A Human Right to Water and the Corporate Community

David Lewbin
| Monday December 14th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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At this year’s Corporate Water FootPrinting Conference, held in San Francisco December 2-3, the ongoing conversation about the human right to water received front and center billing. This spotlight was in stark contrast to last year’s event, where the subject was largely absent from the agenda and discussion. At that conference, the “water as a public right” NGO community was not on the guest list or in attendance. They were outraged by the notion and appearance that corporations were meeting privately behind closed doors, devising strategies for divvying up the world’s water resources.

In response, the NGO’s organized teach-ins, street protests and leveraged media coverage, the results of which cast a less than positive light on last year’s conference with respect to inclusiveness and transparency. This year, the conference organizers and sponsors, all the wiser from last year’s lack of stakeholder engagement faux pas, invited two H2O NGO’s, represented by Food and Water Watch and the As You Sow Foundation, to the proverbial watering hole.

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If You’re Feeling the COP15 Burnout, This Is the Satire for You

| Sunday December 13th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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COP15 Activists at Work

COP15 Activists at Work

Don’t get me wrong, I am watching as eagerly as the rest of you. I’m thrilled that COP15 has garnered as much media attention as it has. It’s amazing. I don’t think that the consciousness of the world has ever been so fixated on a single environmental issue in my lifetime. It’s everything that I could hope for. But, I’ve been known to skim and article or two.

Who can blame me? There’s a ton of coverage, and not really much happening. David Roberts over at Grist put it best when discussing the non issue of the leaked Danish text:

Consider: Copenhagen maxed out on journalist registrations, at 5,000. (Supposedly there were more than 10,000 waiting in line after that.) The place is choked with journalists, not to mention folks from think tanks and NGOs who are supposed to be blogging. There are thousands of people crammed in a small area, all under instructions to update frequently with fresh news, all exhausted and stressed out, all hungry for something to write about.

On the flip side, virtually nothing of significance to an international agreement will be decided before the final days, perhaps the final hours, of the talks.

What are all those journalists going to write about?…. Most of all, they’ll report the hell out of it every time any representative of any government says anything about anything. Every bit of pre-positioning gossip and bluster will be blown up to billboard size. There is, in short, immense incentive to exaggerate the significance of every piece of “news.”

If you’re feeling the burn, this 2 minute bit of satire from NPR will be music to your ears.

[Image Credit]

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Noise Pollution Etiquette (or Reflect and Respect!)

CCA LiveE | Saturday December 12th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Noise Pollution

Waiting for the A train at the 34th Street subway a few months ago in New York City, I was assaulted by the amount of noise on the platform. Chirps, blips, clicks, squawks and music encircled me like ten thousand migrating geese.

I was unintentionally invited into: The very private argument of a young woman and her boyfriend, the squawking swap between two Nextel Direct Connect users, an ear-shattering concert through an iPhone speaker and the assault of a thumping ring tone from a teenager.

The technology landscape has changed the way we communicate with one another but what’s missing is the etiquette manual. With the enthusiastic embracing of new devices, people have lost awareness of the impact that their conversations have on those around them. Physical walls have vanished along with the technological umbilical cords that connected us to the outside world. Welcome to the new world of the personal “mobile home” office, one without boundaries or rules for airing your personal laundry for public consumption.

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Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace

Tori Okner | Saturday December 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

16585The Wallace Center, a program at Winrock International, has just released a compelling report on the business of local food.

Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in A Global Marketplace is a global survey on the economic, social, and environmental impact of local food.

Using the B Corporation Ratings System, the report analyzes a diverse selection of 24 food businesses. The assessment offers a rare piece of good news. In contrast to the common assumption that local food is a small, struggling, and poorly run movement by and for the rich, it concludes that the industry is maturing into a “centerpiece” of development.
The research initiative began with a mailing sent to over 10,000 people requesting nominations for exemplary local food businesses. The authors’ chose a diverse group. Half of the companies are located within the United States, half abroad. No two American businesses are within the same state, no two foreign companies from the same country. Together, the selected “community food enterprises” (CFE) represent the corporate and non-profit sectors, public-private partnerships, and cooperatives. They operate in various niches of the food system: in production, distribution, training. value-added, and the restaurant industry Their contributions to local economies, social enterprise, and food security is magnificent.

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“Leaked Text” Shows Movement in Climate Talks – Heavy Lifting Remains

| Friday December 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Copenhagen - the whole world is watchingThe talk in the halls of the Bella Center this afternoon revolved around the so-called “leaked text” of  papers presented in plenary sessions by the chairs of both working groups (AWG-KP and AWG-LCA) that broadly outline the current “state of play” in COP15 negotiations, as UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer characterized it at today’s press briefing.

