Pop quiz: What are the 2 most commonly traded commodities on the planet? If you guessed bananas and wheat, you’re wayyy off. But who would guess bananas and wheat? Maybe if you just finished eating Shredded Wheat with chopped bananas you might have it on the brain, but odds are if you just did finish breakfast, you enjoyed it with a cup of the world’s #2 most traded.
Coffee, after petroleum (#1), is the second most traded commodity in the world. Of course, the name itself is very misleading. A commodity, according to my Econ textbook, is “something for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across markets. It is the same no matter who produces it…” Examples given are petroleum, iron ore, copper, as well as agricultural products such as corn, soy, wheat, ethanol, and yes, coffee.
Any coffee aficianado will tell you that coffee is anything but a commodity. Can anyone truly say there’s no difference between Folger’s and a local artisan roaster’s rich blends?
And of course, there’s the sustainability aspect. Coffee has been one of the darlings of the sustainability movement. It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to switch from a conventional coffee to a truly sustainable one, and gives our conscience something to feel good about with every delicious sip. For coffee to be sustainable, it can achieve a variety of certifications. Organic, Fair Trade, and Shade-Grown, coffees are available in most any city in the world. Some coffees go even further.
So what is the most sustainable coffee on the planet?Click to continue reading »
John Donahoe, the CEO of eBay, stood underneath a pop-up tent on a rainy Friday in San Jose. He had on running shoes, old jeans, and wore an eBay Green Team tee over a long-sleeved, button-up shirt. For being the head of one of the most well-known names in Silicon Valley, he was refreshingly approachable and accessible. Employees came up to him, introduced themselves, and took the opportunity to speak with the man they had probably never even seen walking through the office hallways before. “The best thing about the Green Team,” he started, “is that it happened in a very eBay way.”
The crowd of a couple hundred listening to Donahoe and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed was mostly comprised of eBay employees—tired, wet, and cheerful after a green space beautification project sponsored by the company’s Green Team just miles away from the its corporate headquarters.
What started off as a scant 40 members, volunteering their time because they had a passion for sustainability, the Green Team has now exploded to over 100,000 strong after it opened up to community members (eBay sellers and customers) a little over than two months ago.
“The founding of eBay,” Donahoe said in an interview, “always had a socially conscious outlook, though it was never emphasized or articulated.” Donahoe also made a point to emphasize how inherently green eBay is. Its core offering, the eBay online marketplace, is about returning used goods to the market, supplanting the creation of new goods with large carbon footprints and removing products from the waste cycle. “We didn’t want to be the guys talking about it,” he said, referring to the company’s social values. “We want to be the guys doing it.”Click to continue reading »
Let me start by saying this is an interactive post. In order for it to be a stunning success, you need to pen your thoughts in the comment section below!
Normally at this time you would be reading my weekly column “Sustainably 101″. However, it is trade show season and I wanted to share a few stories from the road. Since April 20th, I have been speaking and attending conferences. First it was Coverings in Chicago, then off to Vegas for The National Hardware Show and The Hospitality and Design Expo.
One common theme carried throughout the exhibit hall: “green marketing”. Some displays excelled in telling their company and product’s green story. On the other hand, others failed miserably. Many companies disregarded environmental marketing regulations and guidelines, mainly because the marketing team didn’t know they existed. “Carbon Neutral” claims were highly visible, yet sales and marketing teams did not know how to talk to their customers about the carbon footprinting process, or if the product or manufacturing process was “carbon neutral”.
So, my question to you is this: Do you think the image above is marketing the product, company, or manufacturing process as carbon neutral? Yes, I have the answer. And, yes, I will share it with you after I receive your feedback!
Companies who want to become leaders in sustainable change now have a new evaluation tool called Sustainable Futures 09. Created by Havas Media, Sustainable Futures 09 is targeted for “progressive and engaged companies.”
Guy Champniss, Director of Business Insights, Havas Media Intelligence characterizes Sustainable Futures 09 as, “a huge step forward in allowing us to help progressive and forward-looking brands manage their sustainable communications more effectively. It directs brands so that they can meet and surpass consumer expectations, ensuring their endeavours in this area help build durable brand value.”
