Walmart Commits to More Sustainable Food. Is it Serious?

Michael Kourabas
| Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

14010430133_b901245d34_zOn Monday, Walmart held its second semi-annual Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting — webcast live and re-aired the following day — and announced a new pledge to help create a more sustainable food system. Taken at face value, the country’s largest food retailer appears to be making a real commitment to help develop a healthier, more affordable, and less environmentally damaging food supply.  Walmart’s real legacy in this area, though, will be measured by how much concrete action follows its ambitious commitments.

At the outset of the milestones webcast, the company’s CEO, Doug McMillon, proclaimed that in order to meet the population’s increasing food demands, Walmart and its suppliers need to become more sustainable players in the global food supply chain.  According to this new commitment, Walmart will aim to achieve this by ensuring that the food it sells, and the supply chain from which that food comes, is: (i) more affordable (to the environment, society, and customers); (ii) safer and more transparent; (iii) healthier; and (iv) more accessible.

Like many corporate marketing efforts, in both the webcast and the company’s concurrent announcements it is difficult to parse the genuine commitments from the hollow promises; the real passion from the empty rhetoric meant to patronize the most environmentally conscious consumers and NGOs.

To look strictly at its pledges, Walmart sure seems to acknowledge that bold action is required if it is to contribute to reversing the trends of environmental degradation and resource scarcity.  The company, which claims that environmental sustainability is now an “essential ingredient” in its business model, already says that it strives to sell only products that “sustain people and the environment.”

So, how exactly is the company planning to increase the sustainability of the food it buys and sells?

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Sugar in Brazilian Skies: Is Farnesane the Fuel of Airlines’ Future?

Leon Kaye | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Fueling of a GOL 737-800 with Amyris sugarcane-based jet fuel

The commercial aviation industry has long been unstable and struggled to make a profit, in part because of the volatility of fuel prices. Consolidation and cost-cutting have improved many airlines’ financial performance in recent years, but they are only one epidemic, fiscal crisis or political time bomb from reeling. That is one reason why for several years, many airlines have experimented with adding biofuels to conventional jet fuel in order to harness energy security—and try to reduce those pesky carbon emissions that are difficult for the airline industry to avoid. Now Gol, the second largest airline in Brazil, is testing farnesane, a clear fuel sourced from sugar cane.

The partnership between Gol, Amyris, a California-based biofuels company, and the French energy giant Total culminated in a flight earlier this summer between Orlando and São Paulo, which was powered by conventional jet fuel blended with 10 percent farnesane. For now Gol has commited to using the 10 percent blend on select international flights between the U.S. and Brazil. Then last month a Lufthansa flight between Frankfurt and Berlin was also powered in part by farnesane.

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Airbnb Goes After Business Travelers

Leon Kaye | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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AirBnB goes for business travelers — let’s stay here.

Whether you revile or revere Airbnb, you cannot dispute the role the company has had in expanding and legitimizing the sharing economy. Sure there have been a few trashed homes here and there and the company is in an ongoing tussle with stubborn New York City business interests—the latest salvo is a coalition of “concerned citizens” who launched a site allowing Airbnb users to locate sex offenders and building code violations. The fact that NYC’s hotel occupancy rate hovers around 88 percent shows that Airbnb is hardly a threat, but in fact is really a complement, to hotels. And that is why more business travelers are using Airbnb when attending those conferences or sales meetings.

And why wouldn’t they? Take New York, where average hotel rates are approaching $300. In San Francisco,  they are over $200 a night. (In fact, the city of San Francisco has finally realized that Airbnb is here to stay and voted to legalize and regulate short-term rentals.) And those rates are before a major conference hits town, which sends hotel prices up even further—if you can score one during one of those massive tech conferences at Moscone Center. So if you don’t want to walk from the Tenderloin to the SOMA in San Francisco, or get stuck in L.A. traffic because those hotels in Santa Monica or downtown were beyond budget, Airbnb could offer a more comfortable stay, with more workspace and room to chill, than an overpriced hotel room.

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Seen and Heard at SXSW Eco: Day 2

Mary Mazzoni
| Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is part of Triple Pundit’s ongoing coverage of the SXSW Eco conference. For the rest, please visit our SXSW Eco page here.

An enthusiastic Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, gives her keynote presentation "Sustainable Seas: The Vision and the Reality" at the 2014 SXSW Eco Conference.

An enthusiastic Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, gives her keynote presentation at the 2014 SXSW Eco conference.

