Is Growth Good?

| Wednesday December 21st, 2005 | 2 Comments

growth.jpgBenjamin Friedman in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth claims that economic growth is an imperative and morally necessary, particularly to raise the standard of living throughout the world. But is growth good?
Several readers responded to this question on the Harvard Business School publication, Working Knowledge. Apparently most of the responses indicate that the question should be re-phrased as, what constitutes good growth. Follow the link to read the responses.
Most responders, and by extension most readers who are well-educated managers, seem to hold socially responsible ideas indicating that many know the “right” thing to do (in our eyes). The question I have is, Why hasn’t there been a larger change? Why are economies still measured by gross domestic product? Why do shareholders still want corporations to raise quarterly earning? Why are managers motivated to improve productivity with the intent of reducing the workforce? Read the summary here.
– Ken Chung at InformedStrategy.com
ED NOTE – Ken’s article reminds me of one of my favorite quotes about this issue: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell” – Edward Abbey

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

podium[Your News Here]

Milton Freidman vs. Whole Foods on Reason.com

| Tuesday December 20th, 2005 | 5 Comments

the social responsibility of businessIf you’ve ever grappled with the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility, you’ve undoubtedly encountered a certain degree of cynicism along with naivete. You may also recall Milton Friedman’s famous quote “the Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” which is precisely the way many business people think about it. But check out this fantastic exchange between Friedman and Whole Foods Founder John Mackey at ReasonOnline.
Mackey’s take on Friedman’s vision is that it’s simply too narrow and basically old fashioned. Friedman says Mackey is just adding fluff to what is basically the same philosophy he has. I think it’s mostly a language barrier, and a matter a of exactly how you define “profit”. Must the word “profit” always refer to money in the strictest sense? It’s certainly a lot easier to quantify that something like “happiness”, but the intangible benefits of good, honest business clearly go way beyond pure finance. The question is, must we obsessively try to quantify it somehow, or is there language that can describe it accurately enough in non-abstract terms to arrive at some sort of agreement?
Check out the exchange, it’s very thought provoking.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

The Great XMAS Tree Debacle – Real vs. Fake?

| Monday December 19th, 2005 | 6 Comments

xmastree.jpgThere’s an amusing article in this weekend’s SF Gate about the what many people see as quite a dillema – chosing a fake christmas tree over a real one. Personally, I can’t stand fake plants of any kind, so it’s real or nothing for me. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s all that big a deal to have a real tree anyway – it’s typically a local operation, and new trees are reforested to replace the ones that get cut. However, there are other options. Apparantly, the City of San Francisco will rent you a live tree for $90 which then gets planted somewhere in the city… of course, it’s not a pine.
Interesting idea. You could also, of course, convert to Judaism which, as pointed out in the article, “celebrates the miracle of a little bit of oil lasting eight days”. Talk about energy efficiency.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

The Downside of the $100 Laptop

| Monday December 19th, 2005 | 5 Comments

100lap.gifI’ve sung a lot of praise for the so-called “$100 Laptop” project spearheaded by MIT – the idea is to produce a simple laptop that can be sold in bulk to developing countries for about $100 each, then distributed to kids in schools. By all accounts, it’s an amazing idea, and an amazing example of leapfrog technology and inspiration.
However, at the risk of raining on the parade, there are possible downsides which do not seem to be getting much attention. EWasteInsights has a great piece on the most obvious one: a lack of discussion on how to dispose of the laptops at the end of their lives. Indeed, it’s strange that little mention is made about the potential “e-waste” problem a massive distribution of laptops presents, particularly in countries with poor waste handling infrastructure. Has disposal/reuse been worked into the design at all? It seems picky to bring this up, but with the incredible level of innovation that has gone into it, it’s disappointing to see no mention of the machine’s longevity or post-use possibilities. It’s a perfect chance to help kids leap frog into new technologies, but it’s also a great chance to demonstrate the principals of sustainable design, which are every bit in keeping with the project’s philosophy.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Good News From China? The Wake Up Call is Ringing

| Friday December 16th, 2005 | 2 Comments

great_wall.jpgWBCSD, which incidentally is one of my favorite sources for news, has a great article today about the slowly growing awareness of environmental costs in China. Despite the obvious damage that has been done to health and ecology as a result of breakneck economic growth, not to mention a less-than-cooperative governement that tends to cover things up, the articles talks about slowly improving transparency and a slowly growing awarenss of renewable energy. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Our Daily Bread, What Does It REALLY Cost?

