CSR Asia Highlights the Benefits of Sustainable Palm Oil

| Tuesday July 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments

palmoilPromulgating the notion that they are developing “green” biofuels, the palm oil industry has actually been associated with a wide range of predatory business practices, extensive damage to ecosystems and biodiversity, and an abundance of air pollution and carbon emissions.

For more than 15 years, affected communities and environmental and public interest NGOs, as well as governments, have been pressuring palm oil producers to clean up their act. In a new white paper, CSR Asia, in partnership with Oxfam, examines the experience of ‘the little guy’ – smallholders participating in the palm oil value chain – with an eye towards instituting equitable, sustainable business practices industry-wide.

Focusing primarily on the work of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – which was established in 2003 to define and implement sustainable palm oil standards – CSR Asia focuses on “the certification of sustainable palm oil and the opportunities that this can provide for smallholders.”

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Shared Value Branding: The End of Brand Marketing as We Know It?

3p Contributor | Tuesday July 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Christophe Fauconier 

2409745545_6fe97506f3_zAt Unilever, a team develops partnerships with the World Toilet Organization and Vietnamese institutions to build decent sanitation in schools. Another fosters the development of a network of community caterers with grassroots partners in South Africa to fight crime by fighting hunger. At Coca-Cola, a group engineers partnerships with the Chinese government and a crowd-funding program to create clean water access for the millions of children around the country who currently drink unsafe water.

These are not CSR or sustainability experts; they are marketers, and these activities are part of their brand plans. So if you believe the job of a brand manager is to create new products and ad campaigns, you may have missed something…

Marketing today is expected to not only create value by making products and services desirable, but also to nurture purpose brands that can better the world with shared value strategies. A recent launch by Coca-Cola China shows how it totally re-invents the job of brand managers.

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Fairtrade International Aims to Open Climate Finance to the Underserved

| Tuesday July 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

fairtrademug With developing countries driving economic growth and energy use worldwide, adopting climate-friendly clean energy and sustainable development pathways in these nations has become a priority for the U.N., World Bank Group and other multilateral lending organizations, as well as governments, around the world.

Providing local small businesses, cooperatives and communities with streamlined, cost-effective access to international climate funds continues to be a major sticking point, however. Voluntary, private carbon offset credit systems providers and international organizations founded on principles of equitable, sustainable development have stepped into the breach, reaching out to communities with less in the way of capital, market access and other resources.

An example of this is a collaborative agreement between Fairtrade International and The Gold Standard. Joining forces to leverage and capitalize on their respective strengths, the two organizations on June 13 opened up the formative-stage Fairtrade Carbon Credits (FCC) Standard to an initial round of public consultation.

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Unilever Competition to Fund Innovative Ideas from Young Social Entrepreneurs

Sherrell Dorsey
| Tuesday July 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Ashoka, unilever, unilever entrepreneurship competition, university of Cambridge programme for sustainabile leadership, social entrepreneurship, social impact, social impact competition, garbage clinical insurance, Gamal Albinsaid, ashoka changemakers Multinational consumer goods company Unilever is asking young leaders to prove what they’re doing to help build a sustainable future. Now, in the second year of its Sustainable Living Entrepreneurs Awards, the company — in partnership with Ashoka and the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership — is inviting young people (ages 30 and under) to come up with practical and innovative solutions to some of the world’s biggest sustainability challenges.

Seven stellar entrepreneurs will be awarded a total of more than €200,000 (US$272,000) in financial support, in addition to mentoring, to help scale their services or applications.

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Advocacy Orgs Back Vermont In Suit Against GMO Labeling

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday July 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

gmo_vermont_suit_lloydthevoidWith the lines drawn over Vermont’s recent passage of a GMO labeling law, two advocacy organizations have announced that they will file a motion to intervene in a lawsuit launched against Vermont by national food manufacturers.  A third has stated it will file an amicus curiae in support of the embattled state law. A motion to intervene is usually filed when an organization or person feels they would be affected by the suit, such as consumers, grocers and farmers in Vermont.

Paul Burns, executive director of Vermont Public Interest Group, said in an interview last week that VPIRG will be filing a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association et al. With approximately 30,000 members, VPIRG is one of the largest consumer and environmental groups in the state.

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Is Walgreens a Sustainable Company Given Its New Tax Avoidance Strategy?

Raz Godelnik
| Monday July 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

WalgreensI consider myself a regular customer at Walgreens – I shop there at least once or twice a week. For some reason I thought I knew the company quite well, at least when it comes to sustainability issues, but this week I’ve learned a new fact that I wasn’t aware of:

Walgreens is considering a move abroad to lower its tax rate.

As Andrew Ross Sorkin reported in the New York Times, Walgreens “is now considering moving the company’s headquarters to Switzerland as part of a merger with Alliance Boots, a European drugstore chain. Why? To lower Walgreen’s tax bill even further.”

