3p Weekend: 5 Reasons for Companies to Care About Employee Satisfaction

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday August 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

5187038544_d8dd3aed9b_zWith a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Employee engagement and satisfaction is a hot topic in the sustainability space right now, but some companies may still find themselves asking: What is a happy employee really worth? Well, quite a bit actually. To prove it, this week we rounded up five reasons for companies to start caring about employee satisfaction. (If you can’t keep your eyes off the clock, feel free to ‘accidentally’ leave this article in the office copy machine.)

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

podium[Your News Here]

NRG Energy Crowdsources Presidential Hunt

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Friday August 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

NRG_Energy_1Executive recruiting appears to be changing. Energy company NRG has put out a call for a new president for its solar company NRG Home, and it isn’t expecting to hear from professional headhunters.

Instead, it’s turned up the megaphone and reached out to its customers and clients – anyone actually, who isn’t a “corporation, partnership or other business entity.”

And the person who refers the winning candidate gets $100,000.

It’s the latest evidence of crowd-sourced recruiting and a concept handily referred to as the “X-prize” approach, in which members of the public have a chance to earn a handsome return for an innovative, hard-to-find or novel idea.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Could a Carbon Tax Cut Down on Corporate Inversions?

RP Siegel | Friday August 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Castle head standMarc Hafstead of the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future, along with Lawrence Goulder of Stanford University, have come up with an idea that could potentially address two important problems in one broad policy action. The first, which is where they’ll likely began, is the problem of corporate inversions. No, that’s not corporations standing on their heads; it’s when they buy another company in a country with a lower tax rate so that they can begin paying taxes there instead of here in the U.S., where they receive the most government services. The other problem is climate change.

The two did an analysis of the gross domestic product (GDP) impact of a revenue-neutral carbon tax, under three scenarios. In the first scenario, revenues are returned directly to Americans in a lump sum. The second uses the revenue to pay for tax cuts on individuals, while the third did the same, except that the tax cuts would go to corporations.

In all three cases the impact was small. Based on a carbon tax beginning at $10 per ton, and then increasing each year by 5 percent, they found that the GDP impact by 2040 would range from 0.24 to 0.56 percent of GDP, with the lowest stemming from the proceeds being used to reduce corporate taxes, while the highest came from the lump sum rebates to individuals.

The reasoning behind their paper goes something like this: There is a perception that U.S. corporate tax rates are too high, making it difficult for American companies to compete. Indeed, nominal U.S. corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world. But that is not what most companies pay. Indeed, the U.S. corporate tax rates are a bit like the MSRP on new cars. Nobody actually pays that amount. U.S. tax laws are filled with loopholes that companies routinely take advantage of. According to Edward Kleinbard at USC, even though the nominal tax rate in 2010 was 35 percent, in fact, companies paid an average of only 12.6 percent. Most people remember the headline that GE paid zero taxes a few years back. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, 26 companies including GE, Boeing and Verizon paid no taxes at all during the period from 2008-2012. All were presumably playing by the rules, using legitimate deductions that are part of the federal tax code. Some companies are better at playing this game than others.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Researchers Tally Up the Ecological Cost of Eating Beef

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Friday August 22nd, 2014 | 3 Comments

cows_no_kill_ecology_USDABad news for beef eaters: That juicy steak dinner that many Americans look forward to each week now has a clear ecological price to it – and according to researchers it’s a lot higher than the tally associated with raising poultry and pork-based products.

Researchers from two different institutes in the U.S. and Israel tabulated the environmental and financial costs of producing different kinds of foods, such as beef, poultry, dairy and eggs. They wanted to find out what the environmental impact would be, particularly in areas where drought exists or climate change has affected the overhead associated with such industries. Released late last month, the study was headed by Dr. Ron Milo of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Plant Sciences and involved researchers at Yale University and in New York. Their results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Tallying the ecological cost of eating beef

It was no surprise that beef was the most costly of the five to produce, said Milo and his research assistant Alon Shepon: “The surprise was in the size of the gap: In total, eating beef is more costly by an order of magnitude – about 10 times, on average – to the environment than other animal-derived foods, including pork and poultry.”

