Green Jobs

A New Champion at the Weather Channel Answers All You Want to Know About the Weather, But Were Afraid to Ask

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 by

No, Sam Champion is not just another handsome talking head. To prove it, he has taken the bold step of leaving perhaps the number one weatherperson position in the world at ABC's Good Morning America to become Managing Editor at The Weather Channel. His new show is called AMHQ, for America's Morning Headquarters. It is an amalgam of news, sports, lifestyle and, of course, weather forecasting and reporting, running each weekday from 7-10 a.m. ET.

From a journalistic integrity standpoint, I should say upfront that I am a Sam Champion fan. I appeared on his "Just One Thing" environmental segment on GMA several times in previous years. A new executive producer did away not only with that segment, but essentially all reporting on environmental subjects. While he won't comment on that, I suspect this is one of a number of reasons that Sam elected to move on from GMA.


Sam Champion at the 40th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards.

Champion is an Emmy and Peabody award winner who is a serious weatherman and proud of it.

I'm going to be a hypocrite here. I want to wake up every morning with my feet on the sand, 20 steps from the ocean. If I am not by the beach, I am not a whole person. But I realize it's not a safe place to build or locate a community. We have allowed people to make incredible amounts of money off of our desire to live on the beach. Unfortunately, we've not thought about how (beaches) are the natural protectors for everything behind them.

This is Sam Champion, admitting his own preferences but trying to educate us on the power of weather patterns and how they can endanger our lives. In this case, he refers to rebuilding on the same spot after natural disasters, be it Hurricane Sandy or the Asian tsunami.

Here's what Champion has to say about the Southern California/Southwestern U.S. drought, and its ramifications, such as last week's San Diego wildfires:

We have to stop being surprised. I am so [redacted] tired of people being surprised. We should not be surprised when areas that have seen drought before experience it again. We should not be surprised that towns previously leveled by hurricanes will be leveled again. I'm so tired of us being surprised. While I understand that (the beach is) one of the most desirable places for people to feel connected to the world and at peace, we should not allow people to rebuild after a disaster. I understand why we are torn on this, but we have to think ahead for others. We have to make sure people are safe...


Destroyed homes line the coast in Lavallette, New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Indeed, Sam Champion is passionate about climate change and its ramifications. He is very concerned about water shortages in coming decades. He has the courage to say what we are just now beginning to understand about where we should be vs. where we are on alternate water sources.

We are horribly prepared (for drought in the Southwest). If we were, we would have several options available to get people water. We are still relying on watersheds, snow melts, and rain. If you live in a coastal area and have not made desalination options available to your community because of money, energy requirements or other factors...if you don't have a "B" choice for water, that is just wrong. That is not politics, either, that is reality.

I explained to Sam that I recently visited Israel, where they have perfected the art of providing desalinized drinking water for all at a fair price point. His comment: "California, and many other parts of the world, could learn a lot from the Israelis when it comes to preparing for perpetual drought conditions."

The 52-year-old Kentucky native faces the reality that the Southwest could be in for an ongoing drought unlike anything we are used to.

We are just now beginning to understand global weather patterns. We used to think of weather locally, but it is truly anything but -- it's a global thing. We are still trying to figure out El Nino and La Ninas. If an El Nino occurs, it can mean X for this region and Y for that one. You are not looking just at warming water temperatures. To say California will be in a period of ongoing drought, I don't know that anyone can say for certain. But I don't see a lot of help coming to change this situation. If we have not figured out a way to handle the drought over the past 25 years, we have a problem.

About Sam's new show. How was it going from GMA to AMHQ?

We created a show that is hyper informative because I saw there was a different audience. The new audience is 24-hour informed. They are following stories, news, websites, they have alerts on their smartphones. The Weather Channel is built to work on a 24-hour news cycle. We are adjusting to the new pace of information. Facebook, Twitter, we are dealing with a news cycle being right now, this minute. AMHQ is sequenced to this pace. We have the most live shots of tornadoes. We were in Pensacola, Florida for the floods, California for the fires, Minnesota for cold air and snow, and those are just the live shots.


We now witness tornados year round, signaling a change in climate patterns.

Champion, who married his partner, Rubem Robierb, in 2012, does not see it as his responsibility to convince the climate change deniers of their shortsightedness.

It's not my job to change minds. Growing up as a journalist and being in the news business for 30 years, it's only my job to talk about the facts as they are presented. When scientists present facts, we report them. When disasters happen, we deal in statistics and stories about the people who are affected, and follow it all the way through recovery. I don't need to be political and don't want to push anyone's agenda. There are people who want to mitigate climate change and others who want to make money on the topic. I am here to do neither. My goal is to help people understand their environment, and get to a safe place as needed. If you move to the tornado belt, you need to know the risks. If you live in California, you need to know about the drought and the potential dangers because of it. I try to help people understand this so they can take necessary steps to protect themselves from weather-related disasters. Many people assume that if you encounter a tornado and you are in a car, you should jump out and lay down in a ditch.

According to Champion, this is really an old wive's tale. He says being inside your car is far safer than lying in a ditch.

Not surprisingly, Champion likes the focus on weather as opposed to all types of news.

It was a pleasant surprise to have people approach me to say this is a show they are proud to have their children watch while getting ready for school. It's a smart show. The kids are learning about weather and other important news but not murders and beatings. That stuff is eye candy designed to keep you glued to your TV, but it is not necessarily information you truly need to know. I certainly did not design a kids show, but it's nice to have moms tell us they feel great about having our show on with the kids in the room.

Champion enjoys scuba diving as a hobby, and not surprisingly, relates what he sees back to weather and climate change. "When you dive for the first time and see coral reefs, come back again three years later and they are gone or bleached due to ocean acidification, you become concerned and want to share that with people. I'm tired of the pushback because I'm not a part of the conspiracy. I'm just sharing with you what I observe." (Some of you may recall my earlier column entitled "Diving With The Dream Team" in which I report the exact same phenomenon.) 


As a result of climate change, ocean acidification is causing coral bleaching across the globe.

Sam's recommendation for what we do going forward to combat the adverse effects of climate change and their impact upon our weather personifies his practical, no-nonsense approach to climate change and how the weather is reported. "Here are things we can do together to deal with issues that are very real. You can debate the cause, but let's come together for the solution."

Read more from Jennifer Schwab on her Inner Green.

Unique Investment Options: Parnassus Workplace and Asia Funds

Saturday, December 7, 2013 by

A good place to work makes for a good investment – that’s the basic premise of the Parnassus Workplace Fund. In other words, a company that treats its employees well should be successful as a business. Since its inception over eight years ago (on April 29, 2005), the Parnassus Workplace Fund has demonstrated the truth of this premise.

The idea for the Parnassus Workplace Fund was first presented to me by Milton Moskowitz, co-author of the annual Fortune magazine survey of The 100 Best Companies to Work For in America. Russell Associates, the analytics group and creator of the Russell 2000 Index and other benchmarks, had contacted Moskowitz and told him that they had done a study of the publicly-traded companies in the annual Fortune list, and found that the stock-market performance of those companies had been excellent, handily beating the S&P 500 over long periods of time.

Moskowitz called me with the news and urged me to start a mutual fund that invested in companies with good workplaces. I was hesitant at first, because studies are not the same as investing with real money, and the results can be very different. However, the idea struck a chord in me because I’d always felt that a company with a happy workforce made for a good investment, but until then I had no way of proving it. Despite my initial hesitation, I decided to go ahead and start the Parnassus Workplace Fund with Milton Moskowitz as a consultant to the Fund. The Fund has been successful, and as of June 30, 2013, it has over $350 million in assets.

We use two sets of criteria in making investment decisions: financial and workplace. Assessing the financial criteria involves doing fundamental analysis to find companies with high returns, good products and services, sustainable competitive advantages and solid balance sheets. Once we have done the financial analysis, we make an estimate of the value of the company. Usually, we will only buy a stock if it is selling for no more than two-thirds of its intrinsic value. This gives us an important margin of safety.

While the financial analysis is quantitative, the workplace assessment is qualitative. We think it is important to visit companies and talk with management to find out if a company has a good workplace. While almost all companies will say they have a good workplace, the ones that impress us the most are ones that can give specific examples and articulate policies that make them good places to work. Important characteristics include: some meaningful form of profit-sharing or stock-ownership; good health-care and retirement benefits; support for working mothers; an emphasis on training and personal development; job flexibility; and recognition for accomplishments. We like companies that respect their employees, genuinely care about them and don’t just treat them as hired hands.

I think that picking companies with good workplaces is one of the keys to the Fund’s success. Some of the extra return we get is because of our financial analysis and using a value approach to investing, but a lot of our edge comes from choosing companies that are great places to work. If people are happy at work, they will be more productive, and this means better results from the same number of people. It also means that that there will be lower turnover, and this results in less money spent on recruiting and training new people. More importantly, workers at this kind of firm will help to save money for their employer and also find ways to develop more business for the company. It’s impressive what can happen when happy workers are allowed to be creative and come up with ways to build a better business.

The Fund is careful about taking risks, making sure that there is the potential for more upside gain than downside risk. The market has really taken off so far in 2013, so we have to be careful to avoid stocks that may be over-valued. Right now, the economy is improving, so there should be more upside, but there’s no doubt that some valuations have gotten ahead of themselves, so it’s important to look at both potential risk and potential return.

Parnassus Asia Fund

On April 30, 2013, Parnassus started its first new fund in eight years: the Parnassus Asia Fund. This is our first venture into international investing. Asia is a very dynamic and creative place. It contains the world’s fastest-growing middle class, and it is the scene of much technological innovation. Asia is also a region with a lot of entrepreneurship, and it is developing deep financial markets. Given that the region is growing at a fast pace, and we expect that growth to continue, it makes sense to invest in Asia ahead of future positive developments and despite all of the complications in doing so.

Continue reading this article on Green Money Journal.

Sustainable Business Profile: Burgerville

Friday, April 26, 2013 by

burgervilleInterested in reading a great case study on a triple bottom-line company? Read my company's blog on Burgerville, where we profile a company that is doing it right.  Their focus on people,  profit and planet has led to the creation of a full-time Chief Cultural Officer.  

