The Quick & Dirty: Snake Oil Sellers

Henk Campher
| Friday October 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments

3231184805_794c027e52_zShayna Samuels and Glenn Turner of Ripple Strategies wrote a great piece on the reasons why a social mission should be at the heart of your marketing. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the mother of cause and brand marketing, Carol Cone, since I landed in the U.S. many years ago – hi mom! And I am surrounded by people chipping away at companies to convince them to bring a social mission to their business and to bring it to life in creative ways. The missing social mission … Having a social mission as a central part of who you are as a business has been at the front of what we’ve been trying to tell companies over here in the sustainability/CSR/purpose/shared value/citizenship/whatevergetsyougoing space.

The one essential thing so many companies miss completely when it comes to a social mission is that it isn’t a choice but a given. You either have a social mission as part of your company identity or you are selling snake oil. Your choice.

Let’s go back to the beginning of almost every company that exists today: You can find a clear social mission at the heart of why they started as a business. I’m not going to spend any time on the easy ones like TOMS or Tesla — they are still young and new enough to remember, and their business model is still fresh enough as a reaction to a social need. But the same goes for those large companies that have been around for ages. Take a company like Tesco that was founded with a simple social purpose of getting affordable surplus groceries to the poorest communities as close to their homes as possible. AT&T can trace its roots back to the Bell Co., which wanted to help connect people — sounds like Facebook today. BASF can trace its roots back to bringing light to the previously dark town of Mannheim. Cargill helped farmers store their grain in more effective ways through grain flat houses. Bank of America was founded to help new immigrants as most existing banks in America refused to provide them with basic services. And so the list goes on and on — social mission at the heart of where most companies started.

And then so many lost their way.

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The Growing Challenge of Water Procurement

3p Contributor | Friday October 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments

8359980055_2af1ef6424_zBy Graham Russell

Most sustainability professionals would agree that, in the long run, making adequate supplies of fresh water readily available to the world’s entire population is probably the most difficult resource-related challenge we face, especially in light of the weather uncertainties posed by global climate change. There is an essentially fixed amount of fresh water in the world, and for all practical purposes there are no substitutes for its role in keeping humans and animals alive — not to mention growing the increasing amounts of food required for a growing global population.

Water is a strategically important issue for both developed and emerging countries. It is estimated that 780 million people around the world lack access to clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing. This results in millions of deaths a year from waterborne diseases, almost all in developing nations, and billions of dollars in healthcare costs.

In the developed world, the challenge is how to make clean water available in adequate quantities in the right place at the right time, a problem that has become known as the water/energy nexus: that intricate relationship between these two critical resources in which each needs the other in enormous quantities. It is estimated that nearly half of the water consumed in the U.S. is dedicated to cooling systems in thermoelectric power plants that produce electricity. In California nearly 20 percent of the state’s electricity consumption goes toward water-related uses (purification, storage, transportation). In China, the South/North Diversion Project to bring water from southern rivers to the drier, more industrialized northern regions – a matter of national strategic economic interest – has resulted in one of the world’s largest engineering projects that is likely to cost over $100 billion when completed.

Superimposed on these global and national water challenges is the fact that nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, compared with about 54 percent in 2014. Ensuring adequate supplies of water for both their residents and their industries therefore becomes a strategic competitive advantage issue for city managements. They will have to step up their water stewardship programs in the form of better forward planning to secure adequate supplies, improved maintenance of distribution systems to prevent leakage and main breaks, and pricing and incentive systems to encourage conservation and more efficient usage.

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Creating Constructive Futures in Business and Beyond

3p Contributor | Friday October 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Bath Water Lily By Giles Hutchins

Business strategist, Peter Senge, notes that our world today is shaped not by individuals alone but by networks of businesses and institutions, and that these organizations are grounded in an old logic which needs to radically shift for the times we now live in.

New horizons are created through new ways of thinking, perceiving and attending to ourselves, each other and wider life. It is up to the individuals within these organizations to co-create a new logic. This shift in logic is what Senge says is the biggest challenge facing organizational management and leadership today.  Without this radical shift in thinking we will be unable to transform successfully towards a sustainable future; in other words, we will utterly fail in our evolution.

