Report: Shoppers Love Organic Food – Even If They Can’t Tell What It Is

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Organic_foods_millennialsNow that the organic marketing concept has been around for a few generations, you’d think it would be easier to win consumers over. According to a recent survey by BFG Consulting it is. With the plethora of stores that now handle everything from organic bananas to pesticide-free, organically made canned food, today’s shoppers have little problem tracking down that “back-to-basics” version in or around the produce isle.

The only thing is, do they really know what it is? Would they be able to explain what it is that makes it stand out from regularly grown food? According to BFG’s research, not necessarily.

Only 20 percent of the consumers who participated in the survey could accurately tell researchers the fairly stringent requirements that define the organic food market, even though almost 70 percent of those who were surveyed said they bought organic products.

It’s an interesting statistic, considering the fact that according to the USDA, organic purchases now represent 4 percent of food sales in the U.S. — and is continuing to grow. Even more interesting is that a significant portion (93 percent) of those sales occur in supermarkets and natural food venues, where there’s often plenty of dialogue about what makes organic food special. Another 7 percent of purchases occur at farmers’ markets and locations where organic food is often sought out.

It also notes that organic premiums have remained high, even though the supply is much better than it was some years ago. Although that’s a troubling statistic, it does corroborate BFG’s finding that millennials are currently willing and able to return to the pesticide-free isle and pay more for organic foods.

And what drives their purchases is interesting as well: honesty.

“They desire honesty,” notes BFG CEO Kevin Meany. “They want to believe.”

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Green Mountain Power First Utility to Become a B Corp

Leon Kaye | Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment
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Vermont’s Green Mountain Power is now a certified B Corp

The B Corp movement has picked up steam the last few years: Etsy, Warby Parker, Patagonia and Method [Ed note: and TriplePundit!] are some examples of firms that are combining good business with doing good. Over 1,000 companies have become certified by keeping the highest standards of transparency, environmental performance and social responsibility. They range from building contractors to professional services such as legal and accounting. But until this week, there was not a single utility in this group until Green Mountain Power Corporation (GMP) announced this week it is now a B Corp—the first utility in the world to score this certification.

Based in Vermont, GMP provides power to over 260,000 homes and businesses. The company has recognized that the role and business model of utilities are changing. To that end, GMP has worked with stakeholders across Vermont to develop new forms of energy beyond conventional fossil fuels.

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Video: Asheen Phansey of Dassault Systèmes Talks Diversity at Net Impact

| Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment

Asheen Phansey - business casual The tech sector has come under fire recently for a lack of diversity in its workforce, particularly with respect to gender. Asheen Phansey, who heads up the Sustainable Innovation Lab at French software firm Dassault Systèmes, noted this issue at the 2014 Net Impact conference — saying gender diversity is “critical” for technology companies.

“As with most companies, we have a pretty unbalanced workforce that is predominantly male,” Phansey said. “Something that [Dassault] strives for from a business setting is first getting more women involved in our company, in everything from technology to management, and also looking to the percentage of women total to the percentage of women that are managers.”

“That’s important because there are a lot of qualities of how a female executive approaches a problem that tend to be, on average, different from how a male executive will approach a function.”

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Phansey goes on to explain how gender diversity, as well as diversity of workplace function, come into play at Dassault — and why businesses both inside and outside the tech sector should care — in this three-minute clip.

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Panasonic’s New Smart Town Can Teach Business a Thing or Two About Smart Growth

| Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town by PanasonicTech companies are going to new lengths to showcase their innovations, and here’s the latest case in point: a consortium called Fujisawa SST Council will develop an entire “Sustainable Smart Town” for 3,000 souls in Fujisawa City, Japan, under the leadership of Panasonic Corporation.

The town, named Fujisawa SST (SST stands for Sustainable Smart Town) had its grand opening last week, and completion of construction is expected by 2018. The stated goal is to create a smart growth community that can support sustainable development for at least 100 years. That’s a pretty tall order in Japan, which has become known for its build ‘em up, tear ‘em down approach to housing.

Going by the artist rendering, Fujisawa doesn’t impress much at first glance. Aside from the rooftop solar panels it looks more like an old school U.S. suburb rather than a cutting edge showcase for smart growth. However, when you peel back the skin you can find some interesting lessons for residential communities and other self-contained sites including office and industrial parks, school campuses, corporate campuses, and military facilities.

