Why Taking Care of Your Apparel Workers is Good for Business

| Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

bangladesh_users When the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory took the lives of more than 1,100 garment workers in Bangladesh last year, the world’s eyes were fixed on what multinational apparel companies would do to ensure that a similar tragedy would not reoccur.

In the wake of the calamity, agreements to improve factory working conditions – such as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the corporate-led initiative the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety – were created, building retrofits and renovations were jump-started, and reparations were made. Notwithstanding the progress that Western companies, labor unions and local government continue to make to secure safe working conditions Bangladesh, several social enterprises are helping to advance the sustainability of the global apparel supply chain beyond safety compliance and toward a considered focus on business ROI and social impact.

The multi-trillion dollar global apparel industry – of which Bangladesh is the second largest garment exporter (after China) – employs about 25 million garment factory workers, 80 percent of which are women. Historically, the conditions at a factory such as Rana Plaza have been less than ideal: Workers endure low wages, long hours and unexpected changes in daily schedules. Even more, in most societies that are home to low-wage garment factories, workers are culturally discouraged to complain when working conditions are trying – especially if you are a woman. Unfortunately, those cultural barriers and lack of communication channels have often been costly for factories. (Evidence suggests that Rana Plaza could have been avoided if factory management had listened to worker concerns.)

Organizations such as LaborVoices work to prevent just that. Using basic mobile phone technology, LaborVoices provides a platform for garment factory workers from various countries (as well as workers in other industries) to provide real-time feedback about working conditions at specific sites: Employees can call or text a dedicated line 24/7, free of charge, to anonymously complete a brief survey and also have the option to leave a voice recording with anecdotal feedback. This valuable information is then shared with apparel brands and factory management to help them solve problems in their supply chain before they become bigger issues.

LaborVoices not only gives workers a voice, literally, and supports supply chain transparency – it’s also a useful business tool.

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Talking Diversity at Net Impact ’14

Mary Mazzoni
| Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

net impactThree years ago, Forbes Insights surveyed companies with more than $500 million in revenue and asked them about innovation and company culture. Of 321 polled, 85 percent agreed or strongly agreed that diversity was key to driving innovation in the workplace. A study released in October, this one co-authored by economists from MIT and George Washington University, found that gender diversity in the workplace helps firms be more productive. A 2013 Deloitte study concluded that cultivating “diversity of thought” at an organization increases innovation and problem solving. I could go on.

Despite mounting data that insists diversity is key to the sustainable growth of any business, it has been pigeonholed as an HR function for decades. But as the younger generation enters the workforce — with an expectation of “purpose, not just a paycheck” — companies are beginning to move beyond the status quo and infuse diversity into their core business practices.

“Diversity and inclusion is not a new topic of conversation. We’ve been talking about it for a very long time, but the dialogue is changing,” Cecily Joseph, VP of corporate responsibility and chief diversity officer for Symantec, said in a panel discussion at the 2014 Net Impact conference in Minneapolis. “[Diversity and inclusion] sat in HR for many years, and I think companies aren’t happy with the end result.”

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Note to Tim Cook: We Need Corporate Action, Not Another ‘It Gets Better’ Story

3p Contributor | Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments

14008636022_fefbb458ec_zBy Peter Grace

Apple CEO Tim Cook finally “came out.” To anyone in the gay community, this was no shocker. He’s been on our radar for some time. He’s topped OUT Magazine’s Power List since 2011. So, what’s the big deal? And why now? Apple is among a number of tech giants that are currently under attack for their dismal diversity data. In many ways, I would argue that Cook’s coming out was a sly, timely PR move by Apple to use its gay CEO to distract from its lack of diversity.

Don’t get me wrong, this was a great thing to happen. I am a firm believer in Harvey Milk’s maxim, “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” The more of us that come out – whether it’s to our coworkers, relatives, strangers – the more likely we’ll be accepted as everyday people. For someone as powerful as Cook to come out is certainly positive visibility for the LGBT community and sends an encouraging signal to other gay business leaders to do the same.

