Zara, Inditex and Amancio Ortega – the Responsibility of International Success

| Friday August 18th, 2006 | 6 Comments

zara.jpgEd Note:I’m happy to announce Jenni Lukac from Barcelona as a 3P contributor. This is the first of 5 in depth pieces that should add a little more variety to the site, as well as a bit of European flair! Withour further ado…
If I mention the names Amancio Ortega and Inditex to anyone outside of Spain I usually receive the puzzled response, “Who?” If I mention these names in Spain, they are almost universally received with a mixture of sincere admiration and ill-dissimulated envy – and I know what the other is thinking: “Him, again. How on earth does he do it?” Son of a railway employee from León, 70-year-old Ortega is the founder of Inditex, the richest man in Spain, the seventh richest in Europe and recently ranked 23rd in Forbes´ list of wealthy individuals worldwide.
Zara, the largest of Amancio Ortega’s companies and the flagship of his Inditex empire, recently moved up from 77th to 73rd place in Businessweek´s list of the 100 World’s Best Brands, the first Spanish firm to rank in Businessweek´s top 100 and the highest ranked name in fashion. The company also scored an astounding fourth place in Google’s Europe and Africa rankings, following Nokia, Ikea and Skype and ahead of fifth place BMW. Since 2002, Inditex has formed a part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the FTSE4Good Index. No other Spanish company can compare with the rate of expansion and the CSR and environmental protection credibility that Inditex has sustained over the years. Having eclipsed his domestic counterparts and outpaced the foreign competition, such as H&M, Ortega’s empire stands in a class of its own.

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Friday Green Cities Roundup

| Friday August 18th, 2006 | 0 Comments

eastgate.jpgWarren Kalenzig from SustainLane has a nice little piece on his personal site about various “green city” planning techniques which is well worth reading. It’s mostly focused on heat and energy issues. His post got me thinking – part of the problem with cities today is that people are not aware of the zillions of ways their communities could be greener – and at the same time be more asthetically appealing, cooler, less costly, and just about every other positive adjective you could think of. Giving people interesting examples of cool, green ways to do things seems to almost always help. So here are a few to pass around this weekend…
The EastGate center in Harare Zimbabwe. This building is modeled after a termite mound and is entirely cooled by passive circulation of air. Folks in Phoenix could learn a thing or two from it.
Recycling Coal into Pavement. If we must burn coal, it’s nice to be able to do something with the fly ash. Here’s a sweet example of taking what was once sent to a landfill and using it to build an airport runway.
On second thought, make that pavement permeable and green. Hardscaping our cities with impermeable ashpalt causes no end of problems with storm water, polluted runoff and heat island effects. Letting water, and in some cases grass, soak through the surface keeps pollution in check, stops stormwater problems and replenishes groundwater. It also cuts air conditioning bills. Check out Grasspave2 and Gravelpave.

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Measuring What Matters Webinar this Monday

| Thursday August 17th, 2006 | 0 Comments

natlogic.gifIf you’ve never had a chance to hear Gil Friend talk about implementing metrics for understanding sustainability, you’ve got an opportunity this Monday online. Have a peek at the details and consider registering. Even though it’s not in person, I have guarantee that Gil can lend a lot of direction to your thinking when it comes to quantifiable ways to understand sustainability through indicators, metrics, and KPIs.
Monday, August 21, 2006
12:00pm to 1:00pm Pacific (3:00pm – 4:00pm Eastern)
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
10:00am to 11:00am Pacific (1:00pm – 2:00pm Eastern)
Register here.

