Shareholder Activism, Yes You Can

Dale Wannen
Dale Wannen | Wednesday February 17th, 2010 | 2 Comments

By Dale Wannen, Harrington Investments

Ever want to just yell, while reading about overpaid CEOs?  Ever wish that you could ask the board members at Monsanto if they eat genetically modified corn?  Ever want to just stare Larry Ellison in the eye and ask him how much his sailboat costs shareholders?  Well, you can. Shareholder activism is the broad term used for ways to advocate for change within a corporation.

To take that a step further, any stock owner who meets the criteria ($2,000 worth of stock held for a minimum of one year) is able to file something called a shareholder resolution. Shareholder resolutions are simply proposals put forward by the shareholders to raise public awareness of issues and hopefully change egregious corporate behaviors.  Granted, most proposals are pushed into the paper shredder by corporations and/or rejected by the SEC. However, if your resolution is placed on the proxy ballot, you will be given a period of time to discuss your proposed resolution and supporting statements at the annual shareholder meeting and, more importantly, voice your issue to millions of shareholders through the proxy. Still, the question remains “is it making a difference?”

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New Business Model Transforms E-scrap for Good

RP Siegel | Wednesday February 17th, 2010 | 6 Comments

Imagine a world where nothing is wasted, where there are no landfills and where all citizens pitch in to help—a world where discarded items are picked up at curbside, turned into gold, which is then distributed to those most in need. Sounds like a fairy tale or a utopian dream, doesn’t it?

Well, the folks at Imagine It in Rochester, NY have put all the pieces together to make this happen with their Fundraising Through Recycling program. The idea started back in 2002 when founder Carlie Albano decided to raise money for a local charity and was looking for something different; she hit upon the idea of collecting ink cartridges and then selling them to recyclers, passing the proceeds along to her intended recipient. Setting up shop in her garage with her grandfather working along beside her; she conceived the idea that has grown to become Imagine It.

It seems that she stumbled upon a really big idea.

Did you know that every second:
•    8 printer cartridges are thrown away.
•    2.5 ounces of oil are used to produce each inkjet cartridge
•    3.5 quarts of oil to make each laser cartridge.

In a couple of months, cartridge remanufacturing will, according to Imagine It, save more oil than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

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Voluntary Simplicity and the Triple Bottom Line: An Interview with Duane Elgin

| Wednesday February 17th, 2010 | 3 Comments

Author Duane Elgin challenges his readers to give up the trappings of modern life (snuggies, melon ballers and all the other gadgets we can’t live without) in favor of a deeper form of satisfaction. His book Voluntary Simplicity has been much loved by those who find solace in the simpler path and much maligned by those who call followers mildly cultish and obsessive in their asceticism. First published in 1981, the book has recently been re-vamped with the modern sustainability movement in mind.

Elgin sums up the societal shifts of the last 30 years with the simplest of anecdotes: he’s gone from being introduced as the “MBA who has gone bad” to being introduced as “the MBA who has gone green.” MBAs no longer have to be singly focused on money to utilize their learning. We know all about that here at 3p, so we checked in with Elgin to ask him a few questions about the voluntary simplicity movement and how it relates to the triple bottom line

3p: How did your business education influence your development of  the theory of voluntary simplicity?

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Interview With Kevin Whitfield, Head Of Carbon At South Africa’s Nedbank

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday February 16th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Nedbank Group is one of South Africa’s largest banks and a leader in sustainability. I recently interviewed Kevin Whitfield, head of Carbon at Nedbank via email.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman: Nedbank Group has a reputation for being South Africa’s “green bank,” and has been committed to sustainability principles for 18 years. Why did Nedbank start to take sustainability into consideration almost two decades ago?

Kevin Whitfield: Nedbank’s sustainability journey was initiated by visionary foresight and leadership that recognized not only a need expressed by our clients to address environmental issues but also understood that the concept of sustainability in all its facets is crucial to ensuring the long-term interests of all our stakeholders and the bank’s own long-term profitability.

The journey began with the establishment of our partnership with WWF-SA in 1990 and has continued to be supported by WWF SA, our staff and various other stakeholders and is integral to the bank’s vision, strategy and long-term objectives.

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Nominations Are In…Vote for Your Sustainable Business “Must Read” List!

Scott Cooney | Tuesday February 16th, 2010 | 13 Comments

In an earlier post, we at 3P asked you to nominate a book you feel is a “must read” for those interested in sustainability.  There’s so much to know:  sustainable food, renewable energy, social entrepreneurship, alternative transportation, green chemistry, biofuels, low carbon lifestyles, socially responsible investing……  how can we possibly keep up with all the amazing books that come out on these subjects and so many more?

Fear not.  3P will make it easy for you. Our selection process weeded out a lot of books.  We deliberately eliminated any books written by 3P writers (sorry to  Bill Roth, Heather Gadonniex, and heck, myself) so that we could eliminate potential biases.  We eliminated any self-published books that were nominated.  We eliminated any books that may be good business books but lack any sustainability material (sorry Good to Great and The Tipping Point and many others…), as well as many a good sustainability book that lacked practical business applications (sorry The Lorax, Silent Spring, and Ishmael), as well as many books that I could not find links to on BetterWorldBooks.com, the green version of Amazon, which likely means they are self-published, or simply not books.  We did retain a few that offered insights into business through a sustainability lens, even if they were not directly about green business.

