Green Business Strategy

How Inefficiency Hurts Your Business for Sustainability

Saturday, February 22, 2014 by

In today's technologically driven world, there are many ways a business can become more efficient. This efficiency translates to greater net income as well as promoting a stronger future for humanity. Let's face it, without focusing on the continuation of humankind, there will be no customers in the future. With all of the innovative developments at our disposal, there are still many people that prefer to perform archaic principles in business that are not conducive to growth. In what ways can this inefficiency hurt your business for sustainability?

1. Wasting Time - One of the most valued commodities of any business is time. By not investing in ways to increase efficiency in the workplace, your business is losing money through wasting the one thing that cannot be recuperated. Instead of the pencil and pen ledger, software exists to allow you to reduce the time spent on record keeping exponentially. This means less paper is used, less time is wasted and more money remains in your bank accounts instead of paying staff to do the work that only requires a few clicks of the mouse.

2. Wasting Electricity - By not examining the electronics that are turned on all the time that don't need to be, you are wasting electricity. Not all computers and monitors need to be left on day-in and day-out. The only real appliance that should be left on is the server. That staff member you may have that is only at his or her desk once per week doesn't need the computer left on. This waste of electricity is damaging to your energy bill as well as hurting the rest of the community by taking energy that could be used elsewhere.

3. Wasting Paper - Did you know that nearly every aspect of any given business can be done digitally? Even receipts for purchases can be emailed instead of printed. Since tablets and smartphones can open most office documents, there is no real reason to have hard copies. Digital documents can be stored and backed up far easier than the printed counterparts - and will take up less physical space. The only real forms that may be needed are those that require personal initials or signatures such as real estate documents or contracts. Memos, correspondences and many other forms of printed material are no longer needed if you have the right alternatives. The financial savings alone from ink and paper should be more than enough incentive to look into efficient alternatives. 

4. Wasting Water - Faucets and toilets within the facility may be wasting water, but what about outside the business? Everyone likes to see greenery surrounding the headquarters or business establishment. However, is the water being put into keeping it green used wisely? There are still organizations out there that have sprinkler systems that operate when it's raining outside. There are products available now that can reduce the amount of time you spend watering the grass and flowers by up to 50-percent. This means you are wasting less water on the ambiance of your business while keeping more money in your bank.

As a business owner, you should be setting an example of professionalism. In a world where so many resources are dwindling rapidly, you need to realize that the business establishment greatly contributes to the loss of these resources. Look around your location and develop a strategy to become more sustainable for the environment and your profitability.

Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.

Transforming the Financial System: Perspectives and Ideas

Monday, December 16, 2013 by

By Don Shaffer, RSF Social Finance

When you are looking for the new or emergent, you usually have to look off-the-grid. In many ways as RSF Social Finance has grown, we too have had to go off-the-grid to develop our unique approach to finance.

In 1984, a school burned down in New Hampshire. RSF organized a group of investors to rebuild it. Since then, we have made over $275 million in direct loans to social enterprises. Our track record has been excellent, with just 2 percent in cumulative loan losses over 29 years, and a 100 percent repayment rate to investors.

The key: bringing investors and borrowers closer together. We have found that if the individual investors who are providing capital and the social entrepreneurs who are borrowing capital can be more visible to each other – if they can understand each others’ needs and intentions, and sustain a personal connection whenever possible – then risk decreases and fulfillment increases.

Participants in a transaction become participants in a relationship. We believe this is nothing less than the antidote to modern finance, and can be applied on a substantial scale. It is the opposite of high frequency trading.

Specifically, four years ago RSF adopted a new approach to loan pricing for our $100 million flagship senior-debt fund. Each quarter, we convene representatives from our staff, our investors, and our borrowers to decide what annualized return rate investors will receive the following quarter, and what interest rate borrowers will pay – a radical form of transparency.

We call it community-based pricing. The response from participants has been overwhelmingly positive – and our interest rate, referred to as RSF Prime, has been very stable. We are now off-the-grid of the global financial interest rate system and no longer directly affected by the vagaries of Wall Street.

But of course the vast majority of all 401(k) programs, pension funds, and endowments are tethered to Wall Street, so it is naïve to believe we are fully off-the-grid.

This circumstance leads to questions many of us in the social finance field think about:

•  What is it going to take for the number of socially and environmentally-focused investors to grow substantially?

•  Can it happen fast enough for those of us who acknowledge the urgency of climate change and natural resource depletion?

•  Are there enough sound investment opportunities for investors who want to go off-the-grid?

•  How will we address the perennial issues of risk, return, and liquidity when there are so few established intermediaries in which to place funds?

•  What are the long-term implications for those of us who anticipate needing funds for retirement and who want to embrace off-the-grid investing?

A Generational Voice

I believe the very definition of wealth will change in my lifetime (I’m 44), where measures like GDP evolve to measures of well-being. These indicators will put spiritual, community, and ecological health at the center of the human experience and pull us toward an economy and supporting financial system that are direct, transparent, and personal, based on long-term relationships.

This article continues on Green Money Journal.

TEDxCopenhagenSalon Green Natives

Saturday, December 7, 2013 by

 

Copenhagen is heralded as being a pioneer in green city planning, and the Capital of Denmark’s goal is to be the world’s first CO2 neutral capital by 2025. Danes are touted as the happiest people on planet earth (Denmark Is Considered The Happiest Country. You'll Never Guess Why, Huffington Post), so is it indeed possible to live climate conscious lives and be happy? I invite you to come and explore this with me...

 

TEDxCOPENHAGENSALON CLIMATE AND SUSTAINABILITY GREEN NATIVES

Date           Dec 9, 2013

Time           2-6pm CET ( Find your Time Zone )

Place          UN City, Copenhagen & livestream

 

LIVESTREAM IN ENGLISH   TedxCopenhagen invites all to get a sneak peek at what the Sustainability and Climate conversation might look like in a TEDxCopenhagen setting this coming Monday.

https://new.livestream.com/tedx/tedxcopenhagensalongreennatives

 

GREEN NATIVES

In the Seventies, they told us to turn off the tap when brushing our teeth, and we began to fear that acid rain would destroynature. In the Eighties we followed the voyages of the original Rainbow Warrior, and learned that spray cans were eating the ozone layer like Pac-Man on speed. In the Nineties we bought pieces of the shrinking Amazon while a metallic forest of windmills arose. And ever since, we have been exposed to corporate shills and quislings, COPs, melting icebergs, rising oceans, and a gathering storm that is casting its shadow ever longer and blacker upon our tomorrow.

We are all Green Natives – people born and raised in a world aware of climate changes and our planet’s limited resources. But will we act on what we know?

Some of us have already begun.

Photo: eperales. Used by permission

TEDxCopenhagen have found an exceptional group of acting Green Natives – starting in their own backyards, these visionaries are creating a better world for all of us, spreading their ideas from their local communities to the global community.

Today, Green Natives are revolutionizing the ways we produce energy and food, and the ways we use natural and urban spaces. We call them green not only because they work for a greener future, but also because they are beginners, pioneers, and pathfinders – they are those who dare to think and act as others have not before them. Each and all of them have strong visions of a better world and a greener future, and a passion to share them with all of us— their fellow Green Natives.

Follow and participate in the dialogue via hashtag #tedxcph on TEDxCopenhagen Conferize profile

 

 

Mother Nature: The Omnipotent

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 by

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

 Doesn't everyone have childhood memories, most of them very personal, about raging thunderstorms, especially when they are happening at night?

Camille Seaman's breathtaking photographs of what happens when the heavens announce, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" take me back to my nursery school years, hunkered down in my little bed, terrified of the banging, flashing and rushing noises that precede a major storm. About then, my parents would be counting down the seconds until they heard the pitter-patter of little feet charging down the hallway. It would be off with the covers, run down the hall, and reach for the doorknob of mom and dad's bedroom. I'd instantly be snuggled between them, no longer fearful but intrigued by Mother Nature's wrath. Not until my dad explained that these noises were actually caused by God practicing his bowling, could I accept the ferociousness of strong winds, earth-shaking claps of thunder and flashes of blindingly bright lightning.

You would have thought I'd get over this phobia by the time I was in grammar school. I thought I had, until I happened to see a summer camp application that mom had filled out. Under the "Special Considerations" section, my mother had written, "Jennifer is afraid of loud thunder and lightning." Gulp. How embarrassing. I was 9 at the time.

Well finally, I can enjoy a good thunderstorm as well as the next guy or girl. Thus I am rather fascinated by the storm chasing hobby, and as a photography collector, in awe of Camille Seaman's work. Looking at the ominous, grand, dominating, overwhelming skies in her stills makes me think a little deeper about Mother Nature. And realize once again, the score will always be, Mother Nature 1, us zero.

Given my frame of reference, I guess it won't surprise you to hear that Seaman's photos make me reflect upon the onslaught of climate-related disasters over the past 5 years, both in the U.S. and abroad... and say to me both on a scientific and spiritual level, that there is an underlying message here. We need to stay in sync with nature, preserve our valuable resources, stop destroying the oceans, lower our carbon footprints, or the frequency and severity of these storms will continue.

I know this is opening a Pandora's box, and I expect that many pure scientists and even a few climatologists out there will comment about how my conclusion is assumptive, unscientific, unproven and biased. These types of weather-related disasters have happened in clumps throughout history and are "cyclical." I have heard it before, but sorry, I'm not buying. Yes my presumptions are on some level anecdotal, but I feel strongly that in not so many years from now, scientific studies will prove the veracity of my position.

This is the real value of Seaman's work. Beyond the physical beauty and technical craftsmanship of her photography, these images stimulate the debate about climate change -- or not?

As always, I encourage you to comment and share your opinions. Thanks!

 

 

Red, White, & Waterless

Monday, July 15, 2013 by

PARK CITY, UTAH -- Over July 4th, I was hiking in the breathtaking mountains of Park City, clipping along at a steady pace at 8,000-plus feet with the Blind Melon song "No Rain" providing musical backup. I came upon a near-empty snowmaking reservoir that is usually full at this time of year. Realizing I never paid much attention to the lyrics since the song's hook is so unique, I suddenly thought, "No rain, indeed." The small puddle in the center of this receptacle won't provide much fuel for snowmaking unless the rains come a lot more frequently, and for long showers.

