Bird Scooters To Be Available For Purchase As E-Scooter Industry Evolves

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The micro-mobility revolution continues apace. On a recent trip to a few cities across the U.S. last month, from East to West coast and across the South, I was struck by the fact that all urban centers are now awash with stand-on—or toppled over—electric scooters.

It’s amazing to think if you go back two years, you’d likely see no e-scooters at all. Bird, one of the pioneering companies in the rent-by-the-minute e-scooter business, didn’t exist until April 2017. But since then, along with rivals such as Lime, the company's equipment has become ubiquitous.

The young industry is naturally still evolving. Cities such as San Francisco rained all over Bird’s and Lime’s parades last year when city officials took exception to these companies "dumping" scooters all over town uninvited. When many local governments did allow scooter rental companies back in to their cities, permits were awarded to other companies that had to comply with newly written requirements, while pioneers, including Bird, were blocked from re-entry. 

As such, competition in the business of app-based rentals is fierce, while profits remain a future aspiration for operators. But Bird seems to be one of the most aggressive companies in finding ways to get its product into cities and into consumers’ hands by teasing out new market opportunities.

Circumventing San Francisco’s continuing exclusion of its operation in the rent-by-the-minute market, Bird announced last month that it would instead rent scooters to people on a monthly basis for a flat fee of $24.99. The company will even deliver one to your home and pick it up when you're done using it. 

The equipment is evolving, too. Despite the mass deployment of these diminutive vehicles, to date they have been of consumer-grade quality as opposed to industrial-strength quality. Living on the streets 24/7 and being ridden by multiple users numerous times a day was not the design brief of the scooter manufacturers, and so the average lifecycle of a scooter is currently measured in fewer than a handful of months.

Here, too, Bird is switching things up. As a result of being able to scale its business by raising venture capital, the company is in a position to work with scooter manufacturers to conceive of a more robust product that can withstand the rigors of constant city use.

The upgraded and more rugged scooter, named the Bird Zero, has a longer projected lifecycle and should be fit for purpose for at least 10 months of use, according to the company. In a recent interview with The Verge, founder Travis VanderZanden explained, “We’re now seeing that we’re doing 10 million rides, [in] 100 cities, with 2 million riders.” So, it makes sense to extend the serviceable life of a unit, especially as profitability is directly linked to how long a scooter remains in service. 

But in a move to build ridership in yet another market segment, Bird has taken things a step further and plans to make an iteration of the Bird Zero, the Bird One, available for consumer purchase. What this will offer customers is a more rugged and durable scooter developed for an urban commuter fleet, which will surpass the standard offered by other consumer e-scooters they can already buy online.

Of course, Bird's scooters will cost substantially more. You can buy a consumer-grade scooter from Amazon for around $500, whereas the Bird One will set customers back $1,299. For that, though, you’ll get a ride which tops out at 19 miles per hour, while providing a very useful range of up to 30 miles on a single charge—and you’ll get a choice of three different colors.

It’s probably a smart move on Bird’s part to cover multiple business models and approaches for getting its scooters into the mass market—rent by the minute, rent by the month and selling units to consumers—because it’s perhaps hard to tell where profits will ultimately be found in the e-scooter segment. Bird will at least build experience by covering more bases, and there should be money in it somewhere.  

Research shows that the growth of the electric scooter market is projected to be extremely robust. Grand View Research recently published a paper that revealed the global market size for e-scooters was $17.43 billion in 2018 across all genres, from e-mopeds, to stand-on e-scooters and folding variants, and will continue to grow as lithium-ion batteries become increasingly cheaper.

Despite this, however, the app-based rental market may or may not be where the action remains. In April, transportation reporter Andrew J. Hawkins, writing in The Verge, went as far as saying that e-scooters might not even be around for long. He notes that the fundamental numbers don't appear to add up because scooters don’t bring in enough revenue over their lifespan to cover their cost. 

Perhaps Bird’s longer-lasting, fleet-grade scooters will start to change the economics of rental operations. At the same time, Bird selling superior quality scooters to consumers could be the icing on the cake. 

Images courtesy of Bird 

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As the micro-mobility revolution continues, Bird—one of the pioneering companies in the rent-by-the-minute e-scooter business—will soon make its fleet-grade scooters available for sale.

This Tech Venture Is Out to Scale Sustainability Measurement in the Fashion Sector

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The Sustainable Apparel Coalition formed in the wake of an unlikely partnership between cult outdoor gear label Patagonia and retail giant Walmart back in 2009. The strange bedfellows came together to "incentivize companies to reduce environmental impact and increase social justice," Rick Ridgeway, VP of environmental initiatives and special media projects for Patagonia, said in a statement. 

The SAC trade organization now has more than 200 members, including some of the world's largest apparel brands and retailers like Adidas, H&M, Nike and Target. Its flagship effort, the Higg Index, is a sustainability measurement tool that allows apparel companies to assess the impact of their products across the value chain. In 2014, the SAC announced an updated version which it dubbed the Higg Index 2.0. It is now used by more than 10,000 apparel manufacturers globally. 

The biggest distinction between the first-generation Higg Index and Higg 2.0 was an updated platform. While the original Higg Index utilized a fairly bare-bones Excel model, the 2014 iteration brought the index to an online platform—increasing accuracy and allowing companies to share their sustainability data with peers and partners.

Now, the Higg Index is on the move again. On Monday, the SAC announced it will launch a for-profit technology venture in hopes of continuing to scale the impact measurement index to more apparel stakeholders worldwide. The newly launched Higg Co., a public benefit company based in San Francisco, will look to create new technologies to deliver the Higg Index, according to the SAC. 