So we have done our part, but the rest is up to you!   Let’s vote!  Voting will go from now through February 19 at 5 PM Pacific Time!  In no particular order, here are the books that were nominated through comments, twitter, emails, and direct communication!

Thanks folks!  Voting is now closed!  We’ll be tallying all the results and will let you know your choices for the best green business books in a blog post next week.  Thanks again!

Scott Cooney is the co-founder of Green Business Village, a sustainability consulting firm working exclusively with green micro-enterprises and author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) (deliberately left off the voting list).  Follow Scott on Twitter at twitter.com/scottcooney

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Would You Ever Partner with a Cigarette Company?

Tom Szaky | Tuesday February 16th, 2010 | 6 Comments

Waste is a problem. We’ve been helping solve it, one piece at a time, via our collection brigades for years now. Literally billions of pieces, collected by millions of people each earning 2 cents donated to the charity of people’s choice. That translates into $100,000 a month in the US alone. And we’re currently in 5 countries, aiming for 10 this year.

So far we’ve been source agnostic about it, like the recycling companies do. We may be a green company, but that hasn’t meant we only take waste from companies with pristine eco records. And really, what company is completely perfect when it comes to being sustainable? If anybody claims to be so, I’m quite certain they’re lying or delusional.

But what would you say if I told you we were approached by a major cigarette company to partner with them in collecting cigarette butts, to be upcycled into new products? Makes you think, doesn’t it? What do you think about that? I’d like to hear.

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Four Strategies for Green Marketing

Sarah Lozanova | Monday February 15th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Learn more about Green Marketing on our main page here.

I attended the State of Green Business Forum 2010 last week in Chicago, organized by Greener World Media.  One panel explored the topic of green marketing in the age of transparency and shared many insights.

Panelists:
Amy Hebard, co-founder and chief researcher of Earthsense
Chris Nelson, director of global commercial development for UL Environment
Suzanne Shelton, president and ceo of Shelton Group

No such thing as a green consumer

There are many motivations for purchasing more eco-friendly products, and not all of them involve saving the planet, so it is nearly impossible to create a profile for this consumer group. This varies even more when considering different categories of consumer goods. Some folks may buy energy efficient appliances to save money, while others may pay a premium for natural cosmetics because they are perceived as safer than conventional products. Although perhaps about 7 percent of consumers are motivated by altruism, the majority are motivated because they see the product as better in some way for themselves (such as health, lower energy cost, or safety). In many cases, the green product is the tiebreaker or the cherry on top, thus green consumers must see the product as the same, or better, than the competition.

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Three Keys to Understanding Sustainability Rankings

| Monday February 15th, 2010 | 0 Comments

David Letterman isn’t the only one crazy for top ten lists; corporate sustainability rankings have become one way companies prove their green laurels to consumers. For example the Corporate Knights, a research group that also produces a magazine about sustainability, published a list of top sustainable companies that looks a lot different than 3p’s own Sustainable CEO’s List. In fact, none of the companies on 3p’s list made it on the Corporate Knights list. This article looks at why sustainability metrics differ and whose metrics to trust.

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What Could Be Better than Renewable Energy from Chocolate?

RP Siegel | Monday February 15th, 2010 | 2 Comments

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, for those of you who already believed that chocolate was the most perfect substance on Earth, here is another reason to think so. Who knew that the same delicious brown bean that hopefully melts your true love’s heart can also generate clean green power? Well, almost. It’s the shells, actually, the cocoa bean shells that are left over after the chocolate has been made. They are now being used as biofuel. You might wonder where this is happening. West Africa? Brazil?

No, it’s actually in New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, which is also the home of chocolatier Lindt USA. Lindt recently announced a partnership with Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH)  for the burning of cocoa bean shells to produce electricity from one of the three 50MW boilers at PSNH’s Schiller Station power plant in Portsmouth. The shells are a byproduct of Lindt’s manufacturing process at its nearby facility in Stratham. The company recently expanded the facility to incorporate the chocolate production process, which had previously taken place in Europe.

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French Nuclear Power Company Acquires Solar Thermal Systems Manufacturer

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday February 15th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Last year, solar companies Optisolar and Solel “both sold out to larger, deep-pocked companies,” as a New York Times Green Inc. post put it. Last week, the French nuclear power company, Areva announced its acquisition of Ausra, a small company that makes solar thermal systems used for electricity production or industrial steam. The deal is expected to close within the next few months. Ausra manufactures curved mirrors that focus the sun’s heat on a black pipe that goes through the middle of the structure. Fluid in the pipe is heated and used to make steam.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company was founded in Australia, but relocated to Silicon Valley in 2007. Ausra has a five megawatt (MW) demonstration plant near Bakersfield, Calif., and a factory in Las Vegas that makes mirrors. It also has a solar array that feeds steam into a coal-fired power plant in New South Wales, Australia.

