Last month we wrote about former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s work with Henry Paulson under the Risky Business initiative to assess the amount of financial risk that climate change poses to the American economy. But the highly committed former mayor is clearly not waiting around to find out the answer.
He has just set out on a new venture, investing $53 million of his own money to try and do something about the sorry state of the world’s fisheries. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization‘s 2006 study published in Science predicted that many ocean fish stocks will be producing less than 10 percent of their peak catch levels by the end of this century.
Already, the U.N. reports that 32 percent of global fish stocks are overexploited or depleted and as much as 90 percent of large species like tuna and marlin have been fished out. The International Programme on the State of the Ocean found that the world’s marine species faced threats “unprecedented in human history”—and overfishing is part of the problem. Another part, of course, is climate change which has raised ocean temperatures and acidity levels, wreaking havoc with coral reefs and other sensitive breeding areas.
Meanwhile, global demand for seafood and fish products is expected to rise by 20 percent in the next six years.
Activists from Greenpeace, named as a “brand challenged” NGO in a recent report ranking nonprofits, protest illegal shipments of timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo to France.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) rank companies all the time: Greenpeace rates electronics companies for environmental responsibility in its Guide to Greener Electronics, and the World Wildlife Fund’s Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard classifies corporations by their efforts to use sustainable palm oil. But no one has evaluated NGOs for their influence, credibility and effectiveness–until now.
GreenBiz Group, publisher of GreenBiz.com, released its first-ever GreenBiz NGO Report at its annual GreenBiz Forum in Phoenix this week, asking 200 companies–about three-quarters of which have a revenue of more than $1 billion–to scrutinize 30 of the largest NGOs.
According to a 2013 study sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center and the University of Illinois, the cost of public assistance to families of fast-food workers is roughly $7 billion a year; more than half (52 percent) of families of fast food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs (compared to 25 percent of the total workforce).
Of that $7 billion, McDonald’s employees received the most help: More than $1.2 billion in public assistance each year, from 2007 through 2011. In light of this, Bloomberg Businessweek recently observed that McDonald’s had become one of America’s “biggest welfare queens.” Congratulations, taxpayers. We are effectively subsidizing McDonald’s’ profits!
At the same time, it should come as no surprise that the fast food industry pays its employees a paltry wage. The Berkeley study found that “[m]edian pay for core front-line fast food jobs is $8.69 an hour, with many jobs paying at or near the minimum wage.” The federal minimum wage in the United States is even lower, at $7.25 an hour (though President Barack Obama recently called raising the minimum to $10.10 an hour a “top priority”). Assuming full-time employment, a minimum wage salary amounts to an annual income of roughly $15,000 per year. The poverty line in the United States is $23,000 per year, or $11.33 an hour, well higher than both the federal minimum wage and the fast food median.
When Delhi-born Ashmeet Kapoor, 28, returned to India after seven years in the U.S., he knew that he wanted to start a social venture based around energy or agriculture. However, this electrical engineer, with a master’s degree in entrepreneurship from Brown University, an Ivy League institution, was also aware of his own ignorance about rural India, having only experienced it from a distance.
To remedy this he went on a 15-day, 8,000 kilometer train journey across India–the Jagriti Yatra, meaning “Journey of Awareness.” For the past five years, this project has been taking 400 to 450 young people, chosen from thousands of applicants, to 12 destinations in India. On the journey, these yatris (translated as ‘travellers’) meet successful social entrepreneurs, in order to learn techniques which they can apply to their own business ideas. The role models come from a variety of backgrounds: Anshu Gupta of Goonj in New Delhi, for instance, works with clothing for the underprivileged, while Dr. S. Aravind of Aravind Eye Care in Coimbatore provides quick turnaround, low-cost eye surgeries. All mentors must have been running a commercially viable social enterprises for a minimum of 10 years to be selected for the scheme.
I remember an Economics term paper I wrote while studying for my MBA at McGill, where I proposed that the solution to the conflict between maximization of shareholder value and sustainable development is love, as opposed to self-interest.
I argued that self-interest creates diminishing returns and makes booms and busts inevitable because it works from the premise of scarcity, even if there is obvious abundance, which drives the need to maximize. Love is infinitely generative and works from the premise of abundance, even if scarcity is apparent. Love is inherently creative. Love is content with apparent scarcity and nothingness because it works from the invisible to the visible. Self-interest focuses on what exists and attempts to maximize it, for obvious reasons: All we see is all there is. Self-interest caps our intelligence while love uncaps us.
I left the MBA with the thought that without shifting to love, we are doomed. Our best solutions become weapons of mass or self-destruction where self-interest rules. I believe our greatest need is a heart shift from self-interest to love.
