By Steven Tiell
Most Americans can describe ways they are being screwed by the economic and political decisions our government is making. No matter which recovery or bailout plan you consider, there are significant flaws, and we’re left trying to figure out which option will screw us the least. This doesn’t leave us much hope for a stable future.
But what if there’s a way we can treat this current calamity as an opportunity to regain control of our monetary systems and provide hope for a secure, sustainable future for generations to come?
Looking at the current crisis, we can see the wagons circling around nationalization – or “temporary nationalization.” After all, this is what Sweden did and they managed a relatively quick recovery, albeit with an economy a mere 2.5% the size of ours and with only a handful of banks. Nationalization is basically what happens when the FDIC takes over a bank – this bankruptcy for a bank is called an “intervention.” The FDIC does it all the time for retail banks and there’s a neat and orderly process for everything. The problem is, however, we’ve never “intervened” with our investment banks – just the retail ones. Most investment banks are huge and their transactions can be measured in terms of the GDP. Many argue that these banks are simply too big to fail and that is why our government has been pumping money into them.
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line & Sustainable Business News
By Steven Tiell
- 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
The American electricity grid is a century old. There are approximately 157,000 miles of high voltage electric transmission lines in the U.S.. Since 1990, electricity demand has increased 25 percent, but construction of power plants has decreased 30 percent. As the Department of Energy (DOE) states, the biggest challenge for electric distribution is “responding to rapidly changing customer needs for electricity.” Enter a smart grid.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) defines a smart grid as an “improved electricity supply chain that runs from a major power plant all the way inside your home.” A smart grid provides many benefits, according to the DOE, including:
1. Relieve transmission congestion
2. Relax transmission reliability limits
3. Transmission capital deferral
4. Substation peak load and backup
5. Voltage support
6. Reliability enhancement
Part of a series of posts by John Gartner of Matter Network:
While the federal government is engaged in an overhaul of the banking industry, e3bank wants to redefine how banks interact with their customers.
The bank, to be headquartered in suburban Philadelphia (Malvern), will actively encourage its customers to live sustainably by offering preferential rates on green investments. E3bank chairman Sandy Wiggins says lending based on the sustainability of a project is “a powerful opportunity to leverage change [that] was sorely needed.”
Wiggins, who worked in real estate for 30 years, had a sustainable “awakening” in 1996 that led him to commit to building green. His adherence to the triple bottom line principle led him to become chair of the U.S. Green Building Council.
After leaving the post he was contemplating retirement, but got a call from veteran banker Frank J. Baldassarre, who is now e3bank’s President and CEO. Though never imagined working in the financial industry, he signed on with the company in 2008.
The bank’s principles, which tout the goals of enterprise, environment and social equity, are evident in their lending guidelines, which give preferential treatment to loans for green projects. Wiggins says finance rates for a loan will be reduced as projects reach higher levels of sustainability. For example, as a new building or retrofit attains higher levels of LEED certification (silver, gold and platinum), the interest rate drops.
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Striving to create a virtual world that is also virtuous, Lee Fox developed KooDooZ, an online forum where each user interaction forwards the development of humanitarian values and promotes philanthropic efforts. Currently by invitation only, the concept is such that users can be exposed to a wide variety of topics and connect with like minds on important social issues. By linking motivated users to forward-thinking foundations, nonprofits, and even celebrities with the reach to spark mainstream attention around key causes, KooDooZ becomes a catalyst for change amongst a conscious community.
A passionate entrepreneur and humanitarian, Lee Fox has enjoyed walking the tightrope of innovation at the intersections of technology, new media and entertainment where she has taken title of CEO (internet/mobile), VP of Marketing (professional services), Content Creator (brand management) and Writer (consumer TV). Lee actively sits on for-profit and non-profit boards and currently chairs the American Technology Association’s Los Angeles council. She also sits on council for the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club and continues to volunteer, coach and mentor youth-led initiatives alongside her husband and three children.
As the Founder and Chief Innovation Officer for KooDooZ, Inc., Lee’s mission is to spread the word about KDZ (“kids”) programs which are designed to teach youth how to innovate goals to help further a cause in partnership with for-profit and non-profit organizations.
Joel Makower Sounds Off on the Irrational Exuberance of Green Consumers Joel does a review of the landslide of surveys we’ve seen about consumer behavior in the eco shopping landscape in the past few month and finds that when the research methods are exposed to the cold harsh light of a winter’s day, they kinda shrivel up in fear.