The cascade of positive media coverage that has followed his piece in Bloomberg Businessweek echoes this sentiment. Slate called it a “lovely essay.” HuffPo’s Gay Voices heralded him, listing “the top 12 words that made me tear up.” For a relatively quiet company like Apple to suddenly take a voice on this issue is indeed remarkable – but also suspect.

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‘Friends of Science’ Not So Friendly, Blame Sun for Climate Change

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 12 Comments

Friends_of_Science_snowstorm_climate_changeLast summer, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was embarking on the final stages of its latest synthesis report, a billboard was being quietly erected on the outskirts of Calgary, Alberta. Home to the University of Calgary and the seat of much of the academic research related to oil and gas exploration in this bitumen-rich province, Calgary was the perfect place to pitch a controversial view of climate change.

With a carefully selected cadre of scientists behind it, Friends of Science made rapid headlines when it advertised its explanation for climate change. There was nothing new to scientists challenging the notion of man-made global warming. What snagged the attention of rush-hour motorists was its premise – one that could both explain the debate over a warming climate and seem almost palatable.

“The sun is the direct and indirect driver of climate change. Not you. Not CO2,” the organization asserted. The statement would seem like music to the ears of harried drivers, already dealing with unpredictable floods and diminishing snow pack in Calgary, who are genuinely skeptical of the barrage of political rhetoric coming over the Canada-U.S. border. This was, after all, a Calgary-based organization, near a publicly-funded research university.

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So You’re a Certified B Corporation. Now What?

Ryan Honeyman | Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

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

B Corp Mountain Graphic copyBy Ryan Honeyman

Here is the final installment of the six-week Quick Start Guide to becoming a Certified B Corporation.

As a refresher, week one focused on getting a baseline assessment of your social and environmental performance; week two focused on motivating and engaging your team; week three was about creating an action plan for B Corp certification; week four discussed how you can raise your B Corp assessment score; and week five was designed to help you power though the B Corp finish line.

Week Six: Celebrate and next steps

OBJECTIVE: By week six, you will have made significant progress toward improving your social and environmental performance. If you have met the requirements to become a Certified B Corporation, congratulations on joining one of the most exciting and dynamic movements in business!

END RESULT: Celebrate, and congratulate your team for taking this journey.

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Seamus Mullen Trumpets the Secret Power of Good Food

Tori Okner | Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 4.44.21 PMBy Tori Okner

One of the most compelling sessions of the James Beard Foundation Annual Food Conference was a dialogue between doctors and chefs, entitled “Allies for Health.” The session featured Seamus Mullen, the chef/owner of Tertulia, author of “Hero Food” and a 2014 JBF Award Chef Semi-Finalist.

As moderator Kim Kessler observed, “Health messages are regularly delivered from chefs, without saying so, in the form of a meal.” At the conference, chef Seamus Mullen frankly discussed the reason he “blames food for all the good stuff” in his life and how making health the framework for his diet has impacted his growing business.

Mullen spoke openly about his antagonistic relationship with food, prolonged illness and the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis that precipitated his commitment to healthful eating. With a family history in food, and a childhood spent on a small farm in Vermont, Mullen was only introduced to institutional food when he went to boarding school (where he suffered from salmonella). Today he is the chef/owner of three restaurants in New York City and London, and he’ll open a fourth later this year. He recently published a cookbook, “Hero Food,” and regularly speaks on the healing power of food.

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‘Both Sides of the Meter’ at Colorado Climate Summit

Hannah Miller | Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 4 Comments
Clean energy expert Leslie Glustrom sounds the alarm: utlities need more pushing. Photo by Lee Buchsbaum

Clean energy expert Leslie Glustrom sounds the alarm at the Colorado Climate Summit.

Colorado is a hotspot for energy innovation: The city of Fort Collins is pushing the envelope with a net-zero energy central district. The Rocky Mountain Institute has been generating schemes for energy efficiency and clean energy for 30 years. And the city of Boulder has more solar panels than some states.

All of these were featured programs at the first-ever Colorado Climate Summit, held on the campus of the University of Colorado last weekend in the middle of – you guessed it – the unusual weather event of an early blizzard. But the mood wasn’t self-congratulatory — it was urgent. Hopeful, but urgent. Efficiency and solar panels on roofs aren’t enough, warned one clean energy expert.

