Vermont’s Green Mountain Coffee Roasters: Selling Activism

3p Contributor | Monday August 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments

By Richard Seireeni

The following is an excerpt from The Gort Cloud: The Invisible Force Powering Today’s Most Visible Brands. It has been adapted for the web.

The Challenge

The birthplace for many of today’s green brands is the verdant hills and valleys of New England. This is where Tom’s of Maine, Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farm, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Burt’s Bees, and others were founded. These companies grew out of the counterculture backlash against corporate America and were bred on the philosophies of the Whole Earth Catalog, rural communes, food co-ops, and a belief that less is more, simple is smart. All of these companies believed in making healthy, earthfriendly products and that profits should serve a purpose higher than simply returning dividends to investors.

This chapter studies Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Stonyfield Farm. Each shares a commitment to producing products that are natural and, in the case of Stonyfield Farm and Green Mountain Coffee, also organic. They share one other differentiating quality. Each is committed to social activism as a mechanism for grounding its culture, ennobling employees, raising awareness, and building customer loyalty.

Two of these companies were bought by multinationals that recognized their value and the growing demand for healthy and sustainable products. How they managed to escape mission dilution is explained here. All three have experienced rapid growth despite growing competition—both within their green foods category and from without, following the entry of mass retailers into the natural and organic marketplace.

So how did they get where they are, and how do they deal with a changing competitive landscape?

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Is There Such a Thing As Green Pesticide? EcoSMART Says Yes

| Monday August 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments


Finally, a pesticide that can rid your house of all those pesky children and animals. Oh no wait, scratch that. It’s SAFE for children and animals. That packaging had me confused.

EcoSMART claims to be the only 100% safe insecticide that is proven to work.

Their products are based on the essential oils from plants and trees that the flora themselves use as natural defenses against insects and pathogens. According to their site, “EcoSMART’s proprietary botanical oil blends attack attributes that are specific only to pests, they have no effect on people, pets or the environment.”

And, according to their site, all the active ingredients in EcoSMART are FDA approved. In fact, they’re often found in cake, soft drinks and lipstick. Yum.

In addition to touting their eco-friendly pesiticides, EcoSMART is also raising awareness about harmful chemical pesticides in schools and playgrounds. They promote federal school pesticide/pest management legislation to protect children from hazardous pesticides used in and around schools while selling their product. How convenient.

Everything about this brand, that has been in existence for “many years,” sounds great. So why have I not heard of it until now? I praise this company for drawing attention to the problem of toxic pesticides in schools and playgrounds. My big question now is, does it work? I just purchased a 14 oz. can of “Flying Insect Killer” from their website. So stay tuned…

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The Business Case for Coal

Scott Cooney | Monday August 31st, 2009 | 4 Comments

coal stackCommon logic says that despite the surge in interest in renewable and clean energy, coal remains a dominant part of our fuel mix, and will likely remain so for many years.  Our infrastructure for a renewable energy grid is in full speed development, but remains years away from shifting the tremendous burden of powering our nation’s energy needs.  Coal creates jobs.  It’s one of the main reasons why it’s a hard industry to kill.  The lobby for coal is very powerful, and even Democrats from coal states are timid in voting against a coal-dependent future.

And besides, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and other renewables cost much more, right?  Not so fast my friend.

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It’s Over: Five Reasons Why the Electric Car Wins

| Monday August 31st, 2009 | 21 Comments

It could take ten years or more to become apparent, but I’ll call it now: the electric car will replace the internal combustion engine.

A caveat: I am not an automotive industry expert. Which is why I’m right. I’m not mired in the details, the past failures, the what ifs or the buts. All I see are the big, obvious things. When it comes to sea change in human behavior, though, obvious matters.

So, since no prediction is worth its salt without an accompanying list, the following are five overlapping reasons why our children will all be driving electric cars.

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Van Jones in Newsweek and on Glenn Beck

Frank Marquardt | Monday August 31st, 2009 | 19 Comments


Even Van Jones recognizes there’s no unified definition of a green job.

