Book Review: Living Above the Store by Martin Melaver

Steve Puma | Wednesday July 1st, 2009 | 2 Comments

Living Above the StoreMartin Melaver, author of the new book, Living Above the Store, is something of a rarity for an author of a sustainable business text: someone who actually has decades of experience doing the work to create a socially-responsible business. Which is very lucky for us, because while many books claim to be able to teach us how to do it, very few can do so with the wisdom of experience on their side.
The result is an honest and forthright look at what it really takes for shape and maintain values-based business in a very traditional industry.
Melaver is CEO of Melaver, Inc.-a third-generation, family-owned company based in Savannah, Georgia. Through a series of personal anecdotes, Melaver explains, in detail, how a small corner grocery store evolved into a major regional chain, eventually transforming itself into a real estate company focused on sustainable development and management. The fact that this happened was not by accident: all along its seventy-year history, the company chose to pursue a values-based path, even when it meant making difficult choice.
Despite its limitations, Living Above the Store has some really great information. Among my favorites are:

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EPA Approves California Pollution Regulation

| Tuesday June 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

The EPA is granting California’s waiver request that allows the state to enforce its own greenhouse gas emissions standards for new motor vehicles, according to an announcement made by the agency early this morning.
With this decision, the EPA is returning to its traditional legal interpretation of the Clean Air Act from nearly 40 years ago.
“This decision puts the law and science first. After review of the scientific findings, and another comprehensive round of public engagement, I have decided this is the appropriate course under the law,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

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Waxman-Markey Climate Bill Would Cut Gas Expenses

| Tuesday June 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment

By 2020, Americans will save over $17 billion by driving more efficient vehicles that will lower household transportation costs, according to the NRDC.
The American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act allocates funding to produce the next generation of clean, fuel-efficient vehicles in the United States, and when combined with clean vehicle performance standards adopted by the Obama administration says the NRDC, American vehicles will become about 25% more fuel efficient over the next decade.

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Above is a neat infographic showing the average monthly savings per household per month across each state as a result of the greater fuel efficiency.
To view a larger scale infographic and to find out more on the full methodology behind this, check out the NRDC’s Switchboard blog.

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Know The Number – If You Can Count That High

Chris Kaiser | Tuesday June 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

know_the_number_greenhouse_emissions.jpgHow can you fix a problem if you aren’t tracking it first? For example, it’s hard to work off those cheeseburgers and love handles if you don’t have a scale to track your progress. How would your parents have known you were getting taller if they didn’t mark off your height every few months on the door frame when you were little? If you don’t track something, it’s hard to keep tabs on it. If it’s out of your sight, it’s out of your mind.
This is why Deutsche Bank’s (DB) new efforts in regard to Greenhouse Gas emissions are so important. Last week on the Mapawatt Blog I covered DB’s “Know The Number” and their new Carbon Counter. I framed their efforts from the standpoint of an individual, but now I’d like to look at what they are doing from a business perspective.
I recently had the chance to speak with Mark Fulton, the Global head of climate change research for Deutsche Bank (DB). We discussed DB’s new website, Know The Number and how they are trying to bring the actual numbers behind Global Warming – greenhouse gas figures – to the public’s attention.

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The Benevolent Beyonce?

| Tuesday June 30th, 2009 | 3 Comments

This month, Hamburger Helper launched their ‘Land A Helping Hand’ campaign in partnership with Feeding America, featuring Beyonce as their official celebrity spokesperson. Causes often use celebs and high profile figures as a way to reach the mainstream market and quickly generate mass exposure, so I wasn’t all that surprised to see the golden-flocked femme fatale of hip hop flash across my screen. But the commercial looks more like an ad for America’s Next Top Model or one of those artsy shoots for The Gap than a charitable cause, and if you view it quickly, you likely won’t even know that it has anything to do with Hamburger Helper, let alone Feeding America or the growing hunger crisis in this country.

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New Loo Design: (Sh)It’s a Commodity!

