Thursday, June 29, 2006

Big Three IS Planning on Boosting Production of Non-Gasoline Vehicles & What Japan Announced

Yesterday, I went off about how I felt that the Big Three automakers in the U.S. can blame much of their struggles on their inability to see the trend toward alternative fueled vehicles like Toyota and Honda has. I was glad, then, to read that after meeting last month, the Chief Executives of Ford, General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler have decided to double the production of vehicles that can run on renewable fuels by 2010.

While the doubling takes the number to about 2 million vehicles, I still feel that there is a long way to go. But it's a start.

Interesting, though, that this was announced the same day - Japan will require all vehicles on the road to be able run on an ethanol mix by 2030. I definitely have my concerns about ethanol, especially ethanol made in the U.S. due to the power of the corn lobby, but I think this can be a great move.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

BP to Fund Solar Project at Caltech

According to the LA Times, BP has made a $5 million pledge to Caltech (free registration required) to test using tiny silicon rods (nanorods) as a way to make solar cells absorb sunlight more efficiently. Caltech scientist Nathan Lewis, who, along with Harry Atwater, will lead the experiments said nanotechnology could provide, "new and unique ways to make solar cell materials that are cheaper, yet could perform nearly as well as conventional materials."

Big Three's Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to Environmental Defense, the cars and light trucks on the road from General Motors, Daimler Chrysler and Ford emitted 230 million tons of greenhouse gases. This totalled approximately three-fourths of all carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks in 2004. What the report from Reuters does not say, however, is what percentage of cars and light trucks on the road were from the Big Three.

What's interesting to me about the report is that these greenhouse gas emissions represent an amount that exceeds, by far, the emissions from the largest U.S. electric utility.

In fairness to the Big Three, I want to mention again that the three-fourths figure doesn't mean much without knowing if that is in line with the total percentage of all cars and light trucks on the road. What the report does show is that there seems to be a focus on electric utilities in terms of being the largest polluters. Of course, they are huge emitters of greenhouse gases and deserve that attention and scrutiny. But more people need to realize the impact that cars make to global warming.

The Big Three doesn't have the same focus on alternative ways to produce their cars that Toyota and Honda seem to have. While hybrids represent a small portion of sales for Toyota and Honda, these sales are rising. There is no doubt that hybrid sales have spurred the performance for Toyota and Honda. And though hybrids won't be the final answer to the problem, I don't understand why the Big Three doesn't invest more in hybrids (for small vehicles over SUVs) or other alternative technologies (or at least in producing gas-only engines that get more miles per gallon). The Big Three has been struggling for awhile now and yesterday GM announced big discounts due to their continued struggles. Just another example showing that social responsibility does pay.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Labor Lawsuit Against Starbucks in California

A federal lawsuit has been filed in California alleging that Starbucks didn't pay some supervisors to work overtime and forced some to work through meal breaks. The lawsuit covers managers who worked in Starbucks in California for the last four years.

According to the article, this lawsuit comes after another one in which Starbucks had wrongly classified managers as being exempt from overtime. As a result, managers were paid an hourly wage instead of a salary.

Starbucks has responded that they feel they have complied with all applicable state and federal laws.

Berkshire's Munger Calls For CEOs to Take Less

Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., Charles Munger feels that CEOs should take less in salary and bonuses because the levels seen now lead to dangerous levels of envy throughout the world. Munger, who made a total of $100,000 last year from Berkshire Hathaway, stated that "(CEOs) have a duty to the larger civilization to dampen some of this envy and resentment by behaving way more noble than other people and more generous. People should take way less than they are worth when they are favored by life."

The article, citing the Economic Policy Institute, states that the average worker in the U.S. made $42,000 while the average CEO made almost $11 million.

U.S. Natural Products Sales up Almost 10% in 2005

Last year, sales of natural products in the U.S. grew 9.3%. This includes a 15.7% growth in organic food.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Three for Monday - Buffett, MIT, and Dell

In case you haven't already seen this story plastered everywhere, Warren Buffett is giving the majority of his wealth to the Gates Foundation. On tonight's Charlie Rose Show on PBS, Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates will discuss the contribution.