According to Americans for Tax Fairness, Sorkin adds, “a move by Walgreen to Switzerland would most likely cost United States taxpayers about $4 billion over five years.”

So what does it mean exactly, and what should Walgreens customers like me do about it? Here are five things to think about:

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The Circular Economy is (Slowly) Coming to Europe

Leon Kaye | Monday July 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment
circular economy, Leon Kaye, European commission, zero waste

The European Commission wants to shift to a circular economy as landfills reach capacity.

Despite the increase in recycling programs, new technologies turning trash into energy, growing consumer awareness about electronic waste and more efforts made to compost, trash is still a mounting problem. This is particularly true in Europe, where mandates to reduce landfill waste have not stopped residents from pitching the majority of their garbage. Now the European Commission is trying to nudge the economic bloc into adopting opt a more circular economy.

To that end, late last week the EC last week adopted a framework to ramp up waste diversion and recycling efforts in its member states. Moving past the current nations’ obligations to divert half of their trash from landfills by 2020, these proposals are far more aggressive. By 2030, Europeans will be asked to recycle 70 percent of municipal waste and 80 percent of packaging waste. The EC also recommends a total ban on the burial of recyclables in landfills by 2025 and suggests new proposals for slashing marine waste at sea and food waste on land.

To score a buy-in from the bevy of states that together form the world’s largest economy but at the same time comprise a fickle group, the EC is positioning this proposal as one centered on economic growth.

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Big Agriculture Looks to Africa

Michael Kourabas
| Monday July 7th, 2014 | 2 Comments
Students walk through a school farm in Mozambique.

Students walk through a school farm in Mozambique. Small farms like this one may be at risk of being gobbled up by corporate land-grabs and a potential agricultural “gold rush” in sub-Saharan Africa.

As the world begins to awaken to the looming food crisis — how we will feed 2 billion more people by the year 2050 — investors are turning to a place not typically associated with its agricultural bounty, but a region that National Geographic Magazine (NatGeo) is calling “The Next Breadbasket”:  sub-Saharan Africa.  In its July edition, NatGeo’s Joel K. Bourne Jr. (aided by predictably stunning photos from Robin Hammond) points a wide lens at the issues raised by the creation of giant agricultural developments in sub-Saharan Africa, including some of the potential benefits as well as the likely pitfalls.

First, why sub-Saharan Africa?  The short answer is that the region has the most potential upside, or what is referred to as “yield gap,” on Earth.  This essentially means that Africa is home to an enormous amount of arable land, yet the continent produces “roughly the same yield Roman farmers achieved  … in a good year during the rule of Caesar.”  Put another way, less than 5 percent of arable land in the sub-Saharan area is currently irrigated, and farms in the region are not reaching anything near their potential output.

This is likely true for a number of obvious reasons, and NatGeo’s Bourne lists the clear culprits:  poor infrastructure, limited markets, weak governance and brutal civil wars.  The other key ingredient is the amenability of African governments, some of which are willing to overlook (or inadequately safeguard) the property rights of their citizens in favor of influxes of foreign cash and the attendant benefits.

The “why now” is two-fold.  On the one hand is the impending food crisis, which is centered on the African continent and which, for most of Africa, is not really impending but has been plaguing the region for years.  Second, there’s the real driving force:  the potential monetary upside for investors.  As Bourne puts it, “Since 2007 the near-record prices of corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice have set off a global land rush by corporate investors eager to lease or buy land in countries where acreage is cheap, governments are amenable, and property rights often ignored.”  Large Chinese and Brazilian companies have eyed the “millions of acres of fallow land and plentiful water available for irrigation” and seen the potential for massive profits.  It seems only a matter of time before others join the party as well.  In fact, Bourne points out that a recent conference in New York for agricultural investors drew some “800 financial leaders from around the globe who manage nearly three trillion dollars in investments.”

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Ceres: Half of America’s Largest Companies Don’t Report on Climate Risk

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday July 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

climate changeRisk assessment is risky and often murky business, and it’s generally acknowledged that the globe’s climate is at risk — so how companies assess the financial impact of climate change in their risk portfolios should be an important consideration, both for shareholders and bottom lines, right?

Maybe not so much, it seems. Ceres, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on corporate sustainability, contends that not many companies believe climate change will have a material impact on their business. “Roughly half of the 3,000 biggest publicly traded companies in the U.S. say mum’s the word, reporting zilch in their annual filings to U.S. regulators,” it says.

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Greenpeace Challenges Lego on Shell Gas Station Set

| Monday July 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Shell LEGO Greenpeace criticGreenpeace is an expert at raising awareness about critical environmental issues but the organization is not infallible, and it may have picked a losing battle with its latest target: the Lego Group. Last week, Greenpeace accused Lego of “keeping bad company” by renewing its longstanding brand co-promotion of “Royal Dutch Shell Lego” playsets.