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Environmental Defense and NRDC Launch Counter Attack TV Ads

| Thursday August 17th, 2006 | 1 Comment

In response to the various propaganda videos such as the now infamous “CO2 is Life” advertisements put out by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, various environmental organizations are funding programs of their own. Most recently brought to my attention is a frightening short by Environmental Defense and the NRDC which outlines the crisis of global warming and points a finger at the “oil and gas lobby” for holding progress back. It’s very dramatic, and from an asthetic point of view it’s almost as nail bitingly awful as this wacky radio spot (listen here) put out by an industry funded group called SEECalifornia. The assembly bills the ads are referring to are specific to California, but the style is not. They propose various caps on emissions be put in place statewide.
Although I give NRDC and Environmental Defense the benefit of the doubt, I really wish the “other side” of the battle didn’t have to stoop to the same overdramatic, vague propaganda to get their point across. To me it simply underscores the communication gap that exists between industry and environmentalists that keeps flights brewing and prevents real dialogue. Then again, maybe I’m overestimating the depth to which the average TV viewer thinks.
Watch the film on the next page…. what do you think?

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Eco-Dent Toothpaste is Allowed on Airplanes

| Wednesday August 16th, 2006 | 1 Comment

ecodentLogo.gifWithout getting into the tragedy that toothpaste will no longer be allowed in carry on luggage on airplanes, I’ve just been sent a press release from Eco-Dent who proclaim that their Toothpowder product is, in fact, legal in hand luggage. Iv’e used their product before, and it’s actually pretty neat. Still, I’m not 100% sure why eco-dent is more ecologically friendly than regular toothpaste aside from the fact that you can fit more of it in a bottle, and because it’s lighter, it presumably uses marginally less fossil fuels to transport.
Either way, in issuing their release, the company is certainly finding a great way to capitalize on the current airline security situation. At first I was slightly taken-aback at the choice to jump in and profit from such a thing, but as I think about it I have to admit – eco dent is stepping in to provide a real need that people have right when they need it most. That’s a great entrepreneurial move. And if the product is indeed more ecologically minded, so much the better.

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McDonalds Offering Toy Hummers With Happy Meals

| Tuesday August 15th, 2006 | 3 Comments

mchummer.jpgIt’s easy to pick on McDonalds, so when tempted, I try to do so with a grain of salt. Still, for a company who is doing the right thing in so many places, it’s rather ironic to see them giving away toy Hummers in happy meals. It’s not quite as bad as giving away, say, cigarettes, but it definitely sends an odd message from a company that claims publicly to have environmental and social interests at their heart.
Although a toy Hummer might not *really* be such a big deal, finding one in your happy meal just adds weight to he Hummer’s inescapable symbolism in a way that’s almost cliche. Sending a message of gluttony to kids just ain’t right. I’m guessing GM shelled out a lot of cash for this, which puts some shame on them as well, but sheesh, I’m surprised McDonalds went ahead with this program knowing the glaring target it makes them. See Ronald McHummer for more.

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Ford’s “Bold Move” – The First Cluetrain Ad?

| Tuesday August 15th, 2006 | 1 Comment

fordlogo.jpeYou may have seen advertisements on this and other sites touting Ford’s “Bold Move”, a marketing foray aimed at dramatically illustrating Ford’s attempts to publicly admit their faults and ask for public guidance to move the company in a greener, more successful direction. The ad itself derides Ford as having the “worst fuel efficiency records of any car company” and links to a smartly designed page with videos showing Ford’s management in frank discussion about the company’s weaknesses and the challenges in faces, not only environmentally, but also in terms of management, labor and more.
BlogAds founder Henry Copeland refers to this ad as being the first “Cluetrain Ad” – the first, and hopefully not the last example of a company ditching canned corporate-speak and attempting to open themselves up to a “real conversation”. Jalopnik rightly points out that buying up the blogosphere is a strange way to go about this, but it certainly has garnered the campaign a lot of attention and started innumerable conversations here and elsewhere.
Although it’s obviously an expensive PR campaign, it’s a pretty interesting site that seems to have been created with new ideas in mind, even if they do go a little over the top dramatizing it. If the “conversation” that’s occuring on the Ford site itself is still a little bit forced, perhaps by creating it, the less-canned conversations on this site and elsewhere will indeed spawn ideas that Ford may monitor and take to heart.

