Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Two For Wednesday - Kimberly-Clark and More Richard Branson

Here is an article about criticism Kimberly-Clark has received from environmentalists. The criticisms are:

1. They are not protecting ancient forests as they have promised - they are, instead, using wood from old-growth forests to make tissues and toilet paper.
2. They do not use enough recycled fiber.
3. They are "greenwashing".

Greenpeace has launched a campaign against Kimberly-Clark. Kimberly-Clark refutes the criticisms, of course, but apparently they been found to going against environmentally-responsible practices they claim to use.
Richard Branson is in the news again. Fresh off his pledge to give toward alternative energy research made at the Clinton Global Initiative, Branson has set forth a plan to cut aviation emissions by 25 percent. The steps he suggests will also help save the airlines money as well.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Working Mother's Top 100 Family-Friendly Companies

Here is a link to Working Mother Magazine's 21st report on the most family-friendly companies in the U.S. It's not something I thought about too much until more and more friends starting having children and I started to see how really difficult it is for women (especially) to take any kind of break to start and then care for their families. I certainly feel family-friendly companies would fall under what should be considered "sustainable" or "socially responsible" companies.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Wal-Mart's 'Green' Strategy Highlighted in USA Today

This is worth noting because the article on Wal-Mart's 'green' strategy is the main story in the print edition of today's USA Today. The article gets into some criticism that Wal-Mart is facing due to the fact that many are hesitant to accept that what they are doing is due to any desire to do good for the environment or even, as CEO Scott says, because business-wise their initiatives are the right activities to pursue for Wal-Mart. Instead, many accuse Wal-Mart of "greenwashing" in order to lessen some of the criticisms they continue to receive.

Personally, I believe they see the business cases for the initiatives they are doing above anything else. They may have started some of them with PR in mind, but it probably didn't take long to see the business case for environmental responsibility. Having said that, even if I am wrong, the size and scope of Wal-Mart can bring many positive changes as long as, for example, they don't use their power to loosen certain rules, such as what it means to be organic.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Caterpillar to Help Redevelopment Industry in China

According to the article from GreenBiz, "remanufacturing is a highly sophisticated form of recycling that takes end-of-life components and turns them into like-new products for a fraction of the cost." Caterpillar has signed on to help China develop a remanufacturing industry. Also mentioned in the article, it's part of China's 4R initiative: reduce, reuse, recycle and remanufacture.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Richard Branson to Fight Global Warming

This story has been making headlines today. Richard Branson said today that all of his profits from his travel businesses, which are made up of five airlines and a train company, are going to be invested in developing alternative energy sources. Estimates show the amount that will be donated will be approximately $3 billion over the next ten years.

Branson has already pledged to invest $400 million over the next three years on biofuels. The investment was made to create Virgin Fuels. In this case, his investments will go to companies researching ways to fuel the world without contributing to global warming.

Branson made the latest announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative, a three-day conference currently being held in Manhattan. At the conference, businessman Steve Bing made a committment to contribute $40 million to help push the passage of Proposition 87, which aims to lower California's dependence on petroleum 25% over the next ten years.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

More on the Corporate Equity Index

I came across this article from the San Francisco Chronicle, which goes into detail about the companies that scored high or low in the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equity Index. The article is weighted toward giving more information about Bay Area companies.

A few interesting points - three U.S. companies scored a zero: Meijer, Inc., a grocery store chain, Perot Systems, and Exxon Mobil Corp. The other point is that Ford Motor Company, because they scored a perfect score, meaning they have shown support for gay and lesbian employees, customers and investors, is facing a boycott from a number of conservative Christian organizations because it advertises in gay and lesbian publications. Wells Fargo, another company that received a perfect score, experienced Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian advocacy group, withdraw all of its money from Wells Fargo at the end of last year because Wells Fargo donated money to a gay rights organization.

To see a copy of the Human Rights Campaign report, click here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Coors Receives Perfect Score on Corporate Equality Index

One of the reasons I enjoy putting this blog together is the learning experience I get out of it. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Coors Brewing Company received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's "Corporate Quality Index" which rates how U.S. companies "treat their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, consumers, and investors."

For some past transgressions, I have a negative image in my mind about how Coors treats certain groups of people. It is nice to learn that perhaps my image is outdated.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Featured Company: Numi Tea

Numi Tea is already the second tea company that I have featured on this blog, but Numi's focus is different than Honest Tea, which I featured a few weeks ago. Numi is focused more on selling packaged teas that are intended to be brewed at home. Numi is another product I am featuring due to my high satisfaction with their products.

