By Shel Horowitz
Dean with the farmers of Atsabe, East Timor
Dean Cycon, CEO of Dean’s Beans and award-winning author of Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee uses only organic fair-trade coffee and cocoa, typically pays farmers well above the fair-trade minimum while still keeping consumer prices very affordable, and reinvests substantial profits into locally governed sustainability/economic development projects in the communities that supply his coffee. He’s also perhaps the business person with the highest integrity that I’ve ever encountered.
Not surprisingly, his revenues and profits have grown every year, despite the recession.
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line & Sustainable Business News
By Shel Horowitz
- Webinar: Best Practices in Obesity Prevention
- Advisory: U.S. Chamber Foundation and United Nations to Celebrate International Women’s Day in New York City
- The Path Forward for Solving Complex Social Problems: Multi-Sector Collaborations
- Next Week: Twitter Chat on Women in Corporate Leadership
There are many ways for businesses to learn from their customers – the typical arsenal includes focus groups, surveys, and recently, social media “listening” tools. While all those have their value, they all can use an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money to manage.
Most consumer insight research involves outreach on the part of the company. You have to find your customers/potential customers, and perhaps incentivize them to participate. What if they came to you, felt heard, and were managed in such a way as to give only the most pertinent results?
Uservoice would seem to fit that description.
Whereas user forums can get cluttered with numerous one-off duplicates of the same issue, clouded by vocal minorities, and in turn discouraging to others that may have had valuable insight, Uservoice has put one simple, effective boundary to remedy all of this:
It’s been popular in New York and other places where open space is at a premium, so San Francisco figured, “eh, why not?” The first reclamation of street space to create a pedestrian plaza opened last week on San Francisco’s famous Castro Street at the intersection with 17th St.
It’s a small space, maybe 1000 square feet in sum, but it’s symbolic, and perhaps a hopeful sign for pavement reclamation enthusiasts everywhere. The idea is to close a section of street to vehicular traffic, so that citizens can have a place to eat, drink coffee, read the paper, and generally hang out outside. As part of San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks Program, it is the first of what some hope will be many pieces of paved street that are repositioned as business centers.
If successful, the 17th and Castro plaza will be made permanent, and likely many others will follow in the city and perhaps in other cities. It makes the city more walkable and pedestrian friendly, and marks a stark contrast to the never-ending paving of America that began in earnest in the 1950’s and continues to do this day in most parts of the country. And it’s one of the big reasons why people love cities like San Francisco and New York and are increasingly returning to them as the illusions of suburbia burst like gnats on a windshield.
I went to the opening and interviewed some pedestrians, some hanger-outters, and some local businesses to see how they felt about the space.
Of all the major events that we partner with over the course of the year, Sustainable Life Media’s Sustainable Brands series has always been one of the best – deep thinking, high level, and fast paced. This year the conference, once again in Monterey, CA, is likely to sell out with over 400 business leaders, brand strategists and sustainability execs in attendance. (See the full schedule here).
SLM has been especially generous this year and is offering Triple Pundit readers a 20% discount on the full price of conference admission. Please register here and enter the discount code “trprsp09″ when indicated.
The Triple Pundit team is also co-sponsoring a special one-day “unconference” to be held concurrently with the main event on June 1. It’s an excellent one-day alternative if you’re unable to attend the full conference. We’ll have a special announcement soon about the details!
Social media has opened the
door floodgates when it comes to causes getting the word out to consumers, but with the overwhelming amounts of information available online (and that’s an understatement), it’s often difficult to ensure message retention, or even that your issue will rise above the clutter as other organizations vie for attention. So, naturally some causes are employing video tactics in the hopes of creating an emotional connection with the viewer that will drive adoption and action. While video is also becoming increasingly saturated, the visual appeal can definitely help with exposure, and the right combination of messaging, music and a dash of marketing might do the trick in cultivating cause champions. At least that’s what Oxfam, a UK-based organization dedicated to generating awareness around important social and environmental issues, is hoping with their recent “Resuscitate the World” video in support of the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Summit.
Poor Mr. W, for so long he was misunderstood – but no more. He has become an important part of society.
This short film was shown to my colleagues and I in Germany as part of the introduction to the work and mission of German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU), and won a “Gold Lion” under the film category in the 54th edition of the cannes international advertising awards in 2007
The film was created by ad agency Nordpol+ Hamburg for EPURON, a leading renewable energy company operating throughout Europe, in partnership with the BMU.
Demand is likely to be reduced by 2%, back to 2006 levels, according to a recent report by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. “The economic recession has contributed to an overall reduction in the (forecast) demand for electricity this summer, leading to higher reserve margins across North America for the season,” said Mark Lauby, NERC’s director of reliability assessments. Click to continue reading »
The international ocean environmental group, Oceana, reports that pollution from cruise ships is a growing problem. That’s an understatement.
One example: Except for California and Alaska, “lax state and federal anti-pollution laws allow cruise ships to dump untreated sewage from sinks and showers and inadequately treated sewage from toilets into state waters,” the organization says.
Once ships are three miles from shore, they can dump untreated sewage from toilets. “This puts our coastal environment at risk from the threats of bacteria, pathogens and heavy metals generated in these waste streams.” Click to continue reading »
At a time when consumer trust is very low, companies will need to earn trust to thrive. An extensive study by Havas Media, the Sustainability Framework 09, examines which sectors are perceived to have the lowest environmental and social performance.
This study of 20,000 consumers was completed early this year in 10 markets and spanned more than 50 brands in 8 sectors. This thorough study has provided numerous insights that provide extremely valuable to businesses across the globe. One such nugget is how different sectors are viewed regarding overall corporate social responsibility.
