Can Ford Motors Deliver on its Sustainability Promises?

Steve Puma | Monday October 26th, 2009 | 7 Comments

Ford Motor Company may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think about large corporations that are committed to sustainability. After all, the company is one of the oldest and largest industrial corporations around, and produces many of the large SUVs and trucks that are at the center of the current climate controversy. So it may be surprising for some to learn that the company actually has a very extensive sustainability strategy in the works.

Several pieces of this strategy were unveiled in San Francisco last Thursday, at an event entitled Inside Ford’s Electrification Strategy. Ford’s newly-titled Director of Global Electrification, Nancy Gioia, explained how the company is not only planning to build battery-electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) vehicles, but is also working on strategies to build the infrastructure that will support those vehicles. Attendees at the event were also invited to test-drive two news Ford vehicles, the Escape PHEV and the Focus BEV. While my fellow 3P colleague, Mary Catherine O’Connor, will be posting an in-depth look at Ford’s electrification strategy itself, I would like to talk about the company’s overall strategy.

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A Conference on Failure: Tell Us Something You Don’t Want Us To Know

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 3 Comments

failconSilicon Valley is filled with swagger.  It is also one of the best places on the planet to fail.  Very  few start-ups succeed and failing seems to be encouraged.  Some investors will only invest in entrepreneurs who have failed at least twice.  The more failures under your belt, the better your chance of success at the next one. But what can we learn from failures?  Will a tale of failure prevent my start-up from sharing the same fate? I’ll find out.

Tomorrow I’ll be attending SNAP Summit’s FailCon, which is billed as the first conference to ask successful folks what went wrong and how they fixed it.  The conference is produced by Cassie Phillips who said the idea was a joke at first in response to the way “speakers love to rattle on about big successes, and brush over their mistakes.” The conference features CEOs and other leaders from companies including Meebo, Evernote, Fast Company, Slide, Zynga, Aardvark and more.

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Tips to Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners from BizTechDay

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 0 Comments


After two full days of panels, keynotes, and hallway conversations at BizTechDay, I collected the following tips and comments–mostly paraphrased–that I think will be most useful to entrepreneurs and small business owners.  (See also my post on Tim Ferriss’ tweeting style and Mark O’Leary’s lessons to small businesses).

On marketing

  • Claim your local business listing on Google for free at ~Ryan Hayward, Product Manager, Google Local Business Center
  • Unlock your business’ Yelp page at (only takes 5-10 minutes).  And don’t abandon your social media. ~Michelle Broderick, Marketing Director, Yelp
  • Try using Facebook instead of a newsletter so you can deliver nuggets of information to your fans and create conversations around your brand.  Set up custom tabs on your page to speak to different audiences. More than anything, make your Facebook page fun.  ~Hazel Grace, Founder, Socialbees
  • Use a handful of social networking sites.  Kevin Rose, Founder of watches a number of early-adopters to see what tools they use and then makes bets about which will become big by getting involved
  • Social media is here to stay. Be authentic and real.  ~Porter Gale, VP Marketing at Virgin America
  • A useful and attractive website is essential.  Yola has a number of resources to help you get started by building a free website
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BSR 2009: Top Strategies for Getting Employees Behind Sustainability

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 5 Comments

employee-engagement2At BSR 2009 last week, a missing piece on the agenda was employee engagement. Yet, at the session on Internal Communications:  Making the Case for CSR’s Value, all of the speakers acknowledged the challenge of getting both employees and senior management behind sustainability.

The panel included Christopher Corpuel, Vice President, Sustainability at Hilton Hotels, Silvia Garrigo, Manager of Global Issues and Policy at Chevron and Kevin Moss, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at BT Americas Inc. The session, moderated by Eric Olson, Senior Vice President, at BSR, was formatted to allow for deeper dialogue and discussion–much appreciated by everyone!

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Trading the Landfill for the Beach: Crazy Shirts CEO on Using Recycled PET in Product Line

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Crazy Shirts eco board shorts Crazy Shirts is one of the first companies in the Hawaiian Islands to design, manufacture, and sell t-shirts. For many Americans, it is emblematic of the Hawaiian Aloha lifestyle, selling the mystique of surf, sand, and sun in shirt form at shopping malls, airport gift shops, and coastside boardwalks from California to Florida. Recently, however, the Honolulu-based apparel maker made news for something slightly different. It’s making board shorts from recycled plastic bottles.