Numi Tea has a number of sustainable business practices. The beautiful gift boxes that they have - something very unique, as far as I have seen, in the selling of tea - are made from bamboo, a quickly renewable resource. In addition, all of the 'regular' boxes they use to sell their products are made from 100% post-consumer waste. The tea bags, themselves, are made from a biodegradable filter paper. The packing peanuts they use when shipping their product worldwide are 100% biodegradable and even dissolve in water. Their facility uses natural light as much as possible through use of a number of skylights and they say they employ a thorough recycling program in their facility.

Numi Tea also partners with a number of organizations, who receive funding given by Numi from their profits. Here is a link to more details about their many giving programs.

Numi's teas are all certified organic, halal and kosher. They also are committed to fair-traded farmers.

I've written a great deal about many of the wonderful things that Numi does, and I haven't even written about the quality of their product. I have only tasted a number of their bagged teas. I have been impressed with all of them, especially the Gunpowder Green Tea and the Red Mellow Bush - Rooibos. They also offer loose teas, which I'd guess are even better.

You can purchase Numi Tea from their website, or to check for local stores that carry their products, click here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Google's Unique Philanthropy

This article, from the New York Times, is a very interesting look at, the philanthropic arm of Google. What makes it unique and questionable to some is that is a for-profit philanthropy. That allows it "to fund start-up companies, form partnerships with venture capitalists and even lobby Congress."

One of the projects mentioned in the article, which helps to explain what they are hoping to do as a for-profit philanthropy, is the development of "an ultra-fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid car engine that runs on ethanol, electricity and gasoline." was formed at the end of 2004. Prior to the IPO of Google stock, the founders informed potential investors that their intention was to put aside 1% of both stock and profits toward philanthropy.

I'd like to leave this with a quote that is refreshing to read in 'mainstream' media - of course, it comes from a president of a foundation. The quote comes when discussing the fact that unlike most businesses, won't have the pressure to earn profits (though the hope will be that there will be profits to filter back into the philanthropy's coffers), which will help its mission to "tackle poverty, disease and global warming". Peter Hero, president of the Community Foundation of Silicon Valley said, “I think how you count profit is the issue here. is measuring return on cleaner air and quality of life. Their bottom line isn’t just financial. It’s environmental and social.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

BMW to Launch Hydrogen-Powered Luxury Car

BMW has announced that they plan to launch a luxury car that can run on hydrogen power. The emissions of the vehicle will be limited to water. Production will take place in Europe in a limited number and be sold in the U.S. eventually.

The car, which will be called the Hydrogen 7, will be able to run on hydrogen or gasoline.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Featured Company: Dagoba Organic Chocolate Company

It seems the start of a new semester, combined with the first NFL Sunday of the season, caused me to miss my Sunday post. I'd like to write a little about Dagoba. By their name, you can tell that they produce organic chocolate products. Something I learned this summer, if correct, is something to note about organic chocolate. I was told that sellers of organic chocolate in the United States can call their product 'organic' as long as it was produced organically in its country of origin, but it doesn't necessarily mean what you consume is organic. The reason for this is that the U.S. has a law that chocolate shipped from certain areas must be fumigated for insects - so though the cacao may have been produced organically, the fumigation process causes the chocolate to truly be organic. U.S. law, if I was given the correct information, still allows companies to call itself organic.

I asked a reprentative of Dagoba about this early in the summer. I was told, in response, that none of their cacao is fumigated. I believe that if it comes directly from Central or South America, it requires fumigation. Apparently, though Dagoba's cacao originates there, they have it shipped to Europe first and then to the U.S. It's been a number of months since I was given that information, so it may not be accurate. I will be sure to check on it.

Dagoba, besides selling organic chocolate - which is healthier for the producers of the cacao and the consumers and better for the local enviroment - takes pride in what they call "Full Circle Sustainability". This means that they are helping the local communities that produces the cacao they buy; they are helping to preserve and revive heirloom varieties of cacao; and they aim to pay the cacao farmers equitably and buy a portion of their cacao from Fair Trade-certified cooperatives.

Besides doing well, they also produce a good product. They've won awards from Food & Wine and were awarded the "best dark chocolate" designation from the San Francisco Chronicle. They were also given the EPA's "Green Power Leadership Reward".

