Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Grist, and is re-posted with permission.
COPENHAGEN—Two Cola-Cola* employees urged people in Copenhagen to never drink the soft drink again, denouncing their company’s environmental and human rights record in a highly unusual press conference* in the Hopenhagen LIVE area in City Hall Square.
The public relations* workers from Atlanta* said their consciences compelled them to speak out against the soft-drink conglomerate, inviting onlookers to make a public pledge against Coca-Cola’s water use, labor practices, and environmental claims.
I’ve got a confession to make. I’m tired. I’m tired of the posturing, of the chanting, of the myriad ways the same issues can be endlessly bandied about. Rich vs. poor, north vs. south, 1.5 degrees vs. 2 degrees, who pays, who’s responsible, talk of “real deals,” evasive answers from Yvo, and the gauntlet of NGOs pushing the same piece of paper in my face they did yesterday (as of several days ago, if an organization doesn’t have information I can read online, they’ve lost me).
We’re all fired up. We’re all full of passion. We all want to change the world (well not everyone). But at the end of the day I wonder what all this will mean when we look back in ten years time, or twenty.
Touted as the “world’s largest beverage company”, Coca-Cola is about to take social networking to a new level with its up-and-coming Expedition 206. Three lucky people will embark on a 275,000 mile journey through 206 countries and territories where the Coke products are sold. The year-long mission for the three “Happiness Ambassadors,” is simple – find out what makes people happy.
I had the pleasure of attending Sustainable Silicon Valley‘s (SSV) two-day Sustainability Change Agent Training with Alan AtKisson, November 16th and 17th. It was a packed workshop full of information and interactive exercises. Parts of it fully engaged me and parts of it left me feeling frustrated, so I decided to wait a few weeks before writing about it. I wanted to see which concepts and tips stuck with me.
More than 70 participants from a range of sectors participated. Sustainability directors from large Silicon Valley companies such as Intel, Yahoo! and Palm, sustainability managers working for municipalities, NGOs and consultants gathered to learn about the ISIS Method–a methodology for transformation that integrates indicators, systems, innovation and strategy.
After letting things percolate a few weeks, my favorite three tips to be a more effective sustainability change include:
From a carbon emissions point-of-view, is it better to buy products online or in a store? You probably guessed the former. And if so, you’re right, according to a study conducted by MindClick GSM, a sustainability consulting firm and released today by GigaOM Pro, a subscription based research and analysis service covering green IT (among other topics).
MindClick decided to use the two biggest shopping days of the year—Black Friday and Cyber Monday—as a launching point for their research. The National Retail Federation conducted a survey late last month in which it asked consumers about their anticipated spending over the Thanksgiving weekend. The results showed that, on average, consumers would spend $343 inside stores and $104 through online purchases.
Imagine biking 25 miles to reach the nearest electricity source capable of powering your cell phone. According to UN research published in 2005, only 20% of Africans (excluding South Africa and Egypt) have access to reliable grid electricity, and this number falls to 2% in rural areas. Consider that one more time. Only 2% of rural Africans have access to electric lights to scare the night away.
Couple that with the fact that the developing world is the fastest growing market for cell phones by a long shot. Worldwide, there are more than 2.4 billion cellphone users (2006 data) and 59 percent of these 2.4 billion people live in developing countries. This makes cellphones the first telecommunications technology in history to have more users there than in the developed world.
In countries where mobile technology has leapfrogged infrastructure power for mobile devices can be quite difficult to come by.
So while mobile connectivity represents a major opportunity for quality of life for the base of the pyramid the realities of the electric grid present a substantial stumbling block.
A royal panel (left to right): Royal Prince Haakon of Norway, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark
Up the road from the COP15 Climate Conference and just outside of downtown Copenhagen, 170 exhibitors gathered this weekend for the 2-day Bright Green conference, to demonstrate that climate change is both a dangerous peril and a pathway to profits. Bright Green, a showcase organized by the Confederation of Danish Industry, aims to show that the emission reductions currently being negotiated at COP15 will require a myriad of new industry solutions.
Judging by the turnout, it would appear that industry is more then ready to step up to the challenge and that the 10,000 attendees were not deterred by silent protest messages, such as “our climate is not your business” and “greenwashing,”, etched in chalk on adjacent sidewalks and walls leading to the Copenhagen Forum Center.
Inside the building, a maze of trade show booths greeted the curious and energetic crowd. The eclectic mix of exhibitors included alternative energy companies, consultants, solution providers, product manufacturers and trade delegations from countries such as Canada, Finland, Denmark, France and the United States.
Cisco Systems bills itself as the leader in “networked sustainability,” and organizers, knowing teleconferencing would be an important element at the COP15 events, launched a public tender for sponsors for our videoconferencing. Naturally, Cisco stepped in. Cisco’s Telepresence, the technology used for virtual meetings at COP15, is described on Cisco’s website as high quality audio, with high definition video and interactive features to “deliver an in-person meeting experience.”
“Cisco met our demands in terms of the company’s sustainability strategy, its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and its adherence to the UN Global Contact, so they became the technology provider for the conference,” Olling said.
In recent decades, travel has become cheap, thereby allowing a large portion of the population to go wherever it pleases. While, at first glance, this seems a good thing, it has contributed in many ways to the increasing homogenization of world culture, and an increasing environmental footprint–something that more then 70 world leaders are meeting to discuss at this week’s COP15 meetings.
You’ve probably heard of ecotourism, traveling with a lighter impact and more meaningful experience, but you might be surprised to know that Travelocity, one of the major online travel agencies, has been running its Travel For Good program since 2006.
