How Firestone Buoyed the Rise of Convicted War Criminal Charles Taylor

Michael Kourabas
| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment

14425740567_dacf8fff52_zOn Nov. 18, PBS aired “Firestone and the Warlord,” the result of a joint Frontline-ProPublica investigation into the relationship between the Firestone tire company and Liberia’s former president and convicted war criminal, Charles Taylor.  ProPublica also published a lengthy companion piece under the same title, drawing upon hundreds of interviews and scores of never-before-seen documents.  The result is an exhaustively researched and fresh look at the vital role played by a major international corporation in supporting one of Africa’s most brutal dictators.

Firestone’s history in Liberia

Firestone first came to Liberia in the 1920s, seeking to exploit the country’s vast rubber resources.  In 1926, it opened the rubber plantation that, 66 years later, would serve as Charles Taylor’s base for directing his brutal assault on Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.

Firestone’s Liberian rubber plantation was considered to be the world’s largest and was a key asset for a company that, after being swallowed up by Bridgestone in 1988, began to experience cash-flow problems.  So, despite generating just $16 million in revenue in 1989 (the year before the start of Liberia’s civil war), the plantation’s 15 percent profit margin represented a much-needed “bright spot on a corporate ledger drowning in red ink.”  The plantation provided roughly 40 percent of the latex in America at the time.

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Video: Jose Corona of Inner City Advisors Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

nina “… Where creativity and innovation really happens is by bringing together different people, different backgrounds and different approaches on how they think to come up with great ideas,” Jose Corona, CEO Inner-City Advisors, said at the 2014 Net Impact Conference.

Based in Oakland, California, Corona’s organization serves inner-city communities throughout the Bay Area. By and large, these are very diverse communities as far as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language and background, he said. But local companies have been “called out,” as he put it, for lack of diversity — particularly in Silicon Valley.

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Corona goes on to describe why diversity matters to Inner City Advisors, as well as why it should matter for the greater Bay Area, in this two-minute clip.

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Does a Company’s LGBT Policies Apply to Its Workers Abroad?

Alexis Petru
| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

LGBT rainbow flagMost leading U.S. corporations now have LGBT nondiscrimination policies in place for their American gay and lesbian employees, according to Shelley Alpern, director of social research and shareholder advocacy at socially responsible investment firm, Clean Yield Asset Management. But it’s unclear if these policies extend to the companies’ employees in countries outside the U.S. – an issue that becomes particularly important in parts of the world that are culturally and legally hostile to LGBT individuals.

To open up a dialogue on this subject, Clean Yield and a group of other socially-minded investment firms sent letters last week to some of the country’s largest publicly-traded corporations, like Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Target, encouraging the businesses to make sure their LGBT employee protection policies apply abroad.

The investor group, which collectively owns or manages $210 billion in assets, wrote to approximately 70 companies in the S&P 100 that were identified by the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index as having strong nondiscrimination and equal benefits policies for their U.S. employees.

There is currently no federal law that shields gay, lesbian and transgender individuals from employment discrimination, including not being hired, fired or otherwise singled out because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 29 states lack regulations explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 32 states have no such legislation regarding gender identity.

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Watch Fishing Vessels and Stamp Out Illegal Fishing

| Friday November 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

gfw_logo_with_text_72pxSkyTruth, Oceana and Google unveiled an easy-to-use online platform that will give citizens in countries the world over the ability “to visualize, track and share information about fishing activity worldwide.” Dubbed Global Fishing Watch, the three development partners introduced the online platform Nov. 14 at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.

Making use of satellite data and big-data analytics, Global Fishing Watch will give stakeholders and the public at-large unprecedented views of the location and activities of fishing vessels globally. This comes at a time when public interest in and support for sustainable seafood and fishing practices is strong and rising.

“So much of what happens out on the high seas is invisible, and that has been a huge barrier to understanding and showing the world what’s at stake for the ocean,” SkyTruth founder and president, John Amos, was quoted in a press release. “But now, satellite data is allowing us to make human interaction with the ocean more transparent than ever before.”

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A Black Friday 2014 Call to Action: Durability Over Discounts?

