By Kirk Hourdajian, Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships Program, Environmental Defense Fund
In a post I wrote on EDF’s Innovation Exchange blog last week, I identified some of the challenges and opportunities we are addressing in our work with private equity firms that are working to adopt sound environmental management strategies across their portfolios.
In order to address these challenges while creating lasting environmental change in the private equity (PE) sector, we are pursuing a three-pronged outreach strategy, consisting of:
1. Targeted outreach: Reaching out directly to leading PE firms to demonstrate the business and reputational value of environmental management and to provide tools and resources for implementing environmental management programs.
2. Capacity building: Exploring innovative ways to engage PE sector service providers (including management consultants, accounting firms and software developers) to build the infrastructure needed for widespread adoption and implementation of environmental management as an industry best practice.
3. Community engagement: Building excitement and engagement within the broader PE community (e.g., Limited Partners, trade associations, academia, media) to promote environmental management as a strategy for improving operations and building value.
This is the this is the fourth post in a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read past posts, click here.
By Carolina Fojo
Part I: Cow Poop
Last week, while on the road gathering data on sustainable agriculture and labor practices, I was having a chat with a Minnesotan grass-fed beef farmer about water contamination. As he extolled the virtues of pasture-raised cattle, I asked him if grass fed cows’ poop getting into water is really any better than CAFO cow poop getting into water: “I mean, poop is poop, right?” He paused, and then coolly replied, “Well actually, poop is not poop.” (He then went on to explain about how the health of the cows impacts the “health” of the cow poop which in turn impacts the health of the waterway being contaminated…)
A few weeks ago, Walmart Stores, Inc. presented its growth plans for the fiscal year ending January 31, 2010 at its annual conference for the investment community. The company plans to add about 38 million square feet globally compared to the 44 million square feet it added the prior year. Walmart plans to increase global square footage by about 37 million square feet in fiscal year 2011. Future stores will be eight percent smaller, and cost 16 percent less to build.
In the U.S., Walmart will “continue to focus on further improving the returns of its supercenter format” through remodeling existing stores and accelerating the growth of new stores. This year, Walmart expects to add 15 new Sam’s Club stores, and between five and ten new Sam’s Club stores in fiscal year 2011.
Walmart International plans “aggressive investment… in growth markets such as China and Brazil.” The world’s largest retailer expects to add about 23 million square feet in fiscal year 2010 in its international stores, and about 25 million square feet in fiscal year 2011. Acquisitions are not included.
Speaking of patents: Chinese banks are underwriting a US$1.5 billion dollar wind farm in West Texas, built using…you guessed it…turbines made in China. You won’t believe the cost analysis. See “Chinese” Wind Farm in Texas: Green Jobs FAIL? for details. Business significance: U5/C5
Toothbrush Terrain. Image credit: krossbow on Flickr.
Look at your toothbrush. It’s likely made of some form of plastic, rubber, and inventive design engineering, packed into a small space. After your initial decision process, where color, teeth cleaning wizardry, and perhaps recycled content and recyclability came into play, you don’t really notice it that much anymore. It’s become part of the background.
Now being the start of another round of winter colds, one of the preventative practices being to throw away your toothbrush and get a new one. Hang on, you know I can’t let that be how it goes!
With unprecedented legislation, forward-thinking design and standards, and many active supporters, one might say that California is a leader in the green building charge. Friday’s 3rd Annual Green Building Super Heroes Award Gala, hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council – Northern California Chapter (USGBC-NCC), honored the achievements of the green building community. Eight hundred people gathered for the event, including an illustrious cast of politicians including Nancy Pelosi, and green building all-stars like Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of the USGBC.
This year’s awards gala was held in the LEED Platinum certified California Academy of Sciences (my most favoritest building ever, and a shining example of California leading the charge). The Academy is the world’s largest public Platinum-rated building, and also the world’s greenest museum. It boasts 1.7 million native plants planted on the 2.5 acre living roof. Not too shockingly, it took 10 years and $500 million to develop.
Bike-sharing programs are gaining momentum throughout Europe and even in car-loving US cities, but vandals and thieves are doing a bang-up job of chipping away at that momentum, and adding cost to the programs—especially Paris’ Velib scheme, as we’ve reported in the past.
But a recent New York Times article explores the problem with bike-sharing vandalism in Paris from another angle, saying that “resentful, angry or anarchic youth” are destroying the bikes because the bikes are “seen as an accoutrement of the ‘bobos,’ or ‘bourgeois-bohèmes,’ the trendy urban middle class,” and, as such, they “stir resentment and covetousness.”
Or at least, these are the findings of police and sociologists who are studying the trend. While some bikes are stolen and shipped abroad for profit, a great number of them are simply trashed—tossed in creek beds or dismembered and left on curbs.
It’s been five years since the publication of “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits,” the seminal work by C.K. Prahalad, a professor of corporate strategy at the Ross School of Business of the University of Michigan.
The book combined a pragmatic framework with inspirational case studies to show companies how they could develop innovative business models and find new profits by serving the world’s five billion poorest people at the bottom of the economic pyramid (or BOP).
I recently spoke with Professor Prahalad to discuss what these companies have learned as they’ve built profitable businesses in emerging markets while reducing poverty in the process. Excerpts from this discussion follow:
* * *
Triple Pundit: What are the big lessons learned over the past five years since the book was first published?
