Choose the Best Sustainability Consultant for Your Company

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 8 Comments

We all know what we need to do to make our companies more environmentally friendly: use less energy, water, and paper, travel less and make less garbage. But yeah, it’s easier said than done especially if you’re in a carbon intensive business like manufacturing or energy production. What’s the company without a lot of time or expertise to do? Well, hire someone, of course! Who do you hire, and how do you know what to look for? Here’s the lowdown on the biggest and smallest players in the newest consulting game and how to separate the wheat from the formerly-unemployed-newly-rebranded “Sustainability Consultant.”

First, you need to know what you are looking for. Different consultants have different kinds of expertise:

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Consumers Backlash Against Ban on Incandescent Light Bulbs

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 19 Comments

Light Bulb Ban A monumental ban on incandescent bulbs went into effect today throughout the European Union, marking a significant milestone in policy regarding consumer habits as a way to combat our collective impact on climate change.

It’s been long understood that compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are significantly more energy efficient, and while there will be a roughly three year grace period to completely phase out those non-CFL bulbs that have already been fabricated from the market, according to the UK’s Energy Saving Trust, this new ban could cut the average UK’s household by 37 Pounds (approximately $60) and save 135 kg (approximately 298 lbs.) of CO2 emissions each year.

What is notable, however, isn’t the potentially huge environmental impact this ban will have, but the large amount of resistance it is receiving.

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Gardens Grow Up: Are Vertical Landscapes the New Green Roofs?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 5 Comments

Even if you’re not a gardener or urban planner, you’ve likely heard a thing or two about vertical gardens and/or vertical farming recently. From applications that are purely aesthetic, to those aimed at greening buildings and cleaning air in urban environments, or sustainably increasing agricultural output in urban settings, there is a steady buzz around the notion that one does not need a horizontal substrate to grow things.

Proponents argue that there’s no reason to limit the exterior greenspace on a building to its rooftop. And that vertical farming would bring food production closer to urban centers while avoiding the problems that floods and droughts cause traditional farms.

Others say all this anti-gravity planting is growing in the wrong direction. Back in July of 2008, Adam Stein asked readers of his TerraPass blog: “How is this not the dumbest idea ever?” He points to the high cost of urban real estate, the complexity of the proposed farms and the comparatively larger positive impact of other approaches to our environmental woes, such as carbon pricing, as reasons for his opposition.

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Virginia’s Bob McDonnell – the “Jobs Governor”?

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

bob-mcdonnellRepublican Bob McDonnell appears to be dancing to a new jingle: his own promise to be a “jobs governor – bringing new energy resources and jobs to Virginians.” The promise, made public in a recent TV advert, could mean a lot for Virginia’s economy and for the nation’s sustainability scene. But are McDonnell’s claims substantial enough to take to the bank?

The ad follows the premise that “new energy means new jobs.” “We need it all – wind, oil, natural gas, clean coal, nuclear,” the ad says. McDonnell’s promises are clear: he’ll “lead a bipartisan effort to make VA the energy capital of the East Coast,” create “new green jobs zones to help innovators create renewable energy,” promote “safe offshore drilling for natural gas,” and “create new energy and jobs now.” Yet I wonder: where is McDonnell coming from in making these claims, can (or will) he make good on them, and what effect would his plans really have?

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The EU’s Unlikely Greenhouse Gas Buster

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 1 Comment

EU logo

The European Union has found an unlikely helper in the fight to cut its greenhouse gas emissions: the recession. According to a Reuters report, the EU’s emissions dropped for a fourth straight year in 2008, largely due to decreases in industrial activity caused by the recession. Go figure….

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Is Business Education Changing Given the 2008 Financial Crisis?

Net Impact | Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

business-as-unusualThe financial crisis that started in 2007, peaked in 2008 and continues to persist into 2009 sparked an international debate on how business education created (and possibly could have prevented) this whole ordeal. Business school curriculum drew scrutiny, admissions standards were criticized, and students signed ethics pledges – all in the hope of clearing the name of the now maligned MBA.

