Levi Strauss Partners with Goodwill; Knows How to Pick a Good Restaurant

| Thursday October 22nd, 2009 | 4 Comments


Ok, ok, I admit it. I’m a cheap date. Levi Strauss invited me and some other writers to an intimate dinner at Fish and Farm last night to talk about their new partnership with Goodwill. We had a wonderful and real conversation about the lifecycle of a pair of jeans and now I love Levi Strauss. It doesn’t take much to please me. PR people, please note: If you ply me with sustainable meat and biodynamic wine, I will probably say nice things about you!

All joking aside, the event was an opportunity to talk candidly about the challenges of greening a carbon intensive industry like clothing manufacture. The people at Levi Strauss were pretty upfront about what they were doing well and what they want to do better and that in itself is commendable. It is rare that a company will let you behind the reception desk to see the execs in action- trying to make the best decisions for the company that they can, wrangling with difficult trade-offs in cost, meeting consumer demand, and limitations in a global supply chain. We got to see a little bit of that last night.

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From BizTechDay: Seven Things Small Business Owners Need to Know to Succeed

| Thursday October 22nd, 2009 | 2 Comments


I’ll be blogging today and tomorrow from BizTechDay, the small business and entrepreneur conference. I seem to attend every possible social/enviromental entrepreneurship oriented conference, so this will be an intereting change of pace given the focus on pure entrepreneurship.

Mark O’Leary from Comcast Business Class kicked off the conference with citing seven things small business owners need to know to succeed. These are high level – I hope to flesh some of these out over the course of the conference, as many of the upcoming panels touch on these topics:

1) Focus relentlessly on a niche. You can’t be everything to everybody. Do what you do better than anybody else.

2) Executive brilliantly. (yes but how? He didn’t elaborate. More later perhaps)

3) Get to cash flow fast and keep expenses low.

4) Funding: Figure out what type of funding do you need? Consider all the options.

5) Brand creation. Think carefully about your brand. It has to manifest the value of your product.

6) Brand building. Once you get the right brand you have to build it.

7) Be rigorous in finding the right people. The talent level of job applicants is higher than ever, according to O’Leary. This is a great time to “Get the wrong people off the bus and the right people on.”

What did he miss? More to come…

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Day 1 at the BSR Conference: Reset Economy. Reset World.

| Thursday October 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

BSR 2009_web_banner_300_revisedBy Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

After a weekend at Bioneers, with luminaries such as Michael Pollan and Joanna Macy,  yesterday I headed to the Hyatt in San Francisco for BSR’s conferenceReset Economy. Reset World:  Delivering Business Value by Thinking Big and Embracing Long-Term Sustainability Trends.

BSR works with a global network of more than 250 member companies to develop sustainable business strategies and solutions through consulting, research and cross-sector collaboration. Upon entering, the sea of black suits, high heels and ties reminded me I was no longer hanging out with activists and social change professionals.

Overall, the attendees I met were sustainability professionals at the conference to network (some were skipping the sessions all together), while others were hungry to learn about best practices and new sustainability tools.

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Southwest Announces New “Green Plane”

| Thursday October 22nd, 2009 | 4 Comments

SW plane Truly sustainable planes with alternative fuel or higher efficiency may still be many, many miles away, but Southwest seems to be have introduced a quick layover with yesterday’s debut of their “Green Plane.”

The greening of the plane is based mostly on eco-friendly interior materials, from InterfaceFLOR carpeting to new lightweight, leather-like leather alternatives for their seats, to a more environmentally-friendly life vest pouch!

According to Reuters, all of the initiatives being tested on this Green Plane combine to a add up to a weight savings of almost five pounds per seat, thus saving fuel and reducing emissions. Southwest also announced that next month, they’re kicking off a more robust onboard recycling program that will allow the airline to capture more recyclable material and divert it from the waste stream.

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Food Compost: There’s Gold in Them-Thar Green Bins

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 5 Comments

compostMy desk is at the front of my house, right by a street-facing window, so I keep an unintentional vigil on my San Francisco street. Wednesday is garbage day on my block and at around four o’clock this afternoon, I noticed something unusual: the compost collection truck, coming through a few hours later than normal. But then I remembered that today is the first day in which composting–not just yard waste, but also food–in San Francisco is mandatory. These drivers are extra busy.

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New Book Gives the Low-Down on Green Business Models

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

hybridorgsThere’s a lot of hype in this field about how “green is gold.” But there is little hard evidence that shows actual trends and models in green business operations. A new book, “Hybrid Organizations: New Business Models for Environmental Leadership,” aims to fill that gap by providing up-to-date analysis of green start-up firms.

Of course, we have to start with what makes a “hybrid organization.” The authors recognize that there are a lot names thrown around these days for classifying companies with an explicit social or ecological mission. They define a hybrid organization as “a market oriented, mission-centered organization which operates in the blurred space between for-profit and nonprofit enterprises.”

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Highlights From “Unfinished Business” Report on Energy and Climate

| Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Business RountableAt a press briefing this morning, the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from leading U.S. companies, discussed key points from their just-released report entitled Unfinished Business: The Missing Elements of a Sustainable Energy and Climate Policy (pdf).

Building on the organization’s previous reports, More Diverse, More Domestic, More Efficient (pdf) and The Balancing Act (pdf), John Castellani, Business Roundtable president,  and Mike Morris, Business Roundtable’s chairman of the Sustainable Growth Initiative and president and CEO of American Electric Power Company, laid out a broad framework they feel Congress needs to address to pave the way toward a sustainable new energy economy.

