Wikileaks Targets Australia with New Leak and More Controversy

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday August 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Wikileaks_logo.svgJust when we started to forget about Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, the activist organization is back in the news. This time it isn’t the covert tactics of the National Security Agency, Guantanamo prisoners or the touchy nature of the federal government’s overseas relations that Wikileaks is fingering, but the Australian government.

On Tuesday Wikileaks released information about a gag order that prevented Australia’s media from informing the public about investigations into a multi-national graft case. In addition to publishing the information on its website, Wikileaks also released notice of the gag order to the Guardian in the U.K.

According to the Guardian, the Supreme Court of Victoria said it placed the ban “to prevent damage to Australia’s international relations.” What has critics particularly concerned, however, is the nature of the gag order, which prevents Australian media from even acknowledging that there is a ban in place.

“Who is brokering our deals, and how are we brokering them as a nation? Corruption investigations and secret gag orders for ‘national security’ reasons are strange bedfellows,” asserts Wikileaks.

According to its website, the gag order relates to the “secret 19 June 2014 indictment of seven senior executives from subsidiaries of Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).” Those indictments and the ongoing investigations are linked to a scandal that surfaced in 2012  concerning alleged payments between RBA staff and government officials in Asia.

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H&M, The World’s Largest Organic Cotton User: Better Enough?

Leon Kaye | Monday August 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Can organic cotton make a difference? H&M seems to think so.

Its clothes are still largely manufactured under dubious conditions in Bangladesh, and many critics doubt the company’s commitment to sustainable apparel, but H&M can claim again one top ranking: the world’s largest procurer of organic cotton. When considering the company’s massive impact across the globe, however, the reaction of many will only be yawns. And with the amount of land worldwide devoted to producing materials for the textile and fashion industry, will a growing sliver of this total now certified “organic” really make a difference for people and the environment?

According to the Textile Exchange’s most recent Organic Cotton Market Report 2013, H&M has reemerged as No. 1 in its annual business rankings of worldwide organic cotton buyers. H&M had topped the list in 2010 and 2011, only to fall to second in 2012. The increased proportion of organic cotton H&M had sourced was largely the result of this jump — according to the company, the share of cotton coming from organic sources rose from 7.8 percent in 2012 to 10.8 percent last year. But with the decade about halfway finished, it is doubtful H&M can meet one of its most important sustainability goals.

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5 Things Every Social Entrepreneur Should Know Before Hitting the Launch Button

3p Conferences
| Monday August 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Lauren Walters of Two Degrees Food

Lauren Walters of Two Degrees Food doing his best to help undernourished children.

By Julian Fishman

I had the pleasure of hearing some of the Bay Area’s most innovative social entrepreneurs share their stories and peer into the future at the recent Idea People: Thinking for Good event held at the SFJazz Center in San Francisco.

The event was curated by Five Thot, a forward thinking design and event organization that encourages people to imagine the world as it could be, rather than as it is today. As a shout-out to Five Thot, here are five themes that will help big thinkers and dreamers get their ideas off the ground:

1. Problem + Passion = Opportunity

The vast majority of the entrepreneurs on show took an unconventional path to arrive at the helm of their social enterprise. IndoSole’s founder, Kyle Parsons, spent his teens working in a recycling center with the occasional surfing trip to Bali. Kiva’s founder Matt Flannery was inspired by Mohamed Yunus to search for a more impactful job and found himself giving up the corporate world for microfinance in Uganda. Lauren Walters (pictured), founder of 2 Degrees Food, witnessed first-hand the extreme malnourishment of Rwandan children at a time when Tom’s Shoes’ ‘one for one’ business model was starting to gain traction.

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Human Values and CSR: Love, Compassion, Empathy and Altruism

3p Contributor | Monday August 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is the second post in a six-part series written by Donald J. Munro of the University of Michigan. You can follow the whole series here

Chase Tower, Chicago.

Chase Tower, Chicago.

By Donald J. Munro

The human values of love and compassion, empathy and altruism emerge first in the bond between care-giver and infant. Later, the emotions associated with these values extend to other kin, friends, and then, often, to one’s community. They help hold these groups together.

Biologist E.O. Wilson says” “Among the traits with documented heritability, the closest to moral aptitude are empathy to the distress of others and … [the] attachment between infants and their caregivers” [Consilience 1998, 253]. In these relationships, love may motivate acts of altruism. Wilson notes that, “Kin selection is especially important in the origin of altruistic behavior.” Kin selection means we are more likely to help our blood relatives than those not related to us, favoring their ability to have babies and survive, even at a cost to our own survival.

Such altruistic behavior can solidify community relations. As sympathy or empathy, this emotion involves seeing things from the point of view of another person, especially someone whose well-being is linked to ours. Mirror neurons help us judge how others are thinking or feeling. So the emotion begins in the family and as the person matures, expands beyond it. Biologists and psychologists have repeatedly discovered through their research that empathy and compassion derive at least in part from our basic human biology. At the same time, they have deep roots in classical Chinese Confucian (Mencian) ethics. Mencius (4th century BCE) said that “The heart/mind of compassion is possessed by all men,” along with the heart of shame and of respect (see next blog, on Respect or Dignity/Avoidance of Shame) [Mencius vi.A. 6] The Analects of Confucius said that “Filiality towards parents is the root of the humane treatment of others.”