Evian Maker Pledges to Buy Up All that PlasticIt’s a bit of tricky accounting, but the company has pledged to buy as much plastic as it sells in the UK, and it will go toward making their bottles 50% recycled content. I guess that’s because the water is sold outside the UK. The move will save the company $360,000 in the first year.
PG&E and Dell Bet Big on Renewables Dell has partnered with a local utility to supply its Oklahoma City campus with 100 percent wind power. Meanwhile, PG&E announced plans to develop 500 megawatts of solar power over the next five years. PG&E’s big array will power 150,000 homes!
Bordeaux Wine Pledges 20% Reduction in Carbon Emission The Bordeaux wine industry produces about 203,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, with the majority of the carbon emissions linked to the fabrication and transportation of bottles and cardboard boxes, as well as the fuel used by tractors in the vineyard. Bordeaux Wine Trade Board pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent before 2020. Does this move represent an increase in consciousness or simply an effort to regain relevance among the LOHAS crowd?
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We often talk a lot about the high or volatile cost of oil, and how this impacts consumer and investor behavior. For instance, when gasoline crossed the $4.00 per gallon mark, demand for hybrid vehicles soared, and millions in funding started to flow into the high-performance battery sector.
Of course, there’s also the excessive environmental costs that are too high to even attempt to quantify accurately. From the obvious public health-related issues to the massive loss of natural capital, these are costs that are very real, but are not likely to ever be fully accounted for both in Washington and in the private sector.
And what about the costs associated with maintaining our nation’s vast and complex system of roads and highways? Given today’s economic environment, coupled with a call to invest heavily in infrastructure projects, these costs are now being scrutinized. And it’s not looking pretty.
For those of you looking to tap into a network of like-minded people focused on the socio-economic aspects of mitigating climate change and fostering biodiversity, renewable energy, clean technology, and the like, you may find it worthwhile joining the Sustainable Development list-serve (SD-L) launched today by the International Institute of Sustainable development in collaboration with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development (UNDESA-DSD).
‘Triple Bottom Line’ by another name, “the Sustainable Development (SD) model is based on the notion of a harmonious balance struck between the social, environmental, and economic spheres of development,” IISD writes in an email announcing the list-serve’s launch.
Photo credit: Nick Dunlop
With cause marketing becoming an increasingly hot topic, many companies are “cause washing” their brands, similar to that of greenwashing, in an attempt to create the perception of social consciousness without an authentic connection to the cause. Other companies use charitable donations as a promotion to increase sales with only a very small percentage of the purchase actually benefitting the cause. And in both scenarios, there is little to no impact to the cause, and more often than not, any positive contributions are counteracted by unethical business practices or negative environmental effects, putting the net social good of those efforts in the red.
But there are organizations who are deeply committed to the cause they support, where every facet of their business is aimed at alleviating the problem, and through which the cause itself becomes the very manifestation of their brand. Burning Hawk Wines is the epitome of that concept, whose story is even more powerful than the significant change they are creating, and whose vision for a world that respects — and protects — its wildlife is their sole purpose.
Moved by the incident upon which the winery was built, I reached out to founder, Nick Papadopoulos, to recount his experience, and share the many ways in which he is striving to protect hawks from the same fate that sparked the brand. Click to continue reading »
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On Earth Day 2001, Hunter Lovins wrote the following memorial to Dana Meadows, a true hero of the planet. Dana Meadow’s writings can be found at the Sustainability Institute website.
Donella (Dana) Meadows
(March 13, 1941 – February 20, 2001)
On this Earth Day, as we gather to celebrate our love of our home, let me share with you the celebration of someone I always just thought of as a friend of mine. At this time, in gatherings all over the world, people are coming together to remember Dana Meadows.
Dana died recently, suddenly. Bacterial meningitis. She was 59 years old. To me it was a crushing loss.
I no longer remember when I first met Dana. 20 years ago, 30…. Somewhere on the road, some conference, some speaking gig. It just seemed she’d always been there, always been my friend. Hers was the quiet voice of reason, of impeccably documented science, proving that the time is very short for us to learn of the limits and to put into practice what we already know about how to live within them.
We all know what it means to have safe sex. But what does it mean to have responsible sex? Be it during moments of intimacy or not, it could be safe to assume that very few of us think of how the average prophylactic was produced, where it came from, and its environmental impact.
