Smart Technology and Sustainable Nanoeconomics

3p Contributor | Friday February 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment

big-data-internet-of-thingsBy Paul Huggins

Back in 1944 the Nobel Prize winner, Friedrich Hayek, discussed the important role of economics in society, explaining how it can help us to use knowledge to decide how to efficiently allocate resources, meeting society’s needs in the most effective way. But it would have been difficult for him to predict at the time quite how much knowledge we would have at our fingertips today.

At the time Hayek was writing, products were mechanical and business processes were manual.  In the 1960s and the 1970s, advances in information technology enabled a rapid expansion in the use of automation and standardization in production, driving economic growth. Progress in communications technology – particularly the rise of the Internet – created another economic boom in the 1980s and 1990s, by allowing unprecedented levels of coordination, integration and market growth around the world.

We are now entering what is being described as the third wave of IT transformation – where smart technology becomes a key part of products, so that they can communicate with us and interact with other products without human intervention. This is providing leading businesses and forward-thinking governments with the opportunity to pioneer new approaches to creating a more sustainable world.

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Activist Investors Will Shake Up Social Investing: Should We Worry?

3p Contributor | Friday February 13th, 2015 | 0 Comments

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By Marta Maretich 

Social investing continues its march toward the mainstream. Sector research shows a wider variety of investors — including pension funds, mutuals and governments along with an array of private investors — are demonstrating an interest in capitalizing the blended bottom line.

This is all to the good, yet the growth of our industry is bound to expose socially beneficial companies, many of which have led sheltered existences in the care of mission-driven investors, to the stormy seas — and resident sea monsters — of mainstream capitalism.

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Water: Can You Put a Price on the Priceless?

3p Contributor | Thursday February 12th, 2015 | 2 Comments

11184169426_0a7f395cc2_zBy Meghna Tare

Water makes life possible. It makes economies function globally.

Our water supplies are under severe strain due to growing demand, pollution and climate change. Growing needs of locales from Las Vegas to the Lone Star state are all pointing to a water-constrained future. Re-thinking how we value water is a critical first step in reducing these strains and safeguarding future water supplies.

One could argue that the answer to water scarcity is to monetize water. The idea of treating water as a commodity like oil or gold might seem disturbing on its face. Access to clean water ought to be a human right, and the United Nations supported this with a 2010 resolution. Environmental economists suggest applying the free market force — Adam Smith’s “The Invisible Hand” speaks to this issue — by allocating a certain amount of water for everyone for free (or almost no cost) and have a free market for the rest.

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Zara Parent Company Drops Angora Products

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday February 12th, 2015 | 0 Comments

angoraPictures or videos of animal cruelty immediately capture our attention. Most of us like animals and want them to be treated humanely. A company that buys angora wool, often associated with animal cruelty, is going to be targeted by activists. That’s what happened to Inditex, the parent company of the clothing chain Zara. A few years ago PETA investigated abuse on angora farms and released a video of rabbits having their fur ripped out and screaming in pain. I saw the video. It’s beyond upsetting.

Inditex recently announced that angora products will no longer be sold at its 6,500 stores. The company also owns Bershka and Massimo Dutti. “The angora products have been removed from the stores, in particular items that were in last year’s autumn and winter collection,” a spokesperson told the AFP. The company’s website states that it “does not sell products containing angora wool.”

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Just the Facts: Sustainable Energy in America

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday February 12th, 2015 | 5 Comments

Sustainable_Energy_America_2015The size of this year’s update to the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook is a testament to just how strong the renewable energy market is these days. Published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) with underwriting from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Factbook is 144 well-packed pages of data that attests the vibrancy of an energy sector that only two years ago could be summarized in something just bigger than a brochure.

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Novo Nordisk Annual Report Takes Diabetes Battle to the Cities

RP Siegel | Thursday February 12th, 2015 | 0 Comments

NovoNordisk_Meexico_lowresDanish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk, a leading force in the battle against diabetes, has long been admired for taking the high road on issues related to sustainability. This week the company released its 2014 integrated Annual Report, which, as has become company tradition since 2004, focuses on the triple bottom line.

The authors kept their eyes on the prize: The report bears the title, Cities Need to Fight Diabetes — But How?

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Employee Engagement: Unleash Your Influencers

3p Contributor | Thursday February 12th, 2015 | 0 Comments

3344142642_c4d3bfa042_zBy Victoria Lewis-Stephens

Social media gives us 24-hour access to the commentary, views and attitudes of virtually anyone who wants to share their innermost thoughts. The power of this type of communication can influence buying decisions, brand success or failure, and even incite civil unrest.

