Human Values and Social Impact: Can Trust Exist Without Accountability?

3p Contributor | Friday September 5th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth 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

In this six-part series,

In this six-part series, Donald J. Munro of the University of Michigan examines the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision using JPMorgan Chase as an example.

By Donald J. Munro

Trust is a state of mind in which an individual expects benefits from another person or organization to which she gives something of value, while understanding that the other person could possibly cheat her. For example, a candidate for office may tell me that he will support policy X. I trust him. I believe in his integrity. He gets my vote. But then he is in a position to vote for policy Y, to my detriment. The candidate gets an advantage — my vote — which helps get him in office. But he does not have to give back any benefit to me.

At first, I believe in the integrity of the other person. My trust is enhanced by transparency in relevant actions and in sharing relevant information. Trust is essential for non-coercive relations between the leaders and the led. It promotes cooperation and enables people to have some justified foresight regarding matters of concern. The cooperative behavior is reinforced in part because trust is pleasurable, measured at the objective level by examining the oxytocin and dopamine levels of trusting parties.

Cooperation involves some conformity with group rules, which results in predictable, consistent behavior. Among the reasons people seek it is that is that it reduces stress and provides a sense of being in control of situations. Evidence of this can be found by measuring levels of the hormone cortisol.

Scientists have investigated the association of stress and levels of hormones; they have found elevated levels of cortisol in people who are under stress. Thus they have been able to demonstrate that people engaged in cooperative behaviors have less cortisol — less stress — than people engaged in non-cooperative behaviors, whose cortisol levels are higher than normal. In this sense, cooperation can be said to foster group evolutionary survival.

Can there be a trust relationship when the purchaser of a home loan does not know who owns the mortgage?

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Sustainable Renewable Energy Storage: Are We There Yet?

3p Contributor | Friday September 5th, 2014 | 6 Comments

2890673599_98882246b5_zBy Debbie Fletcher

Wind turbines and solar panels both utilize natural resources to produce clean, renewable energy. But in order for these technologies to make a real difference in the way we produce power, energy companies will need to find an effective way to store the power that can accommodate the fluctuations caused by intermittent sun and wind. Here we will explore the current state of the industry and some of the steps that are being taken to bring renewable energy to the next level.

Wind and solar industry growth

Both wind and solar have grown significantly in recent years and can help to provide valuable sources of renewable energy for future generations. According to Clean Line Energy, the United States has the potential to produce nearly 10 times the country’s existing power needs using wind alone. Wind power has also become increasingly cost-effective as technology has improved and the industry in the U.S. has grown. There are now more than 400 manufacturing plants across the U.S. using dedicated equipment and facilities like bespoke blast rooms to produce large volumes of towers, turbines and blades.

Similarly, the price of solar panels has continued to drop as technology improves. The industry employs over 100,000 Americans, and there are now over 13,000 megawatts of cumulative solar capacity operating in the U.S., enough to power more than 2.2 million homes.

Energy storage potential

Wind turbines and photovoltaic installations now produce enough energy to sustain themselves. However, there is an issue in that both types of technology require extra, large-scale infrastructure to store the energy so that it is available on demand and not just when it’s windy or sunny. A study by a team of Stanford researchers concluded that the wind industry will be able to afford to invest in these large-scale technologies and remain sustainable, while the solar industry will find it more difficult due to the extra energy required to produce photovoltaic panels.

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How to Genuinely Offset Your Emissions

3p Contributor | Friday September 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments

By Emil DimantchevWind power

The practice of offsetting carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits has come under some deserved criticism.

Instances of fictitious carbon credits have created understandable skepticism — which, coupled with information barriers, can make it difficult for us to confidently purchase a carbon offset. This is a shame because carbon offsets can effectively reduce our environmental impact or that of our companies. But to do this, offsets must be carefully selected and used for the right reasons.