You can purchase their products at their website or you can Click Here for a list of retailers who carry their product. If you don't see their products on this list, you should check your local stores, anyway. A couple of local stores near me carry their chocolate bars and hot chocolate mix, but their names do not appear on the list.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Good Example of Social Responsibility

I realize I tend to be biased toward the environmental responsibility in most of my posts. This article, from Yahoo! highlights a good example of social entrepreneurship. The article is about a company, Strappity-do-da started by Shelli Styles, who wants to help women of Columbia, her husband's home country, get educated, empowered and, ultimately, work their way out of poverty.

Strappity-do-da sells beaded bra straps that are made to attach to strapless bras. The idea came when Styles asked her sister-in-law in Cali, Columbia to help fix a fashion faux paux - when someone wearing a tank top, for example, has exposed bra straps. The attractive beaded bra straps are meant to be shown.

Styles doesn't reveal exactly how much she pays her workers in Columbia, but she does say it is approximately three times the average artisan wage of $200 per month.

Friday, September 08, 2006

UK Grocer To Offer Compostable Packaging

Sainsbury, a UK grocery store, is going to begin selling over 500 of its own brand-name products in compostable packaging, instead of the plastic in which it is currently packaged. According to Sainsbury, the move will save 3,550 tons of plastic per year.

In addition, Sainsbury is urging the UK government to provide all homes with compost bins.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

SRI Fund Manager Earns Praise from Barron's

From Jack Robinson, lead manager for the Winslow Green Growth Fund was ranked as the best fund manager in the Aggressive Growth category and #9 overall in their rankings of the best equity mutual fund managers. "The Winslow Green Growth Fund is an environmentally responsible, small cap growth mutual fund that invests in clean technology companies and green sectors such as renewable energy and natural foods. Information about the Winslow Green Growth Fund is available at"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

More Environmentally Friendly Travel Options

In yesterday's "Personal Journal" section of the Wall Street Journal, I came across some interesting news concerning more environmentally friendly travel options.

This Friday, Hertz Corp. will be launching its Green Collection, a fleet of cars that attain at least 28 miles per gallon. The article implies the Green Collection will number 35,000 vehicles and that half of them will be SmartWay certified. A SmartWay certification means the cars are given the highest marks from the Environmental Protection Agency for limiting air pollution and greenhouse gases.

Last week, Expedia started their partnership with TerraPass, which allows travelers to pay an extra fee that will help fund the development of renewable energy. According to the Wall Street Journal, "TerraPass calculates the emissions released on a journey, by mileage, and determines how much renewable energy is needed to offset that." Apparently, in less than a week, Expedia customers have offset over a million pounds of carbon dioxide.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Partner in Cleaner Auto Techology Dies

Iris M. Ovshinsky is not a name I was familiar with until I read this article in today's New York Times. Apparently, though, she was prominently featured in the recent documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?". Mrs. Ovshinsky, along with her husband, Sanford R. Ovshinsky, were behind some of the cleaner automotive technologies that are around today. Their alternative energy company, ECD Ovonics, was founded back in the 1960s. One of their major contributions was a battery whose technology is the basis for the batteries used in today's hybrid vehicles.

The Ovshinky's work was also used in the EV1 from General Motors, the car that forms the basis "Who Killed the Electric Car?".

Monday, September 04, 2006

Quick Words on PepsiCo.

Back on August 16th, I posted about how Pepsi promoted Indra Nooyi to CEO, making her only the 11th woman to (currently) lead a Fortune 500 company (and PepsiCo. is the largest U.S. company by market cap to have a woman in charge). I read in this week's Fortune that the culture of Pepsi is very progressive in its hiring practices. According to Fortune, "since 2001, CEO Steve Reinemund has enforced aggressive hiring and promoting rules. Half of all new hires at Pepsi have to be either women or ethnic minorities. (Half!) And managers now earn their bonuses in part by how well they recruit and retain them."

Interesting to note, too, that there have been a number of Pepsi alumna who have become CEOs relatively recently. Brenda Barnes leads Sara Lee - she was at Pepsi for 22 years and Irene Rosenfeld became the CEO of Kraft Foods - she worked at Pepsi's FritoLay snacks division. Also, Dawn Hudson is the president and CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America and ranked number 41 in Fortune's Most Powerful Women list last year.

I try to convey in this blog that being "socially responsible" is also smart for the bottom-line. It's interesting, then, to note that Fortune also mentions that PepsiCo's focus on diversity is "part of Pepsi's game plan to better understand the disparate tastes of new consumers as it continues to expand globally." Pepsi sees the potential benefit for employing this strategy.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Featured Company: PERFECTLY Natural Solutions Inc.

