Will the US Be the Leading Market for Electric Vehicles?

| Friday April 24th, 2009 | 6 Comments

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As industry leaders watch closely the consumer response to new electric vehicles, ideas are quickly taking shape in regards to where manufacturers should target their sales and production. While North American, European and Chinese auto manufacturers race to bring a viable electric car to market, the question remains, who will arrive first and where will the manufacturing centers be located?
A recent announcement that Think, Norway’s pioneering electric carmaker, will open a manufacturing plant in the US is an indication that the US may be overtaking Europe as more lucrative marketplace for the production of electric vehicles.

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Better World Books Thrives Despite the Recession

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday April 24th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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We have already published two posts about Better World Books, one in February by Amie Vaccaro, and the other by me last June. Why should there be another post? During an economic recession when people are buying less of everything, Better World Books is thriving. Started in 2003 by college students, seven percent of its revenues go to non-profit organizations and libraries. It has raised over $5 million for those organizations and libraries. In other words, Better World Books is a triple bottom line company that is managing to make a profit.
On CNN’s website, an article pointed out that other online bookstores have more revenue. In 2008, Half Price Books had $186 million in revenues, and Amazon.com had $177 million during the first three months of this year alone. However, unlike Half Price Books and Amazon.com, Better World Books does not charge shipping and handling fees within the U.S., and only charges $3.97 worldwide. That coupled with the low cost of its books, gives it a tremendous opportunity for continued growth.

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Another Earth Day Rant

Jeff Siegel | Thursday April 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Watching all the Earth Day coverage yesterday was pretty exhausting. Let’s face it: Most of those talking heads on television are only repeating what one of their researchers likely found on the internet. They are not the experts, and they don’t often seek out the real experts when it comes to reporting on the environment or sustainable development. Generally speaking, of course.
How many times do we have to hear about changing light bulbs, carpooling, and turning down your thermostat? Don’t get me wrong. I certainly appreciate all the attention the cable news networks devote during Earth Day. But it’s really become a broken record falling on deaf ears.
Truth is, most people in this country only respond to two things: Fear and Greed. And if you don’t tap those buttons, you’re just spinning your wheels.

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Socolite: Where Social Consciousness is Always in Style

| Thursday April 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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One of the primary goals of the Philanthropy in Five series is to feature companies who are committed to giving back, and serve as a framework for making social consciousness the standard way of conducting business.
In similar fashion (bad pun intended), Nicole D’Alonzo is launching Socolite.com, an online destination for spotlighting the philanthropic efforts and social innovations of local businesses and entrepreneurs in a fun, contemporary way. Her vision is to transform the idea of a socialite into a “socolite,” where being socially conscious, embracing a green lifestyle and being eco-aware are the height of style.
She refers to her concept as the web equivalent of a lounge where people can congregate to share goodwill, collaborate and use their collective power to make a difference in ways that are compelling, memorable and fashionable. From charity fundraisers to black-tie benefits to casual networking events, Nicole is chronicling these experiences through video and compiling documentaries to help inspire ongoing change, and shape a culture rooted in consciousness. In a society built on the concept of it being chic to spend, Nicole is showing that it’s chic to give. And that’s a cause that’s more than just a passing fad.

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How Can We Make Impact Investing Mainstream?

| Thursday April 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

Impact investing, or investing for social and/or environmental impact as well as financial return, has become more and more popular, and will hopefully become the norm rather than the exception. At the Investors’ Circle conference, a panel of experts discussed impact investing.
Amit Bouri, of the Monitor Institute, explained the findings of a recent report, “Investing for Social and Environmental Impact“.

  1. Market fragmentation is a challenge.
  2. The field needs better metrics and measurement standards, such that impact investments are transparent and comparable.
  3. Investors need to assess, understand and communicate the impact of their investments.

Binda Ganguly, Associate Director at the Rockefeller Foundation, manages Rockefeller’s $20M program related investment portfolio. She explained how Rockefeller is working on building the impact investing space.

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Delivering Value with Values: BBMG’s 2009 Conscious Consumer Report

| Thursday April 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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We have reached a “profound reset moment in our lives.” So says Raphael Bemporad, Co-Founder of BBMG, the branding and interactive marketing agency. BBMG recently released its second annual Conscious Consumer Report, a study of the intersection of purchasing behavior and social values in America today. According to the introduction to the report, “A new narrative is shaping our collective experience and changing out we think, how we work, and how we live.”
We previously covered BBMG’s first Conscious Consumer Report here last year, but as we limp through one of the most crippling economic crises since the Great Depression, this year’s report takes on a particularly relevant tenor.
“Consumers now more than ever expect more from brands and products,” Bemporad said in a recent interview. With consumer confidence at a new low, combined with increasing unemployment, and a populist backlash against Wall St. scandals, “[Consumers] are yearning for the combination for the combination of value and values in the relationships with the brands in their lives. They are hungry for that authenticity.”
Several questions were posed in the approach of this year’s report. Will consumers seek green benefits in a tough economy? Which product attributes matter most in a recession? How do consumers know if sustainability or socially conscious claims are true? How can socially responsible brands survive the economic crisis and thrive long-term? And the report’s results offers “new strategies for innovation by delivering on the multiple dimensions of value – price, performance, purpose and participation.” By doing so, BBMG claims brands will be able to survive the crisis, build deeper relationships with customers, and thrive in the sustainable economy of the future.

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What Is So Special About Microfinance?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday April 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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In 1983, Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus visited a Bangladesh village where he loaned $27 to stool makers who paid him back with interest. After that he created the Grameen Rural Bank which has lent over $983 million to over seven million borrowers.
Kiva.org, a person-to-person microfinance website, defines microfinance as “the supply of loans, savings, and other basic financial services to the poor.” The 2005 Commission for Africa report pointed out that access to financial services, including credit, is very hard for poor people. Microfinance gives small entrepreneurs access to credit.

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Live Webcast: Pat Tiernan – Climate Savers Computing Initiative

| Thursday April 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Karmic Leads: Employing Consciousness

| Wednesday April 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Philanthropy comes in many forms. It can manifest as corporate giving or cause-related transcations or volunteer programs. It can be donations of time, money or expertise. Or, in the case of Karmic Leads, it can be a database of job listings designed to help individuals and small business owners connect with relevant opportunities, at no cost. With the challenging economy and lay offs reaching record numbers, founder, Nipa Shah decided to utilize her resources to create a community of employers and job seekers that is highly targeted, accessible, and best of all, completely free. Her goal is two-fold — get people employed and form professional connections that will help them stay employed by tapping into a network of contacts all committed to an employ-it-forward approach to hiring. And that’s good karma you can take to the bank on pay day.

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A Conundrum for Social Entrepreneurs: Selling Your Company Without Selling Out

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday April 22nd, 2009 | 3 Comments

S09-Website-Button.jpgNext to the Dr. Bronner’s soap, it’s hard to think of a consumer packaged product that wears its makers’ political and social stance more on its sleeve (or rather, label) than Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The delicious treat is an iconic sustainable product. So when Ben and Jerry sold their company to multinational consumer packaged goods producer Unilever in 2000, did they become iconic sell-outs?
That’s a good question, and one that was addressed during Tuesday’s Investors’ Circle Spring Conference in a session called “The Sell Out.”
When we ask “what is a sell-out?” we have to use a common standard for measurement, said the panel’s moderator Mark Albion, founder of Net Impact and best-selling author of True to Yourself and More Than Money. His suggestion for a metric was to ask whether the acquired company continues the founder’s efforts to create social good in its efforts to run the business. In other words: Is today’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream doing as much or more good work than the privately-held company run by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield achieved? Panelist Pierre Ferrari, chairman of the board of Ben & Jerry’s, responded that from a purely utilitarian point of view, when you consider profitability only, then the answer is a clear yes. But when viewed through the lens of social responsibility, the firm in some respects is “not as good as it was under [the original] Ben & Jerry’s management,” he admitted.

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Live Webcast: Mitchell Joachim

| Wednesday April 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Energy Circle Goes Far Beyond Earth Day Cliches with a Simple, Powerful Act

| Wednesday April 22nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

Earth Day happens for the 40th time today. And some aren’t too pleased with how big, commercial, and opportunist it’s gotten. That it’s become like going to church on Easter, a once a year empty gesture without lasting ramifications or lifestyle changing.
Energy%20Circle%20home%20energy%20monitor.jpeg But then along comes a company like Energy Circle, who are doing something simple, transparent, and powerful: Founder Peter Troast and his family of four are sharing their energy use with the world , via a hacked The Energy Detective (TED), a “…a real-time home electricity monitor that is the equivalent of a digital stethoscope.

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Investing and Entrepreneurship in Water at Investors’ Circle

| Tuesday April 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Water is fast becoming top of mind, joining oil as a precious resource, and carbon as something companies ought to pay attention to. A panel of water investors and experts discussed opportunities in water at the Investors’ Circle conference. My takeaway from the conversation is that water is a difficult (read: fragmented, inefficient, and complex) issue, but one that demands our attention and our intelligence. The panel featured David Zetland, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Natural Resource Economics and Political Economy at UC Berkeley, Brian Dunn, CEO of Growth Capital Services, and Dominic Kulik, founding Principal of Dakai Enterprises.
We just scratched the surface of the complexities of water. Panelists generally agreed the term “water market” is a misnomer, as we really don’t have any sort of market for water. Rather, monopolies rule, Zetland explained.
“Water is on a 10 year lag to alternative energy,” Kulik explained. Water is undervalued, and the system is inefficient. The field is begging for clear competitive mapping and analysis, but this does not exist as yet.

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Garbage Moguls: The New TerraCycle Reality TV Show

Tom Szaky | Tuesday April 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

garbagemoguls%20%28Custom%29.JPG After 3 years of pitching networks, meeting with various producers, and all of the other Hollywood headaches we finally have our own TerraCycle Reality TV Show. Garbage Moguls, which debuts on the National Geographic Channel on Earth Day (4/22) at 9pm EST/PST, follows our team at TerraCycle as we take waste (in Episode 1, Oreo Wrappers and Coca-Cola Billboards) and figure out how to upcycle them into products (Oreo wrappers will become kites and billboards will be messenger bags) and then finally sell them to a major retailer (Oreo wrapper kites to Wal-Mart and Billboard messenger bags to Office Max). So tune in and also don’t forget to spread the word.

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Socially Responsible Investing for Dummies: How Do You Define SRI?

| Tuesday April 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

SRI%20for%20Dummies.jpgI am extremely interested in socially responsible investing (SRI), however knew very little about what that actually means. Which is why I was excited to pick up a copy of Ann Logue‘s new book, Socially Responsible Investing for Dummies. Logue is author of several other Dummies series books – she specializes in making complex topics accessible for everyone. She recently wrote for 3p about CSR and the bear market.
In my day job with SVT Group I work with organizations that are trying to grow their revenue and impact to enhance their effectiveness (and fundraising efforts) by measuring, managing and communicating their positive impact. As such I get a lot of people asking for advice in SRI and impact investing. Logue’s book helped me make sense of this arena.
Logue advises each investor to conduct their own due diligence, and create their own idea of what SRI means for them based on their individual issue areas and passions. The truth is that SRI is a tricky topic to advise on because it means something different for everyone, as it should. But for each of us, it’s not all that complicated. For some it’s about not investing in tobacco, alcohol or firearms – the sin filter. For others it may be about investing in companies with strong CSR. And others may select companies based on the positive impact of their products and services.
I recently sussed out the socially-just banking landscape (and wrote about it). Based on what I found I opened a Shorebank high yield savings account (which offers 2.45% interest rate) as well as a CD with Microplace (which offers 5% over 2 years). I believe that you don’t have to sacrifice returns to make an impact in all cases (my research in banking showed a lower return on most social/environmental banking products, hence my choice of Shorebank, which is highly competitive with other savings accounts, and Microplace). I closed my ING and Vanguard money market accounts in turn. I was raised with the philosophy of investing for returns and donating the surplus to charity, but the more I learn the more I realize how harmful that viewpoint can be, and I am trying to embody that belief. And a recent AT Kearny study found that companies committed to sustainability outperform their peers on the market.

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