With just over two months left until I graduate from business school, I’ve started to reflect on what I’ve accomplished over the last two years.
Without a doubt, the most fulfilling experiences of my MBA program have been the chances I’ve had to engage in real-world consulting projects for corporate and nonprofit clients.
In the last four semesters, I’ve worked on some pretty terrific marketing and corporate social responsibility projects – including brand audits, marketing research plans, stakeholder communications strategies, and social media tactics.
But perhaps my most satisfying consulting project was a sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement plan for Praxair, a $9B Fortune 300 industrial gas manufacturer in Danbury, CT. I’ve talked about this project in past posts, and I was thrilled to see that Boston University recently issued a press release about this engagement (including a quote from yours truly!).
These consulting projects have been the most rewarding part of my MBA, but they’ve also been the most challenging and time-consuming. In the end, though, I’ve signed up for all of them without hesitation – in large part because I (and many of my fellow MBA classmates) believed they’d serve as proof of our experience to potential employers come recruiting season.
We stand at the threshold of a moral crossroads in American business. Which way will we turn in the new decade is the dilemma before us. Do we retreat to old and tired patterns of indifference? Or do we find the courage to cut a new and hopeful path to the common good?
The heated debates of healthcare, bailouts, banking reform, financial regulation, usury laws, consumer protection, home loan modifications, small business support, social assistance programs-all point to one fundamental issue - the battle for a moral framework. What do we value in America? Easy Money or Hard work? Self-interest or Community? Vengeance or Forgiveness? Indifference or Compassion?
Do we continue to let 45 million Americans suffer without healthcare as long as we have access to it ourselves? Should we protect unsuspecting or reckless consumers or leave them at the mercy of profit hungry scams? Do we let the jobless and homeless fend for themselves because we are comfortable under our own roofs?
In the end, all of these economic debates come down to one thing: love. Love for our neighbor, love for ourselves, love for the planet, love for humanity. Love for those who are starving, hungry, desperate or forgotten. Love for those whose only hope of relief from suffering comes from you and me and our generosity.
Michael Moore’s latest movie was called, Capitalism: A Love Story. At first, the concept seemed hostile and sarcastic, yet the more I pondered its irony, the more I recognized its truth. Capitalism in its current anarchic state is all about love or rather the lack of it. Love in the Ancient Greek agape sense of the word.
There is a fascinatinginterviewwith Chip Heath in the latest Mckinsey Quarterly (free subscription required to access), titled:Making the emotional case for change. Heath's thesis is that building a rational, analytical case for change is not enough to make change happen. You also have to appeal to people's emotion. You have to motivate them to want to change.
I'm constantly amazed at how much businesses underestimate the impact of the emotional side of communications. Politics understands it. I dare you to find a politician running a campaign TV commercial that references anything remotely resembling an issue (unless it's an attack ad). Ditto for sales and marketing. But for some reason, business leaders seem to think that data alone is good enough to make their point. "If I could just show them this graph" or "they need to know the facts." As Heath explains, that alone is not enough to drive change.
This blog is (primarily) about external green communication, but before you can do that you have to have internal alignment. This article gives some great examples and tips for how to get that internal alignment. Take Heath's example from GE and how they got their team to start thinking in terms of ecomagination:
American business is getting an important lesson in civics as one of the world’s most beloved automakers dramatically and temporarily falls from grace.
Toyota Motor Company is accused of delaying its response to countless service complaints about “sticky” accelerators. Millions of cars, including the wildly popular Prius, have been recalled in an effort to avoid more accidents, injuries and potential fatalities. To date thirty four deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to the sudden surge in acceleration.
Incubated by Microsoft, Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for the past five years as Telecentre.org, the new Telecentre.org Foundation will be launched on March 3 as an independent NGO.
Last week Toyota’s president, Mr. Akio Toyota, testified before U.S. Congress regarding the company’s global recall. Mr. Toyota repeatedly apologized for the recall of millions of cars, offering to take personal responsibility for what had happened. As part of his testimony, Mr. Toyota stated that the company lost sight of its priorities, growing too large too fast. He claimed the company’s original priorities were safety first, quality second and volume third. However, over the years these priorities became scrambled, resulting in volume toppling safety.
This situation is a reminder that during times of growth organizations should continually review their founding principles and mission. This can help to ensure that an organization’s current strategy does not lead it down a path it does intend nor desire. Such an exercise may have helped Toyota keep its priorities in proper order.
Published on the Toyota Worldwide website is a set of “7 Guiding Principles.” Principle #3 states: Dedicate ourselves to providing clean and safe products and to enhancing the quality of life everywhere through all our activities. Interestingly, none of the principles mention anything to the tune of “sell more cars than anyone else.” Additionally, Toyota North America’s mission statement reads: To attract and attain customers with high-valued products and services and the most satisfying ownership experience in America. Again, the mission is not about volume—rather it is about value and customer satisfaction.