The Sustainability Futures Quotient (SFQ) is a “cross-sector measurement tool” that tracks and compares companies’ performances in regards to sustainability. According to Champniss, the SFG is “key in helping companies maximise their advantage.” It can help companies in the long-term to “take a corporate temperature check.”
By Kai Jaffe
How would your company act differently if run by social gamers? This was the question posed by social game designer Alan Wells at Thursday night’s Designers Accord town hall meeting in San Francisco.
The Designers Accord is a global coalition of designers, educators, researchers, engineers, and corporate leaders working together to integrate the principles of sustainability into all aspects of design practice and manufacturing. It advocates inverting the traditional model of competition, and encourages sharing best practices so environmental and social innovation is more efficiently and quickly disseminated. In the spirit of sharing, a number of designers and design educators came together at Lunar Design in San Francisco to discuss how they are implementing sustainability thinking into their work.
Alan Wells works at Zynga, a social gaming company, designing social games. To get people to play his game over and over and want to share it with their friends, the game must have rewards built into it. Very clear reward structures, where a player knows what they have to do to receive a reward, appeals to human nature. Alan has found that the key to a successful reward structure, and thus a successful game, is when players have to exhibit comparison, competition, and cooperation. To have a successful social game a player will always compare what they have with what others have, and therefore, compete with their friends, and cooperate with people to gain a reward.Click to continue reading »
Click to continue reading »
(Note: this is the first post in a series of articles on developing, validating, and implementing a sustainability growth strategy for current (and future) market conditions. Overview of the blog post is here. The target audience is CXOs in technology companies and global Engineering Procurement & Construction (EPC) firms who are chartered to lead efforts to grow new revenue streams in this general market sector, as well as those executives in global enterprises who are considering implementation of such strategies.
In the fall of last year, I wrote about the need for sustainability programs in the industrial sector, given the current economic climate (link). Since that time, we have seen market conditions deteriorate, but conversely, have also seen companies (both services and technology) who are starting to hire again to provide sustainability solutions to their clients. The purpose of this column is to provide some guidance on the state of the sustainability strategy market need; particularly in regard to enterprise systems. Notes from leaders from both the “sell” and “buy” sides of the equation provide additional data points on current trends.
Click to continue reading »
Earlier this month, Mary Catherine O’Connor visited the Ford Point “Green Manufacturing facility” and, among other innovative companies, spent some time with Vetrazzo, a maker of stylish, recycled surfaces such as countertops.
Vetrazzo’s final products are approximately 85% (by weight) recycled glass from a variety of post-consumer and post-industrial sources. We thought you might like a closer look at the manufacturing process in the form of a photo essay. Read on to see…
Click to continue reading »
A few weeks ago, I took a look at the Isla Viveros Resort’s purportedly eco-friendly golf course. Isla Viveros is doing more than many golf courses in its quest for sustainability, but does South Carolina’s Kiawah Island Golf Resort, established in 1976, do better?
After nine months of negotiations and two hours of official face-to-face discussions, Brazil’s President Lula da Silva and his Paraguayan counterpart, Fernando Lugo, failed to come an agreement over Itaipu Dam, Brazil’s O Estado do S√£o Paulo reported last night. Completed in 1991, Itaip√∫ is a joint venture between neighboring countries Brazil and Paraguay to generate hydroelectricity from the Rio Parana, the world’s 7th largest river.
According to a treaty signed in 1973, each country retains a 50% claim to the electricity generated. However, over the years, Brazil has dominated the consumption of the energy produced, using 95% of Itaip√∫’s output to power 20% of the country, leaving 5% for Paraguay. Though, O Estado clarifies that 5% amounts to 90% of the Paraguay’s entire energy needs.
Nonetheless, Lugo, who recently entered office, has cited growing global energy concerns and the financial crisis as among the principal reasons to renegotiate the concessions of Itaip√∫, threatening to take the matter to international courts in order to resolve the issue.