“We have to look at both sides of the meter,” said Leslie Glustrom, pointing at a chart of Boulder’s carbon emissions that, despite tremendous work and city effort to reduce carbon emissions, showed marginal gains. Glustrom pointed out that Boulder is still dependent on a coal plant. “If you took that offline it would be like taking 150,000 homes off the grid,” she said.

“Utilities are standing in the way of the clean energy transition,” warned Glustrom, because the inertia is too strong — they must be pressed via local government into transitioning to renewables. Boulder itself is taking matters into its own hands, and since voter approval in 2011 has been developing its own publicly-owned utility.

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Palm Oil Industry Threatens Indonesian Biodiversity

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday November 18th, 2014 | 10 Comments

palm oil plantationThe Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems. The 6.5 million acres of tropical lowland rainforests stores vast amounts of carbon in its peatlands and forests. It is under threat despite being protected by Indonesian law.

One of those threats is the palm oil industry, as a recent Rainforest Action Network (RAN) report details. Conflict palm oil in particular is a threat. Conflict palm oil refers to palm oil produced through destruction of rainforests and peatlands and the violation of human rights, which includes the use of forced labor and child labor. Conflict palm oil can’t be traced back to its origin, and is increasing inside the Leuser Ecosystem.

Three companies are cited in the report as the biggest buyers of palm oil in the Aceh region of Indonesia where the Leuser Ecosystem is located. They are Musim Mas Group, Wilmar International and Golden Agri-Resources. As the report states, they “have a crucial role to play in securing the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem.”

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Obama Announces $3 Billion Pledge to U.N. Climate Fund

RP Siegel | Monday November 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments

244116020_8911782f3c_zRight on the heels of his historic climate agreement with China, President Barack Obama announced a pledge of $3 billion to the United Nations’ thus far underfunded Green Climate Fund. The fund was formally established in 2010 at the U.N. Climate Change conference in Cancun. The purpose of the fund was to redistribute resources between the developed world and the developing world in order to assist developing countries in their effort to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

It’s clear that the president is doubling down on climate change, which shouldn’t be a surprise, since he has repeatedly highlighted his intention in his second term to take action by any means available. Recently, that has meant primarily by executive order, which, given the upcoming Republican control of Congress, will likely remain the only available avenue left to act on this crucial issue.

I don’t believe the timing of the announcement is random. I think Obama is taking aggressive action right now, in the wake of the election, to signal Republicans in Congress that:

  1. They are becoming increasingly isolated on the issue as even the Chinese are making major commitments, and
  2.  he has no intention of letting up on this issue, which he intends to make part of his legacy.
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Is the Green Economic Revolution Too Late?

Bill Roth | Monday November 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment

6881485010_da66a9b933_zIn 2007 I first posted my research forecasting a multi-trillion dollar green economic revolution. By 2014, this projection has been realized with a global economy delivering price-competitive sustainable solutions like rooftop solar, LED lighting and organic food. So, why are we not celebrating?

The sobering reality is that this economic success appears to be too little and too late in terms of the latest scientific findings. The scientific community projects that the pace of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, now defined as a carbon surge, is pushing the world into irreversible human and economic damage. If our world and economy now stand on the cusp of irreversible climate change damage, then the question of the 21st century is whether there still remains a path toward a sustainable solution.

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Nathan Mackenzie Brown: Profile of an Impact Investor

| Monday November 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Nathan Brown: Profile of an Impact Investor

Part of the problem or part of the solution?

“I think a lot of people blame the ‘top 1 percent’ for causing ‘big evil corporations’ to act in socially and environmentally unethical ways,” says Nathan MacKenzie Brown, a 34-year-old entrepreneur and impact investor — and one not prone to mince his words.

Brown doesn’t deny the consequences stemming from the concentration of wealth in the U.S. But the fact is that the spread of stock ownership has changed dramatically in the past 30 or 40 years. More Americans than ever before, 47 percent, own at least some stock.

