SVN ‘Best Advice’ Series: Never Stop Learning From Your Customers

3p Contributor | Friday February 6th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Join Social Venture Network for the 2015 SVN Spring Conference, April 16-19, in San Diego. The event is open to active members, affiliates, family members and first-time prospective members. Click here to register.

As a lead-up to the conference, SVN is sharing best business practices from its members in a series of short video clips. Follow the series here.

Mark Tilsen Best AdviceBy Social Venture Network

SVN members have launched some of the most innovative organizations in the mission-driven business community. They’ve experienced success, failure, setbacks, and breakthroughs … and are very candid about the lessons they learned the hard way.

In this video, SVN member Mark Tilsen, president of Tanka Bar and co-founder of Native American Natural Foods, shares how listening to his customers helped him grow his business.

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Sprint Offers $5K to Students Who Find Innovative Ways to Recycle Smartphones

Alexis Petru
| Friday February 6th, 2015 | 1 Comment

SmartphonesHave a bright idea for a new way to recycle an old smartphone? This week, Sprint launched its first-ever Smartphone Encore Challenge that invites students to come up with innovative and profitable ways to give new life to these unwanted devices or their components – for the chance to win $5,000 to turn their business plan into reality.

The wireless carrier launched the competition on Monday. It’s open to teams of undergraduate and graduate students who are members of corporate social responsibility (CSR) nonprofit Net Impact’s 155 collegiate chapters across the United States. To participate, students will develop and submit a product concept and business pitch using secondhand smartphones and accessories provided by Sprint and wireless distributor Brightstar.

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Urban Development Spurs Growth in Emerging Economy Cities

| Friday February 6th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Recife green roof Urban LEDS Reducing pollution and waste in cities around the world has become an ever more important priority in recent decades, particularly in developing and less developed countries. With more than half the world’s population now living in cities and urban areas, the Urban-LEDS project is helping local governments in emerging economy countries devise and implement plans that lower urban greenhouse gas emissions, conserve resources and improve quality of life.

In a recent progress report, Urban-LEDS announced that all eight model cities, as well as several satellite cities, participating in the project have conducted or are finalizing greenhouse gas emissions inventories. That paves the way for these cities to craft practical, effective emissions-reduction projects.

In the northeast Brazilian city of Recife, the Torre Charles Darwin, a 35-story skyscraper, will be the first building in the city to have a green roof. In addition to a cover crop of 2.8 million square feet, Torre Charles Darwin will have a rainwater harvesting system that will be used to power the tower’s air conditioning system.

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Chicken of the Sea Cuts Water Use, Waste

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday February 6th, 2015 | 0 Comments

2013 Sustainability ReportSeafood giant Chicken of the Sea’s latest corporate sustainability report reveals some important milestones the company achieved in 2013. Among the most notable was a 27.8 percent reduction in waste. The company also cut water use by 12.8 percent for every case it packed.

The report documents its efforts, with a focus on “four pillars” of sustainability, and sets goals to be met by 2020.

The four pillars are: employees, facilities, products and suppliers. And goals were set in the following areas: energy, waste, water, health and safety, and supply chain. This is the third year Chicken of the Sea has collected comprehensive data on practices throughout the company and its supply chain.

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Chipotle’s Earnings Call: A Business Case for Sustainable Sourcing

Leon Kaye | Thursday February 5th, 2015 | 3 Comments
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Chipotle proves a company can be responsible AND successful

Usually earnings calls are rather dry and pallid unless you are a stockholder excited about a company’s remarkable financial performance — or livid over a steep drop in stock price.

The investor relations officer will start by reading a safe harbor statement, reminding listeners that the company’s liability is limited should future results prove different from what is stated in the one-hour or so discussion. The chief financial officer may talk about additional details such as non-GAAP financial measures and details over adjustments to reconcile net income to net cash.

But Tuesday’s earnings call by Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. was much more than a laundry list of financial accomplishments: It stood out as a remarkable business case for the sourcing of sustainable meat and sticking to a business’s principles.

If you were smarter than me and bought Chipotle stock five or so years ago, you are laughing. The stock yesterday was listed at $676 a share — off a bit from its 52-week high of $727, but it has still been performing at an upward trajectory for almost 10 years. The company is successful: Fourth-quarter earnings were up 26.7 percent to $1.07, and 60 new restaurants helped boost sales that were already up 16.1 percent in comparable stores. Diluted earnings per share were at $3.34, up well over 50 percent. And 2014 was overall a banner year, with revenues up 27.8 percent to $4.11 billion, impressive considering many fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s are languishing.

