In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt been aware of a fiasco which emerged in the last few weeks from the University of East Anglia in the UK concerning unprofessional bickering between climate scientists exposed by an apparent email hacker. The FOXNews crowd is calling it proof that climate change (at least the human induced kind) is a hoax perpetrated by a grand conspiracy among corrupt scientists bent on installing a global uber-government and so on and so forth… It’s therefore not the least bit coincidental that the conspiracy has emerged immediately before the COP15 talks in Copenhagen.
First things first, some of this is a really big screw up, and some of these scientists should be disciplined or fired (as well as whoever was behind the illegal hacking). But at the end of the day, the controversy only proves that some scientists, like some people, can be petty chumps who bicker and cheat. Not cool, but hardly proof that global warming is a hoax. And more importantly, hardly an argument against reducing our burning of fossil fuels and many of the other sustainability efforts 3p argues for. “ClimateGate” is 95% engineered distraction by an unfortunate part of the business community who prefer kicking and screaming to evolution.
The end of this year has been a return to our roots for TerraCycle in many ways. First with the opening of our first retail store a few blocks from where I first had a basement “office,” and now we’re going north to Canada–where I grew up and where we had our first major sales of product, to The Home Depot and Walmart Canada.
This new Canadian endeavor is, in fact, with Kraft–the first company with which we made a major agreement to collect branded waste in order to upcycle it into new products. In two years, our US partnership withKraft on Capri Sun juice packs has resulted in more than 35,000 collection points, millions of pouches collected, and more than $250,000 donated to a variety of causes.
So working in Canada is just a matter of replicating what we’ve done down here in the US, in a different longitude, right? Not quite.
Ever take a side road out of town and stop for a bite at a truly charming restaurant and wonder how it stays in business? How it competes with the chains? The answer may lie with a rewards program run by Original Restaurants. Just two years old, it aims, “to promote unique, local restaurants,” a mission increasingly embraced by customers and small restaurant owners across the United States.
Entrepreneur Kermit Austin witnessed firsthand the struggles independent restaurant owners faced; he worked his way through college as a busboy, waiter, and bartender. He hunted for local restaurant specials – trying to save a buck in the Tuscon restaurant scene. With a Management Information System’s degree from the University of Arizona, Austin developed expertise in web design. The relationships he developed landed him website projects, work that helped pay for his degree, and paved the foundation for future successful businesses.
At the 2ndCorporate Footprinting Conference, which took place this week in San Francisco, big brands in the beverage industry were front and center, presenting sophisticated “bleeding edge” strategies for addressing their water footprints. Water, for obvious reasons, is critical to these players, and they sent executive directors to report on their progress, challenges, and learning. Each did their dog and pony slide-ware show, speaking to the global water crisis, and how it is has become crystal clear that without water, bottom line, they have no business.
At the same time, these companies are well aware of their customer’s evolving concerns. In a late 2009 survey spanning 15 countries, water pollution and fresh water shortages were the respondents first and second most serious environmental concerns. Climate change and global warming ranked a surprisingly distant sixth. The study also revealed that the public holds water companies second only to the government in terms of their responsible for ensuring clean water. No water/no business, combined with clear customer stakeholder attitudes as to water/beverage companies responsibilities, pushes and pulls these companies to take the lead in addressing their water impacts across their supply chain and product lifecycle.
Nuuksio National Forest on the Outskirts of Helsinki
I’m on the eve of my return home to San Francisco from a lovely time in Finland.
Our wonderful hosts at Finnfacts planned a special last day for us in Nuuksio National Park where we hiked in the woods, smoked our own venison sausages over the fire, and dipped ourselves in a frozen lake and then raced into the sauna.
It was amazing. I gained a new understanding for the deep connection Finns have to the natural world. Don’t get me wrong, Metso the biomass company still has some work to do on its environmental initiatives, but on my tour today I felt like the woods would never end and I saw them as a source for fuel and life-sustaining energy in a way I haven’t ever quite before.