Here's the article we posted recently on my website.

I've never been a fan of the fast food restaurant, but after abandoning being a vegetarian in my mid-20's, I just couldn't resist my childhood favorite: an old fashioned hamburger. Today, I find myself regularly buying those gourmet hamburgers from Whole Foods and throwing them on the BBQ for a fast dinner.  But instead of putting them on a bun, I tend to serve them on a bed of wild greens, mache or arugula lettuce. Yum.

On my company's website blog this week, we covered a profile about another restaurant that you've probably never hear of called Burgerville.  It certainly doesn’t have the name recognition or ubiquity of McDonald’s, Burger King, or any other well known fast food joint. But it has something that all the recognition and ubiquity in the world can’t give it: sustainability.

Burgerville got its start  in 1961 in Vancouver, Washington and has since spread to  39 restaurants in the Washington and Oregon area. Their objective isn’t just to expand –  they want to make the world a better place by selling burgers.

They use a number of green practices to do this:

1)      Source food locally. Nearly all of their ingredients are grown nearby and have that local flavor—like Walla Walla onions and Yukon Gold potatoes.

2)      Use seasonal offerings. Depending on the time of year,Burgerville mixes up their menu with seasonal offerings like strawberry milkshakes (from local strawberries) or hazelnut ice cream (from locally grown hazelnuts).

3)      Use alternative energy. In what can only be called a coup against conventional energy thinking, all Burgerville restaurants and their headquarters are completely powered by wind energy. They even let bicyclists use their drive-thru windows.

4)      Support sustainable farming. In 2004 Burgerville made the choice to only use range-fed beef raised without antibiotics.

5)      Support sustainable waste practices. In 2007 Burgerville made another green choice by implementing a composting program at all of their restaurants.

6)      Embrace green menu options. Burgerville makes great hamburgers, but they also have a lot of food offerings that focus on more earth-friendly options. Chicken burgers, fresh fish offerings,  veggie burgers, salads, and even sweet potato and asparagus are all menu items that offer alternative to the traditional beef-heavy fast food menus.

As a result of their conscientious practices, Burgerville continues to grow and expand, and is an asset to every community that has a restaurant.

Henry Ford said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” Burgerville isn’t just making money: they are making jobs, strengthening local economies, creating new business models, and keeping the future intact. With a simple company policy of “fresh, local, sustainable” they are making the world a better place, one burger at a time.

For more info on the business case for having a sustainable business read this page of their website:




Get Grounded on Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 by

While most of us are celebrating Earth Day and Earth Week in offices, I invite you to join me in stepping outside.

Plant your feet. Get grounded. Scatter new seeds of intention. And action.

While Earth Day is celebrated just once a year—it is in fact a 365-day holiday.

In 1990, I became one of the first marketers in the U.S. to specialize in green branding and advertising. Then my clients included recycling companies, green lawn care services, green retail stores, organic food companies, non-toxic cleaning products—even musician and icon John Denver, who was a passionate environmentalist.

Today, it seems that not much has changed. And yet everything has. Much that has become mainstream; recycling, buying recycled, organic food, plant-based cleaning supplies and more were once new ideas. This I experienced first-hand, since as a green marketer, my job has been to educate consumers about their power to effect change.

Today will be marked by tree plantings, parades, speeches, news reports and actions big and small. Much will be said about how much more is needed.  I am celebrating Earth Day by looking back. And looking forward.

Looking back, I see that as consumers we have created the demand for hybrid cars, new wind farms, double-digit growth in organic food and energy-saving light bulbs of all kinds—where once these products didn't exist.  And looking forward, I see a galvanizing force of open-hearted, committed people who are passionate about doing all they can to walk lightly on our Earth.

So as you take off your shoes and plant your feet on sand, soil, concrete or snow, remember that today we stand together. It is our collective actions that will continue to create the change we seek. And it is our willingness to pick up our feet, and move one step at a time forward, that is forging a new path for our planet and for generations to come.


Lisa Proctor is the president and creative director of firefly180 marketinga 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 and at 813-968-1292.

Green Jobs: Resources for Careers in Natural, Organic and Sustainable Products

Monday, April 22, 2013 by

Here at Compass Natural Marketing, a lot of folks ask us about resources for finding jobs and career opportunities in the $300 billion LOHAS market, i.e., the “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability” market for natural, organic, eco-friendly, and socially and environmentally responsible products and services.

There are a lot of great companies and NGOs in the LOHAS market, from organic food to renewable energy and from yoga to green building. In fact, with significant growth in demand for natural, organic and sustainable products, according to the Organic Trade Association, the organic food industry is creating jobs at a much higher rate than the conventional food industry.

Here are some good resources below for finding jobs in the natural and organic foods and sustainable products industry, and for social and environmental mission based organizations.

Of course, if you identify companies you’d like to work for, check their websites. Often, the larger companies, such as Whole Foods Market, UNFI, Pacific Natural Foods, Earthbound Farm, and other brand leaders will have job postings on their own websites. Do some research of your favorite brands.

We welcome your comments and suggestions to add to the list.

Green Job Resources

Green Dream Jobs. You can search by level and region. Awesome resource presented by our friends at

Here’s a great resource for sales, marketing, management and executive level jobs in the Denver/Boulder region, created by our friend and colleague Luke Vernon.

Also, GreenBiz has a great sustainable jobs board.

TreeHugger has green job listings.

Sustainable Industries posts green jobs across the country.

Just Means job listings have a social mission and NGO focus.

Natural and Organic Industry Resources. A good compendium of industry resources.

Naturally Boulder is another resource for job listings in the Boulder/Denver region.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Wanting a Peace Corps-like volunteer experience, but on an organic farm somewhere around the world where you can learn about organic agriculture? Feeling young and adventurous? Check out WWOOF.

Green Career Guide job thread.

California Certified Organic Farmers, an excellent organization for organic producers, posts job listings.

ReWork:  Founded in 2011 by alumni of the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, ReWork helps people find careers in values-based, socially responsible and sustainable businesses.

Hope this helps get you started. Happy green job hunting!


Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural LLC, a full service marketing communications, public relations and business development agency serving natural, organic and sustainable business. Hoffman is Co-founder of the LOHAS Forum annual market trends conference, former Editorial Director of New Hope Natural Media’s natural and organic products trade publication division, and former Program Director of Natural Products Expo East and West. A former Peace Corps volunteer and agricultural extension agent, Hoffman holds a M.S. in Agriculture from Penn State University. Contact

The Trademarks of Conscious Capitalism

Sunday, February 24, 2013 by

Conscious CapitalismWhether you are a LOHAS company or a LOHAS shopper, you need to understand the megatrend of Conscious Capitalism—because it represents the larger economic context in which the critical trend of sustainability continues to unfold. If you are a values-driven consumer, you should learn how to identify a Conscious Capitalist company. Why? These are the firms you’ll most likely choose to patronize since they tend to espouse the same values that you do. As a company, you may want to measure your own standards against those of Conscious Capitalism. In this article, I describe what I call the three “Trademarks” of Conscious Capitalism.

The Stakeholder Model Conscious Capitalists embrace a philosophy of free enterprise that honors all the parties who contribute to the success of the enterprise. So, when leaders formulate corporate policies, they consider the interests of all “stakeholders”—employees, customers, suppliers, investors, communities, and ultimately the environment and the planet at large. By contrast, shareholder (or traditional) capitalists typically place the interests of investors over and above those of other stakeholders.

This is a critical distinction. But how does it play in business? Suppose a company’s sales and profits fall. That will probably displease investors. To make investors happy again, the company may decide to cut costs (aiming to increase profits) by laying off employees. Thus, the interests of investors supersede those of employees. That’s the Shareholder Model of capitalism.

Companies that champion the Stakeholder Model might well make another choice. For example, during the Great Recession, The Container Store (TCS) faced dwindling sales, like many other retailers. Yet the company, a prominent Conscious Capitalist, took a different path from that of traditional capitalism. Specifically, TCS adopted a “no lay-off” policy. But how, you might ask, was the company financially able to endure the continued cost of employee salaries at a time when sales and profits were slumping? The answer is balance. The Container Store found a new way to cut costs: it temporarily suspended matching contributions to employee 401K accounts. This policy proved far more acceptable to TCS staff than losing their jobs. And once sales again picked up, 401K matching benefits were back on.

As this example illustrates, the Stakeholder Model of Conscious Capitalism is neither vague, nor ideological. It holds clear operational implications for how a corporation is managed, how people are treated, and how a corporation can choose to generate economic value.

One might be tempted to assume that the Shareholder Model, i.e. putting investors first, delivers greater financial value to investors. In fact, traditional capitalists frequently make that very argument. But as you’ll see from the research cited in this article’s conclusion, Conscious Capitalists often outperform their traditional counterparts—in strictly financial terms.

A Purpose Higher Than Profit Despite their commitment to humanistic principles, Conscious Capitalists very much aim to earn solid profits. But unlike traditional capitalists, they do not consider profit to be the reason for their existence, or purpose. Instead, they choose a purpose that beyond the necessity of earning money, a “higher” purpose such as to “make a difference,” or “contribute to society” or to “sell products that foster good health and sustain the earth’s resources.” So, this Higher Purpose is the second trademark of Conscious Capitalism.

In fact, business always has a purpose beyond making money, specifically to fulfill some sort of unmet need. The heart of any commercial transaction is therefore to generate an exchange that is mutually beneficial. While capitalism celebrates the capacity to earn profit, it is purpose that infuses that profit with the profound mutuality and satisfaction.

A Commitment to Human Values In a world where people and companies alike are tossed about by a variety of intense and conflicting forces, we all need an inner compass to help us make the right choices, those that take us from where we are now to where we want to be in the future. In business as well as personal life, strong values supply the most reliable guidance and direction. The third trademark of Conscious Capitalism is a Commitment to Human Values.

