Can Complimentary Currencies Stimulate the Economy at Large?

3p Contributor | Tuesday June 2nd, 2009 | 2 Comments

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By Lisa Bingham
Economics is all about connecting our needs or wants with resources. Most of us associate that exchange as happening with the exchange of dollars for goods, but there are alternatives. I attended a fascinating session at the BALLE conference last week called “Bartering and Complimentary Currencies.” This was a new concept for me, but I discovered that it is an idea that we are all more familiar than we might suspect. Think of movie tickets, stocks, and stamps, which are all alternate forms of currency that we use on a regular basis to obtain goods and services that we want or need.
Annette Riggs, founder and Managing Director of Community Connect Trade Association (CCTA), spoke about b-to-b trade credits. CCTA facilitates the exchange of goods and services between businesses, from which companies can earn trade credits, and provides a central marketplace through their website. There are some caveats to the program, however. Not all businesses are a good fit, as they need to provide some good or service that is needed by other participating programs, and there are some tax issues that participants should be aware of. Still, these b-to-b exchanges allow participating businesses to reserve their capital for other expenses, which is especially helpful for small businesses that may be suffering from a paucity of cash.

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Stakeholder Engagement: Six Tips for Effective Dialogue

| Monday June 1st, 2009 | 2 Comments

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By Deborah Fleischer
Stakeholder engagement is a process of reaching out to a range of constituents who are interested in, or impacted by, your business, including employees, investors, suppliers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), consumers, governmental agencies and thought-leaders.
It means opening up your company to feedback, and potentially criticism, from a diverse range of perspectives. So, why would you want to take this risk?
Business case for stakeholder engagement
Before I launch into the key tips for engaging stakeholders, I want to touch on why stakeholder engagement is a solid business practice.
Alex McIntosh, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Nestle Waters, believes that lacking a stakeholder engagement strategy “…is like launching a new product without doing any market research….You are taking a big risk without doing it. Stakeholder engagement is an important, essential element in good citizenship and good business strategy. You need to know what issues are most important to the people that are most relevant to your business.”

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Ehlers Estate: In Philanthropy We Trust

| Monday June 1st, 2009 | 2 Comments

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ehlers%20estate.jpgThis series focuses on all of the companies who have adopted philanthropy as part of their business model, and spotlights their efforts as a way to help shift the paradigm toward adopting a socially responsible mission. One common element I’ve observed is that many companies dilute their giving by opting to support a multitude of charities rather than focusing on one, where they can concentrate their efforts — and profiits — toward tangible change. While the intent to help as many charities as possible is a noble one, it is not the most sustainable option if the end goal is to make a significant impact. It’s for this same reason that I recommend to companies that their cause marketing be tightly aligned with their business instead of randomly selecting flavor-of-the-month charities.
Ehlers Estate is emblematic of this concept, representing the fusion of a for-profit winegrowing estate, environmental consciousness and international philanthropy. The winery’s diverse Napa Valley vineyard is cultivated using organic and biodynamic farming techniques to produce exceptional Bordeaux-varietal wines, and all proceeds from the sale of these wines fund international cardiovascular research through the Leducq Foundation. While they are unique in that 100% of the profits are used toward philanthropy, the manner in which they’ve wholly integrated the cause with their business practices, from operations through marketing, can be effectively reproduced in profit-based companies.
The “secret sauce” in all of these types initiatives is to stand for something and support it fully in all you do — from internal communications with employees and stakeholders to external engagements with customers. You don’t have to donate all of your revenue to charity as Ehlers Estate does, but you do have to select and nurture a mission that is the embodiment of an authentic commitment to social responsibility, and is exemplified in all you do. At the end of the day, it’s all about walking the walk. Talk is not only cheap; it’s sour grapes.

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Small Wind Beginning to Make a Big Difference

| Monday June 1st, 2009 | 1 Comment


The U.S. market for small wind turbines grew 78% last year, highlighting heightened interest in, demand for, and use of distributed alternative and renewable power systems. A total 17.3 megawatts worth of new small wind turbines–defined as wind turbines with generation capacities of 100 kilowatts and less–was installed in 2009, according to a report by the American Wind Energy Association released May 28.
“Consumers are looking for affordable ways to improve their energy security and reduce their personal carbon footprint,” said Ron Stimmel, AWEA’s Small Wind Advocate. “Small wind technology can be an answer to that search. As government policies have caught up with consumer interest, we’re seeing people all across the U.S. take advantage of this abundant, domestic natural resource and U.S. manufacturers have been able to meet this increasing demand.”
What’s even more encouraging is that U.S. manufacturers–such as Mariah Wind profiled here on 3P–accounted for about half of total worldwide small wind turbine sales. U.S. market share made up $77 million of the $156 million global total (38.7 MW), according to the AWEA.