The program came not from some opportunistic marketing department, but from within the staff of the company, and it is composed of several people who wanted to find ways to make travel more meaningful, and help connect a more mainstream audience with voluntourism opportunities. When Travelocity reached out to its customers, it realized that there was a lot of interest out there as well, but consumers didn’t know where to look.
Like Walmart mainstreaming sustainable consumerism, Travelocity then set about creating Travel For Good.
Gordon Laird’s new book, The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globalization, looks at the global forces that have given rise to cheap goods. In the process, he identifies a series of instabilities that will very likely bring this phase of cheap consumer goods to a close, while also shifting the economic center of the world away from the United States toward China and the Middle East.
Triple Pundit: What is The Price of a Bargain about?
Gordon Laird: At some level, it’s about interdependence. Since the 1970s, globalization has accelerated. It created new value for many people and conjoined national economies in the process, but also created new risk and crisis. Whether we like it or not, our world has been entwined in ways that are still mysterious to us, in ways that link our fortunes with those of Chinese factory workers. And a surprising amount of our prosperity is leveraged on having access to cheap energy, offshore labor, shipping, and consumer credit.
At this year’s Corporate Water FootPrinting Conference, held in San Francisco December 2-3, the ongoing conversation about the human right to water received front and center billing. This spotlight was in stark contrast to last year’s event, where the subject was largely absent from the agenda and discussion. At that conference, the “water as a public right” NGO community was not on the guest list or in attendance. They were outraged by the notion and appearance that corporations were meeting privately behind closed doors, devising strategies for divvying up the world’s water resources.
In response, the NGO’s organized teach-ins, street protests and leveraged media coverage, the results of which cast a less than positive light on last year’s conference with respect to inclusiveness and transparency. This year, the conference organizers and sponsors, all the wiser from last year’s lack of stakeholder engagement faux pas, invited two H2O NGO’s, represented by Food and Water Watch and the As You Sow Foundation, to the proverbial watering hole.
Don’t get me wrong, I am watching as eagerly as the rest of you. I’m thrilled that COP15 has garnered as much media attention as it has. It’s amazing. I don’t think that the consciousness of the world has ever been so fixated on a single environmental issue in my lifetime. It’s everything that I could hope for. But, I’ve been known to skim and article or two.
Who can blame me? There’s a ton of coverage, and not really much happening. David Roberts over at Grist put it best when discussing the non issue of the leaked Danish text:
Consider: Copenhagen maxed out on journalist registrations, at 5,000. (Supposedly there were more than 10,000 waiting in line after that.) The place is choked with journalists, not to mention folks from think tanks and NGOs who are supposed to be blogging. There are thousands of people crammed in a small area, all under instructions to update frequently with fresh news, all exhausted and stressed out, all hungry for something to write about.
On the flip side, virtually nothing of significance to an international agreement will be decided before the final days, perhaps the final hours, of the talks.
What are all those journalists going to write about?…. Most of all, they’ll report the hell out of it every time any representative of any government says anything about anything. Every bit of pre-positioning gossip and bluster will be blown up to billboard size. There is, in short, immense incentive to exaggerate the significance of every piece of “news.”
Waiting for the A train at the 34th Street subway a few months ago in New York City, I was assaulted by the amount of noise on the platform. Chirps, blips, clicks, squawks and music encircled me like ten thousand migrating geese.
I was unintentionally invited into: The very private argument of a young woman and her boyfriend, the squawking swap between two Nextel Direct Connect users, an ear-shattering concert through an iPhone speaker and the assault of a thumping ring tone from a teenager.
The technology landscape has changed the way we communicate with one another but what’s missing is the etiquette manual. With the enthusiastic embracing of new devices, people have lost awareness of the impact that their conversations have on those around them. Physical walls have vanished along with the technological umbilical cords that connected us to the outside world. Welcome to the new world of the personal “mobile home” office, one without boundaries or rules for airing your personal laundry for public consumption.
Using the B Corporation Ratings System, the report analyzes a diverse selection of 24 food businesses. The assessment offers a rare piece of good news. In contrast to the common assumption that local food is a small, struggling, and poorly run movement by and for the rich, it concludes that the industry is maturing into a “centerpiece” of development. The research initiative began with a mailing sent to over 10,000 people requesting nominations for exemplary local food businesses. The authors’ chose a diverse group. Half of the companies are located within the United States, half abroad. No two American businesses are within the same state, no two foreign companies from the same country. Together, the selected “community food enterprises” (CFE) represent the corporate and non-profit sectors, public-private partnerships, and cooperatives. They operate in various niches of the food system: in production, distribution, training. value-added, and the restaurant industry Their contributions to local economies, social enterprise, and food security is magnificent.
New York: Feb 27 – Mar 1 EXPOSED 2015 EXPOSED is a three-day interactive food, wellness and social impact event in New York City Register here.
San Francisco: Mar 16 – Mar 18 Cleantech Forum San Francisco Cleantech Forum SF is the world’s largest summit for those immersed in sustainability that drives innovation. 3p readers use CFSF153P for $300 discount. Register here.
San Diego: Apr 16 – Apr 19 SVN Spring Conference Connect with likeminded business leaders and join TriplePundit in San Diego for the Social Venture Network's Spring Conference! Register here.
New York, NY: May 14 – May 16 Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Taking place in New York City on 14-16th May, the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit will showcase major developments in green ingredients, distribution, social and customer impacts. Register here.
San Diego: Jun 1 – Jun 4 Sustainable Brands 2015 Reinvent yourself in response to changing norms. The demand for brands to deliver purpose is soaring. Get a 20% discount with the code "NW3pSB15sd"Register here.
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