But after a rough January, when Chipotle had to remove pork (as in the popular carnitas option) from a third of its restaurants because of concerns over animal welfare, Co-Chairman and Co-CEO Steve Ells was confident about his company’s mission and business model. Its competitors could learn a lot from that hour-long call.

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VF Corp. Looks to Cut Chemicals in Textile Manufacturing

| Thursday February 5th, 2015 | 0 Comments

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Back in 2011, Letitia Webster, now senior director of global sustainability for VF Corp., was asked to start and lead the company’s global sustainability program. This involved creating a framework to align sustainability efforts across the corporation’s 30 brands, including The North Face, Timberland and Vans.

To accomplish this task, Webster looked closely at waste, energy and water issues connected to the production of the brands’ diverse products. During her assessment, she noted the great environmental impact of the chemicals used throughout the manufacturing process. That observation sparked the eventual creation of CHEM-IQ, VF’s new chemical management program launched with pilot factories in 2013 and set to scale across the corporation’s entire supply chain this year.

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Grid, Mining Projects Highlight Energy Storage Potential

| Thursday February 5th, 2015 | 1 Comment

typical_transmission_structures Two recent announcements highlight the potential for advanced energy storage solutions to deliver financial savings to business and consumers, as well as address environmental and socioeconomic issues.

According to proponents, the proposed energy storage projects – one in northeastern Pennsylvania and the other in northern Quebec – would significantly reduce fossil fuel use, accelerate integration of renewable energy and enhance resiliency of the power grid.

In Pennsylvania, Beacon Power is proposing a 20-megawatt power storage facility that would employ 64 flywheel systems, measuring 7 feet each, to store and feed electricity into the PJM power grid. A regional transmission organization, PJM is responsible for wholesale electricity transmission for some 61 million people across 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Up in northern Quebec, multinational mining giant Glencore has taken delivery of a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery storage system that it expects will reduce diesel consumption at its Raglan nickel mining complex by 35 to 50 percent. Electrovaya’s Lithium-Ion 2.0 energy storage system will also enable Glencore to expand its use of wind power at Raglan, compounding the benefits the company expects to realize by incorporating advanced energy storage and integrating it with wind power generation.

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H&M CEO: Reducing Consumption Isn’t the Answer

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday February 5th, 2015 | 8 Comments

Bangladesh_H&M_clothing_retailerThe CEO of one of the world’s largest clothing retailers thinks that we will be heading the wrong way if we reduce consumption to ward off climate change.

Karl-Johan Persson, who runs the Swedish multinational Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), suggested in an interview with the Guardian that, “If we were to decrease 10 percent to 20 percent of everything we don’t need, the result on the social and economic side would be catastrophic…” Cutting back precipitously would increase worldwide unemployment and poverty, he argued. The challenge, said Persson, is “doing it in a way where you still can have economic growth and jobs creation, while finding the innovations that can limit the damage to the environment.”

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USGBC Announces the Top 10 States for LEED in 2014

Leon Kaye | Thursday February 5th, 2015 | 1 Comment
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The Health Services Building at Arizona State University, recently renovated and awarded LEED Platinum certification.

True, top 10 lists are often subjective, and data can be massaged to get the list we want. But they are still a way to see how our companies or geographic regions are performing compared to others — from solar, to corporate sustainability, to overall market trends and — why not — even sustainable breweries.

Now, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is getting into the act, giving us a list of the top 10 LEED states in green building performance.

USGBC crunched the data by tallying up the total square footage of commercial and residential spaces that were LEED-certified during 2014. That total was then divided by each state’s population based on 2010 U.S. census data. The results offer rankings based on per-capita LEED space per resident, the metric USGBC has used for the fifth year in a row.

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Walmart, Target, Walgreens, GNC Accused of Selling Fake Supplements

Leon Kaye | Wednesday February 4th, 2015 | 5 Comments
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Beware of those supplements–you may be popping pills of grass or rice

Despite their enduring popularity and sketchy health claims, dietary supplements are not regulated to the degree food and drugs are by the U.S. federal government.

That is largely thanks to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who wrote the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). Past efforts to amend the law so that supplements could be subjected to some degree of scientific testing have been blasted as attempts to “overregulate” the multi-billion dollar industry. But critics of the industry will be calling for more regulations after what has been discovered at large retail chains including Walmart, Target, GNC and Walgreens.

