IBM is currently running something they call the “Innovation Jam” an online event that purports to be a sort of “giant brainstorm” for IBM and various invited participants. Among the issues discussed are energy and social & environmental sustainability, and how IBM can get involved and thrive. The cynics on Digg have basically dismissed it as a ploy to get free consulting, but even with a selfish motive there is still some interesting conversation coming out.
Jeff Osborne at Plan Resonate has been keeping a pretty solid tally of what’s been discussed that has relevence to those of us interested in sustainability. Among the better conversations are “implementing sustainable management at IBM” and “incentives for IBM to become involved in the carbon markets”.
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line
Three cheers for Concha Guerra, Vice-Consul for Economics and Technology Innovation for the Community of Madrid and Leonor Perez Pita, director of Madrid’s “Pasarela Cibeles”, Spain’s top fashion show. Reacting to protests against the gaunt image projected at last year’s Cibeles, they announced this week that new health guidelines would be enforced for screening models participating in this year’s event. As part of an integral plan to address a growing epidemic of anorexia and bulimia in Europe, models participating in future editions of Madrid Fashion Week will now be screened according to an acceptable body mass index. Application of professional medical criterion has eliminated 30% of the models expected to work the catwalks of Cibeles, including supermodels Kate Moss and Esther Canadas. Elite, and other top modeling agencies worldwide are up in arms, wailing that they are victims of scapegoating, but Guerra and Perez Pita stand firm for a new healthy image for Spanish fashion.
Cibeles is the third largest fashion event in Europe, on par with Paris and just behind New York and Milan. In fact, the mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, has spoken in favor of Guerra’s decision and may introducing similar measures for Milan fashion shows. London is monitoring the industry and public feedback to events in Madrid and initial scoffing has given way to serious consideration of implementing changes there.Click to continue reading »
Since the umbrella most of us know is a cheap disposable poster child for poor design and wasteful manufacturing, I.D. Magazine, The Sustainable Style Foundation, and TreeHugger asked for a smarter version. Our rockin’ Umbrella Inside Out judges (including Cradle to Cradle co-author Bill McDonough!) spent the last week evaluating over 100 incredible entries from around the globe to bring you these innovative tools for keeping dry.
It is once again time to explore the wonderful world of sustainability metrics. This week I am going to tackle the myth of the meat-powered cyclist. Here’s the story: A friend of mine once told me that it is more efficient to drive a car over a certain distance than to ride a bike over that same distance if your calories come from beef. Before passing on this great anecdote on the inefficiency of beef production I thought I would run the numbers myself. Join me this week in another exciting installment of Ask Pablo.
First we need to examine just how inefficient the conversion from fossil-fuel > fertilizer > grain > cow is. According to an article in Harpers, “It takes thirty-five calories of fossil fuel to make a calorie of beef.” While it is certainly tastier than eating spoonfuls of fossil fuels, this is pretty inefficient. By comparison, organic broccoli requires zero fossil fuel calories per calorie, except for a negligible amount for transportation.
Golf has, for many years, been the de-facto sport of choice among corporate executives around the world. In many circles it’s almost criminal not to love golf and play it every weekend – the golf course has become the informal boardroom where deals and relasionships are really made. And why not? It’s a fun enough game with challenges both physical and mental and it amounts to a nice walk in the park.
Of course, the golf industry uses wild amounts of pesticides and fertilizer to maintain the illusion of perfectly controlled nature. In places like Arizona and Nevada, golf courses use obscene amounts of water, creating a totally artificial world that has no place in the desert.
Enter the corporate bike outing. A story in yesterdays Milwaukee Journal Sentinal entitled “Is Bicycling the New Golf?” has really got me excited. A number of companies are now sponsoring cycling events for employees, collegues and partners as a way to connect socially – the same sort of thing that has been done for years with golfing events. Cycling is a far more environmentally sustainable sport than golf, and if it gains popularity among the corporate elite, then the likelyhood of improved cycling infrastucture in our cities and suburbs is bound to improve, not to mention our health. Bring it on!
China’s massive-scale coal burning is producing acid rain at an alarming rate. With China’s new-found awareness of the economicaly negative exernalities associated with phenomena such as acid rain, the government has calculated that acid rain could be accounting for as much as $60 billion dollars in economic losses to the Chinese economy.
The good news is that China wants to solve this problem. The better news is that solving this problem represents a huge business opportunity. Canadian companies – having become experts in the arena of acid rain decades ago – are stepping up to the plate and offering China various technologies to help reduce the acid rain-causing emissions from Chinese power plants and manufacturing facilities – all at a profit to the Chinese economy and the Canadian invitees. It may seem ironic to look for profit amidst tragedy, but if we didn’t there would be far less incentive to do something about it quickly. Read more on WBCSD.
