TOMS Shoes: Fusing Fashion and Philanthropy

| Thursday September 11th, 2008 | 3 Comments

tomsshoes.jpg TOMS Shoes are a stylish take on the traditional Argentine alpargata slip-on, appealing at once to the Polo Ralph Lauren crowd, surfers and skaters, as well as those of us in between. Yet, the shoes are more than just that. Founded on ethics of social responsibility, they are produced in Argentina in sweatshop free environments. Though it is not necessarily a “green” company, all aspects of the production are monitored to ensure fair labor practices and minimize environmental impact.
When the founder, Blake Mycoskie, discovered alpargatas in Argentina, he was also struck by the poverty that pervaded, and wanted to create a vehicle that could help him make an impact. For every pair someone purchases, TOMS Shoes donates one to a child in need in developing nations. Calling the idea “One to One,” over 60,000 pairs of shoes had been distributed to children between 2006-2007 in Argentina and South Africa.

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Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s Pat Farrell Addresses Corporate Responsibility

| Wednesday September 10th, 2008 | 4 Comments

Corporate responsibility or Greenwash?When I was asked if I’d like to speak with Dr. Richard Sayre, a leading biofuels researcher who was recently named director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, I admit my first thought was more the potential of corporate greenwashing than it was than about biofuels research. A rental car company funding biofuels research? (What next? Big Oil funding biofuel research? Hmm….)

Of course I’m always interested in finding out more about the potential of algae as a biofuel. But I also wanted to learn more about the motivation behind Enterprise’s funding of such research; if it was, as a colleague blurted out when I told him about it, “nothing but greenwash”.

Fortunately, I was afforded not only an interview with Dr. Sayre to discuss his work work, but also with Pat Farrell, Enterprise’s vice president for corporate responsibility, as well Lee Broughton, the newly-appointed director of sustainability.

I’ll get to my talk with Dr. Sayre regarding his algae-to-biofuel research in a subsequent post. In this post, I want to discuss my interview with Mr. Farrell as he spoke of Enterprise’s efforts of corporate responsibility and sustainability as they relate to his business, as well as the idea that many will perceive it all as just more corporate greenwashing.

All issues that Farrell was more than ready to address.

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ClimatePULSE: Corporations, Prepare for the Best

| Wednesday September 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

CC_logo_small.jpgMost reasonable scenarios of the future suggest that expected increases in population and economic growth will outweigh the low-hanging fruit of decreases in per-capita energy use and reductions in the carbon-intensity of the energy provided. As a result, only dramatic technological and behavioral change is predicted to break the linkage between rising global population and economic aspirations, and increasing carbon emissions and climate change. This blog post examines how some corporations can benefit from this change and how to best prepare for climate change as a business opportunity rather than a regulatory or environmental obstacle.

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Investors Are Seeking Social and Financial Returns

3p Contributor | Wednesday September 10th, 2008 | 2 Comments

socap08.jpg
This is a guest post from Kevin Jones, who is a Founder and Principle at Good Capital, and Xigi Media. Xigi (ZIG-ee) is putting on the Social Capital Markets 2008 Conference to bring together all of the people and organizations with a similar deep passion to change the world through sustainable businesses.
The Social Capital Movement Has Begun
The movement to use the power of the market to help people lift people out of poverty that first reached broad public awareness when microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Prize is reaching an inflection point. Moving beyond small loans to groups of women, the movement to use innovative business approaches to social problems is suddenly reaching critical mass, and the leading players in the world, such as Google.org, the Federal Reserve, and The Economist, are convening at an event that is at the intersection of money and meaning.
Mixing the Approaches of Venture Capital and Foundations, Non-Profits
The evidence that there is a new wave of investing, the proof that people are asking for impact along with risk and return is happening can perhaps best be shown by the explosion of social venture funds themselves. From Austin to San Francisco to Johannesburg to Rio, to London, people are finding investors ready to respond to a an approaches that mixes traditional highly engaged venture capital investing targeting problems that used to be only within the sights of foundations and non profits.
Based on my conversations with other funds like ours at Good Capital, I think it may be safe to say that more than half a billion dollars is being raised worldwide from investors who are pioneering a new asset class that draws from philanthropy as much as it does from Wall Street.
I’m having those conversations because most of those new funds are coming a conference in San Francisco where, by standing together and providing context for each other, we can both validate the reality and accelerate the growth of this new social capital market.

