Media Company Operates Coffee Houses for Local News Tips

Leon Kaye | Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 2 Comments

I bet most of the stimulating and revealing talks you’ve ever had were in a coffee house, where you were buzzing off of your skinny latte while ingesting not-so-healthy calorie bomb. Coffee houses are ubiquitous and very public, yet often cozy and intimate, allowing for an interview or revealing conversation to stay private thanks to the constantly hissing espresso machine and howls of chairs scraping over laminate floors. Perhaps that is why we should not be surprised at the rise of a “newscafé” chain that gives its journalists a place to cover local news while serving beverages and snacks to anyone needing a midday fix.

PFF Media, a Czech mass media and education company, operates the Naše Adresa (“our address”) chain. The business model is a compelling one: it provides its reporters tracking local news a cost-effective workplace, while sales of coffee and desserts cover rent and other costs. The result? Currently, the firm operates four local newspapers, all working from the local cafés. Forty more are scheduled to open during 2010, giving PFF 89 outlets that will span the Czech Republic. While 60% of the PFF’s profit will come from online and print editions of its newspapers, almost 20% will come from sales at its coffee outlets, and about 10% from events and entertainment. The final 10% will come from its central office, or “Futuroom” in Prague, a state-of-the-art consulting and training facility.  Finally, the company will not just be snaring bloggers in local communities: its plan is to hire young journalists out of college and train them for four months before setting them free to report on emerging news in their communities.

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Rape, Pillage and … Philanthropy: How Siloed CSR Misses the Point

| Wednesday March 24th, 2010 | 4 Comments

The bi-partisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has been studying no less than 22 contributing causes of the financial crisis. At the risk of oversimplifying matters, Jed Emerson of Blended Value Proposition, believes he knows the root cause.  It all boils down to values, Emerson told participants at the Economist’s recent 2010 Corporate Citizenship Conference “Doing Well by Doing Good.”

“We experienced a bifurcation of values,” declared Emerson. “In much of our society, how you live life on Monday through Friday has become different from life on Saturday and Sunday.”

Rape, pillage and … philanthropy
The mentality in much of corporate America has become “rape, pillage and philanthropy,” quipped Emerson. Many executives and companies knowingly tolerate gross inconsistencies between destructive business practices and corporate philanthropy because they artificially disassociate these values.  Putting your philanthropic arm in a silo can salve the conscience of those in the core business units who feel they can act with impunity because their company engages in “do good” endeavors completely detached from its day-to-day activities. That mentality misses the point, Emerson maintained.

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EPA Shaking Up Business In Texas

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 3 Comments
Houston skyline

Houston skyline, photo: University of Texas

By Wendy Lyons Sunshine

A sea change is underway at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and its effects have reached Texas. Under the Obama Administration, scientists are being appointed to top administrative positions and with them comes a renewed appreciation of hard data—a trend that worries the business community in Texas.

Consider the appointment of top EPA administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, a Princeton-trained chemical engineer who is hip enough to twitter. Shortly after stepping into the top EPA role, Jackson rattled industries across the nation by insisting that carbon dioxide endangers human health and thus requires regulation. She’s got ozone standards in her sights, along with gas drilling practices.

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Corporate Oaths: “I’ll Be Good, I Swear”

| Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

Can taking an oath make corporate executives more ethical?  Yes, according to some speakers at the Economist’s recent Corporate Citizenship Conference “Doing Well by Doing Good.”  They hold that responsible citizenship at the corporate level starts with strong personal values.

Stanford University Law School Lecturer Chip Pitts told conference participants, “Society needs individuals who exhibit integrity and consistency in their behavior at their work place and their church, synagogue or non-profit organization.”

“This conversation starts with self,” echoed Jeff Swartz, President and CEO of Timberland. “By blaming CEOs and banks, we miss the opportunity to take personal accountability for our personal actions.”’

Oath of Honor
Economist US Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief Matt Bishop and other panelists pointed hopefully to the small but growing interest in a management oath among the nation’s business schools. In 2005, the Thunderbird School of Global Management adopted a professional Oath of Honor which is taken by students upon graduation.  From the TBird website: “The oath was drafted by the student-run Thunderbird Honor Council after their president Dr. Angel Cabrera (also an Economist conference speaker) challenged the students to be the first business school to establish an oath that would guide them during their business careers.”

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Chevron Sets Up Solar Shop in CA Desert

Leon Kaye | Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 1 Comment

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Carbon Offsets: Giving Credit Where It’s Due

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 3 Comments

By Justin Felt, Product Manager for Offsets, Point Carbon

Carbon offset markets have exploded in the last ten years, from a theoretical concept to a $25 billion-a-year industry. Increasing attention and criticism have also followed this steep rise. While many articles have focused on various aspects of carbon offset credits, few fully explain what an offset is and what’s happening in the market right now.

