Do Pennies Make Any Business or Environmental Sense?

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

Pennies from heaven don’t mean very much anymore, especially considering their costs to the environment and the expense of mining and minting them. With apologies to Abe Lincoln, Mike’s Bikes, a company with nine locations in California, has taken a solid stand against continued use of the venerable coin.

The company recently announced it is “letting go of Lincoln” by banning pennies in its stories. Its website explained, “The world we live in is the world we ride in. To help take good care of it, we have decided to eliminate pennies from our stores. For all cash transactions where pennies would have been used, we will be rounding down in favor of the customer to the nearest nickel.”

The are some very solid reasons for bidding the penny adieu, as the store explains: Making pennies wastes natural resources and is toxic to people and the environment - Pennies are 3 percent copper, and 97 percent zinc and are primarily made from virgin ore.

Making pennies from zinc and copper means mining for those materials. Red Dog Mine, which is the largest zinc mine in the U.S. is by far the #1 polluter on the EPA's list, because of large quantities of heavy-metal and lead rich mining tailings. The process of refining both metals can release sulfur dioxide (SO2), lead and zinc into the environment. “Making pennies wastes taxpayer money - As of 2010, it cost 1.79 cents to make each 1 cent coin, meaning that taxpayers lost 0.79 of a cent for each of the 4 billion pennies the Mint produced that year; which represents a $32 million loss in 2010.

“Rounding down won't raise prices - At Mike’s Bikes, all transactions will be rounded in favor of the customer, so they will essentially function like a 1-4 cent discount on all cash transactions. Economists also have proved that eliminating the penny won't affect prices; we believe that the savings to the environment and the economy will more than compensate for the risk of any possible jump in prices. Pennies waste time and money - The average American wastes 12 hours a year handling pennies.

The National Association of Convenience Stores and Wallgreens estimate that handling pennies adds 2 to 2.5 seconds per cash transaction. By eliminating pennies, Mike's Bikes will save over $5K a year; rounding up to the customer's benefit allows us to share this saving with our customers. “Pennies are worth less than CA minimum wage - pennies are so worthless now that it doesn't even pay the California Minimum Wage of $8/hour to pick them up off the street.”

So much for the lucky penny theory. Retailers and other money handlers with a sustainable mind-set should heed and a follow the Mike’s Bikes lead. Sorry Abe, a “penny for your thoughts,” as the saying goes, no longer has any worthwhile meaning and the penny itself has long outlived its usefulness. No disrespect but you also grace the five-dollar bill, a slightly more valuable currency. Pennies are an expensive and environmentally wasteful nuisance. So let the nickel, featuring Thomas Jefferson’s features, become the new penny. It will be better for the environment and good for business.

Image credit: Unsplash

3P ID
76121
3P Author ID
138
Prime
Off

The Five Driving Forces of CSR: Can You Name a Sixth?

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

I take little credit for the intelligence of this post. Indeed, I give all that might be due to Werther & Chandler’s 2011 text, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders in a Global Environment, as well as to my Green Mountain College MBA Triple-Bottom-Line Management Course, in progress. Through these studies, the five below drivers have been articulated as those most germane to the promotion of CSR, but I ask you, my favorite TriplePundit readers, are there others? Have motivating factors been missed? What else has brought us here, to this CSR "Tipping Point"? The Five Driving Forces of CSR:

