eBay Aquisition: Has World of Good Sold Out?

RP Siegel | Monday March 8th, 2010 | 8 Comments

World of Good Inc., a company that has made a business of connecting artisans in developing countries with mainstream consumer markets, announced last week that eBay has fully acquired its brand and related assets. The company also announced that GreaterGood, a division of Charity USA has acquired its wholesale division and line of designer Fair Trade products. Existing relationships with retailers and artisan partners will be maintained. The terms of the transactions were not disclosed, but given eBay’s track record of significant acquisitions, we know that this is a company that believes in the adage, “you have to spend money to make money.”

We spoke with World of Good CEO Priya Haji, to understand the logic behind the sale and to ask her, “Has World of Good sold out?”

Triple Pundit: So what was the question you were trying to answer that ultimately led you to become a part of eBay?

Priya Haji: We started World of Good almost six years ago with the goal of opening much larger mainstream markets for small producers doing fair trade and sustainable products.

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In Seattle, Property Owners Competing to be Biggest Loser in “Kilowatt Crackdown”

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday March 8th, 2010 | 0 Comments

In Seattle, a nearly 100-year-old real estate trade association is using an age-old approach to encouraging energy conservation. It’s fostering competition.

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Seattle and King County is conducting its second annual Kilowatt Crackdown, a contest that encourages real estate developers across the Puget Sound region to reduce the amount of energy their properties consume.  The building with the biggest drop in energy consumption wins.

BOMA’s president Rodney Kauffman told The Seattle Times that in the contest’s inaugural year, the 53 buildings that competed saved “enough energy to power 1,000 homes for one year” (the Kilowatt Crackdown site breaks that down a bit more, explaining that the savings is equal to the electric consumption of 1,000 homes in the Northwest, which has very low electric rates, but it’s still a significant amount of conservation).

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Betting on RecycleBank: The Next Big Thing?

| Monday March 8th, 2010 | 4 Comments

In the CleanTech space, solar may be hot, the future of the smart grid may be bright, but Ron Gonen, CEO of RecycleBank, is proving that recycling can be sexy too.

At its ECO:nomics conference, the Wall Street Journal announced its first ranking of the Top 10 venture-backed, clean technology companies. The survey “seeks to identify green companies that have the capital, executive experience and investor know-how to succeed in an increasingly crowded field.” CEOs from three of the ten firms—John Baumstark of Suniva, Cree Edwards of eMeter, and RecycleBank’s Gonen—were on hand at the conference for an elevator pitch competition titled “Uncovering the Next Big Thing.” After the pitches and follow-up questions, the audience voted on who they would fund with a hypothetical million dollars. RecycleBank won the three-way race with nearly half of the votes.

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Soda Tax Ideas Grow Among Local Governments

Tori Okner | Monday March 8th, 2010 | 10 Comments

The notion of a soda tax has taken on new importance over the last few weeks as local governments increasingly consider the proposition–the term is loosely used to encompass any tax on sweetened beverages, both to be paid by the consumer and the producer. This week, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter put forth his 2011 budget proposal, including a 2 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. Last week, Colorado Governor Ritter signed a series of tax bills in an effort to keep the budget balanced and, in the process, implemented a similar tax. Two weeks ago, California Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez introduced a bill to tax sugary drinks. In New York, 2010 marks the second year that Governor Paterson has proposed taxing sugary beverages, and similar proposals are gaining traction across the country.

The possibility of a soda tax grabbed headlines at Triple Pundit and with mainstream media last September when President Obama deemed it worth consideration in an interview with Men’s Health. At the time, no such tax had been proposed in Congress. Earlier in the year, the Senate Finance Committee included it in a paper on funding options for health care reform. Yet, despite several reputable reports in support of the tax, published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, researches at UCLA, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Committee did not suggest a National Soda Tax in its 2009 Health Reform Proposal. Reaction to the omission by the Committee lead to prescient stipulation that state government would adopt soda tax before the federal government.

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A Day of Energy at ECO:nomics

| Friday March 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Allan Murray, Deputy Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal, suggests that the Journal started its ECO:nomics conference several years ago largely because of the near certainty of federal carbon legislation. At the third annual ECO:nomics conference this week, prospects for such legislation (e.g., a price on carbon) are murkier. This uncertainty was one of the key themes running through a suite of energy-focused sessions on the conference’s main day. The sessions covered a wide spectrum of the energy sector, from fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) to renewables (solar and wind); from established electric utilities to young ventures with potentially revolutionary technologies.

Credit: inhabitat.com

For the most part, the traditional energy executives carefully advocated for their place in a diversified energy portfolio and avoided aggressive, competitive comparison to each other. Though it may not have been universally accepted, the prevailing notion that ALL of these energy sources (nuclear included) are necessary in the near future went largely unchallenged. Further reinforcing the coalition-like atmosphere was the general preference, among those who were asked about it, for a national clean energy standard that includes nuclear and clean coal rather than a narrower renewable energy standard. The audience, able to weigh in on several questions via voting devices, tended towards a similar mindset, answering the questions “Can coal be clean?” and “Should America build significantly more nuclear power plants?” in the affirmative 56% to 44% and 66% to 34% respectively. In fact, the only truly feisty debate of the day was between thinkers Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute over the low cost potential of renewables and whether energy efficiency reduces or increases consumption (Jevon’s paradox).

