At November’s Opportunity Green conference, I missed my chance to connect with Sharon Greene of RISC International, but she was kind enough to answer some questions via email, which I’ve put together in a short interview format below.
Greene is the managing director of global consumer behavior consultancy RISC International, and knows a thing or two about why and how people shop, especially in Europe. She’s also acutely aware of how “green” and social conscious awareness is affecting the evolution of global consumptive habits in a generally positive direction.
Nick Aster: Is “green” still an important factor for today’s buying decisions?
Yes. But it is only one element of a multifaceted consumer trend which we call “Positive Consumption.” These components emerged several years ago, but are now strongly converging to make out a complete trend.
In a nutshell, now is a frustrating time for consumers. They live in a world of permanent risk, profound demographic changes, ubiquitous technology and increasing globalization. They want to regain control and initiative, and need help to reconcile their personal desires and needs with those of society. They still like to buy, of course. But now, they know that they should think about the consequences, become aware that in order to keep on buying, they will need to buy more wisely and more responsibly. They have become aware that in order to keep on buying they need to buy better, more wisely and more responsibly.
Nick Aster: Is green simply expected now and should companies no longer use it as a marketing tool?
Following in the footsteps of Home Depot, Sam’s Club, and Costco, Lowes is bringing renewable energy to the masses. As of last Thursday, twenty-one California stores now offer ready-to-install 175 watt solar panels, provided by Akeena Solar of Silicon Valley.
The announcement, which drove Akeena stock up nearly 54 percent, adds to a growing trend to give consumers the ability to install their own PV (and even wind turbines), slicing off the cost of installation.
But whether solar power is really something that can be set-up by a weekend warrior wielding a hammer and a ladder is still up for debate. Sub-par installations by “experienced” solar contractors already weigh on the reputation of the industry. The possibility of thousands of flubbed home DIY systems could worsen that problem.
In what is sure to provide additional ammunition for climate denial suicide bombers*, Europol, the European Union’s top law enforcement agency, has announced that more than $7.4 billion in tax revenue has been lost from schemes involving the trade of carbon credits.
The extent of the fraud is unclear, but when France, the Netherlands, the UK and Spain changed their tax code to prevent the fraud, trading activity dropped 90 percent, according to Europol.
The fraud threatens to make a punchline out of carbon trading, just as the US is considering its own carbon market — and the EU system is showing signs of working.
The United States has steadily outsourced record-breaking feats of engineering over the years, or stood by as other countries have eagerly grasped trophies for the world’s tallest building, biggest dam, longest bridge, or what have you.
Which is why it is comforting to learn a World’s [ ]est is staying in America: Caithness Energy will begin construction next year in Oregon on the world’s biggest wind farm, with 845 MW of capacity.
The Shepherd’s Flat wind farm will utilize 338 of General Electric‘s next-generation 2.5 MW turbines (its 1.5 MW model is the world’s most popular, with 12,000 in use) spread out across 30 square miles of terrain just south of the Columbia River in north-central Oregon. The farm is predicted to generate about 2 billion kilowatt-hours per year, enough power for 235,000 homes.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Grist, and is re-posted with permission.
COPENHAGEN—Two Cola-Cola* employees urged people in Copenhagen to never drink the soft drink again, denouncing their company’s environmental and human rights record in a highly unusual press conference* in the Hopenhagen LIVE area in City Hall Square.
The public relations* workers from Atlanta* said their consciences compelled them to speak out against the soft-drink conglomerate, inviting onlookers to make a public pledge against Coca-Cola’s water use, labor practices, and environmental claims.
I’ve got a confession to make. I’m tired. I’m tired of the posturing, of the chanting, of the myriad ways the same issues can be endlessly bandied about. Rich vs. poor, north vs. south, 1.5 degrees vs. 2 degrees, who pays, who’s responsible, talk of “real deals,” evasive answers from Yvo, and the gauntlet of NGOs pushing the same piece of paper in my face they did yesterday (as of several days ago, if an organization doesn’t have information I can read online, they’ve lost me).
We’re all fired up. We’re all full of passion. We all want to change the world (well not everyone). But at the end of the day I wonder what all this will mean when we look back in ten years time, or twenty.
Touted as the “world’s largest beverage company”, Coca-Cola is about to take social networking to a new level with its up-and-coming Expedition 206. Three lucky people will embark on a 275,000 mile journey through 206 countries and territories where the Coke products are sold. The year-long mission for the three “Happiness Ambassadors,” is simple – find out what makes people happy.
I had the pleasure of attending Sustainable Silicon Valley‘s (SSV) two-day Sustainability Change Agent Training with Alan AtKisson, November 16th and 17th. It was a packed workshop full of information and interactive exercises. Parts of it fully engaged me and parts of it left me feeling frustrated, so I decided to wait a few weeks before writing about it. I wanted to see which concepts and tips stuck with me.