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Can a Pizza Box Save the Planet?

| Wednesday September 10th, 2008 | 19 Comments

Green Pizza Box

Pizza. From its humble beginnings in Italy, it has become a food enjoyed across the globe. And though the size, shape, and flavor may vary widely, one thing does not. The box. A sturdy utilitarian container, it does a good job keeping the pizza warm, safe, and easy to carry. Billions are used each year. And they’re slacking on the job.

Depending on the pizza, having a plate to set it on is a necessity. want to store what you don’t eat? Good luck, that bulky box often requires you to muscle other things out of the way to make room. What if the box could double as a plate? And triple as a compact post meal storage container? It can, using the same ol’ box, remixed. It’s called the Green Box.

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The Pickens Plan, Hybrid Electrics and National Leadership

| Tuesday September 9th, 2008 | 0 Comments

cropcircleouroboroshillbarn2001a.jpg In his eponymous plan to break the stranglehold imported oil has on the American economy, former oil man and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens puts together a cogent, well reasoned argument and strategy centered on coincidentally carrying out two key national initiatives over the next decade: having wind power supply 22% of national electrical power production and shifting the natural gas currently used to supply 22% of national electrical output to transportation.
The Hybrid Owners of America is all in favor of Part One of the “Pickens Plan” but argues that using natural gas as a transportation fuel makes no sense when technological advances, energy security and environmental concerns are driving growing demand for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles and finally giving auto manufacturers the impetus to manufacture them on a large scale.
Whether it’s hybrid-electric or natural gas powered vehicles, perhaps the biggest question and challenge remains, however, a point raised by former Intel CEO Andy Grove in a recent article in The American magazine: how can the huge population of existing vehicles be converted to make use of cleaner, domestic fuel/energy sources as quickly as possible?

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5 Top Countries for Renewable Energy Investment

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday September 9th, 2008 | 20 Comments

There has been a rush of investment into renewable energy in recent years. In 2007, global wind energy capacity grew by 27% and solar energy sales grew an estimated 50%.
Ernst & Young produced a report that offers insight into where future growth is likely to occur by examining a variety of indices including long-term wind, near-term wind, and all renewables.
The top five prime nations for renewable energy investment are:

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Texas Enacts E-Waste Recycling Program

| Tuesday September 9th, 2008 | 2 Comments

E-waste
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECQ) has officially implemented the Computer Equipment Recycling Program for their state. The program will expand free electronic recycling options for consumers. The wording in the program shows that the commission means business. Manufacturer’s must offer a take back program for their products in order to sell them. Similarly, retailers are not able to sell new computer equipment unless the manufacturer appears on TECQ’s approved list. Thankfully for computer shoppers in Texas, just about every major manufacturer, including Dell, HP, Apple, Toshiba, Sony, and Lenovo, appears on the list.

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Taking a Bite out of Cement’s Global Warming Potential

| Tuesday September 9th, 2008 | 5 Comments

concrete.jpg Hardcore greenhouse gas (GHG) geeks will recall that cement is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, with approximately 1 ton of CO2 equivalent emitted into the atmosphere for every 1 ton of cement produced. Damn. Forget your carbon guilt from flying, people! Cement is responsible for 5% of the Earth’s CO2 emissions, and it’s the third largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the US according to the EPA.
A new technique has the potential to change cement’s impact on global warming, and I wouldn’t be writing about them if there wasn’t a great business opportunity here as well. Calera has created a process for incorporating waste CO2 emissions from a power plant into the cement manufacturing process. His system sequesters a half a ton of CO2 for every ton of cement created.

Constantz used biomimicry, the process of looking to nature for design inspiration, to get his idea. Sea coral create marine cement as one component of the reef building process, and the coral combine calcium, magnesium, and seawater to make their tough-as-nails product. Constantz has figured out a way to mimic the same process using the spent CO2 as a material source. “We are turning CO2 into carbonic acid and then making carbonate,” Constantz says. “All we need is [sea] water and pollution.”

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Global Businesses Pledge Eco-Patents for Free Public Use

| Tuesday September 9th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Nine months after the launch of the Eco-Patents Commons, three global business heavyweights have recently entered the arena. On Monday, GreenBiz reported that Xerox, DuPont, and Bosch all pledged to free eco-patents to the public domain, joining the ranks of Sony, Pitney-Bowes, Nokia, and spearhead IBM.
patent.jpg According to GreenBiz, the January 2008 launch was “an unprecedented step in the development of clean technologies,” with businesses essentially giving away ideas so that other businesses could utilize and develop upon their innovations. The recent inclusion has more than double the eco-patents now available.
Some of the new additions include patents from Xerox that use vacuum extraction to quickly, cheaply, and more efficiently remove hazardous wastes from soil as well as a patent from DuPont to turn non-recyclable plastics into fertilizer.

