The 3rd P Stands for People

| Wednesday October 15th, 2008 | 2 Comments

Today is Blog Action Day! Bloggers all over the web are tackling the same issue: poverty. We thought it would be a great chance for us to focus on that 3rd “P” that so often gets left behind when we get caught up talking about environmental solutions. In case you missed them, here are some excerpts from the best People stories on 3P in the past few months:
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3 Greatest Myths about Poverty

Paul Polak, founder of International Development Enterprises (IDE), who has helped raise 17 million people out of poverty, discusses the 3 greatest myths about ending world poverty:
1. We can donate people out of poverty;
2. We can end poverty through national economic growth; and
3. Multinationals as they are now will end poverty.
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The Impact of Fair Trade Tea on Indian Farmers

Tea garden owners are already required to provide a “basic level of accommodation, healthcare and education for workers,” but the extra money from fair trade sales enables the workers to create social and productive programs, like computer classed. Many of these plantations are organic as well, meaning that the product is also good for the planet.
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The Bees Knees: Honey for Social Change

Imagine ex-cons doffed in beekeeping garb. Sweet Beginnings is a social enterprise that truly encompasses the triple bottom line, employing formerly incarcerated men and women to run all aspects of the business, including carefully cultivating bees to create high end honey.
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Cambodia’s Thriving Garment IndustryThe Cambodian garment industry was worth over 1 billion in 2001. 92.2% of the workers are women. While the pay is a mere $50/month, these women actually have far better protection than US workers, with 90 days maternity leave at half pay plus benefits, with the guarantee that they will only have to perform light work for two months after they return. Factories are required to set up day care centers for children 18 months to three years old, and give mothers breaks for breastfeeding for the first year of their children’s lives.
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Nicaragua Shows the World How To Fund Socially Responsible Ventures

What if your business is too big to be helped much from a microloan, but not big enough or your ideas/skills developed enough to warrant the attention of large scale venture capital? Agora Partnerships in Nicaragua provides one great example of how to bridge that gap.

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Clorox Cleans Up with Green Cleaning Products

| Tuesday October 14th, 2008 | 1 Comment

greenworks_logo.jpgThe Clorox Green Works line has been a contentious topic for the susty crowd in recent months due to Sierra Club’s endorsement of the line in exchange for an undisclosed sum. Some 3Pers say that all is well and good when more people have the chance to buy green cleaning products from a line they trust, others say Sierra Club sold out to the man in exchange for a measly buck.
Well, the results are in at least for Clorox’s bottom line. The Green Works line is on track to earn Clorox $40 million this year. This is good news all around. Here’s why: the market is growing rapidly for a green product, making it easier for all of us to make the business case for sustainability. Second, it turns out that Clorox is sweeping up market share in the green cleaning product space. This is not to say that sales are down for Method and Second Generation, quite the contrary. Green Works is actually luring customers away from traditional cleaning products rather than the eco-alternatives. Clorox managed to create demand for its green product among people who were buying traditional cleaning products filled with bleach, ammonia, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)!
The word is still out on whether the Sierra Club’s partnership with industry will have long term impacts on their environmental cred.
Readers, what do you think? Will Clorox’s move into the green space continue to pay off for their bottom line? Will the Sierra Club come to regret their decision to endorse a product line from a big bad company?
Previously: Clorox Uses Sustainable Branding to Move Product , Clorox Rings the Green Bell – With Sierra Club

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Social Capital Markets 2008 Conference: Day One Impressions

| Tuesday October 14th, 2008 | 0 Comments

logo-sm.gifAttendees at Day One of the inaugural Social Capital Markets 2008 Conference (SOCAP08) were greeted by a sunny day at San Francisco’s Fort Mason and capacity crowds wherever they turned. Registration went well over the expected 300 to reach almost 600 participants that included a mix of non-profits and for-profits with a variety of interests, backgrounds, and social missions.
Everyone I talked to had something to give and something to gain from attending. “Why are you here?” I asked Dominik Mjartan from Southern Bancorp (a community development bank involved in rural development in the Mississippi delta), “I’m here to learn, share, network, and hopefully connect with some investors. A lot of us have been working in this area without a big support network, so I’m glad conferences like this exist where we can finally come together and learn from each other.”