I was never one to obsess over my lawn like so many others. Of course, now I do not have my own lawn! So many people, though, do spend a lot of time and money on the upkeep of their lawns. Since the vast majority of people who do so use lawn care products full of chemicals and other unnatural ingredients, lawn care is a very harmful industry due to chemicals that are inhaled and ingested and due to these chemicals being added to the water supply.

That is why I want to highlight PERFECTLY Natural Solutions Inc. They sell lawn care products that are 100% natural or organic for the commerical and residential markets. There are a number of these companies popping up, but this one caught my attention (after I was notified of its existence by my mother-in-law, gardener extraordinaire, Ilene Sternberg) due to the positive results users apparently see (see the results of tests done at a number of universities here).

I think companies like this, who can make products that do not poison lawns, gardens, (and those tending to them) or the surrounding water supply, will find that the demand for their products continues to grow as more and more consumers realize how harmful traditional products can be.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Two From Fast Company - CFLs and Jeff Skoll

I have to recommend 'Fast Company' magazine for those interested in a "mainstream" business magazine that is not typical. Each month's issue never disappoints. Articles are well-written, yet written for those with a short attention span. This month's issue's focus is on companies that provide outstanding customer service. While the articles dedicated to that topic are worth reading, the two I have posted below are not a part of the issues current focus.

I have heard for years from my father the energy saving benefits of flourescent lightbulbs. Lately, due to more attention being paid to global warming and energy savings, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are being mentioned and recommended more often. It was one of the steps recommended by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth. They were even mentioned in an undergraduate business class that I serve as a TA for the other day.

The article in 'Fast Company' about CFLs titled, "How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change the World? One. And You're Looking At It." details the the amazing energy savings users of CFLs can expect to see. There are currently three levels of CFLs put out by GE, Philips and Sylvania - they are rated to last 8,000, 10,000 or 12,000 hours. This means that, with an average daily usage of four hours, each CFL would last 5.5 years to 8.25 years. Put another way, each CFL would last through the normal use of six, eight or ten traditional incandescent bulbs. The article gives more specifics in terms of what that might mean in terms of savings on ones energy bill, but it also illustrates what the difference in the number of bulbs used means in terms of the number of bulbs thrown out to landfills each year.

The interesting secondary focus of the article is that Wal-Mart has set a goal to have every one of their customers buy one CFL. That means their goal is to sell 100 million bulbs next year. Assuming traditional bulbs last about a year or so, that is 100 million bulbs NOT bought next year and NOT discarded to landfills. Over the next 5.5 to 8.25 years, that is a lot of landfill space (and energy) saved. Wal-Mart has negotiated with GE to lower the price on CFLs. The expanded use of CFLs means that GE's overall lightbulb business would be hurt, but if they weren't working with Wal-Mart, another manufacturer would. Besides, it's consistent with their "Eco-magination" campaign.

One important point not touched on by the article is a negative environmental aspect to CFLs - the fact that each one relies on a touch of mercury to work as it does. When the CFLs are discarded, mercury can be released if they are not disposed of properly.

The other article from this month's 'Fast Company' I want to highlight is "Moving Pictures", an article about Jeffrey Skoll and what he's done since leaving eBay (a company he cofound). He started Participant Productions, the film company that released Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana, and An Inconvenient Truth. Skoll's philanthropic efforts exemplify the social-entrepreneurship movement, "which combines the best of the business and nonprofit worlds."

Participant Productions is the first film company whose mission is to make a social impact through story telling. The article mentiones two more important projects that Participant is a part of - one is the future release of Fast Food Nation, which is based on the book by Eric Schlosser. The other is something that Skoll did in the Middle East in the Spring of 2005. He had Gandhi dubbed into Arabic and held showings in Palestinian refugee camps. His goal is to show a million people in the Arab world the story about a hero of nonviolence.

It's a very interesting article about someone who is truly making a difference by using his business know-how and a great deal of his own resources.

Friday, September 01, 2006

REI Store in Pittsburgh Gets LEED Silver Rating

Due to taking steps such as constructing their new Pittsburgh store with locally manufactured and high recycled content materials; promising to purchase wind power to power the store; using a minimum amount paints, carpet and other coatings that emit chemical fumes; and having a secure area where employees and customers can store their bicycles, REI has received the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver rating for commercial interiors. It's the second certification for an REI store.