2013-07-09-driedreservoirparkcity.JPG

Not much fuel for snowmaking in Park City.  

I had a very disturbing thought at that instant: Throughout the Southwestern U.S., for several years ongoing, we continue to suffer through a prolonged drought. In addition to Park City, my recent experiences in Las Vegas and Southern California, which I'll get to shortly, bear this out. No matter what strides we make with solar power, natural gas, electric vehicles, cleaner vehicle emissions and the like, if it just stops raining, we are all in trouble -- and sooner than later. According to a June Yale Environment 360 article by Caroline Fraser, climatologists are studying this phenomenon, mega-forest fires are now the norm, and New Mexico is even worse off than SoCal and Nevada. Fraser writes:

Looking back in time through the tree rings, [climatologist Park] Williams determined that the current Southwest drought, beginning in 2000, is the fifth most severe since AD 1000, set against similarly devastating mega-droughts that have occurred regularly in the region. One struck during the latter 1200s (probably driving people from the region) and another in 1572-1587, a drought that stretched across the continent to Virginia and the Carolinas. Few conifers abundant in the Southwest -- including piñon, ponderosa pine, and Douglas fir -- survived that latter event, despite lifespans approaching 800 years; those species have since regrown. Critics and climate-change deniers can read data like this and say, well, look, the human race is still here, and so are the conifers... these are normal cyclical weather patterns and not reason to think carbon can cause these problems. I for one am not buying this. Our lack of rain since 2000 has become more of a dirty little secret than Aaron Hernandez's alleged habit of handgun discipline. Just drive down Interstate 15 north of San Diego, where glimpses of used-to-be-full Lake Hodges now reveal what looks more like a dry riverbed in some spots than a reservoir that supports the water needs of thousands of families. Or how about a small, admittedly anecdotal but nevertheless devastating, example of the increasing dryness. Look at the photo of the ground at what used to be a small lake adjoining a development called "Skylake Estates" in Fallbrook, also located in North County San Diego. This looks more like the Mojave Desert in the middle of a scorching summer than temperate San Diego. As a friend recently commented, "Pretty soon we will be like the animals in the Serengeti sucking the last ounce of water from mud puddles.

2013-07-09-5858008782_0863c9bf46_bAgriLifeTodayflikr.jpg

As for Las Vegas, our home in still-beautiful but increasingly hot and dry Lake Las Vegas sits at the water's edge... and that edge continues to be lower and lower. Indeed, a number of studies show that Lake Mead, the source of water for the Lake, has lost more than half of its volume over the past three decades.

2013-07-09-LakeMeadwaterlevelswww.globalwarmingforecasts.com.jpg

So what do we do about this? Traditional Native American rain dances perhaps? Cloud seeding? Praying to the rain gods? Importation of glaciers via Airbus? The answer is, there is not a whole lot we can do to make it rain, and the horrific results of this situation are already starting to accumulate. As in thousands and thousands of dead forests and the ramifications thereof in loss of oxygen, food and shelter for animals, this wreaks havoc on the food chain and Mother Nature in general.

Here is what you can do. These things may seem small, but when they are multiplied by millions of people worldwide, the savings of millions of gallons of water per year can and will affect the shortage that we are headed for. I ask you to begin practicing these simple but cost-saving and valuable water conservation tips:

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Simply wet your brush, turn off the tap, brush (your dentist would like you to brush for at least a full minute, preferably longer) and then turn the water back on to rinse. This will save you hundreds of gallons per year, especially if all of your family members join in. Install low-flow showerheads and faucets throughout your home and office.

Research your diet on the web, you can learn about how much water is required to process and deliver certain foods to your table. For example, meat requires unusually high water consumption because of the cattle feeding and drinking prior to slaughter. Eating less meat will cut your indirect water consumption by a lot.

Give up taking baths; short showers only. Admittedly a sacrifice, but a great way to save water. Turn your sprinklers down as low as possible during the hot summer. Yes, your lawn won't look its best, but you will save hundreds or depending upon the size of your yard, thousands of gallons annually. Not to mention, hundreds of dollars worth of water bills.

Thank you all for taking time to think about this critical issue. Talk it up with your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Again, if we all do our part, we can assist Mother Nature in the daunting task ahead. Join me in cutting water consumption and praying to the rain gods!

Read more from Jennifer Schwab on her Inner Green.

Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter: 

GMOs in the News: Washington State Labeling Campaign in Full Swing

Sunday, June 16, 2013 by

The debate over genetically engineered foods continues to heat up in the U.S. Here's a summary of recent headlines. For those attending the 2013 LOHAS Business Conference, a seminar on GMOs and Labeling will be held on Thursday, June 20 featuring Ken Cook of Environmental Working Group, Robyn O'Brien of Allergy Kids, T.J. McIntyre of Boulder Brands, Lennon Bronsema of Yes on 522, and Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural Marketing.

Washington State Yes on 522 Launches GMO Labeling Campaign into Full Gear
With a new website, www.yeson522.com, the recent hiring of professional campaign management staff, and $1.1 million in contributions received, the Yes on 522 campaign to label GMO foods in Washington State is swinging into full gear and is appealing to natural and organic products business leaders to help fund what many experts say is the best opportunity to achieve mandatory GMO labeling in 2013. At a recent press conference, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), co-sponsor of the Boxer-DeFazio federal GMO labeling bill, said it is critically important to support the Washington State initiative to give greater weight to the Washington, DC, federal GMO labeling efforts, given biotech’s strong lobbying presence in the nation’s capitol. In a letter to donors, Yes on 522 finance chair David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s reported that the campaign has launched an ambitious grassroots outreach program called “Kitchen Conversations,” in which advocates can receive a kit containing information to host informal gatherings among voters, and is rolling out a “Dining Out for 522” chef’s fundraising campaign. The campaign scheduled its first stakeholder meeting for May 31 in Seattle. Presence Marketing/Dynamic Presence is among the leading supporters of the Yes on 522 GMO labeling bill. Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural Marketing is helping lead fundraising efforts and outreach to natural and organic products industry leaders. For information and to contribute, visit www.yeson522.com.

Whole Foods Market Endorses Washington State’s Yes on 522 GMO Labeling Bill
Joining a coalition of leading Washington State-based retailers including PCC Natural Markets and Marlene’s Natural Foods Market and Delis, among others, Whole Foods Market on April 25 announced its support for the Yes on 522 (www.yeson522.com) campaign to label genetically engineered, or GMO, foods. In support of Yes on 522, Whole Foods Market launched a grassroots effort, Will Vote for Food (www.willvoteforfood.com) to engage consumers and build support for the ballot initiative. “This issue is about transparency and the consumer’s right to make informed decisions,” said Joe Rogoff, president of Whole Foods Market’s Pacific Northwest region. “We believe that growers using genetically modified seed, and producers using the products grown from those seeds, have an obligation to share that information with their public. And the price paid by the food industry for relabeling is a pittance compared to the distrust that increasingly results from their concealment. We support Yes on 522. At Whole Foods Market, we will vote for food.”

New Leaf Markets Require GMO Labeling; Terra Organica Labeling GMO Products In-Store
Following in the footsteps of Whole Foods Market, Santa Cruz, CA-based natural retailer New Leaf Community Markets announced it would require labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients in its seven stores by 2018. New Leaf was an early retail member of the Non-GMO Project and a strong supporter of California’s Prop 37 2012 GMO labeling measure, which was defeated by a narrow margin. New Leaf co-owner Scott Roseman commended Whole Foods for taking the lead on the labeling issue and said the five-year deadline gives manufacturers time to update packaging or research alternative ingredients. In related news, Stephen Trinkaus, owner of Terra Organica in Bellingham, WA, asked his customers what they wanted in terms of GMO labeling. The choices were: do nothing, label products that contain GMO ingredients, or get rid of the items altogether. Customers overwhelmingly chose labels, so Trinkaus began labeling products in the store that are likely to contain GMO ingredients. “I thought it would be simpler than it is,” Trinkaus told the Seattle Times. He wants customers to know if a manufacturer is working to replace GMO ingredients with non-GMO alternatives – many are after Whole Foods Market’s announcement to require GMO labeling in 2018, he said – and is revamping labels in his store to display more complex information.

Vermont, Maine Advance GMO Labeling Legislation
On May 14, despite concerns over lawsuit threats from the biotech industry, Maine’s House Agriculture Committee passed a GMO labeling measure on an 8-3 vote. The bill, LD 718, offered by Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington) wouldn’t go into full effect until 2018, and only after four of the nine northeastern states approve similar laws. However, they may be one step closer to realizing that goal: on May 10, the Vermont House passed a mandatory GMO labeling bill by an overwhelming 107-37 vote, again, despite massive lobbying efforts by the GMO biotech industry and threats to sue the state. If approved by the state Senate and signed by the governor, the bill, H 112, could make Vermont the first state in the nation to require labeling of genetically modified foods. But the measure likely wouldn’t go into effect for two years, and it would not affect meat, milk or eggs from animals that were fed or treated with genetically engineered substances, including GMO corn and the rBGH cattle hormone. While GMO labeling is not required in the U.S., according to the Center for Food Safety, 64 countries, including China, Russia and all EU nations currently have GMO labeling laws in place.

Monsanto CEO Blames Social Media for “Elitist” Anti-GMO Sentiments
Citizens who are against genetically modified foods or are calling for mandatory labeling of GMO foods are guilty of “elitism” that is fanned by social media, and they fail to consider the needs of the rest of the world, said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant in a May 15 interview with Bloomberg Press. “This place is getting busier and more crowded,” Grant said. “As long as you’ve got money in your back pocket and you drive your station wagon to the supermarket on weekends, then it’s out of sight, out of mind, so far.” The advent of social media helps explain why many people in the U.S. have come to oppose genetically engineered crops in recent years, Grant told Bloomberg. Grant feels that GMOs are the answer to feeding the world’s growing population, while opponents point to increased use of toxic synthetic pesticides associated with GMO agriculture, the fact the farmers can no longer save seed if they are practicing GMO farming, the potential contribution of GMO farming to global climate change, and peer-reviewed studies that warn of risks to human, animal and environmental health. In related news, executives from Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Chemical – among the world’s largest producers of GMO crops and pesticides, and owners of a significant majority of the world’s seed companies – told Reuters that they are developing a national promotional campaign aimed at turning the tide on growing public sentiment against GMO crops. With GMO labeling measures before the federal government and more than 20 states, the biotech firms seek to limit the spread of such initiatives, which the companies say would only confuse consumers and upset the food manufacturing industry, according to Reuters. The biotech industry is still working out details of their marketing campaign, but it will likely have a large social media component, the company executives said.