| Thursday December 15th, 2005 | 2 Comments

loaf_of_bread.jpgSustainable Ventures is offering a $10,000 prize to anyone who can measure the “true costs” of a loaf of bread. The idea is an exercise to produce metrics and frameworks upon which people can make more informed choices. Given the zillions of types of bread consumed around the world, a “true cost” will be pretty varied, but the way the cost is calculated and the areas for “savings” exposed are likely to be similarly useful.
The added costs in question would probably be derived from oil used in transport and fertilizer and associated externalities as well as the theoretical costs of things like low or high wages.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Conscious Holiday Gifts for Children

| Wednesday December 14th, 2005 | 0 Comments

lizardeco.jpgThere’s a nice little article in the JSOnline about “earth friendly” holiday gifts for kids. There are a lot of ideas in it from buying antiques, to giving immaterial items like museum memberships or art classes. But what’s interesting to me is that the article points out that many “green” products don’t proclaim their “greenness”. This goes back to my ideas on “green marketing” being, on occasion, a detriment. What’s most significant is that when a low-end (no offense, JSOnline) mainstream publication starts pointing things like this out to people, it improves people’s awareness as follows. One – it makes people who would be fearful of the “green” label feel as though they have company. Two – it makes people think to themselvelves that ecological consiousness is so mainstream that it’s matter of fact, which makes them far less likely to hesitate in making a “green” purchase.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Can the Burn of PyroMarketing ignite Green Marketing?

3p Contributor | Tuesday December 13th, 2005 | 5 Comments

pyromarketing.jpgI came across the term “pyromarketing” in this week’s Economist as I was reading about the growing trend of reconciliation between religious and corporate America which intrigued me and I wondered how it might fit with “green” or sustainable marketing.
Pyromarketing is a term coined by Greg Steilstra, formerly the chief marketer for Zondervan, a religious publishing house owned by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins which oddly enough also owns Regan books which publishes “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star”, but that’s another story in of itself. Instead of using traditional mass marketing media, like television, pyromarketing relies on “consumer evangelists” who spread the word (like fire) among like-minded people. Greg uses the metaphor of the steps it takes to start a fire to describe his process for pyromarketing. It is very similar to viral marketing or “buzz marketing, but so far I’ve only heard it used in the context of marketing religion.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Bank of America and Cause related Marketing

| Tuesday December 13th, 2005 | 3 Comments

bofa.jpgRecently I saw a Bank of America commercial that didn’t look like a commercial at all. The commercial looked like an advertisement promoting a new town image resulting from an urban renewal program. The commercial showed a city center with many historical buildings in various stages of renovation. The narrator started with a litany of facts regarding historical buildings and districts in the United States, and then followed by the numbers of buildings, historical sites this organization has been directly involved in preserving and renovating. In the closing moments the final statement was one related to the cost of renovation projects and at that moment the B of A logo comes on the screen. When the logo was at the center of the screen then the narrator mentions Bank of America as long time contributor to this organization contributing to the preservation of American heritage.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Business Week’s “Race Against Climate Change” Worth a Read

| Monday December 12th, 2005 | 0 Comments

atomthing.jpgThere’s a pretty good article in last week’s Business Week (article here) that highlights the ways that companies are reducing CO2 and other emissions in anticipation of the challenges of climate change. The article’s principal thesis is that companies ought to start making big changes now because regulation, especially in a post-Bush administration, is inevitable and likely to be severe. In reality, there are innumerable other reasons why companies ought to take a pro-active approach to reducing their emissions, my favorite being the adage that “pollution is a design flaw” that literately represents lost efficiency and lost product.
But – I think for the mainstream audience, scaring them a little bit with the threat of regulation seems to be an effective way to start the process of evolution to truly clean industry. Some people will go down kicking and screaming, but most of them will notice what the more thoughtful competition is doing, and eventually start “getting it”.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Entreplist Launches – Site on Youth Entrepreneurship

| Monday December 12th, 2005 | 0 Comments

entrp_com.gifPerth Australia based Entreplist, a weblog on youth entrepreneurship has launched. It’s a great resource to bookmark if you are interested in entrepreneurship, and is especially useful for students and teachers. It’s perifierally related to sustainability in the sense that it’s inspiring young people to stive to make their dreams a reality. Check it out!