C.K. Prahalad: First, the thesis of the book that the private sector is an integral part of the poverty alleviation process is well accepted by multilaterals, aid agencies, many NGOs and large private sector firms as well. Second there is now a growing belief that the bottom of the pyramid provides an opportunity for business to “do good and do well.” Third, we recognize that the BOP is more than micro-consumers. It also represents micro producers and micro investors who can be connected to national and global markets. And the BOP can also be the source of major innovations that affect us all. These ideas were in the original book but have been confirmed and amplified.
Move over Willy Wonka, a different type of chocolate will soon be coming to a store near you.
Kraft Foods recently announced it is launching a type of chocolate derived from sustainable cocoa farming. The premium dark chocolate, Cote d’Or, contains cocoa from farms that meets Rainforest Alliance Certified standards. Cote d’Or chocolate will first launch in France and Belgium. The sweet treat will then roll out in Germany, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Netherlands, Canada, UK and the US. The special seal will be added to Kraft’s Marabou chocolate brand in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. And finally, the sustainable chocolate will be available in Switzerland and Austria under Kraft’s Suchard brand.
The U.S. Chamber’s lobbying efforts against climate change legislation has sparked highly public defections by Nike and Apple. What is bubbling below the surface could be more telling as local businesses and associations explore sustainability’s potential as a catalyst for economic growth.
One such example is the 100-member Sustainable Business Alliance (SBA) of Berkeley, California and its Executive Director Mark McLeod. From my chamber and association experiences, including serving as the founding president of the Decatur (Georgia) Business Association that now has 400 members with a strong track record of economic and community accomplishments, I would describe McLeod as the prototype of the association/chamber leader who leads through outreach, engagement, consensus and innovation. This is his perspective on sustainability:
Earlier this year, leading telecommunications companies, including Apple, Motorola and Samsung, made a commitment to start making cell phones that can be charged using a universal charger.
In Europe, that change seems to be on the fast-track now that several of these manufacturers have agreed that, beginning in 2010, all their devices sold there will use the micro USB connector, which is already the standard on handsets such as the BlackBerry.
What’s more, last month the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) gave their okay to the plan, explaining that the new universal cell phone charger will:
• Eliminate 51,000 tons of redundant chargers, and so reduce 13.6 million tons in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year. • Reduce standby energy consumption by 50 percent. • Allow users worldwide to power up their cell phones anywhere, from any available charger.
Don’t own a car, but want to get out to one of the Bay Area’s hundreds of parks and trails? Or perhaps, you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint and wondering how to get to your favorite hike without using your car?
Transit and Trails is a new resource for outdoor enthusiasts who want to leave their cars behind and easily get information on how to take the bus (or ferry) to reach Bay Area hiking trails and campgrounds.
A project of the Bay Area Open Space Council (BAOSC), the new interactive website identifies hundreds of trailheads and 150 campgrounds to explore across the Bay Area’s 1.2 million acres of preserved lands. Just enter your starting location, and roughly how far you want to venture, and the site suggests possible hikes and featured trips. Once you decide where you want to go, it connects with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s 511 Transit Trip Planner to provide a detailed trip itinerary, complete with a map, transit times, fares and walking directions to and from the transit stop.
It’s a Consumer Reports or CNET type of comparison shopping service for the eco-conscious crowd.
Eco-rate is the brainchild and a labor of environmental love and activism founded by a Seattle couple, Brycelaine Self and Colby Self.
“The Eco-rate idea is to allow people to compare common household products, based not only on their green attributes, but also on their affordability,” says Brycelaine Self, co-founder of Eco-rate and principal of a related green building, green marketing and energy consulting company, Eco-innovations.
Launched in mid-May, they spent more than two years designing and developing the Web-based product and technology rating and comparison resource for shoppers looking to make ecologically-intelligent choices on just about any product out there, from autos to dishwashers to TVs to paint to water heaters.
How do you effectively shift consumer behavior with minimal cost to you as a business and minimum effort required of consumers? EcoUnit is one company attempting to answer that question.
When we last wrote about them in June, they were testing out ways to reward customers for bringing in their own bags. This earns them EcoUnits, redeemable for anything from store discounts to donations to local eco non profits of choice. As mentioned, the pilot store program was a huge success, a 77 percent increase in reusable bag use in the first two months after launch.
To gain an overall picture of the solar power industry today imagine David and Goliath, with valiant David representing solar, and Goliath the big, bad fossil fuels.
Then imagine David’s sling shot is subsidized by the federal government.
At Solar Power International, the solar trade show that ran wrapped up yesterday in Anaheim, CA, the tone set by Solar Energy Industry Association CEO Rhone Resch, and echoed by keynote speaker Robert Kennedy Jr., was one of defiant confrontation with fossil fuels and their lobbyist axis of evil in DC.
Their plan: fight fire with fire. The solar industry needs to band together and hire an army of lobbyists to demand more money and favors from federal and state governments — or just a level playing field with fossil fuels, depending on how you look at it.
It’s Just Un-American!
But out in the trenches, where solar companies large and small are trying to make a go of it, the tone was much more conciliatory, even plaintive.
Greenwich: Oct 23 – Oct 26 Social Venture Network 2014 Connect with like-minded business leaders at an SVN conference, Social Venture Institute or workshop. Get recharged, supported and inspired! Register here.
Los Angeles: Oct 28 – Oct 31 Sustainatopia Consisting of 5 Conferences and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability like no other single event. Register here.
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.
Minneapolis: Nov 6 – Nov 8 Net Impact 2014 We're ready to break boundaries—leaving limits behind, forging unexpected alliances, and exploring creative solutions—to transform the world. Register here.
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