But is the current PR blitz just an exercise in crisis reputation management or will it actually change how business school educates future leaders? While the conversation may continue for years to come, We’ve been exploring the student perspective on how graduate business programs are addressing sustainable and ethical leadership today.

This year, in our annual Business as UNusual guide, Net Impact members and students at schools throughout the world shared their perspectives on how well (or how poorly) their business program tackles issues around social and environmental responsibility. More than 85 schools submitted profiles for this year’s guide, providing sustainability details on each program’s admissions process, core curriculum, student activities, notable graduates and career services. This year we noticed a lot of continuing positive trends.

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The Business School Search for Identity

3p Contributor | Monday August 31st, 2009 | 1 Comment

By Matthew Madden

One predictable result of the past decade’s crop of corporate scandals, peaked by the current financial crisis, is renewed criticism of one of society’s most influential institutions – the elite graduate business programs.  In response a number of schools, often via student-organized efforts, have taken actions designed to, depending on your level of cynicism, either address these ethical concerns or protect their investment in such costly degrees.  In 2004, the Thunderbird School of Global Management became the first graduate business program to incorporate an oath to integrate sustainable values into their program.  During the 2007 graduation season, Columbia’s graduate school of business introduced an honor code, pledging integrity during their tenure as students and beyond.  Typically, Harvard Business School garnered the most press coverage as a result of their recent, student-initiated oath to maintain ethical business practices.  Given the status of HBS as the world’s most influential business school – and the disdain associated with that honor given the current age of corruption and uncertainty – it’s fitting that their oath garnering the most significant reaction, both praise and skepticism.

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Vermont’s Green Mountain Coffee Roasters: Selling Activism

3p Contributor | Monday August 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments

By Richard Seireeni

The following is an excerpt from The Gort Cloud: The Invisible Force Powering Today’s Most Visible Brands. It has been adapted for the web.

The Challenge

The birthplace for many of today’s green brands is the verdant hills and valleys of New England. This is where Tom’s of Maine, Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farm, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Burt’s Bees, and others were founded. These companies grew out of the counterculture backlash against corporate America and were bred on the philosophies of the Whole Earth Catalog, rural communes, food co-ops, and a belief that less is more, simple is smart. All of these companies believed in making healthy, earthfriendly products and that profits should serve a purpose higher than simply returning dividends to investors.

This chapter studies Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Stonyfield Farm. Each shares a commitment to producing products that are natural and, in the case of Stonyfield Farm and Green Mountain Coffee, also organic. They share one other differentiating quality. Each is committed to social activism as a mechanism for grounding its culture, ennobling employees, raising awareness, and building customer loyalty.

Two of these companies were bought by multinationals that recognized their value and the growing demand for healthy and sustainable products. How they managed to escape mission dilution is explained here. All three have experienced rapid growth despite growing competition—both within their green foods category and from without, following the entry of mass retailers into the natural and organic marketplace.

So how did they get where they are, and how do they deal with a changing competitive landscape?

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Is There Such a Thing As Green Pesticide? EcoSMART Says Yes

| Monday August 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments


Finally, a pesticide that can rid your house of all those pesky children and animals. Oh no wait, scratch that. It’s SAFE for children and animals. That packaging had me confused.

EcoSMART claims to be the only 100% safe insecticide that is proven to work.

Their products are based on the essential oils from plants and trees that the flora themselves use as natural defenses against insects and pathogens. According to their site, “EcoSMART’s proprietary botanical oil blends attack attributes that are specific only to pests, they have no effect on people, pets or the environment.”

And, according to their site, all the active ingredients in EcoSMART are FDA approved. In fact, they’re often found in cake, soft drinks and lipstick. Yum.

In addition to touting their eco-friendly pesiticides, EcoSMART is also raising awareness about harmful chemical pesticides in schools and playgrounds. They promote federal school pesticide/pest management legislation to protect children from hazardous pesticides used in and around schools while selling their product. How convenient.