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What Is the True Cost of Chevron?

| Monday June 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Coalition of Environmental Groups Publishes Alternative Annual Report Describing Widespread Abuses by Chevron
Chevwrong%20logo.jpgWe’ve all seen the Chevron “Human Energy” advertisements with the concerned scientist and soothing music reassuring us that the big oil giant is on the case. Judging from the frequency of the ads, you’d expect Chevron is devoting huge amounts of time and money working on alternative energy solutions, while at the same time operating responsibly in regards to the environment and human rights. But a coalition of 11 watchdog groups, called The True Cost of Chevron, suggest the truth of Chevron’s business operations is far different.
The group developed and released an “Alternative Annual Report” last week, just ahead of Chevron’s shareholder meeting and the company’s announcement that 2008 was the most profitable year in their history. The alternative report tells shareholders more about the hidden and under-reported costs of these profits. It brings together stories from communities across the world that are all directly affected by and in struggle against Chevron’s operations. The group also organized protests in front of Chevron’s San Ramon, California headquarters on the day of the shareholder’s meeting last week.

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Green Jobs By the Numbers

Frank Marquardt | Monday June 1st, 2009 | 2 Comments

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A steady drumbeat of reports forecast significant growth in all areas of the clean tech economy over the next two years. Obviously, that hasn’t translated to significant hiring.
“Two thousand nine will be a tough year,” Jigar Shah, founder of Sun Edison, wrote me in an email. “It will take the entire year for the solar industry to reorient itself to the new rules of the game. In the meantime, the third and fourth quarter will help us make up for a weak first quarter, but not enough to produce overall growth in 2009.” Shah doesn’t expect hiring in the solar industry to pick up until 2010.
Still, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 targets $11 billion for a smart grid, $2.3 billion for advanced battery technology, $6.3 billion to states and local governments for greater energy efficiency, guarantees $60 billion in loans for renewable energy power generation and electric transmission projects, and $2.5 billion for energy research. As that money gets spent, it should boost hiring and the economy with it.

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Hara: Resource Management for a Post-Carbon Economy

| Monday June 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Today, Hara launched Environmental and Energy Management, an enterprise-class software system that helps companies measure and manage their total environmental impact. A Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers funded venture, it has been incubating in a stealth mode for 18 months, and has been serving clients by subscription such as Coca-Cola and the city of Palo Alto, already providing the latter with an expected $2 million in savings and 15% reduction in GHGs over three years.
In an interview before its launch, Hara’s CEO and founder, Amit Chatterjee, spoke about the software’s function and utility, its origin, and its potential impact on the business world.
Chatterjee, who just returned the from addressing House Democrats about energy and resource management, recognized the implicit and necessary importance of sustainability in the business world after working in foreign direct investment. And for Chatterjee, sustainability is much more than just going green.
According to Chatterjee, in the Summer of 2007, the era of globalization ended. That is, the World Is Flat mentality ceased being a competitive advantage in the business world due to the energy, debt, and commodity crises. The end of globalization marked the beginning of the post-carbon economy, where carbon is valued in the marketplace.

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What Is the Business Case for Doing Good? A Conversation with Timberland’s CEO, Jeffrey Swartz

| Friday May 29th, 2009 | 4 Comments

Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of TimberlandTimberland is a pioneer in corporate sustainability, corporate social responsibility or however you describe a business that cares about people and planet as well as profits. I spoke with Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland, to find out what he’s learned from his experience. You can hear the full interview at Green Business Innovators. But I ended our conversation with more questions than answers. Swartz is not convinced that doing good translates directly into doing well…yet. I discussed with him how he is trying to change that by connecting with consumers.

Swartz has been with Timberland for over 20 years and has served as President and CEO since 1998. Timberland has grown from a $156 million company in 1989 to a $1.4 billion company in 2007.
At the same time, Swartz has built some of the most impressive and inspiring programs I’ve seen at a public company. Timberland employees put in 40 hours of public service hours each year through Timberland’s Path of Service program and annual Servapalooza. Timberland is committed to going carbon neutral by 2010. Timberland’s shoe boxes display nutrition information, which includes information about the manufacturing plant and the impact on the climate and community. And Timberland is starting a green index for all of its products. Just to name a few initiatives. (For more, see http://earthkeeper.com/blog)

But what is the business strategy behind all of these initiatives?

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Solar Rising: Top 10 Utilities

Frank Marquardt | Friday May 29th, 2009 | 1 Comment

PV%20panel.jpg In 2008, tight credit and reigned-in consumer spending slowed the march of solar in the residential and commercial markets. But the just-released, second-annual Solar Electric Power Association report, 2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings, shows the steady growth of solar at utilities nationwide.
Installed Capacity Up 25 Percent
The report looks at how much solar was interconnected in calendar year 2008 and cumulative solar installations through the end of 2008, and includes both photovoltaics and concentrating solar power. Ninety-two utilities participated (out of some 3,000 nationwide), representing an 80 percent participation rate increase over the 2007 study – though it’s worth noting that participating utilities generally self-select into the survey as a result of having active solar programs.
Results show an average increase of 2 megawatts among participating utilities over the year, enough to offset the use of over 300 homes on an annual basis. Overall installed capacity of the utilities that participated in the study rose 25 percent, from 711 megawatts to 882.