It seems SAC's early partners are already on board with the new venture. "At Patagonia, we're looking forward to working with Higg Co. as a customer to scale positive impact throughout the entire value chain, " Ridgeway said. Walmart also recently announced it will work only with suppliers that adhere to the Higg Index by 2022, Business Insider reported

An apparel company's Higg assessment details the entire lifecycle of its clothing, footwear and accessories, from design to manufacturing to sale. The Higg suite includes the Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) web tool, an apparel and footwear materials list, along with measurements related to chemicals use, labor and human rights. 

After transferring tech development around the Higg Index to the new venture, the SAC says it will "continue to focus on the multi-stakeholder collaboration that drives social and environmental sustainability measurement and improvements" in the apparel sector. 

"The SAC's vision of an industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive social impact remains as vital as when we started," SAC Interim Executive Director Amina Razvi said in a statement. "Spinning out the technology capability enables both organizations to focus on accelerating progress toward that vision."

In addition to hosting Higg Index tools and pioneering new technologies, Higg Co. will give companies the capability to integrate measurable data directly into their internal systems, "better enabling decisions throughout the enterprise," according to the SAC. 

Higg Co. will be led by former SAC CEO Jason Kibbey, who 3p first interviewed about the Index back in 2014. "Our customers rely on strong technology to drive the social and environmental improvements that will reshape the apparel and footwear industry, and other industries in the future," Kibbey said in a statement. "With the spinout of Higg Co., we will provide the industry the trusted technology it needs to be able to implement the Higg Index at scale."

That’s good news, considering that the fashion industry’s progress toward its sustainability targets has slowed this year compared to last year, according to an annual report produced by SAC and the nonprofit Global Fashion Agenda

The transition to a for-profit model may raise some eyebrows, but funding partners—including the investment firm Titan Grove—say the shift will enable more effective deployment of the Higg Index, ultimately improving sustainability and social justice across the apparel supply chain. "As a for profit, well-capitalized company, Higg Co. will facilitate a faster and more efficient rollout of the Higg Index across global value chains to drive transformative, lasting change," said Titan Grove Chairman Jeff Tannenbaum.

Though the new venture will operate independently, it will continue to collaborate with the SAC, while rapidly scaling the Higg suite in a way that wouldn't be possible to fund at a nonprofit, Kibbey of Higg Co. said.  “We are dramatically expanding the engineering, quality assurance, resources and customer experience of the Higg platform," he told Ecotextile News ahead of the venture's launch. "We will be tripling—if not more—the amount of development work we are putting into the platform. Essentially, we’re building a tech organisation that is entirely focused on providing frictionless technology for members and users.”

Image credits: Rawpixel and Alisson Souto via Pexels

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The Sustainable Apparel Coalition will launch a for-profit technology venture to scale its impact measurement tools to more brands, manufacturers and retailers worldwide.

Fintech App Dave Fights Overdraft Fees and Payday Lenders

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Dave, a new fintech app, is the David to the big banks’ Goliath, fighting exorbitant overdraft fees by warning people they’re about to blow their budgets and even lending them $75 until their next paycheck. 

With 4 out of 5 Americans living paycheck to paycheck, the cash advance from the Dave mascot, a bespectacled bear, makes it possible to buy a tank of gas or groceries until next payday, founder Jason Wilk told TriplePundit.  

Options like payday loans can drive people into further debt, as 3p has reported.

Wilk said he wanted to take on the $34 billion overdraft industry because “it seemed like the finance industry had the lowest brand loyalty of all” and was ripe for disruption. Tackling overdraft fees was “something that could solve true customer pain points,” he said. “We’ve all experienced it.”

Banks on average charge $35 each time a balance goes below $0 for a transaction.  

Warns of danger ahead

For a membership fee of $1 a month, Dave syncs with customers’ checking accounts to monitor their spending habits and predict when they are at risk of overdrawing their accounts. Dave’s pop-up warnings anticipate regular outlays—like rent or utility bills—and give users an adamant heads up that trouble is ahead. 

The $1 monthly membership covers the cost of connecting to customers’ banks, getting balance updates, and sending texts if a user is about to overdraft. Wilk said the company has no plans to ever share anyone’s financial histories with third parties.

Dave’s goal is to help people of all income groups, Wilk told us. Of its 2 million users, about 15 percent are close to the income level that experience food insecurity, he said. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, around 300,000 people used the app to purchase food.

To get an advance of up to $75 before the next payday, Dave requires users to have a job with a guaranteed, steady paycheck and have the ability to pay the loan back. The company does not pull credit reports to make that determination, so using the app doesn’t have an impact on a user’s credit score. Users are responsible for paying Dave back by the due date or risk being banned from the app.

For the more than 25 percent of Americans who overdrafted in the past 12 months, the service can be a lifesaver, Wilk said. “Overdrafts are an expensive form of credit, and it did not seem to me a good way to resolve spending issues,” he told us.  

Dave’s users pay an average of $500 annually in overdraft fees, Wilk explained, which is typical of most cash-strapped American consumers, according to a report by the personal finance website WalletHub.

Jason Wilk Dave app founderImage: Jason Wilk, founder of fintech company Dave. 

A younger demographic

Dave’s demographic skews younger—80 percent are under 30, with an average age of 22. “They’re just out of college, learning how to manage their money for the first time,” Wilk told us. With the budgeting tools and need to pay back advances, Dave’s bear is intended to help users learn better money-management skills.

Even billionaire investor Mark Cuban, an early backer of the Dave app, says he “got crushed by overdraft fees in my 20s.”

Yet with 40 percent of Americans unable to cover a $400 emergency expense, it is not just younger people who find themselves cash strapped.

Recognizing that chronic overdrafting may be part of larger financial pressures, Dave’s app offers Side Hustle, which connects Dave users with side gigs to earn extra income. To participate, Dave users select the gigs they're interested in and are sent the information they need to get started. To date, Dave has received over 100,000 applications through the program. 

