Latin America: profitable business and sustainable development through inclusiveness

| Tuesday May 6th, 2008 | 2 Comments

collaboration.jpgLately our news feeds about the business sector, government and development activities in Latin America have painted a stark picture; mostly surrounding resource competition between filling bellies and producing biofuels. The current crises elucidates the range of dilemmas faced when business and development needs are out of harmony, when they are placed in competition to one another. What results is negative local community development, compromised business outcomes and strained relationships between governments, industry and civil society.
A recent clip released on Youtube draws our attention quickly back to a more positive dynamic between civil society, business and government. It shows the height of research and implementation to date of a joint initiative for ‘Inclusive Business’ between the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV). Over the past year, the alliance has been actively pursuing collaboration between business executives and civil society across Latin America to generate ideas for sustainable business opportunities. The culmination to date is highlighted within the video below.

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AskPablo: LED lights are amazing but expensive. By switching to them, will I save energy and money over the long run?

| Monday May 5th, 2008 | 1 Comment

I would like to use LED lighting to replace all my existing lighting. Over the long run, will I be reducing energy consumption and pollution, and even saving money?
I have written a lot about the environmental benefits of compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs in the past, but never about LED light bulbs. LED stands for “light emitting diode” and is a semiconductor diode that emits a narrow frequency (color range) of light. To put it simply, think of it as a solar panel in reverse: Electricity goes in and light comes out. To answer your question, I requested LED light bulb samples from LED Waves, and received a high-power 7-watt LED bulb that emits 500 lumens, has an anticipated life span of 50,000 hours (that’s almost six years, 24 hours per day), and retails for $59.95. Since LEDs are directional — they emit light in a focused beam rather than in all directions, like a conventional light bulb — it is difficult to compare them exactly to CFLs or conventional incandescent light bulbs. But I will try to provide a comparison of their light output, energy consumption and cost-effectiveness.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/05/05/ask_pablo_leds/index.html

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KKRED: A Triple Double?

| Monday May 5th, 2008 | 0 Comments

20070622_kkr_18.jpgThe buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts last week announced a new partnership with Environmental Defense to help measure the environmental performance of the dozens of businesses KKR owns, from Toys R Us to the energy giant TXU. The partnership grows out of the collaboration between the two groups last year in brokering a deal for TXU. ED agreed to support the acquisition by KKR of TXU in exchange for KKR and its partner, Texas Pacific Group, agreeing to reduce TXU’s carbon emissions and scotch its plans to build new coal-burning power plants.
The evolution of the KKR-ED partnership mirrors a larger evolution underway for the past two decades in American environmentalism: the merger of market and environmental strategies. ED’s President, Fred Krupp, has long been out front in pushing for what he and others have called “The Third Wave” of environmentalism, the latest iteration of the movement following its conservation and pollution control phases. Starting in the late 1980s, Fred and ED have taken a contrarian position vis. other national environmental NGOs in embracing market-based approaches to pollution reduction/elimination, especially emissions credit trading (cap-and-trade) schemes of the kind pioneered in the 1990 federal Clean Air Act.

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Why’s Chicago Punishing Drivers?

Sarah Lozanova | Monday May 5th, 2008 | 7 Comments

rush%20hour.jpgChicago is the second most congested region in the country and the mayor wants to change this. Will Daley’s plan to discourage driving and lure them into buses work? If so, it can improve the quality of life in the city.
With the goal of easing congestion, commuting times, and air pollution in the central business district of Chicago, this multi-faceted plan could change the way Chicagoans get around. A $153 million federal grant can help make this plan a reality.
Buses Get Preferential Treatment
The first part of the plan entails creating a 100 mile bus corridor with dedicated bus lanes during peak hours. Kiosks selling bus tickets allow passengers to quickly board buses and many routes will run express, resulting in fewer stops. Traffic lights will be programmed to turn green for buses, helping to keep them in motion. Hybrid buses will be used, reducing pollution in these heavily populated areas.

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General Motors’ Quest to Become “Green Motors”

| Monday May 5th, 2008 | 20 Comments

wagoner.jpgOn Thursday, Rick Wagoner, Chairman and CEO of General Motors came to San Francisco to speak about the future of the company and “green” auto technology. It’s fascinating to think that not long ago, General Motors was a company beloved by most Americans, a symbol of the innovation, spirit, and the pleasant lifestyle typical of American culture. Today, it is the target of much criticism, when Wagoner must watch his words carefully and bring along a security outfit, for fear of protest. One did break out, but certainly nothing violent or warranting more security than was provided for Nobel Prize winning social entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus, who had none present at a Commonwealth Club event at the same venue, which he actually more than filled up.
I was actually looking forward to writing a positive review about GM and its efforts to become a leader in environmentally conscious auto manufacturing. Cynicism gets pretty boring. Yet, in Wagoner’s carefully scripted speech, there was little to genuinely get excited about. In fact, GM’s view of its strategy in green is well-captured in its advertising campaign that states “GM has the most models with EPA-estimated 30 mpg or higher highway fuel economy.” We’re fine, you’re just not buying our cars.