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ClimatePULSE: Saving the World, Two Problems at a Time

| Tuesday October 14th, 2008 | 0 Comments

globe_community_activism.86124252_std.jpg Recycling highly-concentrated streams of CO2 from large-scale emitters sounds like a fantastic way to slow down climate change. So does finding a new, abundant source of fuel that doesn’t require drilling. Why not tackle both of these issues at the same time? It’s certainly intriguing, but more importantly, it’s possible. This week ClimatePULSE will take a look at such a technology and discuss the possible impacts it can have both nationally and globally.

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Follow the Sold Out Social Capital Markets 2008 Conference in Real Time

| Monday October 13th, 2008 | 0 Comments

twitter-socap.jpgWe sent a handful of 3p’s best (yes, they’re all the best) to cram themselves in the underventilated, far above capacity rooms that are home to the first annual Social Capital Markets 2008 Conference. This way, you get to pretend you’re there without leaving your office (or pajamas, if that is how you roll).
As writers Bill Shutkin, Jim Whitkin, Steve Tiell, Napoleon Wallace, and I interview conference attendees and weave together the stories for which you are so patiently waiting, you can following the conference live on Twitter. Check it out here:

search.twitter.com/search?q=SoCap08

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Cool Earth Solar Set to Open Prototype Plant and Change the Shape of Solar Power

| Monday October 13th, 2008 | 3 Comments

Cool Earth Solar's unique design makes solar energy scalableLivermore, California-based Cool Earth Solar is set to complete construction of their first prototype plant in the next few weeks. If all goes according to plan the new plant will change the shape of renewable energy scalability – literally.

I had the opportunity last week to speak with CEO Rob Lamkin about Cool Earth Solar’s mission and the difficulties facing alternative energy companies. In terms of the challenges of renewable energy, Lamkin was clear and concise: “scalability”.

Says Lamkin: “If you’re going to replace hydrocarbons with solar, you’re going to need a lot of collecting surface”. Cool Earth Solar addresses this challenge by changing the shape of the collecting surface.

Instead of using row upon row of flat panel solar collector “boxes-with-lenses” requiring heavy, expensive materials to build, Cool Earth utilizes what might be considered an application, in both concept and materials, of Ockham’s Razor: Keep it simple

Cool Earth’s patented design is centered on an inflated balloon-shaped “solar concentrator”, about eight feet in diameter, made of thin plastic film – the same sort of material used in potato chip bags. The upper hemisphere of the “balloon” is transparent, the lower is reflective, and sunlight is concentrated on the photovoltaic cell held at the focal point. A single concentrator can generate about 1 kilowatt of power.  

The unique design is simple in its concept and produces 300 to 400 times the electrical output that same cell could produce in a conventional solar collector.

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Is the Environment the New Corporate Responsibility?

| Monday October 13th, 2008 | 3 Comments

corp-resp.jpgI’ve recently struggled with the question: who bears primary responsibility for addressing the environmental crisis – government, companies, individuals, or all 3? Responses were split almost perfectly in quarters, suggesting that all parties are responsible for solving our environmental crisis. Fundamentally I believe that individuals hold the key – both government and businesses are beholden to them. But the reality of the situation is that institutions are far better organized to take concerted action. And without concerted action, we will see global warming, water shortages, and a series of other environmental problems come to roost.
Corporations are uniquely positioned to make a significant and positive impact on our environmental challenges, and for that reason they need to be held responsible. In other words, it’s time for them to step. It’s time for companies to step up to the plate and address our collective environmental challenges for 3 primary reasons.