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How To Make Your Business More Sustainable: Put it on Wheels!

| Friday March 5th, 2010 | 3 Comments

ban-startup-friday

For most people without a washer and dryer, there are three choices: carry your dirty stuff to the local laundromat, drive if it’s too much to carry, or pay someone to pickup and deliver it. For all of these, there are both a business and an environmental opportunity: Bikes.

Yes, as mentioned recently in Springwise, Argentina based Laundry Company has taken advantage of the increasing ability of bikes to carry larger loads, and is now offering a service that picks your laundry up and drops it off, all via a 3 wheel cargo bike (or old fashioned foot power) at no extra charge.

It’s not just a gimmick. Laundry Company provides a reusable fabric based laundry bag and its machines and detergent are designed to be lower impact, an energy savings of 40 percent. The company also neutralizes it carbon footprint via tree planting.

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Hello Rewind Project Gives New Life to Old T-Shirts and Sex Trafficking Survivors

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Friday March 5th, 2010 | 3 Comments

ban-startup-friday
Let’s face it.  Chances are pretty good you have an old t-shirt in your dresser that has seen better days, but for whatever reason, you just can’t seem to let it go.   Whether it has sentimental value or is a one-of-a-kind vintage tee, if you can’t part with that shirt, a new company, that is combining recycling with a mission, can put it to use.

While staring at a pile of old t-shirts in her Manhattan apartment and with no room to spare, Jess Lin wanted to make “something usable” out of all those shirts.  After developing a concept, Lin founded the Hello Rewind Project.  Hello Rewind upcycles old t-shirts into a one-of-a-kind usable product while providing help and assistance to sex trafficking survivors in New York City.

Many people may be surprised to learn that sex trafficking occurs in the United States.   In fact, this form of modern-day slavery has been reported in all 50 states. In 2004, the United States Department of Justice estimated that up to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States annually. While most of the victims are women, men and children are also victims.

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LL Bean Meets PACT: Tom’s of Maine Founds New Company for Wool Skivvies

| Friday March 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-friday

Like LL Bean? Everyone knows how great its clothes are. Sure, they’re not known for being terribly stylish — but there’s something comforting about that Northeastern, down-homey functionality and durability. Just the right thing for a weekend working on the farm, taking a hike, or clearing brush.

Or what about PACT?  Recently profiled by MC O’Connor in another Startup Friday post, PACT’s gained many fans with its offbeat, half sexy, half cheeky approach to sustainably sourced underwear. It’s the kind of thing for sustainability geeks to wear when trying to be cool and sustainable at the same time.

But PACT doesn’t exactly communicate burly robustness, and you’ll be hard pressed to find many sustainable items at the LL Bean online store. Enter Ramblers Way Farm, a new apparel venture from the founders of Tom’s of Maine, Tom and Kate Chappell. Specializing in all types of base-layer clothing, Ramblers makes their products out of sustainably-produced wool, which is farmed and processed domestically, rather than relying on overseas facilities.

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SEC Climate Change Guidelines Lead to New Shareholder Resolutions

3p Contributor | Friday March 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Dale Wannen

If recent talk about climate change hasn’t already rattled every CEO’s corporate cage, then yesterday’s news regarding shareholder resolutions should do the trick.  It was announced during a phone-based news conference today that investors filed a record 95 climate change resolutions against companies ranging from coal mining to big box retailers.  That’s a 40 percent increase over last year.

This is mostly due to the SEC’s recent guidance talk on climate change disclosure.  As the SEC starts to keep a closer eye on these behemoth companies and their long-term impact on the environment, investors are clawing at an opportunity to voice themselves and have the SEC standing co-pilot. 

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Reputation as Growth Driver: Disney and “Generation Green”

| Friday March 5th, 2010 | 2 Comments

With kids as one of its core demographics, The Walt Disney Company is obviously quite interested in what kids care about. Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference, Disney President and CEO Robert Iger discussed how kids as young as five are becoming increasingly concerned about environmental issues. It doesn’t stop with this “generation green.” Disney, like many other companies, has heard similar concerns from other customer groups, shareholders, and employees (current and potential). According to Iger, addressing the company’s environmental impacts is not only the right thing to do morally but the right thing to do for shareholder value. The business case boils down to brand value, based on the assertion that reputation can drive long-term growth.

But are customers willing to pay more for green products and services? The audience of mostly corporate execs pressed Iger on this several times. I am not aware of any studies that could convincingly challenge the consensus of doubt in the room on this question. However, while acknowledging that many customers shop for value (especially in a recession), Iger challenged the notion that everything that is better for the environment must also cost more. He suggested one way to lower costs on environmentally preferable products is to aggregate buying power, something Disney is beginning to pursue as a member of the Sustainability Consortium with Walmart.

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Web 2.0 and the River of Sustainability Information: Is More Better?