Supreme Court Rules for Monsanto in Seed Case
Rejecting an Indiana farmer’s argument that his planting of seeds he had bought second-hand did not violate Monsanto’s GMO seed patent, the U.S. Supreme Court on May 12 ruled unanimously that farmers must pay Monsanto each time they plant the company’s genetically engineered soybeans. Farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman asserted that because the company’s herbicide-resistant, Roundup Ready soybeans replicate themselves, he was not violating the company’s patent by planting progeny seeds he had purchased elsewhere. However, the justices unanimously rejected that claim, with Justice Elena Kagan writing there is no such “seeds-are-special” exception to the law. But Kagan warned that the Monsanto decision was a limited one and did not address every issue involving a self-replicating product. The court ordered Bowman, a conventional farmer, to pay nearly $85,000 in damages to Monsanto. The Supreme Court’s decision implies that Monsanto has the legal right to stop farmers from saving seeds from patented genetically modified crops one season, and plant them the next season.

More than 2 Million People Rally in 52 Countries to Protest GMO Giant Monsanto
From a single Facebook page started in February, the March Against Monsanto held on May 25 drew more than 2 million people in 52 countries and 436 cities to protest chemical giant Monsanto and the genetically engineered seeds it produces. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” protest organizer Tami Canal told USA Today. “It was empowering and inspiring to see so many people, from different walks of life, put aside their differences and come together,” she said. The group plans to harness the success of the event to continue its anti-GMO cause. “We will continue until Monsanto complies with consumer demand. They are poisoning our children, poisoning our planet,” she said. “If we don’t act, who’s going to?” Protests were held in Los Angeles, Portland, OR, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and elsewhere around the globe. “As a single company, Monsanto is the tip of the iceberg representing the threat that unchecked corporate power has in corrupting our democratic institutions, driving family farmers off the land, threatening human health and contaminating our environment,” said Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now, in a May 28 commentary in the Huffington Post.

After Being Rejected by Consumers, Will GMO Spuds Make a Comeback?
While the FDA weighs approval of GMO salmon, a dozen years after Monsanto ditched its GMO potato after disappointing sales, an Idaho company, J.R. Simplot, asked FDA in mid-May to approve five varieties of GMO potatoes. The varieties have been genetically engineered to avoid black spots and designed to have less acrylamide, a naturally occurring but potentially toxic chemical. Simplot, according to MSN News, sells potatoes to McDonald’s for its French fries, and McDonald’s rejects potatoes with black spots. The FDA is also reviewing the “Arctic” apple, genetically engineered by Canada-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits to resist turning brown when cut. While Simplot said 20 field trials demonstrate that GMO potatoes are virtually identical to their unmodified cousins, Bill Freese, senior policy analyst with Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety, said that genetic engineering is a “noisy, unpredictable process,” where the best-intentioned genome tinkering could be accompanied by unforeseen effects on human health and the environment. “The biotech approach is to change the food on a genetic level in quite frankly risky ways with inadequate regulation to adapt a crop to an industrial food system that’s really unhealthy in so many ways,” he said.

Roundup Pesticide, Used in GMO Agriculture, Linked to Increase in Autism, Diabetes, Cancer
In a study published April 10, 2013, in the scientific publication Entropy, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology linked the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, the most widely used herbicide in the world and the one most closely associated with genetically engineered agriculture, to increases in the incidence of diabetes, autism, infertility and cancer in humans. Through the inhibition of a crucial enzyme, Cytochrome P450, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body, report the researchers, leading to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases, Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, Entropy 2013, Vol. 15, April 10, 2013. For a complete executive summary of peer-reviewed research demonstrating the human, animal and environmental health risks associated with GMOs in food and agriculture, click here.

 

Hurricanes: Bad for Business. LOHAS Conference: Good for Business!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by

June 1 was the official start of hurricane season. It’s also the start of the “rainy season” here in Florida. Tropical Storm Andrea has already visited, dumping over 3 inches of rain in a couple of hours. We seem to be off to a fast start.

Causes for Concern 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), 2013 is expected to be an "active or extremely active" hurricane season.

At the same time, the Earth just crossed the threshold to 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. For those of you who don't follow climate issues, that's not good. According to the New York Times, that's the highest level in 3 million years. This level of CO2 warms the planet and provides the fuel for ever stronger hurricanes. It is no coincidence that 8 of the top 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred just since 2004.

For a wide-ranging view of the costs of climate change, read this study from the National Journal. It covers the many ways that climate change costs money right now.

As a Floridian, I have begun the usual preparations for hurricane season: stocking up on drinking water, non-perishable foods, batteries, First Aid kit, etc.

But as a small business person, I know that my green business is at risk from extreme weather. If the electricity goes out, so does my equipment – phones, laptop, printer. My connection to customers is lost, and my work for them is delayed.

That would make me an unreliable service provider – something I promise customers that I’ll never be.  My customers (bless them!) don’t care that the U.S. electric grid is fragile. They just want their stuff.

If the pond behind my house floods, then my home office may become a large puddle. It hasn’t happened in the 12 years we’ve been here – but it could. If I lose both power and my work location, a whole new set of costs and problems ensues. And I will lose time and money as I scramble to recover.

If the worst happens, e.g. Tampa gets hit squarely by a big hurricane, then there’s the possibility that my home and business get blown away. Which U.S. city is considered most overdue for a hurricane this year? According to NOAA, it’s Tampa. And yes, I do take that seriously.

Extreme weather means business disruption

Property damage, work delays, even death. We just saw a text book case of this with Hurricane Sandy last year. No business is immune. From the farmers who watch their drought-stricken crops wither in the field to the property insurers who have to pay out claim after claim (and sometimes don’t), no one benefits from extreme weather.

So why don’t businesses step forward and say – loudly and clearly - to their representatives, their customers and their suppliers: “Climate change is a big deal. We know it threatens our livelihoods as business people, and we know it’s a threat to you, our customers. Here’s what we plan to do about it, and here’s what you, our customers, can do to help.”

On the one hand, it’s a naïve question. On the other, it’s a simple, straight-forward one. Either way, it requires an answer.

I wonder at the continued folly of many big corporations around climate change. According to Ernest Moniz, formerly of MIT and newly-confirmed Secretary of the Energy Department: "We will need not only technology innovation and policy innovation to achieve a low-carbon future — but also business model innovation."

That’s a diplomatic way of saying, “The old “grow-at-all-costs, put-profits-first” model will be the death of us. We need a different approach.” The chances of that happening voluntarily – especially in the hide-bound energy sector - are slim.

And the energy industry is not alone. Professor Michael Toffel of Harvard Business School writes, "Corporate Sustainability is Not Sustainable." In short, he describes how the actions of even the best intentioned corporations to date are not up to the scale of the problem.

So, what to do?

One postitive step - go to the LOHAS conference next week!

And also:

  • Get educated about climate change and share what you know. You don't have to be a scientist to understand the basics of what is happening. One source of information I rely on is Climate Progress.
  • Lower your carbon foot print. LOHAS is a great source of information, but so are sites like Practically Green and Green America.
  • Vote with your dollars. Switch to greener products and services. Check out Vine.com - Amazon's market place for greener and more sustainable items. And explore the LOHAS Hub. Truly green businesses that transact with other green businesses move the economy in the direction it needs to go.

Is this a shameless plug for the LOHAS conference? Yes. (And no, Ted Ning didn’t put me up to this.) But attend, connect, and find at least one new way to support a more sustainable economy. That’s the value of the LOHAS conference: learn, do, and – oh yes! – enjoy!

 

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal oGreat Green Editing. She provides writing and editing services to green businesses and social enterprises that value high-quality content. She is a graduate of Harvard College and received her MBA from MIT. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in April 2013 and Platinum-level recognition from the Green Business Bureau in 2012. 

Beyond Our Own Lifetime

Monday, June 3, 2013 by

Posted by Brent Giles on May 14, 2013 for Powdr Corp's "Carbon Copy" Blog

I believe we can visualize beyond our own lifetime.

My rant on this post is caused by “Americans Global Warming Beliefs in April 2013”

I’m surprised that individual and local weather events are still the basis for some to argue against climate change.  When I look at extreme weather events worldwide combined with empirical temperature records I have to believe something is going on.  Extreme weather events such as in 2011  and in 2012!  Are you excited to see what 2013 brings?

What will it take to convince us?  Global temperatures have increased.  The latest “Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States” isn’t good news either.  Shouldn’t we, at the very least, consider this is a possibility and do something?

Most people have a goal or vision for their future.  Does that vision go beyond their lifetime or the lifetime of their immediate family, really?  Probably not, truth be told.

Many of us are too short sighted and selfish.  We choose to believe things that fit nicely in our comfort zone and individual boxes.  We expect immediate gratification and results, if I do this today then I’ll see thistomorrow.

In 1712 Thomas Newcomen built the first commercially successful steam engine which was the first significant power source other than wind and water.  The industrial revolution began 300 years ago and so did increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, environmental damage and many other pollutants.  These are now some of the rotten fruits of our success.  It has taken 300 years to get where we are today.  What makes me think I can recycle this plastic bottle today and see results tomorrow?

I spend a lot of time wondering how to connect to people.  What can I say that will help someone believe the issue and then have the initiative to help solve the problem?  What is the key to understanding that I am part of the problem, that I am responsible and accountable?  How to reduce our impact on the environment?  It’s a hard problem but there is a solution, me and you.

Well, since I’m talking about responsibility and accountability this might be a good time to mention politics! Beginning on day one after election and for the rest of the term it seems there is only one goal and that is to get re-elected.  I’ve already mentioned short sighted and selfish, right?  Party lines trump moral values, human values, and logical decisions.  Career politics should be abandoned.  “The greater good” will not be the result of policy and regulation enacted by self-serving career driven politicians (big revelation).