So let’s get right down to it. First, assuming you are up to speed on the concept of cap-and-trade, carbon offsets in most systems can be used as a form of replacement for carbon permits or “allowances”. The credits come from projects that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These reductions must be additional to what would occur in a business-as-usual scenario. This concept is known as “additionality.”

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5 Reasons for Environmental & Economic Good Cheer

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 5 Comments


By Michael J. Walsh, Executive Vice President for Research,
Chicago Climate Exchange/Chicago Climate Futures Exchange

Policymakers in Washington and in capitals around the world continue to debate how to achieve cleaner energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While challenging issues surrounding costs, international competitiveness, job creation and other tough topics remain, there is also reason to be optimistic. The challenge of balancing real progress in cutting carbon while maintaining a strong economy and developing new solutions is eminently doable.

Here are five reasons to take heart:

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Charities Plan to Raise Salaries, Hire Staff in 2010: Survey

| Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

A majority of non-profit organizations in three parts of the country – New York City, New Jersey and Washington D.C. – expect to hire staff in the year ahead. Most will also raise salaries, or at least keep them steady, according to a trio of surveys by Professionals for Nonprofits, a staffing firm.

According to the surveys of over 1,200 organizations, less than 5 percent expect to cut salaries in 2010, and more than 55 percent expect to raise them. That number rises to 65 percent in D.C.

Optimism about 2010 varies significantly by location however. An astonishing 93 percent of NYC respondents “think the worst is over,” but only 39 percent in New Jersey, and 32 percent in D.C.

Money makers make money

The most sought after employees? Fund raisers. In fact salaries for fund raisers actually rose in 2009, according to the survey. Gayle Brandel, president of Professional for Nonprofits, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy that clients still have a hard time filling those roles, “so they’re willing to pay a little more.”

Still, more than half of all surveyed organizations expecting to hire for non-fund raising positions as well.

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Pollution Costs California Hospitals Millions of Dollars

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 | 14 Comments

Air pollution in Central and Southern California cost area hospitals $193 million from 2005 to 2007, according to a study by Rand Corp. The study documented 29,808 emergency room visits and hospital admissions in the South Coast Air Basin and the San Joaquin Valley for problems related to pollution. Both air basins are the worst in the U.S. Three-quarters of the health problems analyzed stemmed from high levels of fine particulate pollution (PM2.5). The other one-quarter of health problems analyzed stemmed from ozone, the main ingredient in smog. Ozone is created by noxious fumes from automobiles and factories.

The study stated that annual savings from meeting state and federal air standards “would be sufficient to pay for pediatric influenza vaccinations for 85% of California’s under-15 population.” Medicare spent $103,600,000 on air pollution–related hospital care during 2005–2007, according to the study.  Medicaid, Medi-Cal in California, spent $27,292,199, while private health insurers spent about $55,879,780. If state clean air standards had been met, hospital spending would have been $204 million less. Spending on hospital admissions would have decreased by $27,000,000 million if federal clean air standards had been met.

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Follow the CSR Leaders

| Monday March 22nd, 2010 | 2 Comments

During the Economist’s Corporate Citizenship Conference earlier this week, I heard nearly three dozen global leaders discuss the challenges, successes and failures of corporate citizenship.  From their comments, I gleaned a collection of best practices for developing corporate citizenship programs that generate tangible results.  Here’s what these leaders recommend.

Collaborate with competitors. It’s not easy going eyeball-to-eyeball with gargantuan competitors such as Nike or Adidas, but Timberland sat down with other brands, tanners and suppliers in the Leather Working Group to develop an environmental audit protocol for leather tanners and suppliers.  With this industry standard in place, shoe manufacturers can now require that their vendors adhere to certain environmental standards, according to Jeffrey Swartz, President and Chief Executive Officer of Timberland. That’s a powerful tool Timberland and other shoe manufacturers can use to drive environmental responsibility down the supply chain.

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Light Goes Out on Toshiba’s 120 Year Old Incandescant Bulb Production Line

| Monday March 22nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

Toshiba, one of Japan’s largest makers of lighting products, announced that it had permanently ended production Wednesday of incandescent light bulbs, a year ahead of schedule.

Manufacturers worldwide have begun phasing out production of incandescents in favor of compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, which are more energy efficient and last longer. Several nations and the EU have plans to ban the sale of incandescents in the next few years. In the US, a phased ban on the sale of 100 watt incandescents begins in 2012.