This is a growing trend in fashion design. Earlier this year, companies from Anvil to Sears and H&M announced the production of lines made from recycled polyethylene teraphthalate (PET). To produce each pair of Crazy Shirts board shorts, roughly seven 16-ounce recycled plastic bottles are used, converting the synthetic material into polyester PET microfiber. In a recent interview, President & CEO Mark Hollander spoke about how and why Crazy Shirts makes its eco board shorts.

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Will Microsoft and Google Blow Life into British Wind Power?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday October 26th, 2009 | 0 Comments

uk-wind-powerGiant IT companies with giant energy needs—Microsoft and Google are great examples—have been looking for low-cost, low-polluting ways of powering their massive server farms for years. In fact, both firms built server farms along the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon in order to take advantage of some of the cheapest hydro-power in the country. Could they now be looking to the wind to help power their European operations?

Late last week, the Financial Times speculated that Microsoft and Google could be pondering investments in offshore wind farms in Britain.

The story posits that wind power must play an increasing role in the Britain’s power mix if the country is to meet its aggressive goal of 30 percent renewable energy generation by 2020. And it suggests that financial support from major Internet firms such as Google and Microsoft could serve to resuscitate the wind power industry there, which lost momentum due to the global recession.

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Ohio Utility Ships Customers Energy-Efficient Bulbs, Plus a Huge Bill

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 13 Comments

deadlight-bulbCall it greening run amok. Or, more likely, poor planning combined with petty penny pinching by a large corporation. FirstEnergy, an Ohio utility, sent two $3.50 energy-saving compact florescent light-bulbs (CFLs) to customers, and then charged them $21 for the bulbs — whether they wanted them or not.

According to news reports, the remaining $14 was to pay the utility back for the electricity customers would not be using because they had the new bulbs. But if customers don’t use the bulbs, or if they already have their own, they still have to pay the fee.

The scam program, which was set to begin October 12 but has been “postponed,” was FirstEnergy’s response to the state’s new energy law, which requires investor-owned electric utilities to reduce consumption by 22.2 percent by 2025. The bulb distribution was supposed to help FirstEnergy’s customers meet the new requirements.

FirstEnergy, which was a little startled by the outcry, pointed out that customers would save $60 over the life of the bulb. It was unclear if this figure was before or after the $21 fee.

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Chipotle to Use Solar Power at 75 Restaurants

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Monday October 26th, 2009 | 6 Comments

Chipotle Mexican Grill LogoColorado-based restaurant chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill, is going solar.  The popular restaurant chain is taking another step towards a more sustainable future.

According to a company press release, Houston-based Standard Renewable Energy will be installing solar panels at 75 Chipotle restaurants during the next 12 months, making the chain the largest producer of solar power in the restaurant industry.   The company  has “committed to panels that will produce 500 kilowatts of electricity.”  So far, solar panels have been installed at 13 restaurants at various locations across the United States.

The solar initiative will reduce Chipotle’s energy consumption during peak operational hours from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.  Once the project is complete,  it is estimated the initiative will reduce global CO2 emissions by about 41 million pounds.  Not bad.

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It’s My Birthday and I’ll Give If I Want To

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment


SloaneOver the summer, I featured a remarkable woman, Sloane Berrent as part of my Philanthropy in Five series, who has literally dedicated her life to doing good, spreading good and seeing the good in others. It’s rare to find someone who walks the walk and talks the talk, but Sloane definitely puts her money where her mouth is — or, in this case, where her birthday cake is!

This year, to commemorate the big 3-0, Sloane, along with her friend, Doug Campbell, who was also turning 30 within days of her birthday (October 3rd and 5th, respectively), decided they wanted to do something memorable that not only celebrated life and the beginning of their 30s, but also included a strong charitable component. Both are avid social change agents, Doug most known for a worldwide tour raising money for nonprofits called ‘The Tuxedo Travels’ and Sloane whose latest cause adventure took her to the rural Phillipines for a 3-month fellowship with the microlending nonprofit, KIVA, so a cause campaign was a no brainer for this dynamic duo of do-goodery.

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Lead by Example: Obama Executive Order Pushes Federal Sustainability

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday October 26th, 2009 | 0 Comments

White_HouseIn these parlous economic and perilous environmental times a firm focus on sustainable government practices sounds like a good exercise that could also serve as a valuable template for action outside of the government.

