Brought together on Sir Richard Branson’s Caribbean island retreat by the Carbon War Room and Rocky Mountain Institute, to work out a framework to effect a transition away from fossil fuels, six Caribbean island nations have agreed to replace diesel-fueled power with a mix of clean, sustainable renewable power generation, energy storage systems, and greater energy efficiency.
The founder of both the Virgin Group and Carbon War Room, Branson is spearheading the “Ten Island Renewable Challenge,” an initiative that aims to promote and foster renewable energy development, enhance climate change resiliency, and support entrepreneurs and local businesses across the Caribbean Basin.
“Islands are a microcosm of larger energy systems around the world and offer an excellent test bed to demonstrate and scale innovative clean energy solutions,” Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder and chief scientist Amory Lovins stated.
In October 2011, as rising floodwaters threatened to submerge Bangkok, the Thai government stumbled. Officials issued conflicting reports and warnings. The city’s governor assured citizens that everything was under control, even as water began to pour into Bangkok’s northern suburbs. The flood’s toll – 815 people dead and $45 billion in damages – was exacerbated by a government that proved unprepared in the face of a crisis. Yet even as the Thai Government was bungling the disaster, Bangkok’s citizens began springing into action.
In Sai Noi, a suburb, a local residents’ committee came together to fight the flood with sand bags and water pumps, distribute food and water, and defend the area from looters. Thanks largely to the swift work of the residents’ committee–which collected money from neighbors to buy a new pump, and initiated a system of barter and labour exchange to rebuild homes–not a single resident was killed or injured, and villages were restored in less than a week. Writing in Next City, a media organization dedicated to connecting cities, the Cambodian journalist Dustin Moasa marvelled that, “With minimal help from the government, the neighborhood had survived the worst disaster ever to hit Thailand.”
The Sai Noi residents’ committee isn’t an isolated success story. All over the world, similarly informal systems and networks are delivering services typically provided by government or big private sector companies: potable water, waste collection, even ambulances.
Thanks to a new Long John Silver’s ad campaign and its upcoming elimination of trans fats, one of my guilty pleasures could soon feel a bit less guilty.
A new set of ads raise the Jolly Roger in honor of sustainable food and more environmentally sound eating, citing the benefits of fish from fewer methane emissions when compared to livestock, and real free-range food from “the final frontier,” otherwise known as the North Pacific.
It’s no accident this brand change is coming at the breakwater of Lent, when millions of consumers switch their diets and many fast food restaurants start promoting their fish sandwiches. Judging from the networks on which the new campaign will premier–Discovery Channel, the Weather Channel, HGTV, ESPN2 and TNT–Long John Silver’s is arguably targeting an environmentally conscious and educated audience.
Of course there’s always the potential for greenwashing here. According to Long John Silver’s, the fish it uses for its “core” products is wild caught. Those delicious crunchy white meat fish fillets and the crunchy, yummy bits of batter around it. Environmental groups warn about the disatrous practice of overfishing. According to Overfishing.org, at least 25 percent of fish stocks around the world are over-exploited or depleted, while 52 percent are already fully exploited.
Voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives and social enterprises are essential but are not game changers by themselves. In addition, we need laws and regulations that guide our economy toward sound, long-term decision-making, with full recognition of social and environmental externalities. As business leaders, we can and must support policy changes to help make the economy more sustainable.
A sustainable economy will depend on policies that will help advance change on a societal level. Here are three important policies that will help–and specific actions you can take.
1. A Sustainable Future for Retirement
Experts say the typical worker approaching retirement needs about $250,000 in a 401(k). Most don’t come close. The average is closer to $98,000–only a bit more than a third of the recommended amount. This is only one aspect of the growing retirement crisis facing our economy and our nation. Social Security expects future shortfalls since more workers are collecting benefits while fewer are paying in; the recent financial crisis forced many workers to collect early on 401(k) plans; and of course, state pension programs are going underfunded. Seventy-five million Americans do not have a retirement plan, and 50 percent of all Americans have less than $10,000 in savings.
We live in a time where technology is growing so rapidly that it’s mind-blowing to imagine where our society will be in 10 years. This rapid change allows organizations to scale their businesses through teams of virtual employees–workers who are not physically present in the workplace. While the virtual workplace results in many positive outcomes for companies, particularly when it comes to global expansion and rapid growth, one challenge to be mindful of is a lessening sense of community and social connectivity in the work culture.
For #GiveHalf companies–social enterprises who commit 50 percent of their efforts towards pro-bono services–this challenge is something we tackle daily. The nature of our business model embeds heavy reliance on a network of volunteers to scale our pro-bono offerings, so we are forced to be introspective and creative with cultivating a strong sense of community amongst our virtual volunteers.
As early adopters of the Give Half model, we’re excited to share insight on how we foster a sense of community in a predominantly virtual work culture. It might come as a surprise that four different and highly geographically dispersed organizations can cross-pollinate skillsets, ideas and volunteer networks. But for verynice, filmanthropos, Soul Bucket and No Typical Moments, skill and idea sharing is a part of our everyday philosophy. Encouraging and supporting each other has and will continue to be fundamental to our growth and overall happiness in the workplace.