According to cease-and-desist letters sent by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, at least five dietary supplements sold at these stores have been mislabeled. Instead of St. John’s Wort, ginseng, garlic, Echinacea and saw palmetto, DNA testing revealed consumers were instead swallowing a bevy of placebos, and even allergens, including rice, wheat or dracaena — a species of tropical houseplant.

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Recycling Startup: Market Should Be ‘Main Driver’ of Environmental Change

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday February 4th, 2015 | 0 Comments

LandfillLeftover pizza dough into ethanol fuel and old uniforms into pet bed stuffing – where some peek into a business’ dumpster and see only trash, Rubicon Global finds opportunity.

The Atlanta-based waste management company wants to help corporations cut their waste streams, find innovative recycling options for their unconventional waste materials and slash their garbage bills by as much as 20 to 30 percent, Rubicon told the New York Times.

Founded in 2008, the company has nabbed contracts with 7-Eleven, grocery chains like Wegman’s, big box retail stores, hospitals and even several Fortune 500 companies, the New York Times reported. Rubicon acts like a waste consultant – studying a business’ waste stream and cataloging the data into its proprietary software platform, called Caesar.

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Shell Supports Shareholder Resolution On Climate Change Risk

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday February 4th, 2015 | 0 Comments

shellAnother fossil fuel company is realizing the need to report on the risks associated with climate change.

Royal Dutch Shell, the multinational oil and gas company known by most as Shell, is supporting a shareholder resolution that requires the company to recognize climate change risks.

A group of shareholders called the  “Aiming for A” coalition, coordinated by ClientEarth and ShareAction, filed the resolution last year. It was co-filed by a total of 52 institutions with a combined 52 million shares of Shell.

Shell will recommend that its shareholders vote for the resolution at its annual general meeting in May, the company announced last week.

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SVN ‘Best Advice’ Series: Build Authenticity of Place

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 4th, 2015 | 1 Comment

Join Social Venture Network for the 2015 SVN Spring Conference, April 16-19, in San Diego. The event is open to active members, affiliates, family members and first-time prospective members. Click here to register.

As a lead-up to the conference, SVN is sharing best business practices from its members in a series of short video clips. Follow the series here.

Judy Wicks best adviceBy Social Venture Network

SVN members have launched some of the most innovative organizations in the mission-driven business community. They’ve experienced success, failure, setbacks and breakthroughs … and are very candid about the lessons they learned the hard way.

In this video, SVN member and local economy pioneer Judy Wicks, founder of White Dog Cafe and author of “Good Morning, Beautiful Business,” shares how staying local helped her business flourish, and allowed her to build lasting relationships with employees, suppliers, customers and community.

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SodaStream Turns Off Green Messaging as Sales Decline

Leon Kaye | Wednesday February 4th, 2015 | 1 Comment
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SodaStream believes an emphasis on water consumption can turn the company around.

Last year was rough for the at-home beverage carbonation systems maker, SodaStream. Its stock plunged 60 percent from a year ago, and after several years of impressive growth, sales have declined the past couple of years.

Sales were never strong in the U.S., but then they also slowed down in Europe, where the company’s performance had always been steady. The only region where the company saw growth was in Australia. Add the spit-spat involving its celebrity spokeswoman, Scarlett Johansson — over her relationship then clash with Oxfam due to the company’s controversial factory in the West Bank — and 2014 was a year SodaStream would like to forget.

Now SodaStream, which has had its share of confrontation with beverage companies and will face increased competition from the likes of Coca-Cola, is betting that a change in its message can help the company rebound. Rather than tout its products’ environmental benefits, the company is emphasizing the health and wellness benefits of drinking water.

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Conscious Design Can Drive Systemic Change in the Fashion Industry

| Tuesday February 3rd, 2015 | 1 Comment

banner-mobile-innovationRead more in this series

Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator (part of the Pratt Institute).

The fashion industry as a whole doesn’t have a great reputation. Consider the culture of overconsumption and the growing tidal wave of low-quality, rock-bottom-priced products. How can it ever become truly sustainable?

Many companies have made strides in water conservation, eco-labels and have even engaged with consumers to talk about consumption. However, there is another avenue that can effect more widespread change: making better choices in the design phase.

To get more information, I spoke with Holly McQuillan, senior lecturer at Ngā Pae Māhutonga – the School of Design, and Debera Johnson and Tara St. James of the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator (BF+DA, part of the Pratt Institute), to discuss challenges in fashion and how change at the design level could impact the industry.

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