Video: Ahmad Ashkar of the Hult Prize Foundation Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Friday December 5th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Hult Prize CEO Ahmad Ashkar (left) and Hitendra Patel, director of the Center for Innovation, at Net Impact 2014.

Hult Prize Foundation CEO Ahmad Ashkar (left) and Hitendra Patel, director of the Center for Innovation, at Net Impact 2014.

“It’s critical that anyone looking to be sustainable enact guidelines of diversity within their own organizations,” Ahmad Ashkar, CEO and founder of the Hult Prize Foundation, said at the 2014 Net Impact conference in Minneapolis.

The Hult Prize, often called the “Nobel Prize for students,” is the world’s largest student competition and one of the world’s most prestigious awards for the creation of new social enterprises.

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Ashkar goes on to explain why diversity matters to the Hult Prize Foundation, which already counts students from more than 130 different countries as part of its applicant pool, in this 90-second clip.

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Groups Sue Feds Over Climate Effects of Coal Leasing

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment

powder river coal_chrisTwo environmental groups are taking the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to court for failing to consider the harmful climate effects of the federal government’s coal leasing program.

The lawsuit was filed late last month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils. Interestingly, Bloomberg reported that the suit is being funded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen.

In addition to the Allen connection, this is a big deal because the two groups are seeking the first comprehensive review of the federal coal-leasing program since 1979. “Since that time, scientific evidence has established that greenhouse gases produced by coal mining and combustion endanger the public health and welfare,” the groups said in a statement. “The BLM, however, has never analyzed the coal leasing program’s impact on climate change.”

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Policy Points: After 2014 Elections, More Uncertainty Ahead

American Sustainable Business Council
| Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

I votedBy Zach Bernstein

With Election Day 2014 well behind us, it’s time to look at just how much things have changed in the political world. One thing that’s not up for debate: A lot has changed. One thing that is debatable: What’s going to happen as a result.

For proponents of a sustainable economy, this election offered some very encouraging signs. Voters continued to show their support for raising the minimum wage and offering paid time off to workers, including in states represented by people who oppose taking those steps. The electorate, on these issues, is more forward-thinking than many of its representatives.

This shouldn’t be surprising.  Despite being controversial in Congress or other legislative bodies, policies like these are incredibly popular with voters (and, as recent polling has shown, small business owners). Policymakers on both sides of the aisle would be wise to take those lessons into account going forward.

Before the election, we wrote about certain races to keep an eye on. In a lot of cases, those races featured two candidates with very different positions on top issues facing our economy, like environmental protections and renewable energy growth, health care, agriculture, and more. And not all of those races came at the federal level — some were ballot initiatives at the state level.

Now that the election is over, what are we to make of the new political landscape? Let’s recap some election results at three different levels, and see what they tell us about the political debate going forward.

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Corporate Support Pours in For EPA Clean Power Plan

RP Siegel | Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Smokestack sunsetA number of different groups came out this week in support of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the rule that will allow the agency to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. Power plants emits nearly one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and they comprise the largest contributing sector. The goal of the rule will be to reduce those emissions by 30 percent compared to 2005, by the year 2030. Republicans in Congress are hoping to block the rule. Transportation, which is the second largest sector, is already being addressed in various ways including updated fuel economy standards. These improved standards have helped to keep American cars competitive with high efficiency models from overseas. An additional rule addressing heavy duty trucks also took effect this year with impressive results.

This week, the advocacy group Ceres hosted a conference call in which they, acting as a spokesman for a wide array of companies across numerous industries, presented a letter of support for the EPA rule signed by 223 companies. They had a number of industry representatives on hand to speak out in support of government policy action on climate change. Ceres president Mindy Lubber said it well in her opening comments.

“Today’s press event affirms that companies and investors are supporting solutions to tackling climate change. More than ever before, businesses are setting ambitious goals to reduce their own energy use, lower their carbon footprint, and source more and more renewable energy. They’re achieving these goals and in so doing, they’re improving their bottom line and helping the environment. These companies also recognize that their voluntary actions alone are not enough. Lowering carbon pollution at the scale and during the time frames that are needed to avoid catastrophic temperature increases requires stronger policies. That’s why hundreds of companies have signed the Ceres climate declaration, a business led call-to-action that urges Federal and State policymakers to adopt clean energy policies that will enable companies to seize the clear economic opportunities of addressing climate change.”

Other speakers included Tim  Brown,  President  and  Chief  Executive  Officer,  Nestlé  Waters North  America; John  Gardner,  Chief  Sustainability  Officer,  Novelis  Inc.; Dan  Probst,  Chairman  of  Energy  and  Sustainability Services,  Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL); Sandy  Taft,  Director  of  U.S. Energy  and  Sustainability  Policy,  National  Grid; and Donna  Carpenter,  Chief  Executive  Officer,  Burton  Snowboards.