If you’ve never heard the phrase “hero crop” before, you will soon. Relatively new to the lexicon, hero crop refers to sustainable crops that fulfill social benefit goals for the communities that grow them. That will include tea, if the global non-profit organization Forum for the Future has anything to say about it.
Forum for the Future has just launched a new initiative called “The Future of Tea – A Hero Crop for 2030″ with several of the seven companies responsible for 90 percent of the global tea market (yes, only seven). The group encompasses at least three brands familiar to U.S. tea drinkers: Lipton (parent company Unilever), Tetley (parent company Tata Global Beverages), and Twinings. A fourth company, Finlays, is a leading tea trader, manufacturer, and processor among other diverse activities including coffee, produce, flowers, rubber, and forestry products.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and this year, thousands of Americans are planning on buying something beyond just flowers and chocolates. Feb. 14 is one of the biggest days of the year to give jewelry, not to mention one of the most popular days for marriage proposals. This Valentine’s Day, Americans are expected to spend more than $4 billion on baubles for their loved ones.
As the co-CEO of a jewelry company, I find it meaningful to take part in a holiday that celebrates love and commitment. But I know that behind the sparkle of Valentine’s Day lies the reality of gold mining, one of the most polluting industries on Earth.
Mining enough gold for just one engagement ring generates 20 tons of mine waste. The average large gold mine uses 1,900 tons of cyanide per year. Mining companies are also notorious for destroying pristine forest, displacing people from their homes and upending local economies.
Nothing tells a story better than a picture, and as advertisers have discovered, nothing sells a product more than an edgy photo–even if it is sexist.
Whether it’s a businesswoman in a tight miniskirt and heels, on her back in an alluring pose that seems to have nothing to do with the professional subject matter, or a nude model holding an automotive wrench over her ample frontage, suggestive imagery still sells.
And it sells the wrong message, says Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg. The founder of the women’s advocacy organization Lean In, Sandberg has made it her mission to rebrand the sexist, stereotypical way that she feels women are viewed both in and outside the workplace.
This is part of a series on “The Future of Fair Trade,” written in collaboration with Fair Trade USA. A 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, Fair Trade USA is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. To follow along with the rest of the series, click here.
Raul Zambrano, from Ecuador, scoops cacao beans recently dried in a tumbler
By Amy Carniol
It’s Valentine’s Day, and in supermarkets, drug stores and specialty shops across the country, shelves are lined with chocolates of every shape, size and variety. As you browse through endless heart-shaped boxes, consider this: The chocolate industry is in jeopardy, and if things don’t change, there could be a worldwide cocoa deficit by the year 2020.
In a chocolate-obsessed society, it’s hard to fathom ever running out of the sweet treat. How is it even possible that a staple crop like cocoa can be nearing depletion? The answer is surprisingly simple: It’s just not profitable to be a cocoa farmer. According to Oxfam, less than 5 percent of the price of a typical chocolate bar goes back to the cocoa farmers; for many, this translates to an income of only a few dollars a day.
Cocoa farming is an extremely labor-intensive process, and a whopping 90 percent of the worldwide cocoa supply comes from small, family-run farms in West Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Fragmented and isolated, the 5.6 million cocoa farmers around the world have little to no bargaining power. Most are forced to accept whatever price they’re offered for their crops, regardless of whether they earn a profit or take a loss.
The longtime sustainable business advocacy organization Green America (formerly Co-op America) has just come out with a new report card that could help consumers identify banks that they want to do credit card business with, based on their record of investing — or not investing — in coal-fired power plants and coal mining.
The coal-free credit cards report is timely, given the three-in-a-row coal related disasters that recently polluted the Elk River and Kanawah Creek in West Virginia, and the Dan River in North Carolina, which have drawn national attention to the risks and impacts of coal mining.
Unfortunately, those three episodes are just the tip of a very dirty iceberg.
Clean air, pure water and untainted land are rights that should be enjoyed by every American, at least in theory. As the history of industrial and human development shows, the reality isn’t clear, or just. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, it’s been the areas where the poorest, politically weakest segments of a population have lived and worked, or those most remote and isolated, that have been the most polluted.
Aiming to address the issue, former President Bill Clinton in 1998 issued Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.” Twenty-five years on, President Barack Obama on Feb. 10 issued a proclamation commemorating former President Clinton’s executive order and renewed the federal government’s commitment to assuring environmental justice for all.
Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.
TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Aman Singh: I am the Editorial Director at CSRwire. I lead content distribution, social media strategy – for clients and our own – CSR/sustainability reporting services and other editorial functions, including managing CSRwire’s commentary section Talkback. I have worked with Fortune 500 companies as well as the country’s leading nonprofits and academic institutions on creating and implementing communication strategies focused on stakeholder engagement and behavior change, including Unilever, Verizon, SAP, ARAMARK, Campbell Soup, Sodexo, EarthShare, Points of Light and others.