The rest of Buffett's donation will go to various other charities. According to the New York Times, an additional $6 billion will be divided among "the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which is named after Mr. Buffett's wife and emphasizes family planning, abortion rights and anti-nuclear proliferation issues; the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which is named after and run by one of Mr. Buffett's two sons and focuses on environmental and conservation issues; the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, which is named after and run by Mr. Buffett's daughter and supports educational opportunities for low-income children; and the NoVo Foundation, which is run by Mr. Buffett's other son, Peter Buffett, and has focused on education and human rights."
According to this article, researchers at MIT feel they've discovered something that will both make traditional batteries obsolete and also make an all-electric car practical. It's a capacitor that can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times and the recharging process only takes about the time it takes to fill a car's gas tank.
Michael Dell is holding a teleconference this Wednesday (June 28) to announce a new recycling policy for Dell products that is supposed to "raise the bar" for the industry. Dell will also discuss the company's Producer Responsibility policy during the teleconference.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Neutralizing Carbon Footprints

I went to see "An Inconvenient Truth" last night with my wife. Though I felt relatively educated on the topic of global warming prior to seeing the documentary, I learned a great deal. I had seen Gore speak at Stanford University back in November 2005 as part of the Net Impact conference, where he touched on a number of the points made in the film, but this was much more in depth than what I heard him say then.

Though my wife and I try to live by some of the suggestions made in the film - we own a hybrid car and walk when we can, among other things - we definitely can do a lot better. The documentary inspired us to sign up for a few blocks of renewable energy through NC GreenPower. Each block will help to reduce our annual carbon footprint by adding alternative energy into the N.C. power system and, thus, reducing:
  • 2497 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • 7 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • 3 pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • 972 pounds of coal required to produce the same energy

It's about time that we did this. It was hypocritical of me not to do it as I've known about NC GreenPower and others like it for quite some time. In fact, I had made a plea to a former employer to make a business contribution. When it wasn't working, I was able to speak directly with our CEO but he, too, rejected my request. My failure to convince them to make this contribution was disappointing for a number of reasons. Their first reason for rejecting the idea was that there was no idea that they could afford to pay for all of their current (at the time) energy needs with alternative energies. I had apparently not explained the program well to them, so I did a better job answering this concern by explaining that a business contribution could be as little as $2500 a year. Not only that, they'd get the recognition that many businesses often look for when 'doing the right thing' - NC GreenPower publishes the logo of every business who contributes to the program every place that they advertise.

When that wasn't good enough, the excuse - which I cannot swear to, but think this came directly from the mouth of the CEO, a CEO of the largest health insurer in the state of North Carolina - was that the company only contributes to causes that deal directly with health issues. I was prepared and told him that childhood asthma is big problem in North Carolina and that by putting more renewable energy in the power supply of North Carolina, there would be less pollution in the state to cause asthma, He still balked.

Anyway, I tried but failed. But, worse, I hadn't even made the contribution myself. Viewing "An Inconvenient Truth" helped to convince my wife and me that we needed to do it finally.

I highly recommend that everyone see the film. I hope among the many people it will inspire to make some easy changes to their lives, it will inspire business leaders and future business leaders who will try to bring some of the lessons learned to their business and try to not only change their work environment, but also the sourcing of the products that makes their business.

My only complaint about the documentary involves politics. I realize that it's based on a presentation that Gore has given worldwide for a number of years now. Had someone been trained to give the same presentation and been the one on camera, it would be even more powerful in my opinion. It is not meaning to be a slight to Gore, who I feel does a wonderful job presenting and explaining the facts. It's just that his presence (and some shots he takes on the current and past two Republican administrations) brings politics into the film. Of course, it was done to make a fair point, but it also serves to give an excuse to many who do not like Gore's politics to not see the film. As he does say a number of times in the film, global warming is not a political issue, it is a moral issue. It truly is.

Today's NY Times speaks more about the issue of reducing your personal carbon footprint. I spoke about NC Green Power above, but the article gives ideas of other organizations in this country that have similar programs. In some cases, your contribution goes to planting trees to offset your carbon emissions. You can read about it here. Also, some Presidio School of Management students started a similar program called Drive Neutral, which helps you calculate your early carbon emissions based on how much you drive. Contributions go to programs that help to offset those carbon emissions.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Linda McCartney's Vegetarian Food Brand Sold

U.S.-based Hain-Celestial, a natural and organic food and personal care products company bought the Linda McCartney brand from Heinz.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Follow-up to June 21 Post - Big Box Retailers

A follow-up article appeared relating to what I posted about two days ago - the survey (a limited survey) that said there was overwhelming support to place minimum wage requirements on "big box" retailers if they wanted to open in the Chicago area. Mayor Daley has spoken up and has said that he feels such restrictions would send a negative message to businesses that Chicago isn't open for business.

I wrote about the minimum wage issue in that previous post - Congress defeated a minimum wage increase as happens every year - but this is interesting. The minimum wage desired in Chicago would exceed what the mandated minimum wage currently is. It's an interesting debate, no doubt.

