Business books on the Triple Bottom Line abound. Trust me. I speak from experience. I am an MBA student in a program focused on sustainability, and a mountain of these books stands between me and the end of each semester. Most do an adequate job of plodding through the subject matter, but I usually find myself skimming the material to extract the main points so I can move on to the next book. One down, mountain to go.
That was not my experience with John Abrams’ revised edition of Companies We Keep – Employee Ownership and the Business of Community and Place. The book is a revised and expanded version of his 2005 Company We Keep. Abrams is the cofounder of South Mountain Company, an employee-owned, custom building business based on Martha’s Vineyard that began operations in 1975. He’s written a very readable narrative that knits together a personal memoir with an examination of the employee-owned business model he has developed at South Mountain Company.
- Sustainable Brands® Announces 2014 Innovation Open Semi-finalists
- OF THE SEA, a new film about seafood & sustainability launches on Kickstarter
- Global Reporting Initiative celebrates new era for non-financial information disclosure in the EU
- More Renewable Energy Needed to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change
Strengthening Renewable Energy Innovation – Corporations, Venture Capitalists, and Government Working Together
By Jim Hurd, Director, GreenScience Exchange
The United States is at a critical crossroads in its energy policy and the Obama administration is promising to completely reshape our energy objectives.
We’re in a global race to develop renewable energy technologies – to compete with leading countries in Europe and with dynamic initiatives in China and Asia. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman makes this clear in his newest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, as he warns that the US must be a leader in “ET” or Energy Technologies – the next multi-hundred billion dollar creation of global wealth.
To compete, the US has to be strong in each of the four stages of the energy innovation ecosystem:
1) Research; 2) Development; 3) Commercialization; and 4) Scale-Up and Job Creation
In the last stage of “scale up and job creation,” we will see extensive green projects in the economic stimulus package. These will create jobs through the building of wind, solar and other renewable energy projects. But another critical place for the incoming administration to focus funding is that first stage of the energy technology continuum – research.
In the debate about climate change, politicians will likely become polarized between cap-and-trade supporters and carbon tax proponents. There’s no precedent for a carbon tax, but it’s definitely a viable alternative to carbon trading.
Last week, Exxon Mobil Corp.’s chief executive officer Rex Tillerson said he’s in favor of taxing carbon dioxide emissions. “[It's] a more direct and transparent approach,” Tillerson said, comparing the tax to trading carbon. Aside from Tillerson, proponents of a carbon tax include Al Gore and Ralph Nader.
The magic words associated with the carbon tax debate are “revenue neutral.” That means the government lowers other taxes in order to generate the carbon tax. In addition to what seems to be consumer central thinking, the carbon tax is supposedly easy to implement on short notice. Proponents also say a new tax is efficient and relatively fraud proof.
Reading the news yesterday morning, I came across a quote from Michael Morris, the CEO of American Electric Power, in regards to President Obama’s goal of doubling renewable energy in three years. Morris said that as a practical matter, Obama’s target is too ambitious.
Interestingly enough, American Electric Power Co. is the largest U.S. producer of electricity from coal. Of course, Morris was quick to note that he was not anti-wind or anti-solar, but rather wasn’t sure we could double our renewable energy so quickly.
Details of President Obama and Vice President Biden’s ‘New Energy for America’ plan were released last week, another clear indication that the newly elected administration views energy policy as a means of quickly and decisively addressing issues as diverse as recession, employment, energy and national security, climate change and environmental degradation.
Looking to enact both short and longer term remedies centered on spurring development and use of renewable energy and enhancing energy conservation and efficiency, the plan’s aims include:
- investing $150 billion over the next 10 years to stimulate private clean energy investments that could create as many as 5 million new jobs;
- saving more oil than we import from the Middle East and Venezuela in a decade;
- putting 1 million plug-in electric hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015, along with efforts assuring that they are manufactured in the US;
- ensuring that 10% of power comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25% by 2025;
- and implementing a national cap and trade system with a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2020.
Supermarket chains in the UK are exploiting every conceivable opportunity to outsmart their competition. Hyper-inflating green credentials to win customers’ favor is part of the game. That’s why it’s easy to be skeptical about the efforts by Tesco superstores. Arriving at a typical Tesco shop, customers are greeted by overly jovial texts on billboards. The phrase “Helping You Spend Less” complements equally vague messages about the environment. But the shop’s management is working to clean up their act, embarking on a crusade to offer customers products that actually lower their carbon footprint. Tesco is even beginning to think about the “greenness” of the very shelves on which these products are placed.
Earlier this month the “greenest ever” Tesco outlet was opened in Manchester. The new store is, in fact, a progressive example of sustainability in many aspects of superstore retailing.
