Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wal-Mart to Use Preferred Substances in Chemical Intensive Products

Thank you to GreenBiz.com for this article about Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is going to identify a number of chemicals that they do not want included in products they sell at their stores. They will be implementing this with a 3-step process:

"1) Awareness - where participating suppliers will be given a period to identify for Wal-Mart any of their products that currently use one of the priority chemicals as ingredients, (2) Development of an Action Plan - where suppliers communicate to Wal-Mart their plans regarding the Priority Chemicals in their products, and (3) Recognition and Reward - where Wal-Mart acknowledges the suppliers who participate in this effort."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Global Warming Can Shrink Global Economy By 20%

In a report by UK economist Sir Nicholas Stern, he states that if action is not taken on an international level, the negative affects of global warming has the potential to hurt the global economy by 20%. Since ignorance still abounds, the article also makes the point that Tony Blair stated that he felt Stern's analysis showed that the scientific evidence showing global warming exists is "overwhelming" and that the potential consequences are "disastrous".

Stern also feels that 1% of global gross domestic product must be spent to tackle this problem.

Since the links posted often do not last long, I feel it is worth taking the following powerful statements from Blair directly from the article and copying them here:
Mr Blair said the consequences for the planet of inaction were "literally disastrous".

"This disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our lifetime," he said.

"Investment now will pay us back many times in the future, not just environmentally but economically as well."

"For every £1 invested now we can save £5, or possibly more, by acting now.

"We can't wait the five years it took to negotiate Kyoto - we simply don't have the time. We accept we have to go further (than Kyoto)."
Hmmm. Going further than Kyoto. Interesting reading from a country whose leaders feel Kyoto goes much too far. Of course, short term vision or a lack of vision can make people side only with short-term business consequences. But that's a discussion for another day.

The Stern Review also warns that if no action is taken to combat global warming, the following conequences may occur:

  • Floods from rising sea levels could displace up to 100 million people

  • Melting glaciers could cause water shortages for 1 in 6 of the world's population

  • Wildlife will be harmed; at worst up to 40% of species could become extinct

  • Droughts may create tens or even hundreds of millions of "climate refugees"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Just a Thought on Professional Service Firms and Others

This is something I've thought about for some time. An article today in the NY Times about some recent criticism airlines have received for their environmental footprint just reminded me that I want to put this out there.

As a former consultant in an IT consulting firm who once flew 112 segments one year, I wonder why more professional services firms and other industries with a similar business model cannot cut down on some of the face-to-face contact. I understand that relationships and client service mean everything to this industry, but I feel that a substantial decrease can occur without a decrease in client service.

The longest project I was a part of lasted over two years. The size of the team I was on varied, but I would guess it averaged 12 people for that time. There were certainly times that we all needed to be there, but more often than not, I think we could have been just as effective had we done a significant portion of the work at our home office.

If these firms can cut down on face-to-face time, they can make a positive environmental impact as well as save their clients a great deal of money. I don't see why this can't occur in many instances - especially when the savings can be quantified to a client or prospective client. If a reputable firm answered an RFP (request for proposal) suggesting this different model, they can show a prospective client that the new model will show them potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars (savings on airfare, hotel rooms, rental cars, meals, energy at the clients site) in savigs while guaranteeing the same results.

Such an idea would obviously have to be flushed out in significantly more detail. I just feel that this could be a strong move that a company can make that can also help the relationship with their clients.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cleaner Chimney

Here's an interesting article about someone who has developed a liquid chimney. According to the article, "the chimney captures wasted heat, which boosts the efficiency of the system and saves on fuel costs." It also apparently captures greenhouse gases "escaping from coal and natural-gas furnaces and turns it into a harmless material that could be used in construction or even dropped into the ocean to rebuild coral reefs."

There are questions of its commercial viability, but if it can be proven to work, it can be very successful.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Office Depot Launches Catalog of Environmentally Preferable Products

I didn't know that Office Depot offered something like this - apparently they had this 'green book' of environmentally products before, but they have now customized it to be offered in six country-specific versions and six languages (English, French, German, Dutch, Walloon, and Flemish).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hearst Corp Chooses Chairs to Match Their New 'Green' Building

When Hearst Corporation decided to move their headquarters into a newly constructed 'green' building, they decided to buy more environmentally friendly office chairs (NY Times article - may need to register) as well. They decided on the Think chair by Steelcase, which is made of 44% recycled materials.