Tip us and we’ll plant a tree

Dave doesn't make any money from the borrowing service aside from optional donations. Those donations—or tips, as Wilk describes them—make it possible “to help people without charging an interest rate,” he said.  

For every percentage of a tip, Dave also donates a tree in sub-Saharan Africa through its partner, Trees for The Future. “I really wanted to have a charitable portion of the company, which is not typically what you see out there in the market. We thought planting trees could match up well with our gratuity model,” Wilk told 3p.

Images courtesy of Dave 

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Dave, a new fintech app, is the David to the big banks’ Goliath, fighting exorbitant overdraft fees and even lending users $75 until their next paycheck. 

Albertsons Shows How to Engage the Unengaged

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This post is part of a series on Stakeholder Engagement sponsored by Jurat Software.

When you consider a business like Whole Foods, the connection between customer engagement and sustainability is obvious, because the company has established a firm identity in conservation and related issues -- and when it forgets, alert customers will remind it. The challenge for a more mainstream supermarket like Albertsons is to bring conservation and recycling topics home to a clientele that may be too caught up in the rush of daily life to press for changes. The reward, though, is to reach a large cross-section of the population that may not otherwise cross paths with a well planned, focused sustainability effort. Albertson's has some ambitious zero waste plans for this fiscal year that promise to make corporate social responsibility part and parcel of one of life's most ordinary routines, the trip to the supermarket.

Albertsons, Zero Waste and Food Banks

Albertsons, which is a division of SUPERVALU, already tested the waters of zero waste with two of its Albertsons stores in Santa Barbara. The new plans include adding another 40 more by the time its fiscal year ends in February 2012. Although to SUPERVALU a zero is not necessarily a zero - the stores only have to achieve 90 percent to qualify for "zero waste" - it's still a good goal. Of particular interest is the company's existing engagement with food bank donations in order to reach that goal. SUPERVALU already has a strong track record in that regard, with about 60 million pounds donated through its Fresh Rescue program last year.

Engaging the Unengaged

One glance at an Albertsons weekly flyer is enough to tell you that the customer base is still shopping in pre-conservation mode, but that provides even more value to the company's CSR efforts. Reaching out to new audiences can be, and should be, a primary goal, and that's where companies selling "non-sustainable" products can have the greatest effect. That goes for services and activities, too, especially those in which sustainability would seem to be the last thing on anyone's mind. One great example is the world of auto racing, where California's Infineon Raceway is bringing sustainability concepts to thousands of racing fans. Another example is the U.S. military. Among many other sustainability programs, the Army's Net Zero Vision for military bases is going to impact hundreds of thousands of military personnel, their families, and their communities.

SUPERVALU and CSR

SUPERVALU may have a long way to go in some areas, but its latest CSR report (caution, big file) indicates a key strength, and that is its community partnerships. Aside from the Fresh Rescue program, the two Albertsons partnered with the City of Santa Barbara in a joint organic waste composting program. The report also underscores the profitability potentials for a well planned waste reduction effort, with a combination of recycling revenues and avoided waste disposal costs.

Image Credit: Roadsidepictures/Flickr

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Central Bankers Join the Ranks of Climate Activists

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What do Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg and Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, have in common?

All share a passionate concern for the looming human costs of climate inaction. Late last month, as Extinction Rebellion protestors occupied central London, and Sweden’s Greta Thunberg implored the European Parliament to heed climate scientists’ warnings, Carney and his fellow central bankers proved to be unlikely allies.  

In a strongly-worded Guardian article, Carney and his French counterpart, François Villeroy de Galhau, called for a “massive reallocation of capital” to address the climate threat.

The bankers’ call to action coincided with the publication of the first report by the Network for Greening the Financial Systems (NGFS). Made up of 36 central banks on five continents, whose economies emit half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the network seeks to coordinate collective financial sector action in support of the Paris Agreement goals. Members include Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The U.S. Federal Reserve is the most prominent absent institution.

The NGFS report, A Call to Action: Climate Change as a Source of Financial Risk, offers a blueprint for central banks, supervisors, policymakers and financial institutions to “green the financial system” and reduce disruptive climate-related financial risks. It urges all central banks to integrate climate risks in monitoring the financial stability of banking systems, and to lead by example by incorporating sustainability criteria in their own portfolios. Other recommendations include working together to plug data gaps, and share knowledge, to improve how financial institutions assess climate risks in a rapidly warming world. The report also backed the growing movement for consistent and transparent corporate climate risk disclosure, exemplified by the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.

The NGFS has grown rapidly since its Paris launch with eight members in December 2017, by French President Emmanuel Macron. Central bankers’ interest in voluntary climate action reflects rising concern over the costs of climate impacts, including a fivefold increase in insured losses over the past three decades. In 2018 alone, insurers shouldered a record-breaking $160 billion in climate-related losses as intensifying heatwaves, storms, droughts and floods struck around the globe. Another concern is that banks lending to fossil fuel reliant companies may face steep financial losses if assets such as coal and oil deposits become stranded.  

The report marks a new willingness by central banks to wade into the climate arena. In their Guardian article, Carney and Villeroy de Galhau explained why: “The prime responsibility for climate policy will continue to sit with governments. And the private sector will determine the success of the adjustment. But as financial policymakers and prudent supervisors, we cannot ignore the obvious risk before our eyes.”

It’s the same argument that Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg and her fellow student activists around the world make, as they protest in the streets and the corridors of power.

Image credit: Bank of England/Flickr

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What do Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg and the Bank of England have in common? They are all climate activists in their own unique way.