And as a senior advisor to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and founder and former executive director at Green for All, a national organization working to build an inclusive economy, Jones is about as definitive a source as you can find.

That’s why those tracking new developments in green jobs should check out Daniel Stone’s interview with Jones in this week’s Newsweek. Despite the lack of a consensus definition of what constitutes a green job, $60 billion of the recovery package going to fund them.

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Alternative Fuel Trade Alliance to Receive $1.6 Million Grant from DOE

| Sunday August 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment


Looks like “alternative fuel” may soon become more mainstream, if a recent grant by the Department of Energy has the intended effect. The DOE granted $1.6 million to the Alternative Fuel Trade Alliance, which the Alliance will use to increase public awareness and understanding of alternative fuels (including ethanol, biodiesel, propane, and natural gas) and greener vehicle technologies (including hybrid and electric vehicle technologies). Alliance members anticipate that the grant-funded programs will help reduce the nation’s dependence on oil, decrease carbon emissions, and encourage economic growth and environmental sustainability.

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Ice Sculptures, Greenpeace, and Melting Away Obstacles

| Sunday August 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment

greenpeace-ice-sculptures-chinaGreenpeace is at it again – this time using symbolism to highlight the impact of impending water shortages. The activist network placed 100 ice sculptures (depicting children) at the Temple of Earth in Beijing Friday – the spot where Chinese emperors used to pray for well-being and bountiful harvests. Greenpeace also placed ice sculptures in New Delhi, India. (According to Greenpeace’s website, China and India, which together account for a third of the world’s population, have per-capita water resources far below the global average.) In addition to the immediate issues of water supplies and human welfare, the gesture highlights several far-reaching implications: the quagmire involved in establishing a global consensus on sustainability.

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Setting Sustainability Standards for Green Clothiers

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday August 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments


So you eat certified-free-range poultry in your Platinum LEED home and you wash the dishes in your Energy Star compliant dishwasher. Fine. But is that a sustainable sweater you’re wearing? If a new organization called Labeling Ecologically Approved Fabrics (LEAF) gets its way, you might someday be able to prove it.

LEAF‘s goal is to establish a labeling program in the US and a system of standards and third-party testing that fabric and apparel manufacturers will use to verify that the fabrics and materials used in the creation of their products were sustainability sourced, that they were manufactured in an environmentally responsible manner and that that fair labor practices were used in the manufacturing facilities.

In an interview with Sustainable Life Media, LEAF’s creator Elinor Averyt says her hope is the that LEAF will become what the USDA is to food ratings and what LEED is for green buildings.

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Green Stimulus Funding for Small Businesses: DOE Offers $37M

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment


green_moneyIt is not so easy navigating the various pots of green stimulus funding.  Especially if you are a start-up or small business.

Clean energy small businesses (500 employees or less) take note—the Department of Energy (DOE) deadline is fast approaching (September 4th) for small business stimulus grants for clean energy research and development projects.

DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs target U.S. companies with fewer than 500 employees, with the goal of investigating ideas for clean energy technologies that appear to have commercial potential.

About $8.5 million is expected to be available for new projects, which are designated as “Phase I” awards. Successful applicants may receive up to $150,000 for a Phase I grant, which gives awardees six months to demonstrate the feasibility of their ideas. Most of the remaining funds will go towards “Phase II” grants of up to $1 million to support the principal research and development of clean energy concepts developed under previous Phase I awards. The competition for the Phase II grants will be opened at a later date.

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Replacing Diesel: Renewables Power Off-Grid Cellular Base Stations

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 6 Comments

lunapic-125143551851394 A new generation of wireless broadband network technologies is spreading around the world with WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) and the cellular industry’s LTE (Long-Term Evolution). And that’s led hordes of people rushing to buy the latest generation of smartphones, handheld devices, netbooks and laptops.