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Plastics Recycling: You’re Doing it Wrong. And So is Everybody Else!

3p Contributor | Friday August 22nd, 2014 | 17 Comments

 [Image credit: Shutterstock]

The little triangle was promising you what, exactly?

By Russell Klein

What is going on with your plastic, America?

Are you someone relying on those little numbers in a recycling symbol?  Whether your relationship involves curbside collection, 10-cent refunds, grocery bag fees or foam container bans, as a consumer you’re probably winging it when it comes to managing the largest parts of your plastic habit. Be it resolved right here and today, if you’re not a recycling professional what you know about plastics recovery is wrong.

Do any of the following statements sound familiar?
“My building only recycles 1s and 2s!”
“Doesn’t that bag have a triangle on it? Put it in the recycling bin!”
“Oh! If that bottle has a 7, you need to put it with the compostables!”

If you have uttered any of these things, in fact if you’ve even thought about it, you need to stop.  Why?  If you will bear with me for the next two minutes, I’d like to guide you to become a better-informed steward for the environment.  How?  Why?  For the past 25 years, our modest national efforts to do-the-right-thing by recycling plastic products have suffered from widespread misunderstanding and even marketing disinformation.  Don’t want to be part of the problem?  Consider this an intervention.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Human Values and Corporate Social Impact: Fairness in Pay Ratios

3p Contributor | Friday August 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth post in a six-part series examining the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision that affirmed the legality of treating corporations as persons. Using JPMorgan Chase as an example, Donald J. Munro of the University of Michigan focuses on how certain human moral values and some corporate behaviors are incompatible. You can follow the whole series here

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, earned

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, earned $18.7 million in 2012, amounting to a ratio of 229-to-1 between the CEO’s pay and that of the average worker.

By Donald J. Munro

Fairness is associated with equality in the distribution of goods, often referred to as “distributive justice.” It derives from the practice of equal sharing, seen in children starting around age 7 or 8.

Among children, fairness is often tied to empathy, and can be found in parental rules that are designed to prevent another child from feeling unhappy. It is also related to reciprocity, meaning fairness in exchanges of valuable goods. Cooperation in groups thrives where there is reciprocity, as James Q. Wilson has discussed.

Culture determines the varying boundaries of what constitutes “equal shares.” And who is “equal” in status. In our own society, popular opinion may accept a certain unequal ratio between CEO pay and the average pay of other workers, but not beyond a given point. That is when executive pay becomes a political topic on which shareholders may have an “advisory role,” and very often have opinions contrary to those of the board of directors. In the 1970s, management specialist Peter Drucker advised companies to stick to a ratio of 20-to-1 between CEOs and average worker pay, to avoid resentment.

At the unconscious level, our judgments of what is fair may be biased, reflecting the views of a group to which we belong, especially in conflicts with other groups. This is often the case when an authoritative leader within the group expresses the bias and through persuasion or coercion gets others to follow. Absent that situation, the danger of bias can be lessened to the degree that there are facts to discuss. For example, let us now turn to the facts in the case of JPMorgan Chase:

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

The 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan: Human Rights Violations Already

Michael Kourabas
| Friday August 22nd, 2014 | 4 Comments
Baku, Azerbaijan will host the inaugural European Games next year.

Baku, Azerbaijan will host the inaugural European Games next year.

As oil-rich Azerbaijan prepares to host next year’s inaugural ‘European Games,’ the Azerbaijani government has stepped up its crackdown on activists speaking out against its abysmal human rights record.  As of this writing, more than 20 human rights defenders have been detained by the government, including four of the country’s most prominent activists.

Meanwhile, the European Games’ lead organizer has claimed that it is not his job to criticize the host country; denied any knowledge of the government’s oppressive habits; and declared Azerbaijan an “incredibly free society.” Current and future corporate sponsors of the games should take notice and carefully consider their decision to be affiliated with the event.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Uber Taps Users in Fight Against California Anti-Ridesharing Bill

Mike Hower
| Friday August 22nd, 2014 | 6 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 2.43.46 PMUber and Lyft’s bitter battle for ridesharing supremacy has long been overshadowed by the political battle for ridesharing legitimacy. Taxi companies have led the charge against ridesharing, arguing that services such as Uber and Lyft do not have the oversight of local regulatory bodies while unfairly competing with existing locally-regulated taxi services.