It’s also impossible to imagine something this sweeping coming from the previous administration, another reason why President Obama’s recent Executive Order could become a landmark in the world of sustainability.

The Executive Order signed by the president earlier this month sets sustainability goals for Federal agencies, focusing on improving their environmental, energy and economic performance.

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Day Two BSR Conference Highlight: Oceanographer Sylvia Earle

| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 1 Comment

BSRSure, the BSR conference brought together CSR thought leaders to discuss the latest sustainability strategies. But the Day Two highlight for me was listening to the oceanographer Sylvia Earle, author of several books including her latest, The World is Blue.

Ms. Earle was soft spoken, but delivered a powerful lecture on the current state of our natural systems, particularly our oceans, providing an important context for why socially responsible business practices are important in the first place.

The ocean is home to half the earth’s species and provides half our atmospheric oxygen produced by phytoplankton photosynthesis.  But we are so concerned with carbon, she warned, that we often neglect our oceans.

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How to Tweet Like Tim Ferriss

| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 5 Comments

Tim FerrissI’m a huge Tim Ferriss fan and I don’t think I’m alone.  He spoke on two panels at BizTechDay.  Working 4 hour weeks is pretty much anathema to starting a small business, and I get the sense that Ferriss himself works more than 4 hours per week.  Ferriss, author of New York Times best-selling 4-Hour Workweek, angel investor and tech start-up advisor, introduced himself as “about 14 minutes into my 15 minutes of fame.” In any case, he imbued some priceless nuggets of wisdom I’ve compiled here.  They may not be sustainability focused, but this applies just as well to someone getting out a green message as it does to someone selling widgets.

How to use Twitter

  • Ferriss uses twitter for 3 things
  1. To communicate day to day bits of info that are not relevant for his blog
  2. As a microblogging tool to convey useful resources to his audience of 60,000+ followers
  3. For polling and getting feedback from the broader world (i.e. market research)
  • Keep it fun.  It should not feel like work.  And if you’re tweeting and using other social media for business reasons, you better have a measurable output
  • Don’t tweet when angry or drunk.  Even if you delete a tweet, it doesn’t disappear
  • Posting a pic or a video gets massive click through rates (if you’re Tim Ferriss)
  • Ferriss uses direct message rather than @replies to respond
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Opportunity Green: Last Chance for 30% Discount, and Epic Bike Ride…

| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments


It’s less than one week from the biggest green business event to hit Southern California since this time last year – and Opportunity Green still has space available for you. 3p readers can get a generous 30% discount on admission by using the code “TripleP30” when you register here. We’ll be excited to see you there!

In the mood for a bike ride?

The Tour d’OG is rolling down the california coast as you read this. Currently camped out near Santa Cruz, we roll to Big Sur tomorrow… internet connections depending, we’ll update this post with some pictures and notes from the road. See you at Opportunity Green!

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Business Not As Usual: Eyes On The Electric Vehicle Market…& More

John Laumer | Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments
  1. Rocky Mountain Institute just rolled out another one of its typically fascinating crystal balls – one which gives a glimpse into the future of electric vehicles.  Is yours one of the many businesses looking for opportunities in a booming electrical vehicle market?  Timing will be everything.  If your firm wants to catch the wave, or is just thinking about it,  have a look at What Will It Take to Get EVs on the Road (Really) Business significance: U3/C5
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Causecast: Getting the Word Out, Bringing Donations In

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments


causecast_logoWhen he founded Causecast, Ryan Scott focused on one major problem that charitable organizations were facing: they were paying too much in donation transaction fees. So he set out to find ways of lowering those costs, since they bleed so much money away from a non-profit’s core fund-raising goals. “I realized [nonprofits] needed better IT infrastructure because they were getting overcharged on transaction costs. I wanted to bring those costs as close to $0 as possible,” he says.

Now, about two years later, Causecast helps lower transaction fees using a number of methods, from linking the non-profits up with companies who cover the fees through dollars earmarked for cause-marketing, to making the payment processing infrastructure more efficient for non-profits using emerging technology. For example, Causecast is launching a system by which consumers can make donations via their cell phones, using a text-to-pay payment system that generates low or no transaction fees.

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