  1. Increased Affluence: CSR becomes more relevant as economies grow and stabilize. Therefore, the greatest attention to CSR is found in developed countries. Stable work and security provide the luxury of choice and socially responsible activism. No such luxury exists when basic needs are in question.
  2. Ecological Sustainability: Perhaps the most obvious and most talked about of the drivers, concerns over pollution, waste, natural resource depletion, climate change and the like continue to fuel the CSR discussion and heighten expectations for proactive corporate action. After all, it is in the best interest of firms to protect for the sustainable future the long-term availability of the resources on which they depend.
  3. Globalization: Globalization has had considerable impacts. First, the increased wealth and power of multinational corporations has led to questions on the decreased authority of the nation-state, especially in developing areas. Further, cultural differences have added to the complexity of CSR as expectations of acceptable behavior vary regionally. With increased power comes increased responsibility and globalization has fueled the need to filter all strategic decisions through a CSR lens to ensure optimal outcomes for diverse stakeholders.
  4. Free Flow of Information: Yes, blame the bloggers, but through the Internet and other electronic mediums the flow of information has shifted back to the stakeholders, especially in the case of three important groups: consumers, NGOs and the general media. Easily accessible and affordable communication technologies have permanently changed the game and only truly authentic and transparent companies will profit in the long term.
  5. The Power of the Brand: Brands are today the focal point of corporate success and much of the health of the brand depends on public perception of the corporation. In other words, reputation is key and honest CSR is a way to protect that reputation and therefore the brand.

As reported by the aforementioned text, Malcolm Gladwell referred to the tipping point as the point of critical mass after which an idea spreads widely and becomes generally accepted and broadly implemented. I argue that CSR has reached such a tipping point, pushed there by the five above factors. I further argue that CSR will become more mainstream and more part and parcel of everyday business strategy. These five forces have brought us here and will continue to promote and develop trends towards greater social responsibility on the part of firms. But, are there others? Factors that have not here been considered that have or will prompt this continued CSR evolution?    

Image credit: Morgan Sessions/Unsplash

3P ID
72254
3P Author ID
383
Prime
Off

The Sufficiency Economy: A Thai Solution to Economic Sustainability

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

This post is part of a blogging series by economics students at the Presidio Graduate School's MBA program. You can follow along here.

By Somsak Boonkam

The economy is a major force driving our lives, from the purchasing decisions we make to the public and private institutions we support. It determines how wealthy nations and their people are, and consequently becomes a determining factor for assessing quality of life. On the other hand, when the economy collapses, it brings us enormous devastation and takes wealth and prosperity back from the people.  When an economy ceases to grow, it’s not easy --or maybe even impossible -- to bring it back to the state where it used to be. Suppose that we are lucky enough to see economic growth and prosperity again, how can we know that a collapse is not going to happen in the future?  Maybe it’s time for us not to rely too heavily on conventional economic theories, but instead start to look for a more sustainable and effective economic strategy. The Sufficiency Economy might be a better solution for mankind to pursue and improve upon.

The Sufficiency Economy is a philosophy developed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand through his royal remarks over the past three decades. The Sufficiency Economy is a happiness development approach, which emphasizes the middle path as an overriding principle for appropriate conduct by people at all levels.  The middle path is a way of thinking in which no one lives tooextravagantly or too thriftily. It encourages people to live in a way where they consume only what they really need, choose products carefully, and consider their impact on others and the planet. The sufficiency economy enhances the nation’s ability to modernize without defying globalization – it provides a means to respond to negative outcomes caused by rapid economic transitions.  This philosophy is a guide to making decisions that will generate outcomes that are beneficial to the development of the country.

Thailand values this new economics philosophy as a practical tool to effectively manage capitalism in a way that aligns and engages it with social sustainable development. In doing so, Thailand hopes that this approach will foster  accountability and empower people and their communities. More importantly, the main goal of The Sufficiency Economy is to measure economic development not just using GDP, but also by taking the reduction of social inequality and poverty into account.  This philosophy is also expected to help prevent another economic collapse such as the one that occurred during the mid-90s, and to be a powerful tool for moving the nation overall economy upward.

In this globalized world, we too often expect economic decisions to happen quickly without realizing that these hasty choices could adversely affect our lives and the lives of generations that come after us. It could also be argued that many of the past economic recessions resulted from the greediness and shortsighted decision-making of a group of bankers and executives. I believe that integrating the concept of The Sufficiency Economy into our worldview will give us a different perspective that promotes gradual development based on self-reliance and the principle of having “enough.” We would all do well to keep the three main tenets of this philosophy (moderation, reasonableness, and self-immunity) in mind as we try to change peoples' attitudes, behaviors, and way of living at both the micro and macro level.