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Drive Neutral – A Great Holiday Gift Idea

| Friday December 9th, 2005 | 9 Comments

drive_neutral33.gifThinking about what to get your friends this holiday season? How about something that’s materially intangible, holds real value, and promotes both ecology and economy? Drive Neutral certifications are avilable in three different classes to offest the carbon emissions of any vehicle. Once “neutralized”, drivers get the satisfaction of knowing that for the next year, their car’s carbon emissions will be offest by real reductions in the emissions of companies who trade carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange.
The CCX is a voluntary greenhouse gas emissions market in North America. CCX requires members to lower their CO2 emissions by 1% per year in 2003 through 2006 for an overall 4% reduction below a baseline of their average emissions in years 1998-2001. The CCX incorporates free-market mechanisms to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas emissions, and is the same kind of cap-and-trade program operating in countries that are participating in the Kyoto accord treaty. When you buy a DriveNeutral certificate, DriveNeutral will retire carbon credits on the exchange, eliminating the associated future emissions permanently. Plus you get a nifty decal for your car!
DriveNeutral is a program run by students at the Presidio School of Management.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Kids and Worms keep TerraCycle in business

| Thursday December 8th, 2005 | 5 Comments

bb_efeeff_300.jpgTerraCycle, a company that manufactures organic plant fertilizer, was started a few years ago by a then 19- year old Princeton University drop-out. Their product is simple: liquid organic fertilizer made from worm poop. Red worms digest organic waste and the resulting excrement is made into a liquid plant food. Worm poop fertilizer is not a new idea, but research from Rutgers University has helped substantiate the company’s claim that TerraCycle brand fertilizer outperforms standard chemical based home fertilizers. The company has grabbed shelf space across Canada and the US in WalMart, Home Depot, Whole Foods and Wild Oats and is expected to top $1.5 million in sales next year.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Institutional Investors Taking Climate Change Seriously

| Wednesday December 7th, 2005 | 0 Comments

climate_change.jpgA recent ClimateBiz article talks about the pressure that major institutional investors such as the CalPers pension fund are putting on insurance companies to disclose their financial risk to climate change. With an ever increasing climactic risk, insurance companies stand on shaky ground, and investors need to know exactly how shaky it is – especially long term investors with a vested interest that goes beyond the next quarter. The added benefits to the rest of us are that pressure on insurance companies translates to pressure on the clients of those companies to take a proactive stance on climactic issues.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Marketing Addiction vs. Marketing Health

3p Contributor | Wednesday December 7th, 2005 | 4 Comments

cigs.jpg By Jason Smith

The book, Marketing Management 12e, by Kotler and Keller, introduces one of the shortest definitions of marketing there is; “meeting needs profitably.” After reading that definition I was shopping at Long’s drugstore in Santa Cruz when I noticed something that struck me as odd consumer-based marketing. The cigarettes (product) were displayed along the wall so that you would see them as you were checking out (place and promotion). Next to the cigarettes were nicotine gums, patches, and assorted other tools for quitting smoking. The cigarette display cases were exciting and bold colors of red, white, and black. They evoked a sense of adventure and at the same time relaxation; the good things in life. While the colors of the cases displaying tools for quitting were faded, out of focus, sterile blues and whites. The case made me feel like I might have a cold just looking at it. It was clear that these cigarette substitutes were medicines. It looked like it was attempting to appeal to folks who were ill. Clearly, the display cases were mismatched. Quitting cigarettes renews your life and gives you back the good things in life that you were missing.

If the manufacturers of the gums and patches were out to “meet needs profitably” surely they would market there products as life enhancing, sporty, yet mature, goods. Instead, they make one feel sick and desperate just to look at them. What gives?

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »