Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Building a Sustainable Future: What Will You Do Next?

More than 1500 graduate students and business professionals will be in Nashville this weekend (November 1-3) for the annual Net Impact conference. The conference theme is "Building a Sustainable Future: What Will You Do Next?" Keynote speakers include Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), Chad Holliday (DuPont), and Tensie Whelan (Rainforest Alliance) as well as John Replogle (Burts Bees), Neal Keny-Guyer (Mercy Corps), Andy Savitz (author of The Triple Bottom Line), Scott Case (Malaria No More), Steven Phillips (ExxonMobil), and many others.

Net Impact is an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to make a positive impact on society by growing and strengthening a community of new leaders who use business to improve the world.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In India, Poverty Inspires Technology Workers to Altruism

In Bangalore, "the city teems with laborers desperate for work, and yet wealthy software tycoons complain endlessly about a shortage of maids and cooks." So how do you bring the two together? Enter Babajob, a social networking site for employment; think of it as "the village LinkedIn."

Babajob seeks to match employers with employees through personal connections, the common method through which employment is acquired in India, but it is being done online through a website similar to social networking websites. Babajob is specifically "meant to reach laborers earning $2 to $3 a day" who might not have access to a computer or to the Internet and also seeks to fight poverty by providing connections to employment opportunities.

Read the full NY Times article.

How "Green" Are The Presidential Candidates?

In Thomas Friedman's NY Times article, he states, "We don't just need the first black president. We need the first green president. We don't just need the first woman president. We need the first environmental president."

To help us find that environmental president, the League of Conservation Voters has published their list of U.S. Presidential Candidates' positions on carbon gap and targets, fuel efficiency, renewable electricity standards, efficiency targets, and new coal plants and liquid coal. The list was derived from candidates' websites, their votes in Congress, and their recent public statements.

How does your favorite candidate fare?

Who Moved My City?

Is your city ready to change?

Check out the video made by Cool People Care and New Day Revolution on top of a mountain at Vulcan Park (Birmingham, AL) as they reflect on whether or not cities are ready to change to meet the needs of the next generation.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Goodwill Goes Green: William Good - Sustainable & Responsible Business of the Week

Nick Graham, San Francisco designer and founder of Joe Boxer, has teamed up with Goodwill to produce a line of refashioned clothing, William Good, which is made entirely from items from the Goodwill discard bins. Every item will be one-of-a-kind and will be made from items which have been in stores for 30 days but haven't sold. Items will carry a new William Good frog logo but everything else about the item will be refashioned. The boutique will open inside the Goodwill on Fillmore and Post streets in San Francisco on November 15. They hope the new line of refashioned clothing will catch on and the boutique will be replicated in Goodwill stores across the country, saving as much as 75% of donated items from the landfill.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Peer-to-Peer Lending Grows With E-Bay & Virgin

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, or social lending, allows you to offer your money in the form of a loan to another person. It differs from traditional banking in that there is increased transparency, often allowing you to select the country, project, or even person to whom you will loan your money and the money is not typically exchanged through a bank.

P2P lending networks have become quite popular among those seeking alternative financing and among those who want to use their money to make a difference, particularly in helping the poor who might not have other financing options.

The P2P lending network industry is growing with the recent entrance of E-bay and Virgin into the marketplace. Here is just a sampling of the many options available:

New Blog on Development Issues

Ideas for Development blog has been launched and is "an international blog meant to stimulate debate on development issues. It brings together a set of senior professionals engaged in this sphere through their careers and personal convictions."

"The blog does not belong to any organization or personality, and will remain independent."

Regular contributors to the blog will include Kemal Dervis (UNDP), Abdou Diouf (Organisation de la Francophonie), Donald Kaberuka (African Development Bank), Pascal Lamy (WTO), Supachai Panitchpakdi (UNCTAD), Jean-Michel Severino (Agence française de développement) and Josette Sheeran (World Food Programme).

Nov. 4-10 will be "Green Week" on NBC

In case you missed it, in May 2007, NBC Universal announced their "Get on Board" initiative which outlines their plan to "go green." This is part of parent company GE's ecomagination move toward sustainability. As part of the NBC Universal Get on Board initiative, there will be a companywide weeklong programming effort to educate TV viewers and Web and wireless users on ecological issues.