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Burning Man to Cool Off With Cooling Man

| Monday August 14th, 2006 | 0 Comments

burning_man.jpgThe annual west coast celebration of counter cultural creative exuberance known as Burning Man will enjoy carbon offsets this year courtesy of a project known as, you guessed it, Cooling Man. The event features 30,000 (give or take) participants who gather in the Nevada desert in what is meant to be a “leave no trace” event. For the most part, the event is astonishingly smoothly run in terms of cleaning up after itself and embracing a positively environmental philosophy (despite the torching of many a large piece of art). Nonetheless, the folks at the Cooling Man project have created an online tool at that will help festival goers estimate the pollution footprint that their participation generates – and offers various options to help offset it.

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Fast Company Blog-a-thon Brimming With Innovation

| Monday August 14th, 2006 | 0 Comments

fastcompany.jpgThough not specifically related to environmental or social sustainability, the Fast Company Blog-a-Thon is underway and is well worth checking out. It’s a 2 day carnival of sorts at what is arguably one of the most important new business publications out there featuring posting by the likes of Joel Makower, Craig Newmark, Lloyd Alter and many more. There are already about 20 great posts up there worth reading and plenty more are coming in the next 24 hours.

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Carnival of the Green #40 at Camden Kiwi

| Monday August 14th, 2006 | 1 Comment

cotg.gifIt’s that time again – Monday – time to check out the weekly carnival of the green! This time the carnival remains in London and is dealt out at the hands of a Kiwi known as The Camden Kiwi (for the London neighborhood, Camden). As usual, the carnival is a great little wrap up of green posts and news from various blogs around the world. Be sure to check it out! (link here)
PS – I’ll be autoposting today and tommorow as I’m off in the Sierras having a smashing little vacation.

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Sustainability is a National Security Priority

| Wednesday August 9th, 2006 | 0 Comments

bombs.jpgAlex Steffan has a great piece on WorldChanging today about the misguided idea that fighting terrorism should take priority over advancing sustainability in the context of national security. In it he sites the Cato Institute’s excellent piece (PDF here) on the exageration of terror as a threat.
For one thing, it’s great to build common ground between advocates of sustainability and a very conservative organization such as Cato (conservatives are often accused of lack of interest on the subject). It’s also heartening to bring this discussion to the forefront of costly issues like security, which are too often dominated by a “bomb first, think later” mentality that, these days, seems to bring less security, not more. The point, however, is that by embracing the tenets of sustainabilty as a priority we’re less likely to get to a place where military action need even be considered.
Sustainability weens us from our overly intensive use of resources and related conflicts. The likelyhood of wars for resources like oil (and possibly water in the near future) are inversely related to our ability to find new technologies and use resources more efficiently. Sustainability in the context of bringing peace goes beyond the avoidance of disasters and war. Such was the reasoning behind the Wangari Maathai’s nobel peace prize: Recognizing the inseperable bond between the health of society, the economy, and the environment is the key cornerstone of sustainability and once people “get it” the solutions start rolling in.

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Carnival of the Green #39 Rolls Back to Its Roots

| Monday August 7th, 2006 | 0 Comments

cotg.gifIf it’s Monday, then it must be time for a carnival of the green! This time, the carnival rolls back to CityHippy – the home of the very first carnival of the green. This week the carnival looks at practical solutions to every day problems, politics, and more topics to discuss over a pint. Check it out.