More than 70 participants from a range of sectors participated. Sustainability directors from large Silicon Valley companies such as Intel, Yahoo! and Palm, sustainability managers working for municipalities, NGOs and consultants gathered to learn about the ISIS Method–a methodology for transformation that integrates indicators, systems, innovation and strategy.
After letting things percolate a few weeks, my favorite three tips to be a more effective sustainability change include:
From a carbon emissions point-of-view, is it better to buy products online or in a store? You probably guessed the former. And if so, you’re right, according to a study conducted by MindClick GSM, a sustainability consulting firm and released today by GigaOM Pro, a subscription based research and analysis service covering green IT (among other topics).
MindClick decided to use the two biggest shopping days of the year—Black Friday and Cyber Monday—as a launching point for their research. The National Retail Federation conducted a survey late last month in which it asked consumers about their anticipated spending over the Thanksgiving weekend. The results showed that, on average, consumers would spend $343 inside stores and $104 through online purchases.
Imagine biking 25 miles to reach the nearest electricity source capable of powering your cell phone. According to UN research published in 2005, only 20% of Africans (excluding South Africa and Egypt) have access to reliable grid electricity, and this number falls to 2% in rural areas. Consider that one more time. Only 2% of rural Africans have access to electric lights to scare the night away.
Couple that with the fact that the developing world is the fastest growing market for cell phones by a long shot. Worldwide, there are more than 2.4 billion cellphone users (2006 data) and 59 percent of these 2.4 billion people live in developing countries. This makes cellphones the first telecommunications technology in history to have more users there than in the developed world.
In countries where mobile technology has leapfrogged infrastructure power for mobile devices can be quite difficult to come by.
So while mobile connectivity represents a major opportunity for quality of life for the base of the pyramid the realities of the electric grid present a substantial stumbling block.
A royal panel (left to right): Royal Prince Haakon of Norway, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark
Up the road from the COP15 Climate Conference and just outside of downtown Copenhagen, 170 exhibitors gathered this weekend for the 2-day Bright Green conference, to demonstrate that climate change is both a dangerous peril and a pathway to profits. Bright Green, a showcase organized by the Confederation of Danish Industry, aims to show that the emission reductions currently being negotiated at COP15 will require a myriad of new industry solutions.
Judging by the turnout, it would appear that industry is more then ready to step up to the challenge and that the 10,000 attendees were not deterred by silent protest messages, such as “our climate is not your business” and “greenwashing,”, etched in chalk on adjacent sidewalks and walls leading to the Copenhagen Forum Center.
Inside the building, a maze of trade show booths greeted the curious and energetic crowd. The eclectic mix of exhibitors included alternative energy companies, consultants, solution providers, product manufacturers and trade delegations from countries such as Canada, Finland, Denmark, France and the United States.
Cisco Systems bills itself as the leader in “networked sustainability,” and organizers, knowing teleconferencing would be an important element at the COP15 events, launched a public tender for sponsors for our videoconferencing. Naturally, Cisco stepped in. Cisco’s Telepresence, the technology used for virtual meetings at COP15, is described on Cisco’s website as high quality audio, with high definition video and interactive features to “deliver an in-person meeting experience.”
“Cisco met our demands in terms of the company’s sustainability strategy, its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and its adherence to the UN Global Contact, so they became the technology provider for the conference,” Olling said.
In recent decades, travel has become cheap, thereby allowing a large portion of the population to go wherever it pleases. While, at first glance, this seems a good thing, it has contributed in many ways to the increasing homogenization of world culture, and an increasing environmental footprint–something that more then 70 world leaders are meeting to discuss at this week’s COP15 meetings.
You’ve probably heard of ecotourism, traveling with a lighter impact and more meaningful experience, but you might be surprised to know that Travelocity, one of the major online travel agencies, has been running its Travel For Good program since 2006.
The program came not from some opportunistic marketing department, but from within the staff of the company, and it is composed of several people who wanted to find ways to make travel more meaningful, and help connect a more mainstream audience with voluntourism opportunities. When Travelocity reached out to its customers, it realized that there was a lot of interest out there as well, but consumers didn’t know where to look.
Like Walmart mainstreaming sustainable consumerism, Travelocity then set about creating Travel For Good.
Gordon Laird’s new book, The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globalization, looks at the global forces that have given rise to cheap goods. In the process, he identifies a series of instabilities that will very likely bring this phase of cheap consumer goods to a close, while also shifting the economic center of the world away from the United States toward China and the Middle East.
Triple Pundit: What is The Price of a Bargain about?
Gordon Laird: At some level, it’s about interdependence. Since the 1970s, globalization has accelerated. It created new value for many people and conjoined national economies in the process, but also created new risk and crisis. Whether we like it or not, our world has been entwined in ways that are still mysterious to us, in ways that link our fortunes with those of Chinese factory workers. And a surprising amount of our prosperity is leveraged on having access to cheap energy, offshore labor, shipping, and consumer credit.
San Francisco: Dec 11 Building Health Forum More than 300 of the world’s preeminent experts and thought leaders pioneering the healthy buildings and healthy communities movement. Register here.
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