For the week of Nov. 4-10, green themes will be found in such shows as "The Office," "My Name Is Earl," "30 Rock," "Heroes" and "Deal or No Deal," plus in news offers, including "Today," "Nightly News," "Dateline" and on MSNBC and

Not to be outdone, ABC will be airing a green-themed "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on October 28.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

College Sustainability Report Card 2008 Released

The Sustainable Endowments Institute has released their "College Sustainability Report Card 2008." The report assesses the 200 public and private universities with the largest endowments. Schools were graded on eight categories: Administration, Climate Change & Energy, Food & Recycling, Green Building, Transportation, Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities, Shareholder Engagement

According to the report, "The results clearly show a “green groundswell” on campuses, with nearly 45 percent of colleges committing to fight climate change through cutting carbon emissions. High-performance green building standards guide new construction at 59 percent of schools, while 42 percent are using hybrid or electric vehicles in transportation fleets. Notably, 37 percent of schools purchase renewable energy and 30 percent produce their own wind or solar energy. A substantial 70 percent buy food from local farms and 64 percent serve fair trade coffee."

Other key findings of the latest Report Card include:

  • Carleton College, Northeastern University, University of Notre Dame, University of Southern California and University of Virginia demonstrated the greatest improvements – as much as one and a half grades.

  • Twenty-five schools achieved Campus Sustainability Leader status by scoring high marks in all five campus categories (at least an “A-” average).

  • Only Carleton, Dartmouth and Williams were recognized as Endowment Sustainability Leaders, with an “A-” or better across the three endowment categories.

  • Schools performed best in the Food & Recycling category, with 29 percent earning “As.”

  • More than one-third of schools have full-time sustainability staff, and more than two-thirds have a Web site dedicated to campus sustainability.

You can read the full report here.

What Al Gore's Nobel Means for Green Business

Al Gore's recent Nobel Peace Prize award (along with the co-winner U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is expected to have profound effects on the importance of environmental issues. But the question has been raised by ClimateBiz: how will this affect business?

"To find out how the business world expects last week's news to change the playing field, ClimateBiz asked five experts to weigh in on Al Gore and the Nobel Prize." The answers?

  • It Will Inspire a New Generation of Eco-Responsible Business Leaders
  • It Will Increase the Flow of Quality Capital Into the New Energy Economy
  • It Will Build More Mainstream Momentum Behind Sustainable Technology
  • It Will Turbo-Charge Energy Efficiency Investment
  • It Will Launch Scores of Environmentally Innovative Start-Up Companies

You can read the full story at ClimateBiz.

ShoreBank - Sustainable & Responsible Business of the Week

ShoreBank is a bank whose mission is to invest in "people and their communities to create economic equity and a healthy environment." They offer banks, consulting services, and have created a number of nonprofits to help them carry out this mission. Their web site states that they pursue a triple bottom line, "We strive to meet three objectives simultaneously: building wealth for all in economically integrated communities, promoting environmental health and operating profitably."

Founders Milton Davis, James Fletcher, Ronald Grzywinski and Mary Houghton — whose combined backgrounds encompassed banking, social services and community activism -- were seeking to buy a bank. They believed that a commercial bank, flanked by complementary development organizations, could effectively restore neighborhood economies.

ShoreBank offers two interesting types of deposit accounts: Development Deposits, which help support their community development work, and EcoDeposits, which help support their environmental work.

Their tag line? ShoreBank: Let's Change the World.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Monsanto Named Top Corporate Citizen in Their Industry

CRO magazine has released a list of the 10 Best Corporate Citizens By Industry for the following sectors: Chemical, Energy, Financial, Media and Utilities (another list will be issued in November/December for additional industries). The list was limited to publicly traded corporations and the companies were evaluated in eight categories: Environment, Climate Change, Human Rights, Employee Relations, Corporate Governance, Lobbying, Philanthropy, and Financial.

According to the CRO web site, they used the following category definitions:

Environment. This category incorporates an evaluation of environmental disclosure (including sustainability reporting criteria), environmental policies (including management systems), and environmental performance (including toxic emissions).