A genuine carbon offset

The purpose of a carbon offset is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to compensate for, or “offset,” emissions that are practically unavoidable, such as flights on important personal or business occasions. To represent a genuine reduction of emissions, a carbon offset must be permanent, additional and third-party verified. ‘Additionality’ implies that a carbon offset must result in emission reductions which would not have occurred without the offset payment.

There are two ways to genuinely offset emissions: buying an offset credit generated from a high-quality offset project, and buying a CO2 permit from a credible emissions trading system.

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New Technology Helps Companies Choose Products, Ingredients Based on Sustainability

Alexis Petru
| Thursday September 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments
 PurView is UL’s new cloud-based software that helps manufacturers and retailers choose products based on their environmental and social responsibility profiles.

PurView is UL’s new cloud-based software that helps manufacturers and retailers choose products based on their environmental and social responsibility profiles.

How can a manufacturer reformulate a cleaning product to contain fewer harmful chemicals, and how can a retailer stock its shelves with more eco-friendly merchandise? UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a product safety testing and certification company, thinks it may have a solution: a set of data tools that helps businesses search and choose ingredients and products based on their environmental and social responsibility profiles.

Managed by UL’s recently launched Information & Insights division, the collection of tools build upon several databases with information on product ingredients and the consumer product index GoodGuide – all of which UL acquired – to allow manufacturers and retailers to essentially track products and materials across the supply chain.

UL’s search engine Prospector allows engineers and designers to look up materials they might want to use to create new products or reformulate existing ones – like developing a shampoo that rinses faster or a toothpaste that also whitens teeth. But, in addition to searching for ingredients that change the abilities or characteristics of a product, engineers can also identify materials that are more sustainable – ingredients that are free of certain chemicals, have received an environmental certification or comply with environmental regulations.

“Our grand vision [with Prospector] is to help people make healthier, safer products,” said Mathieu Guerville, director of strategy and business development at UL Information & Insights.

The Prospector database is especially suited for chemical-containing products at this time, he said, including personal care products, household and industrial cleaners, lubricants, and sealing and binding agents. But in the future, Guerville said that the company will be adding a platform for conflict materials and a search engine for materials used to make electronics and appliances.

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Public-Private Collaboration Yields Potential Solar Silicon Game-Changer

| Thursday September 4th, 2014 | 2 Comments

CrystalSolarGasDepoDeveloping a cheaper, more efficient means of fabricating solar photovoltaic (PV) cells could revitalize U.S. solar PV manufacturing, a technology invented here in the U.S. That’s in addition to helping realize the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative goals of driving the cost of installed solar power capacity under $1 per watt — a level competitive with fossil fuel-fired electricity generation.

U.S. solar silicon manufacturing startup Crystal Solar — with the help of the U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) — has developed a new method for fabricating high-quality, high-efficiency monocrystalline solar silicon wafers at 100 times the throughput and half the cost of traditional methods.

Crystal Solar’s innovative approach to fabricating silicon solar wafers garnered it an “R&D 100” award as one of the top technology innovations of 2013. If Crystal Solar can scale-up production, the new method “could be a game-changer, creating American jobs and stemming the flow of solar cell manufacturing overseas,” CEO T.S. Ravi of the Santa Clara, California-based company stated in an NREL news release.

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Study: Diversity Still Jeopardized by Workplace Attitudes

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday September 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Business MeetingAmericans have been under the impression for years that equal employment legislation and similar programs in companies have helped to conquer discrimination in the workplace. We’ve been pretty much secure in the impression that women and minorities have almost as fair a chance at advancement as men, and that the glass ceiling can be overcome.

A recent study by a University of Colorado research team, however, has challenged those statements by providing data that shows that women and minorities actually suffer professionally when they help promote other women or individuals of color. White men, however, are perceived and rewarded positively for promoting individuals from those same sectors.

