain is a global storage and information company that was originally founded after World War II to help protect vital records from wars and other disasters. Today, it helps manage data for 94 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies. In 2012, its corporate headquarters in Boston was old, dated and no longer supported the company culture. Day lighting was limited, and cubicle partitions isolated employees and decreased collaboration. Faced with an expiring lease, the company was at a crossroads.

“Sustainability requires us to take advantage of those special moments, and changing our physical face was a terrific opportunity,” explains Kevin Hagen, director of corporate responsibility for Iron Mountain. The company now has a new corporate headquarters at 1 Federal St. in Boston that encourages innovation, collaboration and work-life balance for employees, with an open floor plan and lots of spaces for impromptu and formal collaborations.

The global headquarters was recently awarded LEED Gold for Commercial Interiors by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and Iron Mountain is already seeking its second LEED certification for a data center Northborough, Mass. Given the significant real estate footprint of the company, with 66.9 million square feet and 1,026 facilities worldwide, it is logical that LEED would be an invaluable tool, especially after beginning the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) process. Iron Mountain produced its first GRI sustainability report this year.

“Today’s stakeholders — from customers to investors to employee — are increasingly interested in corporate responsibility and sustainable business issues, and they are increasingly sophisticated about separating the hype from the meat on these issues,” says Hagen. “The currency of the realm in now transparency and the baseline test of transparency is sustainability reporting.”

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Boerum Apparel: Kinder & More Sustainable Merino Wool Sweaters

Leon Kaye | Monday November 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Beorum Apparel, Teel Lidow, marino wool, wool, animal cruelty, supply chain, responsible sourcing, Leon Kaye

Boerum Apparel’s sweaters are sourced sustainably from the New Zealand hills

Merino wool has been prized for centuries because of its soft texture and ease of delivering warmth for high performance clothing. But its production has sparked its share of problems, from outrage over animal cruelty to the industry’s environmental impact. The wool industry in Australia, where about half of all the globe’s merino wool originates, has been called out for its cruel practices by PETA and the singer Pink. In recent years, more companies large and small, from Patagonia to PACT, are reacting by insisting that they now invest in more sustainable wool. Another company, Boerum Apparel, is taking ethics within its entire wool supply chain seriously, from farm to mill to factory.

So how does Brooklyn-based Boerum Apparel deliver impeccably-designed sweaters that boast fibers only 17.5 microns thick, yet are manufactured in a socially responsible way?

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Net Impact Celebrates 22 Years of Breaking Boundaries

3p Contributor | Monday November 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on New Global Citizen.

Last year, Net Impact welcomed a lively debate between Exxon Vice President Ken Cohen and Sierra Club CEO Michael Brune.

Last year, Net Impact welcomed a lively debate between Exxon Vice President Ken Cohen and Sierra Club CEO Michael Brune.

By Liz Maw

Twenty-two years ago, a small group of MBAs and entrepreneurs had a great idea. In the midst of a world where business was often viewed as an evil force, they dared to think differently. In the fall of 1993, MBA students from across the United States came together, united by their vision of a future where business could mean more than making money. Georgetown University hosted the first Net Impact Conference, attracting speakers that included Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s (who showed up in an ice cream-stained T-shirt) and Anita Roddick of the Body Shop. The conference opened the eyes of the 140 students in attendance to the power of business to improve the world. It wasn’t the first or the last time that the Net Impact community would demonstrate its commitment to breaking boundaries.

This fall, the Net Impact community will once again return to this important theme. In many ways, the boundaries of the early 1990s were more entrenched and complex than those of today — the very concept of business as a force for good was suspect. While that debate may live on in some circles, today there is far more mainstream acceptance, from the C-Suite down, of not just the ability but the mandate for businesses to drive positive change in the world.

And yet, while norms have shifted, the boundaries of the 21st century are less obvious but no less limiting. In the realm of corporate social responsibility (CSR), most of the low-hanging fruit has been picked. It’s not enough to give away a lot of money, or tweak a supply chain, or incubate a small social enterprise. The barriers we are grappling with are global in scope and structurally multi-faceted. What’s more, the stakes are higher than ever; persistent poverty, global health epidemics, climate change, and joblessness threaten the lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the world.