Climate Change. This category considers climate-change disclosure (including reports to the Carbon Disclosure Project) and climate-change policies (including offsets and reduction goals).
Human Rights. We evaluated disclosure (including controversies within the company’s overseas operations), policy (including codes of conduct and performance goals), and exposure to countries of concern.

Employee Relations. We looked at unionization rates, employee benefits, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints.

Lobbying. Certain industries are more involved in lobbying than others, so comparing companies within industries was helpful. This category evaluated a size-adjusted, three-year lobbying total at the federal level. (Information came from and the Center for Responsive Politics.)

Philanthropy. This category in the CRO ratings evaluated giving levels and policies (including employee-match programs).

Corporate Governance. Board independence was the standard used in this category. We evaluated whether the board majority was independent and whether key committees also were fully independent. If a board majority was not deemed independent, the corporation was not considered in the rankings. In addition, ratings covered board accountability and demographics (board tenure, age of directors, over-commitment of directors to multiple boards, and annual election of all directors).

Financial. Any evaluation of corporate citizenship must include a company’s ability to meet this most-basic corporate purpose. This category evaluated companies’ three-year total return. Companies without a three-year return to shareholders were not considered for the ranking. That’s because this list was intended as an evaluation of the citizenship efforts of large cap, publicly traded, U.S. companies, and a three-year history with shareholders was a prerequisite for consideration.

I question if these are valid measures of corporate citizenship. That is, is measuring lobbying a true refelction of corporate citizenship behaviors? Or is measuring the existence of policies related to the category but not measuring performance on the policies (except environmental/climate change performance) or adherance to the policies a true reflection of corporate citizenship behaviors? Furthermore, it seems a glaring omission that there was no category evaluating the social impact of a companies' actions, which, in some instances of the companies on the list, is enormous.

Therefore, it is worth noting that 3 (of the 5) "top" corporate citizens in their industry are targets of current and long-standing criticisms, protests, boycotts, and public campaigns because of their practices. Monsanto may have the largest number of protestors, boycotts, and campaigns of the "top" companies on the list. CRO states, “There may be some surprises for people on these lists, but the data speak for itself. Based on the data and categories included in these evaluations, this is an unbiased evaluation of corporate citizenship.”

How does one reconcile this enormous discrepancy? As CRO has already stated, the results are based upon the data and categories included in these evaluations. Perhaps a teaching point for Fuechsel's GIGO. But this is only my (nonobjective) opinion.

How Green is Your State?

Forbes has released their first-ever ranking of America's Greenest States. To derive their list, they "ranked each state in six equally weighted categories: carbon footprint, air quality, water quality, hazardous waste management, policy initiatives and energy consumption." Topping the list is Vermont and at the end of the list is West Virginia.

In the meantime, Wal-Mart is using its extensive database of customer purchases to track consumer purchasing habits of Compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs), organic milk, concentrated/reduced-packaging liquid laundry detergents, extended-life paper products, and organic baby food. They find that California leads purchases of CFLs and organic baby food, Rhode Island tops purchases of organic milk, Arkansas leads the way in adoption of concentrated laundry detergents, and New Jersey tops the list for extended-life paper products.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Students Want Green Jobs, Businesses Want Green Credentials, Business Schools Race to Bridge the Gap

According to survey results of college graduates just released by KRI, "80 percent of those surveyed said they are interested in a job that has a positive impact on the environment and a whopping 92 percent would choose working for an environmentally friendly company." In response to the survey findings, MonsterTRAK has created GreenCareers, which focuses exclusively on green employment.

Yet as more businesses attempt to "go green," it is a struggle to find employees with a combination of the functional and technical skills needed AND who also have knowledge and understanding of sustainability, according to an article in the Boston Business Journal.

When Oakland's Community Bank of the Bay couldn't find a candidate with both loan experience and sustainability knowledge, they decided to hire someone who knew sustainability and teach them about banking. They are expecting that adding "green loan officers" will help them obtain a competitive advantage.

In an effort to bridge this gap, the number of classes and degree programs in sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are rapidly growing at business schools across the nation as the demand for green business skills is increasing. This blog maintains a list of colleges and universities with certificate and degree programs in sustainability and/or CSR (see our list of links for Business Education in CSR & Sustainability).