The logic of yesterday is of top-down, hierarchic, command-and-control, risk-adverse, competition-oriented, short-termed maximization, control-based thinking best suited to the Industrial Age. It is a mechanistic worldview based on reductionist logic that fragments reality into abstract definitions, silos and objects to be quantified, measured, controlled and then maximized, while largely overlooking the interrelated, fluid, connective, collaborative, participatory nature of nature.

In drawing inspiration from nature, we may step beyond our narrowed-down view of life and recognize the intrinsic patterns and reciprocal relations in our midst. These patterns can often seem confusing or complex for our reductionist minds, yet for our intuitive logic they are quite natural to cohere with – we are, after all, part of nature. Such patterns and flows are, by their nature, regenerative and sustainable.  In applying this inherent logic of life, we no longer need to superficially bolt-on sustainability initiatives to unsustainable modus operandi. In going with the flow of nature, we redesign for resilience, ensuring sustainability – in all sense of the word – is ingrained in how we operate and innovate.

For Senge, creative orientation is what facilitates our shift beyond yesterday’s flawed logic. Creative orientation helps us address our many practical problems as opportunities for transformation, rather than risks to be mitigated or problems to be worked around. Real life challenges are what afford us the opportunities to transform to more resilient ways of operating. Through humility, openness and playfulness, creative orientation brings a radically different mindset beyond the hyper-competitive, quantized linearity of old. It is a ‘learning-through-doing’ approach to prototyping by collaborating amongst diverse stakeholders. Here, future outcomes are beyond pre-definition: It is the co-learning journey rather than the pre-defined destination that brings transformative value to the organization and wider ecosystem of partners involved; real benefits beyond ‘doing less bad.’

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How Carbon Projects Can Bring Story to Your Sustainability Program

3p Contributor | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority is the site of one of the Terrapass landfill methane capture projects

The Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority is the site of one of the Terrapass landfill methane capture projects

By Kathryn Sarkis, TerraPass

Balancing emissions with carbon offsets can do more than help your company take responsibility for its carbon footprint; it can also help build a stronger brand that has good story to tell. Carbon offsets come from a variety of different project types such as methane capture at landfills and agriculture operations, to transportation and forestry projects. Carefully choosing what emission reduction projects to support can create a story that reflects your company’s overall mission and vision and brings added value to the brand for both customers and management.

So how do you find the right emission reduction project to support? Regardless of the project type you need ensure that you are looking for a project that is of the highest quality. Carbon programs such as Verified Carbon Standard and Climate Action Reserve ensure that carbon credits are real, additional, and permanent by using accepted methodologies for validating projects. The programs’ continuous monitoring ensures that a project performs as expected while registries track and clarify ownership to ensure no double counting. Once you are assured that you are looking at carbon credits that come from a verified, validated and tracked project the fun can begin.

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Follow the Liters Campaign Brings Water Filters to Rural Kenyan Schools

RP Siegel | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 3 Comments

SImakina1 editThe Simakina Primary School is located on a remote dirt road that has been ravaged by the trucks that come to collect the sugar cane that grows in fields that surround the school for miles. The school has 520 students plus another 72 in early childhood development (ECD). Classrooms are crowded and spare. There is no electricity, though wires run from poles along the edge of the property. The children come from farm families, who mostly work in the cane fields, though some grow vegetables that they sell in market stalls in the nearby town. Most of them are barefoot, though a few wear plastic clogs.

There is a drilled well on the corner of the school property. The water has never been tested. A young girl lowers a plastic bucket on a rope into the water, then fills a jug which she carries on her head to one of six small buildings a hundred yards or more away.

We are there early. Kids mill around on the field. It somehow has the feel of summer camp. After introductions,  Viola Adeke, the local area coordinator for Vestergaard explains in enthusiastic Swahili how the filters work. I can pick out the words maji safi, safe water. The teaching is done in a call-and-response manner, the children chanting the answers in unison. They already know the names of the diseases, in English: malaria, cholera, typhoid, bilharzia and they call them out as if reciting a nursery rhyme.

Viola demonstrates one of the seven units being donated, showing the brownish liquid obtained by back-washing the filter and comparing it with the clear water obtained from one of the four spigots that encircle the  bright blue plastic device. “Which one is safe, she asks? The children all point at the clear one.

“Always use the clean, filtered water to drink. Also use it to wash your hands, brush your teeth and to wash fruits and vegetables with.”