The authors’ findings are a lot more detailed than that, but what struck me in the month-and-a-half that news about the study has bounced across the Internet is the broad variety of ways that the findings have been interpreted. Most articles mentioning the findings summarize this hot-button study by saying that “dedication to diversity can be a liability in the workplace,” as the Wall Street Journal noted it; or that “valuing diversity is apparently frowned upon by Corporate America,” as the Huffington Post writer framed the issue.

An article in the U.K.’s Daily Mail made the interesting leap that the U.S.-based study meant that “being the token female or minority boss was better for YOUR career” and explained that, “the authors wondered whether it might be better for diversity offices to be run by white males.”

But however you sum up this particular survey, the Hekman et al study challenges our views of diversity in the workplace. It contradicts our comfortable belief that equal employment opportunity legislation and corporate initiatives have been improving job advancement opportunities for years. And it leaves us with the unsettling question of whether equal employment opportunities are really a fallacy for some.

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Report: 14 U.S. Offshore Wind Projects in ‘Advanced Stages’ of Development

| Thursday September 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

EuropeOffshoreWind Momentum is finally building up in the U.S. offshore wind energy industry, the result of concerted clean energy policy and action plans enacted by the Obama administration. With 14 projects in advanced stages of development, the latest Department of Energy offshore wind report highlights progress across multiple fronts.

Taken together, pioneering projects hold out the potential to deliver some 4,900 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity to U.S. businesses and communities, according to the Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis: 2014 Annual Market Assessment report, produced by Navigant Research.

Building offshore wind energy farms also means a lot more in the way of green jobs and economic stimulus. It also drives innovation that will help keep U.S. industry competitive in cutting-edge wind and clean energy technologies. Furthermore, realizing U.S. offshore wind energy potential will be a big step forward in terms of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. And that will be a big plus in terms of improving human and environmental health and safety, as well as reducing the potential for overseas conflicts.

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Disruptive Business Models Shake Up Existing Markets

GreenFutures | Thursday September 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Charcoal just removed from the kiln_660 By Duncan Jefferies

Electric vehicles, 3-D printers, nanomaterials and the Internet of Things are all poised to reshape the world, just as the steam engine, telephone and car did before them. Although it’s hard to predict exactly what kind of impact these potentially disruptive technologies could have on today’s products and services, they are likely to be driven forward by small, innovative companies that have spotted a window of opportunity in an existing market and pried it open – a quality that marks out several of this year’s Ashden Award winners.

Meeting off-grid demand with solar energy

Thanks to the rapidly-falling cost of solar panels and improvements in energy storage, the energy sector, for example, is primed for an upheaval that could shift power away from the energy giants and spark a revolution in the way energy is produced, distributed and consumed, while giving millions of people in the developing world access to a reliable source of electricity. It’s a revolution that Off Grid Electric is spearheading in Tanzania. The company is supplying solar-as-a-service in a country where 85 percent of households have no access to the grid, and it’s doing it with the help of another disruptive technology: the mobile phone.

For Jonathon Porritt, Founder-Director of Forum for the Future, this encapsulates “what’s really exciting about today’s sustainable energy innovations: The degree to which they are simultaneously giving rise to new business models, seriously weakening the stranglehold that today’s incumbent players in the world of energy have had around our throats for decades.”

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Reviewing Fiat’s 2013 Sustainability Report with GRI G4 in Mind

Elaine Cohen
Elaine Cohen | Thursday September 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post compares Fiat Group’s 2011, 2012 and 2013 sustainability reports. The automaker’s 2011 and 2012 reports complied with the Global Reporting Initiative’s G3.1 standard and both received an A+ ranking. Its 2013 report is GRI G4 Comprehensive. A version of this post originally appeared on the CSR Reporting blog as part of the site’s ongoing G4 Game-Changer series.

Click to read the 2011 report.

Click to read the 2011 report.