The article also mentions environmentally friendlier chairs that are offered by Herman Miller and Knoll.

More Support for a "Green" GDP

Two weeks ago, I highlighted an article from the Wall Street Journal that talked about how the leaders of China want to measure their growth more accurately by taking into consideration the pollution that is added to their air and the problems the pollution causes. They've been working on using a "Green" GDP.

I wanted to post this article, which appeared in a Fortune magazine a few weeks ago.My schedule at school has me behind in my issues of Fortune, so you'll have to excuse the fact that it is not the most current issue. The article gives support for a "Green" GDP, this time by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Innovative Way to Get Solar Energy

Below I am going to post an article from the New York Times. For those who read this blog, you probably have noticed that most of the articles I post come from daily newspapers and websites of some of the 'mass media'. When I started this blog, a main reason was that it was a better way for me to share such articles. I had been posting links to articles through a Yahoo Group set up for the members of the NC State chapter of Net Impact, of which I was a co-founder and currently serve as president (only for another two weeks, though). So I don't blog as many out there do. I usually just share what I have come across in the area of sustainable business.

The fact that most of the articles are easily accessible by any of you is the point. I wanted to and want to show that many businesses out there are trying to be more socially and/or environmentally responsible while being fiscally responsible at the same time. The reason for this is that when I've spent time speaking about Net Impact to prospective members or other people, many immediately think that that sustainable business must just be of interest to the 'tree hugger' type. I, therefore, like to have at my disposable as many examples that are going on out there from companies that people are familiar with. Not all the articles fit that description, but the articles usually serve to show that this is not something that we hope to happen in the future. Today, so many companies are looking how to better help the community in which they work and serve and looking how to be less of a burden on the environment. They often find the financial benefits of doing so.
Now, back to why we're here. On the cover of today's New York Times business section is a very interesting article about companies that are getting some of their electricity from photovoltaic cells without the need for the high capital investment (registration may be required) normal for such an array. The reason is companies like Developing Energy Efficient Roof Systems, or Deers. Deers has bought and installed solar cells on the roof of General Motors buildings. GM is charged by Deers a price that is less than what they'd pay by the local electric company and also are able to cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions. Deers gets the steady monthly income.

It's an idea that is gaining ground. The article lists other companies like Alcoa and Staples that are also increasing their use of solar energy in this manner.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Diesel Rebirth in the U.S.?

An article in today's Washington Post talks about how automakers in Detroit, Japan and the U.S. are set to take advantage of what they think will be a rebirth in the popularity of diesel engines in the United States due to the EPA passing new regulations this past Sunday "requiring refiners and fuel importers to reduce the sulfur content in diesel fuel by 97 percent." The new regulations should help to cut down pollution from diesel engines a great deal. And, according to Mark MacLeod, the director of special projects for Environmental Defense, the regulations are 'expected to prevent about 8,000 premature deaths each year, 1.5 million lost work days and 360,000 asthma attacks.'

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Maersk Switches To Cleaner Fuel in CA Ports

I was pointed to this article from a weekly Net Impact newletter I receive. It's a few days old but certainly worth reading.

The article, from the San Francisco Chronicle, is about how Maersk, a Danish shipping firm, is cutting their emission of pollutants at California's ports. As the ships approach the ports, they switch to cleaner burning engines. The company estimates that the switch, which occurs 24 miles from shore, will cut 400 tons of emissions annually.

The article also points out that the California Air Resources Board estimates that 2,400 premature deaths occur each year due to the heavy pollution emitted when goods are brought ashore.

The has cost Maersk to switch engines to comply with a regulation that will be in effect soon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Disney to Link Marketing to Nutrition

Disney announced yesterday that they would not allow Disney characters to be used in marketing junk food. The guidelines will have a set amount of sugar, fat and calories that, if exceeded, will ensure that Disney does market those foods. This will take effect at the end of 2008, which is when their last contract with an unhealthy vendor expires.

Disney also announced that their themepark restaurants no longer default to french fries as a side order; instead, the default will be a healthier choice like a fruit or vegetable side.

This is a great move. With childhood obesity in this country at rates as high as they are, children certainly do not need to be influenced by characters they like to consume unhealthy foods. Hopefully others will follow Disney's lead in this.

Monday, October 16, 2006

So What is Microfinancing?