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Refugees in Antartica and Virtual Olympics in Climate Change Scenario

Sarah Lozanova | Monday October 13th, 2008 | 1 Comment

climate%20change.jpgGrave warnings from climate scientists about the affects of global warming are abundant and forecasts of state specific impacts have been created. As ice caps melt and weather patterns shift, the million dollar question is how climate change will alter our lives. What will the world be like on New Year’s Day 2030?
British-based think-tank, Forum for the Future and researchers from Hewlett-Packard explored several scenarios of how climate change will impact business, government, and daily life. Here is what they came up with:

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The Pickens Plan: Boon or Boondoggle?

| Monday October 13th, 2008 | 1 Comment

pickensplan_logo_top.gif Former oilman, corporate raider cum alternative energy proponent, T. Boone Pickens’ highly, and largely self-promoted “Pickens Plan” only has it half-right as far as charting a course that will lead to a more secure, cleaner energy future for the US, according to critics.
While investing in and developing wind power to the point where it makes up at least 20% of the nation’s power supply is right on the mark, the second part of the Pickens Plan – shifting the 20% of natural gas currently used to produce electricity to transportation by converting vehicles to run on natural gas – is both foolhardy and impractical, according to Intelligent Communities Inc., developers of “The Intelligent Community Initiative,” (ICI) which aims to raise educational and living standards in the US by building an interconnected, symbiotic network that includes a school and business facilitation and business incubation divisions, all linked together by a custom-built, Web-based client-server network.

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A Better way to Run Our Capital Markets

3p Contributor | Monday October 13th, 2008 | 0 Comments

 

Paying attention to the news lately, you can’t avoid hearing about the economy and who needs to be bailed out next. What I haven’t seen, though, is a discussion that takes a step back and asks, “What would an economy look like that doesn’t need to be bailed out or ‘fixed’ every x number of years?”

This type of a discussion would ask a whole new set of questions: Why do centralized economies where communities systematically export money continue to be the de facto standard? What can we do to strengthen our local economies to provide resilience in broader economic downturns? How can businesses play a leading role in redefining our social landscape and add to economic resiliency? Would a corporate structure forced to focus on long-term sustainability be any better than one focused on short-term results? Should an investor even care about social impact?

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Sustainable Agriculture in practice: It’s all about the soil…and carbon

| Saturday October 11th, 2008 | 2 Comments

glblwrmgeconomic_costs_250px.jpg For decades organic farming was written off as an impractical, unrealistic flight of fancy dreamed up by 60’s-era hippies and those longing for a return to some pre-industrial, Eden with little or no grounding in what it actually takes to produce food for the masses. For a variety of reasons particular to North America, industrialized agriculture – large scale monoculture and irrigation helped by regular and liberal doses of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other soil “amendments,” all regularly plowed over by big, heavy fossil fueled equipment– has been, and largely remains, the model for American society’s food chain.
Organic, sustainable agriculture has turned out to be one of those ideas that just wouldn’t go away, however – and for a variety of good and increasingly vital reasons. Not only are growing numbers of farmers, ranchers and research scientists showing that sustainable, organic methods and practices can produce as high or higher yields in the short-term, but they’re showing that the long-term benefits of regenerating soils, which include reducing water usage, pollution and erosion as well as improving habitat for other forms of life, are not only equally as great, but go beyond any currently used means of calculating a “bottom line.”
It’s also been demonstrated that fostering greater use of organic methods and practices may be one of the best – least cost, most efficient and eminently practicable – means of mitigating climate change.
According to a summary of the results of a 30-year, side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming systems in the U.S. conducted by the Rodale Institute that organic agricultural practices could sequester an incredible 40% of present day global carbon emissions.

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Thoughts On Accountability and Opportunity As the Credit Crisis Slows Investment In Clean Energy Development

| Saturday October 11th, 2008 | 3 Comments

11-25-Foreclosure.jpgI just finished reading this post on Grist and a N.Y Times article that it links to about the credit crisis slowing investment in clean energy development, and I’ve gotta say – I’m pretty hoppin’ mad. As one of the sources cited in The Times piece acknowledged:

“financing for carbon-cutting projects is harder to find and…financiers (are) more cautious than before the crunch.”