Despite heavy lobbying by taxicab drivers associations and other groups, ridesharing won a decisive victory in September 2013 when the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) decided to establish a new business category called a Transportation Network Company (TNC) to describe companies such as Uber and Lyft. In creating this new category, along with a series of rules and regulations, CPUC effectively legitimized Lyft and Uber in the country’s most populous state.

Uber recently stepped up its public affairs game by directly encouraging its users to lobby the California legislature to vote against AB 2293, which could kill ridesharing altogether. In an email to users, Uber wrote:

Who would have thought California, the cradle for American innovation, would take the lead in killing it. Governor Brown is committed to leading California into the future, but some in the legislature are anonymously doing the bidding of trial lawyers, big taxi and insurance lobbyists. Their bill, AB 2293, will be voted on THIS WEEK and would kill ridesharing in the Golden State.

If you want to keep uberX in California, now is the time to act. You are voting with your wallets every day – choosing Uber for a safe, reliable ride. Call your senators and tell them to stand up for Uber, your transportation options and the state’s future – not special interests.#CAlovesUber

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Coal Export Terminal Plan Nixed by Oregon Agency

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Banner Protest_GreenpeaceAnd then were two. Oregon’s Department of State Lands on Monday denied an Ambre Energy proposal to transport coal by rail to a Port of Morrow, Oregon terminal for eventual export to China and other Asian markets.

This is the latest in a series of wins for opponents of coal company plans to move coal through the Pacific Northwest on the way to Asian markets. But two major plans in Washington state, out of six original proposals, are still pending. The two proposals that remain on the table are the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham, and the Millennium Bulk Terminal at Longview on the Columbia River.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Social Media Bubbles: Are They Holding Us Back?

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

SOCIAL_MEDIA_BUBBLES_WEBTREATSNone of us likes to admit that our emotional and intuitive reactions can be manipulated by what we see online. Nor do we like to discover offhandedly that our independent thoughts are often molded by what our friends and neighbors think. Cornell University researchers recently demonstrated this to us in their infamous Facebook study, in which users were duped into revealing their impressionable thoughts without knowing it. In the process, they also revealed that what we see online can be tailored to match what we say we like and don’t like.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Bain Capital Buys 50 Percent Stake in TOMS Shoes

Leon Kaye | Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 2 Comments
TOMS shoes, Bain Capital, Mitt Romney, one-for-one business model, Leon Kaye, social entrepreneurs, socially responsible business

TOMS Shoes is now 50 percent owned by Bain Capital.

TOMS Shoes, the company often credited for making the one-for-one socially conscious business model take off, decided earlier this summer it wanted to expand even faster since its founding in 2006. Such ambitious goals, of course, require money, so the company’s founder, Blake Mycoskie, started shopping the company around. This week he found a partner in Bain Capital, which has agreed to purchase a 50 percent ownership stake of TOMS. Mykoskie will continue to own the other half of the company; financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The news elicits mixed emotions across the board: The socially responsible business crowd will shudder, no doubt in part because of how Bain Capital was eviscerated by the Democrats during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Much of that criticism was exaggerated and unfair, but employees of some companies that became part of Bain’s portfolio, such as Ampad, have had plenty to say about the company’s approach to investment. Then again, Bain Capital found success with other firms such as Staples and Gartner. So could this help TOMS in the long run, expand the one-for-one business model, and benefit more people across the globe?

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Nine Finalists Vie for Energy Storage Innovation Awards

| Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

ATKEaglePicherIntelligent energy storage is emerging as a commercially-viable alternative to adding electricity generation capacity or constructing new power plants.

Equipped with energy management software that’s responsive to electricity demand and supply conditions, smart energy storage systems are also cropping up among commercial and industrial companies, municipalities and college campuses, helping boost energy efficiency, renewable energy-grid interconnections and reduce utility bills, as well as strains on the power grid.

Heightened interest and investment in intelligent energy storage is prompting industry participants to band together in more organized fashion. Bringing together energy storage policy, technology and market leaders, Energy Storage North America (ESNA) on August 18 announced finalists for its annual 2014 Innovation Award.