There are many definitions for biodiversity, but the one adopted by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity is: “the variability among living organisms from all sources, including, ‘inter alia’, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.
Preserving the world’s ecosystems and the web of life they each support is a good and noble goal in and of itself. But by preserving biodiversity we are really ensuring our own health, safety, economic security, and our very way of life. So this year, global institutions of all kinds, government agencies, and even corporations are coming together to celebrate the variety of life on planet Earth, and the value and importance it has for us humans.
But how do we make the goal of protecting species and ecosystems real? How do we preserve biodiversity? One way is through policies and laws with teeth, and through the rigorous enforcement of those laws. One such law is the Lacey Act.
Abstract. By burning fossil fuels we have put 3.6 trillion tons of Carbon Dioxide, CO2 in the atmosphere in the last 200 years – most in the last 60. This has changed the concentration of atmospheric CO2 from 250 parts per Million, ppm, to 390 ppm, an increase of approximately 35.9%. This increase of atmospheric CO2 is resulting in changing precipitation and rising temperatures, particularly at the poles and farther away from the equator.
The typical modern reductionist approach is to simplify the problem to develop a solution:
“Burning coal, oil, and natural gas puts CO2 into the atmosphere. All we need to do to solve the problem is modify the machines so they burn fossil fuel without releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. How do we do that? We should capture the carbon dioxide, and the arsenic, mercury, other heavy metals, radionucleotides, etc, and store it somewhere.”
But we need to remember that we are burning coal, oil, and natural gas for a reason: to generate heat, hot water, electricity and transportation. There are alternative energy technologies, including nuclear, solar, and wind.
Coal with Carbon Sequestration is estimated to cost $10 to $15 Billion per gigawatt, without considering the costs of mining, processing and transporting the coal, cleaning up after mining, and isolating the arsenicals, mercury, and radionucleotides released from burning coal. Solar is estimated to cost $6.5 Billion per gigawatt - with no fuel and no wastes. Wind $2 to $3 Billion per gigawatt - with no fuel and no wastes.
We at Popular Logistics think, feel and believe that we need to replace coal with solar and wind immediately.
The incessant chatter about financial industry legislation reveals more talk and less action. Opponents of financial reform stand to lose big bucks if the status quo is changed. Okay, so they have the right to free speech in the USA, but why would anyone of sound mind and independent means bother to listen to that tired old rant? If you are not working for the Big Four Banks that currently control monetary policy in America or any of its subsidiary arms or lobbyists, then logic should compel you to join the public campaign for financial reform.
For the sake of American economic security, the financial system needs to transition from anti-public to pro-public by ceasing to favor private interests over public concerns. What we need is a Ralph Nader of consumer financial products. (I nominate Elizabeth Warren, chairwoman of the TARP Oversight Committee and a staunch advocate of the new Consumer Financial Product Agency.) Ms. Warren’s activism aside, establishing an independent agency is vital for the health and welfare of consumer finance.
Back in the zippy American sports car hey day circa 1960s, the hot car of the decade was a jazzy little number called the General Motors Corvair. The car sold in record numbers allowing consumers to live out their American dreams of sexy convertibles and high speed travel. Yet the sports car’s poor safety record was hidden from the public and put unsuspecting drivers at risk. Enter Harvard educated lawyer Ralph Nader. The consumer superhero wrote an expose in 1965 entitled Unsafe at Any Speed detailing flagrant safety issues like unstable driver control, spinouts and rollovers.
How women buy and how they work/lead is big news these days – no matter what brand, category, industry or organization. When you think about how to start to change the culture around sustainable life and business practices, women also appear to be worth serious consideration. This is particularly the case when you examine the “household manager” role and how women keep those responsibilities in mind all the time.
This is PepsiCo’s SoBe brand, showcasing the actress Ashley Greene and her “zero inhibitions” in a painted-on swimsuit, as part of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit extravaganza. What better way, after all, to promote Sobe’s “zero calorie” flavors than with a babe wearing zero clothes on your corporate website and on You Tube videos, which have attracted more than 500,000 views?
And then there is the photo, from the page about Our Commitment to Diversity on the PepsiCo website, which goes on at some length about the company’s efforts to foster a workplace of caring and candor and where everyone is treated with respect. As best as I can tell, all the PepsiCo employees in this photo appear to fully clothed, although it’s possible that some wise guy in the back isn’t wearing pants.
The company says:
Diversity isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for our business. We’ve made it our commitment to make diversity and inclusion a way of life at PepsiCo….In fact, we view diversity as a key to our future.