Walk into any shop or store. Almost instantly you can get a very good read on the values practiced there. When values are lacking, you will almost certainly find a poor work environment, one that breeds boredom, gossip, and inattention to customers. On the other hand, when positive values are honored, it’s palpable. You feel and see it in the positive behavior of the staff.

The internet sales giant eBay, for example, is built entirely upon the value of trust. Early on, founder Pierre Omidyar posted this statement on the website: “We believe people are basically good.” Trust became the core of eBay’s policies and eBay technology reinforced that trust, so that considerably less than one percent of eBay transactions result in fraud.

What’s the Bottom Line?

            To the surprise of many, the Trademarks of Conscious Capitalism generate superior financial performance. Raj Sisodia, marketing professor at Bentley College and a co-author of Firms of Endearment with David Wolfe and Jagdish Sheth, studied 28 companies, including Google, Whole Foods, and Honda, whose managements fostered positive relationships with employees, customers, and investors. Over a ten-year period, the stock of these Conscious Capitalists soared 1,025 percent—versus 122 percent for the S&P 500. A second, decade-long study showed that public firms that are “great places to work” outperformed the S&P 500 by a very wide margin.

These studies show that when business possess the values, wisdom, and consciousness to appreciate that employees, customers, suppliers, and not just investors, contribute to the overall success of the enterprise, companies can achieve profound and sustainable success.


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 (EMBED Link for Megatrends 2010: ), 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 at 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



Making Sense of the FTC Revised Green Guidelines

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 by

It only took them 20 years (The first Guides were issued in 1992), but then again, as the saying goes, every overnight sensation is twenty years in the making. Maybe the FTC Green Guide staff put in their 10,000 hours, but, at last, they nailed it. The revisions to the Green Guides, published on October 1, 2012, shows that the FTC is finally putting their foot down (both of them) about the term 'green', along with such related generalized environmental claims as 'eco-friendly' and 'Earth smart'.

While they are at it, they're advising against the use of any label, logo, seal or product name or image -- what I like to call 'daisies, babies or planets' --  that can imply any hint of environmental (or health) superiority without adequate scientific support. Because chances are such claims are nearly impossible to support, the risk-adverse will stay far away from suggesting same.

And just in time, too. Interest in green claims continues to swell despite tough economic times. As global population climbs to an unimaginable 9 billion by 2050, we'll no doubt find many more ways  for consumers to 'go green', with accompanying eco-language to boot (Will "Mars friendly" be next?) But for now, we're all still here. So hopefully there's still time to clean up the green marketing business so we can one day harvest the potential to lighten consumers' size-18 planetary footprint.

The lawyers at the FTC did what 'greening' requires everyone to do — to think holistically, acknowledging the need to back up environmental marketing claims with life cycle assessments. They obviously consulted with some smart ecologists and biologists because the revised Green Guides demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of sound science. The Guides don't explicitly state the science, but for us laymen, here's a quick crib sheet that can help you understand why they're saying what they're saying:

There's no such thing as a green product. Every product uses resources and energy and creates waste.
One attribute does not a green product make.  An Energy Star certified compact fluorescent light bulb has a tinge of mercury (and as such require a hazardous waste permit to landfill in quantities of five or more.) Organic strawberries grown in California and eaten in New York are responsible for creating so many greenhouse gases on the trip cross country we might as well eat berries conventionally grown in New Jersey. Paper made from sustainably-certified wood still needs to be bleached and / or otherwise processed with dangerous chemicals and shipped to Staples.

Should CFLs not be Energy Star qualified? Should strawberries destined to hit the road not be labeled organic? Should paper that's on its way to be bleached not be described as 'sustainable'? Definitely not! Let's simply be more specific, as FTC recommends, and not suggest they are totally 'green'. (More on this below.)

100% recycled content can be less 'green' than 10% recycled content.  Depending upon the nature of the recycled content and how far it must be shipped to a recycling center, environmental costs of shipping and other impacts can actually make a recycled product less 'green' than a virgin counterpart.
Natural is not necessarily green or more healthful. Arsenic is naturally occurring.

Sustainable is a moving target. Corn may be in plentiful supply today and able to be regrown year after year, but when water supplies wane, it may not be so 'sustainable' to continue to grow it, no matter how fast or how economically it can be converted into bio-plastics and biofuel.

So, green is a relative, rather than absolute, measure. The best way to determine relative greenness is a bona fide life cycle assessment covering all facets of a product's environmental impacts, from raw materials procurement straight through to disposal. This is duly acknowledged in the latest installment of the FTC Green Guides.

We are the next endangered species on the planet. The planet is not at risk, we are. (Yet another reason not to include images of planets in one's advertising or to make grandiose claims about saving it.) This is not a political issue, but an issue of our future, and particularly those of our kids' and their kids.

So it's incumbent upon every marketer, manufacturer, retailer, producer, and everyone else in the supply chain and their stakeholders to understand not just these Guidelines and ideally their scientific underpinnings, but to do what we can to make all green marketing work as it's supposed to.
We in industry -- and concerned consumers, too -- should get on the case of questionable green claims. In their infinite wisdom and thoroughness, the FTC provides lots of helpful information for marketers and to the public to make the process of reporting such claims easy. (The National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau can help too.)

Green marketing is just good marketing. As I've been saying for a while now -- and it is admittedly counter-intuitive, the best green marketing doesn't lead with a product's 'greenness'. The good news about many green(er) products these days is that, thanks to advances in design, materials and technology, they offer superior delivery on the primary benefits that consumers buy products for. So why not focus on those things instead of altruism and planets that don't need to be saved?

At a minimum, consider that environmental marketing, reflecting the planet itself, encompasses so many potential product-related attributes, organic, VOC, recycled, biodegradable, among them, as to render the term 'green' meaningless. Rather than confuse, even deceive, consumers intentionally or unintentionally with messages about 'eco-friendliness' and 'natural' (which in their infinite wisdom, the FTC refused to define) why not hone in on those green-oriented terms that a now mass market seeks via all its segmentary splendor: 'energy efficient', 'organically grown', 'water efficient', 'recyclable', among them, and render your marketing both relevant, targeted, and credible? (FTC would love you for being specific.)
Moreover, let's link those same 'green' attributes to the benefits they deliver to consumers. For instance, let's tout all things 'water efficient' as 'cost effective', and 'fuel efficient' as 'convenient (fewer fill-ups and the ability to drive in the HOV lane).

Does this mean we should not talk about 'the environment' at all?  Not in the least!  Consumers still want specific, well-documented and genuinely helpful environment-related information -- so let's include them in our marketing messages in its secondary or tertiary place in line with its importance on our customer's shopping list.

All of us environmental types like to talk about how, 'if we do our jobs right we'll put ourselves out of business'. Well, before we get run out of town for more greenwash and hogwash by a now enlightened FTC (and the Enforcement Division that stands ready to pounce) let's agree to put ourselves out of the 'save the planet' business and into the business of saving our customers some money, time, etc. in an environmentally sound way -- and make our marketing more legitimately green for our bottom lines, rather than our faces red with shame.

Jacquelyn Ottman is principal and founder of the New York City-based J. Ottman Consulting, expert advisers on green marketing to Fortune 500 sustainability leaders as well as several U.S. government labeling programs. The author of four books on the subject, her latest is The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, February 2011).


Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, 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


USDA Certification Raises Bar for Biobased

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 by

With carbon footprint and energy independence on everyone’s minds, many marketers are looking to capitalize upon their product’s biobased content. But not all biobased claims are alike. The scientific rigor of an ASTM standard combined with the credibility of the USDA raises the bar for the industry and makes the USDA Certified Biobased label a new source of competitive advantage within the consumer and government procurement markets for brand owners who make the effort to get their biobased products certified.

What is “Biobased”?

There is no Webster’s definition of biobased. So, marketers have tended to define it loosely or link it to perceptions of biobased as anything biological, living, natural, renewable or even biodegradable. Some do not reveal the amount of, or basis for, claiming biobased content, making comparisons difficult. This can even represent greenwash when biobased content levels are insignificant. Many questionable biobased claims have emerged, including several official-looking logos with no third party backing. With over 25,000 biobased products on the market, clearly there’s a need to clear up the confusion.

The USDA Certified Biobased label introduced one year ago this month now helps to level the market for biobased claims by providing a clear definition and an internationally recognized test standard backed up by the credibility of the USDA. Over 500 products have already been approved to use the label, and applications in the pipeline for at least 400 more. (See our previous post for more detail.)

Not just any biologically derived product or package can qualify for the label. Certified products must meet three key criteria:  they meet the definition of biobased as written into the 2008 Farm Bill, they contain minimum levels of biobased content set forth by the USDA and verified by the ASTM D6866 test standard (minimums are determined on a category by category basis and are pegged to performance and other criteria), and they represent alternatives to petroleum-based materials introduced after 1972. So, products that were on the market before 1972 made from natural fibers or forestry resources such as cotton tee shirts, office paper, or a 2 x 4 made of pine would not qualify. And neither would products whose biobased content did not meet minimum levels. (See for more details.) 

Translating Biobased Content Into Marketing Benefits

The label, with its sun, sea and crops motif was designed to help communicate that biobased products can be derived from the sea or forests — not just grown from plants. For transparency, it requires that the exact percentage of biobased content be listed on the label for the product and/or package. Thus, marketers are provided with a level playing field and consumers have an easy way to identify legitimate biobased products, as well as to compare and trust in their stated content levels.

Marketers can use the label to support a range of benefits including energy independence, alternatives to petroleum, carbon cycle management, enhanced farm and rural economies, and green jobs. Related and specific product environmental benefits as applicable, including renewable, biodegradable, natural, or compostable, must be supported and substantiated with scientific evidence.

Credibility is key. Proprietary formulas safeguarded. The price is right.

The USDA Biobased certification process is administered by Iowa State University, an independent third party. Only accredited independent laboratories conduct testing. Since the certification only measures carbon content, no proprietary formulas have to be disclosed. Unlike most other certifications, there is no upfront fee, licensing or royalties, so even the smallest businesses can take advantage of the program. Only a $500 lab test is required — a small price to pay for a potentially big competitive advantage.

