By Rebecca Busse
“Doing well by doing good” is a commonly heard phrase in sustainability circles, and the Microfinance California Conference was no exception. Microfinance CA was held at Stanford University on May 28, 2009, and was remarkably well organized for a first effort. “Doing well by doing good” was spoken or alluded to by several of the conference sponsors, including Wells Fargo and Chevron, and the phrase could almost be the tagline for “Sustainability Marketing 101″. Julia Brown, the Community Reinvestment Act Officer for Charles Schwab, said this was her reason for attending the event. According to Brown, not only does microfinance encourage a strong community, it creates a strong future customer base. A common theme among conference presenters, microfinance is growing out of its nascent stage as a tool for poverty alleviation and into its adolescence as a financial investment tool that makes good business sense.
By Rebecca Busse
Continuing a line of previous posts about terrific eco-stats coming from David Suzuki’s Green Guide (on energy and food), here is a summary of travel-related stats for the eco-conscious that can be used in marketing for any green entrepreneurs in the travel industry.
More Americans have died in car crashes than in all the wars fought in US history combined, including the bloodiest: Civil War, WW2, and Vietnam.
Children living near freeways suffer noticeable lung function decreases and 89% higher risk of asthma.
Cost of economic externalities (social and environmental) of our car-dependent culture are estimated at between $400 billion and $2 trillion annually. This does not include military protection of oil security.
The average Canadian spends 34 equivalents of 8 hour work days commuting each year.
Tetra Pak is a nearly 60-year-old packaging and food processing company. It’s likely that Tetra Pak wrapped up many of the products sitting in your kitchen cupboards right now. One of its flagship packaging products is the rugged, paper-based cartons that are widely used for selling soy milk, soups and other liquid food and beverages. Last week I participated in a twitter conference that Tetra Pak hosted in order to spread a message of sustainability around this packaging type, also called aseptic paper packaging.
I should add that after I signed up to participate in the twittercon, TetraPak sent me two sample products packaged in the aseptic Tetra Pak: a bottle (or rather, carton) of wine and a carton of chicken broth. (I’m a vegetarian, so I’m looking for a home for the chicken broth. I also think they could have sent a product that is less energy-intensive than chicken broth. But I digress.)
Along with this product, the company sent along some printed information about these Tetra Pak cartons. They are made of 74 percent paper. They are lightweight and make up a smaller packaging-to-product ratio than other packaging forms. In other words, glass and plastic weigh more, which means they require more energy to transport. The square dimension of the cartons make them efficient in terms of load space – you can often load more cartons on a pallet than cans and bottles, for example.Click to continue reading »
Does “1,4 butanediol” ring any bells for you? Unless you’re a chemist, it probably doesn’t. But this compound is used in making many of the plastics and fibers that we use every day. This important building block of modern-day materials is created from petroleum-derived material. Aside from making it a non-renewable resource, this also makes the cost of 1,4 butanediol highly volatile, since it fluctuates with the cost of oil. But San Diego startup Genomatica aims to change all that; it has developed a means of using sugars and bacteria to create this common industrial chemical.
The company, which announced its discovery last fall, says it has now refined its processing system and is ready to begin producing commercial grade BDO. It also announced that it plans on taking its process out of the lab and into a demonstration facility that will begin churning out the chemical next year. The company has also shown that it can increase the concentrations of bacteria needed to ferment and purify 1,4 butanediol in large quantities, which will allow it to compete with makers of petroleum-based 1,4 butanediol in terms of scale.
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By Deborah Fleischer
Stakeholder engagement is a process of reaching out to a range of constituents who are interested in, or impacted by, your business, including employees, investors, suppliers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), consumers, governmental agencies and thought-leaders.
It means opening up your company to feedback, and potentially criticism, from a diverse range of perspectives. So, why would you want to take this risk?
Business case for stakeholder engagement
Before I launch into the key tips for engaging stakeholders, I want to touch on why stakeholder engagement is a solid business practice.
Alex McIntosh, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Nestle Waters, believes that lacking a stakeholder engagement strategy “…is like launching a new product without doing any market research….You are taking a big risk without doing it. Stakeholder engagement is an important, essential element in good citizenship and good business strategy. You need to know what issues are most important to the people that are most relevant to your business.”