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Green Innovators Make Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative List

| Friday May 29th, 2009 | 1 Comment

shai-agassi_0.jpg Among notable names such as JJ Adams, Brian Eno, and Dan Barber, green innovators Shai Agassi and Zaha Hadid were named to Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business list. Released last week, it is a list of “dazzling new thinkers, rising stars, and boldface names” whose creativity is being directed to address larger issues, from “the future of our energy infrastructure to the evolution of philanthropy to next-generation media.”
Earning the #3 nod, Agassi, the CEO of Better Place, finds himself among an impressive short list next to Jonathan Ive (#1), SVP of Industrial Design at Apple, and Melinda Gates (#2), who, alongside her husband, chairs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Ive is the brainchild behind the revolutionary iMac 10 years ago, and Gates leads one of the largest philanthropic organizations in terms of dollars donated, focusing on poverty, education, and health issues around the globe.
Check out the entire list here.
Photo Source: Fast Company

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Working Towards Locally-Owned Energy Production

3p Contributor | Friday May 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

flag-turbine.jpgBy Lisa Bingham

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

I’ve used this quote in my email signature for years, but being at the BALLE conference in Denver last week was the first time I think I’ve fully appreciated the impact of that statement. The people I met there are passionate about creating change from the bottom up, and there were some truly inspiring stories that demonstrated the success this approach can have. Friday night’s keynote speakers are great examples of this.
The first speaker of the evening was Lisa Daniels of Windustry, a non-profit organization in Minnesota that promotes local ownership of commercial-scale wind energy projects. This is not a new concept – Denmark has been doing this for years. In the U.S., however, most wind projects are developed by large companies or utilities, which means that most of the profits leave the communities in which they are build to line the pockets of big business. Windustry is working to reverse the ownership model and make locally-owned projects more prominent.

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BALLE: On Becoming Rhizomatic

3p Contributor | Friday May 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

ginger.jpgBy Lisa Bingham
Over the three days of the recent BALLE conference, I was exposed to many inspiring people and a lot of new ideas. One of my favorite ideas comes from June Holley, former president and CEO of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) and now a Network Weaver. Ms. Holley was one of the keynote speakers on Thursday evening, and told a wonderfully inspiring story about the kitchen incubator she helped get started. As interesting as it was to hear about the success stories that spun out of that incubator, two ideas that really caught my attention were of being rhizomatic and a network weaver.
For those of you who aren’t gardeners or who don’t remember your middle school biology class, a rhizome is a type of root that sends out shoots and roots from a central nub. Think of ginger – it starts out small with a stocky core and then develops buds and branches. In relation to microbusinesses and entrepreneurship, it comes down to the same thing. Someone or some group starts with a core business idea, such as the kitchen incubator that Ms. Holley spoke about. This endeavor then branches out to include other enterprises that may be peripheral to the core idea but help to support the core idea. An example of this is a business that distributes the products made in the kitchen, or a promotional services that assists with branding and marketing. This is what is meant by being rhizomatic. Add the networks each individual brings, and these business can be expanded even further.

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Tesla Recall: Setback for the EV Revolution?

| Thursday May 28th, 2009 | 7 Comments

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Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), announced a recall of Tesla Roadsters, citing defects in the body design. Apparently, bolts on the rear hub have the potential to be under-torqued and can come loose, which could possibly cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
Tesla is recalling 345 of its roadsters that were manufactured between March 2008 and April 22, 2009. According to a Tesla press release, this is a significant number of the roadsters sold to date.
As Tesla vies to redefine the auto industry with its breakthrough roadsters (and now sedans) that look a whole lot more like Porsches than something out of The Jetsons, how will this news affect the car company? More importantly, will this prove to be a larger setback for electric and other alternative energy-driven cars?

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New Study Reveals Green IT Budgets are Rising

| Thursday May 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Symantec Study Shows Green IT is Now Considered an Essential Practice
green%20button.jpgGreen IT budgets are rising and most IT executives say they willing to pay more up-front for energy efficient solutions, according to a research study sponsored by Symantec Corporation. The 2009 Worldwide Green IT Report was released yesterday as a follow up to the Green Data Center report released in late 2007.
According to survey data, senior-level IT executives report significant interest in green IT strategies and solutions, attributed to both cost reduction and environmental responsibility. According to Symantec, the data points to an important shift from implementing green technologies primarily for cost reduction purposes, to a more balanced awareness of also improving the organization’s environmental standing.

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Starbucks Uses Systems Thinking to Develop a Recyclable Cup

| Thursday May 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Starbucks has taken a lot of flack in the past few years for its non-recyclable cups, lack of recycling bins, and shoddy water use policies. In the past, Starbucks has covered up environmental embarrassments with vague promises to build more energy-efficient stores and cut carbon emissions. Now the coffee company is making a legitimate attempt to do right by the environment with a plan to make sure that all single-use cups are recyclable by 2012. But Starbucks isn’t stopping there; the company is using systems thinking to ensure that the entire life cycle of the cup –from factory to recycling bin–is sustainable.

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