The specific text of the document was, at last check, still not “cleared for the press,” but the “word on the street” is for a 50 percent cut in global emissions by 2050 (no surprise there), and an aggregate emissions reduction of 25 percent from developed countries by 2020 (all targets referenced to 1990 levels). The 2020 mid-term target implies steeper cuts from developed nations than what has thus far been offered. (Update: draft texts are now available for the AWG-LCA andAWG-KP)

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News Brief: Is “Legally Binding” Back on the Table?

| Friday December 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

COP15 - the whole world is watchingI am just now at a daily press briefing by Climate Action Network International at the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen. Tove Ryding of Greenpeace has suggested that, in large part due to the actions this week of small island nations, especially Tuvalu, and other of the more vulnerable states that have demanded action aggressive action from the international community in the coming days in Copenhagen, that “legally binding” is now back on the table.

In a few minutes there will be the daily briefing from Yvo de Boer. It will be interesting to see what the official word from the UNFCCC will be.

Ministers begin arriving tomorrow for informal talks, and heads of state on Wednesday.

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“Cost Less, Mean More”: A $10 Trillion Product Revolution

Bill Roth | Friday December 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Recycle graphicAn Australian expression I love and use constantly is “No worries!” That phrase captures the essence of an entrepreneur’s faith. And it captures my faith that it will be our entrepreneurs, rather than government, that lead the way in figuring out solutions to our current environmental and economic mess. My attendance at the Cleantech Open re-enforced this faith as I enjoyed an entire day listening to entrepreneurs pitching how their green products will save the planet, grow jobs and make money. And here’s the key maturation in green business that has just occurred this year. ALL of these entrepreneurs had price competitiveness at the core of their green product designs.

Achieving price competitiveness drives my economic analysis projecting a $10 trillion global annual revenue sustainable economy by 2017. This projection is based upon cutting-edge market research documenting that consumers will almost always buy the green product if it is at price parity with the non-green product. Market researchers have branded this shift in consumer behavior as a search for cost less, mean more solutions. And the great news for our economy and environment is that our entrepreneurs are now launching a green product revolution covering market segments from construction materials to chemicals to energy that is focused upon selling “cost less, mean more” solutions.

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FAO Program Promotes Low-Emission Farming

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday December 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

15826_FAO_Indonesia_J_M_MicaudNot to be too outdone by their COP 15 colleagues grabbing the world’s attention this week in Copenhagen, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization moved on a couple of climate change and food security fronts, including the launch of a multi-donor program to support sustainable, low-emission agriculture practices in developing nations.

FAO announced that Finland, the first country to participate in the program, will kick-in $3.9 million over the 2010-2011 period. The agency intends to approach other potential donors for further funding under the five-year initiative.

On a separate track, FAO is hooking up with Brazil on a large-scale project to collect data on emissions and deforestation via satellite.

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The Global Water Challenge: Four Novel Solutions

Jennifer Elder, The Sustainable CFO | Friday December 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Access to water is not always easy or safe

Access to water is not always easy or safe

“There are 84 million people without water.  More children die from bad water than from HIV and malaria combined.  But solutions abound.”  Those were the words of hope spoken by Cheryl Choge from Global Water Challenge at the Net Impact 2009 Conference.  Cheryl and Tito Llantada of Ashoka Changemakers discussed the winning ideas from the Changemakers/Global Water Challenge Contest and what they learned from the first competition.

The contest, which ended in March 2009, sought solutions for clean water and safe sanitation.  All entries were judged on their ability to be sustainable, replicable, and scalable.  The contest drew an amazing 265 entries from 54 countries.  The number and variety of entries demonstrated the breadth of global ingenuity and proved that there are viable low cost solutions to global water issues.  The winner and three finalists shared one million in prize money donated by the CocaCola Foundation.

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Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh (Fast) Food

| Friday December 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

amandasI was invited to sit on a panel last week by the UC Berkeley Undergrad Net Impact Chapter. Among the excellent panelists, was Stanford MBA Amanda West, founder of Amanda’s, a soon-to-be chain of fresh, healthy restaurants. West opened her first store in downtown Berkeley about a year ago and by all accounts things seem to be going well. Ambitions for more stores in the Bay Area and beyond are on the table, and grand visions of an In-N-Out burger level of customer devotion are in the works. Her vision? To serve quick meals that are more wholesome and ecologically sound than the fast food status quo.