“This year’s ESNA Award finalists represent a rich diversity of players and business models in rapidly developing energy storage ecosystems across the U.S. and Canada,” Janice Lin, managing partner of Strategen Consulting and co-founder of the California Energy Storage Alliance, was quoted in a news release. “Energy storage as an asset class is a welcome addition to electric system planning toolkits in California, Hawaii, New York, Ontario and other markets.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Can Detroit Restart Its Engine?

Pinchot University
Pinchot University | Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Pinchot-Ad-650x80-2014-07-30

This post of part of a series sponsored by Pinchot. Read more here

Pinchot’s 2014 Summer Study Tour took Pinchot students, alumni and faculty to America’s “Rust Belt.” The group visited Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit to explore sustainable business opportunities at these significant sites of industrial success, decline and rebirth. In this series of blogs, participants share revelations and reactions along their journey.

Business moguls are investing heavily in downtown Detroit.

Business moguls are investing heavily in downtown Detroit.

By James Coburn

Detroit is a dichotomy.

The city’s innovative spirit that brought us the assembly line and the modern auto industry lives on in wildly successful new enterprises like Quicken Loans. Yet Detroit’s much-publicized poverty has spawned a depressed yet resilient culture that continues to struggle to pull itself out of the gutter.

Big ideas, modest progress

The macro thinkers of Detroit’s Economic Growth Corp. are focused on job creation. Their mantra is “one job creates many,” expressing their belief that jobs are an important way to get the city back on its feet. Yet the sheer scale of the municipality – 170 square miles – makes the pace of progress seem slow.

Place-making and art are happening all over the city: On the many abandoned properties, as well as downtown, through the efforts of Ford, Quicken Loans, and business moguls like Dan Gilbert and Mike Ilitch. These efforts are attracting young talent into a city center with many buildings that only five years ago were mere skeletons of themselves. Driven leaders like Mayor Mike Duggan are tirelessly pushing ahead to create innovation areas in the city to encourage new industry and create sustainable jobs. The city is also acting as fast as resources will allow to remove the remainder of the nearly 78,000 abandoned homes and putting in up to 800 street lights a week to create a safer city.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Volkswagen Wins EPA Rain-Catcher Award for Chattanooga Plant

| Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

2012AerialfromWestWetland restoration is an excellent means of water resource management and stewardship, due to its cost-effectiveness and sustainability. An April report from the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America revealed the remarkable economic value and benefits resulting from coastal ecosystem restoration projects around the U.S.

“We learned in a nutshell that there’s a win-win, if not a win-win-win, opportunity that presents itself when you invest in conservation. The economic benefits are remarkable … There’s a direct connection between what we’re doing to enhance the environment and what we’re doing to enhance economic opportunity,” summarized Mark Schaefer, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and partner organizations have been promoting use of “green infrastructure” for years “as part of a comprehensive approach to achieving healthier waters.” Recognizing excellence in such initiatives for the first time, EPA on August 19 awarded Volkswagen Group of America (VW) with the EPA Region 4 Rain-Catcher Award, Commercial Category during an awards ceremony at the EPA Region 4 International Erosion Control Association Municipal Wet Weather Stormwater Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Stonyfield Collaborates With WikiFoods to Sell Package-Free Yogurt

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday August 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Wikipearl yogurtPlastic is a part of our lives. It packages many of the food products we buy, encases our electronics and is even found in our cars. Plastic waste causes numerous environmental problems, particularly in the world’s oceans where it makes up about 90 percent of all trash floating around. The biggest plastic waste ocean site is in the North Pacific Gyre. Called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it is twice the size of Texas. Since plastic takes a very long time to degrade, some 500 to 1,000 years, it is impossible to completely clean up.

There are two companies that have created a way to reduce plastic waste by eliminating packaging. Stonyfield Farm and WikiFoods have collaborated to provide frozen yogurt encased in edible packaging made from fruit skin. The product is called Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls, and an edible packaging called WikiPearl packages the less than 30-calorie frozen treat. The companies started a test market in March at four Whole Foods stores in the Boston area with six flavors.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »