Thirteen years after a case was filed against Shell Oil for being complicit in the executions of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Nigerian social and environmental activists, the oil major earlier this week settled out of court just as the case was set to go to trial. Shell will pay $15.5 million, including $5 million into a trust for the benefit of communities in Nigeria’s Ogoni territory where the activists lived. Social and environmental justice organizations including Friends of the Earth have been steadfast in their coverage and activism in support of the Nigerian plaintiffs. While they’re hailing the out of court settlement as a success, they continue to seek to raise public awareness, alarm and action to counter ongoing and prevent future human rights and environmental abuses in West Africa as new discoveries and relative political stability have set the stage for a regional “oil rush.” Click to continue reading »
It’s no secret that the very existence of “big box” stores that plant themselves in giant parking lots to bring cheaply manufactured goods from third-world countries to America (and around the world) is unsustainable. However, with its almost 8,000 stores, 2 million associates, over 100,000 suppliers and 200 million customers, any step in the right direction from the world’s biggest corporation has a huge influence. And Walmart has been making some definite steps in the right direction. Walmart’s environmental goals are clear: “To be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; and to sell products that sustain our resources and the environment.” So how close is Walmart to achieving these goals? I’m glad you asked. I have just the place for you to find out: Walmart’s 2009 Sustainability Report, released this week. Walmart has made some impressive leading environmental moves in some areas while also falling short in others. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Gwen Ruta, the vice president of corporate partnerships at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), commented on the latest from Walmart on EDF’s Innovation Exchange blog. Click to continue reading »
Currently, carbon emissions from IT and communication technologies represent 2% of global CO2 output, which puts information technology (IT) on par with the aviation industry in terms of carbon pollution. With an average increase in emissions of roughly 12% per year, IT has become the fastest growing industry for contributing to the carbon content in our Earth’s atmosphere. However, where consumption is highest, you can also typically find the greatest opportunities to conserve. Businesses of all sizes are starting to turn to their IT departments for strategies to reduce their carbon footprint while also improving services and cutting costs. Being identified as one of the most successful arenas to adopt efficiencies and to improve services through sustainability strategies, corporate IT departments are now enabled to emerge as the green thought leaders within their companies. Click to continue reading »
People, when asked, generally want to do the right thing. But outside their own desire and a vague sense of “you should,” how much and how fast do people change their behavior when it comes shopping? For many, not fast enough. How can that change? One promising answer is Ecounit, one of the top 10 startups featured in last week’s New Venture Exchange at the Sustainable Brands Conference. Ecounit is building on a simple, well thought out premise: Most stores want to save money on operations. Most want to make their customers happy and make more money. Ecounit’s first project seems to be helping them do all of these, well.
According to Lionel Barber, the Editor-in-Chief of the Financial Times, “The financial crisis has necessitated a re-assessment of the way in which banks and investment houses operate.” The UK-based publication holds an annual sustainable banking conference, recognizing the banks and financial institutions that exhibit leadership and innovation in integrating social, environmental, and CSR issues into their operations. “The winners of these awards are radically changing the industry’s approach to risk and opportunity,” added Barber. The Dutch bank Triodos was named the Sustainable Bank of the Year last week, in part for its management of three microfinance funds the bank lends to and invests in over 85 microfinance institutions in 38 countries, across Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Click to continue reading »
The first annual Carbon Salary Survey provides a valuable global snapshot of salaries and opportunities for those interested in entering a climate change-related field. A few of the results: Men are making an average of 23% more than women, more than three-fourths report feeling satisfied with their jobs, and 68% feel equally or more secure in their jobs than they did a year ago. The report – put out by Acona, a consulting firm; Acre Resources, a recruitment firm; and Thomson Reuters – draws on responses from 1,157 participants to paint a general picture of opportunities in a wide range of climate change roles, including energy efficiency, biomass, project development, and power generation. The sample includes individuals from multiple industry sectors, a variety of functions, and from around the globe. The report includes short (and general) job descriptions of the top ten roles, looks at team size (80% of respondents work on teams of ten people or less), and education (23% of respondents have a bachelor degree in a climate change-related subject, 44% in a non-related subject, and 67% have higher degrees). And the salaries? The average across the sample was $75,901, with half the respondents making between $40,000 and $100,000. In North America, the average salary was just shy of $100,000 ($99,995). In Australasia, the average salary was $92,812, and it was $77,291 in the UK, $78,059 in Europe, and $56,609 in Africa. Learn more about carbon careers by reading Emerging Opportunities: Carbon Markets.
As someone who’s committed to giving back, and who also writes a blog series spotlighting change agents, I often seek out kindred spirits whose work is truly making a difference in the world. And I’ve been fortunate to connect with cause innovators like Lee Fox, Andy Sternberg, Joe Waters, Michael Hoffman, Scott Henderson, Chris Noble, Joey Leslie and Brian Powell. I was going to end that sentence with “to name a few,” but wow, that’s a lot! And I could rattle off at least a dozen others, but that would prolong getting to the philanthropic superwoman I am proud to feature today. Sloane Berrent is by far one of the most amazing individuals you’ll ever encounter (and she may actually be the first genetically-engineered social change cyborg). Literally everything she does is focused on good — not only seeing it in the world and sharing her infectious inspiration with everyone around her, but truly embodying the change we all wish to see. The ultimate “doer,” she has worked tirelessly to help nonprofits achieve their mission through her philanthropic consulting, and spent the spring working in New Orleans as part of the ongoing Katrina efforts. If you were following her on Twitter at the time, her voice carried far above the social noise as she shared vivid and touching moments of her experience in the trenches, rebuilding and connecting with those devastated by the hurricane. So it wasn’t surprising when she was selected as part of the Kiva Fellows program, which will bring her to the Phillipines to fill the next chapter in an autobiography worth of good. If there’s a cause in need or a change-related activity, chances are you’ll run into Sloane. Or if she’s not there, just reach out to her, and you can bet she’ll be on the next boat, plane, train or intergalactic spacecraft to lend a helping hand.