What I would like for someone to explain to me is that if the main (or one of the main) argument against a minimum wage increase - and, again, I realize the Chicago issue is beyond just a minimum wage increase - is that it would hurt the very people it is intended to help because many would lose jobs or not get jobs because jobs simply are not created, then that argument states that it should NEVER be increased. Because if it is ever increased, then it would be hurting business. So I'd like for someone who agrees with the notion that raising the minimum wage hurts business to tell me at what point it can be acceptable to raise it. I have a feeling the answer will be explained dealing with free markets, but in any case, I'd like to hear that response somewhere. I certainly would like to learn all sides of this debate.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Coffee Buyer to Pay More than Fair Trade Prices

Geoff Watts, the coffee buyer for Intelligentsia Coffee is featured in this article. He has told the coffee growers from whom he buys coffee that they can expect to be a hefty premium above normal Fair Trade prices for their coffee - the numbers in the article range from 50% - 200% above Fair Trade prices. Intelligentsia does this by dealing directly with the farmers and limits the role of the coffee cooperatives in the deals.

While this business model has been questioned in the past, Intelligentsia is now a profitable company.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Chicago Residents Want "Big Box" Retailers To Pay Better

In a recent poll of Chicago residents, they were overwhelming in favor of requiring wage and benefit standards for "big box" retailers such as Wal-Mart. This was so even if such standards would cost the city jobs due to the retailers opting not to open. Based on the poll, 84% wanted retailers with at least 75,000 square feet of space to pay at least $10/hour and $3/hour in benefits.

It seems that any time a minimum wage increase is spoken about, there is an outcry that it would hurt businesses. Not that the retailers in Chicago are only paying minimum wage, because I don't know either way, but according to the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the buying power of the minimum wage is at a 51 year old low. I don't know whether raising the minimum wage or measures such as the one in Chicago will hurt businesses or not. What I do know is that there is something wrong with our society if we cannot pay someone more than $10,712/year. It doesn't seem that is much of a living wage in any part of this country.

I don't think it would be hard for someone to convince me that forcing a company to pay more for something will cause them to have to make that up in some other way, but it would take a lot more to convince me that it's still not the right thing to do. Sure, some companies would not be able to go into business and, therefore, would not be producing jobs at all, but salaries are just one factor. And they are too important of a factor. There are other cost issues that companies have to deal with - a failed health insurance industry that makes it almost impossible for companies to be able to cover their employees as well as rising costs in many products and in rent - so singling out salaries that will make the lives of American families better off is just not right. Notice who the outcry is from - usually businesses and members of Congress whose campaigns (and personal pockets) are compensated much more by lobbyists than what is paid to workers receiving the minimum wage.

More About Hybrids

In today's New York Times, this article talks about how some tax credits for hybrids will be ending soon and how President Bush and some members of Congress would like to extend the credits. The article also mentions how the Big Three have sold fewer than 15,000 hybrids combined due to their focus on making hybrids out of more powerful, less efficient cars instead of concentrating on cars where hybrid technology will make a bigger difference. It's like this from, which says that Honda is considering cutting the production of the Accord Hybrid. It seems that since the Accord Hybrid is a six-cylinder car, it doesn't maximize fuel efficiency as much as a four-cylinder car does, like the Civic.

What I really wanted to note is something that bothers me somewhat about most of the articles about hybrids that I read. They all seem to focus on almost exclusively on their cost. In other words, they spend a lot of time quoting figures about how long it will take for hybrid owners to make up the extra money they put out to buy one instead of buying the 'regular' version of a car, such as the Civic. Of course, it is understandable why they talk about this. In fact, I think they should. What I don't like is that they never seem to acknowledge that some people do buy them because it is a more environmentally-friendly vehicle and would rather pay a premium for something that is more responsible. While that group may be much smaller, failing to mention this makes the environmental issue important only when gas prices are considered too high by consumers - which is very cyclical.

I bought my Honda Civic Hybrid almost exactly four years ago - at the end of June 2003. I do not recall what gas prices were back then, but that is not why I wanted to buy the car. I was living in the D.C. area where the traffic is, frankly, terrible. I had come from the NY City area and hadn't owned a car for a couple of years. My job in the D.C. area forced me to brave the Beltway in stop-and-go traffic for 12 miles each way everyday. I had liked life without a car and lamented the fact that my new job was not near a Metro stop or a convenient from a bus line.

So though there was a premium for my new car, knowing its environmental benefits made that extra cost worth it to me. At the time, I was lucky enough to be able to deal with the premium, but also lucky to get some amount of a tax credit. And I was also fortunate that Maryland is a progressive state and waived the sales tax on the car because it was a hybrid.

Again, though, I do understand that the premium has to be spoken about and is a concern for many. That is exactly why these credits need to be extended if not increased. While I do not think hybrids are the long-term answer - nothing using any amount of gasoline probably should be - the credits should help them reach a level of sales where the price premium is decreased considerably on their own or able to be eliminated altogether.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

FlexCar Receives Millions of Investment

FlexCar, a car sharing service that operates in seven metropolitan areas and has approximately 30,000 members, has received millions of investment money from Revolution Living, a company started by AOL co-founder Steve Case.