The SXSW Eco conference is flying by, and Day 2 is already behind us. The day was filled with startup demos and inspirational sessions — not to mention the SXSW Eco Awards and our Twitter chat with HP (if you missed it, you can catch a recap here).

In a whirlwind lineup of events, panelists discussed everything from sustainable seafood and reducing waste to urban mobility and protecting the honeybee population. At Triple Pundit’s happy hour event last night, we asked folks to share their key takeaways from the day. The responses were as diverse as they are.

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India’s Mandatory CSR Law Inspires Innovation

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

taj mahalBy Carol L. Cone

I just returned from my first business trip to India. The country recently instituted the world’s first mandated CSR law, requiring all companies doing business there, with at least $830,000 in profits, to allocate 2 percent of the average net profit over three years against key social and environmental programs.

While the issues are diverse – education, water and sanitation, financial inclusion, hunger, poverty and malnutrition amongst others – the intent of the Act is clear: to achieve significant impact at the grassroots level.

Couple that with a new Prime Minister at the helm asking for bolder and more innovative social action from the corporate sector, a large millennial population that’s increasingly vocalizing its preference for brands that do good, and mobile phone penetration nearing 80 percent, the time is ripe for action. Coming from a poor background, Narendra Modi, the new prime minister is a passionate advocate for India’s poor and is focusing on two key areas – access to banking and sanitation. In his recent Independence Day speech he challenged the country to “walk together, we move together, we think together, we resolve together and together we take this country forward.”

With these historic milestones framing the context of my visit, my speech – titled The Power of Possible – was poised to provoke the audience to think about the opportunity this presented for them to act strategically and embrace cross sector innovation.

And it was fitting that my speech at Praxis 2014 was held in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Constructed in the 17th century by over 20,000 workers, this breathtaking monument is the physical manifestation of possibility. (Imagine transporting thousands of tons of white marble from Rajasthan, hundreds of miles away by 1,000 elephants with no roads, let alone crafting the magnificent building!)

Edelman, now India’s largest PR firm with 400 staffers in 11 offices, represents some of India’s largest companies as well as multinationals. Our meetings were fascinating. Our clients are taking the new law seriously. Some discussed new programs while others mentioned expanding previously made commitments.

I see the new law as a “gift” to India.

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GreenBox Continues to Save the World, One Pizza at a Time

Leon Kaye | Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment
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GreenBox continues to make pizza more sustainable–and fun

We have all had that moment where out of convenience, or desperation, we call up the local pizza joint and order a pie. And why not? Pizza covers all (or most) of the food groups, is satisfying, and can be eaten anywhere. The only caveat is that manky cardboard pizza box in which your instant meal is delivered. Awkward, bulky, and quite gross to look at after you’re done devouring your Hawaiian or meat lover’s special, that tomato sauce and cooking oil-stained box may not be compostable or recyclable.

But never mind, Ecovention’s GreenBox, or the “pizza box of the 21st century” as described by Fox News, is continuing to make a difference in the pizza industry—six years after we first touted this innovation here on Triple Pundit. This recyclable pizza box has its own Twitter account, has been showcased on Rachael Ray’s show and keeps you updated on the latest pizza creations on its blog. And of course, in case we forget, it’s 100 percent recyclable.

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10 Reasons to Make a Social Mission the Heart of Your Marketing

3p Contributor | Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

ben and jerry's truckBy Shayna Samuels and Glenn Turner

From L’Oreal’s new sustainability campaign to General Mills’ recent acquisition of Annie’s Inc. natural and organic foods (at 37 percent above the stock valuation), big brands are catching on to the fact that today’s consumers are looking for a lot more than a pretty package and a good deal. They’re looking for products with purpose and brands who care about more than just the bottom line. And if today’s entrepreneurs want to survive in an increasingly crowded marketplace, they need to take a page from the playbook of pioneers like Seventh Generation and Ben and Jerry’s, whose mission-based business models and marketing have catapulted them from a corner in the co-op to every mainstream grocery store in America.

A growing body of market research is proving this isn’t simply a trend, it’s a tidal shift in our economy. Here are 10 facts about modern consumers and how their demand for socially conscious businesses is driving marketplace evolution.

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An App for Sustainable Travel and Doing Good: Ecoalsur

Leon Kaye | Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Ecoalsur offers ideas on sustainable travel along the Uruguay coast . . .