Triple Pundit, for one, has published dozens of articles critical of Shell, so we get Greenpeace’s “bad company” reference. However, the Shell tie-in forms a miniscule part of the Lego Group’s profile, and it is difficult to imagine another toy that is so widely and universally loved as Lego’s building blocks and playsets. That surely puts the Greenpeace effort in danger of experiencing an across-the-board backlash, and the end result could be simply to foster a run on Lego’s Shell-branded products.

We can practically smell the tubes smoking with online orders now, but that’s not the only thing that Greenpeace may have miscalculated.

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Ikea Bumps Up Minimum Wage for U.S. Workers

Mike Hower
| Monday July 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

downloadCongress might be deadlocked over the minimum wage debate, but some companies aren’t waiting. Ikea recently announced it will raise the average minimum wage in its U.S. stores to $10.76, a 17 percent increase over the current wage and $3.51 above the current federal minimum wage.

The furniture company says the increase will impact around half of its U.S. retail workforce. Notably, hourly wages will vary based on the cost of living in each store location — a departure from determining wages based on the local competitive situation — and are centered on employee needs. The wage increase is based on the MIT Living Wage Calculator, which takes into consideration housing, food, medical and transportation costs plus annual taxes.

All 38 existing U.S. retail locations, as well as Ikea’s three new locations set to open before the end of 2015, will adopt the new structure. All non-retail locations in the U.S. – including five distribution centers, two service centers and a manufacturing facility – have hourly wage jobs that are already paying minimum wages above the local living wage.

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Arborwall Brings Energy Efficient Log Cabins to the Custom-Built Home Market

Sarah Lozanova | Monday July 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Arborwall homes have a contemporary appearance that fit into many different communities and settings.

Arborwall homes have a contemporary appearance that fit into many different communities and settings.

Log cabins were widely used in Europe, and the concept quickly spread when immigrants arrived on American soil.  Settlers had an abundance of lumber and mud, along with basic tools: the ax, auger and adz. This quick and simple building technique spread westward and is now an enduring symbol of American history. Even Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin.

Unfortunately, log cabins are also symbolic of widespread logging and loss of pristine virgin forests. Many log cabins are not energy efficient, and few comply with most building code energy standards. Based in northern Maine, Arborwall is demonstrating that log cabins are more than rustic backwoods dwellings.

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Nestlé Reduces U.S. Waste By 44 Percent Since 2010

Mike Hower
| Monday July 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

NestleLogoNext time you grab a Crunch bar, you can feel slightly less guilty, at least about the environmental impact. Nestlé has reduced 44 percent of waste per ton of product since 2010 in the U.S., and five factory locations reached zero-waste-to-landfill status by the end of 2013, according to the company’s recent sustainability report.

The Creating Shared Value (CSV) report is the company’s first expanded effort to highlight U.S.-specific milestones and achievements tied to Nestlé’s global sustainability principles and commitments. The report documents Nestlé’s nutritional, social and environmental progress from the past year, as well as provides updates on the company’s U.S. progress toward Nestlé’s global commitments.

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7 Companies Embracing Independence With Employee Ownership

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday July 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment

4324883337_4a8f4551d4_zFor a special holiday edition of 3p Weekend, this week we’re focusing on companies that embody the spirit of July Fourth by formalizing their employees’ independence. 

Once a niche phenomenon, the number of worker-owned businesses is growing by about 6 percent per year in the U.S. The number of employee-owned companies grew from 1,600 in 1975 to around 11,000 in 2013, accounting for 12 percent of the private-sector workforce.

Sometimes criticized as “not quite capitalism,” Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) are picking up steam as a way to center companies around worker collaboration, rather than the pressure of external stakeholders. So, as we light up our fireworks and let our flags fly, we salute these seven companies that took a chance on independence — and reaped the rewards.

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‘Dragonfly’ Malware Highlights Vulnerability of Energy Infrastructure

| Friday July 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment

PowerLinesWith an explosion in the number of “smart” Internet-connected devices, it seems hardly a week goes by when we’re not reminded of the vulnerability of individuals, organizations and even entire societies to malware, online spying and cyber attacks.

In a whitepaper released June 30, Symantec Security Response reports on an ongoing, sophisticated, very possibly state-sponsored “cyber espionage campaign dubbed Dragonfly (aka Energetic Bear)” that managed to infiltrate information systems of “energy grid operators, major electricity generation firms, petroleum pipeline operators and energy industry industrial control system (ICS) equipment manufacturers.”

The majority of the victims were located in the U.S., Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Poland, according to a post on Symantec’s Managed Security Services Blog. As CNNMoney journalist Jose Pagliery noted in a July 2 news report, it seems the Cold War didn’t end with the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, it just moved into cyber space.

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