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This series focuses on all of the companies who have adopted philanthropy as part of their business model, and spotlights their efforts as a way to help shift the paradigm toward adopting a socially responsible mission. One common element I’ve observed is that many companies dilute their giving by opting to support a multitude of charities rather than focusing on one, where they can concentrate their efforts — and profiits — toward tangible change. While the intent to help as many charities as possible is a noble one, it is not the most sustainable option if the end goal is to make a significant impact. It’s for this same reason that I recommend to companies that their cause marketing be tightly aligned with their business instead of randomly selecting flavor-of-the-month charities.
Ehlers Estate is emblematic of this concept, representing the fusion of a for-profit winegrowing estate, environmental consciousness and international philanthropy. The winery’s diverse Napa Valley vineyard is cultivated using organic and biodynamic farming techniques to produce exceptional Bordeaux-varietal wines, and all proceeds from the sale of these wines fund international cardiovascular research through the Leducq Foundation. While they are unique in that 100% of the profits are used toward philanthropy, the manner in which they’ve wholly integrated the cause with their business practices, from operations through marketing, can be effectively reproduced in profit-based companies.
The “secret sauce” in all of these types initiatives is to stand for something and support it fully in all you do — from internal communications with employees and stakeholders to external engagements with customers. You don’t have to donate all of your revenue to charity as Ehlers Estate does, but you do have to select and nurture a mission that is the embodiment of an authentic commitment to social responsibility, and is exemplified in all you do. At the end of the day, it’s all about walking the walk. Talk is not only cheap; it’s sour grapes.
The U.S. market for small wind turbines grew 78% last year, highlighting heightened interest in, demand for, and use of distributed alternative and renewable power systems. A total 17.3 megawatts worth of new small wind turbines–defined as wind turbines with generation capacities of 100 kilowatts and less–was installed in 2009, according to a report by the American Wind Energy Association released May 28.
“Consumers are looking for affordable ways to improve their energy security and reduce their personal carbon footprint,” said Ron Stimmel, AWEA’s Small Wind Advocate. “Small wind technology can be an answer to that search. As government policies have caught up with consumer interest, we’re seeing people all across the U.S. take advantage of this abundant, domestic natural resource and U.S. manufacturers have been able to meet this increasing demand.”
What’s even more encouraging is that U.S. manufacturers–such as Mariah Wind profiled here on 3P–accounted for about half of total worldwide small wind turbine sales. U.S. market share made up $77 million of the $156 million global total (38.7 MW), according to the AWEA. Click to continue reading »
Coalition of Environmental Groups Publishes Alternative Annual Report Describing Widespread Abuses by Chevron
We’ve all seen the Chevron “Human Energy” advertisements with the concerned scientist and soothing music reassuring us that the big oil giant is on the case. Judging from the frequency of the ads, you’d expect Chevron is devoting huge amounts of time and money working on alternative energy solutions, while at the same time operating responsibly in regards to the environment and human rights. But a coalition of 11 watchdog groups, called The True Cost of Chevron, suggest the truth of Chevron’s business operations is far different.
The group developed and released an “Alternative Annual Report” last week, just ahead of Chevron’s shareholder meeting and the company’s announcement that 2008 was the most profitable year in their history. The alternative report tells shareholders more about the hidden and under-reported costs of these profits. It brings together stories from communities across the world that are all directly affected by and in struggle against Chevron’s operations. The group also organized protests in front of Chevron’s San Ramon, California headquarters on the day of the shareholder’s meeting last week.
“Two thousand nine will be a tough year,” Jigar Shah, founder of Sun Edison, wrote me in an email. “It will take the entire year for the solar industry to reorient itself to the new rules of the game. In the meantime, the third and fourth quarter will help us make up for a weak first quarter, but not enough to produce overall growth in 2009.” Shah doesn’t expect hiring in the solar industry to pick up until 2010.
Still, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 targets $11 billion for a smart grid, $2.3 billion for advanced battery technology, $6.3 billion to states and local governments for greater energy efficiency, guarantees $60 billion in loans for renewable energy power generation and electric transmission projects, and $2.5 billion for energy research. As that money gets spent, it should boost hiring and the economy with it. Click to continue reading »
In an interview before its launch, Hara’s CEO and founder, Amit Chatterjee, spoke about the software’s function and utility, its origin, and its potential impact on the business world.