Reading this N.Y. Times expose last weekend detailing how the Bush Administration’s policy blunders and negligence on oversight have brought us to this point didn’t exactly help me feel better. Lovely – thanks for bringing us to the verge of another Panic of 1873. As top market analysts have stated:

“We still don’t know the extent of the damage still coming from Lehman. But we do know that the federal government has made it so we are all afraid. That’s not going away. My hope is this — new president, better team.” – Jim Cramer, TheStreet.com

“Recessions are simply part of the business cycle… Depressions are caused by governments making major policy mistakes. And we have made some in the areas of not regulating mortgage lending, allowing the five large investment banks to increase their leverage to 30 or 40 to one in 2004 (what was the SEC thinking?), and failing to oversee the rating agencies.” – John Maudlin, Thoughts from the Frontline Weekly Newsletter, 10/10/2008

While other sources in the articles about impacts of the credit crisis on clean energy investment fortunately remained optimistic – as do I – one thing that leaves me at a loss of words as I consult with top sources to understand both the problem and the best potential solutions is this: where is the accountability?

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Cost of Deforestation is Vastly Greater than that of the Current Financial Crisis

| Friday October 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

deforestation.jpgWhile your 401K smolders in ruins, take a gander at this BBC article and it might give you some perspective. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately an optimistic perspective: We are actually losing more money through deforestation than through the current financial meltdown. The reasoning behind this is clear when we start calculating the often overlooked value of Natural Capital – resources provided by our environment including minerals, water, air, sunlight, heat, plants, animals, and other organic matter.
Looking at the costs of deforestation and other forms of resource depletion from a purely economic perspective may seem perverse to many environmentalists, but it may be the only way that these issues are ever going to get real attention from government, big business, and society at large. The study cited by the BBC comes from a Deutsche bank economist who states:

… whereas Wall Street by various calculations has to date lost, within the financial sector, $1-$1.5 trillion, the reality is that at today’s rate we are losing natural capital at least between $2-$5 trillion every year (emphasis mine)

Bear in mind that’s an annual cost… and it’s just about forests.

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The ISSP: Professional Development for the Sustainability Practitioner

| Friday October 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

The green networking space is getting crowded. Countless online resources are available where green-minded professionals can connect and interact. But you know that a profession has truly arrived when bona fide professional associations arise to support and promote it. Several niche organizations have sprung up to serve professionals in specific areas like CSR or supply chain. Marsha Willard, the Executive Director of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), believes her organization goes beyond niche to address the entire profession:

While there are other organizations related to sustainability, they tend to be focused on geographic area, framework, philosophy or sector. None are truly professional societies dedicated to supporting the professional development of practitioners globally, across sectors and philosophies.

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3M Post-Its Make Some Greener Progress

| Friday October 10th, 2008 | 1 Comment

post-it.jpgLike your 3M Post-it notes but are concerned about their impact on the environment?
Well so is 3M and starting in 2007 they started to provided eco-friendly versions of all their basic products called Post-it® Recycled Notes.
Is this green washing or real concern?
I suspect neither and both. Really I think it has to do with their bottom line and the growing chorus of folks that want green alternatives in the office. So the more we support items like a green Post-it the more will be sold and the more the idea will work itself into the fabric of 3M.
Also right now they only offer 30% postconsumer content. Come on 3M you can do better than that. Many of our other vendors selling a similar product do.
From the 3M website:

We are committed to designing and sourcing responsibly from an environmental standpoint. ALL Post-it® paper is sourced from paper mills that are certified for sustainable management practices. (Includes SFI and PEFC.) Our Post-it® Recycled Notes include a minimum of 30% postconsumer content and don’t forget – ALL Post-it® Notes are recyclable!

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This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of ProformaGreen, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy. John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.

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