After the presentation, I spoke with a young girl named Melvin. She said she got sick with diarrhea and missed three days of school plus an additional day for a doctor’s visit. She did not like this because it caused her to fall behind in her studies. She has a brother and a sister in school and both of them have lost time due to illness as well. She says that she feels safer now with a LifeStraw filter at home and another one at school.

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Not Your Grandparent’s Workplace: What Makes Millennials Tick

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Join TriplePundit, SAP and our special guests for a Twitter Chat about millennials and social entrepreneurship. Follow along at #SAPsocent on October 23 at 9 a.m. PST/Noon EST.

woman on computer
The global workplace is a changing dynamic these days, and no sector of the population knows this better than the millennial generation. Born at the tail end of the 20th century, a time best known for the advent of the clunky but versatile personal computer, the Walkman and equally hefty video cassette recorder, millennials have inherited a global workplace that belies a the personal me-ism of yesterday’s standards.

In fact, the workplace of today is increasingly more diverse, digitally adept and technically focused than ever before. And the 20 to 35 year-olds that are currently driving that innovation, says Nicolette Van Exel, SAP’s head of the Emerging Entrepreneur Initiative, know this high-paced arena is no longer their grandparent’s marketplace.

“[This] millennial generation grew up with access to information like never before,” said Van Exel. “It is a very, very conscious generation.”

The use of mobile devices like the cell phone, laptop and iPhone were really coming into prominence as this generation was heading off to school. By the time they were entering college, social innovations like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn were becoming a versatile part of school curricula. So for the millennials, technical innovation and social networking have an integral role not only in today’s marketplace but in the millennials’ vision of what really is important to their world. And as van Exel explained, that goes beyond the more rudimentary focus of the standard 9-to-5 job that dominated the economy in their grandparents’ age.

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20 Years Later, a Generation of Rwandans Inspires the World

| Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This is part two in an ongoing series on Rwanda’s progress. Click here for part one, or follow the series here.


Winning art submission for The Peace Project, by Jean Bosco Bakunzi.

Twenty years ago, Rwanda was the site of what has been called the most hellish 100 days of the 20th century. Today, it is a place of pervasive progress and limitless promise. Visit the shopping malls amidst Kigali’s rapidly maturing skyline, or test the farthest reaches of its country-wide fiberoptic connectivity. Once brushed aside for its seemingly delusional aspirations to become East Africa’s Singapore or Silicon Valley, Rwanda’s message is now loud and clear. Rwanda is serious about its perhaps-no-longer-so-lofty dreams.

But, is it really safe? This is still the most common question I hear from foreigners, not only from the Global West, but from neighboring East Africans as well. Having lived in several major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and now San Francisco, I’m not sure I’ve had a safer home than the friendly hillside neighborhoods of Kigali, Rwanda. But don’t take my word for it – ask Rwandans: A 2012 Gallup poll indicates that Rwanda’s citizens feel safer than citizens of any other country in Africa. The same poll ranks Rwanda second globally in percentage (89 percent) of women who feel safe walking alone at night.

Today, Rwanda is arguably the most peaceful, cleanest and least corrupt country in Africa — not to mention one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Note that this is not just another short-lived and superficial demonstration propped up by the notoriously dysfunctional foreign aid machine. Rwanda has adamantly refused to follow in the ruinous path of its African neighbors. Instead, the country has developed much more organically. Pundits can say what they like about President Paul Kagame, but it’s foolish to argue the success of his rogue philosophy of national development by self-reliance.

Perhaps news of Rwanda’s recent progress is not new to you, but have you pondered its full significance within the context of its tragic past?

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Walmart Commits to More Sustainable Food. Is it Serious?

Michael Kourabas
| Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

14010430133_b901245d34_zOn Monday, Walmart held its second semi-annual Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting — webcast live and re-aired the following day — and announced a new pledge to help create a more sustainable food system. Taken at face value, the country’s largest food retailer appears to be making a real commitment to help develop a healthier, more affordable, and less environmentally damaging food supply.  Walmart’s real legacy in this area, though, will be measured by how much concrete action follows its ambitious commitments.

At the outset of the milestones webcast, the company’s CEO, Doug McMillon, proclaimed that in order to meet the population’s increasing food demands, Walmart and its suppliers need to become more sustainable players in the global food supply chain.  According to this new commitment, Walmart will aim to achieve this by ensuring that the food it sells, and the supply chain from which that food comes, is: (i) more affordable (to the environment, society, and customers); (ii) safer and more transparent; (iii) healthier; and (iv) more accessible.