Seventh Generation leads the pack.

Seventh Generation has already certified over 35 of their household and personal care products; their motivations: to promote transparency, to avoid greenwash, to allow consumers to make side by side comparisons, and to change the way the industry talks about “natural”. In the words of Julia Walker, Associate Scientist of Seventh Generation, “Our consumers want to know where their products originate without being “greenwashed.” The USDA Certified Biobased label enables us to disclose the percent renewable carbon in our products, telling consumers how much carbon comes from plants versus petroleum. The credibility of the method will give consumers the confidence they deserve to make conscious choices about their purchases and the products they bring into their homes.”


Jacquelyn Ottman and Mark Eisen are colleagues at New York City-based J. Ottman Consulting, Inc. They advised USDA BioPreferred 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. Ms. Ottman is the author of The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011), named a Top 40 Sustainability book by Cambridge University.

Mr. Eisen is the former environmental marketing director at The Home Depot.  They are co-authors of “The Rise of the Biobased Economy — Why Brand Owners Need a Strategy in 2012.”

Copyright © 2012 J. Ottman Consulting, Inc.

How Consumers Can Share Responsibility for Greening

Thursday, February 16, 2012 by
water faucet

Tom’s of Maine can make the toothpaste more natural, but they can’t force consumers to turn the water off when they brush. Coke can make the bottles recyclable, but only consumers can drop them in the blue bin. Sun Chips can make the bags compostable, but only consumers can see that they get to a composting pile instead of a trash can.
Communications can fill this gap. With life cycle risks escalating over time, green marketers must now educate their consumers on how to use and dispose of their products responsibly. And empirical evidence suggests consumers are willing to listen to these messages. Use the following tested strategies to engage your consumers.
Provide feedback.
The now familiar dashboard feature on Toyota’s Prius provides real-time information on the fuel efficiency being attained by the electric motor and combustion engine. Prius owners report trying to best their previous mileage achievements on successive tries, and they even try to beat each other.

Use peer pressure.
The software company OPower provides electric utilities with software that helps provide comparative information on electricity usage. The program measures efficiency by sending customers “smiley faces” when their performance exceeds that of neighbors. This simple software was responsible for generating sustained reductions of energy usage by 2% in a 2008 test by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Make it fun.
Incentives and rewards can help too. RecycleBank, for one, does a fine job of educating consumers through the use of games. SmartPhones are also making new information accessible to consumers. Phone applications that check a product’s eco-credentials are becoming especially popular, turning shopping into a new educational experience
Make the intangible tangible.
Motivate consumers to use and dispose of products more responsibly by using compelling visuals to better communicate their impacts. The chart from Procter & Gamble (I added the “You are Here”) was intended for businesspeople, so it might be a tad technical, but I think you’ll get my point. It shows the energy impacts throughout various life cycle stages for several product categories, including laundry detergent, shampoos and diapers, among others.

product energy usage
If you follow the line that stands out like the Empire State Building, you’ll see that the key energy-related impact of laundry detergent is not related to the production process or supply chain transportation; the main impact is the energy it takes to heat the water. I’m sure you’ll agree that a visual like this combined with additional information-let’s say costs and climate change impacts—could be instrumental in getting consumers to turn the dial down to cold.
 Jacquelyn Ottman is the founder and principal of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., an expert advisers on green marketing to consumer product marketers and U.S. government labeling programs. She is the author of four books on green marketing, including the recently released The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011).
 Download a free chapter and get more information here.

from The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler 2011) by Jacquelyn A. Ottman.
This post was originally published July 14, 2011 on


Tuesday, February 7, 2012 by
SUMBA, INDONESIA—When I bid on an “Eco Resort Experience” last March at the : Christie’s Green Auction, I thought we were probably headed to a typically exotic deluxe vacation spot on the other side of the world.  It turns out that I was in store for one of the most memorable experiences of my life, reminiscent of Marty McFLy traveling in his “Back To The Future” DeLorean car.  A visit to Nihiwatu in Sumba, Indonesia is truly a trip back in time.

Private Pool from Nihiwatu Deluxe VillaNihiwatu is an exclusive resort but not in the traditional sense.  It is built into the raw, previously uninhabited beach of West Sumba.  This ain’t Bali, folks, far from it.  Bali is New York City compared to Sumba, which is located about 400 miles east of Bali.  The area in Indonesia is truly a time warp, one of the last animist societies remaining in the world.  It was discovered by one of Magellan’s companions,  in the 16th century on a spice gathering voyage.  Overall, not much has changed on this island of 600,000 natives since those days, with the exception of the Nihiwatu compound brought to you by visionaries Claude and Petra Graves. Intimate and personal, the resort holds about 32 guests maximum in a series of tastefully outfitted villas and bungalows.
In case you’re wondering, yes, the Sumbanese still hunt heads.  While this is illegal according to the Indonesian government, there were four beheadings in the past few months.  It’s not dangerous for tourists, however, as this type of island justice is strictly reserved for tribal disputes.  Apparently, centuries of headhunting is a hard habit to break.  Each village used to feature a “skull tree” at its gate, with examples of recent battle victories for all to see.
When I arrived, there was really nothing here,” recalled Claude Graves, a New Jersey native who with his elegant German wife, Petra, founded and began building out Nihiwatu in 1989.  “As a surfer, we looked out at perfect 20 foot waves on an absolutely pristine beach, and after a lengthy search, we knew we’d found our piece of paradise.”  As Petra described it, “We didn’t even say a word, we just started setting up camp”.

Rocky Beach Morning RunFrom an environmental standpoint, the Graves were committed to remaining true to the three-pronged agenda of  economy, environment, and social equity.  This made things even more difficult, as the environment is raw, breathtakingly beautiful, but equally harsh and unforgiving.  Winds, torrential rains, blazing sun, dangerous ocean currents, lack of any infrastructure or built environment, much less availability of building materials on the island, all conspired to make the construction of Nihiwatu a multi-year project filled with challenges and disappointments.
Despite these obstacles, locally sourced sustainable woods were used throughout the facility.  Locals sell coconuts to the resort, which has an on-site processing capability to turn the coconut oil into which powers all vehicles, generators, air conditioners, boats, jet skis, and the kitchen.  A large  pile absorbs all food waste (and miraculously, does not give off any foul fumes, unlike my  home composter.
Most of the
is locally sourced, organically grown, harvested and  prepared Fruits are predicably exotic and wonderful, as in mangosteens, dragonfruit, lycee, mangoes and coconuts, all right off the stem.   Coffees  and teas give Starbucks a run for their money, which is good since Sumba is one of few places on earth that will never qualify for Starbucks-ization.  Best are the Sumbanese, Sumatran and Balinese beans which made my morning Joe especially memorable.  It’s probably best to bring your own wines, as Nihiwatu’s cellar is not geared for the connoisseur.  It’s a little tricky getting your own bottles through customs in Bali, so, be prepared for a “discussion” with the agents as a bit of “negotiation” may be required.

Nihiwatu  could double as a training ground for the Survivor or The Great Race television series – its athletic offerings will especially be appreciated by amateur adventure athletes.  To that end,  Nihiwatu  offers the best athletic equipment we have used at any resort.  Dive gear is first rate (bring your own mask, that’s all you need), the mountain bikes are pricey and well maintained, surfboards are properly waxed, the list goes on.

Rough Waters at Nihiwatu BeachThe mountain biking offers plenty of climbs and downhills, overall the terrain is rugged but scenic;  the hiking is literally bushwhacking, crossing narrow, muddy trails and creaky bamboo bridges in driving rains to reach thundering 100+-foot waterfalls (how I wish I had thought to put my camera in a Ziplock bag…); the surfing and standup paddle boarding are great but not for the inexperienced as strong currents and riptides are found all along the beach;  horseback riding is best reserved for accomplished cowboys and cowgirls as the small, super-cute but untamed Sumbanese Sandalwood horses are exciting to ride but tend to be unruly.  Scuba diving is decent but don’t expect the crystal clear waters and visual delights of Grand Cayman or Belize.  The coral in particular is varied and vibrant, but currents even at 60-100 feet can be strong.  The jet-ski is Yamaha’s newest high horsepower model, don’t twist the throttle unless you are ready for instant-on acceleration from this heavyweight, blazing fast craft.  Even the three+ mile out and back run along one of the world’s most scenic beaches, while not to be missed, isn’t just a casual jog.  The sand, wind and high humidity made this inspiring route feel longer and more difficult than expected.  I encountered not one human, only water buffalo that had grazed down from the foothills.  In the morning, the sand is less soft and running barefoot was especially satisfying.

Mosquitoes can be a problem at  Nihiwatu $nbsp; You’re in a true jungle, and malaria is a common ailment.  We bathed in Off spray twice a day, which was an effective deterrant for the most part.  We also took anti-malaria medicine, which is recommended.  One pill a day for 12 days and you’re good to go.

Sumba Foundation, which has provided schools, water wells, medical and anti-malaria clinics and other critical services to over 20,000 villagers in West Sumba.  The Graves have made this their life’s work, sacrificing profits from Nihiwatu to fund these projects for the impoverished natives.  The Graves were in Bali in the 70s, and could have devoted their resources to building hotels and restaurants there and enjoyed the benefits that would have undoubtedly followed.  So why would a young, attractive, successful couple give up such opportunity, all to go to a primitive island and help people living as they did 1,000 years ago?

Visit to Typical Sumbanese VillageWe employ these people, we have taught them English, how to hold a job, how to fish and cook with modern equipment, how to take better care of their families, and showed them why they need running water and cleaner conditions.  Many of them still don’t really get it, but some of them do, and that has been very rewarding to us,” Claude Graves explained.  “The mortality rate of their children has decreased nearly 50 percent since we brought the malaria and medical clinics on stream.  And our better local employees have gone on to purchase land, build improved houses and take care of their entire extended families through what they have learned at Nihiwatu.  This is the work of the Sumba Foundation, and we have a lot more to do.
One thing I didn’t get to see was the Pasola, a traditional contest among tribes that features warriors atop the miniature sandalwood horses, armed with spears (the Indonesian government has required the spear tips to be dulled).  It is basically organized chaos, very colorful and exciting, and inevitably, there are deaths.  In fact, the Pasola is not considered successful unless there is bloodshed, the more the better as blood on the earth symbolizes a bountiful harvest in the coming year.

