Philanthropic Foundations Investing in For-Profits?

| Thursday April 28th, 2005 | 2 Comments

Google.gifThe Google Foundation is considering backing for-profit ventures that have a positive social impact, adding to the list of those who believe that doing good is a good investment. Ben Cohen, formerly of Ben & Jerry’s, does the same thing with his Barred Rock venture capital fund, as does the conspicuously reticent Omidyar Network; read the USA Today article here. (via Google alerts, go figure.)
Like the sound of of Google’s latest contribution to Not Being Evil? Apply to be the foundation’s Executive Director.

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International Voice Grows for CSR

| Thursday April 28th, 2005 | 0 Comments

korea_herald.gifFinding in depth articles on corporate social responsibility is always refreshing. What’s even better is realizing the variety of locations and sources these voices come from. Today’s English language Korea Herald has a lengthy article on stressing ethics is sustainable management. The article even sites a few things I didn’t know about, such as Sony’s $200Million loss that stemmed from having too much cadmium in the PlayStation. Read more.

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Reinventing the Wind

| Thursday April 28th, 2005 | 0 Comments

oldwindmill.jpgAlthough, alternative technology needs not incoporate breakthrough principles into its design, new wind turbines are proving that innovation can indeed revolutionize the past. Spanish researchers are designing windmills with efficiency far greater than any horizontal axis windmill of old. One of the key advantages of this design is that the blades are located in the front rotation area and in the direction of the wind, and offer practically no resistance when blades are cycling through the generator’s return area. This allows the machine to harness available wind more efficiently. Read more.

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Watchdogs on Investment in the Developing World

| Wednesday April 27th, 2005 | 0 Comments

india_hp.jpgWe’ve talked a lot about the importance of encouraging investment in underdeveloped parts of the world, but the importance of making sure those investments really benefit the people and communities they serve cannot be underestimated.
This Sydney Morning Herald article talks about some innovations that Hewlett Packard has made in India that allow small businesses to cheaply rent HP equipment to run small photo studios and other businesses. But, it is pointed out that there remains great debate about the appropriateness of some kinds of corporate investment.
On one hand, C.K. Prahalad “promotes the idea that companies can make money and help create jobs in developing countries by doing business with the poor”. On the other, critics such as Atul Wad point out that companies may extract money from communities unnecesarily: ” It is morally reprehensible to see people as purely consumers for shampoo and beer…” Read on.

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US Air Force Leads the Way in Renewable Energy

| Wednesday April 27th, 2005 | 2 Comments

airforce.jpgAlthough it might seem ironic to many environmentalists, the EPA’s latest list of leaders in renewable energy consumption is topped by none other than the United States Air Force. The USAF is using a whopping 321,416 MegaWatts of green power mostly on bases in the desert southwest. Although green energy is still a small percentage of the military’s total consumption, the sheer volume is important in creating an economy of scale for other groups looking to green their energy usage. (USAF press release)

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Liabilities to Assets

| Wednesday April 27th, 2005 | 0 Comments

cityview.jpgAn Engligh program called Changing Places, involving 500,000 volunteers and £57 million of investment, has been extended to complete its ambitious schemes. Already, some of Britain’s worst wastelands, derelict collieries, former chemical dumps, old quarries and industrial areas have been transformed into parks, wildlife areas, gardens and sports facilities. Rags to riches, one of the concepts in the American entrepreneurial spirit of pulling oneself “up by the bootstraps”, is in many ways synonomous with turning liabilities into assets. In this vein, it would seem a wonderful reinfusion of core American values to learn by example from this profound English project.

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A Realistic Perspective on Gas Prices

| Wednesday April 27th, 2005 | 1 Comment

gasprice.jpgWith gas prices skyrocketing, economic conversations often turn into furious complaint sessions pertaining to these rising costs. What is rarely considered is how ridiculously cheap gasoline actually is. Upon comparison to a relatively simple commodity such as Coca Cola whose supply is seemningly limitless, the tremendous impact government subsidies have on one of our most coveted resources is suddenly obvious. When gasoline prices are compared to other liquid products, Snapple comes out costing 5 times that of gas, with nasal spray topping the list at a whopping 230 times the price of gasonline. Free market rationale is without an explanation as to how such a contested resource that requires so much time and energy to mine, convert, and transport can be cheaper than compounds whose complexity is barely beyond combining water and sugar.