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Lighting the Way Forward with Renewable Energy

3p Contributor | Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment
wind solar cropped

Image courtesy of Climate Solutions

By Jamie Dean

Now is an amazing chapter in the story of renewable energy, and I’m optimistic about its future. The dominant story – if we weed through the fossil fuel industry rhetoric – is that renewable energy is becoming cheaper and more efficient. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, since 2007, the cost of installing an average-sized rooftop solar system has nearly halved. In just 10 years, wind turbines have doubled in efficiency. Conversely, over the long-term, fossil fuels can only go up in price as resources diminish and demand increases (as the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook report indicates). And while we can continue our ever-more-harmful strategies to suck every last drop of oil and gas from the earth (while denying the huge environmental impacts), this can only go on for so long. The story of our energy system is at a crossroads. There are two paths forward – one paved with fossil fuels, and the other illuminated by renewable energy.

Enter The 11th Hour Project’s OpenIDEO Challenge, launched in November.

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Video: Meg Evans of Udemy Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

DSC_5128 “We have a global audience of students, and so for us diversity in the workplace is important so that we can reflect the diversity of our customer base,” Meg Evans, manager of social innovation for Udemy, said at the 2014 Net Impact conference.

“We want to be able to make sure to understand both our customers of students and customers of instructors.”

Udemy, an online marketplace for teaching and learning, hosts more than 4 million students from all over the world. Education is a key component of the diversity conversation, and disruptive, skills-based education platforms like Udemy provide intriguing prospects outside of traditional two- and four-year colleges.

The company offers over 20,000 courses in 53 languages, with more than 10 million course enrollments in its young history. Udemy’s base of 10,000 instructors is also global, Evans continued, so making diversity a priority is a natural fit for the company.

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Evans goes on to explain how maintaining a diverse workforce has helped Udemy grow into a leader in skills-based education.

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The Illusion of Separation from Nature

3p Contributor | Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

butterfly1By Giles Hutchins

I believe deeply that we are all born biophilic. Every human has an innate instinctual love for life.

Yet, at deep and partly unconscious levels we perceive life as a struggle for survival set within an evolution of selfish ascendancy. Large swathes of modern humanity have become “biophobic” — meaning we seek to control and dominate our inner and outer worlds for security against this competitive struggle. Cultural conditioning teaches us to dominate or become dominated. Through our fearful search for control, we sever ourselves from the very ground of our being – nature – further exacerbating our perceived need to dominate, control, exploit and enslave.

This sense of separateness corrupts our basic need for intimate relationships and we begin to mistrust even life itself. Enter the ethical and ecological corruption in our midst. Deal with this and you deal with the mother of all our problems. We can move beyond creating solutions infected with the same thinking that created the problems in the first place.

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Will a Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Matter?

Leon Kaye | Tuesday December 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments
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Will that meat you grill become more sustainable thanks to GRSB?

Are you concerned over the beef industry’s impact on the environment and animals? Never mind the fact that more land is used is used for animal pasture and to raise feed than to grow food for humans: A movement is underway to make beef more sustainable. Held in São Paulo, Brazil, last month, the major supporters of this conference included McDonald’s, Cargill and the animal pharmaceutical company Elanco. Over the course of four days, 300 attendees at the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) issued what the organization described as the “release of the first global definition for ‘sustainable beef’.”

The summary of what occurred in São Paulo will hardly endear the GRSB to advocates of a more plant-based diet and for an improved management of resources. The GRSB is actually pushing for the production of more beef, citing issues including food security, links between the consumption of animal protein and test scores and the need to do “more with less.” So brace yourself: In order to meet the demand of income and population growth, the planet will need to product 43 percent more beef by 2050. So exactly how will this be done?

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Putting the Brakes on Fast Fashion

| Tuesday December 2nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

f21Just as fast food chains have fueled Americans’ hunger for more, bigger, faster when it comes to what we put in our bodies, fast fashion brands increasingly beguile shoppers the world over with options of what to put on our bodies. Over the past decade, rapidly made garments – sold at low prices and manufactured at even lower price points – have proliferated shopping centers across the nation. In some fast fashion shops, consumers can even buy an outfit for the price of a Happy Meal.

Consumers’ fascination with stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Uniqlo and Zara isn’t rocket science – who wouldn’t want to buy the latest trends for a fraction of the cost? Why pay $100 for a sweater, when you can get a near-replica for only $25? That’s how most shoppers understand fast fashion.