At Ball Corp., Innovation Drives Impact (And Business Growth)

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Editor's Note: This story is part of an editorial series featuring companies on CR Magazine's 20th annual 100 Best Corporate Citizens ranking, which recognizes outstanding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure and performance among the Russell 1,000 Index. You can follow the series here

Over the course of its nearly 140-year history, Ball Corp. diversified out of glass canning jars and into metal packaging and aerospace services. Those twin fields are now very much in play as the company seeks to adapt to the circular economy and reduce its climate impacts.

Engineering progress toward a circular economy 

Metal packaging—aluminum, steel and tin—gets high marks for recyclability. However, the urgency of climate action has added a new wrinkle. Whether made from virgin or recycled sources, packaging still has a carbon footprint throughout the manufacturing chain. Carbon emissions related to shipping also continue to trail packaging through the distribution chain to the consumer, and back again for recycling or disposal. 

The key factor for packaging is weight, just as it is for the aerospace industry. And, as with the aerospace field, packaging companies need to continue innovating for decarbonization throughout the lifecycle. The reason is simple: Clients are demanding more sustainable packaging. 

One illustrative example is Ball’s proprietary ReAl aluminum, used in its aerosol cans. Ball engineered ReAl to beat the industry standard for weight. The first version was 11 percent lighter than conventional cans. In 2015, Ball developed an improved version that achieved a 15 percent weight reduction, and the company is currently researching additional ways to cut weight from its cans. 

A broader perspective on the circular economy

Still, weight is just one part of the circular economy challenge. A quick look at Ball’s 2018 sustainability report indicates the complexities of decarbonizing for a growing, diversified company. On the other hand, the report indicates that companies can have a broad impact on the circular economy, within their own field and potentially far beyond. 

Ball CEO John A. Hayes explains: “Many of the innovative space systems that Ball Aerospace builds support actionable environmental intelligence, and allow scientists and other stakeholders to better understand and address key sustainability challenges, such as the circular economy, climate change, water stewardship and responsible sourcing.” 

In one recent example, the U.S. Air Force selected Ball to develop a “next-generation” environmental satellite system called WXF-M. Ball anticipates that the new microwave-based system will become an invaluable source for tracking ocean plastic pollution in addition to other uses.

Closer to home, Ball supports The Recycling Partnership and similar organizations that drive waste diversion efforts, alongside in-house programs that engage thousands of employees in recycling.

Adapting to new energy resources

Alongside its circular economy efforts, Ball began dipping into major renewable energy projects in 2015. The company initially committed to purchase power from three wind turbines near its plant in Findlay, Ohio, for a total capacity of 4.5 megawatts. (Whirlpool purchased two other wind turbines in the same project.) Last fall, the company announced it would add three more turbines with a similar capacity.

But that pales alongside Ball’s latest venture. In April of this year, the company entered into two renewable energy power purchase contracts, one for 161 megawatts of wind and the other for 227 megawatts of solar. In one fell swoop, that pair of contracts will enable Ball to source renewables for all the electricity used in its corporate, packaging, and aerospace operations in North America by the end of 2021.

Ball took advantage of two recent developments to achieve the jump up in scale. One is the emergence of “virtual” power purchase agreements for renewable energy. Virtual PPAs are a variation on the now-familiar PPA. They enable corporate power purchasers to guarantee themselves a supply of clean electrons, without having to create a whole new division to build, manage or market them.

The second development relates to savings on staff—and not re-inventing the wheel. Now that the renewable energy market has matured, expert consultants are available to help clean power buyers navigate their way through the process. Ball tapped Schneider Electric Energy and Sustainability Services to arrange its new wind and solar purchase.

Major purchases like these have a ripple effect on the cost and availability of renewables. They create economies of scale, grow the workforce, and motivate more investment dollars. With investment in renewables—as well as other areas ripe for sustainability innovation, such as the circular economy—companies like Ball are finding new opportunities to stand out from the crowd and create impacts that reach far beyond their own field of operations.

Image courtesy of Ball 

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With investment in areas ripe for sustainability innovation, such as the circular economy and climate action, Ball Corp. is finding new opportunities to stand out from the crowd.

Adobe Digital Academy Brings More Diverse Talent to Tech

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Editor's Note: This story is part of an editorial series featuring companies on CR Magazine's 20th annual 100 Best Corporate Citizens ranking, which recognizes outstanding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure and performance among the Russell 1,000 Index. You can follow the series here

Adobe’s 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report just dropped, revealing new information about its efforts to build talent in technology and creative fields. As the tech sector—and the U.S. economy overall—face increasing talent shortages, efforts such as these are all the more crucial for companies like Adobe. And early investments in this area are already paying off for the Silicon Valley software firm. 

The Adobe Creativity Scholarships program has now supported an impressive 137 students from more than 25 countries, covering the costs of tuition for students pursuing a degree in the arts or inspiring positive change via creativity.

Even more promising is the Adobe Digital Academy, which launched in 2016 and is a unique take on the tech talent pipeline that’s showing positive results already. The program is separated into three parts:

  1. An intensive, immersive three-month bootcamp that teaches web development or user experience design skills, funded by a scholarship and stipend from Adobe.
  2. A paid technical apprenticeship/internship with Adobe, during which students are embedded in engineering and design teams.
  3. Support in securing full-time employment, either at Adobe or other tech companies.

Of the 47 internships completed thus far, 25 have resulted in full-time positions at Adobe, Michelle Crozier, the company’s director of brand purpose and social impact, told TriplePundit. 

Adobe Digital Academy

Coding bootcamps are a common phenomenon these days, and it’s not unusual for tech companies to sponsor one or even create their own to ensure a steady drip of new talent. Tech bootcamps regularly churn out competent developers to feed the insatiable demand of the growing tech industry.

What makes Adobe’s program so exceptional is that it flips the bootcamp paradigm on its head. Many comparable programs cost money, up to tens of thousands of dollars, for a similar education. The Academy actually pays the students a modest stipend to support them during their rigorous studies so they can focus fully on learning the material without having to hold a part-time job. 