Since I have posted a couple of times recently about microlending, microcredit, whatever you want to call it, I thought this would be helpful. It's a Q&A, courtesy of BBC News, about what microfinancing is.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

More (Product) Red Information

Motorola, in a partnership with US Cellular is offering a red MOTORAZR V3m headset in support of (Product) Red. For each handset sold the companies will donate $17 to the fund.

Motorola also has a partnership with Sprint for a similar offering.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

(Product) Red Set to Launch in U.S.

Back in August, I wrote about (Product) Red, which was launched by Bono and Bobby Shriver with the purpose of raising a sustainable flow of corporate donations to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. (Product) Red, which was launched in Britain in the Spring, has raised over $12 million for this purpose.

Yesterday, the U.S. launch began with a promotion by Bono and Oprah Winfrey. The Gap released their special (Product) Red clothes and will donate half of the profits to the cause. Apple will be donating $10 from each special edition red iPod they release for this promotion.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nobel Peace Prize Goes To Microcredit Pioneer

The Nobel Peace prize was awarded today to Muhammad Yunus and the bank that he founded, the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. The Grameen Bank aims to give microloans to destitute women to help them build businesses. According to the announcement in the NY Times, "the selection seemed to embody two connected ideas that are gaining ground among development experts: that attacking poverty is essential to peace, and that private enterprise is essential to attacking poverty."

These types of loans, some as low as $20, are considered too risky for most 'regular' banks and the amount too small for them to bother with. But Grameen Bank has loaned about $5.72 billion in these types of loans and has seen a profit in all but three years from when they started in 1983. In fact, last year the showed a $15 million profit.

See the NY Times article for more information about the power of microlending to give people a chance to turn their lives around and help their communities at the same time.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Cleaner Fuels Gets Venture Capital Backing

Amyris Biotechnologies is working on having microbes produce a molecule similar to ethanol. The company has received $20 million in venture capital funding from a group of VCs, including Khosla Ventures, which is headed by Sun Microsystems founder Vinod Khosla; Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; and the venture arm of the private equity firm Texas Pacific Group.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ben & Jerry's Expands Fair Trade Offerings

With the release of Fair Trade Vanilla in scoop shops this month and Fair Trade Chocolate in December, Ben & Jerry's is expanding their fair trade product offerings.

The press release mentions, "Ben & Jerry's is purchasing Fair Trade Certified coffee from a cooperative in Mexico; vanilla from Fair Trade Certified producers in India, with producers in Indonesia and Uganda under consideration; and Fair Trade Certified cocoa from producers in the Dominican Republic."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an article about how Seattle is becoming a hot-spot for microlending. The article briefly defines microlending as "giving $50 to $300 to entrepreneurs in developing countries". It's an interesting article that gives a good example of a woman who received the small funding she needed to start a business and has succeeded. The article also points to the face that in a world where close to 2 billion people live on less than $2 a day, $50 can go a long way in helping someone start a business and turn their life around.

See here for Wikipedia's take on microcredit. It appears microfinancing, microlending and microcredit can be used almost interchangably.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cleaner Carpet Samples

Here's an interesting article about a startup company that is producing environmentally-friendly carpet samples. Think of all of the carpet samples that the many companies produce and ship out each year. Georgia startup, Tricycle, saw that as an opportunity to produce carpet samples that are less harmful. Tricycle's product produces samples that look and feel like the real thing. They do this through their powerful software, which requires a great amount of detailed information to be entered into a database before the samples are produced.

According to the article, producing carpet samples eat into 8% of the typical carpet manufacturer's revenues. Also, "in 2005 manufacturers shipped about 34,000 paper samples, saving 8,611 gallons of oil and 51,665 pounds of carpet from being sent to landfills. That's a small footprint - samples take up less than 10 percent of U.S. landfills - but Tricycle has bigger plans. The company, with revenues of nearly $10 million last year, plans to expand into other design markets, replicating textiles, wallpaper, and wood. Says Bragdon, 37: "Our future is being able to show every available surface.""

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Accounting for True Costs in China

Last Monday in the Wall Street Journal, there was a great article about how China is starting to measure their phenomenal growth by accounting for the true costs pollution has on their growth. Their study, for example, said that in 2004 pollution cost China about $64 million dollars. Official reports state that China grew by 10% that year. This report, released by the State Environmental Protection Administration and the State Statistics Bureau, says that such a cost would cut about 3 percentage points from the growth rate leaving at a still high 7%. This so-called green gross domestic product figure subtracts the estimated cost of pollution from the official GDP number to "give a more realistic picture of the health of the economy."