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Green PC: Corsair Greens its Power Supply Line

| Monday May 5th, 2008 | 0 Comments

corsair%2080%20plus.jpgCorsair is one of the leading providers of gaming-grade, high performance memory and power supplies. They offer products like a 1000W power supply fit to power three video cards, and the DOMINATOR line of memory built for processor overclocking, a power-hungry process of maximizing computer performance.
As you may have guessed, computer gaming has never been about conserving energy. But Corsair realizes energy efficiency means more reliable computers and money saved on electricity, both of which are important to gamers. With that in mind, they made the entirety of their power supply line 80 PLUS certified. 80 PLUS certification reduces wasted energy by requiring the unit to use 80 percent of energy at various levels of power loads. That is to say if the computer is using 1000 watts, no less than 800 of those must be used for processing. 80 PLUS products reduce heat output, increase reliability, and reduce the need for loud fans, all of which Corsair is touting to its customers. The certification is not just for one or two units; Corsair brought it to their entire line because of the benefits. It proves you don’t have to sacrifice performance for efficiency.
This is not to say the company has gone green across the board. When your business is high end computer gaming, that’s a difficult thing to achieve. Using a 1000W power supply and three video cards is excessive, no matter if it plays the latest games with no lagging. Additionally, Corsair is lacking a take back program for recycling parts. There is also little to no information given on the materials in the units, meaning there is no way to know if the units contain lead or other environmentally sensitive materials. 80 PLUS is an excellent standard for the company, but it shouldn’t be the last of their green initiatives.

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Oil Companies and Greenwashing

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday May 5th, 2008 | 2 Comments

company-oil.gifThe world’s major oil companies make big claims about the environment these days. From having sound environmental policies in place to investing in alternative fuel, the companies that provide the ‚ÄòTexas tea’ want us to believe they no longer wreak havoc on the environment.
The advertisement for the British oil company BP says its initials now stand for Beyond Petroleum instead of British Petroleum. “In response to increasing demand for energy with a lower-carbon footprint, we have made a major commitment to develop low-carbon sources of energy,”
BP’s website
states.

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States Commit to Combating Climate Change at Yale Conference of Governors

| Monday May 5th, 2008 | 3 Comments

emissions-chart2v2.gif
Commemorating the centennial of Pres. Theodore Roosevelt’s 1908 Conference of Governors, present day governors and representatives from 18 states, Washington and other national governments including Canada, the Czech Republic and Mexico set out to review state programs aimed at combating climate change, develop a strategy for future action and advocate greater federal-state and public-private collaboration and cooperation as Yale hosted the Yale Conference of Governors April 17-18.
Capping Friday’s keystone address, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger humorously yet pointedly zoomed in on the tremendous scale and complexities involved in making the transition to a low carbon, more environmentally sustainable society. Along the way he highlighted some of the antagonistic, at times seemingly absurd, stances taken by opposing interest groups and stressed the need for greater cooperation.
“So, as one of my environmental friends and advisors said that ‚Äòthere is no silver bullets [sic.], only silver buckshot.’ We need to find creative ways to overcome those obstacles. There’s no two ways about it. Neither business nor environmentalists nor Republicans nor Democrats can be set in their ways. I suggest then relax, exhale … [EXHALES]…Just exhale and relax and let things move forward,” he stated.

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Authors at Google Series: Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn Discuss “Earth: The Sequel”

| Friday May 2nd, 2008 | 0 Comments

Just a quick followup to my last post. I found this video on YouTube of the Authors at Google series moderated by the Director of Climate and Energy Initiatives at Google.org. The nearly hour-long video is a more substantive discussion of the book Earth: The Sequel.

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The Best Renewable Energy Source: The Entrepreneurial Spirit of Innovation – Part 1: Amyris

| Friday May 2nd, 2008 | 1 Comment

If there is any doubt about the promise and feasibility of renewable energy, consider its true source – human innovation paired with a visionary entrepreneurial spirit.

This might sound a bit trite at first, but it is hard to deny (and I’m a bit of curmudgeon myself) when reading Fred Krupp’s new book Earth: The Sequel (The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming). Krupp is the president of Environmental Defense Fund and in Earth:The Sequel he outlines emerging technologies and methodologies under development by enterprising and forward thinking individuals and companies in the ever more urgent quest to transform our energy economy. 

Krupp devotes a chapter to startups like Amyris BioTechnologies of Emeryville, California, working to create biofuel solutions that address the principal problems of fuel derived from corn and palm oil.