Like many corporate marketing efforts, in both the webcast and the company’s concurrent announcements it is difficult to parse the genuine commitments from the hollow promises; the real passion from the empty rhetoric meant to patronize the most environmentally conscious consumers and NGOs.

To look strictly at its pledges, Walmart sure seems to acknowledge that bold action is required if it is to contribute to reversing the trends of environmental degradation and resource scarcity.  The company, which claims that environmental sustainability is now an “essential ingredient” in its business model, already says that it strives to sell only products that “sustain people and the environment.”

So, how exactly is the company planning to increase the sustainability of the food it buys and sells?

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Sugar in Brazilian Skies: Is Farnesane the Fuel of Airlines’ Future?

Leon Kaye | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Brazil, sugarcane ethanol, Amyris, Total, Gol, farnesane, clean energy, biofuels, Leon Kaye, airline industry, aviation industry

Fueling of a GOL 737-800 with Amyris sugarcane-based jet fuel

The commercial aviation industry has long been unstable and struggled to make a profit, in part because of the volatility of fuel prices. Consolidation and cost-cutting have improved many airlines’ financial performance in recent years, but they are only one epidemic, fiscal crisis or political time bomb from reeling. That is one reason why for several years, many airlines have experimented with adding biofuels to conventional jet fuel in order to harness energy security—and try to reduce those pesky carbon emissions that are difficult for the airline industry to avoid. Now Gol, the second largest airline in Brazil, is testing farnesane, a clear fuel sourced from sugar cane.

The partnership between Gol, Amyris, a California-based biofuels company, and the French energy giant Total culminated in a flight earlier this summer between Orlando and São Paulo, which was powered by conventional jet fuel blended with 10 percent farnesane. For now Gol has commited to using the 10 percent blend on select international flights between the U.S. and Brazil. Then last month a Lufthansa flight between Frankfurt and Berlin was also powered in part by farnesane.

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Airbnb Goes After Business Travelers

Leon Kaye | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Airbnb, sharing economy, business travelers, Leon Kaye, San Francisco, New York, Concur, travel

AirBnB goes for business travelers — let’s stay here.

Whether you revile or revere Airbnb, you cannot dispute the role the company has had in expanding and legitimizing the sharing economy. Sure there have been a few trashed homes here and there and the company is in an ongoing tussle with stubborn New York City business interests—the latest salvo is a coalition of “concerned citizens” who launched a site allowing Airbnb users to locate sex offenders and building code violations. The fact that NYC’s hotel occupancy rate hovers around 88 percent shows that Airbnb is hardly a threat, but in fact is really a complement, to hotels. And that is why more business travelers are using Airbnb when attending those conferences or sales meetings.

And why wouldn’t they? Take New York, where average hotel rates are approaching $300. In San Francisco,  they are over $200 a night. (In fact, the city of San Francisco has finally realized that Airbnb is here to stay and voted to legalize and regulate short-term rentals.) And those rates are before a major conference hits town, which sends hotel prices up even further—if you can score one during one of those massive tech conferences at Moscone Center. So if you don’t want to walk from the Tenderloin to the SOMA in San Francisco, or get stuck in L.A. traffic because those hotels in Santa Monica or downtown were beyond budget, Airbnb could offer a more comfortable stay, with more workspace and room to chill, than an overpriced hotel room.

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Seen and Heard at SXSW Eco: Day 2

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is part of Triple Pundit’s ongoing coverage of the SXSW Eco conference. For the rest, please visit our SXSW Eco page here.

An enthusiastic Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, gives her keynote presentation "Sustainable Seas: The Vision and the Reality" at the 2014 SXSW Eco Conference.

An enthusiastic Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, gives her keynote presentation at the 2014 SXSW Eco conference.

The SXSW Eco conference is flying by, and Day 2 is already behind us. The day was filled with startup demos and inspirational sessions — not to mention the SXSW Eco Awards and our Twitter chat with HP (if you missed it, you can catch a recap here).

In a whirlwind lineup of events, panelists discussed everything from sustainable seafood and reducing waste to urban mobility and protecting the honeybee population. At Triple Pundit’s happy hour event last night, we asked folks to share their key takeaways from the day. The responses were as diverse as they are.