Speaking of politics, I’ve been thinking about the images of five Presidents, Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson and Grant.  Surely they are the answer………………..but

Money, money, money, money, all the money in the world can’t buy me a drink of clean water if there isn’t any.  All the money in the world can’t make the air fresh or control the temperature.  Thank goodness the answer isn’t ‘all the money in the world’.   Each and every one of us has the ability to do what’s necessary to cause change.  It’s all about choices, choose wisely.

So we go to work every day and spend countless hours trying to collect more of those five Presidents images.  And when we’re at work we probably spend countless hours dreaming about being out in nature doing what we really want to do!  Lucky me because I get to spend time thinking about our environment and not feel guilty.  So should you.

Reality check; in nature the outcome will be as it always has been, survival of the fittest.  As of today, that ain’t us?

“If we don’t change the direction we’re going, we’ll end up where we’re headed”

 

Brands, Balance & LOHAS

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 by

 

A friend of mine recently asked if I’ve always been so balanced. And I had to admit it wasn’t always so. Finding my center through life and work has been the most challenging of postures. It’s something I’ve strived for. Worked toward. Meditated about. And then…somehow when I wasn’t striving, working or meditating—it just seemed to have happened. Like magic.

It’s same kind of magic that happens when conscious businesses engage in LOHAS marketing, mission-based marketing, wellness marketing, social advertising and yoga marketing…all the ways, we at firefly180 work to support our clients. There is a Tibetan Buddhist mantra, Om mani padre hom; which translated, means, “the jewel is in the lotus.”

We are the jewel. And our seated posture is the lotus. This wisdom is true as well for brand strategy, messaging, website content and design, advertising copywriting and art direction. The creative is the jewel. The lotus is the strategic foundational work.

So let your light shine in all its brilliance. And keep bringing that light forward into your work—and the world.

 

Lisa Proctor is the president and creative director of firefly180 marketing—a Minneapolis-based branding and advertising agency that specializes in LOHAS marketing, wellness marketing, green marketing and renewable energy marketing.

LOHAS: You Had Me at Hello

Monday, April 22, 2013 by

This is my first blog post for LOHAS and I’m happy to be here. I’ve been reading LOHAS newsletters for over a year now. I nodded in agreement so often that I jumped at the chance to join the conversation.

A focus on green business

While LOHAS covers many topics, my posts will focus mostly on green business. I am an MBA and spent many years in corporate America before leaving to start my own green business in 2011.

I believe that business can and should play a key role in the transition to a greener economy. Traditional big businesses have enormous financial and people resources at their disposal.  When they decide to move in a particular direction, they can do so with an impact that a small business can’t match.

Unfortunately, in my experience, big business's singular focus on quarterly profits conflicts with the vision, courage and patience necessary to reinvent themselves as truly sustainable enterprises.

So while I celebrate all businesses that move in a greener direction, I see smaller (and privately owned) businesses as leading the way for now. They have a nimbleness and a willingness to embrace change that larger businesses often lack. I suspect that until government mandates the changes necessary to move sustainable practices from optional to mandatory, certain business players will remain in the old, unsustainable model. In the meantime the rest of us need to charge ahead.

The sustainable business view from here

I also want to share the view from my current home in Tampa, Florida. Despite its moniker as the “Sunshine State,” Florida lags on policies ranging from renewable power standards to mass transit. One reason I read LOHAS is to keep up with developments in places like California and Colorado that are – ahem – ahead of Florida in this regard.

We have astonishingly beautiful natural resources in Florida. (That's a roseate spoonbill in the picture above.) From the Everglades to the Gulf beaches, there is “natural capital” here that needs to be protected. Not just because it’s pretty – although you’d think a state whose largest industry is tourism would understand its value. But because when the natural environment is healthy, so are the people – physically and economically.

Here are 3 challenges I’ve encountered as a green business owner. Which ones resonate with you?

Lack of awareness – when I say “green”, many people think I am referring to the color, or that I am describing myself as a newbie. (I’m not.) The topic of greener business is generally not on people’s radar here.

The schools educate kids about sustainability issues better than the mainstream media does for adults. Case in point: I asked a local publisher several years ago why his Florida business-focused magazine did not have a regular feature on green business. He replied that his readers (of whom I am one) weren’t interested in that. I find that stories about green business, green jobs and green learning programs are generally under-reported.

Fragmentation of effort – there is tremendous fragmentation and lack of coordination across green businesses, nonprofits and government agencies when it comes to efforts to go green. When I go to EcoFests, green business networking events and climate change conferences,  I am struck at how many well-intentioned people are struggling to do basically the same things. Imagine if all this effort and resource were consolidated and coordinated in an organized fashion. The whole impact could be greater than the sum of the parts.

Under-funding – too many businesses still see sustainable business practices as optional or a PR move. It’s long past time to invest in something more than recycling bins. To me, green business is a money-making venture for everyone.  Did you know that green jobs are the fastest growing sector in the economy?

The Good News

There is a lot going on under the radar. Last week I attended the 5th Annual Sustainable Business Awards at the University of Tampa. 13 winners collected awards and applause for their “triple bottom line” approach to business. Their businesses ranged from LED lighting to community-supported agricultural farms to recycled air filters. With one or two exceptions, you probably wouldn’t recognize any of their names. But these are the business that will shape the future.

Opportunities in green business are limitless. As a business person, I see the need to reinvent our economy in a more sustainable fashion not just as a daunting challenge, but as a huge opportunity.  To make a good living while helping to save the planet  - what’s not to love?

What do YOU want to hear about?

So that’s LOHAS blog post #1 for me. Let me know your thoughts and tell me what you’d like to hear about in future posts.

About the Author

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal oGreat Green Editing. She provides writing and editing services to green businesses and social enterprises that value high-quality content. She ensures that their content and communications – their business face to the world – are correct, clear and compelling. She is a graduate of Harvard College and received her MBA from MIT. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in April 2013 and Platinum-level recognition from the Green Business Bureau in 2012.

She can be reached at info@greatgreenediting.com and at 813-968-1292.

Spring into LOHASIAN Branding.

Friday, April 12, 2013 by

 

I'm not an especially patient person—and often find myself wanting to leap ahead. Yet like the parable of the farmer who tries to tug at tiny, green shoots  in hopes that they'll grow faster, only to kill the entire crop—the same is true for much in life. Especially branding.

As the head of a Minneapolis-based LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) advertising and marketing agency, I find that the extraordinary process of building a brand is much like planting seeds. While brand architecture and strategy is being created through process, meetings, collaboration, refinement and data-weaving, for those looking in from the outside, nothing much seems to be happening.

Like seeds buried in dark rich soil, this is where brands take root. It seems that the fundamental and foundational aspects of branding take place below ground; yet provide all the essential components that bring forward the colors, text, brand ID, web presence, e-blast campaigns, direct response, print and web ads, brand voice, community and full-on experience that brings businesses to life.

So at this time of year, when the ground is still frozen, yet the light and longer days hold the promise of spring, remember to honor the below-ground time. Be disciplined about rushing the process. Allow the seeds you've planted so carefully and so strategically to work their magic before tugging at their shoots to bring them to the surface.

You'll be rewarded as your brand comes into bloom.

 

Sweden green rocks

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 by

One of my dreams has been to live in a sustainable self-sufficient house buried in pristine nature. A house with low energy consumption, low service costs, simple maintenance, no connection to municipal drains or district heating, gray water and human waste recycling. Simply, a house with a minimal impact on the environment - in its construction, running and end-life. Does that sound surreal?

Well, it is not. Sweden is where green dreams come true. When I saw their houses, I immediately fell in love with its simple design and complex environmental consciousness. 

EcoCycleDesign, however, goes beyond building new housing. They take the challenge of greening your current construction.

In Sweden, sustainability has a long history. Although dependent on heavy industry like forestry and metals, especially aluminum, Sweden was one of the first countries in the world to develop solutions that were environmentally friendly. Somewhere back in the fifties and sixties.

Lars Ling, the Chief Executive of CleanTech Region, who represents those progressive companies, would tell you that “since the early nineties, the nation has run an aggressive campaign to reduce the damage caused by climate change, and its adoption of green technologies is considered exemplary. Among others, Sweden can claim one of the largest ethanol-powered bus fleets in the world. It’s a world- leader in the conversion of waste into power – dozens of municipalities now produce biogas from sewage. And rather than wringing their hands over pollution from road vehicles, successive governments have set an example to ordinary motorists by mandating that nearly all publicly-owned vehicles are ‘flexible-fuelled’ and insisting that petrol stations offer at least one type of biofuel.”

If you look for some inspirations yourself, don't miss this crispy green online magazine - Green Solutions from Sweden

Ah, have I mentioned you can touch and feel the Swedish sustainable designs? There are trips organized to the CleanTech Region, so you may want to check those too.

 

8 things That Makes the LOHAS Conference Unique

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 by

LOHAS Forum

1.    Cross section of attendees is like no other event. LOHAS brings together Fortune 500 companies with start up entrepreneurs, investors, nonprofits, thought leaders and media who all want to make the world a better place. It is a great networking event for those who want to stretch their comfort zone and meet new people.

2.    On the cutting edge of what is next. LOHAS has many cutting edge thought leaders, researchers and visionary presenters who have a pulse on trends that often become mainstream. If you want to know what will be mainstream in 2-5 years then the LOHAS conference is a must attend event.

3.    Permission to drop the armor of image is granted and expected.  Everyone at the event wants to know who each other is at heart first and then get to professional interests second. This makes the networking much easier as attendees are sincerely attentive to each other’s needs.

4.    Market data worth thousands of dollars is presented by a variety of green market trend specialists. Those that are interested on what is happening in the LOHAS space can collect a tremendous amount of insight from these highly sought presentations.

5.    LOHAS is Embedded Into Boulder. LOHAS uses distinctive historic landmarks in downtown Boulder as the venue for attendees to experience the charm of the city during the conference during June.

6.    LOHAS has a Legendary Gift Room. Rather than provide a pre stuffed conference bag of brochures that are typically dumped in the hotel room we provide a gift room of various items from LOHAS companies that attendees can pick and choose from. Attendees love this and the gift bags are usually quite stuffed when people leave the room!