Image credit: Flickr/Marko Mikkonen

3P ID
71794
3P Author ID
4296
Prime
Off

The Employment Multiplier – An Important Tool For Promoting The Burgeoning Green Economy

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

This post is part of a blogging series by economics students at the Presidio Graduate School's MBA program.

By Eric Cetnarski

As one would expect from a Great Recession, much of American political and economic discourse has been focused on job creation.  And despite signals of recovery, the unemployment rate still remains above 9 percent.  Many Americans are still struggling to maintain their households – and as a result topics like ‘green-recovery’ and climate mitigation are not primary concerns.   Americans want jobs – even if they come from traditionally ‘dirtier’ industries like fossil fuel extraction and production.

It is important that climate mitigation and green industry advocates bear this in mind when communicating their initiatives. Statistics like the employment multiplier can help these advocates tell a compelling story when courting working-class Americans and municipal governments.

What is An Employment Multiplier?
An employment multiplier is one of the measures used to determine the impact a particular industry will have upon a municipality when it arrives or departs. In its simplest terms, the employment multiplier measures the amount of direct, indirect and induced jobs created (or lost) in the area. Direct jobs are related to the specific industry, while indirect jobs are those that support the industry. Induced jobs are those that are a result of direct/indirect employee’s spending money in the community. Generally, industries with a higher multiplier are more desirable.

Fossil Fuel Extraction And Production Are Desirable Because They Create Jobs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Industry multiplier data, coal mining has an employment multiplier of 4.4 - meaning that for every mining job, 4.4 other jobs are created. Oil and gas extraction have a multiplier of 6.9.  As one can see, these industries can be viewed as a boon to communities.   It can prove politically difficult to thwart the advances of the fossil fuel industry -- unless compelling clean energy options can be presented.

Green Energy Alternatives Are Job Creation Options

Like other traditional energy industries, green industry initiatives have the potential to significantly bolster a region’s economy. Activities like maintaining a large solar array or maintaining a smart-grid can be as labor intensive as extracting and processing fossil fuels.   For example, the clean energy coalition Apollo Alliance reports that for every $1 million invested in smart grid installations, 5.2 direct and 7.9 indirect/induced jobs are created.   There are a host of other studies that indicate green industries like renewable energy production create both direct and indirect jobs in the municipalities they are located.

Green Jobs and the Multiplier:  Debunking Myths
Unfortunately many Americans still associate green industries with economic contraction and job loss. Traditional industries often confuse the public about green initiatives (e.g. California's 2010 Proposition 23). It is imperative that those in the green industries clearly communicate the economic benefits to communities - not just the environmental ones.   If they don't, then most American’s will overlook the burgeoning green economy in favor of what they see as a ‘safe bet’ in traditional industry.

This misconception is neither good for our economy nor our environment.

***

Eric Cetnarski is earning his MBA so that he can harness the power of business to provide more sustainable production and purchasing options to consumers and businesses. He believes profound social and environmental change can manifest from the consumer.

Image credit: Pixabay

3P ID
71766
3P Author ID
4296
Prime
Off

Tom's of Maine Ditches the Aluminium Toothpaste Tube

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

You may have noticed something new in the toothpaste aisle, and it's not an even more elaborate toothbrush. Tom's of Maine recently changed the tube your toothpaste comes in from the much loved, and apparently, much maligned aluminum tube to a more mainstream plastic laminate. The aluminum toothpaste tube was the original environmental packaging and I was eager to get to the bottom of the switch.

Tom's of Maine had long maintained that aluminum was the material of choice for toothpaste tubes because of its recyclability. I feared that the switch was related to Tom's relationship with it's parent company Colgate-Palmolive. I'm pleased to report that Colgate-Palmolive had nothing to do with the change in materials. Rather, the decision came after a careful review of a decade of consumer comments and a reevaluation of the assumption that aluminium was the most environmentally friendly material available.

Why the switch?
When viewed in aggregate, 25% of packaging complaints about Tom's products were related to the aluminium tube. Customers complained of cracks and splits that caused the product to leak. Parents complained that the tube was too hard for young toothbrushers to use; older customers had the same difficulties.