Water is one of the greatest challenges of our times, and with this week’s launch of Imagine H2O, it has become a great opportunity. Imagine H2O is a non-profit with a mission to inspire and empower people to solve water problems.
Through an annual business plan competition, Imagine H2O will address the water problems of developed economies and bring together a community of entrepreneurs, investors, water experts, academics, and caring citizens who collectively have the power to solve the water crisis. The aim is to develop the Silicon Valley for water, an ecosystem of stakeholders to the next great water innovations.
Water supply is perhaps our most pressing issue, even in the US. For example:
* The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that over 50% of America’s groundwater is polluted.
* In 2007, 40% of states suffered droughts and over 70% of states are anticipating water shortages by 2013
* Over the last 25 years, droughts have killed more Americans than any other U.S. weather disaster and have caused $150 billion in damage nationally.
* Up to $1 trillion is needed to rebuild America’s aging water infrastructure
But today less than 0.5% of early-stage investment goes toward water innovations. Imagine H2O is offering $50,000 in prizes for business plans promising the greatest breakthroughs in the efficient use of water.
Welcome to Friday’s Green Business Roundup from around the blogosphere! I’ll be filling in for the lovely and talented Jen Boynton for the next two weeks on this regular column as she finishes up her Green MBA at the Presidio School of Management. Send her positive energy and caffeine telemetry!
The City of San Francisco, long known as one of the greenest in the country, if not the world, and a terrific place to grow an organic garden, will now have California’s largest municipal solar project, thanks to an effort spearheaded by Mayor Gavin Newsom, and this week passed by the city’s Board of Supervisors (artist’s rendition pictured above). A company called Recurrent Energy will begin construction on a 5 MW solar facility that will provide a portion of the city’s power. Newsom, who will be running for governor of California in 2010, called the project an important step to “help lead the state towards a future of clean, renewable energy.”
In a beautiful and hopeful sign of the times, Ford this week announced plans to retool a former SUV manufacturing plant in Michigan to produce the all electric Ford Focus. The first battery-electric Focus is set to roll off the assembly line there in 2011, and in the meantime, the plant will produce its fuel-efficient Focus in a facility that used to make Lincoln Navigators and Ford Expeditions. The facility is one of three that Ford operates that is shifting from trucks and SUVs to more fuel efficient and higher tech vehicles. (From our friends at GreenBiz.com).
Cap & Trade legislation, as it turns out, will not mean offshoring of jobs, according to Pew Research. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans and conservative think tanks from lining up their whisper campaigns! It’s a blind man’s bluff, as described by John Laumer, to get congressional Democrats running in different directions and to obstruct any progress on climate change legislation. (From our friends at TreeHugger.)
One of the things that I like best about about the fight to slow climate change is that it is intimately tied to social justice and recognizes that we need to fight every bit as hard to eradicate poverty and diminish suffering in less fortunate areas of the world.
And so stories like this one fill me with hope.
D.light Design, a company that is on a mission to replace the kerosene lamps used in developing world villages, garnered $6 million in Series A funding from a venture capital firm late last year. But here’s where the story gets good. In a nutshell, D.Light’s founders have built a low-cost light with a battery and a small solar panel that can help families in the developing world save more money each month. Click to continue reading »
Click to continue reading »
“Eco-driving”, or “Hypermiling” are terms used to describe driving habits that maximize fuel efficiency. Using these techniques, drivers were recently able to get 1,445 miles on a single tank of gas in a Ford Fusion Hybrid, which is double what Ford originally suggested the car could attain. While this may or may not turn out to be the norm (the drivers were likely a lot more committed to Eco-driving than any of us will be), it definitively shows the potential for efficiency gains.
So is there a market for entrepreneurs to create Eco-driving schools? You bet. Doubling our fuel efficiency could potentially save Americans $900 to $1,800 per person, depending on the type of vehicle. So who among us wouldn’t spend a small portion of that to learn Eco-driving? What parent would pay for a traditional driving school especially if they were footing the bill for their kids’ gas? In fact, marketing to parents would be even stronger based on the increased safety behaviors inherent in Eco-driving techniques.