The 37th Weekly Carnival of the Green is up at “Myke’s Weblog“. Go on over and get your Monday started right!
Good customer service gives businesses a good name and most definitely improves their success. Bad customer service is bound to start causing problems and is very much something we want to avoid when we talk about the ‘big picture’ of sustainability.
A great classic moment in bad customer service happened last month to Vincent Ferrari (watch the amazing tape here) when he tried to cancel his AOL account. And the ensuing press prompted AOL to utter a reasonably authentic-sounding apology.
But when the Consumerist got their hands on this fascinating “Retention Manual” the real depth of AOL’s policies started to emerge. The manual specifically refers to cancelation calls as sales leads and reads (allegedly):
If you stop and think about it, every Member that calls in to cancel their account is a hot lead. Most other sales jobs require you to create your own leads, but in the Retention Queue the leads come to you! Be eager to take more calls, get more leads and close more sales. More leads means more selling opportunities for you and cost savings for AOL.
(See Consumerist for the rest)
Now, obviously, any company can be forgiven for making a little effort to try to keep customers from canceling, but if you watch that video, refer to the 2005 case in which AOL was fined $1.25 Million for overly aggressive retention practices, and inspect this amazing document, you see a corporate culture that clearly refuses to learn.
I hardly ever launch into a negative diatribe about anyone, but somtimes you have to hold things up as an example. AOL is probably the worst way possible to access the internet, but manages to sign up millions of subscribers who don’t know any better, or who buy new PCs with the virus-like AOL software pre-installed (Not to mention those mililions of CDs that everyone just throws into the trash). They’ve been losing market share for years, and it’s painfully obvious why.
When you have some time today, hop on over to TreeHugger to read the interview Collin did with DriveNeutral CEO Jason Smith. I like promoting DN partly beacuse Jason is a friend of mine, but also because I’m very keen on the Chicago Climate Exchange‘s (CCX) concept of carbon credit trading as opposed to what are known as “renewable energy credits” – typically earned by planting trees and investing in wind farms etc…
Still, I don’t know as much about the issue as Jason, nor do I know as much as TerraPass‘s Adam Stein who comments at length after the interview that RECs are not as unreliable as Jason suggests. There is a great deal of information in their discussion and I highly recommend reading it to the end. The bottom line is that neither method is really “better” than the other, and it will be very interesting to see where CCX winds up in a couple years. DriveNeutral remains committed to CCX, whereas TerraPass takes a more blended approach. Variety is the spice of life, and this looks like a perfect example of cooperation and competition happening at the same time. Dare I use the word “coopetition” ?
I’ve never been fond of society’s craving for gold. It seems like a serious waste of time for some shiny metal and stories like this one (BBC) only make me feel worse about it. Still, it’s probably not going to stop being popular for a very long time. Therefore, we’d best come up with better ways of getting our hands on it.
Check out this Fast Company article. It’s about the concept of “Peak Metals” – the idea being that not only oil, but various metals, gold among them, are also reaching a level of demand that is ultimately unsustainable. On the one hand, this means a lot more destructive mining, but on the other hand it means more creativity. Turns out that a ton of dead computers has more gold in it than 17 tons of ore. As a result, “landfill mining” may start becoming a common practice. I can imagine it being practical for other things besides gold too.
I don’t know what it would take to make such a practice cost effective, nor how long it might last. Also, in the future, better manufacturing and dissasembly practices will mean that most valuable material will be recoved from the computers long before they reach a landfill. Nontheless, it’s a cool idea and one that might pay the costs of needed landfill cleanup!
Check out this article on UW-Milwaukee’s campus and Whitney Gould’s suggestion to do away with surface parking in favor of an “emerald necklace” around the campus. It’s inspired. It’s also extremely practical. Imagine what a typical suburban office/retail area might look like with this kind of thoughtfulness. Imagine a neighborhood.
Granted, it’s not cheap to rip up existing infrastructure and replace it with new, better landscaped alternatives. But if one plans this sort of thing from the begining then direct savings and other less tangible payoffs are a lot more realistic. Consider the now legendary Village Homes in Davis, CA. The developers behind this attractive suburban subdivision took out unusual risks in the early 80′s to create a fantastic, green, highly livable community with none of the drawbacks of typical suburban sprawl – and they enjoyed a 30% per year ROI plus some very satisfied homebuyers. Read all about it on RMI’s site.
An article in today’s SFGate talks about the 11 Million more people coming to California in coming years and the inevitable strain this will put on water use. One of the main culprits will be the “traditional” green lawn which is especially popular in the hotter, drier, central valley – which has a little more space and is therefore the site of most of the growth.
People in Arizona have finally begun to accept that lawns are rather ridiculous in their part of the world and indeed, entirely new fashions of landscaping have resulted that are generally much more appropriate. California clearly needs to learn the same lesson. The article points out that legislation is currently pending that will put various restrictions on residential lawns and force additional metering. Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to just raise the price of water? At the same time the government could be providing people with information about other ways to landscape, as well as ways to store rainwater and greywater for use on lawns and gardens instead of coming straight from the tap.