Leon Kaye | Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Black Friday, sustainable fashion 2014, Osmium, fair trade, Walmart, Amazon, Etsy, Fair Tuesday, Mata Traders, Leon Kaye

Black Friday: Think beyond the big box.

Do a search for “Black Friday 2014” in your favorite search engine, and chances are you will come up with similar results to what I found. First, of course, a site called, which serves as a clearing house on advertisements and hours. Not surprisingly, WalMart and Amazon, the largest brick-and-mortar and online retailers in the U.S., rank highly in the search results. Depending on your stance on Black Friday, the thought of this day either brings angst over massive conspicuous consumption or excitement over cheap laptops, toys and clothing.

Not surprisingly, Black Friday is starting earlier every year. WalMart has already announced that it has started to spread Black Friday cheer with discounts on thousands of items as of Nov. 1. Perhaps the Black Friday label is already outdated. Kmart, for example, has announced it will open its stores on Thanksgiving morning at 6:00 a.m., which I suppose makes sense if you want to shop and then cook and nosh on your turkey dinner afterwards.

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Our Moonshot: NRG’s Path To a Clean Energy Future

3p Contributor | Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 3 Comments
NRG Energy is greening their business from the inside out with bold CO2 reduction goals

NRG Energy announces bold CO2 reduction goals to set a path for a clean energy future.

By Leah Seligmann

Today, NRG announced a goal to reduce our carbon footprint 50 percent by 2030*, on a path to a 90 percent absolute reduction by 2050 while continuing to significantly grow our business.

This goal might not seem revolutionary at first glance — just one more metric in a sea of corporate sustainability targets. But this is an important inflection point in the fight against climate change — not just for NRG, but for the entire energy industry and beyond.

Today marks the first time that a major electricity generator (we’re the second largest in the U.S.) and by extension one of the largest emitters of CO2, has voluntarily put dates around the transition to a low-carbon economy. To put this in perspective, our goals will avoid approximately 3 billion tons of CO2 emissions. This is equivalent to avoiding the deforestation of 18,000 square miles of Amazon rain forest (roughly the land mass of Vermont and New Hampshire combined).

These are big numbers, but in reality they are a small part of the larger picture. Climate change is a global issue, and its solution will require global action. NRG’s projected 2014 emissions of 125 million metric tons of CO2** represent less than 1 percent of the global total. NRG cannot solve climate change alone, but as a company with investments across the industry, we can begin to chart a path to the clean energy future.

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State Mandates for Clean Energy Improving But Not Fast Enough

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Alaska_clean_energy_AndreaPIn June of this year, the Obama administration announced new carbon standards for power plants. With the comment period for the proposed rules expected to close on December 1*, we thought we would take a look at how states are doing.

The innovative aspect of this plan is that it is tailored to the carbon emissions of each state through a progressive transition to renewable energy. So Illinois, for example, has a recommended goal of a 9 percent transition to renewable energy sources by 2030 (established by the Environmental Protection Agency). The state, however, has set its own goal of 25 percent renewables by 2026. Pennsylvania has set its goals above those of the EPA at 18 percent and 16 percent respectively, but the state is still struggling to cut its dependence on coal (39 percent of its power generation). California is aiming for a 33 percent benchmark by 2020; the EPA, however, set the bar at 21 percent by 2030.

Needless to say, not all states are making inroads as aggressively as California, which has its own clean energy initiatives already in the works. It trumps most states in its accomplishments right now, not only because of its proactive stance on renewable energy, but also because it has the resources at hand. Although a whopping 60 percent of its energy comes from gas, at least 14 percent comes from hydroelectric power and 4.9 percent from wind. Its solar is still fairly small (only 0.70 percent) but is liable to grow in coming years.

Then, there are those states that to date have not set goals.

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On Climate Change, Who’s Hoaxing Who?

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 40 Comments

inhofebookcoverWith Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) at the controls of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee over the next two years, climate change will enter into an even more annoying, frightening and bizarrely hilarious era.