Apple’s recently released supplier responsibility report contains good news concerning conflict minerals. The report confirmed that as of last month, all “active, identified tantalum smelters” in the company’s supply chain were verified by third-party auditors to be conflict free. The report states that the company released a list of smelters and refiners in its supply chain whose tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold is conflict free “so it’s clear which ones have been verified as conflict-free.” The electronics industry only uses a “small percentage” of tin, tungsten and gold, according to the report. Apple will continue to require that its suppliers only use conflict-free verified tantalum and will continue to monitor its suppliers’ smelters.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second largest African country, conflict minerals are often mined through forced labor, debt bondange or child slavery. Conflict minerals fund militias in the DRC who terrorize local populations. According to the non-profit organization, Walk Free there has been much progress to rid the electronics industry of conflict minerals. Intel announced recently that all of its new microprocessors will be made conflict minerals free. Intel CEO Brian Kraznich urged other companies to do the same. Perhaps much of the progress can be attributed to a section of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 (Section 1502) which requires companies to publicly disclose their use of conflict minerals from the DRC. The SEC adopted the rule in 2012.
When you’re snacking on Pringles or Pop-Tarts, you don’t want to be contributing to the destruction of orangutans’ homes.
That’s why Kellogg’s, maker of such iconic snack and breakfast foods, recently announced a new commitment to only purchasing palm oil that can be traced back to suppliers certified to protect forests, peat lands and human rights by the end of 2015.
“As a socially responsible company, traceable, transparent sourcing of palm oil is important to us, and we are collaborating with our suppliers to make sure the palm oil we use is not associated with deforestation, climate change or the violation of human rights,” Kellogg’s Chief Sustainability Officer Diane Holdorf said in a press release.
Made from the fruit of oil palm trees, the popular vegetable oil is used in a host of products including food, soap, cosmetics and biofuels. Nearly half of all packaged goods contain palm oil, according to Green Century Capital Management, an investment firm that manages environmentally responsible mutual funds.
Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.
TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Tina Morefield: As Director of Corporate Citizenship for DIRECTV, one of the world’s leading providers of digital television entertainment services, I lead our U.S. strategy for community outreach and charitable giving, which is focused on K-12 schools and STEM education, as well as employee volunteerism. In addition, my team produces DIRECTV’s annual report on Corporate Social Responsibility, which communicates the company’s Corporate Citizenship, environmental sustainability and people initiatives, and is aligned with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework.
I joined DIRECTV 15 years ago, starting my career in corporate communications. In 2004, I added responsibility for Corporate Citizenship and led a combined Communications & Corporate Citizenship team for seven years before focusing solely on Corporate Citizenship in 2011.
Tulane University announced on Monday that it would offer a $1M prize to any entrepreneurs, inventors or researchers that can come up with a market-driven solution to the “dead zones” that arise in the Gulf of Mexico, and elsewhere around the world, every year.
Dead zones are caused by hypoxia, a condition in which vast areas of water are depleted of oxygen and thus unable to support any marine life. In the Gulf of Mexico, the cause of these dead zones can largely be traced to the agricultural lands of the 33 states for which the Mississippi River is the main drainage point. Excess nutrients from fertilizer runoff and sewers enter the Gulf and cause a boom in micro-organisms like plankton and algae, which feed off of these nutrients. As these massive micro-populations die, the process of decomposition sucks the oxygen in surrounding water, killing other marine life that cannot escape the so-called dead zone.
When it comes to chicken, the truth isn’t so simple after all.
Supermarket giant Kroger Co. faces a potential class-action lawsuit for allegedly deceiving consumers about farming practices with its “Simple Truth” brand of chicken products. A consumer in California filed a suit against the company earlier this month at a Superior Court in Los Angeles and is seeking class-action status, reported Reuters.
The suit alleges that Kroger deliberately misled consumers with labeling on its Simple Truth chicken products that claimed the animals were raised in a “cage-free” and “humane environment” when in fact, the case claims, the chickens were raised under standard commercial farming practices that involve packed pens and electrocution before slaughter.
No finance director likes a wasted asset. But not everyone is as adept at spotting one as Luke Marion. Marion is FD of the Oxford Bus Company (OBC), and the asset in question is a roof over its main depot.
It might be doing a good job keeping the buses dry, but Marion reckoned it could work harder. Vast, sprawling and–crucially–south-facing, it struck him as the ideal site for a massive photovoltaic (PV) plant. The roof could accommodate a system with a peak performance capacity of 140 kilowatt-hours–enough to produce a quarter of the company’s total energy needs. At a stroke, Marion realized this could both cut his company’s bills and help achieve its carbon target. But the upfront costs–around $250,000 (or £150,000)–“just didn’t stack up.”