Welcome DancePerhaps the most fascinating thing about Sumba is seeing the Graves work with the natives.  They have mastered the art of transitioning people out of poverty, without infringing on their cultural values.  Governments could learn a lot from studying the Sumba Foundation.  Be sure to view the Sumba Foundation video and tour one of the Sumbanese villages, it’s a trip back in time that is not to be missed.  Be prepared, however, for the primitive conditions, which can be a little disarming – Gilligan’s Island it ain’t.  People, dogs, cats, swine, horses, monkeys and other family “possessions” share the same living quarters.
You will also meet some interesting people as  Nihiwatu  attracts the cultural and physical elite.  Film producers and directors, philanthropists, designers, CEOs – most of whom appear to be in great athletic shape – populate the place on a regular basis. Oh, one more thing.  Not much nightlife on Sumba, but Sumba tends to attract eco-conscious movers and shakers from all over the world as its guests.  Thus we managed to make our own New Year’s Eve party, and as the saying goes, what happens in  Nihiwatu, stays in  Nihiwatu

Typical Sunset at Nihiwatu Beach
Typical Sunset at Nihiwatu Beach

 Fly out of LAX or JFK to Denpasar, Bali, usually via Taipei or Singapore.  Overnight in Denpasar, then catch a surprisingly large jet for the 50 minute flight to Sumba.  SUVs from  Nihiwatu will be waiting to take you on the 90 minute drive across the island to reach the resort, located at the extreme edge of West Sumba.

COST AND AVAILABILITY:  Variable according to season.  Most packages include room, three meals per day, welcome massage, all non-alcoholic beverages and other extras end up at between $730 and $3500 per night, depending upon accommodation.  Surfers should pay special attention to timing, as during prime surfing season management only allows 10 surfing guests.  You won’t have to compete for the best waves here. Read more by Jennifer Schwab on her  Inner Green

LOHAS Trends 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012 by

After reviewing the numerous trend articles out there and considering my own perspectives I have put together some that I think are relevant to LOHAS. Here are a few that I feel are relevant for the coming year:

1. Whiskey is for Drinking, Water Is for Fighting Over
droughtThe famous Mark Twain quote will become more prevalent in society as new realities of water scarcity will become better known to an ever growing global thirst.  Everyone will talk about it but few will do anything. Sadly, it may only start to take off if humanitarian crises hit close to home.  As we focus on our societal water use, it is an admission that climate change is our new reality and it is time to start managing the effects. The material risks associated with increased droughts and flooding will be among the most poignant effects of climate change. You may already be talking about this with the lack of snowfall around the country during the early part of this year.

2. Capitalism is Changing as We Know and it Should
Since the Industrial Age, businesses have built their wealth off of the extraction of natural resources. Unless businesses start to value and protect these resources, this cycle will have a devastating impact on the lives of our children and grandchildren.  Richard Branson echoes this sentiment and also believes it cannot survive in its current model. This can also cause potential ecoflation identified in 2008.  Many people have begun to realize that business as usual is no longer an option. What is an option is to reinvent capitalism and truly be a force for good in the world. Certification groups such as FairTrade and Benefit Corporation are working to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.  The changing economic scene provides unique opportunity for innovation and success in unconventional settings. The sky is the limit as new ways to do better business are taking root everyday.

3. Blurring the Differences Between “For-Profits” and “Non-Profits”
nonprofit forprofitThere has been a surge of entrepreneurs providing innovative business solutions with the purpose of “doing good”.   In these tumultuous times when unemployment is high, many are turning their backs on the job fairs and putting their efforts into creating new businesses that fill needs such as TaskRabbit, and Viatask.   Non-profits will incorporate more for-profit business models into their programs. There is a strong growth in social entrepreneurialism globally and this will increase with the emergence of new solutions for world issues. Groups like the Social Venture Network, Sansori and Unreasonable Institute will increase to provide resources for start ups. Social enterprises will encompass the very definition of business and 2012 will be an important year.

4. Gamificating Your life
Expect and increase in the game addiction methods to make a world a better place this next year. Game and point system rewards programs such as My Recycle Bank , My Energy and Greenopolis will see newcomers such as Ecobonus that rewards points to green and organic shoppers. More smart apps will provide LOHAS shoppers and energy efficiencies for homes and automobiles. 

5. Evidence Based Sustainability
Proof of sustainability will be emphasized more than ever as businesses will seek cost effective measure to reduce bills and be a good environmental citizen. Purchasing departments will be requiring vendors to document how they address sustainability issues within their own businesses will become more commonplace. As facilities and businesses increasingly operate in a more sustainable manner, they will turn to "dashboard" systems to help measure, manage and report progress.

6. We'll All Want to Plug in to Plug-in Hybrids
plugin hybridHybrids are not new but the latest improvements in technology will allow them to be more affordable to the average consumer. If electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are the trail-blazers, plug-in hybrids could be the game-changer the auto industry has been seeking. The prospect of a car that can travel distances of up to 40 miles using electric power before switching to a gas engine for longer journeys promises to overcome the biggest objection to electric cars - the fear the battery will run out mid-journey.  Design also looks exciting. We only need to look into BMW i8 roadster concept and visualize where this might take the car industry in near future. The high profile Vauxhall Ampera and Toyota Plug-in hybrid will create a lot of buzz this year and assuming the cars offer reasonable performance they could quickly become the default option for green-minded motorists and cost-conscious fleet operators

7. More Fun with Sharing Stuff
Sharing will not only be a part of social media but of reality. Considerations of downscaling due to financial, lifestyle reasons or social pressures will increase in sharing the excesses of the past decade as we become more conscious of what we have that we don’t use that others can borrow. Rent Stuff, Loanables and Rent Stuff Easy allow you to do exactly what they say.  A while back Sharable listed eight ways to share your stuff. That's about few of those thousands of ways of giving your stuff (or money) away for charity. Couchsurfing connects travelers with people who offer their homes as an economical place to stay. Rising oil costs will put pressure on transportation and the demand for shared and public transportation. Transportation share programs such as Zipcar, Bixi or Bcycle will increase. In four years the number of registered users have gone up from less than one million to more than four million. By carpooling, shared trips have gone up from less than three million to almost eight million.
8. Responsible Profitability Attracts Attention
Responsibility has been strongly associated with greater profitability, equity and asset returns, and shareholder value creation. But that’s no longer good enough. Today, the bar is being raised; success is itself changing. Companies are beginning to be judged against a whole new set of criteria by customers, governments, communities, employees, and investors. They’re already saying, so you made a profit. Yawn. Did you actually have an impact? Did what you do have a positive, lasting consequence that was meaningful in human terms? Several studies have provided evidence suggesting that betterness yields greater equity returns, asset returns, and profitability. This not only makes sense for those who are mission oriented but also for risk management.  One recent study found firms that score strongly in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) find that their cost of equity capital financing is consistently lower than firms with weaker CSR track records. Responsibility fuels outperformance because it is risk management: better insurance against adverse future events.

9. Emphasis on Corporate Culture
Successful startup companies such as Method, Zappos and New Belgium Brewery are all preachers of their unique culture developed around their workplace. They preach not to chase the profits but to chase the dream. Engaging employees as a collective of ideas and not compartmentalization is a new form of corporate structure. It is not just about the fun office parties and surroundings but understanding the larger mission of the company and empowering employees. Creative agencies and culture builders have seen the need to train and educate companies on these emerging traits that are attractive for the young new work force.

10. Natural Disasters Will Continue
Expect your homeowners insurance rate to rise in 2012 as weather related damages cost $70 natural disastersbillion in U.S. economic losses in 2011.  All the indicators on climate risk are pointing the wrong way.  The financial and human cost of extreme weather and climate-related disasters is on an unmistakably upward trend. Meanwhile, our energy infrastructure remains as risky as ever with the Fukushima disaster following the BP oil spill in highlighting how fragile our energy supplies really are. It is a safe bet that 2012 will again be marred by a large-scale environmental tragedy of one form or another. Meanwhile, sensible businesses and policymakers will start taking climate adaptation more seriously.

References for these trends are:
Huffington Post
PR Newswire

Are there any missing? Let me know what others trends you forsee for 2012 and LOHAS.


Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, 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

The Rise of the Biobased Economy — and Why Brand Owners Need to Develop a Strategy in 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 by

Bio Based CertificationOur economy is slowly but surely heeding the signal that carbon is the new watchword. During the past few years, a steady stream of so-called “biobased” products have been making their way to retail shelves — compostable dinnerware made from corn, plant-based laundry detergents, and bamboo flooring among them. Coke and Pepsi are now competing to be first to market with a soft drink bottle derived entirely from sugarcane or other plant materials.

The emerging biobased economy even has its own label — USDA Certified Biobased, pictured here. It’s part of a federal BioPreferred program designed to help grow “green” jobs, stimulate the rural economy, promote energy independence and prompt a shift to renewable resources from petroleum, helping to manage the carbon cycle.

Launched in February 2011, the label needs a little introduction since the term “biobased”, although familiar sounding, represents more than meets the eye. We advised the USDA on strategic marketing considerations related to the launch of the USDA Certified Biobased label. Here’s a primer — and why you need to be thinking about forming your own biobased strategy during 2012.

What is “Biobased”?
Ask a consumer what “biobased” means and they might respond with somewhat erroneous definitions such as “natural” “biodegradable” or “renewable”.  Consult Webster and you’ll come up short. But the USDA (and federal law) defines it quite specifically as “commercial or industrial products, other than food or feed, that are composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products or renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and aquatic materials), or forestry materials” — hence the label depicting the soil, sea and the sun.

More important than this definition are the program’s intention — to expand the market for alternatives to petroleum-based products by promoting new uses for agricultural commodities such as bioplastics, biofibers and biobased chemicals. It thus excludes products such as office paper, cotton t-shirts and wooden furniture introduced before 1972. (See for more details.)