The money is expected to be used to expand FlexCar's fleet by 150 cars in the next 50 days and also help with their marketing strategy.

Bank of NY Creates Voluntary CO2 Registry

The Bank of New York has created a voluntary CO2 reduction market. This allows companies to purchase carbon emission credits to offset their own carbon emissions or to provide offset products and services to their customers.

This type of trading is an offshoot of the Kyoto Protocol, but in this case the trading is strictly voluntary. The Bank of NY's program will be validated by the third parties that validate the programs in the Kyoto Protocol.

You can read more about this program here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

More Shorebank News

A previous post mentioned how ShoreBank is growing due to increasing their portfolio in conservation lending.

This article is also about ShoreBank growing - only this time it is due to an acquisition. The acquisition of Greater Chicago Bank will help ShoreBank expand oerations in Chicago as well as the Hispanic and Asian markets.

BP CEO Says Oil Prices Will Drop

One of the things that BP CEO Lord Browne said was a result of the recent high oil prices was an increased focus on alternative energy. In this article, Browne sees oil prices falling pretty dramatically. Will this take the attention away from alternative energy?

GM Plant Achieves "Landfill Free" Status

General Motors' plant in Tonowanda, NY has achieved landfill free status by reducing waste, recycling and converting the waste they produce into energy. About 95% of the waste the plant generates is recycled. About 5% of the waste is converted to energy.

The Tonowanda plant, the largest engine manufacturing plant in the world, is the second GM plant to achieve landfill free status. The first was their Flint, MI plant in March 2005.

According to the article, "In North America, GM facilities have reduced non-recycled waste by over 67% since 1997 by either eliminating the generation of waste or increasing recycling -- currently recycling nearly 88% of the waste they generate. Globally, the recycling rate for GM facilities is approximately 86%, according to company estimates. GM is the only auto manufacturer to date to be inducted into the U.S. EPA WasteWise Hall of Fame."

Thank you to Ecotalkblog for pointing me to that story.

Seventh Generation CEO Answers Grist Readers and Editors Questions

Seventh Generation CEO Jeffrey Hollender fielded questions from Grist Magazine readers. You can read that here. Hollender touches on things such as the affordability of their products, Seventh Generation's packaging, their new LEED-certified offices, and making an environmentally responsible business case to a company's management.

When he answered Grist's editors questions, he spoke about his current projects, how he's converting an old car to biodiesel, and his best and worst professional moments. He also has a great answer about the true cost of a couple of purchases.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Whole Foods Stops Sale of Live Lobsters & Soft Shell Crabs

Due to the inhumane treatment of the live lobsters and soft shell crabs in their procurement process, Whole Foods will stop selling live lobsters and soft shell crabs.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ethics To Be Integrated Into More Core Business Classes?

This article states that due to recent scandals at Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom, among others, are causing increased efforts to integrate ethics into core business school courses, such as finance, accounting, and marketing.

Warner Bros. Launches Environmental Website

It was launched last month, but I just learned of the Warner Bros Environmental Initiatives website which highlights the creative approach they are taking in these environmental initiatives.

More Fallout from HealthSouth Accounting Fraud

He was the executive to receive a prison sentence, but yesterday Hannibal Crumpler, a former vice president and division controller, was sentenced to 8 years in a federal prison. (NY Times - free registration required).

Apple Looking Into iPod Plant's Labor Conditions

Due to claims of poor working conditions at a Chinese iPod factory, Apple is investigating the plant.

The report, first made in UK newspaper, the Mail, this past Sunday, includes charges that workers are paid as little as $50 a month to work 15 hour shifts making iPods.

Last November, Apple adopted a code of conduct for its suppliers which they say is modeled after The Electronic Industry Code of Conduct and other labor standards.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

AT&T To Provide Low-Income Families With Internet

The AT&T AllAccess program aims to get 50,000 low-income families free internet. The program is in conjunction with a nonprofit called the One Economy Corporation and other grants and contributions.

The program will also provide technology training to those it serves.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

BP's Large BioFuels Investment

In an exception to most of the rest of the oil companies, BP seems to stand alone. Today, they are expected to announce a $500 million investment in biofuels research (NY Times - requires free registration) over the next 10 years.

Last year, BP announced an $8 billion committment, to develop a new business called BP Alternative energy.

These expenditures represent a very small percentage of BP's total yearly capital spending program, it does illustrate some basic financial knowledge put in practice, if not outright foresight - diversification is important. And, again, if others would follow BP's lead, they'd find a market ready for them that can take them far beyond where their current business model will take them.