The first thing you might notice about the 2013 Fiat report is that it is around 100 pages shorter than the two prior reports. Bad news for graphic designers but great news for those who predicted that the Global Reporting Initiative’s G4 Guidelines would lead to compactness. However, despite the fewer pages, Fiat identified more material issues in 2013 (23) than in 2012 (18) (material issues were not specified in 2011).

Not only that, Fiat actually fully reported more general disclosures and more performance indicators in 2013 than in both prior reports. (2011 and 2012: 42 general disclosures; 2013: 55 general disclosures; 2011 and 2012: 83 performance indicators; 2013: 88 performance indicators.) Fiat reports on everything in the framework, material or otherwise.

Let’s take a closer look at the 2013 report and how the G4 Guidelines fit in. 

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The Top 10 U.S. States for Solar Power — And What They Can Teach Us

3p Contributor | Thursday September 4th, 2014 | 4 Comments

By Julia Young

The United States is witnessing a solar energy revolution with a massive, 120-fold increase in solar capacity over the last decade.

The solar market in the U.S. had its second largest quarter in 2014. A huge 1,330 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity was installed in the first quarter, enough to power 3 million homes. This is the result of increasing awareness among Americans, as each year tens of thousands of them opt to install solar panels in order to reap the benefits of clean, natural and renewable energy from the sun.

Why is solar energy on the rise?

Solar energy is not only good for consumers, but it is also extremely beneficial for the environment and the economy in the long run. Following are a few reasons which highlight the rise in the demand for solar energy in the U.S.:

  • The installation cost of solar energy systems has decreased considerably — by as much as 60 percent since 2011.
  • Solar energy is helpful in downsizing expensive investments in long-distance transmission lines.
  • Solar photovoltaic cells produce much less (91 to 96 percent) global warming pollution than coal-fired and natural gas-fired power plants.
  • Solar power plants have played an important role in providing clean energy jobs to local Americans. Approximately 140,000 people are currently employed in this industry, and around half of these jobs, such as installation, are in close proximity to their hometowns.

Local governments, businesses and everyday homeowners in a growing number of U.S. states are taking note of these benefits and adding solar to their energy mixes. Here’s a look at the top 10 states for solar energy in the U.S. and what we can learn from their example.

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Green Lighting Can Save the Federal Government Cash … and Cut Our Taxes

3p Contributor | Thursday September 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments
A new 3M bulb made by MSi Lighting. Saving cash, energy, bottom line and tax payer dollars

A new 3M bulb made by MSi Lighting. Saving cash, energy, bottom line and tax payer dollars

By Seth Leitman

While the green lighting wave comes across the U.S., let’s not forget that the main motive for our federal government to install these energy-efficient bulbs is to save cash, cut costs and — bottom line — help us to cut taxes.

A company I know, MSi Lighting (now partnering with 3M), has already installed LED lights at the Liberty Bell, Air and Space Museums, and even cruise ships (which save more per watt than on land due to fuel costs). This is equal to a lot of cash.

Yes, tax dollars are our cash, so I want to save our tax policy wonks a lot of time on Sunday talk shows: Install green lighting aka clean technology.

So let us dig a bit into some numbers here and realize we need to be asking our elected officials to ‘Show us the money!’  Tax money, that is.

Since we do not have figures yet from the federal government on energy savings due to green lighting, let’s look at a study a lighting company did for some businesses.  Then we can start to equate that to budgets and inevitably our taxes. Fair?  Ok. Here we go.

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Users Concerned About Data Security, Companies Slow to Respond

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

data privacyNew devices, apps and websites have increased the demand and use of data. We can now receive the results of a blood test, hear about a friend’s breakup, check the electricity usage of our home and watch our child play in their preschool classroom from our devices. Although online data can provide great benefit, it presents numerous security issues as well.

Do you have mobile apps that collect data on you without your consent? Do you know how companies use your disclosed data and, more importantly, is their usage benefiting you? Are there data breaches involving your information that you might not be aware of? Is your personal information available for use by other people without your permission? Unfortunately, many companies are not rising to the data security challenge, and consumers are noticing.