Both finished consumer and commercial products as well as intermediate products (e.g., platform chemicals, fibers, etc.) are currently eligible to earn the USDA Certified Biobased label. Standards for “complex” products (consisting of many components, such as automobiles) are being developed. Among the many products that have already earned the label are: Procter & Gamble’s Gillette ProGuide Fusion razor package; Papermate mechanical pencils made from Mirel biodegradable plastic, the Greenware line of cold cups made from NatureWorks’ plant-based Ingeo polymer; and intermediates such as Lenzing’s TENCEL lyocell fiber made from eucalyptus and DuPont’s Sorona polymer. Seventh Generation is so bullish about the label that they have certified over 60 of their household cleaning and personal care products — virtually their entire product line-up.

Why Pursue a Biobased Strategy
The credibility and broadscale awareness of the brand USDA positions labeled products to stand out to consumers. In an age where consumers actively seek environmentally preferable biobased products with comparable price and performance, having the USDA certified biobased label increases shelf appeal. And marketing benefits don’t stop there. The federal government, by law and executive order, now gives purchasing preference to over sixty categories of biobased products. Biobased alternatives can also help businesses to manage volatile petroleum-driven costs and ensure sustainable supplies.

Measurement, Transparency and Product Performance
Not every product made with plants or other renewable resources can qualify for the USDA Certified Biobased label. That’s because the USDA has set strict minimums for biobased content in a wide range of “designated” products. For instance, a lip balm may only need 11% biobased content to qualify, while a disposable food container needs 72%. Any product category for which a target has not yet been established must achieve minimum biobased content levels of 25%. Although this 25% bar may at first glance seem low, keep in mind that minimums are based upon the highest levels of biobased content possible without compromising performance, and to encourage participation in a market now ramping up.

Biobased content is measured using a radiocarbon dating test standard, ASTM D6866. This test measures total carbon content and distinguishes the amount of “new” organic from fossil or petroleum-based carbon. This enables the “new” organic (biobased) carbon to be expressed as a percent of the total carbon. To foster transparency, encourage a level playing field and promote continuous improvement, the USDA Certified Biobased label requires disclosure of the percentage of biobased content for the product and/or package.

Caution Advised When Making Environmental Claims
Marketers may realize advantages if they can substantiate a product’s biobased content in support of environmental marketing claims such as “natural”, “biodegradable”, “renewable” or even “non-toxic”. However, none of these environmental attributes are automatic because of a product’s certified biobased content. Whether a claimed environmental attribute can be supported depends upon the amount of biobased content, as well as how the product was processed and transported, and other life cycle considerations.

Keep in mind too, that much consumer confusion surrounds the biodegradability and recyclability of bioplastics. For instance, some resins may not be biodegradable but can be recycled (like Coke’s bioplastic PET PlantBottle, recyclable with petroleum-based PET).  In addition, some traditional petroleum-based plastics are compostable in industrial (municipal) facilities, but not in backyard composters. And no plastic, biobased or otherwise, is designed to readily biodegrade in landfills.

The revised proposed FTC Green Guides, anticipated in 2012, will likely include specific guidance for biobased marketing and related claims. (We’ll discuss this in more depth in future posts.)

What’s Your Biobased Strategy?
According to Kate Lewis, Deputy Manager of the USDA BioPreferred program, since its introduction in February 2011, over 500 products have been certified to use the USDA Certified Biobased label and over 400 applications are in the pipeline.  She reports that her group is “looking forward to working with proactive brand owners to capitalize upon their certification and really drive this new bio-industrial revolution forward.” Now entering the market, these labelers will enjoy first-mover advantage as well as the opportunity to educate their consumers and other stakeholders about the benefit biobased content brings to their products.

Whether one leads or follows, it’s clear biobased products figure prominently in our future. We predict that all products will ultimately be judged by their carbon content and their potential to effect global climate change. So, credible biobased products are and will continue to be a critical component of a long-range strategy. Short-term motivations for developing a biobased strategy, while company and brand specific, can include minimizing cost, enhancing image, reputation and consumer perception, and avoiding potential regulatory risks. So key questions for every brand owner, product manager and CEO in 2012 are What’s your biobased strategy? Do you have a team in place to bring biobased innovation into your brand and product portfolio?

Jacquelyn Ottman and Mark Eisen wrote this article. They are colleagues at New York-based J. Ottman Consulting, Inc. They advised USDA BioPreferred on the launch of the USDA Certified Biobased label during 2011 and are now advising labelers on how to market their participation in the program. Ms. Ottman is the author of The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011). Mr. Eisen is the former environmental marketing director at The Home Depot.

Copyright © 2012 J. Ottman Consulting, Inc.

The Common Good Enterprise: A New Term for an Emerging Field

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 by

This editorial was originally published on CSRwire's Talkback blog.

non profit businessAs an investment advisor, I (Jim) am often asked to sit on nonprofit boards. I have grown uncomfortable with the term not-for-profit to describe these organizations, which often embrace business principles in their operations. For example, DC Greenworks generates income from government contracts and fees for green roof installations.

In 2002 I (Alicia) had difficulty finding graduate courses that blended business and social values. At a 2009 Net Impact conference, I was overwhelmed by the presence of over 2,000 MBA students interested in the common good.  When a conference attendee told me his girlfriend had complained of being assigned my father’s book When Corporations Rule the World, a tome on pitfalls of global corporations, yet again as part of her MBA program, I knew the world was changing.

A new sector is being born that blurs the lines between for-profit and not-for-profit worlds.  Business used to be about jobs and profit. Civil society organizations were the avenues to give back beyond job creation and products.  

Today an increasing number of businesses are building healthy communities, living wages and sustainable products into their corporate DNA. And more civil society organizations are embracing business values.

The Private Sector Has a Broader Mission

476 companies with $2.27 billion in annual revenue are certified now as B corporations, a designation given to businesses that meet environmental, governance and social criteria by the not-for-profit B Lab.

Certification has been followed by a tidal wave of state legislation giving such businesses legal jurisdiction.  Maryland, Vermont, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, New York and Virginia are front runners. In 2012 Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and DC will likely follow.

This legislation is significant. It supersedes a body of law legally interpreted to mean corporations must consider shareholder value before taking into account other stakeholders—including communities, employees and the planet.

Jim, who played a major role in passing two of these laws, co-founded a company that will become a B corporation called Blue Ridge Produce. The company aggregates locally grown food for sale to grocery stores and institutional buyers in the Washington DC area.  With the common good built into its corporate DNA, Blue Ridge Produce aims to maintain a healthy farming community in the region and will:

  • provide secure markets for local farmer
  • reduce the carbon footprint by keeping food closer to home
  • convert conventional growers to organic producers

 Business networking organizations like the Social Venture Network (SVN), B Lab, Social Enterprise Alliance, Investors’ Circle and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) are further helping the trend become a global movement.

While the Nonprofit Sector is Adopting Business Principles

Change is also happening within civil society organizations, motivated in part by technology entrepreneurs grounding their philanthropy in business values. The Skoll Foundation funded by eBay mogul Jeffrey Skoll provides grantees funding to develop engines of growth.  Called resource engines, some grantees are using funds to build business principles into their non-profit structures.

Created in 2009, the civil society organization Practice Greenhealth receives over half of its annual budget from membership dues paid by health providers like Kaiser Permanent in exchange for services aimed at greening their hospitals. Founder Gary Cohen built this resource engine after talking to entrepreneurs at the Skoll World Forum.

Language Is Powerful

Nothing captures an emerging trend like a name.

A name can in fact determine whether an idea or product popularizes or stays relegated to a small group of believers.  Just look at the dolphin fish. Only when restaurants began using its Hawaiian name Mahi-Mahi did this fish, which has no relation to the dolphin, begin to gain popularity in the United States.  After all, who wants to eat Flipper with an apricot glaze?  

Social enterprise, mission-driven business and for benefit corporations are a few of the descriptors for organizations blending business principles with common good aims.

We believe the movement can better communicate the power and purpose of this emerging field.

A New Operating System: The Common Good Enterprise

In our search for better lexicon, Jim came across a neglected phrase we would like to bring center stage: “the common good enterprise.” Here’s our definition:

A for-profit or not-for-profit organization whose primary purpose is to promote the well-being of people and/or the planet.  The organization generates at least a percentage of its revenue through the sale of goods and services (adapted from Kevin Lynch; Advertising on Higher Ground).

Why “common good enterprise”?

Its power is its clarity.

Common comes from the word “commons,” which describes a relationship to the community as a whole. Common good intuitively includes a regard for the planet, respect for individuals’ human rights, and support of communities.

The word “enterprise” is also self-explanatory—and speaks to revenue generated from the sale of goods and services.

 Common good enterprise is clearer than other terms such as its more popular sibling “social enterprise.”  Does “social enterprise” exclusively describe businesses? Or non-profits? Does “social” include the planet? Only leaps of the imagination can make the connection.


The labels we use for this new field matter.  Easy to grasp language provides a framework to help the public co-create this emerging sector.

Clear terms can translate into financial benefit. Why not pass legislation providing government procurement advantages to common good enterprises—whether companies or civil society organizations?  Could such language catalyze new capital pools?

It’s time to embrace “common good enterprise”—a term for organizations using business principles in support of the common good that will help mainstream the movement and make opportunities this field opens up a reality. 

