How the Power of Story Can Save Our Oceans

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday March 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Boat

This is the first in our new series of articles on Sustainable Seafood. Please follow along on our main landing page here

In many ways, the ocean is an open history book — relaying grim tales of waste, pollution and shortsighted management of our planet’s natural resources. The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of its water, yet a growing number of factors continue to threaten the health of our oceans and, by extension, the sustainable future of our planet.

As the Earth warms, so do the oceans — causing increasing rates of acidification that concern scientists and lawmakers alike. President Barack Obama noted acidification as a key climate-related concern in an Executive Order he issued last year urging Americans to embrace climate change awareness. Scientists note that acidification has happened before in Earth’s history — but never at such rapid rate. The most comparable event, which took place about 65 million years ago, is estimated to be 10 times slower than current acidification.

Though human activity indirectly impacts ocean health through climate change, direct actions may pose even greater concerns. To keep up with demand for certain species, massive commercial fishing vessels empty large swaths of water in one pass, then simply move on to another. Known as overfishing, the serial depletion of fish populations that leaves few adult fish to repopulate the seas, this phenomenon poses a real and imminent threat to ocean biodiversity — which could endanger sea life all the way up the food chain and have potentially devastating effects on underwater ecosystems. Meanwhile, currents draw millions of tons of trash to an area the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean, known as the North Pacific Gyre or trash vortex, where it swirls in perpetuity and grows larger by the day.

Outspoken consumer advocacy, thoughtful legislation and greater industry transparency can go a long way to ensuring a healthier ocean for our children. But another factor may play an even greater role in determining a brighter future for the world’s fish — the power of story.

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‘Tech Backlash’ Perfect Time for Silicon Valley to ‘Disrupt’ CSR

Lauren Zanolli
| Wednesday March 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Google BusIn an article posted last month on Salon.com, Julia Carrie Wong outs Silicon Valley for a lackluster response to the tech backlash embodied by protests of Google employee buses in San Francisco. She says “charity is not enough” and rightfully points out the relative stinginess of “community benefit agreements” that the city signed with tech companies in exchange for tax breaks. And while skyrocketing rents and higher-than-average eviction rates have their roots in a long-term housing shortage caused by intense bureacracy and local opposition to new developments, the effects of a booming tech industry in an otherwise slow-moving economy are very real in the Silicon Valley.

But to charge that tech companies and their now infamous employees are THE cause of displacement and gentrification seems misguided. It begs the question: Exactly how should tech companies be responding to their outsize effect on the local economy?

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Is There a Sustainable Big Mac in Your Future?

RP Siegel | Wednesday March 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments

mcdonalds logo Giant corporations such as McDonald’s and Walmart cast a long shadow across the planet with the enormous amount of resources that they use, process, consume and sell. McDonald’s flips and bags 70 million hamburgers every day and is responsible for a full 2 percent of the world’s beef consumption. So when you consider the impact that beef production has on the environment, particularly with regard to climate change, a move by them to sustainable beef could be a really big deal.

After all, according to a 2009 article in Scientific American, the meat industry was, at that time, responsible for somewhere between 14 and 22 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. So, the article says, if you drove your 3,000-pound car five miles to buy a hamburger, the emissions given off by producing the meat for that burger were equivalent to those given off by your car as your drove there and back home again.

That report, which came from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, turned out to be significantly understated. An updated analysis performed by the World Bank, which was published in Forbes of all places, showed that the more accurate number is closer to 51 percent. That means you’d have to drive somewhere between 23 and 36 miles to equal that patty’s footprint.

In fact, the article goes so far as to say that replacing meat with with alternative foods such as dairy products and soy analogs, for people around the world would, “have far more rapid effects on greenhouse gas emissions and their atmospheric concentrations — and thus on the rate the climate is warming — than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.”

So McDonald’s pledge to switch to sustainable beef production starting in 2016 could have a huge impact, depending, of course, on what they mean by sustainable and how different emissions figures would be compared to those produced today. Considering the fact that Walmart is also making similar noises the stakes are even higher.

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Mars Inc. Raises the Bar for Sustainable Palm Oil

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday March 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments

Sustainable_Palm_Oil_Mars_bar_bitten_Asim18 Mars Inc. is upping the ante regarding the sustainable palm oil market. The manufacturer of the popular chocolate candy bars Mars Bar, 3 Musketeers and Twix announced its commitment yesterday to transition to 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil in its products by the end of 2014.

At present, Mars adheres to the guidelines of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil, which allows it to purchase sustainable palm oil in accordance with the organization’s “mass balance program.” The program is set up to assist companies as they transition to fully certified sustainable oil, by allowing them to mix the sustainable oil they purchase with conventional sources. According to the RSPO, it also helps support the fledgling sustainable palm oil market, by upping the demand in a way that can be met by suppliers.