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Report Shows Few Companies Including Water Risks In Financial Filings

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday February 15th, 2010 | 2 Comments

A recently-released report by the investor coalition Ceres, the financial services firm UBS and financial data provider Bloomberg evaluated and ranked the water disclosure practices of 100 publicly traded companies in eight key sectors. The report revealed that many companies are not including water risks and performance data in their financial filings. Only one of the 100 companies provided comprehensive water data on their supply chains.

The report used a scale of 0 to 100, and looked at data through June 30, 2009. The eight sectors looked at include beverage, chemicals, electric power, food, homebuilding, mining, oil and gas and semiconductors. The companies were scored in five categories: water accounting, risk assessment, direct operations, supply chain and stakeholder engagement.

Eighty of the companies scored less than 30 points. The mining sector received the highest scored overall, followed by the beverage industry. The homebuilding sector had the lowest overall scores. Only 21 companies disclosed targets to reduce water, and only 15 companies had goals to reduce wastewater discharge. Only 17 companies reported local-level water data.

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Interview: Brilliant Earth

| Monday February 15th, 2010 | 4 Comments

I’ve always thought of the diamond industry as only slightly less destructive than the cocaine industry in terms of ecological and societal impact. I realize that’s a slight exaggeration, but anyone who’s seen Blood Diamond or watched some of these painfully manipulative advertisements knows where I’m coming from.

Diamonds may not be forever, but they’re not going out of style any time soon, and neither are the jobs and communities that depend on the industry. The reality is that some folks in the diamond industry are trying their hand at cleaning up their act – avoiding diamonds that fund wars, reducing the impact of mining, and re-investing in the impoverished communities from which diamonds often come. We’ve heard from our friends at the Clarity Project a few times on 3p, and thought it only fitting to give some space to another diamond retailer, Brilliant Earth.

I interviewed Brilliant Earth’s co-founder Eric Grossberg and he and his team had quite a lot to say about their history and how they’re working to make diamonds a more sustainable proposition – in their own words:

3p: Tell me a little about Brilliant Earth, in your own words. Why was it founded?

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House Resolution Passed in Utah: Climate Change a Conspiracy

| Friday February 12th, 2010 | 53 Comments

Hundreds of private e-mail messages and documents hacked from a computer server last November caused a stir among global warming skeptics, who said they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.

These events, combined with constant back and forth debate, have left people here in America, and around the world, confused about the state of climate change. Is it happening or not? Is man to blame? For every piece of evidence claiming that global warming is true, by showing that Arctic ice hit a 30 year low in 2007, there are opposing reports that claim the ice is at record high levels. Many people on the East Coast, having been choked by recent record snowfalls and unseasonably cold temperatures, are quick to assert that these weather events are evidence that the Earth is not warming after all. Even though this kind of anecdotal evidence is clearly not scientific, many people are using these events to support existing suspicions that climate change is not occurring. Not surprisingly, state politics has found its way to the center of this ongoing debate. In Utah, the House displayed its own distrust about the premise of global warming by passing a resolution claiming it is all a big conspiracy.

Utah’s House of Representatives passed a resolution on Tuesday February 9th, 2010 that implies climate change science is a conspiracy and urged the EPA to stop all carbon dioxide reduction policies and programs. As a resolution, it holds no legal weight, but it sends a clear message. The resolution specifically claims that there is a “well organized and ongoing effort to manipulate global temperature data in order to produce a global warming outcome.”

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Can You Create Food, Energy, Heat and Fuel in the Same Place?

| Friday February 12th, 2010 | 4 Comments

ban-startup-fridayThe subject of where our energy, food, and fuel comes from is frequently contentious.

With just about all the options, there’s a down side: environmental effects, lack of infrastructure, cost as compared to current cheap options, the need to transport long distances, shifted energy burden location from vehicles to power plants or inability to scale. Each camp claims it has the solution, and much posturing happens by politicians of all persuasions, frequently for little more than pleasing their base.

But there’s a company I came across recently, San Juan Bioenergy, that deftly sidesteps all these issues, and is already proving its sustainable business model. It’s doing so by being many things in one place: A food, fuel, heat, and energy producer. And it produces these products for local consumption.

How?

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Employee Engagement Around Sustainability–Survey Results from Brighter Planet

Scott Cooney | Friday February 12th, 2010 | 6 Comments

Brighter Planet, a company dedicated to the mitigation of climate change through personal action, is perhaps best known for its tools that help people quantify their personal carbon footprints. It also has a credit card that, with each purchase, contributes to renewable energy.

However, it is their research that excites me more than anything else. A lot of people are talking about employee engagement around sustainability initiatives right now. Brighter Planet just released a study on its findings from an internet survey it conducted, to which 1055 people responded. Big businesses can use it. Small businesses can use it. Employees are happier and more productive when they do. So let’s get to it, people, start engaging your employees around sustainability!

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