In fact, it would be more apt to compare the Adobe Digital Academy to an accelerator than a bootcamp. Not only do students receive funding, but there’s also a robust support network to help them succeed in the program and prepare them for a job in the technology field. They have access to individual mentors, job experience with immediate feedback, and a group of dedicated peers and alumni. 

The secret ingredient, however, isn’t the money or the resources. It’s the people.

The Adobe Digital Academy specifically seeks out nontraditional applicants: people from outside the technology field, who are willing to quit their jobs and risk it all in an industry with which they have little to no experience. Many of them are from demographics underrepresented in tech and demonstrate economic need. 

Crozier spoke on their potential. “There was a significant amount of skepticism that these candidates could qualify even for an internship, much less a job, with no previous tech training” she told us. “But we've been blown away by the caliber and the capability of these individuals.”

These candidates are already driven and passionate about the opportunity to learn, grow and form successful careers. Adobe partners with several nonprofit organizations, such as Digital Nest and Hack the Hood, to expand its reach and seek out individuals with the potential to thrive in the program.

The Adobe Digital Academy is yet another example illustrating that diversity is a strong contributor to company growth and especially profit. Instead of treating it as a box for HR to tick off, successful companies are actively investing in diversity—such as Adobe including people from different industries and professional backgrounds. These sorts of initiatives create an influx of new ideas, innovations and tactics which directly impact the bottom line.

As Adobe continues to succeed in building talent from nontraditional sources, other companies’ ears are perking up. “Every day, we get a call from a company that wants to know how we did it,” Crozier told us. 

Programs like this one are a win-win for everyone involved. Let’s hope it continues to inspire positive change across the industry. 

Images courtesy of Adobe and Arif Riyanto/Unsplash 

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Adobe Digital Academy seeks out nontraditional applicants with no formal tech training. Participants learn web development and user experience design skills, funded by a scholarship and stipend from Adobe.

Diversity in the Workplace: Women in Leadership

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Editor's Note: This story is included for our editorial series featuring companies on CR Magazine's 20th annual 100 Best Corporate Citizens ranking, which recognizes outstanding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure and performance among the Russell 1,000 Index. You can follow the series here

Bronwyn Brophy speaks candidly about her career path. “Growing up, the motto in my house was always ‘you’re as good as everyone else, but no better.’ Throughout my career, I’ve applied that thinking to how I approach my work and how I manage and mentor others. I tell rising female leaders, ‘You have to back yourself, you have to have the swagger and the belief in your own ability. Work hard, speak up, and be your own advocate.’” As vice president and general manager of Medtronic Gynecologic Health, Brophy was recognized three years in a row as one of Ireland’s Most Powerful Women, and, in 2018, she was inducted into the Women’s Executive Network Hall of Fame.

She points out, though, that there is still significant progress to be made in the journey toward gender equality in the workplace. “The glass ceiling has certainly diminished since I started my career,” she says. “But not as much as I had hoped. There is still much that remains to be done.”

According to the 2018 Catalyst Findings on Women in Leadership, women account for less than a quarter (24%) of senior roles globally. The results are similarly disproportionate in the United States. The McKinsey Women in the Workplace study found that in corporate America, only one in five senior leaders is a woman and only one in 25 is a woman of color.

To reduce this gap and make significant progress toward elevating women into leadership roles, companies must move beyond dialogue and focus on action. At Medtronic, action translates into fostering a strong culture of inclusion and accountability; setting aggressive, measurable goals; and implementing policies and programs that accelerate progress.

For diversity to thrive, inclusion must come first

Employees who feel that they are part of an inclusive work environment are 42% less likely to say they intend to leave their job within a year.* For diversity to thrive, Medtronic leaders believe building an inclusive culture must come first.

The foundation for that culture began in 1960, when cofounder, Earl Bakken, penned the Medtronic Mission and created a powerful vision for the company. Knowing early on how important diverse perspectives are to business, Bakken dedicated a section of the Mission to employees — specifically to recognize the dignity and the personal worth of employees.

“Our work to create a powerfully inclusive and diverse workplace is essential to our purpose, and Earl was absolutely visionary in this respect,” says Carol Surface, Chief Human Resources Officer, Medtronic. “Over a half century later, the business case is as real as ever: bringing diverse perspectives, diverse experiences, and diverse voices together leads to better decisions and ultimately better business results. For us, this translates to meaningful innovations that help our partners deliver superior patient outcomes.”

Accountability for change starts at the top

Building and fostering a strong pipeline of female talent at all levels of the company, especially in leadership roles, takes focus and dedication. While commitment to change is important, setting, measuring and communicating goals and metrics is crucial to progress and accountability. Over the last few years, Medtronic has been working toward having at least 40% female leadership in manager and above roles by 2020. At the end of 2018, women held 37% of the management level or above positions globally.

Accountability for results, driven from the top and cascading throughout all managers, is key to advancing the careers of women. Since joining Medtronic in 2011 as Chairman and CEO, Omar Ishrak has emphasized the need for more women in senior leadership roles. He has made inclusion and diversity, in general, a strategic priority, frequently emphasizing the role it plays in fostering innovation and the company’s ability to better serve patients. According to Deloitte’s “The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution: Eight Powerful Truths,” diversity of thought enhances innovation by 20%.†

In 2018, Ishrak committed Medtronic and its employees to accelerate change and gender equality in the workplace by formally joining the Catalyst CEO Champions for Change Initiative. This pledge — to work toward closing the gap on gender equality in the workplace — not only sets the standard for the type of company Medtronic strives to be, but also empowers people managers at all levels to contribute to that change.