When talking about Coca-Cola, you’re talking about 300 different companies in over 200 countries with over 1 million employees. You’re talking about a balance sheet larger than most nations’ GDPs. It is a massive organism, and when things start changing at a place like that, the ripple effects can be powerful and many. From hokey ads in the 70’s that promoted recycling and diversity to being one of the first CPG companies to introduce recycled content into packaging in the early 90’s, Coke has always recognized their connection to consumers and the communities around them. Throughout the world. However, these praiseworthy elements have for a long time been mired by scandal, with lawsuits like this one contributing to the conventional wisdom that large, multinational corporations destroy local economies, communities, and habitats. And with an increasing preponderance of the latter, up until recently, many said the company had lost its way. Click to continue reading »
Continuing a line of previous posts on terrific eco-stats coming from David Suzuki’s Green Guide (on energy, food, and travel), here is a summary of eco-stats related to the production, consumption, and disposal of STUFF that can be used by any green business in the STUFF industry. Americans generate 189,200 pounds of waste and pollution annually. Our economy uses three times each person’s body weight per person per day in resources. 1980 spending on advertising to children in America: $100 M 2004 spending on advertising to children in America: $15 B Children see an average of 40,000 commercials per year. Continued…
If I mentioned Sustainable Medicine to you, you’d probably have a whole host of ideas about what that means: affordable health care for everyone, preventative treatment, direct connection with a doctor, healthy food served in hospitals and reduced toxics in medical supplies. Kaiser Permanente was well represented at Sustainable Brands conference in Monterey with both a plenary on their marketing campaign and several breakout sessions. Kaiser claims to set the bar high, with their Thrive advertising campaign which makes the connection between environmental health and personal health. As examples of this groundbreaking systemic approach to health, presenters touted their 35 farmers markets at their hospitals, their green purchasing campaign to reduce toxics in the medical supplies they use, and increased use of green cleaning products in clinical settings. The speakers I heard were not particularly passionate or excited or even experienced talking about the wonderful things happening at Kaiser, so as a listener, I was left unimpressed. Click to continue reading »
Over 650 business and brand strategists, designers and sustainability executives gathered in Monterey, CA last week for the Sustainable Brands ‚Äò09 conference. The three-day event brought together attendees from all over the world representing a broad blend of industries and experience levels. The program offered equal measures of education and inspiration for everyone, from beginners on the path to those already proving the connection between sustainability and building brand value. Sustainable Life Media (SLM) produced the conference, which this year attracted companies like: Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Dell, eBay, Frito Lay, HP, Kaiser Permanente, Nestle Purina, Office Depot, REI, SC Johnson, NASA, Starbucks, Williams Sonoma, Yahoo and many other brand leaders, consultants and media representatives.
Sending a message in a bottle might conjure up all kinds of romantic notions about chance and opportunity, but it’s not a very effective way to communicate with another party. Much more effective is to print a message right smack on a bottle and send it through the US Mail. This greatly improves your chances of being heard. That’s just what Swobo, a Sausalito, Calif.-based seller of bikes and bike accessories, is hoping you’ll do. Check out this water-bottle-slash-tool-for-social-change. For six bucks, you buy a water bottle for your bike (or for whatever). You probably buy a new bottle every once in a while, any way–after your current vessel springs a leak or looses its top or just gets too gross to drink out of anymore, right?
Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement, particularly as it relates to sustainability: unless you have a good idea of what a sustainable version of your organization might look like, you may have some trouble getting there. But the problem cuts both ways. What if you don’t know how you stack up regarding your sustainability efforts? So a variant on that statement could be, “If you don’t know where you’re starting from, you might not find the right path on the road to sustainability.” In 20+ years of working with customers, I have noticed that my clients frequently want to jump straight to the “solution” or “execution” phase. It’s not hard to understand why: these are the parts that get featured in media and case studies as the stroke of genius that solved an intractable problem. Why waste time in doing the strategy, planning and consensus-building exercises, when jumping to the end is so much more fun?
It’s amazing how cheap. diposable products and waste have crept into even our oldest traditions. It’s insidious. I’m talking about the commencement ceremonies that are happening at every high school, college and university at this time of year. Even my own graduation, a ceremony meant to celebrate the achievement of people dedicated to sustainability and building a world that works for future generations, was rife with single-use items that were never intended to be that way. I don’t blame the institutions, which, by necessity, are obligated to provide their students and their loved ones with a ceremony befitting of their hard work and investments in time and money. I don’t blame the students, faculty, family and staff who have these expectations either. We certainly should not be in the business of sacrificing the things that mean the most to us in the process of achieving a sustainable world. It all comes down to a matter of perceived cost. Most of the items currently used are very cheaply made because graduation is seen as a very rare occurrence: why spend a lot of money on something that will only happen once a year for the institution, and only a handful of times for the graduate? Not to mention the fact that the regalia is not exactly everyday wear. Even a bridesmaid’s dress might be remade into a cocktail dress that might get worn after the big day, but graduation gowns are never seen outside of a graduation ceremony. So…how do we make graduation more sustainable?
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