Funny thing about the planet - we often forget that it is much bigger than we are and often has a mind of its own. Take, for example, the chaos being created by the volcanic ash cloud over Europe this week.
The recent eruptions of Iceland's Eyjafjallajoekull volcano are disrupting business systems on a global scale. We have been reminded once again of nature's brute force and primordial beauty. The continuing volcanic ash cloud is having holistic and systematic repercussions. Starting with air travel disruption, the impact is now ricocheting across international business and global supply chains.
"BMW in Germany and Nissan and Japan have both temporarily shut down plants due to supply chain disruption. . . Kenya, which exports 1,000 tons a day of fresh goods, threw away 10 million flowers, mostly roses, since the eruption began April 14 . . . One Boeing 747 with 110 tons of fish destined for Europe sat on the tarmac in the Middle East, among some 2,000 tons of other disrupted shipments." Associated Press
What will happen if the volcano repeats it's last (1821) eruption cycle of on-and-off spewing of ash for 13 months?
What impact will it have on the long-term viability and sustainability of companies in the region and around the world?
Today's philanthropists struggle to balance crisis contributions with investments in longer term, lasting solutions. HealthRight International exemplifies a nonprofit that leverages relatively small resources for a significant and sustainable impact in underserved communities around the world. And business investors love it.
Within the community investment community there’s still too much thinking about the money that goes in and not enough about what’s coming out the other end in terms of social capital. In Canada, a good illustration is the recent debate about salaries for executives in non-profit organizations.
If you do, don’t bother calling me. Unfortunately, I’m just a beginner and wouldn’t be much use to a company that needs someone who really knows what they’re talking about. The good news for you, however, is that there now an extraordinary number of corporate responsibility experts, authorities, advisors, and consultants.
Most of the time when we meet someone, socially or professionally, one of the first questions that comes up is "What do you do, and where do you work?" The response to that question often defines us. I thought about that when I read "BRAND OR DIE," Nick Nanton's and JW Dicks' great new blogpost.
Millennials have been touted as a distinct generation who have high-expectations of their future employers. Significant research has been conducted regarding the need for companies to adjust traditional management styles and corporate policies to better align with the needs and desires of this new generation of employees.
The post I wrote on Sunday about the institutionalization of corporate responsibility and the need for more innovation seems to have struck a chord. It’s also made me think more about how specific aspect of corporate responsibility have become ubiquitous and, as a result, may have lost a degree of meaning and impact.
I have to be honest. I don't read self-help books. And the reasoning is simple: they all tout the same advice differently. However, when I heard about Jeffrey Hollender's latest book (co-authored with Bill Breen, co-founder of Fast Company and editorial director at Seventh Generation), I was more than a little curious. The title The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win didn't sermonize and instead, conveyed the conviction of the authors on the future of business, sounding almost too smug to me.
Greener products are now available within every industry and are a part of our everyday lives. But they didn’t get to be so ubiquitous just because they are better for the planet. Whether they were promoted as such or not, sales of green products grew because they were appreciated by a growing chorus of consumers for the value they provide—expressed as safety, comfort, good taste, or simply convenience.
Last Friday, April 9, 2010, something wonderful happened at Princeton University.
David W. Miller, Director of Princeton’s Faith & Work Initiative, attempted to tackle the monumental job of “civilizing” the economy. No small task for anyone let alone the unusually courageous and innovative Miller. Formerly the Executive Director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, Miller also taught a popular course in the Management School, “Business Ethics: Succeeding without Selling Your Soul.”
As we head closer to Earth Day, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, I wanted to update you on all the exciting elements we have planned for the next two weeks. Yes, while we all relate to the significance of the day as consumers who are gradually changing from chemical to natural, synthetic to organic, this Earth Day resonates with us at a much more personal level as informed professionals. With a static national unemployment rate and the economy barely past its recessionary level, we have a new decade of business to get used to. A green decade, that is.
And I say that not only because every expert I have spoken to predicts that the green job market will be responsible for propelling us out of this recession, but also because the few states that have managed to deter the rising unemployment scale are the ones who have taken on renewable and alternative energy projects as their mainstay for job creation. So, whether you are a job seeker, an executive or a professional looking to make a career move within your company or to another, the basics of the needs, demands and specializations the green job market offers will serve you well in your career path.
There is also another aspect that distinguishes Earth Day's 40th anniversary from any other year. It's the fact that CSR as a policy, a strategic choice and as a conversation is finally beginning to make a conscious presence in the office. While there is a long way to go for corporate social responsibility to be immersed in the way business is conducted, the argument and the discussion for its case is finally making the transition from advocacy to active board room contentions.
Cliff Burrows, President of Starbucks Coffee U.S., spoke about their efforts to limit the environmental impact of coffee consumption at Fortune Magazine's Brainstorm Green conference. According to Burrows, they have made big strides in how coffee is grown and now one of their largest impacts is the coffee cups. Out of the millions of coffees they sell every day, only one percent are served in reusable mugs.
In the quiet beauty of Iowa farmland, a middle-aged unemployed “tea party” protestor, Randy, screamed his displeasure at the healthcare reform bill into a megaphone. He joins the ranks of radical activists mounting increasingly violent attacks on supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Randy and other equal-access healthcare opponents have medical insurance and they don’t want to share their good fortune.