For me, some of the most interesting marketing news this year has been the declaration of war between the big retailers for the organic food market, both in the States and the U.K. AdAge kicked off the campaign in mid July with an article about Wal Mart’s multimillion-dollar campaign “focused on its new organic food offerings,” their “first ever” organic logo and the advertising tagline “What will you bring to the table?” According to Janel LaMonica, VP-creative director at Bernstein-Rein, there have always been two things holding back the growth of the organic food market: one, the difficulty in finding organic products, the other, the difficulty of affording them. She makes the claim that “Wal-Mart has taken down both these barriers.”Click to continue reading »
I just got my copy of the innaugural issue of the much-anticipated GOOD Magazine. It’s really good and well worth the $20 annual subscription fee – which gets you six magazines, admision to various parties, and a donation to the charity of your choice. If you like TreeHugger, you’ll love GOOD – it’s almost like a print version of everyone’s favorite modern green lifestyle blog, but with a bit more in-depth articles and more of a social and political bend to it. And it’s on paper, which I kind of like since I can throw it in my bag and read elsewhere.
The magazine is printed on recycled paper. That said – I hereby issue a challenge for Pablo: Let’s compare the impact of GOOD Magazine being in a print version with an online equivalent, asuming the stated goal of 50,000 bi-monthly subscribers.
According to an article in Seed Magazine, indoor urban aquaculture in the middle of New York City could be as productive as current fish-farming techniques with better health results for both people and the environment. A test system in Brooklyn is farming thousands of Tilapia succesfully while using a bacteriological system to handle the fishes’ waste. By recirculating water through this system the technique could be used on countless vacant lots and wharehouses in urban areas around the world. It is claimed the system is less stressful on the fish too. So far it isn’t a profitable business, but with pressure on wild fish stocks ever increasing, there’s a chance this entrepreneur is on to something.
There is a lot of talk these days about rising energy prices, but many U.S. agricultural sector websites still insist on telling Americans that they live better than anyone else in the world because their food is cheaper. Calculating from a base of the percentage of one´s annual wage that is dedicated to food expenses, the statistics are quite astonishing. According to the USDA/Economic Research Service, the percentage of family income spent on food in the United States has dropped from 24.2% in 1930 to a mere 9.5% in 2004. A UC Davis education site puts the figure at less than 9%, adding a eulogy that Americans should be truly grateful.
According to Food Check-out Week, another site published by the California Farm Bureau, in 2006 “the average household will earn enough disposable income — that portion of income available for spending or saving — to pay for its annual food supply in only five weeks”. Five weeks compared to nine weeks for the French, thirteen weeks for the Japanese and a whopping seventeen weeks for the Mexicans.
Before I started writing about sustainability, I used to take on freelance work as a language, public relations and corporate communications coach for Spanish executives in a wide range of sectors, from tourism to manufacturing. I helped them negotiate contracts with foreign partners, compete for high-level positions in multinational corporations and survive foreign takeovers of their companies.
I was often sought out because I was an American and the American executive model was the most admired. From time to time, I served as a human resources consultant for Northern European and American companies. After a candidate was hired, I was often asked to coach the new executive to improve his or her language skills and inter-cultural communications. Most of these executives had shelves full of books about American management and marketing concepts. To perplexed FC Barca and RCD Espanyol fans, I explained the business terminology related to American and British sports vocabulary; what it is was to field or bunt for another person, cover all the bases, have targets and goals, to huddle, and to establish a level playing field. In those days, Europe looked almost exclusively to North Americans for advice on how to reach the heights of success; from stolen cheese theories to the strategy of selling one’s Ferrari after one reached the top. Things have changed a bit since then.
Unlike Vanity Fair, whose green issue was notoriously un-green, The Economist has gone to great lengths to document and offset the environmental impact of its 16 page “green issue” which comes out tommorow. After tallying it all up, the magazine paid about $1200 to a company called Carbon Neutral which sequestered a certain tonnage of CO2 in a mine on their behalf. The solution is interesting, but the fact that they took the time to make the calculations is arguable more valuable since it lays the groundwork for understanding where to direct future efficiencies.
Rather than yet another post bashing McDonalds for their ill-advised decision to put toy Hummers in their happy meals, I thought presenting them with a new idea might be more productive. Al from CityHippy and Matthew from Enviroblog have been cooking up a really interesting notion (Inspired by Brie’s comment on my last post): If Hummers sell happy meals, why not Priuses?
Hybrids of all kinds are outselling Hummers a million to one, so there is clearly an appeal, and kids love technology and new gadgets. Why not give out happy meals with toy Priuses, Smart Cars and Tesla Roadsters inside? The kids would love them, the PR would be outstanding, and McDonalds would actually have the satisfaction of feeling good about their claims to be commited to environmental stewardship. I don’t know what kind of cash GM forked over to promote their Hummers, but couldn’t a similar deal be worked out with more responsible automakers? What if I promise to eat a Big Mac?
Seriously though, unless GM has given McDonalds untold millions for the promo, it seems like giving away something that actually promotes wiser choices can’t possible be a bad thing, in fact it has to be better. What would it take to make it happen?
PS – In further news, a number of people have called into question the open-ness of the McDonald’s CSR blog, whose comments section seems to be very delayed and may not, in fact, post all comments. Although some degree of spam and troll monitoring makes sense, it goes against the principals of a blog to filter comments however negative! Hopefully they will have the courage to open comments up more quickly.