Jim Epstein

Jim is the founder and Chairman of EFO Capital Management Inc., a family investment firm based in Washington D.C.  Jim is the developer of Belmont Bay, a mixed-use, pedestrian friendly community on the Occoquan River near Woodbridge, Virginia and is finalizing plans for a village development at the north end of Culpeper County, Virginia. Early in 2011 he founded Blue Ridge Produce, a local food aggregation operation that sources food from Virginia and the eastern seaboard for sale to grocery stores and wholesale and institution buyers in the Washington Metropolitan area.  Jim is a member of the Congress of New Urbanism and Social Venture Network.  His wide- ranging interests have led him to serve as Chairman of Dance Place and DC Greenworks, as a Board member at Trickles Foundation, and as an Emeritus member at Pathfinder International

Alicia Epstein Korten  Be Your Brand

"Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast" Peter Drucker

An award winning author, keynote speaker and culture consultant for ReNual, Alicia has led corporate culture transformation initiatives that have set offices on fire with new ideas, engaged employees, produced loyal, happy customers and increased profits.  Clients include Levis, Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Longfellow Sports Club, the Ford Foundation and the United Nations.  Her latest book Change Philanthropy is the winner of an Axiom Business Book Award gold medal.  She is a contributing author to Wake Me Up When the Data Is Over:  How Organizations Use Stories to Drive Results, an affiliate of the Social Ventures Network, a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate of Brown University. 3 facts about her: she motorcycled across Bali, lived on a garbage dump in the Philippines for a week and recently fulfilled her life long dream of swimming with dolphins.

Contact Alicia for a complimentary consultation: (703) 875 – 9139 or email her
Follow on Twitter: Search “Alicia Korten” or try @beyorbrand (may change as we are rebranding)
Renual YouTube Videos
Sign up for ReNual’s culture-zine at:



LOHAS Goes Urban

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 by

Earlier this year I attended the Urban Green Summit. This was an event that focused on the inner city citizens of Denver to promote better awareness of green and sustainable business opportunities. It was definitely a crowd that I wanted to connect with and peaked my curiosity to know if LOHAS aspects penetrate different cultures and economic circumstances. I was not disappointed. The event was developed by CURE-T’s Dr. H. Malcolm who received federal funding to promote green jobs and education in Colorado. Dr. Malcolm is a mover and a shaker and you can’t help but be magnetized to his presence and his message. He is always deflecting praise and bringing in others to highlight. This is a sign of a great leader in my book. He also echoed a concern that I have myself: Why is it that the urban communities of color always appear absent in green initiatives, conferences and activities? The LOHAS market tends to target the largely affluent caucasian market. But there is plenty of opportunity unseen and untouched in the minority dominant urban markets as well.

The summit had a star studded panel that included Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All, environmentalist and author, John Francis III and founder of Green for All and current president of Rebuild a Dream, Van Jones. These heavy hitters were mixed with other local movers and shakers in the green movement. Unfortunately I was hoping that there would be more people in attendance at the event. I was told from an insider that having an event on a Saturday morning early is not so PC in the African American communities. There were indeed more people who were there as the day progressed.  I found it to be a very interesting event and demonstrated that green needs to be connected to the urban community by education and clear benefits. The best presentation for me came from Van Jones.

Here is what Van had to say to the urban based audience. See if it resonates with you:

van jones“These days people are gathering in unusual groups. Not large groups but different ones. They are the ones who grew were the sensitive children. These are the ones that wanted to save the polar bears and save the world and were disturbed by the mistreatment of others. This tribe is just beginning to find each other. There are more people entering life who are sensitive. Something happening where humanity is being tested and if we don’t pass nothing will be left. Will humanity prove to be a blessing or a curse. This the first time technology and size make up a force of nature. The creator could have made us as robots he did not. We are something more interesting. We have free will, choice and decision making abilities. All other species are set in process.

Will we be locusts or honey bees? Both work hard but one is destructive and one is constructive. Locusts wipe out everything in its path. Destroy habitat until there is none at which point they die. Bees work is a blessing. It makes life of others possible. This movement is deeper than just solar panels and part of interest is the growing sense of peril. I cannot believe that only one race cares for the earth. The U.S. colonization was just as much about land as it was about labor. Land is sacred. We need to remember to view it as such instead of a commodity. We need to remember the difference between a tree and lumber, an animal vs. a pelt, a person vs. a slave. These sacred beliefs were considered paganism. Indigenous peoples of the world have this wisdom and are outcasts in modern society. They are called witches, druids, and pagans. It turns out they are quite wise. They are also known as the highest ecological wisdom. It is only now after 500 years of colonization that the children of the colonizers are coming around to honoring this wisdom.

Do we belong to the earth or does the earth belong to us? An economy that is run by fossil fuels equals trouble in the future. We run a civilization that runs on death. Coal is 40 million years old. Oil is 60 million years old. Both are made up of dead materials. We burn death in our cars and as electricity but are shocked when death shows up as asthma and global warming. We are much better when we have a living economy. One that runs on life such as the sun, wind and water.

So how do we get there? We need to change our ways. Change has 4 drivers. There are the mystics. They see the vision of what we are to become. Then there are the artists who popularize the vision. The entrepreneurs who create the technologies and then the politicians who create the rules.  The current culture is not ready for change. The Tea Party is a buzz saw. And yet the biosphere is so small that we need change. We are a soap bubble in the universe.  What can we do? The last economy had 3 mistakes: 1. Consumptions 2. Credit 3.Ecological destruction

Production has moved overseas and our economy was based on spending. Kill it, shrink wrap it, sell it, trash it was the method. The past 18 months has seen the most wacky weather and environmental changes. Mother earth is telling us something. We need to adopt a strategy of green growth, restoration and conservation. Create local consumption that respects the earth. If I had talked to you all in 08’ it would have been very different. You would have all been smiling. Obama will take care of us. Now everyone is looking gloomy. This was only 2 ½ years ago. Do you remember where you were when he was elected? When he was sworn into office? How you felt? We forgot how we got to that moment. Obama was not the author for hope. The movement for hope didn’t start with Obama it started in 03’. When Bush went to war you stood up. More people mobilized in the 1st week than Vietnam did in 6 years. We lost but we didn’t quit. In 06’ Kerry ran and was only 100K votes short of an Indiana win and lost but we didn’t quit. In 05’ Katrina hit as did the Huffington Post and YouTube. We had the 1st speaker of the house. Obama was out there as an unknown Senator selling a book and ran into the movement and found us. Don’t insult yourself. Obama inspired us but we inspired him first. Now it is time for the movement of hope and change. This can’t be about things we are against but things we are for. We need to be willing to connect people with work that needs to be done. Soldiers are coming home to nothing. Nation building needs to be done here too. There is a saying – bankers get rich in good times, the people go broke in bad times. We need to praise and support our public employees – teachers, fire fighters, nurses and police. Now rich people don’t pay tax and communities are abandoning them when they never have abandoned us.

You were born for a reason. You are sensitive for a reason. Depression is terrible. It clouds you so you can’t see the opportunity. They tried to kill hope in 68’ when Kennedy was assassinated. We are throwing away our efforts because FOX TV is mean. We have been through much more than the tea party. In 1906 no woman could vote, no paid holidays, no weekend, no child labor laws. People fought year after year until today. You fought when they had clubs and guns. We didn’t have social media and yet we mobilized. Are you going to be locusts or honey bees to make the next century ordinary or extraordinary and beautiful.”

Love to hear what you think of what Van Jones has said and if you feel LOHAS can be intergrated into urban markets is a better way.


Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, 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

Netflix Subscribers See Red, But Video Streaming Is All Green

Monday, September 26, 2011 by
When Netflix CEO Reed Hastings raised prices dramatically to discourage use of mail-in DVD service in favor of internet streaming, all holy hell broke loose with both customers and investors. The company has lost nearly half its market value since July and nearly one million customers have abandoned ship. 

Netflix Envelopes

Amidst this fury, I began thinking about Netflix as a customer and as a environmental advocate. My conclusion is that while Mr. Hastings probably needs some brushing up on his bedside manner or maybe should attend charm school, his edict is a blessing for the green world. Alas, Blockbuster, R.I.P., and as much as I like popping a couple of those little red envelopes filled with my favorite films into my brief case so I can view them anytime or anyplace, this practice as well needs to end.

Logic prevails when analyzing the Netflix situation. Think about the amount of fossil fuels burned by thousands upon thousands of SUVs with well-meaning suburban mom and 60 pound kid aboard, driving in traffic to the video store to grab the latest new release of Twilight or Justin Bieber's Never Say Never. Or more recently, the U.S. Postal Service trucks and vans, filled with hundreds of thousands of those red envelopes, transporting them across the nation to the mailboxes of America -- and back. It is impossible to estimate the amount of fuel needed for this logistic. 

Enter video streaming. From a green perspective, this is a brilliant way to save gazillions of gallons of fuel, and deliver movies to Netflix customers in real time. And while I feel badly for our continually shrinking U.S. Postal Service, the elimination of the red envelopes will save untold amounts of fuel and emissions since delivery and pickup is no longer part of the equation. Admittedly, the tens of thousands of computers, servers and televisions that will be used to view the streaming movies still create quite a bit of ambient heat. However, from a sustainability standpoint, the score is streaming one, delivery/pickup zero. Not to mention, Netflix will increase its profit margin by saving many millions on packaging, postage and handling.

A United States Postal Service truck seen in Carson City, Nevada. Photographed by Coolcaesar on December 24, 2005.
A United States Postal Service truck seen in Carson City, Nevada. Photographed by Coolcaesar on December 24, 2005.

A recent story on Gigaom quoted an NRDC study showing that streaming is vastly more energy efficient than other forms of movie watching. Netflix believes in this so deeply that it is splitting the company into two separate entities, probably in secret hopes that the DVD delivery side will be phased out. (The new "hard copy" DVD delivery and return side will be called Quickster.) 

There will be some losses of jobs at both the Netflix warehouses and USPS, which again, I feel badly about. The overall result however speaks for itself: streaming video is way, way greener than any other way to watch a film. So, my sustainable friends, our recommendation is that you forget about the Great Netflix Controversy, cancel your Quickster subscriptions, and take the streaming-only portion of the subscription service. Here is another case where going green is not only the smart and environmentally conscious choice, but also good for the company. We like it, and Netflix will, too.

Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter:

Why Ethics is at the Core of Everything in Business and Life.

Friday, June 24, 2011 by
The below article is brought to you as part of elephant journal’s ongoing coverage of LOHAS Forum. For our complete coverage, be sure to follow elephant on Twitter and Facebook.

