In order for a for-profit organization to effectively engage in philanthropic activities, it must extend beyond charitable giving programs and tossing donations at the flavor-of-the-month cause. It must be rooted in an authentic commitment to using revenue as a vehicle for driving sustainable change. But even beyond that, enterprise needs to continually innovate to create new opportunities for change and elevate the ways in which capitalists, consumers, and causes can come together to catapult consciousness to new heights. Erick Brownstein, a new media strategist and idea man, is focused on helping businesses elevate their thinking to bring creativity to the forefront of socially-motivated campaigns. For the past 4 1/2 years, he’s been working with the Innovation Team at Advanta, one of the nation’s largest issuers of credit cards to small business owners. With the bank, he’s currently focused on ideablob.com and its sister project, bloblive. Ideablob.com is an award-winning online community dedicated to entrepereneurial ideas. It is a place where people submit ideas for new businesses and ventures, give and get advice about those ideas and then compete for a monthly $10k prize. Nearly 80% of the over 100 finalists and 15 winners have been social entrepreneurs. Funded by Advanta, ideablob serves as a forum for conscious enterprise to reach the community and gives entrepreneurs a voice — and the capital — to change the world. Click to continue reading »
The much ballyhooed smart grid might be buoyed by the stimulus bill, which appropriates $4.5 billion in direct spending to modernize the electricity grid with smart-grid technologies (part of the $11 overall for spending related to the smart grid), but that doesn’t mean there’s a clear, easy path to smartening up the grid. That was made clear on Wednesday during an oversight hearing that the US Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources held to examine the progress on smart grid initiatives. Developing interoperability standards – which will ensure that the myriad metering devices that make up the grid will transmit data in a uniform, sharable, and understandable manner – and data security protections – to protect the new, digitized energy grid from terrorism and who-knows-what-else – represent a whole lot of work and a lot of potential drag on the speed with which the full-blown smart grid can become a reality. These two issues – standards and security – accounted for most of the testimony at the hearing. And though Senators on the panel pressed Patrick Gallagher, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for a hard deadline on when standards and security specifications would be ready for prime time, no such hard deadline exists. Initial drafts of standards should be complete by this summer, but there’s no hard timeline beyond that. (NIST has the primary responsibility for coordinating the development of the framework of interoperability standards for the smart grid. It is working with the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, in doing so.)
By Sudha Reddy Though its been raining on and off here in California, the state is in serious drought. Water authorities might have to start rationing if the crisis doesn’t evade soon. Many other states and countries are in a similar situation — experiencing serious decrease in water supply for the first time in several decades. Water scarcity is one of the worst side effects of global warming. Water is the next big crisis after energy but much bigger than energy because it has no substitutes. There is a possibility of us surviving without oil, but water is an essential need for all living organisms, without which we cannot survive. Much of the world’s agriculture depends on water cycle. Moreover, every business, be it technology or food-based, needs water and a decrease in water supply will adversely affect each one of them. The water industry is facing huge challenges right now. While there is no way to increase the world’s water supply, we can prevent these circumstances by conserving water and eliminating water wastage altogether. And this could mean a lot of wonderful opportunities to build a business, that would could make a difference as well as profits in the water industry, both in developed as well as developing countries. ” Water is already demanding a price whether indirectly or directly, ” says Zane Greshman at Morrison Forrestor, and its time businesses got into this industry and reduce the wastage.
Advanced biofuels production will create an estimated total of 123,000 jobs by 2012, according to a report released last week titled U.S. Economic Impact of Advanced Biofuels Production by Bio Economic Research Associates. The report estimated that advanced biofuels production will create 383,000 jobs by 2016 and 807,000 jobs by 2022. Direct job creation from advanced biofuels production could reach 29,000 by 2012, 94,000 by 2016, and 190,000 by 2022. Forty-six percent of the jobs created will be in feedstock production (primarily agriculture), and 35 percent in construction, engineering, and procurement.