Travel has certainly become easier the past twenty years thanks to discount airlines and the web, but the effects are not always positive. Increased carbon emissions, more environmental degradation and the world’s cultural homogenization are amongst the results cited by those concerned about cheap and easy travel. But one emerging travel publisher is leveraging the latest technology with increased interest in responsible travel, and in turn aims to bring water to those who need it most: Ecoalsur.

Based in a coworking office in Montevideo, Uruguay, Ecoalsur is a group of travel writers, adventurers and techies who seek to inspire travelers to see the world in a more environmentally and socially responsible way. For now the ground Ecoalsur covers is Latin America, though the firm’s network of writers has started to write about Africa and more regions across the world are on the horizon. In addition to highlighting responsible travel opportunities from the Uruguayan coast to Patagonia to Chiapas, this social enterprise focuses on another task: bringing clean and safe water to South America’s Gran Chaco.

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The Clever Marketing Strategy of NRG

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday October 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

NRG Stadium LED Lights on FieldNRG is a company with a clever name and marketing strategy. The company provides sustainable energy choices, including solar power, for consumers. It is also a company that has sustainable energy solutions installed at six stadiums that are home to professional teams. Those energy solutions provide a way for the company to let attendees of the games held at the stadiums know that solar energy and alternative technologies, such as LED lights, are choices. Information about solar and those other technologies is available at the six different stadiums.

The LED lights and electric vehicle charging stations installed at the six stadiums, plus solar power, serves as “real life examples of alternative energy solutions,” as Elizabeth Killinger, president of NRG Retail and Reliant, said to me.  The company installs them in “hopes of educating the people who’ve visited those stadiums that solar is something they can consider for their homes and businesses, as well as some of the other alternative technologies whether that’s electric vehicle (EV) charging or the LED lights.” In other words, the company can spread the word about sustainable energy solutions while putting their name in the minds of potential consumers. It’s a brilliant strategy.

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Seen and Heard at SXSW Eco: Day 1

Mary Mazzoni
| Tuesday October 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is part of Triple Pundit’s ongoing coverage of the SXSW Eco conference. For the rest, please visit our SXSW Eco page here.

Atmosphere at the 2014 SXSW Eco Conference. Photo by Rebecca Hedges Lyon.Day 1 of the SXSW Eco conference has come and gone, and attendees are busy chatting about their favorite takeaways, memorable moments and lessons learned.

On Day 1, social impact startups went on display, exhibitioners hosted hundreds at their booths, and panelists discussed everything from sustainable agriculture and creating climate wealth to solving global problems through creative design. But what attendees seem to enjoy the most is the community at SXSW Eco — where a group of like-minded individuals across multiple sectors can collaborate.

We took a walk around the Austin Convention Center and asked folks to share their thoughts.

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3p and HP Hosted #LivingProgress Twitter Chat LIVE from SXSW Eco

Marissa Rosen
| Tuesday October 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

no2r4rqltrax5gl8qxzl_400x400On October 7th, TriplePundit and HP hosted a live Twitter Chat from #SXSWeco, at the hashtag #livingprogress.  

During this year’s SXSWEco conference, Nick Aster, Founder and Publisher of Triple Pundit, and Chris Librie, Senior Director of Strategy and Communications at HP Corporate Affairs, came together at the HP Living Progress Exchange to bring the dialogue to you via Twitter!

The conversation covered some of the big challenges facing us today, including a rapidly growing population, effects of climate change, economic instability and global health crises.

Since challenges present opportunities for forward-thinking individuals and companies, HP is using the Living Progress framework for thinking about how it does business to create a better future for everyone through its actions and innovations. Through HP Living Progress, HP brings together people and technology to solve the world’s toughest challenges.

TriplePundit led the dialogue while HP provided facts and highlights of its past, present, and future work in sustainability. Topics covered in the discussion on HP’s Living Progress plan included the goals and successes of its supply chain, operations, collaborations, and more.

A few breakthroughs in HP’s innovations include:

  • HP has developed a liquid-cooled supercomputer which can help companies eliminate up to 3,800 tons of CO2 waste from data centers per year.
  • HP has a goal to reduce the emissions intensity of our product portfolio, 40% by 2020 compared to 2010.
  • HP is the only global IT company to set carbon reduction goals for all 3 parts of its value chain – across operations, supply chain and its product portfolio.
  • One Living Progress example is HP’s Africa take-back & recycling program that creates jobs and a healthier environment.
  • HP’s eHealth Center initiative provides quality care in rural underserved areas.