And that’s why earlier this year, fast fashion forefather Forever 21 opened the concept test store F21 Red, which boasts starting price points as low as $1.80 (selling $3.80 T-shirts, $5.80 leggings, and $7.80 denim jeans). Consumers are eating it up. Fast fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s growing. Already, Forever 21 operates 600 stores worldwide – and the company plans to double its global presence by 2017 – while Zara has 1,800 locations and H&M owns 3,400 stores. Annual revenue for those companies has risen by the billions in the past years, a significant contrast to the slow decline of the traditional apparel retail market.

Rather than follow the traditional apparel model of selling seasonal lines of clothing, manufactured and marketed months in advance, these bargain brands rapidly respond to the latest fashion trends, quickly address consumer demands, and live by just-in-time production. As a result, consumers get more, faster: A fast fashion shopper can get a dress, two scarves, a shirt and pants for the price of only one sweater from a traditional retailer.

While this model may be good for consumers’ pocket books and closets, incidents such as the collapse of Rana Plaza and the unnaturally dyed polluted rivers of China have shown that making clothes using low-cost labor in environmentally unregulated developing countries can come at great costs. What is the antidote to this apparel paradox?

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Which City Ranks as Most Connected?

RP Siegel | Tuesday December 2nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

sustainable-cities-500x333We know that cities are growing bigger, smarter and more connected, but which cities are best connected and which ones are growing their capabilities most quickly? A recent survey by communication technology provider Ericsson evaluates 40 leading cities around the world for their level of information and communication technology (ICT) maturity.

What the study found was that cities that were ranked lower are growing more quickly, thus beginning to catch up with those at the head of the pack.

The cities found to have the highest level of ICT maturity were Stockholm, London, Paris, Singapore and Copenhagen. Only three U.S. cities made the list, with New York coming in seventh, Los Angeles 11th and Miami 15th.

The report claims that ICT will form future cities, the way the railroad formed London and the highway formed Los Angeles. That may well be, though it seems that ICT is far less place-dependent than those other defining innovations were. Perhaps it is more a matter of how future cities will utilize their technology that will define them and distinguish them from others.

Because, as the report states, “it is not enough to simply invest in new ICT infrastructure. For this infrastructure to be fully utilized, it must be applied in new ways and turned into a vital resource for innovation involving people, businesses and city governments. Without compelling and useful applications, there will be no benefits for the individuals and the city as a whole.”

This provides a challenge and an opportunity to city leaders. “To get the full benefits of ICT infrastructure, city leadership needs to master its use of ICT to boost the city’s economy and competitiveness; provide services; and develop urban environment, quality of life and community collaboration.”

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Seeking Creative Ways to Deal with Food Waste at Hospitals

Leon Kaye | Tuesday December 2nd, 2014 | 2 Comments
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BioHitech America’s anaerobic digesters turn food waste into grey water

Hospitals and health clinics across the world struggle with waste for numerous reasons. Their waste streams are more complicated, due to the various streams they produce and the regulations they have to follow: think of all the bandages, pharmaceuticals and yes, what comes out of the operating rooms as well. Information on how much waste hospitals generate is sparse. One survey suggests hospitals in the U.S. generate about 34 pounds of waste per day, per bed—but that was from a network of “eco-friendly” hospitals. Food waste is part of the problem hospitals face: a conservative estimate suggests hospitals waste three to four pounds of food daily per bed, not surprising considering the convergence of sick people and, well, bad hospital food. The statistics are dismal on the other side of the pond, too: The Guardian estimates one-fourth of all food served up in British hospitals ends up in the trash.

With food waste contributing about 10 percent to a hospital’s waste stream, more health care companies are finding more creative ways to churn all that slop into something useful. One hospital in Minnesota churns uneaten food into fertilizer. Naturally, composting is another option, and can be even more seamless if the hospital goes with compostable tableware—a tough sell when procurement officers only want to look at the financial figures. With the pressure on to reduce the amount of garbage sent to municipal landfills, one company based in New York is finding a niche with its solution for waste diversion.

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Consumer Behavior Drives Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Bill Roth | Tuesday December 2nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

shopping redThe sales results of Black Friday and Cyber Monday confirm new consumer behavior — meaning business must change to grow sales. This new sales reality is based upon Americans consuming better. The question is, will consuming better will be enough to restore our economy, human health and the environment?