Defining exactly what “Fair Trade” means isn’t easy, but the idea certainly sounds good. FINE starts their definition as “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade…”. The idea is pretty simple – make sure small farmers and workers in poor countries don’t get screwed and that they’ve got enough money to give themselves some kind of pathway out of poverty. There are a number of organizations offering fair trade certifications based on a variety of principals but most, with the notable exception of Transfair USA, have agreed upon a set of standards that can earn a product the International Fairtrade Certification Mark. Enter the legendary Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar (rarely seen in the US, but immensely popular in the UK and elsewhere) which, using Ghanan chocolate, will be fair trade certified later this year. The move will triple the amount of chocolate from Ghana that is currently fair trade certified and guarantee a minimum price for the company’s purchases regardless of what happens in the market. Is it a heroic feat for fair trade? A PR stunt? or just good business? Click to continue reading »
The term Corporate Social Responsibility is broad, and often means different things to different organizations. Some have a formalized CSR strategy in place that extends from internal business practices through to their external communications and environmental impact. Others simply have a core mission of consciousness that is embodied in all of their activities. And still others range from philanthropic giving programs to local grassroots efforts to cause marketing campaigns and everything in between. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to being a responsible company, but the one quality that they all share is that they are at least aware of the importance of embracing a socially conscious mindset for doing business. Wherever they fall along the continuum, Coethica, an ethics-driven firm built on the tenets of Responsibility, Integrity and Transparency, is focused on helping small businesses through large organizations strike a balance in effectively integrating these values into their practices. Founded by David Connor, Coethica helps companies make a sustainable difference with an individualized approach to doing good from development of a complete CSR plan to changing lightbulbs that reduce energy bills and carbon footprint. They even create unique partnership opportunities with sports and football teams (although we call it “soccer” on this side of the pond!), designed to connect with the community and spark awareness in a compelling way. And that’s a winning combination that will kickstart change, even from the sidelines. Click to continue reading »
In the quest for energy independence, every viable energy source needs to be considered. Low-grade waste heat may not have the allure of shiny solar panels or a row of wind turbines, but it presents an opportunity that is too good for Michael Newell, CEO of Ener-G-Rotors to pass up. The company is developing a product that generates electricity from low-grade waste heat. “We are making electricity from a free fuel and not using a fossil fuel,” Michael Newell said this week in an interview with TriplePundit. “Every kilowatt you are generating from our system is a kilowatt you don’t need from fossil fuels.” Click to continue reading »
March came in with a bang in much of the country. A major snowstorm blanketed the East Coast and the West Coast is receiving much-needed rain and snow, as well. But a Colorado company is receiving lots of attention these days for its innovative approach to air conditioning. We spoke with Rick Gillan, president of Coolerado, a Arvada, Colo.-based maker of air conditioners that uses a patented technology to pull the heat out of summer air and send cool air into a building without the use of chemical refrigerants and, while consuming just a tenth of the electricity of a conventional AC unit – or no electricity at all, if powered by solar panels. (You can learn more about the technology specifications here.)
Triple Pundit: What are Coolerado’s roots? Where did the technology come from? Rick Gillan: Valeriy Maisotsenko developed it. He was born in the Ukraine and fled the USSR in 1992 and came to the U.S. He had been researching the underlying technology for 35 years, during his academic career in Odessa. He knew there was a way to use evaporation and heat exchange to get lower temperatures. He discovered a new thermodynamic cycle, now called the Maisotsenko cycle. It’s all based on biomimicry – by studying nature and how systems cool themselves.
The eBay Green Team started over a pizza pie. In 2007, 40 eBay employees got together, driven by a common goal – to make environmental and green issues a priority within the company. Fast forward two years and over 1,000 employees across 18 different countries are currently part of the Green Team. And yesterday marked their official foray into the public sphere with the launch of eBayGreenTeam.com, a site dedicated to uniting the community – both employees and customers/vendors – around a common dialogue of behavior change. “We want to push the envelope,” says Libby Reder, eBay’s Head of Environmental Initiatives, in regards to the mission of the Green Team. To inspire everyone to become “smarter, greener consumers.” We’ve covered some of eBay’s efforts in social enterprise previously, but as Earth Day rapidly approaches, the company is making a point to highlight many of its green efforts across the board. Not only does it boast a LEED-Gold certified campus at its corporate headquarters in San Jose, CA (which also houses the city’s largest solar installation), the company is also proud to not have a large supply chain nor retail footprint. Rather, eBay views itself as more of a conduit, a connector. Even a changegent, to use a term previously discussed here. A connector of buyers and sellers, eBay has the unique ability to impact both the supply AND demand sides of commerce. Click to continue reading »
As the tides continue to turn toward corporate social responsibility, we are seeing what I affectionately term “conscious capitalists” popping up, using their high profile influence, social capital — and revenue — to drive change on a grand scale. Black Card Circle, an elite social network of prominent business professionals comprised of what Founder, Lotay Yang, calls “CIA’s: Connectors, Influencers, and Alphas,” is committed to using their access, connections and wealth to benefit charitable organizations worldwide.