The Four Sectors with the Lowest Perceived Environmental and Social Performance Are:
US cap-and-trade legislation will have widespread ramifications, not only for Americans, but for America’s largest trading partner, too.* Canada’s Conservative government has placed all its financial eggs in one basket in making the Alberta tar sands the center of the country’s economic policy.** As a result, the recession in Canada is deepening, and with depressed prices for oil, tar sands companies are facing a bleak and uncertain future.
And so is Canada.
The unconventional heavy oil from Alberta is difficult to access and expensive to produce, and cheap oil prices make the industry unprofitable. In fact, some analysts have suggested that oil needs to head north of $60 US ($71 Cdn) a barrel before Alberta’s oil industry starts humming. Click to continue reading »
Jeremy Rifkin, author and president of the think tank Foundation on Economic Trends, gave a rousing talk at the Research Connection conference in Prague last week, held by the research arm of the European Union. His thesis, according to this BBC article is that the EU will need to change its approach to generating, using and monetizing energy in order to emerge from its energy and economic crises.
One of the ways it should do this is by looking to the revolution of communication technology and the growth of the Internet. Also vital will be spreading power generation across a region and encouraging small – even home-based – renewable energy stations, he said.
Rifkin says Europe lacks the capacity needed to meet its eminent energy needs using the established, centralized power generation model and therefore must turn to microgeneration, wherein buildings are transformed into their own power plants. The power source would be whatever is most appropriate to the location: turbines in windy areas, solar in the sun, tidal power on the coasts and methane power in agricultural settings.
“Your building becomes your power plant, just like your computer becomes your information vehicle to the world,” Rifkin told the crowd.
Launching for Mother’s Day 2009, GreenMoms.com aims to help Moms bring healthier and more environmentally-friendly living to their families, their communities, and their world.
GreenMoms started as a San Francisco Bay-Area group of women who met regularly to discuss their childrens’ health, eat eco-friendly vegetarian food, go berry-picking, and generally get active in their community. Melinda McNaughton, the group’s founder, said that, “Once the group got going, it felt so good to have a network of people to share successes and challenges that it made it much easier to stay motivated to make green changes. We’re constantly inspiring each other with new ideas.”
McNaughton and business partner Janice Solimeno thought the idea of “Meeting Locally, Supporting Globally” was such a good one, they decided to take the group and turn it into an online community.
Community is the key word, as the site encourages groups to form in their own area, and to use the resources on the website, including the innovative GreenMometer, to share ideas and live healthier and more sustainable lives. The site is growing rapidly, and groups are forming in such far flung places as Israel, Alabama, and Idaho.
Bringing sustainability to Moms may be one of the most crucial bridges the green movement must make. Moms, especially new Moms, tend to be very interested in many aspects of green business as a result of widespread acknowledgment of the effects of harmful chemicals (agrochemicals in food, lead paint in Chinese toys, BPA in baby bottles, etc.). If the green movement is to move beyond the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, and the Northeast (and into red states), reaching Moms is very important. One of the best ways to reach them is through peer-to-peer interactions, exactly the kind that GreenMoms tries to facilitate on a local level.
The top green business stories for the week:
SAP Moves Further Into Sustainability Arena, Acquires Green IT Leader Clear Standards. Triple Pundit’s own Andrew Burger reported that the software giant had announced a deal to acquire Clear Standards in a move that brings serious financial muscle into the emissions reporting IT industry. Of its announced intention to acquire Clear Standards, SAP Co-CEO Leo Apotheker said, “It is essential that organizations gain actionable insight into their carbon emissions, water consumption, energy use and other environmental factors so they can lower their environmental impact.”
Chicago First to Ban Baby Bottles with Suspected Toxin BPA Plastics. Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is a suspected culprit in heart disease and diabetes in adults, as well as cancer and accelerated puberty and other developmental risks for children. The chemical is used, among other things, to harden plastics, and is a common ingredient in baby bottles and sippy cups (as well as the popular Nalgene bottles, so switch to more eco-friendly Sigg or Klean Kanteen). Chicago passed the measure unanimously, citing the Federal government’s inaction on the chemical. During the Bush Administration, the FDA had ruled that BPA was safe at the levels in which it was found to leech into food and beverages, but a recent scientific panel condemned that research for flawed methods and ignoring important independent findings elsewhere. Chicago’s decision may force bottle makers and plastics manufacturers to decide whether to continue to use the product, as other cities and states are likely to follow suit. (From our Friends at the Environmental News Network).
General Electric to Open Battery Plant in NY. The announcement came Tuesday as GE continues to leverage itself to become a leader in the power storage sector. The plant should create 350 new manufacturing jobs, and will produce 10 million cells each year if the plant runs at full capacity. The company is seeking funding from the Federal government’s stimulus funds for clean energy, and may promise a brighter future for electric cars and plug-in hybrids. (From our friends at GreenBiz.com)
Many believe that business will be the primary driver of change as our society moves toward more sustainable practices and lifestyles. A recent Havas Media survey confirms this assertion: 70% of consumers surveyed say they look to business rather than government to lead the way on issues related to the environment and social justice.
The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF) believes women in business will play a significant and unique role in this transformation. The New York-based non profit provides a forum for business and professional women to meet, reflect and act on the convergent issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. WNSF will hold its first West Coast Summit on Thursday, May 21, 2009 at Intel Headquarters in Santa Clara, CA. Triple Pundit recently had a chance to speak with their Executive Director, Ann Goodman.