“In a global marketplace and diverse world, fostering an enriching and inclusive workplace is essential to our success, as is a commitment to gender diversity and the advancement of female leadership,” Ishrak says. “I truly believe bringing different perspectives to our work, as well as employing a workforce that represents our patients and customers, will create a stronger, better company.”  Because of this, Medtronic senior leaders are held accountable for, and measured on, their contributions toward achieving the 2020 aspirational goal. They are expected to measure and create action plans to diversify talent, as well as nurture an inclusive environment where unique voices can be heard.

Reducing bias and creating balance

Today, across industries, women are less likely to be hired into entry-level and manager jobs and are far less likely to be promoted to manager. Studies show that for every 100 men who receive the first critical promotion to manager, only 70 women do. At Medtronic, there is progress to be made in elevating senior women leaders in science and engineering, general management and customer-facing roles.

Recognizing bias can exist in the interviewing process, Medtronic developed programs to ensure diverse hiring slates and interview panels. In 2018, the company hired nearly 16,000 new employees, of which 54% were women.

Creating balance in senior-level roles requires intentional tools and investments in internal growth opportunities for women and facilitating a consistent and fair promotion process. Medtronic provides a variety of development programs for people managers, including unconscious bias training. Likewise, seeking input from women through a structured career development process opens a two-way street for women to share their goals and aspirations and help leaders support the growth of that person’s career.

Seeking input from women has helped shape recent family-friendly policies like the Medtronic Family Care Leave for U.S. employees. Combined with already existing parental benefits, new parents can now receive additional weeks of paid time off. Employees can also take time away to care for an ill family member, or if a spouse is deployed to active duty.

“We are committed to providing all employees flexibility to manage their career through different life stages,” says Surface. “Our job is to ensure women are not walking away and leaving the workforce because they can’t find advancement opportunities or balance.”

Another program giving women more options to balance both a family and the ability to develop a career is Careers 2.0. Research suggests close to 25% of women in engineering careers leave the industry by age 30, citing work culture or family commitments.§ The Medtronic “returnship” program is for individuals looking to get back into STEM-related careers. It provides paid internships that help engineers on-ramp back into the workforce after an extended absence.

“It’s hard to balance career and family. They don’t always go hand in hand,” says product engineer Amanda Miranda. After taking six years off from her career in biomedical engineering, Miranda wasn’t sure she’d be able to return to the work she loved. The Careers 2.0 program gave her the opportunity she was looking for. “You question whether someone will hire you with a gap in your resume,” she says. “When I read the [returnship] job description, I was relieved.”

Communities provide support, open doors

Accountability from senior leadership is important to drive results, but equally as important is having the voice of all employees contributing to company-wide goals for inclusion and diversity. One of the biggest drivers of inclusion, and perhaps the strongest resource for women at Medtronic, is the Medtronic Women’s Network (MWN). The largest employee resource group (ERG) within Medtronic, the global network is comprised of 14,000 women and men at 105 locations across 60 countries and offers professional development, networking, and mentoring programs and tools that empower women to grow their career and lead.

Employee resource groups like the MWN are critical to creating peer groups and helping individuals combat the feeling of being the “only one” in their respective areas of work. “The MWN is a way for women to connect with others across the company who they might not otherwise have the opportunity to get to know,” says Liliana Gonzalez, vice president of the Medtronic Cardiac and Vascular Group in Latin America and member of the MWN leadership team. “At such a large company, it’s really important to do what we can to make everyone feel connected in some way, provide support, and encourage individuals to pursue their goals.”

Medtronic also offers a group for global senior women leaders called Commit to Connect to ensure female leaders at the level of vice president and above have a strong support system.

Measured success accelerates progress

Elevating women in the workplace was built into the DNA of Medtronic by Earl Bakken when he said, “I dreamed of a world where women lead.”

“If we expect to increase representation of women at more senior levels, then we must inspect metrics at all levels in the organization to make that happen,” said Surface. “We don’t have all of the answers, and our policies are far from perfect, but our commitment to getting this right is absolutely there.”

Committed to building a sustainable system that fosters inclusion and diversity, Medtronic continues its work to achieve true gender equality across all areas of the business. Adds Surface, “We should not rest until, at every level of the company, our gender diversity reflects that of the world, which means 50% women and 50% men.”

Learn more about how Medtronic is supporting a global workforce.

Previously published on Medronic.com and the 3BL Media newsroom.

Image credit: Christina Morillo/Pexels

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The New Climate for Business

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By: Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR

We are living through an era of fundamental change. Seemingly overnight, leaders from politics and business are raising questions about whether capitalism is fit for purpose in today’s world. Bottom-up activism—from employees, high school students, and others—is challenging the status quo, posing sharp new questions and demanding urgent action. Society is struggling to develop norms and rules for the new technologies that deliver amazing promise, alongside profound questions about the nature of privacy, the health of democracy, and the future of work. Nationalism is interfering with global trade and a sense of global values to guide business. And there is increasing evidence that climate change and the loss of biodiversity can no longer be viewed as tomorrow’s problem.  

The familiar reference points that have guided us over the past several decades are falling away, and fast. It thus falls to us to make sense of what comes next, building a shared understanding of how our economy needs to develop to deliver shared prosperity in line with environmental limits.   

The BSR Conference 2019 this November will be dedicated to raising these questions and shaping answers. 

The Conference comes just before the calendar turns to a decisive decade. The 2020s will be when we determine whether we meet the challenge of shifting to a net-zero economy that solves the climate crisis and whether we achieve the profound opportunity of delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

None of this will happen without the innovative efforts of business. And all of this will play out in a fundamentally new environment for business. For companies and society both to thrive, it is essential that we quickly understand this new climate.  