A recent HyTrust poll found that 73 percent of respondents don’t believe their personal and financial information shared with companies is safe. This clearly demonstrates that companies are not fulfilling consumer demand for data security, and customers may be right to worry:

The Fourth Annual Benchmark Study on Patient Privacy and Data Security by Ponemon Institute found security threats to patient hospital records. The threats include: criminal attacks, employee negligence, unsecured mobile devices (laptops, smartphones and tablets), and third parties. A November 2012 study by Edelman found that companies are not prepared to meet consumer and regulator expectations around data security and privacy. It cites lack of resources, emphasis and transparency as the root causes of this divide, with an organization’s financial and reputational risk on the line.

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Are City Bicycle-Sharing Programs Doomed?

Leon Kaye | Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Bicycling, Zagster, bicycle sharing, bike sharing, Citi Bike Share, New York, Washington DC, Detroit, General Motors, Leon Kaye, bicycles, Kristine Johnson

Capital Bikeshare in D.C. loses money but is arguably successful overall.

A year has passed since Zagster launched a bike-sharing program for Rock Ventures’ portfolio of properties and companies in downtown Detroit. Considering all the challenges the Motor City has with crime, not to mention the harsh Michigan winters, success was hardly guaranteed. But the program is still humming along, and now GM is partnering with Zagster for a similar program at General Motor’s 330-acre technical center in nearby Warren.

Such success is behind the growth of Zagster as it focuses on bicycle-sharing projects at universities and corporate campuses. The latest coup for the Massachusetts-based firm is a pilot program at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI). Bicycles docked outside BWI’s international terminal will be available for airport employees looking for some exercise and travellers wanting to use those legs during long layovers. As the Guardian’s Marc Gunther points out, Zagster’s focus on bike sharing for large organizations, and innovative programs such as the one at BWI, accounts for its continued growth. Meanwhile, large-scale bicycle programs such as ones in Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. lose money. So are citywide bike programs doomed to failure?

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Dansko’s CEO on the Benefits and Challenges of B Corp Certification

Ryan Honeyman | Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

This is the fourth in a weekly series of excerpts from the upcoming book “The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good” (Berrett-Koehler, October 13, 2014). Click here to read the rest of the series.

Mandy CabotBy Ryan Honeyman

More than 1,000 Certified B Corporations from 80 industries and 35 countries — led by well-known icons like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s and disruptive upstarts like Warby Parker and Etsy — are leading a global movement to redefine success in business.

One of the most powerful ways to learn about the movement is to hear about the benefits, challenges, and surprises of becoming a Certified B Corporation directly from the B Corp community.

I recently interviewed Mandy Cabot, CEO of Dansko, for my upcoming book “The B Corp Handbook.” Dansko is a great example of how using business as a force for good has benefitted their customers, employees, local community, the environment and the company’s bottom line.

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China Plans World’s Largest CO2 Market While U.S. Drags Its Feet

Eric Justian
| Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 | 28 Comments

Chinese flag American flagUpon learning today that China has a plan in place for a carbon emissions “cap and trade” market by 2016, my joy was mixed with frustration at U.S. foot-dragging. The D.C. gridlock and politicizing of energy sources like wind and solar — the politicizing of energy sources — has consistently ceded manufacturing and renewable energy technological ground to China and Europe for decades. Are we going to let that happen again with carbon markets?

Apparently so.

China aims to finalize its plans for the largest “cap and trade” program in the world by 2016 — a program that will eclipse the scope of European emissions trading. China’s market will be the main trading hub for Asia and the Pacific. It’ll place a cap on CO2 emissions from power plants and the nation’s many manufacturers. Basically, if an entity wants to emit carbon dioxide above the cap, it needs to buy permits from the market.

China has made a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product to about 45 percent of its 2005 emissions — and by 2020. Mind you, that’s no small feat.

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