Toshiba had been making incandescents since 1890, when a company that would eventually become part of Toshiba began production at 10 bulbs a day. Production peaked in 1978 at 80 million (see chart here).

Not out of the woods yet

Before we cheer the “inevitability” of CFL ascendancy over incandescents, however, it should be pointed out that in the US sales of CFLs peaked in 2007 and have not yet recovered.

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Green Advertisers, Government Warned on Environmental Claims

| Monday March 22nd, 2010 | 2 Comments

In response to a proliferation of “green” or “environmentally friendly” claims in advertising, the British Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) this week updated their codes of conduct for advertisers seeking to hawk their products as kind to the planet.

But one of the most prominent recent accusations of exaggerated environmental claims involves not a private company but the British government. The controversial Act on CO2 campaign, which warns Brits on the dangers of global warming had, until this week, included two rewrites of classic nursery rhymes with a climate change theme:

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none, as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.”

And

“Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub, a necessary course of action due to flash flooding caused by climate change.”

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Do CEOs Really Owe Shareholders a Rising Stock Price?

| Monday March 22nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

The Great “but” in any discussion of short term profitability versus corporate responsibility, whether to the public or to the company’s own future, is “but CEOs owe it to the shareholders to increase stock price.”

This seemingly iron-clad obligation is arguably the source of much of the financial turmoil of the last couple years, with CEOs at banks and elsewhere so focused on increasing shareholder value (and thus their own bonuses) that they stopped paying attention to the long- or even medium-term health of the company, not to mention its obligation to society at large.

An obviously false assumption

Dean Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto writes in the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review that this belief is based on a false assumption. While the CEO does owe the initial purchasers of stock in a stock offering a return on their investment, they should not feel obligated to increase returns based on a higher stock price.

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New Fertilizer Breakthrough Brings Hope to the Hungry

RP Siegel | Monday March 22nd, 2010 | 2 Comments

One hundred years after the discovery of a workable process for synthesizing nitrogen fertilizer was discovered by the German chemist Fritz Haber (winning him the 1918 Nobel Prize), a new breakthrough that allows dissemination of fertilizer at half the cost is sweeping through Bangladesh and other developing countries, bringing hope in the face of severe food shortages, reports the New York Times.

Chemical fertilizer was one of the prime movers, along with high-yield varieties of grain, behind the Green Revolution, a mid-twentieth century movement aimed at eradicating world hunger. The new grain varieties were mostly the work of American plant breeder Norman Borlaug who won the Nobel Prize in 1970.  The movement had great success though it never fulfilled its promise for a variety of reasons, including administrative corruption in targeted countries and the increasingly high cost of fertilizer, which requires a great deal of fossil fuel to produce. Given this rising cost, as well as spot shortages, and the growing population and widespread drought in many areas, food shortages around the world have truly begun to reach crisis proportions.

The breakthrough, which is called urea deep placement, is more of a new delivery mechanism than a new formulation. The nitrogen, in the form of urea, is compacted into briquettes which are placed several inches below the soil surface rather than the traditional granules that were designed to be sprinkled on the ground. This allows it to release the nitrogen more gradually and effectively and also to resist the heavy rains, common in these areas which often wash away the granular fertilizers before they are fully released. As a result, “farmers are using nearly 40 percent less urea, and yet they are producing nearly 20 percent more rice,” says Amit Roy, the president of the International Fertilizer Development Center, a nonprofit research group that helped develop the technology.

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When Commodities Traders See Tomato Pickers in Action

3p Contributor | Monday March 22nd, 2010 | 0 Comments


This post is part of a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management Company, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read the earlier posts, click here.

By: Vera Chang, Bon Appétit Management Company West Coast Fellow

“We’re all going to lose our jobs if you don’t pick faster!” the foreman, in a plaid shirt and red trucker hat, shouts from the side of the field. He stands atop the produce truck bumper and hovers above a dozen or so farm workers. His body creates a shadow of shade in the strong afternoon sun. The workers are bent over, picking tomatoes, some of them so close to the ground they are practically kissing it. The farm workers pick quickly, their movements rapid and repetitive. These workers are truly like machines in the fields. I am standing next to the foreman, so I know that even though the workers do not respond to the yelling, his voice cuts through the air directly to the workers’ ears. Once each farm worker picks a certain quota of tomatoes, the foreman calls him or her over, one at a time for a water break. More shouts come from people standing around the foreman: “There’s a surplus of workers waiting in the parking lot ready to work!” “We can call I.C.E. [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] anytime!” The workers are told they are disposable, like the plastic cup they share. I have been buying tomatoes my whole life, but the fields are like nothing I have imagined. I am uncomfortable with the yelling and the work conditions, but I just stand there, shaken by a dose of reality.

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