Finally. Change. Along with the new President comes a bright and contemporary perspective on how to tackle climate change. So what can we expect from the fresh-faced Obama and his team of scientifically renowned advisors? Hopefully decisive action, and a lot of it. This week in ClimatePULSE we take a look at the recently published (January 15th) US Climate Action Partnership’s (USCAP) “Blueprint for Legislative Action.” A self-described “detailed framework for legislation to address climate change”. So, is the US Climate Action Partnership Blueprint the answer to our prayers for an economically sustainable approach to solving our climate concerns?Click to continue reading »
News Break: Obama Clears Path to Allow California Emissions Waiver and Set Standards for Improved Fuel Efficiency
President Barack Obama today signed a presidential memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency, now under the direction of Lisa Jackson, to reconsider the Bush-era refusal to grant a waiver to California and at least seventeen other states allowing them to set their own standards regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.
Despite former EPA administrator Stephen Johnson initially agreeing with staff recommendations to approve the waiver, he ultimately declined to grant it at the apparent urging of the Bush/Cheney White House. The ongoing intransigence led to Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sue the Bush administration. Numerous Congressional hearings attempted – and generally failed – to force Johnson to explain his reasoning and to what extend communications from the White House and vice president Dick Cheney’s office influenced Johnson’s decision
A second presidential memoranda signed by Obama directs Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood to establish rules implementing a 2007 law the requires a 40% improvement in gas mileage for cars and light trucks by 2020. The Bush administration had failed to make any progress in writing regulation to comply with the law
Obama’s memorandum orders temporary regulations be in place by March to give automakers time to retool for vehicles sold in the 2011 model year. Final standards beyond that will be set in a separate process later this year taking into account “legal, scientific, and technological issues”.
Obama stands ready to make good on his promise to aggressively move forward on environmental issues.
As pleased and thrilled as I was to have been in Washington last week to witness Obama’s inauguration, I am even more thrilled to see him take charge on these issues. Too much time has already been wasted.
"We have so much time, and so little to do! Strike that, reverse it."
That’s just one of Wonka’s many famous quotes in the classic 1971 film. And, if you think about it, the aphorism applies whether discussing chocolate factory tours or White House agendas.
Indeed, Barack Obama has much to do, and even less time to do it in. New policies need to be enacted that counter our current economic problems.
But before he can get to that, Mr. Obama is striking and reversing some unsavory remnants of the Bush administration’s climate policy–or lack thereof.
Whether it’s undoing what’s been done or paving a new way forward, there seems to a green tinge on most of what’s gone on in Washington since last Tuesday.
Pay careful attention, and you can see the seeds of a new energy and climate future being sewn.Click to continue reading »
by Adam Wiskind: The 2006 California Solar Initiative and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Bill (Senate Bill 1 and Assembly Bill 32) set goals to increase solar generated electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California. The new laws have prompted the California Legislature and the Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to remove regulatory obstacles for commercial building owners to implement energy efficiency measures and install solar energy infrastructure. One of the changes extends favorable tax treatment for solar installations and allows alternative energy providers to continue to forge valuable agreements with building owners. Together the government’s recent efforts have revealed the significant opportunities for building owners to attract tenants, reduce costs, and generate cash flows in an otherwise tight real estate market. This article outlines the recent regulatory changes and the opportunities they provide for building owners.
In September 2007 the CPUC approved an agreement to allow electrical sub-metering of commercial tenants. Prior to this decision, building owners were prohibited from charging tenants based on a tenant’s actual electricity usage. Instead, electricity bills were generally allocated on a square footage basis. A tenant who used a lot of energy might pay the same as another tenant that managed to operate more efficiently. With the new rule in place tenants can receive price signals and information about their energy usage and costs which may encourage them to participate in energy efficiency and load management programs. Building owners win in two ways. The more accurate billing allows owners to anticipate and pass on costs to tenants and it allows owners to maintain good relations with tenants who think they are being overcharged, which can happen when billing is estimated on a square foot basis. While both building owners and tenants must consent to sub-metering, an effective agreement can open discussions between parties on how to leverage alternative energy technology or behavioral change to lower overall energy bills.
Net Impact has always been one of my favorite “green” business organizations and their annual conference has been a highlight of many years. The organization is particularly great for MBA students or other young people who are just getting started in the arena of socially and environmentally responsible business.
Business as UNusual is an annual Net Impact publication that provides a student perspective on how different business school programs address corporate social responsibility issues. It also provides rankings that help compare programs across key criteria such as the inclusion of social and environmental themes in school curriculum and the strength of alumni networks in this emerging field – all based on various student surveys.