So bonding with friends and others has some roots in our family love; those bonds result in our having empathy for both family and friends, and ultimately our community. Corporations do not experience compassion or empathy; people do.

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Enertia Homes Mimic Earth’s Atmosphere for Ultra Energy Efficiency

Sarah Lozanova | Monday August 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

energy efficient houseMimicking the Earth’s atmosphere and its ability to capture and store heat, Enertia homes have an outer and inner shell to boost energy efficiency and comfort. The inner shell, containing the living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, dining room and kitchen, remains at a relatively constant temperature despite fluctuations in outdoor temperatures and conditions. Mimicking the trade winds, the outer shell circulates air between the basement and the attic, which are connected through a sunroom in the outer shell.

In the summer, when the angle of the sun is higher in the sky, the sun heats up the air in the attic. The vent releases the hot air, which causes cold air to enter through the north basement windows.

These homes are designed by Michael Sykes, an engineer and founder of Enertia Building Systems, a company based in Youngsville, North Carolina. “People inside are getting their warmth, not from hot air, which would be stifling, but you’re getting your warmth from warm floors and walls, so you can actually tolerate a cooler house and still be comfortable,” he says.

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J.M. Smuckers Commits To a Sustainable and Traceable Palm Oil Supply Chain

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday August 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment

SmuckersJ.M. Smucker recently updated its policy on palm oil sourcing, the company explained in its 2014 corporate social responsibility report.

Smucker’s latest CSR report states that the company is committed to developing a “fully sustainable and traceable palm oil supply chain.” It set a target that palm oil purchases will come from “responsible and sustainable sources” by December 2015. In 2012, Smuckers began buying palm oil from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified sources, and received RSPO certification in January 2013.

As a result of the new policy, a shareholder proposal filed by Clean Yield Asset Management and Green Century Capital Management was withdrawn. The food producer is currently valued at $10.8 billion in market capitalization. Its brands include Smuckers’ jams and jellies, Jif peanut butter, Crisco, Folger and Dunkin’ Donuts.

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3p Weekend: 7 Companies Investing in Sustainable Packaging

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments
Can you guess what this Dell packaging is made from?

Can you guess what this Dell packaging is made from?

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.

As waste continues to pile up in our landfills, a growing number of companies are taking a second look at product packaging and devising creative ways to cut back. From mushrooms and potatoes to the quest for a recyclable toothpaste tube, this week we’re tipping our hats to seven companies that are leading the charge in sustainable packaging design.

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Sponging Up Solar Energy

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

steam spongeLeave it to those smarties at MIT to come up with something that sounds more like science fiction than reality: a new “material structure” that generates steam by soaking up the sun’s rays.

As reported last week by Science Daily, this sponge-like structure is a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam, which all works to create a “porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.”

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Cargill Adopts a More Sustainable Palm Oil Policy

Leon Kaye | Friday August 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment
Cargill, sustainable palm oil, palm oil, transparency, human rights, Leon Kaye, RSPO, land rights,

Palm oil fruit cultivated in Ghana

The calls for companies to become more ethical when it comes to the sourcing of palm oil have grown even louder in recent months. With hydrogenated fats largely disappearing over health concerns, in addition to the surging demand worldwide for packaged foods and personal care products, the thirst for palm oil continues to grow rapidly. Companies who remain silent on responsible palm find themselves on the outside looking in, and will face more criticism from environmentalists and human rights activists. Cargill was one of those firms.

That has changed. The $137 billion company recently issued a new sustainable palm oil policy, a significant victory considering Cargill is a privately-held firm and not necessarily subjected to shareholder and stakeholder pressure to the degree a public company would face. NGOs such as the Rainforest Action Network have long complained about Cargill’s operations even though the company joined RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) in 2004. Additional watchdogs including the Union of Concerned Scientists have kept the pressure on consumer packaged goods and food processing companies to disclose their performance on palm oil sourcing — a difficult task when it comes to keeping private companies such as Cargill accountable because they often disclose far less information on how they conduct their business.

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New World Bank Policies Potentially Devestating to Poor, Indigenous People

Michael Kourabas
| Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

10336635_887297174629373_3240410610220556304_nIt looks like the World Bank is succumbing to budgetary pressures and choosing to neglect its human rights responsibilities as the world’s largest and most influential development bank.

Proposed revisions to the World Bank’s Safeguard Policies and Environment and Social Framework — which are meant to protect people and the environment in the investment projects that the World Bank finances  – leaked last week and were immediately and uniformly criticized as potentially devastating to indigenous people, the poor and the environment.

On July 28, 99 non-governmental organizations and civil society networks across Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe sent a letter to the World Bank’s board, urging it not to adopt the draft.  Yet, despite the viscerally negative reaction of rights groups around the world, the draft was cleared by the World Bank Board’s Committee on Development Effectiveness on July 30, and it will now be subject to a period of broad public consultations.