“It certainly isn’t fair to blame the horrible behavior of corporations on the top 1 percent alone,” Brown says. “I think it is time for every one of us who puts money into an investment account for retirement to realize we are either part of the solution, or we are part of the problem.”

The task then, for those of us wishing to be part of the solution, is to reconcile our economic interests with our social values.

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Aligning the Head, Heart and Wallet: How Millennials and Women Drive Impact Investment

3p Contributor | Monday November 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

money-tree-growing-startupBy Shilpi Chhotray

We all know the phrase “money makes the world go around.” What many involved in grassroots sustainability and social responsibility may not know is how impact investors are moving the needle on several key global issues, such as corporate transparency, sustainable agriculture, women’s empowerment and arguably our greatest challenge — addressing a rapidly changing climate. Furthermore, these investors are focusing on pressing national issues like LGBT rights, affordable housing and millennial involvement in corporate decision-making.

For instance, investors from top wealth management firms like Timothy Smith, director of environmental, social and governance engagement at Walden Asset Management, are advocating for greater investment around climate policy at the state level.

As an active member of the environmental community, my perception of the financial industry has historically equated to visions of Wall Street: Ivy-league educated white men in dark suits with flashy Rolex watches, playing their obligatory role to generate profit, no matter what the global repercussions entail.  My recent attendance at the Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing (SRI) in Colorado Springs, however, made me rethink this stereotype and piqued my interest in solutions-based investing for positive community change.

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Philadelphia More Than Doubles Recycling Rate

Alexis Petru
| Monday November 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment

PhiladelphiaJust in time for last week’s America Recycles Day, the city of Philadelphia announced an impressive achievement in waste reduction: The City of Brotherly Love has increased the amount of materials it recycles by 155 percent over the past six years.

The city collected a record amount of recyclables – 128,000 tons – through its residential curbside recycling program, as well as from city buildings and public spaces during the latest fiscal year, according to the city’s recycling office and mayor’s office of sustainability. That means Philly kept 21 percent of its residential discards from ending up in the dump in the 2014 fiscal year – a 4.6 percent increase over last year’s diversion numbers.

Philadelphia’s recycling efforts had additional environmental benefits beyond the ones most commonly associated with recycling, such as keeping materials out of the landfill and saving resources by reprocessing goods already in the system. The city’s recycling program also cuts its carbon footprint by nearly 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, the city said in a statement.

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The Economics of Sustainable Coffee Production

3p Contributor | Monday November 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

_MG_9384By Seda Kojoyan

Sustainability matters. And if you happen to be in the coffee business, it matters especially. In 2012, this market saw 40 percent of global production coming from sources that were certified or verified for sustainability. The latest State of Sustainability Initiatives Review confirms that “the landscape of sustainable coffee has been one of rapid transformation from a niche market to a fully recognized strategic business management tool,” according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Yet many challenges along the way make the road to achieving sustainability a difficult one for businesses. They include increased production costs, a perceived conflict between environmental needs and the bottom line, and weak governance and infrastructure in producer countries.

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Reverse Supply Chain Management ‘Closes the Loop’ on Waste

| Monday November 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

take_back_recycling Some of the world’s largest multinational businesses have recognized the advantages ‘closing the loop’ on their supply chains can provide. From energy and water conservation to materials reuse and recycling, they’re achieving significant gains in operating efficiency and productivity as they move toward becoming ‘zero-waste‘ and ‘zero emissions’ businesses.

Mimicking natural ecosystems, commercial and industrial ecosystems are emerging — in which an increasing percentage of products, their components, and raw or intermediate materials are being reused or recycled. The ultimate goal — cradle-to-cradle product lifecycles in which all materials used to produce, package and distribute products to consumers are recaptured, reused or recycled — is edging closer to reality.

At the leading edge of this movement is a small group of companies operating in what has come to be known as reverse supply chain management. Aiming to close the loop on the supply chain, they’re advancing green economy initiatives by offering original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) across a growing range of industries an integrated ‘one-stop shop’ for re-manufacturing, as well as reusing and recycling products, their constituent parts and raw materials.

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