The 2008 edition provides what Net Impact calls “the most comprehensive overview of graduate programs to date, with profiles of over 60 global schools”. Also included is an updated section that features school standouts in individual categories such as administrative support of Net Impact themes in the curriculum, and student involvement in Net Impact activities.
So, whether you are thinking about applying to business school or you would like to see how your school compares to other programs, check out Business as UNusual: The 2008 Net Impact Student Guide to Graduate Business Programs.
Norway Stumbles into Carbon Sequestration to the tune of $100mThe Norwegian city of Trondeim hopes to become the world renowned headquarters for carbon capture and storage technology. I sense a destination vacation coming on!
Abu Dhabi looks to become a Mecca of Renewable EnergyWell, it’s a different kind of mecca than the Saudis have, but enviros have been known to get swept up religious for their clean tech. I’m still debating about whether an air conditioned beach powered by renewable energy is kosher. Still seems kinda wasteful, no?
Khosla shuns CCS in favor of coal-to-cement
Superstar Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla thinks carbon capture and sequestration are a waste of time and we should look toward utilizing waste C02 to make energy-intensive cement. It’s a very cool concept, one I covered back in September. You’ll note from the post way back when that Khosla is backing the inventor of the new technology.
Clorox Reveals Financial Details of Relationship with Sierra Club On the one year anniversary of the launch of the Greenworks line, Clorox revealed that it gave the Sierra Club $470,000 for its endorsement of the product, a figure that is based on the sales from April-December 2008 of the Greenworks line.
Wal-Mart unveils Largest PV Installation in Latin America True to its “go big or go home” philosophy, Wal-Mart has built the largest solar array in Latin America With over 1,056 solar panels totaling 174 kW installed. Those damn big box stores are such energy sucks that this array will only cover 20% of the building’s energy needs.
New Tool Measures Sustainability of Corporate Water UseThe Center for Sustainable Innovation (CSI) has released a new tool to measure the ecological sustainability of an organization’s water use. The tool uses local rainfall amounts, topography, and watershed boundaries and measures the rate of water renewal against the company’s water use. Next up: women with clipboards standing outside the bathroom listening to see if you flush when it’s yellow.
UK Grocer to Generate Power from Unsold FoodUnder the plan, all of the unsold food from Sainsbury grocery stores will be sent to a biomass plant to be turned into electricity. The move is expected to prevent 42 tons of waste a week from landfills. Yay Sainsbury’s! I do love me some closed loop food systems.
Reusable grocery bags? Check. Thermal coffee mug? Check. For some of us, this is the extent of our eco-conscious behavior. There are those among us, however, such as the Team at Rubicon National Social Innovations, for whom this is only the beginning.
Most famous for “baking a difference” through the successful Rubicon Bakery program, Rubicon has raised the bar by systematically building double- and triple-bottom-line businesses (check out the Rubicon Landscape Services program as well) at an impressive rate. Now, though, the committed team at Rubicon has set itself an even more ambitious goal: to build a national – and scalable – social enterprise, from scratch, and show everyone that it is possible to tackle our biggest social and environmental challenges in a financially sustainable manner. Their challenge of choice: discarded mattresses. Click to continue reading »
Click to continue reading »
This series on Cause Marketing has begun the important work of defining the distinctions between cause marketing, cause-related marketing and corporate social responsibility, revealing subtle differences of each and highlighting the short- and long-term impact of those endeavors.
But waxing philanthropic will only take us so far. Viewing these concepts in practical application to assess market penetration, consumer response, and revenue are critical in truly understanding the potential that each one has to offer. It also helps in creating a blueprint for other conscious entrepreneurs and companies who seek to effectively infuse these elements into their business practices.
While there is no ‘One Size Fits All’ approach, there are examples of companies who are doing it successfully, the common thread of which is authenticity, implementing programs that benefit the community and the environment – not just the shareholder’s dividends. While sales are a necessary outcome of these efforts, the value extends beyond the mere lining of pockets to the greater good.
Obama-mania is sweeping the nation and concern for the environment, seeping into our collective conscience, is increasingly less likely to be perceived as the hobbyhorse of the liberal elite. As this surge of enthusiasm converges with recession it presents an opportunity for savvy marketing.
The reusable packaging industry, as represented by the Reusable Packaging Association (RPA), is doing just that. RPA Board Chairman Bob Klimko claims, “The time is ripe for businesses to embrace the concept of reuse and to realize its potential to help them reach their sustainability objectives while strengthening their own companies through cost savings and improved efficiencies.”
We introduced you to the RPA when they hosted an educational forum on the corporate benefits of reusable packaging. The RPA is primarily focused on packaging that “moves product from manufacturer to retailer.” With a new president at the helm, Jerry Welcome, we’re taking another look at the RPA and their efforts to promote sustainability.