7.    Program content transcends green business to include elements to connect with the human spirit and community in a way that is energetic and inspiring.

8.    Not just a conference but a community celebration! We have a variety of ways built into the event ranging from morning yoga and meditation to musical entertainment to after parties to engage the senses for attendees.

Don't miss out. We would love to see you there! REGISTER HERE.
 

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com

The Buck Slows Here – Why the Time for Slow Money is Now

Monday, April 1, 2013 by

 The Buck Slows Here Slow Money slow food investing Carlo Petrini By Woody Tasch

There is no such thing as money that is too fast.

This was one of the certainties of the Old World of Finance.

But now, here we are, on the shores of a New World of Finance that none of us asked to explore — listening to the blandishments of investment bank CEOs apologizing for $6 billion mistakes and, then, to halting arguments about regulation that strike some as a bunch of pea shooters aiming at a predator drone.

It’s as if, on our way to the far-flung territories of Endless Growth and Unending Consumer Confidence and a 20,000 Dow, we’d awoken after a superstorm, stranded on the shores of R.H. Tawney’s seminal historic insight: “The certainties of one age are the problems of the next.”

There is no such thing as money that is too fast.

This certainty of our age is leaving many mounting problems for the next.

There are problems of debt.  In the foreground, government budget deficits and the national debt.  In the background, a deep structural debt that is even harder to face: fossil fuel debt, dense carbon debt—each day, on a global basis, we use petrochemical energy it took 10,000 years to make.

There are problems of doubt.  In the foreground, climate change:  Is it manmade?  Is it catastrophic?  What can we do about it?  In the background, doubt of the economic and financial kind: With $600 trillion in derivatives still hovering somewhere just out of sight, what is the connection between Wall Street and our wellbeing?  Are ever-accelerating global financial markets the best path to preservation and restoration?

We need a new kind of reckoning.  And our first bit of reckoning must be this:

There is such a thing as money that is too fast.

Money that is too fast is money that has become so detached from people, place and the activities that it is financing that not even the experts understand it fully.  Money that is too fast makes it impossible to say whether the world economy is going through a correction in the credit markets, triggered by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, or whether we are teetering on the edge of something much deeper and more challenging, tied to petrodollars, derivatives, hedge funds, futures, arbitrage and a byzantine hyper-securitized system of intermediation that no quant, no program trader, no speculator, no investment bank CEO can any longer fully understand or manage. 

Just as no one can say precisely where the meat in a hamburger comes from (it may contain meat from as many as a hundred or a thousand animals), no one can say where the money in this or that security has come from, where it is going or what is behind it. No one can say for sure whether — if it were to be “stopped” and held by someone for more than a few instants — it represents any intrinsic or real value.   Money that is too fast creates an environment in which, when questioned about the outcome of the credit crisis, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin could only respond, “No one knows.”

 The Buck Slows Here Slow Money slow food investing Carlo Petrini The buck didn’t stop there, for sure, but we can slow a few of ours, here.

I’ll see your global financial shenanigans and raise you Local Harvest.  I’ll see your GMOs and raise you Coyote Creek Feed Mill.  I’ll see your Dodd-Frank and raise you Carlo Petrini and Jack Lazor.  I’ll see your Farm Bill and raise you MM Local.  I’ll see your CDOs and raise you Slow Money.

Let’s take a few of those trillions-of-dollars-a-day that are zooming through cyberspace, financing everything from smokestacks in Chongqing to parking lots in Las Vegas to frost-resistant fish genes in tomatoes, and put them to work near where we live. There it can support the next generation of small farms, grain mills, creameries, seed companies, processing and distribution companies, food hubs, urban farms and more, improving our local economy, building soil fertility and supporting the next generation of small food entrepreneurs who are fixing our economy from the ground up.

With a little bit of gumption (and a little fun, too, because being under the tent with thousands of farmers, small food entrepreneurs, investors and activists, all working together to rebuild local food systems, is more fun than an Initial Public Offering), we can say, together,  “The buck slows here.”


Woody Tasch is the founder of Slow Money and the author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered.  Slow Money’s 4th National Gathering is in Boulder, CO on April 29-30.  Since 2010, Slow Money’s 17 chapters and six investment clubs have facilitated the flow of $23 million to 185 small food enterprises around the country. Originally published by Triple Pundit

 

 

Conscious Money & Conscious Capitalism

Friday, January 25, 2013 by

Two of today’s greatest megatrends, Conscious Money and Conscious Capitalism, are cut from the same financial cloth. And each of these innovative strategies flies in the face of conventional money thinking—which insists that human values should play no role whatsoever in financial decisions. That view is clearly incorrect. Values powerfully shape our choices (even if we’re unaware of it) and our behavior. Our choices and actions write the story of our lives—and our money lives. I’d go even further: positive values support us make better financial choices. Why? Because values engage the heart in the way that sound financial practices honor the head. When heart and head are in sync, our emotions are steady, our mind is settled, and our direction is clear—all of which enhance our ability to make good economic decisions.

Today, conscious finance attracts more followers daily as business leaders and “ordinary” people alike seek new monetary models that integrate values into finance. The $290 billion LOHAS market of course, is well known to many, but consider also the $3.74 trillion Sustainable Responsible Investing (SRI) industry, which has expanded 22 percent since 2010. Each of these robust sector, which have continued to thrive despite a weak economic recovery, embody Conscious Money, illustrating how compatible values and money really are. So much for conventional thinking. In fact, traditional financial and consumer brands avidly pursue the LOHAS and SRI markets. 
Conscious Capitalism is a new breed of free enterprise that honors people, purpose, and the planet. Embraced by visionary CEOs, in the US and globally, Conscious Capitalism differs from traditional capitalism because it endorses the “stakeholder model” of business which considers the interests of all parties that contribute to corporate success—customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities, and the planet at large. Traditional capitalist theory by contrast tends to place investors first. For example, the late Milton Friedman, a Nobel laureate in economics, famously stated: “The social responsibility of business is to increase profit.” Conscious Capitalists are typically highly committed to growing profit, as well, but go they about it in a different way: by embracing a purpose above and beyond profit, such as promoting personal health or global sustainability. Human values like trust, justice, or transparency also play an important role in policy and behavior of conscious companies.  
Conscious Money, by contrast, is an approach to personal finance in which human values, inner wisdom, and higher consciousness guide individual financial choices, while people also observe sound monetary principles. The idea behind Conscious Money is simple: it’s about creating a positive, life-affirming relationship with money and a recognition that, when greater awareness (or consciousness) directs money choices, it can make a difference for one’s self, for others and for the planet at large. 
Figuratively speaking, your money becomes “conscious” when you infuse your cash, savings, expenditures, income investments, and philanthropic contributions with values, awareness, and positive intentions. 
Conscious Money and Conscious Capitalism are together building an unparalleled platform for meaningful economic co-creation. Because at the heart of every financial transaction lies the power of collaborative conscious choice. Conscious shoppers wield an enormous force for good in the economy. Conscious Capitalists, in turn, are more likely to invest in green innovation knowing that a growing market for green products exists. Each time individuals and businesses interact in a conscious exchange, the inner world of awareness and values tempers the marketplace of humanity, transforming our economic reality. With each positive life-affirming transaction, we jointly create a new and conscious economy that will sustain the future of human evolution and transformation.
 
Patricia Aburdene is one of the world’s leading social forecasters and an internationally-renown speaker. She co-authored the number one New York Times bestseller Megatrends 2000. Her book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism launched a business revolution. Patricia’s new book, Conscious Money: Living, Creating, and Investing with Your Values for A Sustainable New Prosperity, published in 2012, is a finalist is the Green category for the “Books for a Better Life Award.” Read Chapter one of Conscious Money. Patricia was named one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Behavior” and serves as an Ambassador of the Conscious Capitalist Institute. Patricia’s journalism career began at Forbes magazine and she was a public policy follow at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA. Her website is patriciaaburdene.com.
 

2013 LOHAS Marketing Megatrends

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 by

In the “better, but not booming” economy many predict in 2013, shoppers will focus more than ever on what they care about most deeply. So human values will increasingly shape their spending agenda. At the same time, new trends and priorities will inspire consumers to find new ways to take their values shopping. In addition to their abiding commitment to Health and Sustainability, values-driven shoppers will honor values like Transparency, Justice, Peace, and the more practical value of Frugality. Look for these trends to gain traction in 2013:

Non-violence Emerges as Top Value. In 2013 Peace and Non-violence will increasingly shape our financial choices. After the Newtown, CT massacre, a CBS poll found an 18-percent increase in people who favor tougher gun restrictions. This year powerful investors (i.e. the California teachers pension fund) have already sold weapons stocks. There are new consumer calls to boycott sporting goods stores that sell guns. In 2006, Walmart banned gun sales, but reintroduced them in 2011 to boost weak sales. “Boycott Walmart” initiatives now appear on Facebook.

Fair Trade Takes Off. Fair Trade (FT for short) consumers voluntarily pay a little bit more to endorse the value of social justice for farmers and artisans in developing countries. Result: Fair Trade is trending toward $5 billion global market. Fair Trade USA’s “Fair Trade Finder” mobile app helps consumers find FT products.

Third Party Verification Rules. Conscious shoppers favor products bearing a seal or certification from a reputable organization. LOHAS shoppers—80 percent of them—want trusted, independent sources to verify corporate product claims and 40 percent of all shoppers demand a seal or certification, reports a study by the Natural Marketing Institute.

Old-fashioned and Green Cleaning Products Rock. As green cleaners like Method, Seventh Generation, and Green Works gain market share over traditional labels, most mainstream cleaning brands (except Clorox and S C Johnson) still refuse to disclose chemical ingredients, despite pressure from consumers and activists. Meanwhile LOHAS shoppers enthusiastically embrace Grandma’s non-toxic—and ridiculously inexpensive—baking soda and vinegar. Great Recession helped us discover joy of frugality, but it’s unlikely we’ll abandon it as the economy picks up.

If there were a motto for 2013’s consumer spending mood, it might be: “Conspicuous consumption is gone for good; but discerning, values-driven spending never goes out of style.” Key words such as quality, meaning, simplicity, peace, economical, and local aptly describe the value propositions that will encourage shoppers to open their wallet in 2013. Time was, marketers asked, “Who is my consumer?” and defined consumer identity in strict demographic terms. But those who seek to build enduring relationships with LOHAS consumers must instead ask, “What are her values?” then cultivate a strategy for reaching said consumer by authentically embodying her values in all branding messages. 