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday June 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Industrial designer Virginia Gardiner has designed not just a new toilet, but a new closed-loop management system that will allow individuals to, basically, recycle their poop. Yeah, I just said that.
But give her idea a few minutes of your attention, because it’s really not as gnarly as it sounds.
A student of the Design London school at Imperial College in London, Gardiner has made a prototypical waterless toilet, called the LooWatt, that is part of a closed-loop energy management concept. It also uses no energy and converts human waste into a commodity. The idea is pretty simple. It starts with a person making a deposit into the toilet. Rather than flushing that organic waste into a sewage system, the person turns a crank that pushes the material into a receptacle lined with a carbon-rich, biodegradable film. The portal into this receptacle is sealed shut once the crank is turned completely and the waste disappears into the tank. (Thus, no odor lingers around the loo.)

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The Hope Behind the Holes in the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill

3p Contributor | Tuesday June 30th, 2009 | 4 Comments

Friday was a historic day for the United States with the passage of our first comprehensive climate change bill. While some criticize the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) authored by representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) for falling furiously short of what we need, and what President Obama promised during his campaign, all is not lost.
That may sound like twisted logic, but I’m hopeful because even if Congress passes this watered down legislation, I think there will be many areas where the market will step in to pick up the slack.
Regulation is important – and don’t get me wrong, if we fumble on this cap-and-trade bill, we’ll be facing an even greater challenge – but business solutions to climate change need to come from all angles, and there are many factors that influence the market, not just federal policy. And this is where I hold hope.
We’re seeing these market signals in several different aspects of business: insurance, financial markets, energy prices, marketing and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting. Here are some examples:

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Peak Oil is the “Sustainability Spear”

| Tuesday June 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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By Max Dunn

Ray Anderson was 60 and retired from the weight of making next quarter’s numbers when he was able to breathe, look around, and ask: “What’s next? What legacy to do I want to leave for my daughters?” That is when he got the sustainability “spear in the chest”. However, Ray’s case was pretty unique. While some other businesses like Wal-Mart, Ford and Xerox are making some moves towards sustainability, we are not likely to see a wave of businesses spontaneously adopt sustainability until something momentous happens. And what form will that momentous sustainability spear take? Climate change? Probably not.

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Sustainability 101: Water, The New Carbon. Measuring Your Water Footprint.

| Tuesday June 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

More and more businesses are increasing their awareness of water use by conducting audits to better understand their use and to establish more efficient routines. This makes us vulnerable to higher water costs as water scarcity becomes an issue. Reducing your water consumption now will decrease immediate costs and will lead to an increase in future profits.
Determining your organization’s water footprint not only allows you to track your corporate sustainability indicators, it serves as a stepping stone for calculating and reducing your product’s water footprint as well.

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Ecover Cleaning Products: So Over Waste in the Manufacturing Process

| Monday June 29th, 2009 | 5 Comments

ecover boxes
“It’s amusing to me that you are studying Sustainability now in the US because here in Belgium we’ve been working on it for 30 years”
So we were introduced to the Ecover way by Concept Manager Peter Malaise at the beginning of a tour of the Ecover factory in Malle, Belgium. Malaise easily rivals the eco-rockstars we look to in the US for best in class sustainable manufacturing. Think of him as Ray Anderson with a handlebar mustache and a brain full of Chemistry, Philosophy, and Flemish. He knows his stuff and he was eager to show the 3P team how he’d integrated sustainably business practices into every decision he’d made for the company in his 15 years on the team. We spent over 4 hours with him learning about the Ecover process and the history of the company:

Supply Chain: Ecover products are produced onsite and we breathed easily as we toured the facility since all the product inputs pass extensive toxic screening. If it doesn’t kill algae, it won’t kill you. It smelled great in there! The company has utilized supply chain management over the years to encourage its suppliers to utilize more environmentally friendly practices in their own manufacturing. Any Ecover supplier must agree to comply with a 17 page stakeholder engagement contract before getting business with Ecover. Further, the manufactuing process is externally audited under ISO 14001.

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Acqua Veritas: Does Tap Water Just Need Better Branding?

| Monday June 29th, 2009 | 3 Comments

acqua veritasThere are a few legitimate reasons to drink bottled water. You might live somewhere where the water is unsafe, such as Sierra Leone. You might have some kind of piping problem in your building or neighborhood. Or you might be in the middle of a road trip and in a hurry. But for the most part, bottled water’s success as an industry seems to be driven by branding and powerful marketing.