John Gardner of Novalis (Aluminum) praised the plan’s flexibility in including energy efficiency (EE) as a means for power providers to reduce carbon emissions, noting that EE is, “the cleanest, cheapest, and most readily available energy resource to help states cut their carbon emissions.”

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Huffpost Impact: CSR in Action

3p Conferences
| Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Julie Noblitt

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

HuffpostImpactFrontPageHas someone recently sent you a link to a well-written short article about something funny or informative or enraging or weird? Chances are it came from The Huffington Post, the Pulitzer Prize-winning online destination for breaking news from all over the web. But, until I attended the workshop on “Driving Impact Through Digital Media” at the Social Innovation Summit (November 19-20) in Silicon Valley, I didn’t realize that The Huffington Post publishes a section devoted to social impact called Huffpost Impact. And, Huffpost has partnered with companies to sponsor the distribution of that content as part of their CSR programs. I sat down with Brian Sirgutz, Senior Vice President of Social Impact at The Huffington Post, to learn more about it.

Social media for social change

Sirgutz started Huffpost Impact in October 2009 when he was President of Causecast. “I did not have a typical media background when I co-founded Causecast,” Sirgutz told me, “but I wanted to build a platform that would let people tell stories that would drive impact for social change.” With more than 90,000 bloggers posting content to Huffington Post, and an every-second news cycle, it can be difficult to hold people’s attention on the stories that matter the most. It’s even harder to translate those stories into action for social change. Sirgutz wants to change that.

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India Close to Announcing Big Climate Change Shift in Lima

Leon Kaye | Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment
India, climate change, Lima climate change conference, carbon emissions, Leon Kaye, Narendra Modi, climate talks, per capita carbon footprint, clean energy, solar

Traffic on a good day in Mumbai, India (Leon Kaye)

The United Nations climate negotiators are meeting once again, this time in Lima, Peru, where—as we have heard before—we will hear promises of making significant progress on climate change. All eyes are on India, which, like China, is often criticized for dragging its feet on developing a solid plan on climate change. Of course, those charges are often unfair, considering these two countries are the workshops for the world. If the U.S. had a real manufacturing sector, this country would be an even more massive polluter. With China taking bolder steps in addressing its carbon footprint, all eyes are now on India. The odds are that the world’s second most populous nation will make a big announcement this week at this week’s Lima climate change conference.

According to India’s daily Business Standard, the Indian government is keen on making “fresh and enhanced commitments to the international community.”

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Lighting It Up: Sporting Venues Transition to LED Technology

Presidio Sports
Presidio Sports | Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 0 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 Katie Levinestadium in lights

Stadiums and arenas at the professional and collegiate levels, and across leagues from the NHL to the NFL have begun the transition to what is becoming known as the 21st century light source: LED technology. Emitting more light per watt, LEDs require significantly less energy than traditional lighting solutions.

As lighting is typically the second largest energy consumer in sporting venues, installing LED lighting systems offers facility managers one of the fastest paybacks among all the potential energy efficiency upgrades, averaging as little as two to three years. LEDs reduce energy costs up to 75 percent and also provide significant maintenance cost savings, because they last far longer than other lights – typically up to 50,000 hours and some more than 225,000 hours.

These economic wins are matched by environmental benefits including lowered greenhouse gas emissions due to their reduced energy usage. As a result, LEDs have become a go-to choice for operators and leagues looking for viable ways to advance their greening initiatives.

The upstate NY-based company Ephesus Lighting is at the fore of aiding this transition to LED lighting systems within the sporting world.

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Video: Antoine Andrews of Symantec Talks Diversity at Net Impact ’14

| Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Antoine Andrews “From a business perspective, we look at diversity as a way to help us make better business decisions, to make sure that we’re innovative,” Antoine Andrews, director of global diversity and inclusion for Symantec, said at the 2014 Net Impact conference.

“I like to use the term ‘insider’ and ‘outsider.’ We’ve all been in situations where we were either an insider or an outsider,” he continued.

“So, if you look at inclusion from that perspective — of how to help people get comfortable in environments, to be able to be a little bit more creative, to be able to challenge the status quo — really helps organizations get into a better place.”

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Andrews went on to describe his role at Symantec — and how he leverages diversity to help departments within the company become more innovative and recruit top talent — in this 90-second clip.