________________

Patricia Aburdene is one of the world’s leading social forecasters and an internationally-renown speaker. She co-authored the number one New York Times bestseller Megatrends 2000. Her book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism launched a business revolution. Patricia’s new book, Conscious Money: Living, Creating, and Investing with Your Values for A Sustainable New Prosperity, published in 2012, is a finalist is the Green category for the “Books for a Better Life Award.” Read Chapter one of Conscious Money. Patricia was named one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Behavior” and serves as an Ambassador of the Conscious Capitalist Institute. Patricia’s journalism career began at Forbes magazine and she was a public policy follow at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA. Her website is patriciaaburdene.com.

"The Next 20 Years of Sustainable Business" by Aron Cramer of BSR

Monday, December 31, 2012 by

[ Article form the special 20th Anniversary issue of the GreenMoney Journal (Fall 2012) and www.GreenMoney.com ]

The Next 20 Years of Sustainable Business

by Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR (Business for Social Responsibility)

Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio, and in this BSR’s 20th anniversary year, we are both looking back and looking ahead. And as we reflect on the past 20 years, it seems that everything has changed…and nothing has changed. There are reasons to celebrate great achievements, but even more reasons to redouble efforts to achieve the tangible successes that are necessary to put the world on a genuinely sustainable path. Just recently there has been an unprecedented turnout by business and civil society at Rio+20, while at the same time the American Meteorological Society reports that freak heat waves in the US and fatal floods in Russia were likely caused by climate change.

Most businesses, and many other institutions, now recognize that we have in our hands the ability to create an economy that delivers dignified lives of comfort and opportunity for the 9 billion people we expect in 2050; an energy system that enables economic growth without irreversible climate change; and access to food, energy, water, and technology. Whether or not we turn this vision into reality is not just of interest to sustainability professionals, it is nothing less than the central challenge of the 21st century.

There are indeed many great accomplishments that have been achieved since 1992. As sustainability enters the mainstream, we see that hundreds of millions of people have escaped poverty in the past generation, something never before achieved in human history. Most large multinational companies and countless small and medium enterprises (SMEs) all across the world have embraced sustainability. Consumers, investors, and governments have vastly more information than ever before to enable them to assess how business is performing on sustainability, allowing rewards for the best performers. Collaboration and dialogue between business, NGOs, and community organizations, once taboo, is now considered basic. Technology’s ability to connect us has created a global community unprecedented in human history. And where companies once saw corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a risk mitigation exercise, more and more understand sustainability to be the mother of all innovation opportunities. All this is great cause for optimism.

And yet, there are many, many areas in which, twenty years after the initial Earth Summit, progress is insufficient. Our planet continues to warm, with carbon levels nearing 400 parts per million, dangerously close to the point at which irredeemable changes will occur. We need only consider the thousands of record high temperatures in the early summer of 2012 in North America, capping the hottest year on record in the United States, to make the point. The International Energy Agency, hardly an alarmist organization, now sees serious risk of catastrophic climate change. Deforestation proceeds. Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals is inconsistent. The number of water-stressed regions in the world grows annually. And our measures of economic vitality remain tied to unsustainable levels of natural resource consumption. Governments have largely abdicated responsibility to take concerted action to promote low-carbon economic growth, wilting in the face of the global financial crisis. This litany makes clear that, by many objective measures, progress is far too slow – at best.

Without a change in course, the remarkable rise in living standards that have enabled countless people to live lives of dignity will either be halted or reversed.

But with new thinking, innovation, and collaborative action, we can transform our world, and turn the vision of sustainable, prosperous lives for nine billion people into a reality.

Where We Need To Go

If we are to build on the successes of the last twenty years, we need to change course. The task ahead is no longer about defining the challenge; it is about meeting the challenge. We don’t need more roadmaps; we need to move faster towards the destination.

The path forward is fundamentally different than the one we have traveled over the past two decades. In the first decade after the original Earth Summit, the time when BSR was founded, the primary challenge was to raise awareness in the business community about why sustainability was a crucial and legitimate topic for the private sector. In the subsequent decade, energies were directed less to awareness raising, and more to the integration of social and environmental strategies into business strategy and operations. For the decade ahead, integration remains crucial. Companies have made great progress in the past two decades, and we have been proud to play a role in that. There is considerable room to go further, and we write about that elsewhere in this article.

But a new decade brings a new approach. More substantial progress, however, depends on change not only inside individual companies, but also within entire systems. The era of the hermetically sealed, vertically integrated company is long gone. Every business, in every part of the world, operates within a web of systems: economic, cultural, political, and natural. Every business in every part of the world relies on networks of suppliers, customers, and investors. Even the most innovative companies won’t capture the potential of their efforts if these systems disregard sustainability. And as much as we value best practices, we also know from the past two decades that even the most creative experiments and demonstration projects are not going to meet the scale of the challenge.

So the solutions we need to achieve our goals must also be systemic. A genuinely sustainable economy depends on four inter-related elements: (1) the operational systems in which companies act; (2) the markets that shape the way investments are made and value is defined; (3) the stakeholder world that holds great promise, and (4) the world of ever more empowered individuals and connected communities.

   •     Truly Integrated Business Models: Business decision-making does not currently integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into investment calculations. Fifteen years after John Elkington popularized the triple bottom line, very few companies have actually integrated this model into their economic valuations. Whether or not financial markets change the game, there is an opportunity for companies to get smarter about the intangible assets that increasingly make or break their success. While some companies are experimenting with economic valuations that include elements like carbon, we have not yet seen widespread adoption of economic models that place a value on ecosystem services, community goodwill, or the risk of stranded assets. It is now widely agreed that these things have value; our task for the next decade is to get more precise about what the value is, and how to measure it. The Natural Capital Declaration that 57 companies signed at Rio+20 is a good start down this path.

   •     Financial Markets That Promote Long-Term Value: Despite the Great Recession, public markets focus as intensely as ever on short-term returns. Shares in publicly traded companies in the United States are held for an average of seven months, down from seven years two generations ago. Markets allocate capital with great effect, and the challenge ahead is to maintain the best aspects of market flexibility while reducing the relentless pressure of short-termism. Financial innovation, which was blamed for the crash in 2008, can also be parlayed into new mechanisms that help create long-term value. Integrated reporting, integration of non-financial risks and opportunities into definitions of fiduciary duty, the creation of “L shares” as proposed by Al Gore and David Blood, as well as other mechanisms will create a virtuous circle in which companies are rewarded for taking the long view, and investors are cushioned from the risks of excessive short-term thinking. And there is little doubt that there is also the need to restore trust in our financial system if the “real economy” is going to thrive.

   •     New Frontiers of Collaboration: The past 20 years introduced the concept of collaboration among companies and an increasingly powerful network of NGOs around the world. The next 20 years will see the lines between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations blur substantially. A world of dialogue between organizations defined by whether they are for-profit or non-profit may be drawing to a close. Can we imagine a world in which every enterprise is a social enterprise? A world in which every NGO thinks about market solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges? How will companies collaborate when every individual has a megaphone bigger than those available to the world’s biggest NGOs 20 years ago?

   •     The Empowered Individual: The next ten years will continue to put more and more information and autonomy into the hands of individuals and self-forming groups. The demise of business models relying on big businesses selling to passive mass audiences will accelerate. More and more information will be available to individuals. The “internet of things” and widespread sensors will make the invisible visible. Advances in biotechnology will provide quantum leaps in our understanding of how the world around us, and our choices as consumers and citizens, affects our health. These changes can – under the right circumstances – be a net positive for sustainability. And it is undeniably the case that companies will need to adapt to a world of truly radical transparency.

At BSR, we want to see a world with a truly inclusive economy that enables all people to meet their needs, shape their futures, and achieve their potential. We want to see a world that values and preserves natural resources so that future generations have the same – or better – opportunity to thrive. We see a world where economic health – for individuals and for nations and enterprises – is measured not by the quantity of consumption, but by the quality of life that economic activity delivers. And we want to see a world in which public policy and markets create the incentives and rules that make it possible for businesses that point in this direction to thrive. Companies that embrace this challenge will be the ones to achieve the greatest success…and the ones who create a world of which we can be proud.

The road ahead needs greater emphasis on systemic solutions like those I describe here. If real progress is made in these areas over the next twenty years, we will have done a great deal to accelerate… and will have more reasons to celebrate.

 

Article by Aron Cramer, President and CEO, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) (www.bsr.org ). Mr. Cramer is recognized globally as an authority on corporate responsibility by leaders in business and NGOs as well as by his peers in the field. He advises senior executives at BSR’s nearly 300 member companies and other global businesses, and is regularly featured as a speaker at major events and in a range of media outlets. Under his leadership, BSR has doubled its staff and significantly expanded its global presence. Mr. Cramer is co-author of the book Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-changing World, about the corporate responsibility strategies that drive business success. He joined BSR in 1995 as the founding director of its Business and Human Rights Program, and opened BSR’s Paris office in 2002, where he worked until assuming his current roles in 2004.

Previously he practiced law in San Francisco and worked as a journalist at ABC News in New York. He has expertise in integrating sustainability into business strategy, human rights policies and practices, and stakeholder engagement.

 

For more information go to- www.GreenMoney.com

 

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Marketing Biobased Content Credibly

Monday, December 17, 2012 by

Communicating the benefits of “biobased” content, the world’s newest ecological marketing term, is often tricky. Biobased represents all of green marketing’s traditional challenges — including greenwash — but has additional, unique challenges all its own. Happily, strategies and a credible third party label now exist.

Opportunities For Biobased Products and Packaging
There are many reasons for a business to use biobased content instead of traditional petroleum-based ingredients in their products, including:  it helps grow the farm economy, promotes energy independence, and helps manage carbon impacts, providing a useful hedge against potential future carbon taxes. Finally, biobased agricultural and other renewable material can mitigate petroleum’s wild price fluctuations, supply disruptions and geopolitics.