Since 2007 and from a small team of three, The French Letter Condom Company Ltd has brought ethical condoms to the European market. French Letter Condoms (which was named from the British colloquialism “french letter” for condoms) reaches a market where choice of condom brand is possible and where sustainability, even in the bedroom, is relevant. But what exactly what makes a condom “ethical,” and importantly, can they be as good as the rest?
Most utility companies are encouraging their customers to conserve energy. But from a business point of view, there’s a down side to energy efficiency: selling less power also means less revenue for the utility companies that provide the power. And the less a utility earns, the less it is likely to invest in new, cleaner forms of energy. So in order to insulate utilities from this outcome and encourage them to invest in cleaner energy, a number of states have enacted policies that effectively “decouple” a utility’s revenue from its profits, while ensuring a flat rate for customers.
Decoupling was introduced in the late 1970s and early 1980s (for gas and electricity, respectively) in California, where it is widely deemed a success. Power consumption in California has remained flat since decoupling was enacted, despite the state’s population growth, while power use nationally doubled, per capita.
That said, decoupling is not universally embraced. Critics say it’s not fair to consumers, since those who make the greatest efforts to conserve pay the same rates as those who do not. Still, individuals and companies have other means of reducing their energy costs, such as by using two-way meters and participating in demand response programs in which they pay lower rates during periods of low demand.
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Bob Willard’s video, “The Business Case for Sustainability” explains that companies on the journey towards sustainability move through several stages before reaching a 4th stage, called the “Integrated Strategy”. At this stage, everyone in the organization is involved in eco-efficiency processes, resulting in enhanced company profits. The business case is furthered by a Graves and Waddock study, detailing that stock prices of values-led companies outperform the average by 11.6%.
The Economist on-line two weeks ago covered a story illustrating a recent example of the business case for sustainability, by describing the “Green-Engage” initiative undergoing trials by the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)
Mexico City is one of the largest urban agglomerates in the World and as such suffers from extreme atmospheric contamination. It contributes 1.5% of the worlds total greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, conditions are so bad that around 4,000 people die every year as a direct result of air contamination and last year the Human Right Commission of the District Federal declared the city in “violation of the right to a healthy environment“.
The project “Sustainable Housing Units” seeks to tackle air pollution with design and engineering measures for residential building, so that residents may one day breathe more easily and see more clearly in a restored and vegetative urban environment.
Over the last decade some major environmental problems have emerged and received considerable coverage in public media. These situations, such as the extinction of many bird species from the contamination levels, have motivated actions from civil society groups, international organization, and more recently, the Mayor’s Office of Mexico City. This latest project seeks to achieve a greener and healthier urban environment for citizens through innovative measures such as the installation of “vertical gardens,” rain water filters, and solar panels in buildings.
Johnson Controls is a major (but little talked-about) manufacturer of, among other things, heating and cooling systems for buildings. Now, however, the company is starting to really showcase its sustainability chops and is leading by example: it recently flipped the switch on a 1,500-panel solar energy system at its headquarters in Glendale, Wisconsin. This is part of a $73 million renovation and rehabilitation the company is performing on the facility, which will also include thin-film solar collectors in roof tiles, wind energy and geothermal power generation.
Johnson Controls is a major provider of building energy efficiency systems, even though its efforts in that field do not often land it in headlines. And it is very well positioned to reap major benefits from the stimulus package – and on multiple fronts. Johnson Controls is comprised of three main areas of business: automotive interiors, energy efficient and security systems for buildings, and batteries for electric vehicles.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week interviewed David Leiker, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. who told the paper that Johnson Controls “could go after more than $70 billion in [stimulus] spending, including $7 billion to $8 billion in automotive, $64 billion in energy efficiency and research and $400 million in security”
Imagine if every purchase you made could help a hungry child eat or save a tree or bring clean drinking water to Africa. Now imagine if every purchase your customers made contributed to all of those causes, and reached a world — and a planet — in need on an daily hourly basis. With Buy1GIVE1, there’s no need to imagine. They have developed a program where every swipe of a credit card is an act of change. They call it transaction-based giving, and it gives businesses — and consumers — an opportunity to put their regular spending to good use. One of their key differentiators is that each transaction is linked to a tangible outcome instead of some indiscriminate percentage being arbitrarily tossed at a charity, so you know exactly where your dollars are going. And more importantly, who they’re helping. Through the collective purchasing power of thousands, Buy1GIVE1 is able to fund programs that make a significant impact, and turns the joy of buying into the joy of giving. Click to continue reading »