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Al Gore’s Penguin Army Sheds Light on Exxon PR

| Monday August 7th, 2006 | 9 Comments

exxon_linux.jpgIf you’re familiar with the infamous “CO2: We Call it Life” advertisements put out by CEI, then you’ll find “Al Gore’s Penguin Army” much less funny (it stinks, actually), but no less odd.
All you need to know is the film was not produced by amateurs. It’s an example of “astroturf”, a production meant to look like it came from some quirky individual but actually originating from a PR firm and quietly posted onto “YouTube”, the popular video hosting site. A Wall Street Journal investigation discovered that the film was actually engineered (at great expense most likely) by public relations firm DCI who “just happen” to count Exxon among their larger clients. Though this doesn’t prove Exxon was directly involved, the word on the street is leaning pretty strongly in that direction.
This video is so bad and has been met with such negative response that it proves that global warming denialists are on their last legs. But why is Exxon’s PR firm still spending time and money to pretend that global warming is a spoof?
DCI are probably no dummies and are certainly monitoring the reaction to their experiment. What sorts of conclusions will they draw? Will they decide that it’s time for Exxon to make a bold statement accepting global warming as a problem and proclaiming the company’s intention to follow in the footsteps of BP and Shell in pursuing alternative sources of energy? Or have they decided that Exxon’s best interest lies in being the maverick denialist who fights cowboy-style to the bitter end?
And on a humorous side-note – will the guys who created Linux sue?

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McDonalds Blog on Green Packaging

| Friday August 4th, 2006 | 23 Comments

mcdclamshell.jpgMcDonalds, like Wal Mart is often scapegoated into a corner as an uncaring behemoth. I’m not going to debate that because what’s more important is the scale of change that such a large company can produce. Anyway, McDonalds has an interesting and quite transparent “corporate social responsibility” blog which is actually worth reading and participating on. Recently they ran a little piece on packaging which lays out McDonald’s environmental policies in that regard. They’ve come a long way from the days of styrofoam and point out the following recent accomplishments:

  • Napkins are smaller and contain recycled content.
  • Happy Meal boxes are made partly from recycled newspapers.
  • Our trayliners have recycled newspaper content too.
  • We’ve trimmed the amount of material used in our French fry and McNugget cartons.
  • Our straws use less material.

So is McDonald’s doing enough? When you’re as big as they are, you’re bound to be held to a higher standard and I’d like to see a whole lot more post-consumer material. In fact I’d like to see the word “recycled” eliminated unless it specifically refers to post-consumer content. There are not a great many specifics on the current blog post, such as just “how much” recycled content there is in the packaging either.
One of the great ironies about this is the fact that most people who care about McDonald’s packaging are unlikely to eat there anyway. Perhaps I’m making a snooty demographic judgement here, but McDonald’s has to take into consideration that the extra costs involved with improved packaging may not be appreciated by much of their regular clientele who don’t know enough to notice. Rather, the payoff comes in terms of less hassle from environmentalists and, hopefully, some personal satisfactoin.
How would you advise them?

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Johnson Controls Launches Energy Blog

| Thursday August 3rd, 2006 | 3 Comments

jon_con.jpgJohnson Controls is the kind of company that ought to be a major leader in green building and sustainability in general. The are the biggest makers of hybrid car batteries in the US and responsible for the plumbing, electric and circulatory systems of many a massive building project. To their credit they talk a whole lot about energy efficiency, but the company website and sustainability reports are eerily silent when it comes to things like LEED certification, green building, and concepts like cradle-to-cradle and carbon emissions. Perhaps that will change as they become one of the few Fortune 100 companies to have a public facing blog –
Anyone who’s perused the ideas set forth in the Cluetrain Manifesto can appreciate the importance of this kind of development. What’s better in this case is that the blog doesn’t appear to be a super-polished corporate mouthpiece, and as far as I can tell is not screening comments. That’s a good thing. Too often, major companies are too scared to open themselves up to this kind of unscripted real-time communication – they fear not being able to handle any sort of negative commenting. This paranoia may ultimately spell the downfall, or at least seriously hinder the growth, of companies too slow to embrace the new global conversation. Fortunately for Johnson Controls, they’re finally moving ahead of the curve.
More on WBCSD.
Ed Note: The blog seems to have vanished (something funny going on?), but you can sneak a peek at the google cached version in case you think I was making it up.

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