Chatterjee, who just returned the from addressing House Democrats about energy and resource management, recognized the implicit and necessary importance of sustainability in the business world after working in foreign direct investment. And for Chatterjee, sustainability is much more than just going green.
According to Chatterjee, in the Summer of 2007, the era of globalization ended. That is, the World Is Flat mentality ceased being a competitive advantage in the business world due to the energy, debt, and commodity crises. The end of globalization marked the beginning of the post-carbon economy, where carbon is valued in the marketplace. Click to continue reading »
Timberland is a pioneer in corporate sustainability, corporate social responsibility or however you describe a business that cares about people and planet as well as profits. I spoke with Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland, to find out what he’s learned from his experience. You can hear the full interview at Green Business Innovators. But I ended our conversation with more questions than answers. Swartz is not convinced that doing good translates directly into doing well…yet. I discussed with him how he is trying to change that by connecting with consumers.
Swartz has been with Timberland for over 20 years and has served as President and CEO since 1998. Timberland has grown from a $156 million company in 1989 to a $1.4 billion company in 2007.
At the same time, Swartz has built some of the most impressive and inspiring programs I’ve seen at a public company. Timberland employees put in 40 hours of public service hours each year through Timberland’s Path of Service program and annual Servapalooza. Timberland is committed to going carbon neutral by 2010. Timberland’s shoe boxes display nutrition information, which includes information about the manufacturing plant and the impact on the climate and community. And Timberland is starting a green index for all of its products. Just to name a few initiatives. (For more, see http://earthkeeper.com/blog)
But what is the business strategy behind all of these initiatives?Click to continue reading »
In 2008, tight credit and reigned-in consumer spending slowed the march of solar in the residential and commercial markets. But the just-released, second-annual Solar Electric Power Association report, 2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings, shows the steady growth of solar at utilities nationwide.
Installed Capacity Up 25 Percent
The report looks at how much solar was interconnected in calendar year 2008 and cumulative solar installations through the end of 2008, and includes both photovoltaics and concentrating solar power. Ninety-two utilities participated (out of some 3,000 nationwide), representing an 80 percent participation rate increase over the 2007 study – though it’s worth noting that participating utilities generally self-select into the survey as a result of having active solar programs.
Results show an average increase of 2 megawatts among participating utilities over the year, enough to offset the use of over 300 homes on an annual basis. Overall installed capacity of the utilities that participated in the study rose 25 percent, from 711 megawatts to 882.
Among notable names such as JJ Adams, Brian Eno, and Dan Barber, green innovators Shai Agassi and Zaha Hadid were named to Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business list. Released last week, it is a list of “dazzling new thinkers, rising stars, and boldface names” whose creativity is being directed to address larger issues, from “the future of our energy infrastructure to the evolution of philanthropy to next-generation media.”
Earning the #3 nod, Agassi, the CEO of Better Place, finds himself among an impressive short list next to Jonathan Ive (#1), SVP of Industrial Design at Apple, and Melinda Gates (#2), who, alongside her husband, chairs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Ive is the brainchild behind the revolutionary iMac 10 years ago, and Gates leads one of the largest philanthropic organizations in terms of dollars donated, focusing on poverty, education, and health issues around the globe.
Check out the entire list here.
Photo Source: Fast Company
By Lisa Bingham
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
I’ve used this quote in my email signature for years, but being at the BALLE conference in Denver last week was the first time I think I’ve fully appreciated the impact of that statement. The people I met there are passionate about creating change from the bottom up, and there were some truly inspiring stories that demonstrated the success this approach can have. Friday night’s keynote speakers are great examples of this.
The first speaker of the evening was Lisa Daniels of Windustry, a non-profit organization in Minnesota that promotes local ownership of commercial-scale wind energy projects. This is not a new concept – Denmark has been doing this for years. In the U.S., however, most wind projects are developed by large companies or utilities, which means that most of the profits leave the communities in which they are build to line the pockets of big business. Windustry is working to reverse the ownership model and make locally-owned projects more prominent.