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Japanese Town Rolls out Free “Ecobus”

| Tuesday April 26th, 2005 | 1 Comment

japanbus.jpgA town in Japan has rolled out a cooking-oil powered bus which provides transportation for residents, and gets rid of hard to dispose of waste, as reported in Japan for Sustainability. The “Inaba EcoLimo Waiwai Go-Go” is free to residents who bring in used cooking oil for recycling.

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The Eye of Biomimicry

| Tuesday April 26th, 2005 | 1 Comment

motheye.gifIf you havn’t read Biomimicry, I highly recommend picking it up. Either way, this moth-eye based innovation by a company called Autotype is a fine example of learning from nature. The material, known as Autoflex MARAG, is based on the nanostructures found in the eyes of night flying moths. It’s a natural light absorber that can be used to coat flat screen panels, preventing glare. (as seen on the excellent Z+Partners Blog)

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Electric Cars Running out of Juice

| Tuesday April 26th, 2005 | 1 Comment

electriccar.jpgElectric cars, once the most promising automotive option for drivers wanting to get out from under the thumb of oil companies, are all but extinct. In fact, instead of offering former lessees the option of buying these cars, American automotive companies have refused to do so, with GM opting to take its EV1s out to the Arizona desert and crush them instead of letting their legend live on. Only Toyota has allowed their customers the option of buying these cars.
There are numerous theories as to why electric cars failed and American manufacturers seem so petrified to still have them on the street. Ideas range from the fear of being sued for lack of replaceable parts, to animosity on the part of automakers that California legislation mandated that major auto manufacturers build a certain number of polltuion free vehicles amidst clean air efforts.

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Hybrid Car Market Nearly Doubles

| Tuesday April 26th, 2005 | 0 Comments

hybrid_market.gifLed by Toyota’s venerable Prius, the Hybrid car market nearly doubled in 2004 from the year before. Despite the vehicles’ higher costs, government incentives combined with a surge in consumer awareness have continued to make hybrids the rising stars in the automotive marketplace. Some estimates suggest that within 10 years, hybrids will account for a third of all vehicles sold. Toyota and Honda are the clear leaders in the field; it remains to be seen if US car makers can join them with similar success. (AP via MyYahoo)

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Green Home Guide Offers Idea of the Market

| Tuesday April 26th, 2005 | 0 Comments

greenguide.gifAlthough the Green Home Guide of Northern California is geared toward a particular market, the tips, product guides and articles on the site are suitable for a general audience of both consumers and buisineses. The website is a clearing house for information on residential green building, and judging by the extraordinary number of businesses listed, it proof once again of the growing vitality of the green marketplace.

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J.P. Morgan to Limit Loans that Harm the Environment

| Monday April 25th, 2005 | 0 Comments

JPMorgan.gifSometimes it takes a little civil disobedience to convince companies do the right thing. Through a series of protests and demonstrations, the Rainforest Action Network has convinced J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.—the third largest bank in the U.S.—to develop a new policy limiting lending and underwriting for environmentally-damaging industrial projects. I reckon other banks should follow suit before the activists choose their next target…
Read the Wall Street Journal article or check out the the new policy (via Rainforest Action Network).

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Bank of America Moves Toward Less Paper Use

| Monday April 25th, 2005 | 0 Comments

bofa_logo120x50_3.gifBank of America, one of the largest banks in the US, and certainly one of its largest consumers of paper has adopted a remarkably green outlook on paper consumption that should reduce the environmental footprint of the company. Maximizing the use of post-consumer recycled paper is a primary goal, as is validating that suppliers are getting paper from forests that meet a high standard of sustainable management. (more details in GreenBiz)

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Green Mountain Energy Goes Carbon Neutral

| Monday April 25th, 2005 | 0 Comments

GME_logo.jpegAlready a leader in alternative energy, Austin-based Green Mountain Energy has embarked upon a goal to offset 100% of its carbon footprint. Everything from corporate travel to office paper is to be considered in making thei calculations needed to bring a CO2 neutral position to reality. More info on BusinessWire.

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