The article mentions how the green GDP figure is being embraced by top political leaders including President Hu Jintao. It says that the President has made a number of references to "sustainble development" in his speeches this year.

This study comes at a time when China is dealing with the widespread air and water pollution and acid rain as the country grows so rapidly.

"The Chinese Academy on Environmental Planning estimates that more than 400,000 of China's about 1.3 billion people die from air-pollution-related illness each year. About 300 million Chinese lack access to clean drinking water, partly because of pollution from factories, and the central government pledged to spend $125 billion to address the problem." Reading something like that makes me wonder what the argument is against accounting for 'true' costs. It's mind-boggling, really.

Now how about this from the article?! "While GDP looks at the market value of goods and service produced in a country each year, it ignores the fact that a nation might be fueling its expansion by polluting or burning through natural resources in an unsustainable way. In fact, the usual methods of calculating GDP make destroying the environment look good for the economy. If an industry pollutes in the process of manufacturing products, and the government pays to clean up the mess, both activities add to GDP. China's report estimates it would take a one-time direct investment of about $136 billion -- nearly 7% of GDP -- to clean up all the pollution pumped into the nation's air, water and soil in 2004."

Lastly, take a look at this quote from the article: "This is not some flaky, left-wing offshoot of economics," said Robert Stavins, a professor of business and government at Harvard University and director of the school's growing environmental-economics program. "It is rigorous economics applied to some challenging and important social problems in the environmental domain...If the way a country is growing is by living high on the hog, and spending down its natural capital, you would want that to be reflected in the country's national income accounts -- if those accounts are intended to be a long-term measure of welfare."

I applaud the WSJ for printing such an important article and putting on the 2nd page in their first section.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Timberland's "Our Footprint" Label

Thanks to SustainableBusiness.com for the following article: Timberland shoes will start to be packed in boxes that have an "Our Footprint" label, which is supposed to be similar to a food nutrition label. Only if you buy a pair of Timberland shoes or boots, you will three sections:

- Environmental Impact: the average amount of kilowatt hours (kWh) needed to produce a pair of Timberland footwear and how much of Timberland's energy use comes from renewable energy sources.

- Community Impact: the percentage of factories assessed against the company's code of conduct; Timberland's no child labor policies; and the total hours volunteered in the community by Timberland employees

- Manufactured: Lists the name and location of the factory where the product was made.

In addition, the boxes are made of 100% recycled post-consumer waste fiber without the use of chemical glues and are printed with only soy-based ink.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Banks Building Green

Here's an article about how the banking industry is is turning to 'green building' to cut expenses. This had been written about previously (though the article linked from my previous post is no longer active).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Wal-Mart to Add Wage Caps and Increase Part-Timers

Some recent changes at Wal-Mart are casting a negative light on the retailer once again (registration may be required to view article). From the worker perspective, a cap on wages caps their motivation to go above and beyond their normal duties because they won't be rewarded for any more than the person who doesn't excel. Wal-Mart's take on the wage cap is that it will give the workers incentives to go for a higher paying job with more responsibility. My take is that Wal-Mart's point sounds fine, except that doing so will most likely only apply to a low number of workers - how many promotions can be available at any time???

Wal-Mart is also increasing the number of part-time workers they have as a percentage of total workers. They say it is being done to better satisfy customers. The worker perspective, though, is that some are having their hours cut and some are no longer given a set schedule. The latter adversely affects working parents who have to deal with child care issues.

Lastly, the article mentions an internal memo that was leaked some time back from Wal-Mart. Apparently, the memo spoke of trying to get rid of long-time employees in favor of new hires who are younger and healthier. The salaries, for one, are much higher for the experienced workers and, if older, tend to use more of the company's health plan.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dell Launches Free Recycling in the U.S.

School has kept me too busy to post as often as I'd like. That won't change much, except for breaks, until I graduate in May.

Anyway, as a part of their global recycling commitment, Dell has launched free recycling in the U.S. They already are offering this service in Canada and Europe. Please note that the recycling does not require a replacement Dell purchase.

It's interesting, I feel, to think of the additional energy that must be used to recycle the computers considering that everyone will need to ship the computers to a particular location. Too bad there aren't more regionalized centers that can handle this. I don't mean to put down a very positive step, but it just makes me think of the options.