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India’s Mandatory CSR Law Inspires Innovation

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

taj mahalBy Carol L. Cone

I just returned from my first business trip to India. The country recently instituted the world’s first mandated CSR law, requiring all companies doing business there, with at least $830,000 in profits, to allocate 2 percent of the average net profit over three years against key social and environmental programs.

While the issues are diverse – education, water and sanitation, financial inclusion, hunger, poverty and malnutrition amongst others – the intent of the Act is clear: to achieve significant impact at the grassroots level.

Couple that with a new Prime Minister at the helm asking for bolder and more innovative social action from the corporate sector, a large millennial population that’s increasingly vocalizing its preference for brands that do good, and mobile phone penetration nearing 80 percent, the time is ripe for action. Coming from a poor background, Narendra Modi, the new prime minister is a passionate advocate for India’s poor and is focusing on two key areas – access to banking and sanitation. In his recent Independence Day speech he challenged the country to “walk together, we move together, we think together, we resolve together and together we take this country forward.”

With these historic milestones framing the context of my visit, my speech – titled The Power of Possible – was poised to provoke the audience to think about the opportunity this presented for them to act strategically and embrace cross sector innovation.

And it was fitting that my speech at Praxis 2014 was held in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Constructed in the 17th century by over 20,000 workers, this breathtaking monument is the physical manifestation of possibility. (Imagine transporting thousands of tons of white marble from Rajasthan, hundreds of miles away by 1,000 elephants with no roads, let alone crafting the magnificent building!)

Edelman, now India’s largest PR firm with 400 staffers in 11 offices, represents some of India’s largest companies as well as multinationals. Our meetings were fascinating. Our clients are taking the new law seriously. Some discussed new programs while others mentioned expanding previously made commitments.

I see the new law as a “gift” to India.

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GreenBox Continues to Save the World, One Pizza at a Time

Leon Kaye | Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment
GreenBox, Ecovention, recyclable pizza box, Rachael Ray, Leon Kaye, pizza, fast food, Pizza Pie-er, recycling

GreenBox continues to make pizza more sustainable–and fun

We have all had that moment where out of convenience, or desperation, we call up the local pizza joint and order a pie. And why not? Pizza covers all (or most) of the food groups, is satisfying, and can be eaten anywhere. The only caveat is that manky cardboard pizza box in which your instant meal is delivered. Awkward, bulky, and quite gross to look at after you’re done devouring your Hawaiian or meat lover’s special, that tomato sauce and cooking oil-stained box may not be compostable or recyclable.

But never mind, Ecovention’s GreenBox, or the “pizza box of the 21st century” as described by Fox News, is continuing to make a difference in the pizza industry—six years after we first touted this innovation here on Triple Pundit. This recyclable pizza box has its own Twitter account, has been showcased on Rachael Ray’s show and keeps you updated on the latest pizza creations on its blog. And of course, in case we forget, it’s 100 percent recyclable.

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10 Reasons to Make a Social Mission the Heart of Your Marketing

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

ben and jerry's truckBy Shayna Samuels and Glenn Turner

From L’Oreal’s new sustainability campaign to General Mills’ recent acquisition of Annie’s Inc. natural and organic foods (at 37 percent above the stock valuation), big brands are catching on to the fact that today’s consumers are looking for a lot more than a pretty package and a good deal. They’re looking for products with purpose and brands who care about more than just the bottom line. And if today’s entrepreneurs want to survive in an increasingly crowded marketplace, they need to take a page from the playbook of pioneers like Seventh Generation and Ben and Jerry’s, whose mission-based business models and marketing have catapulted them from a corner in the co-op to every mainstream grocery store in America.

A growing body of market research is proving this isn’t simply a trend, it’s a tidal shift in our economy. Here are 10 facts about modern consumers and how their demand for socially conscious businesses is driving marketplace evolution.

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Twitter Chat on Millennials and Social Entrepreneurship

Marissa Rosen
| Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

SAP-LogoJoin TriplePundit, SAP and our special guests at #SAPsocent on October 23 at 9 a.m. PST / Noon EST for a special Twitter Chat about millennials and social entrepreneurship.

This discussion will look at how millennial entrepreneurs are transforming their industries and communities with new social enterprises. We will be speaking with experts and millennial entrepreneurs themselves about how the younger generation approaches brings meaning to their daily work, building sustainable businesses from the ground up. SAP will also share their approach to supporting these young leaders.

New to Twitter chats? Check out how they work!

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