Holiday shopping season results

This holiday sales season is being driven by consumers prudently managing their purchases around a target budget. In response retailers are pushing ever larger price discounts to win their share of the consumer’s procurement budget. A marketshare price war is now a business norm. The consequences are continued weak economic growth plus an ongoing business focus upon cost reduction to maintain profit margins that does not bode well for 2015 wage increases.

The other business reality from today’s holiday season is that price discounting alone no longer guarantees sales success. Consumers are exercising higher expectations on how a product aligns with their values on quality, service, health, wellness and environmental/social responsibility. Consumers want it all. They want heavy price discounts on products that align with their values. This holiday shopping season is confirming that sales success now depends upon offering consumers “cost less, mean more” products and services.

Consuming better and sustainability

This holiday shopping season again confirms that consumers have not adopted sustainability as a core best practice. The American consumer has accepted that they must consume better. They are shopping with more financial prudence. They are consuming better by focusing upon whether a product aligns with their values. What the vast majority of consumers have not embraced is sustainable consumption with a focus upon reduce, reuse and repurpose.

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Breaking Down Bioplastics

Presidio Sports
Presidio Sports | Tuesday December 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing student blogging series entitled The Business Of Sports & Sustainability. This “micro-blog” is the product of the nations first MBA/MPA certificate program dedicated to sustainability in the sports industry. You can follow the series here.

By Jocelynn StoneCompostable Cup

It’s the second inning and the Giants have just taken the lead in the NLDS series, the scoreboard has a message encouraging fans to help with recycling and composting in the stadium.  Happy that my team is winning, I pick up an empty cup to lend a hand.  Confusion sets in. The side of the cup boasts that it is made from plants and on the bottom is the iconic chasing arrow symbol with a number 7 in the middle. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say it is compostable.  Should the cup go in the compost bin or the recycling bin?

There are an ever-increasing variety of plastics products derived from renewable raw materials entering the market.  The market for biobased and compostable plastics, known as bioplastics, is expected to be worth over $5 billion by 2018 according to Dr. Molly Morse of Mango Materials, a startup that is making biodegradable plastic with methane eating bacteria.

Bioplastics hold great promise.  The potential benefits include reducing dependence on fossil fuels and increased diversion of waste from landfills. Readily noticeable is their use in food service items.  They are the darlings of sports venues, such as Seattle’s Safeco Field, Yankee Stadium and Penn State’s Beaver Stadium that are working on zero waste initiatives.

Unfortunately, bioplastics may present problems when it comes time to dispose of them.

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Sierra Club Launching Activist Acceleration Tool in 2015

3p Conferences
| Tuesday December 2nd, 2014 | 5 Comments

By Julie Noblitt

Chris Thomas, CIO, The Sierra Club

Chris Thomas, CIO, The Sierra Club

Next year the Sierra Club will launch a brand-new platform called that uses familiar social media tools to accelerate impact and drive real-world change. Its tagline, “Every Action Matters,” underscores the Sierra Club’s intent to leverage the collective power of their two million supporters to take direct action on initiatives that help protect the environment. Chris Thomas, the Sierra Club’s CIO (Chief Innovation Officer), was on hand at the Social Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley (November 19-20) to talk about the new site, and I had a chance to sit down with him for a few minutes to dig deeper.

Rethinking advocacy

Thomas is on a mission to shift the Sierra Club away from the old advocacy model of “send us your membership dues and we will do good things on your behalf.” Instead, he would like to give individual members and local chapters direct control over their activism. Thomas has partnered with Salesforce and New York-based Blue State Digital to get the job done.

“Wait, what?” I hear you asking. That’s right. The Sierra Club is using an enterprise-level customer relationship management (CRM) platform in service of creating an online grassroots movement at scale.

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Video: Net Impact Student Ishara Emerson Talks Diversity at NI14

| Tuesday December 2nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

net impact“When I think of diversity, I think of diversity and inclusion,” Spelman College student Ishara Emerson said at the 2014 Net Impact conference.

“Diversity is all about quantity and getting people together … Inclusion is really about quality: getting those people, from those different backgrounds, and actually inviting them to the table and talking with them.”

Emerson is majoring in environmental sciences with plans to become a veterinarian. She has been a part of the Net Impact community for a little over a year.

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Emerson goes on to make the business case for diversity in this two-minute clip.

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