Case Studies for “Green” Corporate Marketers

| Monday July 16th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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The Business Development Institute and PR Newswire are putting on a half-day conference in New York on Tuesday, July 24th that will feature “green communications” case studies presented by corporate executives from Ford, HSBC, Interface, National Geographic, and the U.S. EPA. If you can’t be there in person, sign up to view a free webcast of the event. The agenda sounds interesting: HSBC will discuss its 5-year, $100 million Climate Partnership program; Ford will describe its marketing and communications strategy for the Escape Hybrid; and the director of marketing for the U.S. EPA Climate Leaders program will talk about its successful marketing plan.

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AskPablo: Time to get a new car?

| Monday July 16th, 2007 | 71 Comments

This week David asks “how much more energy efficient does a new car have to be to make up for the energy of production vs a used car? For example, if someone was considering buying a used car that gets 18 mpg vs. a new car that gets 30 mpg. At what point in driving would that increase in mpg make up for the energy of production of the new vehicle?” Read on to find the answer in this week’s AskPablo.

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Fast Company’s Greenest Cities

Sheila Samuelson | Thursday July 12th, 2007 | 2 Comments

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Speaking of walkability, the current issue of Fast Company highlights Chicago, Stockholm, Portand and Vancouver as Green Leaders in their 2007 Fast Cities index.
Here’s why the leaders were chosen:
Chicago: Since 1999, the city has planted 2.5 million square feet of heat-reducing rooftop gardens, more than all other U.S. cities combined. Mayor Richard Daley has overseen a downtown renaissance and the planting of 500,000 new trees. In the wake of a deadly 1995 heat wave, he has also launched a raft of aggressive initiatives to cool the city while conserving energy–and beat New York to an environmental action plan by two years.

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Responsible Competitiveness Report Now Out

| Thursday July 12th, 2007 | 0 Comments

thumb_RC%202007.jpgAcountAbility’s new report “The State of Responsible Competitiveness” is well worth checking out today. The report ranks countries in terms of their “responsible competitiveness”, which is described as “is about making sustainable development count in global markets. It means markets that reward business practices that deliver improved social, environmental and economic outcomes; and it means economic success for nations that encourage such business
practices through public policies, societal norms and citizen actions.”
The whole report with detailed country rankings can be downloaded as a PDF here.

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Walk Score: One of the Best Google Mashups Ever

| Wednesday July 11th, 2007 | 2 Comments

map-box.pngHere’s some fun for your Wednesday. Check out www.walkscore.com. The site is a google maps mashup which rates any address in the United States in terms of it’s “walkability” – to what degree you can walk to basic conveniences, restaurants, parks and other urban features. It’s a pretty basic calculation that does not take into consideration the quality of the streets or the nature of the urban fabric, but still gives a rather insightful look at how our cities are built.
Placing your business or home in a location that does not depend 100% on the automobile is a good idea for many reasons and this kind of metric makes that decision deliciously visible.

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AskPablo: City Living

| Monday July 9th, 2007 | 4 Comments

city.jpgSome time ago someone asked me if it is better for the environment to live in a city, or out in the country. I didn’t have an answer at the time, but I do now…

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Big Waste Comes in Small Packages

Sheila Samuelson | Saturday July 7th, 2007 | 0 Comments

The New York Times reported on a consumer trend today that may be on the right nutritional track, but the wrong track environmentally. The rise of the 100-calorie snack pack – in everything from beef jerkey to cottage cheese to licorice – indicates a reversal of the “super-size me” trend of the early 2000s. The 100-calorie packs are profitable for companies, which can charge 20% more for the packaged convenience, adding up to a $20 million dollar per year industry.
While the packages are small, the aggregate ecological downside of this trend is large. Multiple small packages, plus a larger box or bag to contain them all creates more waste, and is a step backwards in materials efficiency. Consumers are essentially paying more for less product (which they want) and more waste (which has no value). As the article points out, the irony is that buying one large bag and measuring out single servings would provide more product for the dollar – and it would also reduce packaging waste.

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Firms With CSR Policy Thrive

Sheila Samuelson | Thursday July 5th, 2007 | 3 Comments

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The results of three trailblazing studies released today from the United Nations Global Compact, McKinsey, and Goldman Sachs, show two clear trends within sustainability in business. First, an increasing number of business leaders consider CSR to be an important business strategy for creating value, competing successfully and building trust with stakeholders. Second, the studies show that sustainability front-runners tend to create sustained competitive advantage, having outperformed the general stock market by 25 per cent since August 2005. Of those, 72 per cent have outperformed their peers over the same period.
The Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, Georg Kell says, “Taken together, these three reports show that for an increasing number of business leaders, corporate responsibility is no longer an option, it is a necessity in order to compete successfully”, said Mr Kell.
From the press release by the UN:

More than 90 per cent of CEOs are doing more than they did 5 years ago to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues into strategy and operations. 72 per cent of CEOs said that corporate responsibility should be embedded fully into strategy and operations, but only 50 per cent think their firms actually do so. 59 per cent of CEOs said corporate responsibility should be embedded into global supply chains, but only 27 per cent think they are doing so.

