MIT Sloan Review Releases Comprehensive Survey on “The Business of Sustainability”

| Wednesday October 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

mitsloan2The MIT Sloan Management Review has released a comprehensive survey of sustainability practices and trends in business, including interviews, case studies, and insights into how businesses world-wide view the growing field. Michael Hopkins, editor in chief of the Review, will be a speaker at this year’s Opportunity Green conference in Los Angeles, a partner of Triple Pundit. Hopkins spoke with us about the survey, the differences between “novices” and “thought leaders,” and why sustainability is really about collaboration and transparency.

One of the most baffling results from your survey is that while 92% of respondents said their company was “addressing sustainability in some way,” 70% said they still had not developed a clear business case for it.

That is the contradiction that gets to the heart of the issue, and as we continue with the second round of the survey that is probably where we’re going to do the most digging. It’s one thing for an executive to understand that sustainability is going to have a major impact. It doesn’t mean they understand how to make a case for investing in products that will capitalize on it.

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Tax on Soft Drinks Could Relieve States’ Budget Woes

| Wednesday October 7th, 2009 | 12 Comments

Rubens_Bacchussoda2A new report by a health advocacy group calculates a tax on soda and other sugary drinks could raise $10 billion a year, tapping into current fiscal anxiety in state and local governments.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest argues a tax of 7 cents per 12 ounces of soda (a typical can) would fill government coffers in the long-term as well, by lowering health care costs. Several studies have shown a correlation between drinking soda and obesity, a costly health epidemic.

In September, the influential New England Journal of Medicine published a report suggesting a national 1 cent per ounce tax, or 12 cents per can.

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What Killed Saturn?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday October 7th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Saturn_logoWhen GM launched Saturn in 1985 as its first new brand in 70 years, it seemed to have much promise. Marketed as a “different kind of car company,” Saturn would produce small cars that could compete with imports as a stand-alone company with its own network. Salespeople were paid a salary instead of a commission, so customers were not hounded as they looked at cars. Saturn dealerships were also haggle-free as customers paid the sticker price. Anytime a customer brought their car in for service, they received a free wash.

GM Chairman Roger B. Smith said Saturn would “affirm that American ingenuity, American technology, and American productivity can once again be the model and the inspiration for the rest of the world.” Months after Smith uttered those stirring words, a Memorandum of Understanding between GM and the UAW stated, “We believe that all people want to be involved in decisions that affect them, care about their jobs . . . and want to share in the success of their efforts.”

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Cutting Emissions Immediately Is an Economic Imperative, Study Says

Richard Levangie | Wednesday October 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

sky-climateA new analysis by university economists suggests that we need to start fighting climate change now, while we can still afford it. But if we take the cautious approach advocated by some well-known academics, mitigating climate change will put us in the poor house.

The Economics of 350, a detailed study put forth by Economics for Equity and the Environment (E3), weighed the cost of keeping global CO2 concentrations at 350 parts per million — an ambitious target that’s already in the rearview mirror. And that cost would cut between one and three percent off GDP. That might seem steep, but it’s nothing compared to what’s coming down the turnpike if we fail to act.

The study strongly suggests that economists such as William Nordhaus of Yale University have it backwards when they suggest we should start tackling climate change with modest measures, and ramp up our efforts when advances in technology make it affordable and economies have grown to absorb the costs.

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Obama Aide Says Passage of Climate Bill Before Copenhagen Is Unlikely

| Wednesday October 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

waxman-climatePresident Obama’s aide and top climate and energy official, Carol Browner, confirmed Friday what many already feared: there is virtually no chance Congress will have a climate bill ready in time for the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December. Browner’s statement was the administration’s first definitive statement regarding passage of a climate and energy bill (or lack thereof). Delaying the bill will likely have a number of negative implications for the Copenhagen conference.

According to a report by the New York Times, in Browner’s words, the Obama administration would “like to be through the process,” but it’s “not going to happen.” However, the Senate may be able to complete its hearings on the bill before the Conference’s opening talks on December 7th. The administration also announced plans last week for new rules regulating greenhouse gases from large factories. Both gestures are intended to signal the US’s commitment to cutting CO2 emissions – an indication that could be crucial to the Conference’s success.

Several factors have contributed to the climate bill delay, including the healthcare debate, the process by which legislation is introduced and amended prior to passage, and what some would call procrastination. (The climate bill was introduced in the Senate only Wednesday – three months after the House passed its version of the bill.)