What’s unqiue about this social network, launching officially 09/09/09, is that all members are validated and verified to ensure trusted transactions and trusted interactions between professionals seeking to collaborate in a “safer, secure, legitimate environment,” according to Lotay. So, rather than engaging in unverified social ecosystems such as Facebook and MySpace, Black Card Circle screens each member carefully, and ensures that they are committed to the core values BCC seeks to uphold. The result is a values-driven community that can advance ventures and programs in a significant way. Passionate about making a difference, Lotay created the Black Card Circle Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that allows the collective of conscious capitalists he’s assembled to contribute substantially to the betterment of humanity by raising awareness for, and providing grants, to non-profit organizations that serve one of the following core areas: Education, Environment, Healthcare, Global Development, and Poverty Relief. The profits generated from Black Card Circle seed the BCCF, facilitating an ongoing stream of funds to keep philanthropic endeavors thriving. And at the core of the foundation beats a heart of gold by a man who truly wants to save the world.
With its initial effects still months out in the future, politicos and media talking heads endlessly speculate on the efficacy and results of a federal government “green” stimulus package. Meanwhile, industry participants are getting on with trying to make it work, continuing their efforts to commercialize, and lower the costs of solar and renewable energy. Down south in Norcross, Georgia, crystalline solar cell manufacturer Suniva Inc. announced that manufacturing expert PM Pai, the former chief operating officer of SunPower, has joined its board of directors. Pai’s joining comes at an opportune time as Suniva looks to increase production, streamline its supply chain operations and expand marketing of its “low-cost, high-efficiency” line of monocrystalline solar cells, all of which are manufactured in the USA. “PM is one of the most highly regarded minds in manufacturing and is credited as a major force in turning SunPower into a leader in the global solar industry,” Suniva CEO John Baumstark said in a news release. “Suniva’s solar cell technology was specifically designed to increase efficiency without high cost and PM’s expertise and advice will be most valuable in helping to bring our new technology to market quickly and to establish market leadership.”
For the last few months my inbox has been filled with chatter about the stimulus bill and how those of us in sustainable business circles can take advantage of it. At last week’s Clean Tech Forum, entire panels were dedicated to discussing the implications of the stimulus bill for clean tech investors and entrepreneurs. Everyone wants to know if the stimulus bill will provide funding for clean tech projects, and if so, how they can get their hands on it. This line of thinking only makes sense. Free-flowing money represents a light at the end of the tunnel in bleak economic times. For aspiring entrepreneurs, the possibility of receiving start-up funding from the government seems like a no-brainer: why wouldn’t I do everything in my power to gear my projects toward those that make me eligible for free money? Here’s why:
Each day I become more aware of how critical our water problems are becoming – the availability of water has profound implications for our health, productivity, and economic development, all of which will flounder in the absence of clean drinking water. Currently, 20% of the world’s population lives without enough water. Last week’s Clean Tech Forum was a chance for clean tech companies addressing this and other problems to “to fund and be funded” as 3p’s Jen Boynton pointed out. One of the many exciting ventures present at the forum was Cardinal Resources, whose Red Bird System can provide clean water affordably to communities around the world. The Red Bird is a solar powered water treatment system that uses no more than salt, sand, and sun to produce clean water for a fraction of a penny per gallon. It functions without pre-existing infrastructure, and can therefore be used in remote and rural communities globally, where clean water is needed most. One Red Bird System can provide for an entire community. The Red Bird can use water from a variety of sources, and can be set up in just a few days to provide water that meets US standards.
When I first heard about earthcycle, recent competitor for “Most promising investment opportunity” at last week’s Clean Tech Forum I was initially impressed. Their flagship products are produce packaging made from palm fiber, the remainders of palm fruit harvesting, which would otherwise be burnt. But after mentioning it on Twitter, I was quickly reminded that Palm fruit planting and harvesting have a not so sustainable history, and according to Scientific American,
Today palm oil production is the largest cause of deforestation in Indonesia and other equatorial countries with dwindling expanses of tropical rainforest.
Fortunately, that’s not the case across the board.
San Diego: Apr 24 – Apr 27 Social Venture Network Spring Conference SVN conferences convene and connect influential, innovative business leaders, impact investors and cultural entrepreneurs to create an experience where attendees can share the ideas and resources they need to succeed and grow. Register here.
New York: May 13 – May 14 Shared Value Leadership Summit For business leaders and problem solvers who see exciting market opportunities at the intersection of business goals and societal challenges, the Shared Value Initiative is the leading community shaping research, partnerships, and practices. Register here.
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London: May 20 – May 22 2014 Global Sustainability Standards Conference Listen to progressive companies and governments and leaders from Fairtrade, Forest Stewardship Council, Marine Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance, and other influential certifications discuss what brings the whole standards movement together: Trust. Register here.
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