Supplying a Green Demand

In a good example of someone showing vision, this article tells of what Richard Feldman is doing (L.A. Times - requires free registration) to keep his business alive. Feldman used to import plastic containers. He saw the shift the market was taking and now imports biodegradable plates and bowls, which are made from 90% sugar-cane pulp and 10% paper. He's also making containers made from a corn-based resin.

This is not an example of the "tree-hugger" that those who do not believe in environmental responsibility would like to label those who show care toward the environment. He is someone who saw the future of his business as something that would be less successful than if he followed the growing market toward products that are closer to the "Cradle to Cradle" concepts that William McDonough writes about.

Again, as I've said before in this blog, this is the type of thinking that more business people need to do. It's why it is so important that more and more people are educated about what's possible out there and educated about what forward-thinkers are already doing in many cases.

People need to see beyond today and, in some cases, beyond their time at a company, to make the tough decisions that will ultimately sustain their business (and make it successful in the future). A great example, again, is the oil companies. ExxonMobil and the others can still keep their core business as it is, but strong leadership of such companies - leadership that looks a few years beyond their respective stints at the company - would recognize that investment in R&D of alternative, less polluting energy, is ultimately what will keep their company successful for generations to come (not to mention a public service for the good of all).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

4th Annual Cause Marketing Halo Awards

The 4th Annual Cause Marketing Halo Awards, given by the Cause Marketing Forum were given today. Award winners included Iams, for best environmental/wildlife campaign; KitchenAid, for best health campaign; Jones New York, for best social service/education campaign and best national/local integration; Energizer, for best joint promotion; Aldo Group, for best print creative for the YouthAIDS campaign; Gibson Guitar, for the best transactional campaign; and Hyundai, for best cause marketing event.

For a definition of cause marketing, go here.

Chicago's ShoreBank Growing

ShoreBank is a bank that is focused on community development through such things as a committment to revitalizing residential and commercial real estate; helping small and minority-owned businesses grow; supporting faith-based and other non-profit organizations' expansion; and assisting individual investors of all income levels build their own wealth.

This article reports that ShoreBank is growing a great deal due to an increasing portfolio in conservation lending - loans whose purpose is the "promotion of efficient energy use and alternative forms of energy, efficient use of materials and resources, and protection and revitalization of land and water." Last year, these loans accounted for 36% of ShoreBanks total loan originations.

Forest Industry Leaders to Tackle Sustainability

CEOs and presidents from 59 member companies of the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) have signed an agreement to improve their sustainability by dealing with the following issues:
  • Promoting sustainable forest management worldwide

  • Combating illegal logging

  • Fiber use and recovery

  • Environmental management

  • Creating solutions to global climate change and energy supply objectives

  • Investing in workers and communities

The article, from, can be seen here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bush Treasury Sec. Appointee Seen As Too Liberal

Just a quick follow-up to a previous post concerning President Bush's appointment of Henry Paulson as the new Treasury Secretary...some conservative groups and commentators oppose the appointment because they see Paulson's environmental views as "too liberal".

Wal-Mart to Offer Fair Trade Coffee???

It appears that Wal-Mart is already purchasing some fair trade coffee and paying fair trade prices for some Sam's Clubs stores. This article, apparently on the front page of today's Washington Post, says that Wal-Mart is considering offering the coffee, from a certain Brazilian coffee co-op, in a number of their stores.

For the Sam's Club stores, they were able to replace their previous fair trade offering because they were able to sell it at a lower price. For Wal-Mart, however, this will mean they will be selling more expensive coffee. According to the article, "fair-trade beans are sold at a minimum of $1.26 per pound, compared with the world average last month of 90 cents."

Wal-Mart is trying hard to help their image. We'll see if they follow through and offer this fair trade coffee in their stores and help the members of the Brazilian co-op.

UAW Calls Generous Health Benefits "Unsustainable"

Though United Auto Works union President Ron Gettelfinger cites "bad management decision" from the executives of the Big Three automakers as a major reason for declining sales, he states that the relatively generous health care benefits" unionized autoworkers receive cannot be maintained as a result.

Prius Sales Surpass 500,000

The growth rate for the sales of the Prius will grow over 16% this year. Though the growth rate is slowing, it's due to Toyota's inability to keep up with demand and not a decreased interest in the Prius.

The article says that the only other "mainstream" vehicle that has a similar growth rate is the Mini Cooper.

The article also points out that due to the 2nd battery hybrids require, that takes away some of the environmental benefits of hybrids.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Japan To Help Working Mothers?

The Japanese government recently released a report stating that Japanese companies should help mothers stay in the workforce due to the fact that companies demand long hours that discourage women to have both a career and children.