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Facebook, “Gross National Happiness,” and… Sustainable Business?

| Wednesday October 7th, 2009 | 3 Comments

GNH

Is it possible to establish the overall mood of a nation? Apparently it is–if you’re Facebook (FB). The popular social networking site recently developed a new app by which it aims to determine its users’ “gross national happiness.” By searching public and semi-public FB forums for words and phrases deemed “happy,” “sad,” or “indifferent” by FB engineers, the app charts the overriding sentiments of its 300-million-a-day users. Could FB’s findings be relevant to a study on green business growth?

The app’s results, reported in a fastcompany.com blog entry, are fascinating. Apparently, Americans’ happiness levels are somewhat predictable: they sink on Mondays, rise slowly through the workweek, peak on weekend days (and holidays – especially Thanksgiving), and drop again on Monday. This year, there was a sudden drop in late June, presumably coincident with the death of Michael Jackson.

(Image from NewScientist.com)

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Headlining at the World Business Forum: 7 Lessons for Leading in a Crisis

| Tuesday October 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments

7-lessons-bookThe world’s business leaders would be remiss if they didn’t acknowledge the financial meltdown of the past 18 months. The opening statements at the World Business Forum were no surprise, with Patricia Meier CEO of HSM, kicking things off by calling the crowd to remember the challenges of the past year. She reminded people to think back to last year’s conference when the Dow Jones went below 10000 for the first time in years. This year, we’re 15 points lower than we were last year, but this time, we’re on the way up– we see opportunity despite the crisis.

With this theme for the conference firmly in hand, Bill George, author of 7 Lessons for Leading in a Crisis, was the perfect keynote. George is the Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, and the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic. George’s talk was all about the best ways to get an organization through a crisis, and the talk was peppered with his own personal experiences coming through tough times. (I don’t want to spoil the juicy bits- go ahead and order the book to read them!)

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Exxon’s Tillerson Calls for Carbon Tax – Seriously?

| Tuesday October 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Exxon's Rex Tillerson: Serious about global warming or just stalling?With the Senate releasing their version of climate and energy legislation last week, renewed lobbying efforts from some quarters touting the benefits of more CO2 emissions, and our good friend Senator James Inhofe now saying that CO2 isn’t a “real” pollutant in his ongoing effort to mislead and misinform, I’m not really sure what to make of Exxon chief Rex Tillerson’s recent remarks on climate legislation.

Exxon has been continually linked to funding climate change denial lobby groups, but of course none of that was mentioned when Tillerson gave a speech last week at the Economic Club of Washington D.C. Tillerson talked of the importance of the energy sector, the economic challenges it faces, and how effective policy-making can help bring about the changes needed for the energy economy in a new century.

For Tillerson, the answer to climate change legislation isn’t cap-and-trade, the primary tool in both the House and Senate version, but a carbon tax.

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Will China Have Cap and Trade Before the US?

| Tuesday October 6th, 2009 | 8 Comments

ChinaFlagGreenUnderlying anxiety over China’s rapid economic advance, including its aggressive moves into clean technology, is an ideological uncertainty: is the Chinese system of government, which is non-democratic, but seemingly capable of moving quickly and unilaterally, fundamentally better than our messy democratic system that sometimes (all of the time?) hobbles its effectiveness with political bickering?

Now there is talk that China could announce a national cap and trade scheme as early as the Copenhagen climate talks in December, leapfrogging over the US.

Meanwhile, Washington’s version of cap and trade, a system to reduce pollution by capping emissions and trading emissions credits on an open market, has been declared DOA at least until next year, a victim of prolonged squabbling over health care and general political malaise.

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Comcast Considers Buying Shares of NBC Universal

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday October 6th, 2009 | 0 Comments

210px-Comcast_Logo.svg

General Electric (GE) Co. owns 80 percent of NBC Universal and is in talks with Comcast to buy part of its shares, which would give Comcast a controlling stake. Comcast is the largest cable TV provider with 24 million subscribers, about a quarter of the nation’s cable TV subscribers. Comcast also owns cable stations such as E!, Style, and sports channels. NBC Universal owns the Telemundo network, cable channels Bravo, USA Network, and CNBC. Comcast has 5 million subscribers to its broadband internet service, and its Comcast Digital Voice, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service, has 6.5 million customers.

Analysts are worried that if Comcast buys a controlling stake in NBC Universal, free television shows on the internet may become rarer. “Hulu was started by NBC and Fox so they could compete with Comcast. So this is a defensive move to some extent by Comcast,” said Kaufman Bros. analyst Todd Mitchell. “Hulu will just become another choice of Comcast’s pay-TV buffet.”