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Patagonia Giving Away Plant-Based Wetsuit Technology

Leon Kaye | Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments
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The plant-based Patagonia wetsuit by Yulex

Unless your skin is about a foot thick, swimming and surfing in the Pacific Ocean for hours at a time requires a wetsuit to stay warm and comfortable. That comfort, however, comes at a price as the vast majority of wetsuits are made from petroleum-based neoprene. The material is durable and does the job, but its manufacture is a carbon-intensive and toxic process. Now Patagonia is aggressively promoting its plant-based wetsuit technology with the goal to have it become a game-changer in the surf industry.

The quest for more sustainable materials within its wetsuit product line started almost 10 years ago. In 2005 Patagonia decided to make a move into the wetsuit business, and after researching the process by which neoprene is made, rolled out a line of wetsuits made from feedstock based on limestone. That was a step in the right direction, since the world’s quarries are not going to be depleted from making wetsuits for surfer dudes. But the company understood that environmentally, limestone was only a more responsible step up from petroleum.

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Need to Boost Employee Productivity? Add Some Plants

Sarah Lozanova | Friday August 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

indoor plants officeWill the office of the future contain numerous houseplants throughout? Several studies show that workplace plants are more than just aesthetically pleasing and can actually increase employee productivity. It is known that plants add oxygen to the air and remove numerous toxins, including formaldehyde (in particleboard, paper and carpets), benzene (in glue, paint and auto fumes) and trichloroethylene (in paint stripper and spot remover). But the benefits may go even further than reducing toxic exposure, making them an important addition to the workplace.

One recent workplace study found that people have an increased ability to concentrate when working in an office with indoor foliage. The study measured improvement performance on concentration tasks for workers using a reading span test. Half the people had four plants and flowers on their desks and the others had none. The study found that indoor plants and flowers have benefits for improved concentration and reduced fatigue, even when there are outside views of nature.

Another study from the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, found that indoor plants reduce anger by 44 percent, anxiety by 37 percent, depression by 58 percent and fatigue by 38 percent. Just one plant can actually make a difference.

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The Role of Touch in Business

Pinchot University
Pinchot University | Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 1 Comment

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This post of part of a series sponsored by Pinchot. Read more here

Business-Hug-Kathleen-600x450By Gerod Rody

The handshake is a fixture in the business world, whether establishing new contacts or closing a deal.

Likewise, the pat on the shoulder has been a gesture of professional affirmation for years, though more recently it’s gone out-of-vogue as patronizing. These and other forms of touch are a valuable part of non-verbal business communication, but we at Pinchot believe that there are even deeper ways to engage. Enter the hug.

Scientists agree that touch is an essential human need (especially for the workplace), and while the handshake is nice and all, it doesn’t function in quite the same way as a mutually respectful embrace. According to one researcher, “Hugs have positive impacts on self-esteem, relationships and upon the body’s ability to cope with stress.”

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What Does Corporate Responsibility Mean When It Comes To NSA Data Requests?

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 1 Comment

10562036794_747f93b1dd_zDetails about the National Security Agency’s “Prism” surveillance program have entered the news in dribs and drabs since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked revealing documents about the program to the Guardian and the Washington Post in June of last year. The unsettling insights revealed by Snowden generated quite a stir in the press, and large tech and telecom companies faced a wave of consumer backlash in the wake of the ongoing story.

Last September, while Snowden was living under guard at a secret location in Russia, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer seemed caught off-guard when a reporter raised questions about NSA surveillance at the 2013 TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.

When asked what would happen if Yahoo ignored the order or shared it with the press, Mayer uncomfortably replied: “Releasing classified information is treason. It generally lands you incarcerated.”

Companies are often left with few options once the U.S. government starts putting the screws to them. So, how do NSA data requests fit in with overall corporate responsibility? What is a company to do when faced with a request that seems to counteract its responsibility to consumers? We spoke with three key experts in corporate social responsibility (CSR) to find out the answers.

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Reports Predict Disaster If Enbridge Pipeline Ruptures in Great Lakes

| Thursday July 31st, 2014 | 6 Comments
View of the Mackinac Bridge from Mackinac Island.

View of the Mackinac Bridge from Mackinac Island.

A recent report by the University of Michigan illustrates the devastation that could occur if a 60-year-old pipeline carrying 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas fluids every day were to rupture in the Great Lakes, one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world.

Enbridge, the same company still cleaning up the Kalamazoo River four years after the biggest inland spill in U.S. history, has two 20-inch pipelines running from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario, directly through the Straits of Mackinac between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. In July 2013, the company completed $100 million in upgrades in order to increase flow from 490,000 barrels per day to 540,000, but did not replace any of the aging pipeline.

The main problem with an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac is that the currents shift from east to west and back again every few days, and peak flow can be up to 10 times as fast as the Niagra River. The U of M report and animation shows how an oil spill would reach tourist destination Mackinac Island within 12 hours, and after 20 days, it would reach as far as Beaver Island in Lake Michigan and Rogers City in Lake Huron.

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