The big question is: In today’s connected world, how can big businesses identify their internal influencers to drive change and inspire their people?

At Intinctif Partners, our experience tells us it’s no longer enough to cascade information top-down, or generate conversations through line managers. Even co-creation isn’t sufficient. These measures are critical, but they’re the basics.

To really drive change from the bottom up you need to find, empower and unleash your influencers. Identifying them is a must if you are to capitalize on their power and not fall victim to it.

So who are your influencers, and how do you find them?

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NGO Lists Companies, Countries Most Responsible for Deforestation

Leon Kaye | Wednesday February 11th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Global Canopy Program, deforestation, Forest 500, Leon Kaye, New York Declaration on Forests, supply chain

Deforestation is a growing problem, and an NGO says companies and investors are not doing enough.

Despite promises from companies stating that they are committed to stopping deforestation, the United Kingdom’s Global Canopy Program (GCP) insists more needs to be done to halt this worldwide problem. To that end, the GCP has assembled what it calls the Forest 500, which includes a list of 250 countries, 150 investors and 50 countries that together largely control the global timber supply chain.

In a nutshell, this group of stakeholders controls about $1.7 trillion in shareholdings that are exposed to “forest risk commodities.” These actors, from Fortune 500 companies to the world’s largest financial institutions, have revenues exceeding $4.5 trillion while dominating the global supply chains of soy, beef, leather, palm oil, timber, and pulp and paper. Corporate promises aside, the GCP insists that this group has much to do in guaranteeing the survival of the world’s forests. The study, however, does acknowledge that some of the individual companies have done much to confront deforestation — but as a group they need to do much more.

So, who are some of the success stories?

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Will Denver Allow Fracking in its City Limits?

Hannah Miller | Wednesday February 11th, 2015 | 1 Comment
Speaker from neighbood in Denver where fracking is to take place

Ronda Belen of Green Valley Families Against Fracking speaks about affected communities.

After years of local battles across the state of Colorado, the fracking debate is about to come home to roost.

On Feb. 10, a coalition of youth, businesses, community and religious leaders announced their opposition to fracking — which is currently in the planning stages not only in Denver neighborhoods, but also the plateau up in the Rockies that supplies almost 40 percent of the city’s water.

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Facebook Doesn’t Enforce Its Own Standards On Hate Speech

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday February 11th, 2015 | 2 Comments

FacebookHate speech and the Internet can go hand-in-hand, including on Facebook. It recently came to my attention that Facebook does not enforce its own standards regarding hate speech. While scrolling through posts on my Facebook feed, I came across a post about an anti-Armenian group. The name of the said group was “F–k Armenia.” The posts in the group were very derogatory of Armenia and Armenians. Using “F–k Armenia” as a search term turned up about 10 other groups with that name.

There is a context to the proliferation of anti-Armenian Facebook groups that many may not know. This year on April 24, Armenians worldwide will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government. About 1.5 million Armenians, or 3 out of every 4 Armenians living under the Ottoman Turkish empire, were murdered. To this day the Turkish government refuses to recognize the genocide and continues its campaign of denial, even going to the extreme of stating that Armenians murdered Turks.

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How To Write a Winning Green Business Plan

Bill Roth | Wednesday February 11th, 2015 | 2 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a two-part series on how to write a green business plan. In case you missed it, you can read part one here.

The Secret Green Sauce by Bill Roth green csr business coachBusiness plan success in today’s multi-trillion dollar green economic revolution is determined by how successfully it fulfills the customer’s search for products that align value with values.

If you are a retail business, then your business plan must align with the millennial generation’s focus on sustainable business practices in deciding what companies to buy from and who to work for. The business plans for businesses that sell to other businesses must articulate how their bids competitively satisfy corporate America’s green supply chain procurement criteria. Every business plan must address a company’s sustainability practices for managing commodity price volatility and supply chain disruptions impacted by climate change.

Part one of this article series focused on the elevator speech. I chose to talk about the elevator speech first because a business that can compellingly explain its opportunity in three sentences has the vision for crafting a winning business plan that’s attractive to investors, work associates and customers. This second article outlines the steps for writing a successful green business plan.

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Manure-to-Energy Plant Launches in San Joaquin Valley

Leon Kaye | Wednesday February 11th, 2015 | 0 Comments
Biofuels, clean energy, renewable energy, biofuels, biogas, cow manure, waste diversion, Pixley, Calgren, Regensis, Tulare County, DVO, Leon Kaye, California Energy Commission, dairy industry, San Joaquin Valley, Fresno

What looks like a concrete bunker from above converts manure into fuel in Pixley, California.