It appears to me that it's not so easy to juggle both a career and children in the U.S. either. Let's keep an eye on what the Japanese actually do about the situation.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

China to Emphasize Environmental Protection with Economic Growth

The title of this post says it all, but here's more about it. Let's hope they follow-through.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Colleges Saving Money by "Going Green"

This article gives a number examples of colleges throughout the U.S. and Canada that are attempting to save money by taking some environmentally responsible steps. For example, the article speaks of a school that are growing pesticide-free to supply the campus cafeteria; another that fuels campus cars with used cafeteria oil; and others that have new, more energy-efficient co-generation plants, wind turbines and solar fields and another that composts.

The article focuses primarily on two Northfield, Minnesota colleges - Carleton College and St. Olaf College - that are having a great, friendly rivalry about which school is doing better. The article also states that, "This month, faculty from Carleton and St. Olaf will hold a joint workshop to learn how to incorporate sustainability ideas into their classrooms."

The Ethics Audit 2006 from the Independent Online

This is an interesting article from the Independent Online. It mentions how big brands are often considered enemies of the environment, so they did a study. It lists a number of these big brands such as Coca Cola, The Gap, Nike, and McDonald's. The survey took 42 total into account.

When viewing the survey results, please note that the list to the right of the article lists the brands in reverse order (despite being ordered 1-42) of ethics, so the list goes from least ethical to most ethical in the survey of 1,300 adults.

Fetzer Vineyard's Solar Project

Fetzer Vineyards has announced a solar project that will supply 80% of the bottling plants needs. The project is in collaboration with 3 Phases Energy, LLC and MMA Renewable Ventures MMA.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Emissions Broker, Continued

I wanted to write a follow-up to my earlier post today about the emissions broker. While I haven't had the opportunity, yet, to review it further, I wanted to mention the Chicago Climate Exchange. It's an interesting program that includes such members as the Ford Motor Company, Motorola, IBM, Bayer Corporation, and Amtrak. This is information from their website explaining what they are:

The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) is North America’s only, and the world’s first, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission registry, reduction and trading system for all six greenhouse gases (GHGs). CCX is a self-regulatory, rules based exchange designed and governed by CCX Members. Members make a voluntary but legally binding commitment to reduce GHG emissions. By the end of Phase I (December, 2006) all Members will have reduced direct emissions 4% below a baseline period of 1998-2001.Phase II, which extends the CCX reduction program through 2010, will require all Members to reduce GHG emissions 6% below baseline.

The goals of CCX are:

  • To facilitate the transaction of greenhouse gas emissions allowance trading with price transparency, design excellence and environmental integrity

  • To build the skills and institutions needed to cost-effectively manage greenhouse gas emissions

  • To facilitate capacity-building in both public and private sector to facilitate greenhouse gas mitigation

  • To strengthen the intellectual framework required for cost effective and valid greenhouse gas reduction

  • To help inform the public debate on managing the risk of global climate change

Again, I need to better familiarize myself with what they do, but it does seem to be something that, with the help of businesses among other entities, can help reduce greenhouse gases.

Wendy's Changing to Healthier Cooking Oil

At a cost that equals what they pay now, Wendy's will switch to a cooking oil that will significantly reduce trans fats in their meals.

Emissions Broker

This site,, is a site I just came across. It's a company founded by Cantor Fitzgerald in association with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. I mentioned in my first post of this blog that one of the reasons I am doing this is to learn - my understanding of what CO2e does proves how much I need to learn. I need to look at this site more before I can give a better description. If anyone can give a better, more thorough explanation, I'd appreciate it. But, in short, they seem to be an emissions broker that is involved in sourcing and brokering carbon credit projects for businesses.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

One Example of Why It Pays to Be Responsible - Guidant

If this turns out to be true, it shows an example of how doing the right thing was not done. It saved money then, but it is likely to be more costly once the investigation is over.

Guidant apparently was going to notify doctors of defects with their heart devices, but didn't do so. Apparently, seven patients died as a result of using the defective devices.

I haven't even mentioned Enron as THE example of why irresponsibility and lack of ethics is bad for business (and personal lives).

Corporate Rebates and Perks for Hybrids

I watched a segment on CNN's "American Morning" this morning. Andy Serwer said, in his "Minding Your Business" segment, that Bank of America is offering several thousand employees in Boston, Los Angeles, and Charlotte $3000 rebates for purchasing hybrid vehicles.

The segment also stated that Bank of America joins other large companies, such as Timberland, Google, and Hyperion which offer similar incentives.

These incentives, coupled with the tax incentives now out there, can make the purchase of hybrids for employees of those companies well worth it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lawsuits Against Corporations Due To Global Warming

This article tells of a lawsuit by eight states, New York City and three land trusts against certain corporations holding them responsible for global warming in their respective areas.