By Jonathan Mariano The Toyota Production System has garnered praise and accolades not only in the realm of automobile manufacturing, but in the realm of operational efficiency. Similar to how individuals interested in sustainable business focus on the the 3P’s, the triple or integrative bottom line of People, Planet, and Profits, the underlying elements of the Toyota Production System can be summarized in the 4P’s: Philosophy, Process, People & Partners, and Problem Solving. The 4P’s are at the heart of what Toyota wants to be culturally. Furthermore, there is much crossover in the fundamental framework of the Toyota Production System and Sustainability. On another note, the visible actions of Toyota are not the core of the Toyota Production System. As Stevens and Kent state, “Toyota does not consider any of the tools or practices – such as kanbans or andon cords, which so many outsiders have observed and copied – as fundamental to the Toyota Production System.” Rather, it’s the underlying cultural framework of the Toyota Production System that enables Toyota to outperform western production methods.
A full scale wind farm is not a subtle piece of landscaping, and many folks express concern over losing their view, their rural character, or *gasp* their property values. As the number of communities considering wind energy development grows, the need to empirically investigate these concerns does, too.
Good news, as far as property values are concerned, comes from a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and coauthored by Bard Center for Environmental Policy (A 3p Partner), which finds no widespread impact of wind facilities on residential property values. The report, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, constitutes the most comprehensive and data-rich analysis to date on the potential impact of U.S. wind projects on residential property values.
“Neither the view of wind energy facilities nor the distance of the home to those facilities was found to have any consistent, measurable, and significant effect on the selling prices of nearby homes,” says report coauthor Ben Hoen, a consultant for Berkeley Lab, and a Bard graduate. “No matter how we looked at the data, the same result kept coming back: no evidence of widespread impacts.” Gautam Sethi, coauthor of the study and Hoen’s master’s thesis adviser at the Bard CEP, said Berkeley’s is the first large-scale study that investigates such a long-standing claim in a rigorous fashion.
As we’ve been reporting, some bike-sharing programs (well, okay, mostly the Velib system in Paris) have been navigating rough stretches of road, due to everything from vandalism to poor logistics to class distinctions. But that didn’t keep the curiously-named startup Oybike from introducing a bike rental system in the UK.
What makes its system unique is the price to hire a bike: zero dollars (pounds, to be precise). A couple of caveats: the free rentals are subsidized by adverts printed on placards that cover part of the frame, and the freeness lasts for 30 minutes—after that fees kick in, starting at £0.50 for the second half hour. Okay, a third caveat: it’s not really free because one must pay a registration fee online before even getting on the bike. These run from £5 for a week to £18 (roughly $30 USD) for a year. Oh, plus cell phone usage (more on that later). But still, it would make sense for frequent, short trips.
Who knew a red shirt would become a life-changing event for Jeremy Litchfield? On a hot and humid morning back in 2007, Litchfield went out for a run. Wearing a brand new performance t-shirt, the runner was gearing up for an upcoming marathon. By the time he finished his morning jaunt, red stain from his new shirt covered his shorts, socks, shoes and lower body.
Concerned about the red dye on his body, Litchfield began researching performance apparel. It became clear that the apparel contained products that were potentially harmful to the environment as well as people. While sportswear is breathable and helps prevent the body from overheating, he discovered the material was often treated with chemicals, heavy metals and was not biodegradable. According to Litchfield, that red shirt he was wearing that muggy morning also included dioxins, AZO dyes and nearly one-tenth of a gallon of petroleum, among other things. Frustrated and wanting to make a difference, Litchfield quit his day job and launched Atayne, despite knowing nothing about performance sportswear.
If the Copenhagen climate conference has managed to do anything (even before it begins), it has managed to divide. It has facilitated the formation of two neatly antithetical groups of people: those who think nothing will result, and those who are hopeful as to what could happen.
“See You in Copenhagen” is a campaign of short films and ads produced by Found Object Films, in cooperation with the UN Foundation and TckTckTck, to raise public awareness leading up to COP15. It would fit firmly in the latter camp, featuring a certain cautious optimism. We may be sliding down a slippery slope, and Copenhagen may be just a time for political power plays, meaningless gesturing, and the biggest green networking event ever to take place. But it could also be a turning point.
In this video, Better Place innovator, Shai Agassi, talks about cleantech’s role in building the new clean economy, and those implications at COP15.
There are many scientific journals and publications that exist to raise awareness about environmental issues, where scientists can present research and propose recommendations on ways to mitigate the problems we face related to our environment. Though discussion and debate is important, many believe it is time to move from debate to demonstrated action.