Advances in wireless networking has also boosted telecommunications companies capacity to connect all the world’s billions to a network, cellular networks especially. And that’s meant building infrastructure, more specifically, a lot more cellular base stations. In the last few years the number of cellular base stations worldwide has skyrocketed from the hundreds of thousands to the multiple millions, according to Scottsdale-based research firm In-Stat.

All to the well and good it seems, well almost. While many of these base stations are connected to an electricity grid, an already large and still fast-growing number aren’t. And off-grid base stations have traditionally been powered by running diesel generators 24×7. That means they’re pumping CO2, NOx and SO2 into the atmosphere all day, every day. That’s opened up a nice-sized window of opportunity for providers of small-scale, off-grid renewable power technology and systems.

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AT&T: Aligning Business and Sustainability Strategy

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 2 Comments


ATT_CSR_imageI ask a simple gut-check question when reading a sustainability report:  “What does [insert “green” initiative here] have to do with this company’s operations?” The connection should be obvious.

While “One Million Acts of Green” are admirable, it makes more sense to inventory impacts and make reductions where they matter most.  (Can I leave my AC running while I go to the store as long as I take a reusable bag?)

Consumers are less likely to respond if corporate sustainability efforts don’t tell a coherent story. AT&T’s latest Citizenship & Sustainability Report reads like a “how to” manual for creating business value through an effective sustainability strategy.

AT&T has clearly taken a look at their core business operations, identified high-impact areas, and committed to making reductions where they mattered most.

When I interviewed Beth Shiroishi, AT&T’s Assistant VP for Citizenship & Corporate Responsibility, I was amazed by both the length of her title and her breadth of knowledge about the company.

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Natural Gas: “Bridge Fuel” or Renewable Energy Killer?

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Natural gas is often portrayed as a “bridge fuel,” providing a lower-carbon alternative to coal while zero-carbon technologies, wind and solar primarily, scale up capacity and, hopefully, lower their price.

In the long term this may be accurate, but in the short term there’s a different possibility: cheap natural gas will stymie growth in wind and solar by providing a “second best” solution to meeting green house gas reduction benchmarks. In the process, the United States could find itself addicted to a new fossil fuel, delaying the much-needed switch to renewable energy.

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Cake Mix Startup Nora Naturals® Offers All-Natural Alternatives to Betty, Duncan, and Others

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment



I have a confession: when it comes to cooking with all-natural foods, I’m not terribly picky. As long as I don’t perceive a food to have pesticides sprayed all over it, I’m pretty content to eat it. And, without much rhyme or reason, if a product comes in a can or a box, I usually feel no need to buy its (usually more expensive) all-natural alternative. However, I recently came across a product line that could change my mind: Naturally Nora® desserts, a line of all-natural boxed cake mixes. Naturally Nora® products have so many standout features I almost couldn’t not make the switch. However, a few issues could hold me back (and other consumers, I imagine): hype, price, and taste. What is the cost-benefit analysis here, and what is its relevance to the larger all-natural food market?

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Can Junk Mail Ever Be Considered Sustainable? Possibly

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments


Picture 5Junk Mail. It’s a bad thing, all around, right? Forests worth of paper, tons of emissions delivering it, and 98%+ of the time, ignored. What good can possibly come from it?

Hang on a minute. Dukky has something different to offer, which may just make junk, er, direct mail an increasingly efficient thing, for all involved. And it comes from a completely unexpected source:

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No Impact Man: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Colin_Banner[1]There is No Impact Man the blog. There is No Impact Man the book.

And coming soon to a theater near you, there is No Impact Man the documentary, the chronicles of an “extreme” one-year experiment to answer the question, “Is it possible to have a good life without wasting so much?”

The clip drew me in—Colin Beavan, a writer for Business Week, decides to completely eliminate his personal impact on the environment for the next year.

The No Impact Project means eating vegetarian, buying only local food and turning off the refrigerator. It also means no elevators, no television, no cars, buses, or airplanes, no toxic cleaning products, no electricity, no material consumption and no garbage.

Hard enough for one single person,  but complicated by the fact that he and his family live in Manhattan.

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