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Video: Laura Clise of Areva Talks Diversity at Net Impact 2014

| Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

photo “One of the things that I find really interesting in talking about diversity, and in practicing diversity within my company, is: As you start to look at and try to define what the ‘value’ is, oftentimes you find that you’re having conversations that run parallel to the conversations that we have when we’re trying to articulate the business case for sustainability,” Laura Clise said at the 2014 Net Impact conference.

“What I think is really fundamental is that both are focused on the translation of and the impact of looking at corporate values and then linking that to value creation.”

Clise, who serves as director of external communications and corporate citizenship for Areva, moderated a panel on diversity and inclusion at the conference in Minneapolis last month. She even wrote a 90-second rap to kick things off. (If your day could use a boost, do yourself a favor and check it out here.)

As part of our Talking Diversity video series, Clise talks about the difference between diversity and inclusion — and how anyone, regardless of background, can be an ally and an advocate for diversity — in the following clip.

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Latino Cultures Have a “Green” Legacy, Says Festival Founder

Hannah Miller | Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Editor Irene Vilar founded the Americas Latino Eco Festival in 2013.

Editor Irene Vilar founded the Americas Latino Eco Festival in 2013.

The environmental movement has long-struggled to diversify. Meanwhile, rapid demographic changes make the need for broader engagement all the more imperative. In Colorado this is truly a force: Within 6 years, 52 percent of high school students will be Latino — these teens will soon be the adults on whom the future of the state will depend.

For Irene Vilar, the founder of the Americas Latino Eco-Festival, diversifying isn’t difficult – she argues that Latino cultures in the U.S. and globally are inherently deeply ecologically aware because of traditional indigenous-based reverence for the earth. In fact, as she said at the Colorado Climate Summit in Nov., the poll findings are that “96 percent of Latinos believe in climate change” – findings that replicated elsewhere, including an NRDC poll that showed 68 percent of Republican Latinos want government action to prevent climate change.

Vilar, originally from Puerto Rico and now in Boulder by way of Vermont, started the Americas Latino Eco Festival two years ago, held in September in Boulder and Denver for six days of films, art, music, hikes, parties, and workshops. The festival, the first of its kind in the U.S., lures in arts and culture lovers and then exposes them to green themes, lifestyles, and attitudes.

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Video: Deena Hayes-Greene of the Racial Equity Institute Talks Diversity at NI14

| Thursday December 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

REI “We need to build on the diversity efforts that we’ve been engaged in over the last few decades,” Deena Hayes-Greene, of the Greensboro, North Carolina-based Racial Equity Institute (REI), said at the 2014 Net Impact conference.

“I think we’ve done an effective job, for the most part, in changing the complexion of the people in organizations. I don’t know if we have diversified the realities of the people that work in there.”

Hayes-Greene serves as managing director for REI, an organization with a vision to “optimize institutional outcomes for everyone.” As part of our Talking Diversity video series, she goes on to describe sequential inequities that still exist in business and society — and what can be done to address them — in this two-minute clip.

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8 Strategies for Cutting Business Travel Emissions

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 | 7 Comments

airline travelWhether traveling by train, plane, or automobile, these modes of transportation all produce carbon emissions. In fact, the transportation sector accounts for a whopping 28 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Trimming emissions related to business travel is a big step towards realizing sustainability goals and possibly improving the bottom line. Here are eight strategies for reducing the impact of business travel.

Hold virtual meetings and training sessions

The most dramatic way to reduce business travel emissions is to not travel at all. Virtual meetings and trainings reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save time. Instead of sending out employees, use technology to reduce the need to travel. Some practices that make this more effective are continuing to focus on relationship-building, using a video component, and ensuring that it is easy for all parties to access the virtual meeting platform.

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Forced Labor Occuring Now in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Fields

Michael Kourabas
| Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment

cottonYesterday was the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.”  Though many of us may consider slavery only a cruel and shameful historical relic, forced labor still generates upwards of $150 billion each year.  In other words, modern slavery is, as it was in antebellum America, Big Business.  This past fall, for example, millions of men, women, and children across Uzbekistan were forced by the government to leave their homes, jobs, and schools in order to pick cotton for the state.  The same thing happens every cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, contributing to the country’s position as one of the world’s leading cotton exporters.  Laborers are paid almost nothing, and refusal can be met with public humiliation, violence, or the loss of one’s job or place in school.

Overview of the Uzbek system

Uzbekistan exports nearly one million tons of cotton each year, earning the government a yearly profit of more than a billion dollars and a spot as one of the top five cotton producing countries in the world.  It does so by forcing its citizens to do the picking for little-to-no remuneration (about six cents per kg harvested).  In 2013, as many as five million Uzbek citizens — or 16 percent of the population — were forced to pick cotton.

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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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