At the BSR Conference 2019, we will explore key dimensions of this new climate for business, including: 

  • Is Capitalism Fit for Purpose? The growing debate over the very legitimacy of capitalism and the ability of market-led solutions to deliver economic and social outcomes that work for all. This comes at a time when people and communities are increasingly anxious about economic security and mobility and do not view governments as able to provide appropriate protections. 
  • Can Business Shift Fast Enough to Meet the Climate Challenge? The ways that business can shift to the net-zero targets that are being adopted more and more widely, with the need for business to adapt investments, business models, and governance to meet this challenge.  
  • How Should Business Address and Adapt to the New Activism? The rise of new forms of activism, with employees challenging their leaders very publicly, direct action by students, and the ongoing rise of social media models that both activate and polarize. 
  • How Do Global Businesses Navigate a Fragmented World? As we noted in the Doing Business in 2030 scenarios introduced at last year’s BSR Conference, our world is fragmenting. Nationalism is eroding support for global trade. Universal values, particularly human rights, are under attack. And our societies are growing more tribal. We are also in an era when businesses–and business leaders–are expected to use their voice constructively. Businesses have a role in advocating for open societies, social and economic fairness, and solutions to global challenges through global cooperation.  
  • Do Technology and Innovation Have Social License? The “techlash” continues to accelerate. The public is simultaneously excited and scared by new technologies that deliver unimagined capacity and connection, while seeming also to leave privacy–and democracy–damaged in their wake. This has big implications for all companies and for all forms of innovation. 

These are big questions. And they deserve bold answers.  

At our Conference, we will explore how these questions are reshaping sustainable business and what companies are doing to meet the challenge. In addition to asking these big questions, we will showcase examples of how business is meeting the challenge. We will feature leaders describing innovative new business models, products, and services; novel ways of engaging customers; and applications of new technologies and powerful collaborations—all designed with the goal of achieving the goals of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.  

What’s more, in the new climate for business, it is increasingly clear that such efforts are also central to resilient business strategies that are necessary to succeed in both a highly competitive present and a very different future.  

We hope you will join us in November to gain a greater understanding of the new climate that every business is facing and to learn about how to meet these challenges as we move into the decisive decade ahead.

Previously posted on BSR and the 3BL Media News Room

Image credit: Carles Rabada/Unsplash

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3p Weekend: 12 Celebrities Who Use Their Fame for Good

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With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

It's easy to be disenchanted with pop culture: After all, apparently more Americans can name all of the Kardashian sisters than correctly identify the vice president.

But in between the vapid pages of those trashy magazines are a few celebrities who are using their fame for good. No, we're not talking about mismanaged foundations or 'guest appearances' at holiday toy drives. These folks take giving seriously—and they're making a huge difference for other people around the world.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio philanthropy

Leo's name has become as synonymous with celeb eco-activism as it is with the Titanic. The four-time Academy Award nominee is behind several films aimed at educating the public about environmental issues, the most famous being "The 11th Hour."

In 1998, at the tender age of 25, the actor founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation with the aim of protecting biodiversity and combatting climate change through grantmaking, public campaigns and media projects. The foundation has rapidly scaled up its grantmaking operation in recent years, allocating over $10 million to ecosystems projects.

Leo has also lent his voice to the fight against illegal fishing, created viral memes to educate people about climate change and even owns his own electric vehicle racing team.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson's gender equality activism took center stage last year after her rousing speech before the United Nations announcing U.N. Women's new program, HeForShe.

Watson continues to represent HeForShe, a unique initiative that seeks to rally everyone -- including men and boys -- behind gender equality. The young actress who stole our hearts as Hermione in the film adaptation of the "Harry Potter" series is also a goodwill ambassador for U.N. Women and routinely uses public appearances and social media to speak up on behalf of gender equality.

Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba The Honest Company

Celebs launching their own companies is nothing new. But brands that outlast the first product offering? Those are a bit tougher to find. Add in a social purpose, and you can see why actress-turned-mogul Jessica Alba and her growing enterprise, the Honest Co., made our list.

While pregnant with her first child, Alba began looking into the chemicals and additives found in many baby and home care products. After reading "Healthy Child Healthy World," she reportedly hounded author Christopher Gavigan for over a year before he agreed to co-found the Honest Co. with her. Teaming up with a seasoned pro in Gavigan, also the former CEO of nonprofit Healthy Child Healthy World, lent an air of credibility to the celeb-backed company, as did the products themselves—which received high marks from the Environmental Working Group.

It hasn't always been smooth sailing for the company—as a recent class-action suit over its sunscreen proves—but, to her credit, Alba has stayed consistent when it comes to her mission for the company. And her Twitter response to the aforementioned lawsuit was more transparent—and, let's just say it, honest—than you'd get from most company execs. So, you keep doing your thing, Jessica!

Elton John

Elton John

Sir Elton John, who has lost many close friends to HIV/AIDS, is at the forefront of the fight against the disease. He established the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) in 1992 to try to stem the destruction it causes around the world.

“I have lost many dear friends to this terrible disease,” he said on the EJAF website. “In the mid-1980s, I began channeling my grief into efforts to help raise money for the pioneering charitable organizations that formed during those dark, grim years to fund AIDS research and provide vital services to people with HIV/AIDS.”

Since its founding, the foundation has raised over $125 million to support HIV/AIDS prevention, education and service programs in 55 countries around the globe. Sir Elton also routinely gives huge chunks of his personal wealth to charity: In 2004 he donated over $43 million to nonprofits, making him the most generous person in music for that year, a title he retains year after year.

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie

After what seems like decades worth of photos of Angelina Jolie in this developing country or that, many respond to the actress' charity work with little more than an eye-roll. But it's tough for even the hater-est of haters to deny that her 15+ years of philanthropy and activism are impressive.