In early November, MBA students and business leaders alike will have the opportunity to come together at the 2014 Net Impact Conference in Minneapolis to take on the messy, uncomfortable and controversial — yet inspiring and imperative — challenge of breaking boundaries once again. Impact leaders across sectors are embracing three strategies for disruptive change: forging unexpected alliances, embracing multiple definitions of the truth, and leaving limits behind to shape creative solutions that can transform the world.

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Human Rights Guidance for Corporate Lawyers

Michael Kourabas
| Monday November 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

8035396680_31ed820eb3_zIn the years since the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (Guiding Principles) were unanimously endorsed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2011, groups like Shift and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) have worked hard to educate businesses on how the Guiding Principles impact their operations and influence their decision-making.  Much of this guidance has been sector specific, and rightly so.  Human rights are not impacted uniformly or in the same ways across industries, and companies in the extractive, apparel or ICT sectors, for instance,  arguably operate in “riskier” environments than businesses in other industries.

Yet, despite playing major roles in drafting, advising and acting on the Guiding Principles, lawyers had thus far been offered little help understanding the impact of the Guiding Principles on their work.   Last week, the International Bar Association (IBA) did its part to rectify that, issuing guidance — the first of its kind — to bar associations, private lawyers and law firms about how to integrate the Guiding Principles into their work.   This is a welcome first step in what should be a broad discussion among lawyers and bar associations regarding the role of lawyers in the implementation of the Guiding Principles.

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Green and Productive? Metrics Can Show You the Money

3p Contributor | Monday November 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

8782093623_799992a95e_zBy Bob Best

Greening your office bears many fruits, but balancing the competing imperatives of sustainability and workplace productivity can be a challenge. Sustainability initiatives can cut energy costs and boost your company’s reputation as a socially responsible organization. But when green workplace initiatives actively thwart employee comfort — think: unpleasant thermostat settings — they can actually undermine employee productivity. With metrics-driven analysis, you can pinpoint exactly where sustainability programs are helping — or hurting — employee health, wellbeing and productivity.

Side-by-side comparisons reveal opportunity

Who doesn’t want to improve productivity while scoring corporate social responsibility points? Until recently, however, most organizations have looked at sustainability and productivity as separate domains. The new thinking is that sustainability and productivity are linked and should be assessed in tandem. The catch: The two are not always aligned. Sometimes green investments are not productive, and vice versa. Understanding which green features are good for employee productivity in a particular building can be critical to determine investments in green building or green office programs.

A new report from JLL and the World Green Building Council, Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building, provides compelling evidence that green offices can be more productive with an analysis of more than a decade’s worth of research on the impact of green office practices on employee health, wellbeing and overall productivity. New software can assess how and where green office practices are working for or against productivity, and where gains might realistically be achieved.

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3 Lessons Businesses Can Learn From Nonprofits

3p Contributor | Monday November 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 1.32.01 PMBy Lisa Brown Morton

Nonprofits are regularly called on to act more like businesses. However, consumers and stakeholders are increasingly placing a premium on social impact, the territory that nonprofits know best. Whether they define themselves as social enterprises, socially conscious companies or startups changing the world, for-profit businesses are recognizing the value of fostering community, being part of a larger conversation and putting people before profits — or at least equal with them.

While companies like TOMS, which make charity an integral part of their brand identity, immediately come to mind, other companies have been quick to build community around other causes. Disruptive upstarts like Uber and AirBnB engage in their own forms of activism as they seek to alter laws and regulations. Their effectiveness and success depend on the ability to engage communities around a common cause.

This is what nonprofits do best, and there is much that businesses can learn from nonprofits about how to make a difference. Read on for three essential lessons that can be drawn from the nonprofit experience.

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Georgia Acquires Cheap Solar Power

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday November 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

GeorgiaPowerGeorgia Power filed a request for certification to enter into power purchase agreements (PPAs) for 515 megawatts of solar power. Georgia Power, Southern Co.’s largest utility subsidiary, filed the request in April with the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The PPAs include deals with two solar power projects with a combined 99 MW of capacity that will be owned by Southern Power, the wholesale generation subsidiary of Southern Co.  The PPAs are the largest solar power acquisition in Georgia and are part of Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative.

The average price of power in the four PPAs for solar projects with less than 20 MW of capacity was less than 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour, which is “2 cents below the cost achieved through the [utility’s] 2013 solicitation” for solar power, according to Georgia Power’s filing. The four smallest projects have a combined capacity of 76 MW and are expected to come online by the end of 2015. Georgia Power praised the prices as proof that solar can “provide competitive pricing when challenged to do so,” in its filing.