Tulare County, California, recently surpassed nearby Fresno County as the top agriculture-producing county in terms of economic value within the U.S. It’s also the country’s top dairy producing county. The result has been more investment and economic growth in a rapidly booming area already home to 450,000 people.

But there is also a downside to the local dairy industry’s continued surge: The San Joaquin Valley suffers from some of worst air pollution in the U.S., and cow effluent is a threat to the region’s already troubled watersheds.

The launch yesterday of the Calgren Ethanol Biogester, a manure-to-ethanol plant in Pixley, about 60 miles south of Fresno, is a step toward reducing emissions and dependence on fossil fuels while helping California meet its clean energy goals. According to the companies that worked together on this project, the plant is also the first digester in California to transform agricultural waste into cleaner natural gas to power another renewable energy facility. Instead of relying on the local grid, the otherwise energy-intensive ethanol plant is part of what is close to a closed loop and zero-waste system.

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Companies, Not World Bank Make Progress on Forced Labor in Uzbekistan

Michael Kourabas
| Wednesday February 11th, 2015 | 0 Comments
A cotton field in Samarqand, Uzbekistan.

A cotton field in Samarqand, Uzbekistan.

Last year, another cotton harvest in Uzbekistan made its way to the market on the backs of Uzbek citizens forced to labor in the cotton fields.  Yet, while some significant corporate holdouts remain, recent research by the Responsible Sourcing Network suggests that several international brands — including Hanes, Sears and Target — are doing more to keep Uzbek cotton out of their products and supply chains.

In light of the World Bank’s recent decision not to investigate connections between the Bank’s development projects and the forced labor in Uzbekistan, positive steps by apparel and home goods companies are vital.

The RSN pledge and survey

In 2011, the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN) launched its “Cotton Pledge” campaign, asking apparel and home goods companies around the world to commit to keeping Uzbek cotton out of their products for as long as Uzbekistan continues to rely on forced labor.  As of Jan. 16, 165 companies have signed the pledge — including household names like adidas, Gap, Patagonia and Sears, the latest corporate signatory.

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$280 Million More for Rural Renewables

| Wednesday February 11th, 2015 | 0 Comments

ruralenergyforfarms The Obama administration continues to forge ahead in its drive to promote energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy use in urban and rural areas alike. Passage of the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill has paved the way for the Department of Agriculture to expand funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects among farmers, ranchers and small businesses in rural communities nationwide.

In a press conference on Feb. 10 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $280 million for new REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) grants and loans is now available. In addition to more secure funding that came with passage of the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill, Secretary Vilsack also highlighted improvements that streamline REAP and make it easier for rural residents and businesses to apply for and obtain REAP funding.

Illustrating the beneficial real-world impact REAP is having in rural communities across the U.S., two rural small business owners reported on their experiences applying for, being awarded and putting REAP grant and loan funds to work.

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Your Poop: Now for Money and Science!

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday February 11th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Lab_technician_poop_USN_SWeaverShort of cash these days? A new medical enterprise may have just the cure.

A nonprofit organization in Medford, Mass., is on the cusp of a medical frontier that (at least for now) promises a lucrative outcome for its donor base. And that, is in part, because it can be really hard to find that perfect donor.

OpenBiome, which was launched by Mark Smith and James Burgess in 2012, is in the business of curing clostridium difficile — a gastrointestinal disorder that has become increasingly more frequent in the last 20 years. It’s also become increasingly more difficult to cure, with at least 20 percent of the cases treated lapsing into recurrent symptoms.

The answer that OpenBiome, and researchers from institutions like the Mayo Clinic, have come up with may not seem your standard treatment regimen. But it works.

Each year, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. contract C. difficile, explains OpenBiome on its website. That’s because, “[In] a healthy gut community, C. difficile is out-competed by the hundreds of strains of bacteria that are normally present.” But with antibiotic therapy for, say, a tooth infection, that bacteria is often killed off. The result is an opportunistic environment where C. difficile can not only live — but really thrive.

“However, in hundreds of treatments in many independent institutions, fecal transplantation, which reconstitutes the healthy gut community, has been shown to cure over 90 percent of the most recalcitrant C. difficile cases,” says OpenBiome.

Yes, you read that right. Fecal microbiota transplantation, or FMT, is the magic potion that’s been shown to cure C. difficile, largely by replacing the much-needed friendly bacteria that has been killed off by routine antibiotics.

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