PepsiCo has been nationally recognized as one of the top places for women and minorities to work. We were one of the first companies to begin hiring minorities in professional positions, as far back as the 1940s. We were the first Fortune 500 company to have an African-American vice president.
The company also says that its
Multi-year strategic plans for diversity are developed with the same vigor and goal-setting process as other business issues.
Once you understand that a social mission is an incredible asset for your business your first question is usually “Where do I start?” Many of the pieces I write focus on what an entrepreneur or CEO should consider when building a social mission. But if you are an employee looking to implement from within, your first question might be “How do I convince my boss?”
It was an unusually quiet plane ride home. Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and Share Our Strength Founder Bill Shore had reached the end of a life-changing journey, after having spent several days in Haiti bearing witness to the unthinkable and helping to address earthquake survivor needs.
“We finally let off our last two passengers, celebrity artist Wyclef Jean and a young orthopedic surgeon from Grand Rapids, a father of four who had been in Haiti since day three performing emergency amputations with borrowed farm equipment,” Swartz recounts. “That gave me thirty-five minutes of one-on-one time with Bill, who I never get to be alone with. But I don’t think we said a word to each other the rest of the trip.”
Swartz and Shore were likely in shock. The full-blown mental processing of what they had just endured in and around Haiti would begin later, as they assimilated back into their previous routines. As part of his re-acclamation process, Swartz wrote a series of downloads to Timberland stakeholders – including a Fast Company blog post, which summarizes his takeaways, and a personal letter to employees entitled: “Bearing Witness to Haiti,” which provides a remarkable play-by-play account of his physical and emotional experience.
“I felt I needed to get this off my chest,” says Swartz. “So I wrote about the heroism of the many doctors we saw, the heartbreak of the destruction, the inspiration I felt with Bill and Wyclef, and the indignation I felt at the world’s well-intended but inept efforts to cope with this disaster.”
It’s the simplest programs that drive action and results. Three days after Haiti was struck by the January 12 earthquake, Discover Card enacted a simple relief program that raised $3.1 million. Card members could contribute their cash back bonus points to the American Red Cross and Discover would convert this to dollars and match the donation.
Small business will lead us out of the recession and fuel the recovery. That is the belief among many of the nation’s economists. To understand the role Small B plays in society, here are some basic statistics.
Remember Haiti? Okay, good. Just checking. While it’s been hardly 4 weeks since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Port-Au-Prince, destroying over 200,000 lives and an entire capital city, the media cycle has already seemed to move on. It’s back to health care, elections, tea parties, and the economy.
When you target customers, it helps to know if they’re “dark green”, “light green” or “basic brown” in their attitudes, but, with so many green issues, products, and labels out there, it may be more relevant to your branding and communications to understand their personal green interests.
Counting and measuring carbon, although a daunting and remarkably puzzling undertaking, is a fundamental skill an increasing number of people will need to garner in the effort to understand and mitigate the effect of greenhouse gases and global warming. Especially so, since the world population continues growing by quantum measures and all of those folks are going to need survival basics such as heat and refrigeration, plus multitudes of electrical extras, such as mobile phone and computer power, broadband Internet capacity, etc.
My recent reading of Dan Pink’s Drive has sparked some interesting thought around the purpose, benefits and unintended consequences of goal setting. Traditionally in the business world, managers set goals and expect their employees to work toward them. Typically the purpose of goals is to provide focus for employees and provoke progress. However, goal setting can have a dark side and lead to stress, irrational thoughts and potentially unethical behavior.
Why I am posting about this? More and more companies are developing and publically sharing annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports. Included in these reports are goals such as “we will reduce our packaging by X% by 20xx” or “we will eliminate the use of X product over the next year.” Upon first glance these goals sound great. They provide focus and give companies (and often their suppliers) something to work toward. However, these goals might also hinder progress. Two thoughts…
Such goals put pressure on executives and managers to deliver promised results to stakeholders. They want to publish in next year’s CSR report that the company accomplished the stated X% reduction in packaging. However, this pressure may lead some executives to unethical behavior and greenwashing practices. Executives may get “creative” with the numbers, giving stakeholders the illusion that stated goals were met. It is easy for companies to become overly focused on short-term progress and ignore the long-term practices that they should be implementing (sound similar to profit reporting traps…).
Unrestrained greed among the investment banking elite has been blamed for much of the world’s suffering in recent years. In a remarkable shift from only two decades ago, greed in all its crude reality, is no longer “good” in the eyes of the world.
Maverick thinkers have warned of the perils of unbridled greed for centuries, yet few were listening. Not until the world turned dark on September 15, 2008 in the perfect financial storm did the rest of society take notice.