Are you ready for the future?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fair Trade Study Grant: An Essay Contest for TEACHERS

If you teach 7th grade or higher and have a great idea for teaching your students the economic, social, and business lessons of Fair Trade, then you could be one of ten teachers selected to receive the Fair Trade Study Grant (sponsored by Sam's Club) and win an expenses paid trip to visit Fair Trade Certified™ coffee farms, cooperatives and community schools in southern Brazil.

Your 1000-word essay covering 5 lesson plans must be submitted by December 15, 2007. Winners of the grant will travel to Brazil in July 2008 and will be expected to implement their winning lesson plans during the 2008-2009 school year.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Learn Free Vocabulary & Give Free Rice

In a previous post, I discussed how video games are being used to spread the sustainability message. Now there is Free Rice, an online vocabulary-building game. For each word you get correct, they donate 10 grains of rice to feed the hungry through an international aid agency. The rice is paid for by the advertisers on the site. Over 2,000,000 grains of rice are donated daily. Go ahead, test your vocabulary, expand your knowledge, and give Free Rice!

Update: rice is distributed through the UN Food Program.

Monday, October 15, 2007

10 Tips to Green Your Office - Blog Action Day

Monday, October 15 is Blog Action Day. All bloggers are asked to unite and post a blog on a common topic: the environment. The purpose of Blog Action Day is "to get everyone talking towards a better future." So here is my Blog Action Day post.

The Green Office calculator allows your office to determine its current carbon footprint. "The self assessment tool aims to promote sustainability in the workplace by increasing awareness of the issues and providing easy, cost effective resources for improvement."

Here are some steps recommended by Sustainable Business Design that your office can take to reduce your environmental impact (and save money!):

  1. Use email instead of paper.

  2. Print and copy on both sides of the paper.

  3. Buy recycled paper with the highest percent of recycled content.

  4. Use environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies and detergents.

  5. Purchase refillable office products (cartridges, pens, etc.).

  6. Unplug items not in use or not used frequently.

  7. Switch to a "green" hosting service for your web site.

  8. Report and repair water drips and leaks immediately.

  9. Start a vanpool or carpool program.

  10. Create a "green team" to continue the work toward greening your office or workplace.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Move Over George Jetson - The Aptera is Coming!

If you grew up watching The Jetson's, you were fascinated by their futuristic lifestyles, and you wanted to drive George Jetson's car, then you might be interested in a peek at the new Aptera. The 3-seat Aptera, with doors that open up instead of out, comes in an all-electric or an electric hybrid model. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with Rosey the maid!

Peace Cereal - Sustainable & Responsible Business of the Week

Peace Cereal (owned by Golden Temple) is a line of organic cereals devoted to personal health and a peaceful planet. From their web site: "10% of the proceeds from Peace Cereal sponsors an annual gathering to pray for peace; International Peace Prayer Day. On this day, we traditionally bestow Man and Woman of Peace awards to Peace activists, as well as Peace Cereal grants to nonprofit organizations working for peace."

In addition, Peace Cereal founded the Socially Responsible Business Awards "to honor companies who have demonstrated excellence in integrating social responsibility in multiple facets of their businesses." Past winners include Seventh Generation, Tom's of Maine, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Wild Oats.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Keen Footwear & Simple Shoes - Sustainable & Responsible Businesses of the Week

This week's sustainable and responsible business highlight includes two shoe companies: Keen Footwear and Simple Shoes. By highlighting businesses each week, I hope it presents a broad picture of what sustainable and responsible businesses are doing and may even give you an idea or two for your own business!

Keen Footwear started with a line of shoes that were a cross between an athletic shoe and a sandal. Now they have a line of shoes that are 100% vegan, bags made from recycled aluminum and rubber reclaimed from their shoe factory floors, environmentally-friendly packaging, they have 3rd party independent monitoring of their operations, and they are seeking Fair Labor Association accreditation.

Simple Shoes (Deckers Outdoor Corporation) makes "ecoSNEAKS" with sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, bamboo, jute, crepe, cork, water-based glue, recycled plastic bottles, and even recycled plastic tires. Five dollars from each shoe purchase goes to and their annual festival supports the Kokua Hawaii Foundation to promote environmental awareness in Hawaii.