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57 Tons of Garbage Removed From Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday November 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

marine debrisLast week, a team of 17 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) divers returned from a mission in which it removed 57 tons of debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The divers traveled on the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette for a 33-day mission to remove marine debris from Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii. The monument is a World Heritage Site and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. Most of the debris removed was either fishing nets or plastic letter.

NOAA has led missions to clean marine debris every year since 1996, removing 904 tons in total, including the 57 tons removed on this latest mission.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands include 5,178 square miles of the least disturbed coral reef habitat in U.S. waters. Divers found three sea turtles tangled in nets at Pearl and Hermes Atoll. The divers removed almost 6.25 tons of plastic trash on the shorelines of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. At the end of the voyage, they removed 7,436 hard plastic fragments, 3,758 bottle caps, 1,469 plastic beverage bottles and 477 lighters.

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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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Nadya Zhexembayeva on Innovation in a Resource-Deprived World

RP Siegel | Friday October 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments
Nadya Zhexembayeva small

Nadya Zhexembayeva

I met Nadya Zhexembayeva at the Flourish and Prosper conference in Cleveland. Nadya, who received her doctorate at Case Western, is the co-author, with Chris Laszlo of “Embedded Sustainability.” Her latest book is “Overfished Ocean Strategy.” I attended one of her workshops, and then arranged to speak with her, by phone, after the conference.

Triple Pundit: Hello Nadya. The sub-title of your book is “Powering Up Innovation For a Resource-Deprived World.” Talk to me about declining resources. When I saw your workshop you showed a graph of steadily decreasing commodity prices.

Nadya Zhexembayeva: That graph is from the Economist which has been tracking commodity prices since 1864. For the majority of the 20th century, other than a sharp spike in the 1920s those prices have been falling significantly — until now. When you think of the fact that these are limited resources and that the population has increased by a factor of four during that time, driving demand up dramatically, this is a bit of an economic miracle. And this miracle has informed the mindset of most managers. They simply assume that prices will continue to fall forever. That is the basis of many of their growth models. However, what many people haven’t recognized is the fact that in the first 10 years of the new millennium, these prices have shot up a whopping 147 percent.

3p: Wow. That’s pretty dramatic. You say in your book that this new scarcity is here to stay. But how do we know that it isn’t just another temporary blip? After all, much of this decline had to do with productivity and economies of scale, as well as the accumulation of knowledge. Aren’t we still learning and innovating?

NZ: Yes, of course we are still innovating and learning. But if we look at the trend, although much of the price decline was from productivity improvements, we can’t overlook geopolitical trends either. Particularly after the Second World War, we have developing countries essentially being exploited by the former colonial powers to provide commodities at prices well below those that reflect their true costs, often as the result of corrupt arrangements.

3p: So, now those artificial factors have been largely eliminated, and we’re getting closer to “true” pricing. Time to get off the bubble?

NZ: Yes. We’re catching up to the reality. There are only this many molecules. Now new geopolitical forces are bringing in increased demand from rapidly growing new economies that are turning around that long term trend and driving prices up.

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Talking Sustainability with Your CFO Shouldn’t Be Scary

3p Contributor | Friday October 31st, 2014 | 4 Comments

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By Jennifer Anderson

We often hear that sustainability professionals need to get better at talking to the CFO. Frankly, this is a scary proposition for many people. That said, experienced sustainability managers will tell you that having a good relationship with the CFO is absolutely essential to their program’s success. So, what exactly does that mean? Do you need to go back to school to get a finance degree? Many people I talk with stress about having to become versed in financial calculations and terminology. I felt it was important to dig a bit deeper into what a good relationship with the CFO really means.

To get a sense of how sustainability managers can best prepare themselves to work with the CFO, I decided to reach out to a sustainability manager I have admired for many years. Bennett Thomas has the fascinating dual role of Vice President of Finance and Sustainability at Hersha Hospitality Trust. Hersha is $2.5 billion publically traded (NYSE: HT) hotel investment firm. The company owns 50 properties in urban gateway markets including New York City, Miami, and Los Angeles, as well as The Rittenhouse hotel in Philadelphia. In addition to his finance role, Bennett founded and leads Hersha’s sustainability platform, EarthViewTM. He also reports directly to the CFO.

In our conversation, Bennett shared with me his very helpful perspective on relationship building with the CFO.

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