Biofuels, especially ethanol, has been getting a lot of press these days, and much of it is bad. (see my post here on 3P for an example – make sure to read the comments for a counter-argument).

Amyris develops technologies in synthetic biology and “platform technology”. The company launched in 2003 with a grant of $12 million from the the Institute for One World Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Their first objective – a “million-to-one shot” – was to find a way to alleviate suffering from Malaria in developing countries, particularly Asia and Africa. The more effective and faster-acting treatment for Malaria is artemisinin. The problem with artemisinin is it’s expense and the land required to grow the wormwood from which it is derived.

Through an innovative process using synthetic biology, Amyris has created a way to produce artemisinin cheaply and relatively quickly. Amyris takes no profit for the sale of this product in the developing world.

But that was just the beginning.

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IFC, Merrill Lynch Target Voluntary Carbon Trading Sector

| Friday May 2nd, 2008 | 0 Comments

carboncons.jpgThere is a lot of confusion over company carbon trading largely because this market runs mostly on a voluntary basis. It’s only in Europe that large companies in specific sectors are mandated by law to buy carbon offset credits if they exceed legal pollution limits. Yet the notion is growing among business leaders around the globe that going green is not an unbearable plight but rather a win-win situation. Voluntary sustainability inducing efforts are beginning to be a hot trend in the corporate sector. Now two top finance names, Merrill Lynch and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) are getting in on the act.

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Sustainable Biofuels: Oxymoron or Reality?

Shannon Arvizu | Friday May 2nd, 2008 | 2 Comments

bio.jpg Biofuels have been both lauded for their eco-potential and criticized for their eco-inefficiency. Proponents of biofuels point to the possibilities of sequestering carbon through crop growth and energy independence from foreign petrol sources. Major criticisms against biofuels point to the high petroleum inputs required for production, the use of crops for fuel instead of feeding the global poor, and increased deforestation. Biofuel production has been blamed in the media for this year’s tortilla riots in Mexico, increasing pork prices in China, and the loss of tropical forests in Bali. To what extent is this true? Is it possible to produce biofuels sustainably? These are the questions that Ralph Simms (of the International Energy Agency) asked in a recent post on RenewableEnergyWorld.com His remarks are based on the recently created Sustainable Biofuels Consensus, the outcome of a collaboration of biofuel experts that convened in late March 2008 to assess the state of the field.

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Social Media meets Social Responsibility

| Friday May 2nd, 2008 | 2 Comments

At a recent Web 2.0 Expo discussion, someone commented, “As there is an explosion of clean tech, there’s also an explosion of social media.”
Since that comment, it got me thinking about how social media can be a vehicle to move social change forward in the enterprise or non-profit. After all, it’s the biggest viral marketing machine that we got, especially if your organization’s resources are super limited.
This story involves an organization called Epic Change founded by Stacey Monk, who hopes to make her organization “big”:

Give us 3-4 years & imagine Kiva (except bigger loans to grassroots leaders of community improvement efforts rather than individual entrepreneurs) mixed with the RED campaign, (except our product designs will be designed to share the stories of children like Gideon and Glory).

EpicChange, like most non-profit organizations, needs to encourage more people to get involved. She used Twitter pretty well, even though some say it is an over-hyped social networking tool.
Why am I writing this? I agree with Dennis Howlett–this is an innovative approach to social change promotion, and it’s something social entrepreneurs could use to their advantage.
Read on and share your stories with us in the comments box.

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Taco Bell Taking a Step into Sustainability

| Thursday May 1st, 2008 | 3 Comments

taco-bell.pngTaco Bell recently announced their plans to install new “Grill-To-Order” cooking machines in all of their locations. The company is making this step to not only reduce water and energy usage, but also improve cost efficiency. Each installation is estimated to save $5,900 a year in electricity cost per store. System-wide Taco Bell expects to save more than $17 million a year.
Taco Bell has released figures that their new system will save around 300 million gallons of water per year (the equivalent of supplying every household in Atlanta with water for a day) and roughly 200 million kWh of electricity (enough energy to power every household in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC and Dallas for one day). The new equipment will also save more than 1.2 million therms of gas each year.

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Is there a better way?

Steve Puma | Thursday May 1st, 2008 | 1 Comment

The following was recently posted on Steve Puma’s new blog, ThePumaBlog, where he writes about technology, sustainability and the future:

When I first saw this video, I thought it was coming to me through one of the sustainability blogs that I am subscribed to. Turns out, it came through that constant stream of absurd and funny videos, BoingBoing.net, which just goes to show you just how absurd it really is…Check out this Wall Street Journal Online report of Mazda destroying over 4,000 brand-spanking-new cars, after the transport ship that they were on spent several weeks at a 60-degree list.
Perhaps there is a better way?

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