Maika'i! (excellent!)

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Are you aware of how much electronic waste we create each year? Take a look at Chris Jordan's photographic exhibit entitled "Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Consumption." Here are two of his exhibit photos of discarded cell phones (above) and circuit boards (below).

Nokia has recently announced a goal to collect 100,000 unwanted used cell phones and accessories. In addition to Nokia's recycling efforts (click here for how to recycle phones through Nokia), there are many ways to responsibly discard unwanted electronics equipment and cell phones.

Here is just a small sample of organizations that will take your unwanted cell phones and electronics equipment:

Recycling for Charity will take old cell phones and electronic devices.

Phones 4 Charity will take old cell phones.

Eco-Cell takes phones for environmental-organization fundraisers.

Rocky Mountain e-Cycle takes phones, inkjet cartridges, and laser cartridges. The phones go to domestic abuse programs as well as seniors and other low income groups that need 911 service.

Charitable Recycling also benefits nonprofit organizations by providing a monetary contribution to charity for each cell phone donated.

CollectiveGood recycles old cell phones.

MyGreenElectronics takes practically any electronic item, from computers and baby monitors to light bulb, televisions, and VCRs.

Earth911 allows you to search by zip code to find an e-cycling program near you.

American Cell Phone Drive recycles old cell phones raises funds for charitable organizations which provide scholarships for American children who have lost a parent to enemy or terrorist acts, feed malnourished children in Asia, build low-income housing, donate prepaid calling cards to military personnel, sponsor missionaries in China and support a host of other good works.

Computers for Schools takes computers in their local service areas and provides a link for donating computers outside their service area.

Cell Phones for Soldiers will send old cell phones to our troops.

And there are many others. Consumers and businesses can recycle electronic waste to be more responsible and sustainable.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Chocolate: Making Sustainable and Responsible Choices

Did you know the U.S. is the number one consumer of chocolate (an estimated $13 billion a year) and that Halloween, Valentine's Day, and Easter generate the largest sales of chocolate products in the U.S.?

However, the story of chocolate is not so sweet. The media have been reporting on the problem of child labor and child slavery in the cocoa industry since the late 1990s (ABC, CBS, another CBS report, BBC, another BBC report, TIME magazine). There are also several organizations that work to raise awareness of this issue and seek solutions to the problem, including Global Exchange,, International Labor Rights Forum, CorpWatch, and the World Cocoa Foundation.

In 2001, the Harkin-Engel Protocol was signed which sought to eliminate child slavery and labor by 50% in the cocoa industry by July 2005. By 2005, limited progress had been made (see statement by Harkin & Engel) and an extension of the Protocol was granted to July 2008.

As Halloween approaches, businesses and consumers alike can make sustainable and responsible choices in purchasing chocolate products. One recommendation is Fair Trade or organic chocolate which can be purchased from a number of sources, such as Global Exchange, or search the directory at TransFair USA, or do an Internet search.

Just another example demonstrating the importance of sustainable and responsible business.

October is Fair Trade Month

October is Fair Trade month. Fair Trade is an important concept for the sustainable and responsible business. The principles of Fair Trade are that farmers and other suppliers will receive a fair price and enjoy fair labor conditions, direct trade is used when possible, organizations are operated in a transparent and democratic manner, there is investment in community development, and processes and methods are environmentally sustainable. Transfair USA offers suggestions on how businesses and consumers can support and connect with Fair Trade.

Climate Change: Filling the Bush Gap

From Time magazine, the article "Climate Change: Filling the Bush Gap" offers an overview of three international meetings last week on the topic of climate change: the United Nations' meeting, the Pres. Bush summit, and the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting.

Read the full story here.

Wal-Mart Surpasses Goal To Sell 100 Million Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs Three Months Early

Wal-Mart announced today that they have reached their goal (set a year ago) of selling 100 million compact flourescent light bulbs (CFLs). They had planned to achieve this goal by the end of 2007, but instead have reached the goal three months early. This is encouraging as they estimate that the 100 million CFLs will have "the effect of taking 700,000 cars off the road, or conserving the energy needed to power 450,000 single-family homes."

Read the full story here.

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