Missed the chat or want to learn more? Here’s the Storify summary:

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Targeted Marketing and Online Privacy

RP Siegel | Tuesday October 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Without targeted marketing, are you looking at a blank screen?

Have you noticed that lately, the moment a notion or product pops into your head, you suddenly start seeing ads related to it in the margins of your web browser? Okay, you probably weren’t just thinking about it, maybe you did a web search or mentioned it in an email, but it is still eerie.

Companies now have the ability to look at your browsing history and other online activities and mine that data for clues about you and your purchasing habits. In turn, they use their intel to serve you targeted ads. Facebook is notorious for serving ads about pregnancy and baby equipment to the newly married, for example.

Some people appreciate these directed ads, figuring that if they are going to see advertising, they might as well get ads for relevant products. Others are annoyed and find it mildly creepy, while a third group are outraged at what they feel is an invasion of their privacy. In fact, 73 percent of consumers surveyed said that they object to being tracked online. It is often said that if you get a something for free (à la Google or Facebook), you aren’t the customer, you’re the product. The question is — for those companies in the business of selling data, what are the CSR implications of doing so?

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Designed Right, Carbon Taxes Do Not Kill Jobs

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday October 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

our kids are worth it_Louisa BilleterThe standard argument from opponents in the continuing debate over carbon taxes is the grudging admission that while they might reduce carbon emissions, the taxes ultimately fail because they kill jobs.

A recent Bloomberg editorial goes a long way to dispelling the latter part of that argument. Where they are implemented, carbon taxes—also known as environmental tax reforms (ETR)—succeed in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. “The next question is whether that success is bought at the expense of jobs and incomes,” Bloomberg says. “The answer is no. As long as the tax is well-designed, it can cut emissions at little or no economic cost. And that is a conservative assessment: In practice, a carbon tax has been shown to provide an economic boost. The reason is that the revenue raised by a carbon tax can be used to cut other, more damaging, taxes.”

That’s because, generally speaking, taxes make economies less efficient. But there are degrees of damage, as the editorial explains: “Taxing ‘bads,’ such as pollution, actually improves the allocation of resources, whereas taxing ‘goods,’ such as labor, reduces the economy’s capacity to produce. In principle, therefore, using the revenue from a carbon tax to cut other taxes can yield a double benefit: reducing pollution and expanding the economy.”

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California Governor Vetoes Antibiotic Resistance Bill, Critics Cheer

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday October 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Feeding bunks at a dairy in California.Responding to pressure from environmental groups, last week California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a controversial bill that was designed, on the surface, to regulate antibiotic use in livestock.

In a short statement released Sept. 29, Brown stated that the bill did little more than “codify a Federal Drug Administration standard [Guidance 213, or GFI 213] that phases out antibiotic use for growth promotion.” Reinforcing the standard was necessary, said Brown, “because most major animal producers have already pledged to go beyond [it].”

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Are B Corps Relevant Outside of the U.S.?

Ryan Honeyman | Tuesday October 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

This is the ninth in a weekly series of excerpts from the upcoming book The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, October 13, 2014). Click here to read the rest of the series.

B CorporationsBy Ryan Honeyman

The B Corp movement has amplified the voice of a global community of entrepreneurs, investors, and consumers behind the power of a unifying brand that stands for a better way to do business.

Since B Lab (the nonprofit behind the B Corporation) was founded in 2007, the B Corp movement has become increasingly attractive and exciting to entrepreneurs outside of the United States.

For example, more than 1,100 Certified B Corps from 120 industries and 35 countries (including Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Kenya, and Mongolia) can now speak with one voice when they invite their millions of friends, family, and colleagues to join them in using business as a force for good.

This platform enables the B Corp community to build a collective voice that transcends international boundaries, helps galvanize more people, and creates a positive effect on society and the environment that is more powerful than any individual company.

B Corp certification helps raise awareness around what is being done well in Afghanistan. It sets an example that an Afghan company can achieve international standards for ethical operations and transparency. It also benefits other Afghan companies by opening up more mentoring opportunities and demonstrating the path to apply for B Corp certification. –Luisa Walmsley, CSR Program Manager, Roshan (Afghanistan)

Whether you are a sole proprietor, a national brand, or global business with billions in sales, and whether your focus is on strengthening local communities, reducing global poverty, or addressing climate change, being part of a larger movement can help build collective voice, accelerate the adoption of standards, drive capital, pass supportive public policies, and inspire consumers to change their behavior.

B Lab  has partnered with several organizations to help drive the movement globally.

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