While, as a nation we, await some resolution by way of energy legislation, there are undoubtedly myriad other solutions that have to be implemented. Translating good science into appropriate policy is critical and many ideas and solutions begin by the research coming out of the scientific community, as well as technological revolutions from the business community. There is no silver bullet.
The launch of a new journal titled Solutions aims to help us move from a debate culture to one of collaboration, by creating a global forum for dialogue with people, governments, business and civil society. The goal is to identify integrative socio-economic and environmental solutions that inspire action towards a better, more sustainable future for everyone. Not only is the objective at Solutions different, but the process is too. Instead of a typical peer review process, which can be more destructive than constructive, Solutions reviewers are empowered to use their depth of expertise in a more productive manner, by helping the authors perfect their story. In some cases, if the original author accepts, the reviewers may become co-authors on the piece.
West Coast Village Capital (WCVC) is a social venture program that brings together entrepreneurs to learn from and support each other’s social enterprises. Over the course of 12 weeks, beginning in January 2010, up to 30 social entrepreneurs will work together in groups of five to share their knowledge, strengthen their models, and build their businesses. If you would like to be one of them, read on.
Inspired by the village bank model used in microfinance, WCVC represents an innovative investment model built on the hypothesis that entrepreneurs, working intimately together and providing peer support to one another, will be able to efficiently and wisely allocate investment to their companies. This means WCVC will put the investment decisions in the hands of entrepreneurs themselves.
First Light Ventures, a sister enterprise to Grey Ghost Ventures, will provide the investment funds by making $25,000 and $75,000 investments in the 5-10 companies identified as most ready for seed capital. “We wanted to test the hypothesis that entrepreneurs can make investment decisions as well, if not better, than investors,” said Ross Baird from First Light Ventures.
WCVC is looking for social entrepreneurs with bright ideas and sustainable business models. If you have a business idea to help improve the world, they want to hear about it.
B Lab, the force behind a new business sector designation—called the B Corporation—which recognizes companies that meet a set of social, environmental and institutional benchmarks for sustainability, is facing a Herculean effort. The work won’t be in convincing people that business can be a positive force for social change—there are already 240 companies in 28 states (representing more than 50 industries) that have become B Corps, and I’m sure that number will continue to grow. The bigger task will be in lobbying for legislation, on a state-by-state basis, to recognize and provide incentives to B Corporations.
And that effort got an important boost today: The Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously to pass a bill that creates a new sustainable business tax credit for certified sustainable businesses located in the City of Philadelphia. For tax years 2012 through 2017, 25 eligible businesses shall receive a tax credit of $4,000 to be used against the gross receipts portion of the business privilege tax. Companies can be classified as certified sustainable businesses once they are certified as B Corporations.
Metso Corporation is pretty confident in its green cred. The Finnish company calls itself “a global supplier of sustainable technology and services” and in a press visit today the company’s VP of strategic development, Michael Hoven, and communications manager, Sanna Rahikainen, when asked if they considered Metso a green company, said it was. They said they don’t greenwash and are proud of what they were doing for the environment.
Unfortunately the devil is in the details, and Metso has a way to go before this blogger would feel comfortable calling it a truly sustainable business.
The key to Metso’s self-proclaimed environmental credentials is its production of biomass boilers to replace those powered by coal and other fossil fuels. It’s true that biomass has the potential to be an energy source that is superior to fossil fuels from an environmental standpoint. There are at least three keys in my mind to ensuring that biomass is a real sustainable solution:
London: Nov 3 – Nov 5 Sustainable Brands London 2014 Connect with Sustainability Executives, Brand Strategists, and Design & Innovation Leaders as the Sustainable Brands London Conference convenes to drive the innovation that leads to enhanced business. Discount with code: NW3pSB14LRegister here.
New York: Nov 4 – Nov 6 BSR Conference 2014 BSR 2014 will explore how transparency can transform supply chains, energy and climate, consumer engagement, community impacts, and more. Register here.
Redwood City: Nov 12 Corporate Philanthropy Institute 2014 Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Grantmakers bring together many of the country’s leading CSR professionals to discuss changing expectations of corporate citizenship, strategic local and global programs and assessing the impact of community investments. Register here.
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