Eventually, this type of thinking will enter the mainstream and you’ll have people boasting about their rainwater collection systems instead of the lushness of their lawns, and no one will be any poorer.
Hitachi has a bold goal to be “emissions neutral” by 2015. The so-called “Environmental Vision 2015″ plan aims to reduce CO2 emissions from both production and product use to a level that can be easily offset. The plan also calls for a higher level of recycling in general, and a corporate community “in harmony” with nature. I’m not sure what the “harmony” part really means, but a little lip service is generally good if it’s at least backed up by a plan as good as the one they seem to be implementing. Article here.
Mission Measurement is a firm that strives to measure the social impact of company’s non-financial efforts. That’s not an easy task, involvings all sorts of studies, metrics, and results reporting. To get a taste of what the company has come up with, check out their blog. Of particular interest are the “5 measurement lessons” learned:
1. To be effective, measurement has to come from the top
2. Measurement is a culture, not a project
3. Work within existing business processes; don’t try to reinvent them
4. Start super-simple; don’t overtax the organization
5. Make measurement positive, not punitive
Regardless of whether a customer buys a new Dell, the Dell company will recycle their old computer free of charge. It’s a great move by Dell, and certainly helps consumers as well, since no one has any need for a dead computer.
There’s not a lot of word on exactly how Dell intends to recycle old machines and whether anything gets reused, or whether new products are being designed with recycling in mind. I’m guessing that Dell gets some salvage value from the old computers, but if it does, why not recycle any brand? And furthermore, why not offer a discount to buyers of a new Dell who bring in an old Dell?
This would seem to suggest that there isn’t a lot of profit in the recycling proceedure and that it exists more as a proactive move in anticipation of government action, which is still worth applauding, but it would be great if we found out that Dell was looking into ways to make recycling pay more directly at the bottom line. Is it possible?
Here’s another nice artice that hits home with the message that environmentally proactive policy on the part of business is indeed profitable, more so than doing nothing. Madison Magazine profiles three local companies (a printer, a cleaner, and an electeonics disposal company) and the ways that they have become more environmentally responsible. Mostly, the companies are reducing harmful chemical use, energy use, and following the principals laid down in The Natural Step. The net effect? More customers, good press, higher sales, and more satisfied owners!
I just stumbled upon a rather fascinating take on economics – an article entitled “The Carbohydrate Economy” – the premise being that plants (carbohydrates) once provided the principal basis for the economy as raw materials & fuels. Over the last century fossil fuels and mineral based materials have come to almost shut out this “bio based” economy. But, things seem to be swinging back the other way – with all sorts of consequences good and bad, easy and challenging. Check out the article for more.
So the house passed a law approving offshore drilling in the United States for natural gas and oil. What’s curious about this is the fact that it passes the responsibility to the state level. In other words, states that don’t want drilling can still keep it illegal, but states that approve of it get a hefty royalty when the drilling begins. Grist calls this a bribe to get coastal states to reconsider their traditional opposition. I think they’re absolutely right.
The thing that really bugs me about it is that the government continues to to absolutely nothing to encourage efficiency. By rewarding myopic companies with continued cheap fuel, the administration discourages innovation and promotes backward thinking business leadership. If we had already taken all the steps we could think of to use resources more effectively, then drilling might not seem like such a bad idea, but the fact is it amounts to nothing more than a hand-out to oil and gas interests, aka corporate welfare to people who hardly need it.
Still, with both Florida senators opposed to it, as well as California’s Governor Schwarzenegger it may not amount to much in those states, but you can bet states like Louisiana and Texas won’t have the leadership to keep it from happening. Either way, the bill still has to go through the Senate, where it may very well stop.
That’s what happens when you need a break. Anyway, I need your help. I’m spending so much time on Treehugger these days that 3P is getting a little neglected. We’re very interested in partnering up with organizations and individuals to keep 3P going as the blog for a pro-business environmentalism, a showcase for green MBAs, and a think tank for all perspectives on the relationship between business, people, and the environment.
If you or your organization or school has any interest in looking into a partnership with or in writing for 3P. Please contact Nick Aster at Nick2-at-646industries.com
Serious inquiries only!
The crew who write the blog for the National Association of Manufacturers really have it out for global warming. I don’t know a whole lot about the organization, only that when you google topics related to global warming, the blog comes up a lot.
So, although I have to respect people who want to think critically about exactly what the effects of climate change will be or whether or not we can actually do anything to stop it, I find it hard to belive that anyone still doubts that it’s happening at all. I find it even harder to agree with a group that seems to be only obsessed with cheap energy and getting more of it from more fossil sources regardless of the cost and location – as opposed to advocating efficiency as a priority, which has obvious, and much greater, immediate benefits. Furthermore, when an organization takes glee in disparaging anyone who suggests that humans have caused problems on this planet, as they repeatedly do with those who advocate action on global warming, they undermine their own credibility.
That’s sad news for America’s manufacturers. News flash – Environmentalism is NOT a socialist plot. Let’s stop there for now and see if anything sinks in.