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Colorado State University Wins International Sustainable Technology Transfer Award

| Monday September 8th, 2008 | 0 Comments

The Tricycle - photo courtesy of Envirofit The 2008 Royal Award for Sustainable Technology Transfer, protected by HRH Crown Prince Felipe of Spain and HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, was awarded last week to Colorado State University’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory. The honor was bestowed at COPENMIND, an exhibiton and conference dedicated to research, innovation, and technology through university/industry partnerhsips, .

In 2002, students at the Laboratory entered a cleaner-burning 2–stroke snowmobile engine into a contest sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The snowmobile engines, intended for use in Yellowstone National Park, won the prize and led laboratory director and professor Bryan Wilson to helping his graduate students and CSU’s College of Business form the non-profit Envirofit to commercialize the idea.

Biomass Cookstove - photo courtesy of EnvirofitEnvirofit was founded in 2003 and helped bring to market a retrofit kit for 2–stroke engines in the Philippines and and other developing nations. The ubiquitous 2–stroke engine in these countries are an enormous contributor to air pollution and health problems. According to an article in Discover magazine, one 2–stroke engine produces the same pollution as 30 to 50 4–stroke engines.

Envirofit and the Engines and Energy Conversion Lab was just getting started.

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HP Selling Notebook in its Own Messenger Bag

| Monday September 8th, 2008 | 0 Comments

hp-bag.jpgHow do you reduce packaging when selling a laptop? Ship it in a messenger bag made of 100% recycled materials with all the accessories included. For its Pavilion dv6929, HP has reduced 97% of the cardboard and plastic traditionally used in packaging by doing just that.
With the laptop, HP won Walmart’s Home Entertainment Design Challenge, a competition among electronics manufacturers focused on reducing the environmental impact of their products. The $798 laptop is sold exclusively in Walmart and Sam’s Club retail locations. Customers are also able to bring in their old computer to the store and have it recycled free of charge.

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To B or not to B: B Lab Expands its B Corp List and Service Partner Program

| Sunday September 7th, 2008 | 0 Comments

bcorp.JPGThe folks at B Lab have been busy since we last featured the independent certification group here. There’s the new website, the new video shot by Tri-film, the quarterly newsletter, and several new certified B Corporations. Currently 124 companies across 31 industries have attained the B Corporation certification, meaning they have passed B Lab’s triple bottom line certification process, and they have changed their governing documents to include stakeholders’ interests.
Companies that make the grade benefit from the growing community of B Corporations and the resources of B Lab, including discounts from B Lab service partners and the right to use the B Corporation certification logo in their branding and marketing. Millions of green consumers benefit from the assurance they are doing business with companies that are really doing good, and not just companies that are doing really good green washing.

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Cambodia: From the Killing Fields to a Thriving Garment Industry

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Sunday September 7th, 2008 | 0 Comments

bfc_monitoring.jpgCambodia has come a long way from the “killing fields” of the 1970s when 1.7 million people were killed by the communist group the Khmer Rouge. In 1993 it became a constitutional monarchy, and during the same time period began developing a garment industry. Cambodia’s garment industry grew rapidly with $20 million worth of export in 1995 to over $1 billion in 2001.
In 2000 Nike temporarily pulled out of Cambodia after a British documentary discovered underage workers in one of the company’s contractor factories. Since then Cambodia has worked to create a garment industry that treats its workers fairly. The International Labor Organization (ILO) started Better Factories Cambodia in 2001 in order to monitor and report on conditions in Cambodian garment factories. Better Factories works with the Cambodian government and international buyers to make sure the garment factories have favorable working conditions.

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Solar Powered System Helps Reduce Ship’s Emissions – Innovation on the High Seas

| Friday September 5th, 2008 | 2 Comments

New solar powered system will help reduce ship's emissionsJapan’s largest shipping line, Nippon Yusen KK, has teamed with Nippon Oil Corporation in developing a system of solar panels capable of generating 40 kilowatts of electricity for use on a 60,000 ton cargo ship for Toyota Motor Corporation.

Unlike the solar panels soon to be offered on the tops of the Toyota Prius that I wrote about last week, these panels are designed to assist with the ship’s motive power.  

Solar panels aren’t new on ocean-going ships, but until now they’ve only been used to power crew cabins and living quarters. This system will help reduce diesel fuel consumption by up to 6.5% and CO2 emissions by 1 or 2%.

That doesn’t seem like much, but in hard numbers and particles of pollution, every little bit helps and you’ve got to start somewhere.

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