Which is where the Low Carbon Hub came in. Set up by community renewables expert and sometime government adviser Barbara Hammond, the hub helps local companies and communities develop renewable installations for community benefit.
This month we focused on sustainability in the fashion and apparel industry, and explored 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?
TriplePundit’s Founder, Nick Aster, took an hour or so to chat with with Paul Dillinger, Head of Product Innovation for Levi Strauss & Co and Eve Blossom, Founder of Lulan Artisans. The entire conversation can be viewed here.
Released in July 2012 by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Higg Index is a sustainability measurement tool that allows apparel companies to measure the impacts of their products across the value chain. Late last year, the SAC–a trade organization comprised of brands, retailers and manufacturers–announced an updated version of the index reflecting 18 months of development effort.
The SAC represents companies totaling nearly 40 percent of the apparel and footwear market, Executive Director Jason Kibbey told TriplePundit, and the index is already being widely adopted at all levels of the value chain, so its reach and relevancy is clear.
As more companies jump on board, could the index inspire industry-wide sustainability standards? And what would this mean for the future of sustainable apparel?
Here’s an interesting point about corporate social responsibility: Major companies can choose to lead the charge, or if they neglect to do so for too long, the democratic process may step in and do so for them on terms the companies may not particularly like. Right or wrong, this is the situation faced by many low-wage employers in the U.S. following President Barack Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage.
There are, however, examples of fast food and retail companies out there that strive to pay a fair wage. And they show that companies can indeed pay more and do well. In-N-Out Burger, a fast food chain in California and the Southwest, starts its employees off at a wage of $10.50 an hour. Moo Cluck Moo, a small fast food chain based in Canton, Mich., starts employees out at $12 an hour and ratchets up the pay to $15 an hour after 60 days. So what about McDonald’s? Or Burger King? Or Long John Silver’s for that matter?
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez makes a good point. If In-N-Out Burger can do it–remain profitable and still provide what has arguably been deemed a superior product–why can’t McDonald’s? Say’s Perez, “I find it a remarkable notion that McDonald’s can’t afford to pay an increase in the minimum wage but In-N-Out Burger can.”
Imagine pulling into your driveway and charging your car by parking on top of a charging system that uses a magnetic-resonance technology and does not require the vehicle to be plugged in.
What seems like a scene out of a science fiction movie, is now being tested by Toyota in Japan in three households with plug-in electric Prius hybrids. The wireless charging technology for plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles may be just a couple of years away from domestic use for auto consumers, but the infrastructure will need more time to catch up before it is widespread in commercial facilities, such as parking garages.
Toyota has been working on this technology for several years in cooperation with WiTricity, an MIT spinoff that has relationships with Audi and Mitsubishi, and Volvo is also working on a wireless charging system.
This wireless system could simplify electric vehicle charging by making the process more convenient and straightforward for drivers. It could be a game-changer for electric vehicles by serving as a universal charging station, solving the problem of having multiple plugs for different car models. In addition, it could trim down charging time to a mere 90 minutes for the plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius.
San Diego: Apr 24 – Apr 27 Social Venture Network Spring Conference SVN conferences convene and connect influential, innovative business leaders, impact investors and cultural entrepreneurs to create an experience where attendees can share the ideas and resources they need to succeed and grow. Register here.
New York: May 13 – May 14 Shared Value Leadership Summit For business leaders and problem solvers who see exciting market opportunities at the intersection of business goals and societal challenges, the Shared Value Initiative is the leading community shaping research, partnerships, and practices. Register here.
Southern California: May 19 – May 21 Fortune Brainstorm Green As the premier conference on business, sustainability, and green investing, Brainstorm GREEN delivers fresh thinking, actionable solutions, and unparalleled opportunities to build top-level relationships. Register here.
London: May 20 – May 22 2014 Global Sustainability Standards Conference Listen to progressive companies and governments and leaders from Fairtrade, Forest Stewardship Council, Marine Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance, and other influential certifications discuss what brings the whole standards movement together: Trust. Register here.
San Diego: Jun 2 – Jun 5 Sustainable Brands 2014 Discover what happens when brand strategists & designers connect with sustainability teams to drive innovation. 20% discount with code NW3pSB14sd. Register here.
TriplePundit.com is published under a creative commons license. You are free to republish only headlines and excerpts of 3p articles except where explicitly permitted by agreement with 3p. We reserve the right to ask any publication to cease syndication. Please Contact Us for details.