While I do not think such a lawsuit will be successful in terms of any damages awarded, I hope that many people will become aware of it. Sure, it can be easily dismissed as a frivilous lawsuit by those who want to give that impression; however, it brings up a point I spoke about previously. That is that as it stands for the most part, companies can do as they please in terms of pollution (yes, I realize there are some regulations out there curbing some pollution) and not have to pay anything. But there is a major cost to the pollution. Even global-warming deniers should acknowledge the health problems that can come about due to pollution such as higher incidences of asthma in children. This adds a cost and decreases quality of life for those affected and their families. Those affected have a cost as a result and if they cannot pay for their medical care, we all bear the burden of that cost as well.

So while many may laugh off this lawsuit, I strongly feel that it will be successful if more and more people can see, as a result of the lawsuit, that the true cost of goods are often not considered when a price is determined. These corporations, working in our free market, actually pass much of the cost to the consumer and those who do not consume their products.

Energy-Hungry China Warms to Solar Water Heaters

I used to work with an independent consultant who also was a part of a company that finances development in China. He's travel there at least once-a-month and tell me about all of the development going on. I asked him about what environmental steps they are taking, if any. I asked because as China becomes more and more developed and industrialized, it just is going to be that much worse for the environment, not to mention the increased rate that the depletion of oil will occur. I wondered whether China would think of such issues as each new construction project offers the chance to start being energy efficient and more environmentally responsible in other areas. It was something I thought of with great concern.

My coworkers answer didn't allay my fears too much, but he seemed to say that there are people in China who do think about such issues and they do try to incorporate some when possible.

This article talks about how last year China had 80% of the world market for solar water heaters due to high demand from house buyers. It also states that the Chinese government has made a pledge that all buildings in major cities will be more energy efficient by 2020.

These things have helped a number of Chinese companies who manufacture solar water heaters. It does mention, however, that a major reason for the popularity of the solar water heaters is the relatively low-tech factory floor, which helps to keep prices around a fifth of what a similar product costs in Europe. Though I suspect the high prices in Europe are due somewhat to the lack of demand at this point.

Study Shows Awareness of Corp. Ethics & Responsibility Increased Since Enron

This study by ISR shows that since the SEC started investigating Enron in 2001, employees have had a better understanding of how ethics affects a company. The study shows that corporate ethics have improved since the study began five years ago.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Couple of Items - Microsoft and Coca Cola


Microsoft launched a technology program called FlexGo that works similarly to a prepaid phone card. The program would allow people in emerging markets, who normally would not have access to computers, to purchase a PC up-front for about half the normal cost and then purchase pre-paid cards to pay off the rest of it.

Microsoft's partners in this endeavor include Lenovo, who will supply the PCs, Intel, AMD, Infineon, and Transmeta.

Coca Cola

98% of all new refrigeration and marketing equipment purchases made by The Coca Cola company will be free of HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons). HFCs are considered global warming pollutants. The new equipment will emit 75% less greenhouse gases.

The Coca Cola company also placed a total of over 2,000 HFC-free refrigerated beverage machines in all 12 stadiums to be used in the upcoming FIFA World Cup.

IKEA's Effort to Cut Use of Plastic Bags in UK

There is no mention of plans to to do the same in the U.S., but this article says that in the UK, IKEA will charge a small fee for plastic bags to discourage their use. It's a part of their attempt to cut plastic bag use by 20 million next year. The program also involves a switch to biodegradable bags.

The linked article states that Ireland has levied a charge for plastic bags since 2002. The program claims to have reduced plastic bag usage by 90%.

Other environmental efforts by IKEA include the use of only non-ozone depleting refrigerants in their rooftop refrigeration units, building most furniture from recyclable, biodegradable, and easily renewable wood sources that are harvested from only non-environmentally sensitive areas (though, I guess you, the customer, is doing the actual building!), and other LEED-like (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) construction.

You can read more about IKEA's "Social and Environmental Responsibility" Report here.

A Few Good Words About a Former Employer

I read recently about the FDA's push to restaurants to cut portion sizes in the name of our country's health. It reminded me of something I heard from a friend at a former employer. The employer, a health plan, recently changed their menu at their annual Family Day event to cut out all fried foods and to try to improve the nutrition content of all items being served.

At last, something that seemed so obvious to me was done! It never made sense to me for a health plan, which should encourage all of their members and certainly their employees to eat well, to serve a menu of predominately fried and fat-laden foods. They should encourage a healthy diet, which on a large scale would cut the number of claims they'd have to pay significantly, and cut down on sick days taken by employees.

My former employer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has made improvements in this area, and I must applaud them for that.