For the uninitiated, here are some quotations from the most aggressive climate change denier in the Senate:

  • “Climate change isn’t real because the Bible says it ain’t.”
  • “My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”
  • He claimed that global warming might help humanity. “It’s also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence. Thus far no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists. In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”
  • On the International Panel on Climate Change‘s Synthesis Report released last week, he said:
    “The idea that our advanced industrialized economy would ever have zero carbon emissions is beyond extreme and further proof that the IPCC is nothing more than a front for the environmental left. It comes as no surprise that the IPCC is again advocating for the implementation of extreme climate change regulations that will cripple the global economy and send energy prices skyrocketing. The United States is in the midst of an energy renaissance that has the potential to bring about American energy independence, which would strengthen our national security and energy reliability for generations into the future. At a time of economic instability and increased threats to American interests, the IPCC’s report is little more than high hopes from the environmental left.”
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Video: Muneer Panjwani of Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

“When you have differing opinions, it just makes everybody’s work better,” Muneer Panjwani of said at the 2014 Net Impact conference this month. “One thing that happens in a homogenous environment is you sort of start to agree with everything that’s going on, because you all come from the same experience.”

“By having other perspectives in the business, it allows you to broaden your perspective and the product and service you’re providing as a company.”

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Panjwani goes on to explain how diversity impacts, an organization that aims to reach young people of all backgrounds, and how it can drive innovation in any company.

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What It Takes to Change the Way the World Eats for the Better

3p Contributor | Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments
of WhiteWave Foods

Deanna Bratter of WhiteWave Foods explains how the company is approaching its goal of “changing the way the world eats for the better.” She also provides pointers that any company can use on its sustainability journey.

By Deanna Bratter

What is the recipe for achieving success when it comes to sustainability? While it’s not one-size-fits-all, there are often certain ingredients that can help on your journey towards sustainability: a culture of engagement, mixed with a willingness to take big leaps; a passion for innovation; a willingness to be transparent; and a commitment to continuous improvement. Sustainability requires a holistic and multifaceted approach, one that not only focuses on reducing your impact on the planet and social responsibility, but one that goes even further toward innovative, closed-loop and restorative practices.

I say this as someone who’s part of a company with the very ambitious mission of changing the way the world eats for the better. WhiteWave Foods is the world’s largest organic food company, and our products are an important part of sustainable food trends such as plant-based beverages, organic dairy and organic produce. You might know our Silk plant-based foods and beverages, SoDelicious Dairy Free frozen desserts, Horizon dairy products and Earthbound Farms produce.

Working toward a mission of changing the way the world eats requires a strong, embedded, long-term commitment to sustainability. Over my nearly 10 years at WhiteWave Foods, I’ve seen the company grow exponentially and face the challenges that came along with trying to bring to life that mission and our vision of sustainability and transparency, to reduce our environmental footprint, and to improve our packaging and responsible sourcing programs while managing tremendous growth. Trust me, it hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve always remained committed. I’m proud to say we offset 100 percent of the water used to manufacture Silk plant-based beverages at company-owned facilities. We’ve also redesigned all of our gable-top cartons to use 33 percent less material, resulting in 920,000 pounds of resin saved in 2013. We also work with the Carton Council to increase carton recycling access year-over-year, and reached a momentous 50 percent access milestone this summer.

So, what key learnings can I share that I think have impacted our sustainability story?

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Video: Amy Lazarus of InclusionVentures Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

net impact “There are so many problems that we’re trying to solve, from environmental impact, to education, to health care. In order to solve all of those problems, it takes the best ideas,” Amy Lazarus, CEO of InclusionVentures, said at the 2014 Net Impact conference this month. “That means it takes people who are different from each other, talking and working effectively with each other.”

While many consider diversity an issue of race, gender, sexual orientation or background, an indisputable fact is often ignored: With a diverse group of people comes diverse ideas — ideas that could very well revolutionize the way your company does business.

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Lazarus goes on to make the business case for diversity and inclusion in this 90-second video. Keep an ear out at 00:45 for a stat that’s sure to shock you.

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Cargill Releases First Palm Oil Progress Report

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday November 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

palm oil plantationCargill Tropical Palm released its first progress report on sustainable palm oil this week. The report, released on Monday, details the company’s plan to achieve a sustainable supply chain.