If your company consistently runs social responsibility programs, but you doesn’t take the time or have the confidence in its programs to make sure I know about them, it’s doing me and itself a disservice.
Like Walgreens or Rite Aid, CVS is a national pharmacy chain. There’s no visible differentiation between it and its competitors. Maybe the aisles are cleaner and the coupons better, but maybe not.
Earlier this month, I quoted business people regarding the value they derive from serving on nonprofit boards. While it is widely understood that nonprofits have much to gain from the expertise and resources that board members bring to bear, it is also useful to recognize that board members gain from the experience as well.
Here is a second set of comments from board members who serve on a wide variety of boards-- regionally, nationally, and globally.
“A green economy needs to just be the economy,” said Dianne Dillon-Ridgley, a board director at InterFace Global and member of the closing Town Hall session at the 20th anniversary Globe 2010 in Vancouver. - a sentiment which would be shared by many and echoed throughout the conference.
Held every two years, Globe Foundation gathered over 10,000 participants from more than 80 countries to focus on a variety of themes that included Corporate Sustainability, Climate Change and Energy, Finance and Sustainability, Urban Infrastructure, Clean Technology, and Water: Impacts on Business.
According to many speakers, this year the conference seemed different – more participants, more women, and a greater number of students and young professionals. One young woman, summed up her generation’s challenge with a question to the panel – as she looks for her first sustainability job, should she work for an oil and gas company and try change them, or work for something new and different? Nicholas Parker, Executive Chairman, Cleantech Group LLC in San Francisco, CA, encouraged her to “work in the lion’s den and help create the change we, and they, need to be.” Those fossil fuel companies, Parker asserted, are facing necessary and inevitable transformation and we should all welcome and support it.
Consumers have very little understanding of which companies trying to be more sustainable and which ones are not. Duh, you say? Well, that conclusion was driven home by reading MapChange 2010 from the brand agency Change.
This sustainability brand map study looked at the perceived and actual sustainability scores for 97 companies in 10 sectors and found that they didn't exactly always mesh. Some companies that were highly sustainable were not perceived as such while some of the less responsible companies were perceived to be more sustainable. Depending on who you talk to, that is another example of a communications failure or an opportunity (or both).
Some of the results were quite eye-opening. In the food and beverage sector, Organic Yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm had the highest actual sustainability score but a below-average perception, which was inverse that of Kraft, Kellogg and General Mills.
In the household sector, the perception of Clorox far exceeded their actual sustainability score (perhaps because of their recently launched Green Works brand endorsed by the Sierra Club?) while L'Oreal didn't get the acknowledgement they deserved.
But perhaps the most interesting to me was the Internet/Software/Media sector brand scores. In this sector, the perceptions of net giants Google, Yahoo and Amazon all exceeded their actual scores, while the perceptions of General Electric and News Corporation were much worse than their actual scores. GE was surprising considering their highly visible ecomagination brand and their high ranking in other surveys. And News Corp's well-publicized goal of making their operations carbon neutral appears not to have helped their public perception (perhaps they need to use language the public understands, rather than "carbon neutral").
Recent economic times have spurred uncertain thoughts and reactions around terms like “lending” or “investments.” However, there is an emerging loan market that is working toward making a positive, significant impact on the lives of the impoverished globally. The market that I am referring to is the “microlending” market. Recent reports have estimated that there are more than 30 million microloans worldwide and at a growing rate of 30-40% per year.
So, why are so many individuals participating in microlending…
I used to consult with nonprofits as part of a firm. What I’m about to write comes from my observations doing this work.
We can do more good and do it more quickly with a for-profit model.
Nonprofits aren’t bad, their model just has some flaws. A nonprofit has two tasks: to serve its cause or constituents and to raise money. A for-profit’s only task is to satisfy its stakeholders. The by-product of doing this well is making money.
A nonprofit doesn’t get to the ‘good’ fast enough. There’s a lot of preparation to get started on fighting the cause or delivering services. Nonprofits paid our firm to tell them how and where to raise money. They paid us to do the research and write the proposals. But they weren’t off the hook for time. They still needed to spend time with us on their programs, budgets and contacts. They still needed to woo grant-makers, find new ways to grab donors’ attention and write follow-up reports. All this time took them away from their mission and the cause they were fighting.
Think of a guy who decides to take up running. He spends the first weekend researching and shopping for running shoes. The second weekend buying running shorts, the third weekend mapping the perfect route. On the fourth weekend he goes (but only if it doesn’t rain). That’s how I see the nonprofit survival model.
Compare this to the guy who decides to take up running. He grabs the closest pair of shorts that he probably slept in, laces up the shoes he has lying around and walks out his front door. He’ll move his legs like runners do and figure the rest out from there. That’s how I see for-profit start-ups. Able to get to the mission quickly and willing to course correct along the way.
There is more than meets the eye in what we know about how women buy (poetry not intended). And, fortunately for us, that means we’ve got a lot of information at the ready to help better serve the sustainably minded consumer.