3p Contributor | Friday March 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Ryan Whisnant

Last week I attended a panel hosted by the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan: “Green Tech: How the Web and Information Technology are Empowering Sustainability.” The panel featured Nick Aster, founder of TriplePundit.com, Nigel Melville, assistant professor of Business Information Technology at the Ross School of Business (who hosts a blog on IT and sustainability), and Karl Rosaen, a former member of the Google Android team who is currently working on realtimefarms.com , which aims to empower local farmers and raise awareness of the availability of fresh local produce.

The core question that emerged from the panel was whether new information technologies empower sustainability and, if so, how. Web 2.0 and social media technologies including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and online video are clearly increasing the volume and sharing of information, but does this translate to more sustainable practices, either by companies or by individuals? One dynamic that has clearly shifted is the quest for authenticity. While business transactions in the not so distant past required establishing real human relationships, only recently have “layers of firewalls and PR departments” created a buffer for this direct human transaction with business. Ironically, it’s technology that is bringing back a sense of authenticity. Whether information sharing and human transaction are really the same thing is questionable, but there’s no denying that web 2.0 has created a system of checks and balances that helps hold companies more accountable in a public forum – companies just can’t fake it any more.

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Greening with Microloans: How Small Loans Help Truckers Comply With New EPA Regulations

3p Contributor | Friday March 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Eric Weaver, CEO, Opportunity Fund

Last month, Opportunity Fund helped truckers beat a February deadline to retrofit their truck engines as new EPA emissions standards in California went into effect. Truckers told Opportunity Fund that without loans to cover the retrofitting costs, they would have had to give up trucking or move their business to another state. We’ve made 30 loans to truckers so far. The price tag to clean up their engines amounts to $12,000 – $19,000, well beyond the capacity many of the truckers have to pay with their $30,000-$40,000 annual incomes. In order to help, Opportunity Fund put $1 million in financing on the table to enable truckers to comply with the new regulations by retrofitting their trucks’ engines.

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Waste Management Leads with Green at Investor Meeting

| Thursday March 4th, 2010 | 14 Comments
Reuters Recyclery, Florida

WM Single Stream Recycling Facility

At today’s Waste Management Investor Summit, a 200 slide 4 hour presentation about all aspects of the business, I was in the minority.  There were very few other women in the room, and I was the only representative of the media.  Nearly every non-WM attendee was analyst or banker.  And judging by their questions at the end of the report, none of them cared about green.  So I was rare in that sense too.  Given that setting, I was impressed by WM’s bold prioritization of sustainability.  The tagline on every slide is “Think Green.” They are eagerly repositioning themselves as an environmental services provider rather than waste collector, and backing up that change with investments. Barry Caldwell, SVP of Public Affairs and Communications, candidly noted that WM used to make a wonderful profit hauling waste to the landfill and doing no more.  And this shift to diversion is driven in large part by consumer demand for better solutions.  And WM is still making money, so they must be doing something right.  In addition to customers caring, WM is dedicated to green because they care (or at least a majority of the executive team must), and they see green as a growing trend which has already gained them trust and favor according to their brand research.

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Corporate-NGO Partnerships: A Conversation With EDF’s Gwen Ruta

| Thursday March 4th, 2010 | 2 Comments

It is a testament to how far the sustainable business conversation has come that new partnerships between large corporations and environmental NGOs are meeting with less and less surprise and skepticism from both the business and environmental camps. Certainly, some actions are still capable of raising eyebrows, such as the Environmental Defense Fund opening an office in Bentonville, Arkansas to work with Wal-Mart. However, the positive impacts of such partnerships on both the economic and environmental bottom lines are increasingly well documented. This is not to say that any given corporation today would immediately recognize the value in or be comfortable partnering with an NGO, but preconceived notions are giving way to a new sense of possibility and we may be nearing a tipping point.

Gwen Ruta, Vice President of Corporate Partnerships at EDF, is co-facilitating a working group session on “Working with NGOs” at this week’s ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara. She is interested in gauging the mindset of business executives given the state of the economy and the recent Copenhagen climate summit. In this context, Ruta seeks to continue increasing the visibility and familiarity of EDF to corporate leaders and to broaden EDF’s influence in the private sector.

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Easy Green Choice: Better World Books “Eco-Shipping” Makes Company Price Competitive With Amazon

Scott Cooney | Thursday March 4th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Recently, I posted a series of articles on green business books.  I’m an author.  I know the field reasonably well, though I’m no expert in the publishing industry.  Blogging is a terrific outlet for book sales, as I’ve found that by giving away a sample of my writing on Triple Pundit, and letting people decide if they want to read more, they can purchase my book online.  For the last two years, I’ve been merrily blogging away (both for 3p and other green business blogs–yes there are others!), leaving a link at the bottom of each post to my book’s page on BetterWorldBooks.com.  Better World Books is the clear green choice, and as a green author, I want to support them.

By not linking to my book’s Amazon page, however, I had two internal struggles.  One struggle is a reputation thing.  Middle America knows Amazon.  More on that shortly.  But the second is that my book costs more on BWB.  Or at least, I had always assumed it did.  Turns out, BWB’s “eco-shipping,” which is free and eco-friendly, makes BWB price-competitive with Amazon!  So why don’t people know that?

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