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How To Overcome the Upfront Costs of Retrofitting

3p Contributor | Tuesday October 6th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Rainbow for rentBy Janine Kubert

Cisco DeVries is a man on a mission. He wants to make green building retrofits as affordable and prevalent as iPhones. During his presentation Solving the Upfront Cost Barrier for Retrofits at West Coast Green this past Thursday, he pointed out, “How many of you would be willing to pay $20,000 up front to be able to use your iPhone for the next 20 years? We don’t do that with our iPhones, we don’t do that with our PG&E bills, and there is no reason we should do it with solar power. We should pay as we use the service.”

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing, a powerful new financing model offered by his company Renewable Funding, allows property owners in each city to install solar systems and energy efficiency upgrades with no upfront cost. Similar to Mello-Roos law, PACE is a type of financing well-known to local governments and the bond market. Through this financing program, a city or county pays for the cost for a property owner’s retrofit, allowing property owners to repay the cost of the energy project (plus interest) over 20 years through their twice-yearly property tax bill. Property owners are able to choose their own contractor and installer. When the property is sold, the solar system, retrofits, and the remaining debt stay with the property.

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A Green Business Camp Encourages Collaboration Among Local Business Leaders

3p Contributor | Tuesday October 6th, 2009 | 1 Comment

smurf-fireBy Matthew Marichiba

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Green Revolution is fully upon us. Congress is finally discussing limits on CO2 emissions. Clean Tech investments have been one of the few glimmers of hope in an otherwise dark economic climate. Even Exxon Mobil wants to make you believe they’re environmentally friendly. For green-minded businesspeople short on time, it can be hard to cut through the informational noise and find the answers that matter: What can my business do to be both profitable and sustainable? How do I keep on top of the evolving landscape of green business practices? Who can I collaborate with to bring my green innovation to market? What is working successfully in my area and who else is doing it? That’s where a Green Business Camp comes in.

A great example is taking place on October 22 in Santa Cruz, California. The event will provide an all-day forum for businesspeople and entrepreneurs in California to come together and discuss earth-friendly products, operations, resources and innovation. Attendees get ample opportunity to learn, share, collaborate, and network with like-minded leaders working to create a cleaner, greener, more sustainable economy. The conference’s ultimate goal is to increase action, effectiveness, and profitability among green businesses in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Monterey, San Benito Counties, and beyond: it’s the type of event that can be replicated in any geographic area.

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Apple Latest to Leave US Chamber of Commerce Over Climate Change

| Monday October 5th, 2009 | 3 Comments

In what could only be called a growing trend, Apple Computer on Monday became the latest Fortune 500 company to resign from the United States Chamber of Commerce over the chamber’s anti-climate legislation stance.

In a letter to the chamber, Catherine A. Novelli, the vice president of worldwide government affairs at Apple, wrote “we strongly object to the chamber’s recent comments opposing the EPA’s effort to limit green house gases.”

Apple, which recently expanded environmental disclosures on its products, joins three major utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric, PNM Resources, and Exelon, the nation’s largest supplier of electricity, all of which left the chamber in the last two weeks.

Last Wednesday, Nike, the sports apparel giant, announced it would resign from the chamber’s board of directors for similar reasons, while keeping its general membership in the chamber.

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Are Solar Tariffs a Good Idea?

Jeff Siegel | Monday October 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments

solar9898Last Wednesday, the New York Times reported that companies importing solar panels to the U.S. are facing up to $70 million in unexpected tariffs.

Because solar panels have become too sophisticated to qualify for duty-free status, the U.S. Customs Agency has stated that they will be treated as electric generators – which are subject to a 2.5% duty.

Now word is, hardly anyone in the industry was even aware of the tariff until last week. I do find this hard to believe. And if they weren’t aware of it, they should’ve been. Such an oversight seems a bit questionable to me.  Nonetheless, unpaid duties and penalties have been piling up. But it’s not just foreign solar manufacturers that are unhappy with the tariff.

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Hearst Looks to Boost Paper Supply from Certified Forests

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday October 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment

The state of Maine leads the nation in percentage of certified sustainable forests, but it still has close to 10 million acres of forests–mostly owned by small, family-run operations–that are not certified. Time Inc. and Hearst Enterprises, a division of Hearst Corporation, are hoping to change that by launching a pilot program this month with the aim of helping small- and medium-sized landowners in Maine to achieve third-party forest certification for sustainable growing and harvesting practices. This, in turn, will provide new sources of certified fiber for Time. Perhaps print is not dead, after all.

The goals are to certify an additional one million acres of Maine forests, and also to establish a model for how large organizations can help small and medium forestry companies to achieve certification by making the certification process more efficient.

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