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First Solar First Renewable Energy Company on the S&P 500

| Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 4 Comments

knighting-t6998First Solar, the Chosen One of thin film solar panel manufacturers, has achieved a first for any pure-play renewable energy company: inclusion on the venerable Standard & Poor’s Index of 500 commonly traded stocks.

Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar was added to the S&P 500 after the market closed October 15. The company will be part of the S&P 500 GICS (Global Industry Classification Standard) Electrical Components & Equipment Sub-Industry of the Industrials sector.

The addition of First Solar, which had $1.2 billion in sales last year, is a milestone not only for the company, but for renewable energy in general. Although non-hydroelectric renewables, including solar, wind and biomass, make up a minute fraction of overall energy generation worldwide, that percentage is expected to grow rapidly in the coming decades.

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Reflecting on No Impact Week: Economic Growth and Sustainability

| Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 3 Comments

LM flotsamEver considered going on a weeklong carbon cleanse?  On October 18th, in partnership with the Huffington Post, the No Impact Project launched No Impact Week, a seven-day guided experiment in sustainable living.  Each day focuses on a different topic:  Consumption, Trash, Transportation, Food, Energy, Water, and Giving Back.  The goal is to help the average consumer, not just “tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, canvas-bag-toting, eco-warriors,” explore the benefits and reflect on the challenges of reducing his or her environmental impact.

Biking from my house to downtown Oakland, I bore witness to the purged flotsam of the recent downpour.  Floating in gyres at the perimeter of Lake Merritt was a stinking, oily, sludge soup of polystyrene instant noodle cups, to-go boxes, and countless coffee cups.  As I reflected on the first four themes of No Impact Week–consumption, trash, transportation, and food–I realized that they were all swirling together in that rotating constellation of trash, inseparable from one another and indistinguishable from the mess.

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eBay, Others, Offer Strategies for Turning Customers into Allies

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Triple-bottom-line businesspeople aren’t just in it for the money; they seek to satisfy social and environmental bottom lines, as well. And generally, the same can be said of their patrons. That shows up in consumers’ willingness to pay premiums for fair trade, responsibly-sourced products. But the relationship between company and customer does not—and, many would argue, should not—end in a financial transaction. So how can socially- and environmentally-responsible firms go about turning their customers into advocates?

That question was posed to three panelists—Danny Kennedy, founder and CEO of Sungevity; Ron Gonen, cofounder and CEO of Recyclebank; and Amy Skoczlas Cole, director of citizenship outreach at eBay—during the JustMeans Social Media for Sustainability conference on Monday, in San Francisco.

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Sigh of the Times: German Bordello Uses Green Incentives

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday October 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

berlin22-405x303-customBike to work, bike to the workout, and now bike to work it. The world’s oldest profession, once considered recession-resistant, is going green–in Germany at least, and largely out of economic necessity.

The country’s flaccid sex-for-hire industry could follow the example of one flagging bordello in Berlin, the Maison d’Envie (House of Desire) which is offering discounts to customers who pedal their bicycles to the door.

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BizTechDay: Helping Start-ups Succeed

| Tuesday October 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

BizTechDay_newLater this week I’ll be writing from BizTechDay, which is billed as the most powerful entrepreneur and small business conference.  Two days long, the schedule is jam-packed with successful entrepreneurial speakers.  I’ve recently joined a start-up, Viv, and naturally have loads of questions about launching and building a business that I hope will be answered.

With so many start-ups failing, I’m excited to learn from leaders of some who’ve succeeded.  The conference is broken into 3 tracks: fundraising, social media, and marketing/selling, all of which pertain to your start-up or small business.

While this conference doesn’t bear an explicit sustainability focus, I would argue that entrepreneurs with a leaning towards doing good need to learn these lessons more than the rest, to enable maximum uptake and maximum impact.  There are very few businesses with killer value propositions that also solve environmental and/or social problems.  Those that do are among my favorite businesses of all time (e.g. RecycleBank, TerraCycle, Shorebank etc).

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Would the Real Chamber of Commerce Please Stand Up?

| Tuesday October 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

eminemSince it was founded in 1912, the US Chamber of Commerce has stood for a bunch of white-haired men in seersucker suits smiling benignly as they lead American commerce into the future. But in the last month, this patriotic institution — as American as Mom, apple pie, and campaign contributions — has found itself increasingly under attack.

The latest salvos have sought to knock the pillars out of this pillar of civil society, and while it is too late to know what lasting effect they will have, it seems likely that many people’s view of the Chamber of Commerce will never be quite the same.

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Postal Service Reveals Results of Carbon Emissions Audit

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday October 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

usps_ffv_rocklin2The US Postal Service has been called a laggard for failing to capitalize on the changing ways in which we communicate—it failed to jump on electronic mail when it became obvious it would forever change mail service, for example. But when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint, the agency is rather proactive, at least among federal agencies.

Since last year, the USPS has launched a number of initiatives aimed at auditing and lowering its energy consumption, ranging from a pilot program to track energy use at its facilities, to incentive programs designed to encourage employees to conserve energy and planting a green roof at a mail processing facility.

And last week, the USPS released findings from its energy audit, disclosing an inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions.

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Shock and Awe: EPA Halts Largest Mountaintop Coal Mine

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday October 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

MTNblast_osmThe Environmental Protection Agency is serious: It really is taking on Big Coal in a big way.

Following up on word last month that it would delay action on 79 mountaintop coal mining projects (EPA Takes on the Coal Industry), the agency on Friday moved to halt the Clean Water Act permit for the nation’s largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mining site, the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.

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