There will always be a market for specialty waters like Evian and Pellegrino (which I confess to enjoying on occasion with my Ravioli) but the mass market brands, most of which are actually filtered tap water, are a relatively new and hugely growing phenomenon with consumers.

Champions of tap water, on the other hand, have been confounded by the popularity of bottled water. Threats of legal action, elaborate blog posting, questioning people’s intelligence, offering snarky re-usable bottles… It’s all done little to stem the popularity of a disposable plastic phenomenon that threatens to bury us all in waste.

But here’s an idea: maybe the problem is branding? The government of Venice, Italy seems to think so. They’ve re-branded their tap water with the name “Acqua Veritas,” given branded carafes to city residents, and embarked on a celebrity filled advertising campaign. Genio!

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Cone Inc Ranks Top 100 Nonprofits by Brand Affinity over Financials

| Monday June 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

cone nonprofit brand 100
Last week, Cone Inc., the leader in cause branding, research and innovation, in partnership with Intangible Business, unveiled their latest study,”‘The Nonprofit Power Brand 100,” marking a departure from more traditional financially-valuated rankings. This first-of-its-kind research explores the unique relationship between nonprofit brand image and financial performance, and revealed that some organizations may be leaving millions of dollars in potential unearned revenue on the table. This proprietary new brand valuation is aimed at providing nonprofits with the information – and inspiration – they need to make their brands work harder.
“Through this valuation, we want to help nonprofits better understand how to protect and evolve their brands to generate as much revenue as possible,” says Alison DaSilva, Executive Vice President of Knowledge Leadership and Insights at Cone. “Valuing their brands gives them a license to demonstrate to companies and other partners that there is an established and justified cost to aligning with their organization.”

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Build Brand Through Authentic Stories

| Monday June 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Sustainable Brands 09: Triple Pundit’s Ryan Mickle Offers Top Brand Stories
sustainable brands 2009By some estimates the average American encounters up to 3000 brand and advertising messages per day, not to mention the stack of emails, text messages, phone calls, Facebook pokes, and Tweets. With this daily barrage of data, how do we filter out and choose the relevant bits, the ones we care to interact with? More and more this filter is about trust, relationship and authenticity, according to Triple Pundit’s Ryan Mickle, in his presentation at the recent Sustainable Brands 09 conference.
What does this mean for brand building and telling great brand stories? Relationship-powered filters mean companies must connect with their customers through honest and authentic communication in order to stand out from the data overload, and this should be the basis for the stories that businesses tell. Here is a sample of Ryan’s picks for some successful (and some not so successful) brand builders and the lessons they can teach us.

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Spotlight on Numi Tea: The Sustainable Packaging Journey

| Monday June 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

numi teaI had the pleasure of meeting Reem Rahim, Numi Organic Tea co-founder at the Sustainable Brands conference recently. We got into an interesting conversation about tea bags, sustainable packaging and corn-based compostable products. I followed up with her and her Director of Operations to learn more about their efforts to develop more sustainable packaging.

First comes the tea

First full disclosure. As I write this morning, I am sipping on my Numi Jasmine Green tea. Honestly, I fell in love with this tea for the taste and knew little about the company nor their commitment to sustainability. But a closer look at the box tells a clear story. The tea itself is certified organic with no added flavor. I have always admired the wonderful aroma of their jasmine tea, which in part comes from the fact that it is scented with organic white Jasmine flowers!
It is Fair Trade Certified, ensuring that workers were provided a fair wage.

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What Should Happen to the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill?

| Friday June 26th, 2009 | 3 Comments

The Waxman-Markey climate bill (HR 2454), passed in the U.S. House of Representatives today, is hailed by many as the most important piece of climate change legislation ever. Yet it’s still receiving a surprising amount of opposition from environmentalists, mostly for it’s plentiful polluter permits, weak renewable electricity goals, and low carbon emission reduction targets . Greenpeace outright rejects the bill, claiming that it “sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets” and warning that “We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.” Friends of the Earth also warns against the bill, saying that in its current form, Waxman-Markey could actually increase the risks of climate change. But I still think the bill should be passed in the Senate. Here’s why.

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