Ecologically sound materials went into the building process (a renovation of a 1920’s storefront) from the paint & fresh air ventilation to the tabletops & flooring. As for added costs, Amanda says: “The green aspect did add some to our costs. Low-VOC paint is more costly than conventional paint and reclaimed wood can be more costly than regular wood. But, we had some saving, as well. By using a waterless urinal, we were not required to upgrade our water service, which would have cost us up to $10,000.”

And the food?

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Cooling Downtown with Seawater in Honolulu

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday December 11th, 2009 | 6 Comments

Honoes-2009-033364_0001Within the next couple of years Honolulu will become the first warm-climate city to use frigid deep-sea water to cool part of its downtown core.

Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning, a limited liability company created specifically to develop the $240 million project, says its technology will cut the city’s air conditioning electricity usage by up to 75 percent, while also drastically reducing carbon emissions and the use of refrigerants.

HSWAC plans to cool more than one-half of the Hawaiian city’s downtown skyscrapers by 2012, using ocean water pumped through a pipeline.

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Travelocity’s Green Hotel Directory Highlights Earth-Friendly Properties

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 7 Comments

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Travelocity is getting serious about sustainable travel.  Besides offering free carbon offsets for the 2009 holiday season, the online travel agency also provides a convenient and simple Green Hotel Directory as part of its Travel for Good Program.

Alison Presley, manager of Travelocity’s Travel for Good Program, told Triple Pundit, “What makes our Green Hotel Directory so unique is that we flag green hotels across the site. If you shop for a hotel in San Francisco, all of the green options will be marked with our green leaf tag. For the customer, that means it’s easy and affordable to go green.  Not only can you compare prices among the eco-friendly options, but you can even add a green hotel to a vacation package. We’re the only major online travel company with that functionality and we’re very proud of it.”

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Why Humans Are Wired for Systems Thinking

| Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 5 Comments

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B0004164 Neurons in the brain - illustrationBy David Jay
During a recent lecture at the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program my professor gave us a taste of systems thinking. In a PowerPoint slide with text too small to read, he showed us a nest of boxes and arrows, stocks and flows describing just a few of the millions of complicated relationships between a company, its environment and the society in which it operates. Systems thinking, he explained, is about taking all of these complex interconnections into account—a daunting task for an oversimplified system that is too dense to read, let alone memorize or fully understand.

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International Chamber of Commerce: ‘We’re not with stupid’

3p Contributor | Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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icc-logoEditor’s Note: This article was originally published on Grist, and is posted with permission.

By Jonathan Hiskes

There is numbingly little news coming out of most of the 20 or so daily press briefings at the Copenhagen climate talks. Officials from national delegations and research, policy, and trade groups seem to use them to restate their already-known positions, wrapping them in as much jargon as possible just to be safe.

That held true for Thursday’s briefing by the International Chamber of Commerce, where several American reporters came to learn how the ICC felt about the U.S. Chamber’s antics this year. The U.S. Chamber, for a refresher, fought the clean energy bill that passed the U.S. House this summer, called for a 21st Century Scopes Monkey Trial to question the science of climate change, and was deserted by several prominent members—Apple, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Exelon, and PNM Resources—who trashed the Chamber’s climate policy on their way out.

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Business NGO Working Group: Building the Market for Safer Products

| Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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I have been a big proponent of cross-sector dialogue for years and believe that when businesses, NGOs and governmental agencies can work together, more innovative and creative solutions can emerge.  My pet peeve with such dialogues is that they often are all talk and no action.

Tuesday, at meeting at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland office, I and a two other members of the press had the opportunity to sit down and chat with a few members of the Business NGO Working Group, a project of Clean Production Action, whose mission is to “design and deliver strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials and environmentally preferable products.” Its lively International Director Beverly Thorpe stressed that the Working Group members really do roll up their sleeves and work through the tough issues. And with a current focus on implementation and policy reform, they are a group worth paying attention to.

Business representatives from Kaiser Permanente, Catholic HealthCare West, Seventh Generation and Staples attended the meeting, to update us on the group’s current projects and future direction.

The Working Group is a unique collaboration of business and NGO leaders who “are creating a roadmap to the widespread use of safer chemicals in consumer products.” They were here in the Bay Area this week for their annual meeting. Starting in 2006, with twenty-two organizations from the environmental community and the electronics, health care, furnishing and retail sectors, today the group has grown to 170 participants, working on three key initiatives:  Safer Chemicals, sustainable materials and public policy reform.

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