Via: One Shade Greener

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AskPablo: Corn-Based Ethanol

| Monday July 2nd, 2007 | 18 Comments

corn.jpgJason keeps bugging me about my take on the issue of corn-based ethanol. This week I am finally going to take this one on. My gut feel is that it is the devil. Producing an energy-intensive crop that could feed starving people around the world (or at least feed the livestock that will become my next burger) to make a liquid fuel does not make sense to me. Corn farming is notorious for biocide use, genetic engineering, and endless square miles of sterile monoculture. The ammonium nitrate fertilizer, without which corn could not thrive, is a relic of World War II explosives production. This manifestation of the “military-agricultural-industrial complex” is also carbon intensive since it is made from natural gas.

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What Social Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Birds and the Bees

| Sunday July 1st, 2007 | 2 Comments

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The Economist magazine website has a nice little feature called “What’s in the Journals?” The page profiles a small number of recent articles from top-notch business journals with links to view the articles online (registration sometimes required). For those of us who are reluctant to shell out for pricey subscriptions to journals we don’t actually have time to read, this is a great service!
One of the articles reviewed in the latest column is called “The New Principles of a Swarm Business,” published in the Spring ’07 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. The “collaborative innovation” principles described in the article may be particularly interesting for social entrepreneurs:

…members of a swarm typically reject the traditional business notion of building shareholder value as the basis for their decisions and actions. In its place, the swarm works toward the collective interest of stakeholders, which is broadly defined as any party that can affect or is affected by the innovation….shareholders but also employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and even competitors…

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A Mighty Wind

Sheila Samuelson | Saturday June 30th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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Hold on to your hats! If you live on at least 1/2 acre and the wind blows at speeds of at least 10 mph in your backyard (find out here), then harnessing the wind for power may now be an affordable renewable energy option. The Skystream 3.7, available for $5,400 (US), can produce 240 KWh per month at 10 mph and 380 KWh at 12 mph according to the EERE‘s Wind Turbine Buyer’s Guide (here).
The Skystream has been called “the iPod(r) of wind power” due to its simplistic, modern design, ease of use, and capacity to monitor and download energy performance data on your home computer (including optional remote control). Thanks to a low RPM and advanced blade and vibration technology, the Skystream – unlike your iPod(r) – “is as quiet as trees blowing in the wind”.
The 1.8 kW system – developed in a partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab – is said to provide from 40-100% of power for a home or small business.
For wind-specific grants, rebates, tax incentives and interest-free loans available in your state, visit the American Wind Energy Association here.
Article via One Shade Greener.

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California Cleantech Open Submissions Due Tommorow

| Friday June 29th, 2007 | 0 Comments

ctopen.jpgIf you’re thinking about entering the California Clean Tech Open business plan competition, now is the time to get your three page executive summary submitted – tomorrow’s the deadline. Click here to learn how.
Whether or not you’re interested in the contest, there are some great resources on the CCO website worth checking out.

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AskPablo: CO2 from Beer

| Monday June 25th, 2007 | 11 Comments

duff.jpgHave you ever wondered about the carbon emissions generated from making your favorite brewsky, bottle of vino, or 15 year-old Talisker Scotch? Never mind the impact from producing the bottles, shipping the product, or the farm impact–I’ve written about those before (See: AskPablo: Exotic Bottled Water, AskPablo: Glass vs. PET Bottles, and AskPablo: Foodmiles) But what about the fermentation process? That is what we will explore this week on AskPablo.

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Summer Knowledge: What’s in That Sunscreen?

| Monday June 25th, 2007 | 1 Comment

sunscreen.jpgEver wondered what the difference was between the myriad varieties of sunblock on the market? There’s more to it than simple SPF factors. More chemicals than you can shake a stick at, some unregulated, abound in the many brands and varieties. To make sense of it all you need a massive database and a lot of research. Fortunately, the folks over at Cosmetics Safety Database have not only done that work, but they’ve ranked them in terms of safety and effectiveness. The bottom line is that, according to their work, some sunblock may be worse for you than doing nothing at all, and a handful of brands truly live up to their claims while being non-toxic at the same time. Check it out.

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Is Microfinance Really Effective in Alleviating Poverty?

| Friday June 22nd, 2007 | 4 Comments

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A provocative article from the summer issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, titled “Microfinance Misses Its Mark,” is available for free on the SSRI website. The author, an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, states that, “…my analysis of the macroeconomic data suggests that although microcredit yields some noneconomic benefits, it does not significantly alleviate poverty.” The article’s subheading summarizes his conclusion:

Despite the hoopla over microfinance, it doesn’t cure poverty. But stable jobs do. If societies are serious about helping the poorest of the poor, they should stop investing in microfinance and start supporting large, labor-intensive industries. At the same time, governments must hold up their end of the deal, for market-based solutions will never be enough…

Comments have been posted there by readers raising some good questions and objections to the viewpoint expressed in the article. Worth checking out for those interested in microfinance and global development. And while you’re there, consider subscribing! The Stanford Social Innovation Review “is a quarterly journal that brings the best in research and practice-based knowledge to individuals and organizations working for social change around the world.” You may also be interested in their Social Innovations podcasts offered for free online at http://www.siconversations.org/.

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