Nathan Shedroff talks about “meaning” in this month’s Sustainable MBA collumn on Greenbiz. He talks about 15 different types of meaning which we use to understand our reality and how making your business offering more meaningful will not only make for a better world, but will earn you a lot more money.
Let the drumroll begin. Current TV interviewd eco-entrepreneur Graham Hill and myself at South by Southwest in Austin a few weeks ago and the video is out. It’s a look at the origins and message behind treehugger.com the site Graham founded and I now spend most of my time working on. Have a look!
Inside Green Business reports on the “going green” efforts of insurance giant AIG. Like many other giant insurers, such as Swiss Re, AIG is taking practical moves to reduce their potential liability in the event of climacticly caused calamities such as hurricanes which are likely to become more severe as a resuly of human induced climate change. AIG plans to encourage clients to reduce emissions and is signing on to various greenhouse gas trading schemes and make funds available for renewable energy, efficiency, and other “green” practices among its holdings.
We’ve all seen reports that talk about adding up the financial burden caused by “externalities” such as air pollution, but it never hurts to be reminded. The SF Chronicle reports that that the cost of air pollution in California’s San Joaquin Valley is an astonishing $3 Billion a year when asthma, lost work days, and other hospital costs are added up. The valley has the unfortunate luck of being a very effective catchment for much of the state’s pollution and the smog tends to add up rather than dissipate. But that dosn’t mean it should be discounted as an anomoly – the measureable & destructive costs of emissions are everywhere.
I’ve mentioned before that I hold Chinese restaurants in much higher regard if they provide real chopsticks instead of those disposable ones which make you feel like you’re eating chalk. China goes through an inconcievable 45 billion pairs of chopsticks a year resulting in major deforestation and the diversion of bamboo resources that would probably be much better spent elsewhere.
As a result, the Chinese government will place a 5% tax on the sale of disposable wooden chopsticks in an effort to encourage the use of durable ones. Whether it has any effect remains to be seen! BBC article here.
Investors’ Circle, in collaboration with the Skoll Foundation, is pleased to announce our spring conference and venture fair: “Patient Capital for a Sustainable Future” May 10-12, in San Francisco. Join a leading group of investors, philanthropists and entrepreneurs for two days of deal doing and the most innovative thinking in socially responsible venture investing. Early-bird pricing ends April 15th; for more information and to register, check out the conference site.
If you are an MBA student, there are volunteer opportunities avaiable! Check out the website above, or get intouch with Elizabeth U – elizabeth at investorscircle.net
I lived in London when the famous congestion charge went into effect, and I have to say that it definitely reduced the traffic on my street making the neighborhood far more pleasant and less smoggy. To top it off, London seems to have gotten quite used to it, and has sinced raised the daily fee for a car entering central London to £8 without a great deal of griping nor any lost commerce (that I’ve seen).
Thusly, cities around the world are considering doing the same thing, most recently – San Francisco. The idea, of course, is to cut down on the amount of traffic in the central city, which would make things far more pleasant and more convenient for those who choose not to drive. The problem is, it can also been seen as a rather innefficient revenue grab by city officials, and it costs an absolute fortune to implement and run, with no guarantee of even covering the operating expenses of the charging system itself.
London is a really big city, with excellent transportation links (despite local complaints). I could see a congestion charge working well in Manhattan, but I question whether San Francsico is really big enough to pull this off. The public transport in SF is decent, but by no means world class. Bike lanes are lacking, and many other proposals exist that might accomplish the same benefits without costing anywhere near as much such as smart parking meters that adjust their price according to demand.
What do you think?
As we’ve talked about quite a bit lately, organic food is becoming big business. This is both good and bad of course : less pesticides and a healthier population are good things, but there’s understandable fear that with big money involved quality standards may be compromised and the small farmer further decimated. I tend to fall on the side of believing this is part of a positive evolution – and the chart above illustrtates that almost every big player in the food industry is getting involved with organics to one extent or another. Click the chart to go full screen (courtesy of the Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia).
Soon, we’ll see Wal*Mart on that map too.
Beating out traditional heavyweights like Yale, Berkeley, Duke and Stanford, the Bainbridge Graduate Institute finished 4th in its first case compeition among business schools. (CSRWire report here)
BGI is one of a handful of new business schools founded on the principals of sustainabilty and offering a curriculum that integrates environmental and social considerations with a core business education. Congrats to the BGI Team!
You may have heard of the concept of an environmental “footprint”, or perhaps a “carbon footprint”, but now the Center for Sustainable Innovation has proposed measureing a company’s impact on society with a “social footprint” measurement. LOHAS article here. The concept builds on the Global Reporting Initiative and can be read about here.
My collegue, Steve Kopfl has been engaging McDonald’s on their “CSR Blog” and asked them about their lack of a ‘fair trade cofee’ policy and their continued use of polystrene foam cups. The answer (see here) that was give, although thoughtful, seems to miss the point of what Steve was asking. Namely – that there are probably negative health effects steming from the use and manufacture of this type of cup. Also, that thicker paper cups, assuming they are from trusted sources like FSC certificed forests or post consumer recycling are not necesarily worse for the environment. Finally, they never responded at all to his question about Fair Trade Certified coffee. Seem like a missed opportunity on their part. Check it out here.
Wal Mart Stores plan to double their organic grocery offerings next month, in addition to a strong commitment to responsibly caught seafood and organic cotton in clothing (AP Article here). The best thing about this is the inevitable effect on Wal Mart’s massive supply chain – increasing the likelyhood that many other retailers and suppliers will follow their lead.
The assumption is still that organic is more costly, and is therefore part of a Wal Mart strategy to lure “more affluent” shoppers. Hopefully, however, with a move this sweeping, it will start to bring the price down for everyone, and expose Wal Mart’s regular clientelle to something a little more savory.
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has just put out a great digest on “campus sustainability news stories and resources from the past year”. It’s a great big PDF that you can download here containing hundreds of stories about various sustainable initiatives on university campuses, ranging from transportation to SRI, to Green Building. It’s great to hear about so many things going on at universities everywhere, and even better to see them all collected in one place!
There are few business leaders as well known as Ray Anderson in terms of having an epiphany about sustainability. Andersons’s company – Interface Carpet – is a leader in the quest to create a truly cradle to cradle company with a goal of having “Zero Impact” on the environment. I could go on and on, but for your weekend enjoyment, please listen to this BBC Rado interview and hear all about it. [Listen Here]