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Policy Points: Spilling Light on Poor Toxic Chemicals Regulations

American Sustainable Business Council
| Wednesday March 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Members of the West Virginia National Guard draw water samples to determine levels of contamination remaining in local water supply during Operation Elk River Spill.

Members of the West Virginia National Guard draw water samples to determine levels of contamination remaining in local water supply during Operation Elk River Spill.

By Bryan McGannon

If you needed a reason to take chemical reform seriously, you got it in the form of the Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia in January. Besides the human cost, which left many communities without running water for days and made residents sick from the chemicals, there were massive business and economic impacts. According to the Center for Business and Economic Research at Marshall University, businesses in the Charleston, W.Va. area lost about $61 million (PDF) in just the first week after the spill.

Or perhaps we can look to North Carolina and the massive spill that dumped nearly 40,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River on Feb. 2, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic contaminants such as arsenic, mercury and lead.

These accidents shine a spotlight on the potential for damage from poorly regulated toxic chemicals. But, in fact, they only hint at how poor current regulations really are for these chemicals.

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Unilever CEO Paul Polman Pockets Extra $722K for Sustainability Work

Lauren Zanolli
| Wednesday March 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Together with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Unilever CEO Paul Polman opens a new Unilever wastewater treatment plant in St. Petersburg in 2013.

Together with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Unilever CEO Paul Polman opens a new Unilever wastewater treatment plant in St. Petersburg in 2013.

Proving that being green really can get you more of that other green stuff, Unilever CEO and leader in corporate sustainability Paul Polman received a £431,775 ($722,230) bump to his already hefty annual bonus in large part for his work on the company’s sustainability goals.

As Bloomberg reported earlier this week, in Unilever’s Annual Report the Board of Directors mentioned Polman’s “leadership, including progress against the delivery of [Unilever Sustainable Living Plan] goals and his overall contribution to making sustainable living commonplace,” as a factor in choosing a 137.5 percent “personal performance multiplier” on his year-end bonus.

In comparison, Unilever’s CFO, Jean-Marc Huet, received a 110 percent personal performance multiplier.

Among his fellow multi-national CEOs, Polman has been one of the most vocal proponents for integrating environmental and social goals into overall business planning. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan was formed under his watch and aims to halve the company’s environmental footprint by 2020, among other metrics. He has also broken away from the pack in his approach to shareholder duty. Rather than focus exclusively on shareholder returns, he has actively sought out the kind of investors that agree with his “build a bigger pie” approach to business, which emphasizes the long-term value companies can reap from a more environmentally and economically stable world.

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Fair Trace Tool Makes Supply Chain Transparency Fashionable

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Indigenous Trace ToolBy Matt Reynolds

Fashionistas now, for the first time, can see beyond clothing labels with the Fair Trace Tool developed by my company, fair trade fashion retailer INDIGENOUS along with Worldways Social Media. This new tool, a QR code on hang-tags, offers transparency throughout the garment’s supply chain, including a glimpse of the artisans who actually made it and insight into the product’s social impact. The content is delivered in text, video and animated map format.

We founded INDIGENOUS on the principle that great design starts with paying workers fair wages, having fair working conditions and using materials that do not harm our environment. As my co-founder, Scott Leonard, CEO of INDIGENOUS says, “No one should suffer or die to make clothing. Just the opposite – they and their families should prosper. That’s how it is with our supply chain. That’s how it can be with others. Let’s not make this harder than it is.”

The global fashion industry is a trillion-dollar business, rampant with social and environmental injustices. Child labor, slave labor and hostile working conditions exploit workers. Pesticides used in cotton fields and toxic dyes used in yarns and fabrics devastate lives, land and water. The good news is that we can do something about it.

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CSR Lessons From Mobile Industry’s ‘Kill Switch’ Opposition

| Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment

smartphoneYou love your cell phone and can’t spend a minute without it, right? If the answer is yes, here are three facts you should be aware of.

First, in 2012 1.6 million Americans were the victims of smartphone-related crimes. Second, one in three robberies in the U.S. include the theft of a mobile device. Third, cell phone thefts are now the single biggest source of property crime in many American cities.

In other words, not only is your beloved phone in danger of getting stolen, but it can also get you into trouble, from being the target of a robbery to even getting murdered in some cases.

Is this inevitable? Not necessarily, according to a growing number of policymakers and law enforcements officers. They believe consumers deserve better and that a “kill switch” that would make smartphones useless when stolen is the best solution to the “epidemic of violent smartphone thefts,” as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calls it.

But not everyone is convinced a kill switch this is such a great idea.