From an image and marketing perspective, a shift to biobased content can enhance reputation with stakeholders, including risk adverse investors. It can boost sales in the B2B and B2C sectors, as well as support and enhance many types of ‘green’ claims. Let’s look at these in more depth.

Selling opportunities are growing in the federal, commercial, and consumer markets. In the U.S., for instance, the federal sector will benefit from an Obama executive order signed in March 2012 to double the amount of biobased purchases.

Initial market research suggests consumer willingness to purchase biobased products and packages. Research commissioned by Genencor in 2011 suggests 40% of Americans are ‘aware of’ the term biobased and 77% will ‘definitely’ or ‘likely’ buy comparable biobased products.

In the consumer sector, biobased content can halo a brand.Coke’s new partly sugarcane-based PET ‘PlantBottle’ (with ‘up to’ 30% bioplastic), reinforces the brand positioning of Coke’s health-oriented Dasani bottled water and Odwalla juice brands. PlantBottle is now being licensed from Coke by H.J. Heinz for its iconic ketchup brand. An image of the bottle is below.

In 2010, 83% of U.S. adults identify with ‘green’ values, with various segments expressing their own reasons for likely interest in biobased. For instance, the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) segment represents the deep green consumers who take a holistic approach to all things sustainable and green; Naturalites look for organic food, natural personal care, cleaning and pet foods; Conventionals conserve natural resources; and status conscious Drifters who like to be seen carrying cloth shopping bags and driving a Toyota Prius. (Source: The Natural Marketing Institute).

Together, these consumers fuel a $290 billion U.S. market for natural products, renewable energy and more benign household products. Well-known brands that actively incorporate biobased content include Ford, Seventh Generation, Stonyfield Farm, and Procter & Gamble’s Gillette ProFusion and Pantene brands.

Marketing Challenges of Biobased

1. Unfamiliarity. Consumers don’t know the meaning of ‘biobased’. The term is not in the dictionary and is limited to scientific, engineering and B2B usages. USDA, which introduced a “USDA Certified Biobased Label” in early 2011, defines biobased as made from agricultural materials, forestry and marine based sources; so, even a well-informed consumer needs to learn that biobased products come from more than soy and corn.

2. Risk of Greenwash. Because biobased is unfamiliar but sounds ‘green’, consumers can infer such environmental benefits as “natural”, “renewable” and “biodegradable” which may or may not be the case depending upon the product. Benefits that are too easily and often incorrectly implied or overstated increase reputation risk.

Green marketing lessons of the past still apply. As Mobil learned the hard way, in the early 1990’s, their Hefty trash bags which were marketed as ‘photodegradable’ (although not called biobased) were pulled from the market after seven state attorneys general sued saying that the bags would disintegrate (i.e., break down into small fragments under the influence of heat and/or oxygen) but not degrade in landfills for which they were intended and advertised. (See the recently revised FTC Green Guides for further detail.)

3. Science. The ASTM D6866 scientific test standard upon which the USDA Certified Biobased label is based, helps define ‘biobased’ and accurately measure content.  Even with this credibility, results present communication challenges. Because the test measures biobased content as a percent of total carbon content, minerals and water are excluded. This can make comparisons difficult between products that contain minerals and water versus those with only biobased ingredients.

4. Red flags. Despite its many benefits, biobased content raises some red flags among some segments of consumers. For instance, some biobased products could compromise performance;  a case in point, the first Sun Chips ‘compostable’ bag made from corn-based PLA bioplastic had to be withdrawn because it was noisy; PLA manufacturer Natureworks quickly reformulated.

Also, some consumers take issue with biobased materials made from genetically altered crops (as is the case with most corn and soy grown in the U.S.), or are concerned about the effect agriculturally-based content may have on food prices.

Some may also question the sustainability of the harvesting practices. Finally, some consumers are concerned that biobased ingredients are imported rather than domestic, thus representing carbon impacts associated with transporting the materials from distant shores, or steal business from domestic farmers.

5. Confusion and misinformation. Still, many consumers — and even product marketers — mix up the terms ‘bio-based’ and ‘bio-degradable’. Both these properties are absolutely independent. Biobased refers to the origin of a material and biodegradable refers to the end-of-life. Biobased does not mean a material is biodegradable and vice-versa.


Success Strategies for Marketing Biobased Products and Packaging

To market biobased products and packaging with impact, relevance and credibility consider the following strategies:

1. Promote uniformity to let consumers compare biobased content by adhering to ASTM D6866. Disclose the source of the biobased content and dsitinguish between content that applies to product and package. Understand implications of grammatical constructions of ‘made with’, ‘made from’ and ‘made of’.

2. Follow FTC Green Guides (in the U.S.) and other applicable country guidelines when making environmental marketing claims of or related to biobased content. The recently updated FTC Green Guides provides specific guidance for such terms that biobased products can support such as ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable’, and ‘renewable’.

Despite obvious consumer associations of biobased as ‘ecofriendly’, avoid what FTC describes as ‘generalized environmental benefit claims’.  Avoid images of ‘planets, babies and daisies’ that could imply the product is greener or contain more biobased content than in fact.
Make sure to portray environmental benefits from a total life cycle perspective.

3. Support claims with the USDA Certified Biobased label and other applicable biobased certifications to underscore credibility. Educate consumers on the meaning of ‘biobased’ and the underlying basis for the label.

4. Consider additional complementary sustainability-related certifications as appropriate. For instance, many products qualify forBPI’s CompostableUSDA OrganicU.S. EPA’s Design for Environment, and the independent Green Seal certification labels. The same is true for certification schemes in a number of other countries.

5. Carefully research and address consumer ‘red flag’ concerns. Reassure about performance and specify product applications.

Jacquelyn Ottman and Mark Eisen are colleagues at New York City-based J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., expert advisors to industry and government for strategic green marketing. They advised the U. S. Department of Agriculture on the launch of the USDA Certified Biobased label during 2011 and are now working with labelers on capturing the value of their participation in the program.

Jacquie Ottman is the author of The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Greenleaf Publishing U.K., 2011). Mark Eisen is the former environmental marketing director at The Home Depot.

Additional Blog Posts on this Topic:

4 Ways To Surf The Waves of Change

Thursday, December 6, 2012 by

waves of changeWe are a country divided, as the past election showed us, driven by conflicting viewpoints and approaches to problems. Essentials of life, such as finances and healthcare, have very different meanings to different people. And with a split government, such differences tend to end in gridlock. All of which implies that, as a whole, we are looking at drawn out economic problems, endless healthcare arguments, and an abiding sense of uncertainty in our lives. We hesitate to contemplate what the future may bring.

Such uncertainty, added to with opposing views on climate change and constant global tension, can create fear, turmoil and even panic. So how do we live with this? How do we live with the unknowing and insecurity? In fact, when everything seems hopeless is the very time we have the chance to grow into something better. Remember, what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, we call a butterfly! But, like a butterfly, the journey to such growth can be difficult, including having to possibly transform ourselves as completely as a caterpillar does.

Perhaps the best way to adjust is by recognizing that if constant change is inevitable, as it is fundamentally the essence of all life, then that doesn’t mean it has to be negative, for there is equally the potential for positive change in every moment. Here are 4 ways of surfing the waves of change that work for us:

1. Recognize that nothing is permanent

Nothing lasts, whether money, jobs, thoughts, feelings, or loved ones; everything is constantly changing, life never stands still. As Yoga Master Swami Satchidananda said, “Life is all about coming and going.” Everything that is happening now will change into something else, every structure will one day collapse, and new forms will be created, just as the cells within our bodies are constantly dying and recreating. Without change in ourselves we become stifled and stagnant; without change in the world we will not survive. Such impermanence means that every difficulty, challenge, joy, or success will, at some point, be different: this too shall pass.

2. Be With What Is

Even when times are tough, resistance is the quickest route to further discomfort and unhappiness. When we resist we put up walls or try to push the anxiety away, but this inevitably leads to unfulfilled desires and further discontent. Acceptance enables us to be with what is, to create spaciousness and room to breathe. Then we can make friends with our circumstances, instead of longing for things to be other than what they are. Being with what is means we release any need to know what the outcome of a situation might be.

3. Know that each day is a new beginning

Just as palm trees transform muddy water into sweet coconut milk, so we always have the opportunity to transform fear into courage, selfishness into kindness, and loss into a new beginning. We are capable to creating a new life for ourselves with every breath, word and action. We just need to put one foot in front of the other.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. -- Maria Robinson

4. Stay grounded and calm

As every wave has both a crest and a dip, the clue to surfing is being able to paddle in the dip so we are ready to ride the next crest. Two of the best ways that we have found to help ourselves cope with the dips are yoga and meditation. Yoga releases physical and mental stress and relaxes the body, while meditation develops a peaceful and joyful mind. They enable us be present with what is, as well as to accept and live with change.

Here’s a meditation to help you stay calm and present. It is based on the flow of breath, which is like an anchor that gives us stability and steadiness. And just as the breath comes in and goes out, so it is like the coming and going of all aspects of life. Practice for a few minutes or as long as you like.

Sit upright and relax. Breathe in and out gently, simply watching the natural rhythm of your breathing. Follow the flow of your breath and let your mind relax into the rhythm. With each in breath silently repeat, “May I be well, may I be peaceful, may I flow with the changes.” With each out breath let your heart smile gently.

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See our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Byron Katie and many others.

Deb is the author of the award-winning YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND, Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages That Underlie Illness.

Our 3 meditation CD's: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.edanddebshapiro.com

From Growth Capitalism to Sustainable Capitalism: The Next 20 years of Sustainable Investing

Monday, December 3, 2012 by

By Joe Keefe, President and CEO, Pax World Management  (From the special 20th Anniversary issue of the GreenMoney Journal and www.GreenMoney.com )

Twenty years from now, we will have either successfully transitioned from our current economic growth paradigm to a new model of Sustainable Capitalism or we will be suffering the calamitous consequences of our failure to do so. Likewise, sustainable investing will either remain a niche strategy or it will have supplanted mainstream investing. This is the critical point we must embrace: sustainable investing can no longer simply present itself as an alternative to traditional investment approaches that ignore environmental, social and governance (ESG) imperatives; it cannot simply be for some people; it must actually triumph over and displace traditional investing.  