Part of that plan is its pledge to deforestation-free palm oil, a commitment the company first announced in July. It repeated that pledge at the United Nations Climate Summit in September in New York City. Specifically, Cargill pledged not to develop palm oil on peatland, not to exploit the rights of indigenous people and local communities, and to include smallholders.

At the U.N. Climate Summit, Cargill signed the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge. Signers of the pledge committed to sustainable practices concerning palm oil. Cargill recently announced that it is on track to trace 80 percent of its palm oil in key markets back to the mills it came from, and that figure will reach 100 percent by December of next year, according to company estimates.

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Carbon Offsets: Start with the Footprint

RP Siegel | Wednesday November 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment

6405158215_96e38281b8_zAs part of our ongoing series on carbon offsets, it’s time to peel back another layer and look at how entities determine exactly what their carbon footprint is, so that they know how much they want to offset, whether it’s for a specific action (like an overseas flight) or an overall operation.

Simply put, carbon emissions generally occur as the result of energy consumption in one form or another. More specifically they emanate from the combustion of fossil fuels, though there are certain industries, like concrete production, that give off CO2 as a byproduct of different kinds of chemical reactions.

Figuring out the carbon emitted by various fuels is straightforward. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) created a chart that provides the number of pounds of CO2 emitted for a variety of common fuels.

So, for example, it tells us that a gallon of gasoline emits 19.6 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned. It doesn’t tell us that, based on each vehicle’s efficiency, the amount of carbon emitted per mile will vary. For example, a Prius will emit 0.39 pounds per mile, while something like a Jeep Grand Cherokee will emit 1.03 pounds per mile. Still, a company that owns a fleet of vehicles can simply add up the amount of fuel purchased, from which the carbon footprint can easily be computed. Diesel fuel emits 22.6 pounds of carbon per gallon. There are other considerations, such as where the gasoline came from, how the oil was extracted and refined and how far it was transported, but these are generally ignored since it would be extremely difficult to track.

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Video: Cecily Joseph of Symantec Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Wednesday November 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

SYM_Vert_RGB-72dpi-300x290“Diversity has been around companies for many years,” Cecily Joseph, VP of corporate responsibility and chief diversity officer for Symantec, said at the 2014 Net Impact conference in Minneapolis this month. “And unfortunately I don’t feel we’ve made … the kind of progress that we need to make to be successful and to have an impact.

“If we adopt diversity as a [corporate social responsibility (CSR)] issue and use the same framework that we use to drive other sustainability issues through our organization, I think we’re going to be a lot more effective.”

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Joseph goes on to provide three tactics for doing this, as well as the business case for diversity, in this two-minute clip.

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U.N. Association Representative: Climate Change and War Are Linked

Hannah Miller | Wednesday November 19th, 2014 | 9 Comments
Zuza Bohley makes the link from Colorado to the UN. Photo by Lee Buchsbaum.

Zuza Bohley makes the link from Colorado to the U.N.

During the Cold War, when Zuza Bohley was growing up in East Germany, being a pacifist was a crime. It was considered treason.

Treason, as in: Her entire family, made up of politically active pacifists, was subject to surveillance. Their home was watched by the Stasi, the East German secret police. Her father was imprisoned. At age 13, Bohley was taken captive at a friend’s birthday party and interrogated for four hours.

“I was terrified to tell anyone,” she recounts now.   “I was so, so worried that I had said something that would incriminate my family.”

A year later, her family was deported from their home at gunpoint and traded to West Germany as political prisoners for cash. (The East German government received 50,000 marks.) “We never asked to leave,” she remembers. “We wanted to change things from within.”

In West Germany, Bohley was bullied and spit on in school, this time being called “communist,” and eventually made her way to the U.S. Now she works for multiple NGOs striving to create peace and sustainability — focusing on youth, especially from marginalized groups. As regional representative to the United Nations Association for the Rocky Mountain Region, she says that climate change and peace are intertwined.

“Most of the world’s wars are fought over resources,”  Bohley said. “The U.S. involvement in the Middle East is because of oil. The Ukranian crisis … because of dependence on Russian oil.”

This year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned about the probability of climate change-fueled civil wars and inter-group conflict. In the case of Syria, this has already happened.

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