Everything about this brand, that has been in existence for “many years,” sounds great. So why have I not heard of it until now? I praise this company for drawing attention to the problem of toxic pesticides in schools and playgrounds. My big question now is, does it work? I just purchased a 14 oz. can of “Flying Insect Killer” from their website. So stay tuned…

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The Business Case for Coal

Scott Cooney | Monday August 31st, 2009 | 4 Comments

coal stackCommon logic says that despite the surge in interest in renewable and clean energy, coal remains a dominant part of our fuel mix, and will likely remain so for many years.  Our infrastructure for a renewable energy grid is in full speed development, but remains years away from shifting the tremendous burden of powering our nation’s energy needs.  Coal creates jobs.  It’s one of the main reasons why it’s a hard industry to kill.  The lobby for coal is very powerful, and even Democrats from coal states are timid in voting against a coal-dependent future.

And besides, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and other renewables cost much more, right?  Not so fast my friend.

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It’s Over: Five Reasons Why the Electric Car Wins

| Monday August 31st, 2009 | 21 Comments

It could take ten years or more to become apparent, but I’ll call it now: the electric car will replace the internal combustion engine.

A caveat: I am not an automotive industry expert. Which is why I’m right. I’m not mired in the details, the past failures, the what ifs or the buts. All I see are the big, obvious things. When it comes to sea change in human behavior, though, obvious matters.

So, since no prediction is worth its salt without an accompanying list, the following are five overlapping reasons why our children will all be driving electric cars.

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Van Jones in Newsweek and on Glenn Beck

Frank Marquardt | Monday August 31st, 2009 | 19 Comments


Even Van Jones recognizes there’s no unified definition of a green job.

And as a senior advisor to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and founder and former executive director at Green for All, a national organization working to build an inclusive economy, Jones is about as definitive a source as you can find.

That’s why those tracking new developments in green jobs should check out Daniel Stone’s interview with Jones in this week’s Newsweek. Despite the lack of a consensus definition of what constitutes a green job, $60 billion of the recovery package going to fund them.

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Alternative Fuel Trade Alliance to Receive $1.6 Million Grant from DOE

| Sunday August 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment


Looks like “alternative fuel” may soon become more mainstream, if a recent grant by the Department of Energy has the intended effect. The DOE granted $1.6 million to the Alternative Fuel Trade Alliance, which the Alliance will use to increase public awareness and understanding of alternative fuels (including ethanol, biodiesel, propane, and natural gas) and greener vehicle technologies (including hybrid and electric vehicle technologies). Alliance members anticipate that the grant-funded programs will help reduce the nation’s dependence on oil, decrease carbon emissions, and encourage economic growth and environmental sustainability.

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Ice Sculptures, Greenpeace, and Melting Away Obstacles

| Sunday August 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment

greenpeace-ice-sculptures-chinaGreenpeace is at it again – this time using symbolism to highlight the impact of impending water shortages. The activist network placed 100 ice sculptures (depicting children) at the Temple of Earth in Beijing Friday – the spot where Chinese emperors used to pray for well-being and bountiful harvests. Greenpeace also placed ice sculptures in New Delhi, India. (According to Greenpeace’s website, China and India, which together account for a third of the world’s population, have per-capita water resources far below the global average.) In addition to the immediate issues of water supplies and human welfare, the gesture highlights several far-reaching implications: the quagmire involved in establishing a global consensus on sustainability.

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Setting Sustainability Standards for Green Clothiers

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday August 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments


So you eat certified-free-range poultry in your Platinum LEED home and you wash the dishes in your Energy Star compliant dishwasher. Fine. But is that a sustainable sweater you’re wearing? If a new organization called Labeling Ecologically Approved Fabrics (LEAF) gets its way, you might someday be able to prove it.

LEAF‘s goal is to establish a labeling program in the US and a system of standards and third-party testing that fabric and apparel manufacturers will use to verify that the fabrics and materials used in the creation of their products were sustainability sourced, that they were manufactured in an environmentally responsible manner and that that fair labor practices were used in the manufacturing facilities.

In an interview with Sustainable Life Media, LEAF’s creator Elinor Averyt says her hope is the that LEAF will become what the USDA is to food ratings and what LEED is for green buildings.

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