The LOHAS Forum in Boulder is reminding us of what we already know: To live a meaningful life we need a compass that informs our behavior. I listened to the panel discussion on "Incorporating Socially Responsible Ethics in Your Supply Chain."  AVEDA, Eileen Fisher and the Endangered Species Chocolate Foundation sent representatives to engage with Forum participants.  Scott Leonard the Co-Founder ofIndigenous Designs moderated the panel and set the tone by asking all of us to think about what "Ethics" really means to us.

Standing as a Green Business Person

What would you do if your title for LIFE was "Vice President, Earth and Community Care." That's quite a responsibility. Can one person in one company truly care for our communities and the Earth? Well, that's Chuck Bennett's position at AVEDA. Ultimately we're being challenged to green our businesses at the same time we green our communities and our planet. The old idea that business is business and somehow separate from life is no longer acceptable to a growing segment of our culture we now call conscious consumers.

That's the point of the whole forum, suggesting that each one of us can step into that job description. After the panel I had a chance to talk with Scott the panel facilitator and we came up with this shared perspective: "As business leaders, we are integrating ethical principles, shifting the status quo economy. We are the care givers co-creating an entirely new ecology of commerce ."

Green Business Now

Through the course of the conversation, it became evident that the power of our consumer choices will drive companies to raise the bar on supply chain standards of behavior and performance. Ethical businessleaders are onto this trend and doing their best to keep up with the growing awareness that human behavior and "business as usual" is affecting all life on Earth. A favorite phrase is to Vote with your dollars in the marketplace of change! This is the core of ethical behavior, knowing that we impact ecological systems that support a healthy, balanced and harmonious life!

Bud Wilson Bud Wilson was a student-athlete-activist during the tumultuous era at Harvard University and emerged with an interdisciplinary degree combining, child development, innovative education and urban social policy.  He the Global Director of Bio-Regional Leadership and an awareness instructor and wilderness guide for Sacred Passage and The Way of Nature. Bud has devoted his passion and energy to raising awareness (including his own) and shifting human consciousness to appreciate that we are all living in an interdependent, interconnected world where there is more than enough for all of humanity to live in peace and harmony. A proud dad of 2 wonderful grown children! 

Collaboration. It's The New Competition.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 by

The below article is brought to you as part of elephant journal’s ongoing coverage of LOHAS Forum. For our complete coverage, be sure to follow elephant on Twitter and Facebook.

I'm super excited to be here, in my home town of Boulder, Colorado, to attend the annual LOHAS conference. As much as I'm averse to the unsexy acronym -- LOHAS -- (couldn't we have come up with something that rolls off the tongue a bit better?), I'm proud to be representing elephantjournal's perspective on this year's LOHAS conference. Boulder is, after all, America's hub for the sustainability, natural products, and alternative health industries. It may be a republic. But it's the hippest, greenest, most innovative republic out there!

I've just left the press conference led by Ted Ning, the Conference Director, and was struck by his enthusiasm for what this conference represents. How is this conference different for all the others? We've all been to events over the years, where it seems same 'ole, same 'ole...talking heads, peeps patting themselves on the back for what a great job they're doing in their respective industries. But this one really does feel different. It seems to promote and offer a new way of working together; a new way of doing business together; a new way to learn from and teach one another...which, in my opinion, is THE wave of the future...collaboration.

The "Us vs. Them" paradigm is over. In fact, companies that continue on the path of cutthroat competition will be left in the dust. Triple bottom line economics is what will drive the future of sustainable business. Thanks to the annual LOHAS conference, conscious companies have an opportunity to network with scores of other, like-minded green businesses in pursuit of three bottom lines : financial, environmental, and social. Get ready world. We're here. And the world is a changin' as we speak.

Collaboration. It's the new competition.

CSR today is derivative

Sunday, May 1, 2011 by

by Scott James

This month we took in a conversation with David Batstone, whose current job titles include Professor of Business & Entrepreneurship at University of San Francisco, President and Co-Founder of the Not For Sale Campaign, and Managing Partner of Just Business Fund. Let’s hear what David had to say:

telenorScott: What country should serve as a model for the U.S. community of CSR professionals and why?

David: Norway. I’ve been impressed with both their government and private sector initiatives. Their largest telecom company – TeleNor – was the 51% investor to bring launch Grameen Phone, the very successful mobile telephone company in Bangladesh. I wish our own country’s administration could begin encouraging business models and investments like this. We’re missing the boat in the U.S. to create local enterprises in other countries which offer both better return and a better chance of success because they are locally embedded. There are real business opportunities for – and with – the bottom billion. Let’s not lament the troubles involved; we must rethink who our market is and expand it to include this group.

Scott: Where are we (the US-based CSR community) succeeding?

David: Our private sector green protocols and investments are working. They represent cost savings, but also bring alternative energy and waste reduction to Corporate America in ways that you are not finding in other regions of the world. For example, last year Intel bought 1.4 billion kilowatts of renewable energy. Think of what that does for both new and existing renewable energy companies in terms of capital flow and attraction of investment dollars.

Intel is just one company; imagine if we were to see 10% of the Global 500 match Intel’s commitment! This is much more encouraging to me than any type of government compliance work around climate change. The private initiatives coming out of a strong CSR commitment are making much more headway than is our government.

Scott: How about our failures, where we are not succeeding as much as we could?

David: There is a real sense of ambivalence about CSR right now. It’s like a trip to the dentist; you know you have to do it but it’s not a pleasant experience. It does not provide inspiration and vision for most companies. But there is hope.

There are a selected few companies that are taking CSR to the very core of their business and corporate identity. It’s beyond starting a soup kitchen here or a HIV clinic there, although those are very important things. It’s about how our employees care and engage with this on a daily basis. They’re not just making widgets but tied to something bigger.

Stonyfield Farms (now owned by Dannon) used to do a lot of diverse philanthropy, but they’ve focused their CSR investments now to help farmers transform their dairy businesses from hormone-based to organic farming. And the small farmers are core to Stonyfield’s supply of high quality healthy products and brand identity.

Scott: Tell me about a company doing something in CSR that is a model for our future.

David: The G-III Apparel Group, which owns the U.S. license for Levi’s jackets and other name brands. As they are converting their supply chain, they’re thinking well beyond just CYA to create a story behind their product. They are reshaping what it means to be a retail brand by enhancing the lives of everyone who comes in contact with their product. G-III is sourcing organic cotton from an area in the Amazon heavily afflicted by human trafficking.

They are working with the Not For Sale Campaign to source from that region specifically to benefit the producers and communities, bringing the material to a Cambodian manufacturer also committed to a fully transparent supply chain. This enables retailers to communicate an authentic supply chain story, creating an emotional link for the end purchaser of the apparel. The new driver is consumer experience, not just price point and distribution.

Scott: What question are we not asking ourselves that we should?

David: Most of CSR today is derivative. We look for the easiest path, the plug-and-play CSR solution for our companies. Instead, we should be asking ourselves, “How do we become the Apple of social innovation?”

A Reminder that it was 'Yes We Can' not 'Yes He Can'.

Monday, December 13, 2010 by
Obama hopeEarlier this fall I was fortunate enough to hear Van Jones speak at the SVN fall conference. Van Jones was the Green Jobs Czar that Obama appointed only to be ousted by people who felt he was too controversial for the job. Prior to being appointed he founded Green For All that promotes green jobs in inner city communities solving both unemployment and the development of a green industry. He also wrote the Green Collar Economy that outlines his vision on how this could be done. I had not heard anything from him since his resignation from the White House appointed position and was curious if he had any remorse and what he thought of the current political and economic climate. What he said I found quite profound. He started out by talking about how disasters like the BP oil spill demonstrated what can happen from a perceived insignificant cheat from someone in the BP office that created catastrophic results and untold environmental and brand damage.

Here are highlights of the talk:

However, if one looks at the law of the universe this also means that perceived insignificant positive things can also have astronomical effects based off of the perceived insignificance of hope. If it works successfully negatively it can also work in positive ways. He remarked that those in the green movement tend to look at the coal and oil business as the big evil empire. But we cannot categorize them as such.  We also need to honor the 80,000 coal miners as heroes who risk their lives and their health for our benefit. They are the reason why we can turn on our lights and power our homes. Yet we have also created an equal amount of jobs positions (80,000) in the wind industry and 46,000 in the solar industry. There has also been 36,000 renewable energy enterprises created nationally. These are examples that things are working successfully for the green economy. But what happened to the movement that Obama cultivated during his presidential campaign? What happened to that momentum? Van explained that during the presidential election the Obama campaign was a well oiled machine that had 80 on staff.  Once Obama was sworn in as President the congress took over responsibilities on outreach and direction. The staff that kept in touch with supporters online and was successful in mobilizing volunteers and outreach has been reduced to 8 people. The 15 million person email list was given to the National Democratic Party but they and have been undisciplined with the use of it. The movement that Obama had created suddenly had no ability to communicate because of the leadership loss. As president, Obama needs to make tough decisions of mobilizing people and cut deals with republicans. Many see this these deals as a loss in integrity or broken promises. Those 15 million people had hope and now feel pained from the loss of their hope. They thought they had a home and had won with the election. Van reminded the audience that Obama’s message was “Yes We Can” not “Yes He Can”. Where did WE go?  Van feels that we can still fix this and can build on the community of love and support. We have voices but need to build a new platform and community to share common goals.

Van Jones talked about how the tea party built a platform successfully. They united people on values. The Democratic party tends to focus its energies on policies and individuals. These are very difficult to unite a movement. We need to go back to talking about heart based values and our intention to inspire children of all species. The rise tea party noise was not the rise of hatred but more the collapse of hope. They did not get larger they go louder. We didn’t get smaller we got silent.  2011 will be a gut check to see how we respond as a movement. Van stressed we need a platform to create stories that matter and need a partner in government. If we don’t ask how will we get it. No industry movement has made it without a government partner. It is not about right vs. left but about past vs. future and welfare vs. work and the redistribution of wealth vs. methods of new wealth. If done right these will sell themselves both on the congressional floor and in the world of business. I agree. Do you?