The current model of global capitalism - call it growth capitalism - is premised upon perpetual economic growth that must ultimately invade all accessible habitat and consume all available resources.[Footnote 1] Growth capitalism must eventually collapse, and is in fact collapsing, for the simple reason that a finite planet cannot sustain infinite growth. Moreover, the dislocations associated with this infinite growth paradigm and its incipient demise - climate change, rising inequality and extreme poverty, resource scarcity (including food and water shortages), habitat loss and species extinctions, ever more frequent financial crises, to name just a few - will increasingly bedevil global policy makers in the years ahead. The public sector is already experiencing a high degree of dysfunction associated with its inability to confront a defining feature of this system: the need for perpetual growth in consumption spurs a corresponding growth in public and private debt to fuel that consumption, which has roiled financial markets and sovereign finances across the globe. 

Meanwhile, the environmental fallout from this infinite growth paradigm is becoming acute. All of earth’s natural systems – air, water, minerals, oil, forests and rainforests, soil, wetlands, fisheries, coral reefs, the oceans themselves – are in serious decline. Climate change is just one symptom. “The problem is the delusion that we can have infinite quantitative economic growth, that we can keep having more and more stuff, on a finite planet.”[FN 2] The problem is an economic system that makes no distinction between capital investments that destroy the environment, or worsen public health, or exacerbate economic inequality, and those that are aligned with earth’s natural systems while promoting the general welfare. Under growth capitalism, a dollar of output is a dollar of output, regardless of its side effects; short-term profit is valued regardless of the long-term consequences or externalities. 

It is therefore discouraging that, in the U.S. at least, there is no serious discussion in mainstream policy circles about alternatives to the present system. Nor do I think there will be for some time given our current political/cultural drift. Political and economic elites, and the public itself, remain committed to growth capitalism, accustomed to “having more and more stuff,” for a host of economic, social and psychological reasons. As Jeremy Grantham has written, “[t]he problems of compounding growth in the face of finite resources are not easily understood by optimistic, short-term-oriented, and relatively innumerate humans (especially the political variety).”[FN 3] Our campaign finance system, wherein policy makers are essentially bought off by and incentivized to advance the very interests that stand to profit most from the current system, is no help. Making matters worse, large segments of the public do not even accept what science teaches us about climate change, or natural systems, or evolution, or a host of other pressing realities. The late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. Today, it seems that a growing number of people, aided and abetted by special interests that stand to benefit from public ignorance, are increasingly opting for their own “facts.”

So, neither the public sector nor corporate and economic elites, as a result of some newfound enlightenment, seem poised to consider alternatives to the current system. To the contrary, their first impulse will be to resist any such efforts. This is the critical problem at the moment: while there is an array of powerful forces aligned against the type of sweeping, systemic change that is needed, there is no organized constituency for it. There are individuals and groups who support this or that reform, or who are focused on critical pieces of the larger puzzle (e.g., climate change, sustainable food & agriculture, gender equality, sustainable investing), but there is no movement, no political party or leader, no policy agenda to connect the dots.

That is a shame because there is a clear alternative to growth capitalism that has been articulated in recent years by a diverse body of economists, ecologists, scientists and other leading thinkers - including leaders in the sustainable investment community.[FN 4]

Although there is as of yet no unified theory or common language, let alone any sort of organized movement to speak of, what has emerged is essentially a unified vision, and that vision might best be described as Sustainable Capitalism.[FN 5]

Sustainable Capitalism may be thought of as a market system where the quality of output replaces the quantity of output as the measure of economic well-being. Sustainable Capitalism “explicitly integrates environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into strategy, the measurement of outputs and the assessment of both risks and opportunities…. encourages us to generate financial returns in a long-term and responsible manner, and calls for internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.”[FN 6] Essentially, business corporations and markets alter their focus from maximizing short-term profit to maximizing long-term value, and long-term value expressly includes the societal benefits associated with or derived from economic activity. The connections between economic output and ecological/societal health are no longer obscured but are expressly linked.[FN 7]

There is no question that growth capitalism must give way to Sustainable Capitalism. It’s as simple, and as urgent, as that. Over the next 20 years, the sustainable investing industry must play a pivotal leadership role in ushering in this historic transformation. We will need to connect the dots and catalyze the movement. Why us? For the simple reason that finance is where the battle must be joined. It is the financial system that determines how and where capital is invested, what is valued and not valued, priced and not priced. The sustainable investment community’s role is vital because the fundamental struggle is between a long-term perspective that fully integrates ESG factors into economic and investment decisions and our current paradigm which is increasingly organized around short-term trading gains as the primary driver of capital investment and economic growth regardless of consequences/externalities.

The notion that sustainable investing can simply keep to its current trajectory - a few more assets under management here, a few more successful shareholder resolutions there, a few more GRI reports issued, another UN conference, an occasional victory at the SEC - and achieve what needs to be achieved on the scale required is, frankly, untenable. We need to be more ambitious in our agenda.

We will also need to take a more critical stance, not only advocating for ESG integration but against economic and investment approaches that ignore ESG concerns. We will need to consistently critique the notion that externalities associated with economic output are somehow collateral, or that financial return is sufficient without beneficial societal returns, or that markets are inherently efficient and self-correcting. We will need to unabashedly offer sustainable investing not as an alternative approach but as a better approach - as the only sensible, responsible way to invest.

I believe the sustainable investing industry will also need to align itself with a more explicit public policy agenda - while remaining non-partisan - and work with like-minded reformers to advocate for that agenda. For example, sustainable investors should be sounding the alarm about resource scarcity and advocating for a massive public/private investment plan in clean energy, efficiency technologies and modernized infrastructure.[FN 8] The age of resource scarcity and the need for efficiency solutions is upon us.[FN 9] At Pax World, we offer a fund - the Global Environmental Markets Fund (formerly the Global Green Fund) - whose investment focus is precisely that. Our industry needs to fashion such investment solutions, and I believe there will be opportunities to do so collaboratively as well as competitively.

I also feel strongly that the greatest impediment to sustainable development across the globe is gender inequality. Advancing and empowering women and girls is not only a moral imperative but can unleash enormous potential that is now locked up in our patriarchal global economy. Sustainable investors need to press the case that gender equality needs to be a pillar of Sustainable Capitalism. At Pax World, we also have a fund - the Global Women’s Equality Fund - whose investment focus is exactly that.

In my view, the sustainable investing community should also be advocating for public funding of federal elections, either through a constitutional amendment or, absent an amendment, through a voluntary public funding system. The notion that we can tackle any major public policy issue, let alone undertake the epochal transition to Sustainable Capitalism, while politicians and regulators are captive to the very interests they are supposed to regulate, is beyond naïve. We will not be able to reform capitalism if we cannot reform Congress. 

Finally, asset management firms like my own will need to find ways to craft new, more persuasive messages, launch new products, form new partnerships, and fashion new distribution strategies and alliances that are focused on lifting the industry as a whole, because a rising tide will lift all boats. Pax World has taken a step in this direction in launching our ESG Managers Portfolios, where many ESG managers and strategies are now available under one roof in one set of asset allocation funds. There is more to be done - together, as an industry. 

The times call for leadership. The transition to Sustainable Capitalism is necessary and urgent, as is the triumph of sustainable investing over investment approaches that effectively prolong and exacerbate the current crisis. Twenty years from now, our industry will be judged by whether we have met this burden of leadership. Our impact either will be dramatic or inconsequential. We either will succeed or we will fail. We should resolve to succeed, and to work collaboratively toward that end. 

 

Article by Joe Keefe, President & CEO of Pax World Management, headquartered in Portsmouth, NH. Pax World manages approximately $2.5 billion in assets, including mutual funds, asset allocation funds and ETFs, all of which follow a sustainable investing approach. Prior to joining Pax World, Joe was President of NewCircle Communications (2000-2005), served as Senior Adviser for Strategic Social Policy at Calvert Group (2003 – 2005), and was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Citizens Advisers (1997-2000). A former member of the board of US SIF (2000 - 2005), Joe was named by Ethisphere Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics” for 2007, 2008 and 2011, and in 2012 was recognized by Women’s eNews a one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century, where he was the sole male honoree. 

You should consider a fund's investment objectives, risks and charges and expenses carefully before investing. For this and other important information, please obtain a fund prospectus by calling 800.767.1729 or visiting www.paxworld.com . Please read it carefully before investing.

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Footnotes:

[1] See, William E. Rees, “Toward a Sustainable World Economy,” Paper delivered at Institute for New Economic Thinking Annual Conference, Bretton Woods, NH, April 2011, p. 4.

[2] Paul Gilding, The Great Disruption, Bloomsbury Press, 2011, p. 186.

[3] Jeremy Grantham, “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever,” April 2011 GMO Quarterly Letter.

[4] I am thinking of such writers and thinkers as Wendell Berry, Lester Brown, Paul Gilding, Herman Daly, Thomas Friedman, Paul Hawken, Richard Heinberg, Mark Hertsgaard, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, Bill McKibben, Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers & Dennis Meadows, James Gustave Speth and, of course, E.F. Schumacher. Contributions from the sustainable investing community include Steven Lydenberg’s Corporations and The Public Interest, Robert Monks’s The New Global Investors, Marjorie Kelly’s The Divine Right of Capital, and The New Capitalists by Stephen Davis, Jon Lukomnik & David Pitt-Watson. See also the work of The Capital Institute, www.capitalinstitute.org

[5] Credit Al Gore, David Blood, Peter Wright and the folks at Generation Investment Management for putting a stake in the ground and endeavoring to define and popularize this concept.

[6] “Sustainable Capitalism,” Generation Investment Management LLP, 2012, p. 2.

[7] This notion of Sustainable Capitalism is not unlike the concept of “shared value” s advanced by Michael E. Porter and Mark E. Kramer. See, “Creating Shared Value,” Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2011.

[8] See Daniel Alpert, Robert Hockett & Nouriel Roubini, “The Way Forward: Moving From the Post-Bubble, Post-Bust Economy to Renewed Growth and Competitiveness,” © 2011, New America Foundation, www.newamerica.net

[9] See Jeremy Grantham, “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever,” supra; See also, “Resource Scarcity and The Efficiency Revolution,” Impax Asset Management, www.impaxam.com

 

For more information go to- www.GreenMoney.com

 

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