The actress first became aware of global humanitarian crises while filming "Tomb Raider" in Cambodia. Since linking up with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2001, Jolie has been on field missions around the world and met with refugees and internally-displaced persons in more than 20 countries, including Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Cambodia, Syria and Iraq.

The Jolie-Pitt Foundation, the nonprofit she founded with husband Brad Pitt, recently donated $1 million to Doctors Without Borders and provides humanitarian aid in more than 60 countries around the world. Jolie still serves as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

Patrick Stewart

Sir Patrick Stewart is perhaps best known for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on the late-'80s Star Trek reboot, "Star Trek: The Next Generation." But he's enjoyed something of a pop culture revival himself recently—inspiring many a Buzzfeed post, not to mention Tumblr blogs like "F**k Yeah, Patrick Stewart!"

There's no doubt that the 75-year-old's general awesomeness on Twitter is at least partially to thank for his rekindled fame. But his ongoing and outspoken stance for women's rights is also a big part of it. His position on women's rights and domestic violence first entered the mainstream blogosphere after Comicpalooza 2013 (see video above). At the event, Stewart gave an impassioned response to an audience question from a domestic violence victim—winning hearts and minds of millennials the world over, most of whom couldn't care less about Picard fighting the Borg.

Stewart continues to speak out for women's rights, calling on other men to join the fight to stamp out violence against women.

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox

Actress Laverne Cox rose to superstardom in her role as Sophia Burset on the hit Netflix series, "Orange is the New Black." She's also transgender, and she's been busting down doors for the trans community ever since she hit it big.

Let's just rattle off her firsts for a minute: Shortly after becoming the first openly trans person to be nominated for an Emmy, Cox appeared on the cover of Time magazine—another a first for the transgender community. She recently became the first trans woman of color to produce and star in her own television show, VH1’s "TRANSForm Me." I could go on.

Being a famous person who's also trans breaks molds in itself, but Cox isn't content to rest on her laurels and has embraced her position as the public face of the transgender community. She's produced several documentaries about living life as a trans person and the challenges people in the community often face. She also speaks regularly about LGBT issues, and is quick to move the spotlight from herself to the community in her interviews.

Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay

Most of us know Mariska Hargitay for her role as Detective Olivia Benson on the long-running television hit, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." But what went on behind the scenes may come as a surprise.

The script's contents and her preparation for the role opened Hargitay's eyes to the systemic problems of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. But what really struck the actress was the fan mail she received.

As recounted by her nonprofit, the Joyful Heart Foundation: "The letters didn't say, 'I love your show. Can you send me an autographed picture?' They said, 'I was raped when I was fifteen. I'm forty now and I've never told anyone.' Survivors were disclosing their stories to her, many for the first time."

Hargitay launched Joyful Heart in 2004, and the organization has since expanded to include hubs of service in New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu. Since its inception, Joyful Heart has directly served 15,000 people, reaching 2.4 million more through its website and social media platforms. The foundation has also laid out a 10-year strategic plan for how it hopes to achieve its mission to "heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse."

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys

Legendary singer, songwriter and actress Alicia Keys has been involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS for over 12 years. She's a co-founder of Keep a Child Alive, a nonprofit that seeks to realize a world without childhood AIDS by "combating the physical, social and economic impacts of HIV." In the role, she's traveled to countries such as Uganda, Kenya and South Africa, and her name has become synonymous with the nonprofit's annual music fundraisers and galas.

In 2014, Keys also co-founded the We Are Here Movement, which seeks to rally her audience around the world's most pressing global challenges like equality, social justice and climate change.

Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu

Actress, producer and and director Lucy Liu has been a screen favorite for decades, appearing in box-office hits ranging from "Kill Bill" to "Charlie's Angels." But did you know she's also an ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund?

Born to immigrants in Queens, New York, Liu was appointed a UNICEF Ambassador in 2004. Since then, she "has involved herself in almost all aspects of UNICEF's various campaigns and initiatives and has been influential in supporting its mission of saving and improving children’s lives worldwide," UNICEF says on its website.

She's traveled to Peru, Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire and Lesotho to represent UNICEF in local communities and see the organization's work up close. Adding photography and art to her resume, she also routinely makes, exhibits and sells artwork to benefit UNICEF.

Adrian Grenier

Adrien Greenier

It seems that whenever an eco-minded celeb is needed for a speaking gig, whether it’s SXSW Eco or Ford’s annual trends conference, "Entourage" star Adrian Grenier is there to foot the bill. But beyond helping companies urge average pop culture buffs to give a hoot about the environment, Grenier is making waves in the sustainable business scene in his own right.

His SHFT.com multimedia project, founded with business partner Peter Glatzer, drew the attention of partners like Ford, Virgin America and Stonyfield Organic—who all view it as a high-profile means of raising awareness around environmental causes like electric vehicle adoption and food justice.

Christina Aguilera

Known best for her powerful vocals, Christina Aguilera is also highly active in the fight against world hunger. She's an ambassador for the United Nations World Food Program, and she's been a volunteer global spokesperson for Yum! Brands' World Hunger Relief program since 2009.

In the role, she films annual PSAs to educate music listeners about the staggering problem of world hunger. She's also traveled to countries like Haiti, Ecuador, Rwanda and Guatemala. And she even tweeted a promo of our recent Twitter chat about ending world hunger. Thanks, Xtina!

Image credits: Featured: Flickr/torbakhopper 1) Wikimedia (source) 2) Flickr/Gage Skidmore 3) Wikimedia (source) 4) Wikimedia (source) 5) Flickr/KOMUNews 6) Wikimedia (source) 7) Wikimedia (source) 8) Flickr/Bethany 9) Flickr/Web Summit

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12 Celebrities Who Use Their Fame for Good
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We're not talking about mismanaged foundations or guest appearances at toy drives. These celebs take giving seriously—and they're making a huge difference.