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Cut the Cord On Your Utility? It Could Be Possible Sooner Than You Think

| Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 2 Comments

solarbatteryhome With performance improving, production volumes rising and costs on the decline, intelligent battery storage systems may provide the missing piece of the clean energy puzzle, enabling customers to cut the cord linking them to utility grids and ushering in the end of the centralized electric utility business model.

Analyzing regional scenarios across the U.S., the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), CohnReznick Think Energy and HOMER Energy concluded that utility grid parity for the combination of solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage systems is “already here in some areas and imminent in many others for millions of U.S. customers.”

The combination of solar PV and battery storage technologies – what the authors of “The Economics of Grid Defection” dub “utility-in-a-box” – can make “the electric grid optional for many customers – without compromising reliability and increasingly at prices cheaper than utility retail electricity.”

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Emerging Legal Forms Allow Social Entrepreneurs to Blend Mission and Profits

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Marc Lane Image By Marc J. Lane

Social entrepreneurs throughout the nation are preparing to gather for this year’s Social Enterprise Alliance Summit 2014. Many are learning that their choice of legal entity can make a big difference for them—in funding, governance, and signaling—as they seek to drive positive social change. The two most popular legal forms, each designed with the mission-driven venture in mind, are the “low-profit limited liability company” or “L3C” and the “benefit corporation.”

Low-profit limited liability company (L3C)

The L3C is a new, for-profit entity form available to social entrepreneurs who seek the legal and tax flexibility of a traditional LLC, the social benefits of a nonprofit organization, and the branding and market positioning advantages of a social enterprise. The L3C is a potent tool to attract private capital to ventures with modest financial prospects, but great potential to make a positive social impact.

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El Niño, More Rain Likely With Climate Change

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

rainfall_Granite_Falls_WalterSiegmund El Niño may be back for a visit this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center released a statement Wednesday saying that current indicators point toward a possible El Niño warming trend for this coming summer or fall.

That could mean more rain for some areas on the Pacific Coast, and particularly for the rain-starved counties of Southern California.

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Alternative Dispute Resolution and the Business and Human Rights Justice Gap

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Palais Wilson in Geneva, home to the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Palais Wilson in Geneva, home to the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

By Michael Kourabas
In May 2013, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (“OHCHR”) commissioned Dr. Jennifer Zerk to prepare an analysis of the effectiveness of domestic judicial systems in relation to business involvement in gross human rights abuses. Last week, Dr. Zerk released her report.

The report is damning and a must-read, in part because it does not blindly focus on the failure of businesses to respect — or at least refrain from participating in gross violations of — human rights. As the report illustrates, there is consensus that corporate involvement in human rights violations is a major problem and something that the international community is obliged to address. And, no matter how much energy we pour into attacking businesses and shining a light on these abuses, they will surely continue.

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Tweet Jam: Sustainable Fashion

| Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 7 Comments

3p-tweet-jamAs part of the kickoff to our new series on sustainability in fashion, we’ve decided to try something new: a Tweet Jam. It’s a one hour conversation with a panel of experts to which everyone is invited.

This time we’ll be teaming up with Business Fights Poverty to lead the conversation about key sustainability topics facing the fashion industry. We’ll explore sustainability trends in fashion throughout the lifecycle: from the cotton fields all the way to the landfill.   In the expansive scope of sustainability, how do brands decide where to focus and how to prioritize?  How effective are their efforts for people and the planet?

We’re On:
The Jam is on – please visit the twitter client of your choice and search for #3pChat, or follow along live below:

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Fostering Sustainable Growth in North Texas as Overpopulation Mounts

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Texas FlagBy Meghna Tare

Eight of the 15 fastest-growing large U.S. cities and towns for the year ending July 1, 2012 were in Texas, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Lone Star State also stood out in terms of the size of population growth, with five of the 10 cities and towns that added the most people over the year. Even within North Texas, the population of the 10-county Dallas-Fort Worth region is expected to grow from approximately 5.1 million in 2000 to 9.1 million in 2030, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).

Tremendous pressure is placed upon the North Texas region land and natural resources to support the massive overpopulation. To mitigate the strains that will develop as cities expand, and to maximize the potential economic opportunity that well-managed cities can offer, North Texas needs a proactive approach to addressing the challenges of urbanization.

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3 Questions That Measure Impact and Change the Story of a Social Enterprise

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Katie Hanners Image By Katie Hanners

For the past year, impact measurement has been the buzzword in the social enterprise industry. No longer do we focus primarily on innovation, but instead we need an innovative solution to make a significant social impact. But for some reason, those of us in the social enterprise sector continue to get tripped up when talking about our impact. 

Intuitively, we know we do more than generate revenue, but when asked to share our success we focus on those easily measurable metrics – revenue, sales, volume, etc.  This past year, one of the social enterprises that I oversee at Catholic Charities Fort Worth – WORN — realized we needed to change our story, to more effectively work toward our agency’s goal to end poverty in our community.

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