Now, the next thing I'd like to see is for hospitals to remove fast food establishments from their premises. I guess in the hospitals case, such set-ups are good for business - except, again, for making their own staff more unhealthy - but there just is something wrong with fast food restaurants in hospitals in my opinion. Here's one guy who agrees with me.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Xerox and CSR

Xerox president Jim Firestone states that corporate citizenship is not just "nice to do", but it's necessary for successful business in this press release. He says that Xerox has saved money as a result of their sustainable practices as well as attract and retain top employees and strengthen the communities in which Xerox presides.

Here's something about Xerox's new toner plant under construction, which will their most energy-efficient building. The article also mentions Xerox's "Energy Challenge 2012" iniative that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10% from 2002 to 2012.

Green Building of Multi-Home Projects

This article mentions how developers of multi-home projects are finding that building environmentally responsible construction projects are barely more expensive than traditional construction.

The article highlights a demonstration home being built by Cherokee Investment Partners, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based equity firm that "acquires environmentally impaired assets, remediates them, and returns them to productive use."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Google's Summer of Green

The Earth Day Network and Google Maps have joined forces to give video tours of a number of environmentally-friendly activities, restaurants and other events in five U.S. destinations: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and San Francisco.

I can vouch for the recommendation to go to The Candle Cafe while in New York. It's an excellent restaurant that offers exclusively vegetarian items.

Starbucks' African Coffee Celebration

It's interesting for me to see how people stand on Starbucks. I happen to be a big fan of what they do for the most part. Sure, they could improve in a few areas - for example, I, for one, would like to see them encourage in-house (non-paper!) cups for those staying - but overall, I think they do a great job with employee benefits and buying a great deal of fair trade coffee. Here's an article about their current African Coffee Celebration. It discusses C.A.F.E. (Coffee and Farmers Equity Practices) standards a bit, which Starbucks explains as, "coffee-buying guidelines designed to work with coffee farmers to encourage high quality coffee and promote equitable relationships with farmers, workers and communities, as well as protect the environment."

Though this is the first, you may find that I post a lot about the coffee industry - I picked up the coffee habit in the last year and am trying to learn more about the industry. Here's an article by Gregory Dicum, one of the authors of The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop. The short article talks about the coffee industry and sustainability and how the coffee industry gives good lessons in sustainability due to its long history. The industry interests me from a sustainability perspective due to the huge environmental, social and supply chain impacts involved for something that many people enjoy daily, but do not give a second thought to.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

ExxonMobil Shareholders Refuse LGBT Rights for Employees

The title says it all.

ExxonMobil is the only Fortune 50 company not to have a written policy protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.


At the same meeting, CEO Rex W. Tillerson showed why it can be so tough to make headway in slowing down global warming. While he later (or at least later in the article) acknowledged his disbelief that global warming exists, his thoughts concerning the world's use of alternative energy was merely that, "it would be of minor significance without technology advances (quote is from the article, not Tillerson himself).

He later says that alternative energy investments would not be worth it for Exxon. Of course, if a company like ExxonMobil did invest in new technologies, alternative energy would cease to be "of minor significance" and, thus, probably well worth it for his company.

I can't figure out if his disbelief in global warming is due to what he feels are his business interests or if he doesn't see that a company such as his can lead the way into an extrememly profitable undertaking or he just doesn't trust scientists until all of them, including those with a political or religious agenda, come to 100% agreement. Or maybe he's just happy with where ExxonMobil is now, figures it will continue to make huge profits for the time he's their "leader" but, if the time comes that it looks like a promising technology is on the horizon, he can just dig in the company coffers and buy the technology.

Apple Announces Free Computer Take-Back Program

Similar to my earlier post, Apple recently announced a free computer take-back program when consumers by a new Mac. Apple will take care of the shipping and handling fees.

The same announcement states that the fifth-generation iPod, iPod nano and iPod shuffle are all 100 percent compliant with the upcoming restrictions of hazardous substances (RoHS) in California and Europe, which are recognized as the new global standard for environmental regulation.

Wal-Mart to Sell Ethanol???

Apparently, Wal-Mart is considering offering ethanol at its 383 gas stations at Sam's Clubs and Wal-Mart stores. That would be a boon to the ethanol producers, as only 600 or so mostly independent gas stations offer ethanol today.

Recycling Phones for Minutes

Recently, a new advertised-subsidized wireless service, XeroMobile, announced a partnership with The Wireless Alliance to award XeroMobile users airtime in return for their used mobile phones.

For XeroMobile, who hasn't even "gone live" yet, this is a good way to get their name in the news. The Wireless Alliance, however, has been a part of such programs since 2001. Their website states that since then they have reclaimed over 500 tons of wireless equipment from landfills. They say that is "repurposed in a zero waste, environmentally-conscious manner."

If anyone wants to send in their old cell phones, it appears that they will accept individual phones.