I am a student of journalism and started my career right after graduating from high school at Tehelka, a website based out of New Delhi, India, that at that time was known for its investigatory exposes and cutting-edge reporting. Along the way, I’ve worked at myriad outlets including ABC News, The Villager, Downtown Express and The Wall Street Journal. So I’ve been in the “business of writing and editing” for over 15 years. But I turned my focus to CSR and sustainability during the 2008 recession when things were crumbling around us economically and responsibility – both corporate and personal – seemed in short supply. Since then I have written for numerous publications including Forbes, Bloomberg, CNBC, The Vault, Greenbiz, and TriplePundit.
Every Wednesday at 4 p.m. PST / 7 p.m. EST (and every once in a while at other times) TriplePundit will take 30 minutes or so to chat with an interesting leader in the sustainable business movement. These chats are broadcast on our Google+ channel and embedded via YouTube right here on 3p.
On Wednesday, February 12th, TriplePundit’s Founder Nick Aster chatted with Jamie Gauthier, Executive Eirector of the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Greater Philadelphia.
SBN strives to support the creation of a sustainable economy where businesses are investors in the quality of life for all citizens – building profitable enterprises that serve community needs, share wealth and protect the environment. For the Greater Philadelphia region, SBN is an effective resource for locally-owned businesses that are committed to improving their environmental and social impacts as well as their profitability. The SBN is a national leader and serves as a model for other cities across the country, embracing the vision of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), the international coalition of sustainable business networks: “Within a generation, we envision a global system of human-scale, interconnected local economies that functions in harmony with local ecosystems, meets the basic needs of all people, supports just and democratic societies, and fosters joyful community life.”
If you missed the conversation, you can watch it now on our YouTube channel, or catch it here:
By: Michael Kobori, Vice President of Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co.
As a company that’s been helping to pioneer on sustainability for most of our 160-year history, we’re excited to have the opportunity to share some of our learnings through this Sustainable Apparel Series in partnership with Triple Pundit and other brands. Throughout this series we hope to share lessons, provide actionable insights, and examples of progress that help us all to make progress toward a more sustainable planet.
I am often asked how I decide what to focus on within sustainability.
It’s a question everyone seems to have an opinion on. Leading environmental organizations are uniting to focus on what they consider the biggest challenge facing the planet: climate change. Governments can be subject to a revolving door of priorities due to changes in officeholders and public opinion. Companies often choose what they believe their consumers are most interested in.
For us at Levi Strauss & Co., the answer is very clear: We focus on our own biggest impacts and encourage others in the apparel industry to do the same.
Vancouver Pride Parade attendees express their displeasure with Russia’s record on gay rights.
By Susan McPherson and Laura Clise
With the Olympics underway, the world is watching as thousands of athletes from more than 80 countries compete in Sochi, Russia for the pinnacle of international sporting competition. Despite the understandable excitement and anticipation, the games have been somewhat tainted by Russia’s passage last summer of anti-gay legislation.
The controversy has been sustained by objections from athletes, activists, governments and citizens from around the world — resulting in criticism of the Putin regime, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and corporate sponsors. As the world and public opinion continue to move toward equality, the implications present an evolving challenge for corporate sponsors to determine their responsibility and the appropriate course of action regarding the alignment of internal commitments to diversity with their role as Olympic sponsor.
As Sochi Olympic sponsors, Coca-Cola and McDonalds have experienced criticism over the past several months, as backlash against the anti-LGBT laws in Russia and frustration with the IOC have brought activists and consumers to their physical and cyber doorsteps. With citizen demonstrations, calls for product boycotts and hashtag hijacking, sponsors are put in the position to defend rather than celebrate their association with the Olympic Games.
Santa Barbara: Apr 2 – Apr 4 ECO:nomics The Wall Street Journal’s celebrated ECO:nomics conference brings together global CEOs, top entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and environmental experts for discussion and debate about the most critical issues. Register here.
San Diego: Apr 24 – Apr 27 Social Venture Network Spring Conference SVN conferences convene and connect influential, innovative business leaders, impact investors and cultural entrepreneurs to create an experience where attendees can share the ideas and resources they need to succeed and grow. Register here.
New York: May 13 – May 14 Shared Value Leadership Summit For business leaders and problem solvers who see exciting market opportunities at the intersection of business goals and societal challenges, the Shared Value Initiative is the leading community shaping research, partnerships, and practices. Register here.
Southern California: May 19 – May 21 Fortune Brainstorm Green As the premier conference on business, sustainability, and green investing, Brainstorm GREEN delivers fresh thinking, actionable solutions, and unparalleled opportunities to build top-level relationships. Register here.
San Diego: Jun 2 – Jun 5 Sustainable Brands 2014 Discover what happens when brand strategists & designers connect with sustainability teams to drive innovation. 20% discount with code NW3pSB14sd. Register here.
TriplePundit.com is published under a creative commons license. You are free to republish only headlines and excerpts of 3p articles except where explicitly permitted by agreement with 3p. We reserve the right to ask any publication to cease syndication. Please Contact Us for details.