Says plant manager Bill Hetzel, "we had taken it as an indisputable fact that aluminium was the best material available, because of its recyclability, but the customer complaints challenged us to reconsider. We looked into the life cycle of our toothpaste tubes and realized that they weren't actually being recycled as often as we'd like, and even if the tubes made their way to recycling facilities many would not accept them because of the plastic caps attached."

The decision to move to more conventional packaging was not taken lightly. The customer comment review process took several years, and once the company determined that aluminium was out, the selection of plastic laminate and the factory switchover took about a year. Says Ellen Saksen, Toothpaste Brand Manager, "as a Tom’s of Maine employee, one of the first things you learn is to seek council. Over the course of the decision making process, we had hundreds of meetings. We needed to make sure the change was was right for the consumer and right for the company. Our stewardship model is very detailed. Consumers are hard on us, we welcome that, and we’re hard on ourselves."

Why plastic laminate?
Once aluminum was off the table, the field was wide open. The company considered biodegradable plastics, paperboard, and many other materials.

Because some of Tom's of Maine's toothpastes contain fluoride, the company is under strict FDA regulations about tube materials- they have to be very durable and pass rigorous testing. After much consideration, plastic laminate was chosen because it meets the FDA standards and because it is a lot lighter than aluminium. The weight of the product is key because it means the transport of the product has a much lower carbon footprint than the old aluminium tubes.

The tubes are also a lot more flexible and easier for little hands to squeeze.

Where is it sourced?
Tom's selected a tube manufacturer a truck drive away from its factory in Maine. The manufacturer was carefully selected for its focus on sustainability- a value shared by Tom's of Maine. The manufacturer recycles scraps from the manufacturing process and accepts Tom's of Maine's tube waste. Damaged tubes and the tubes returned by customers are returned to the manufacturer so that they can be incorporated into the downcycling stream. The recycled material is used mostly in industrial applications like bumpers for pallets, but the company is continuously sourcing new ways to reincorporate waste into the product stream.

How have customers responded?
The response has been 10:1 positive on the switch. That one customer who expresses dissatisfaction is not a surprise for Ellen Saksen, "change is hard, especially when it comes to a product you use every single day."

What's up next?
The toothpaste team is looking for better ways to recycle the new packaging. They're also working with distributors to get rid of the cardboard cartons that surround the tubes. Kids toothpaste is already sold without a carton and the adult versions are next in line for dematerialization.

The company has also funded research into bio-plastics. The most promising project on tap is one that incorporates local Maine potatoes into the packaging.

Image credit: Tom's of Maine via Facebook

3P ID
70865
3P Author ID
109
Prime
Off

American Apparel: Sustainable Brand Image vs. Sexual Harassment

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

This post is part of a blogging series by marketing students at the Presidio Graduate School's MBA program. You can follow along here.

By Ariel Raymon

Once again, 41 year old Dov Charney, CEO of the LA based t-shirt selling empire, American Apparel, a company whose brand is built on providing fashionable clothing manufactured in a “sweatshop free” environment, is being sued for sexual harassment. With five women making sexual harassment complaints last month against the CEO, the company image is slowly becoming an ironic representation of exploitation.

In the eyes of some entrepreneurs, Dov Charney is a hero for building a successful apparel company in the US without compromising his commitment to providing fair labor practices. Operating in a market where most clothing is outsourced to China, not only does Mr.Charney pay employees almost double the state regulated minimum wage, he provides them with health insurance, subsidized lunch, free parking, well lit and ventilated working conditions, and paid time off to take English classes provided on site. When the company went public in 2008, employees received an average of 500 shares each, worth about $4,500. In a saturated market where 97% of apparel products sold in the US are outsourced for production, Dov is committed to making all American Apparel products in his factory in downtown Los Angeles. With “the highest-paid apparel workers in the world," he has received praise from anti-sweatshop activists for being a leader in providing fair treatment to garment workers in the US.

On the other hand, Mr.Charney’s unorthodox business practices and provocative advertising techniques have been the subject of controversy among his young, urban, twenty-something target audience. After getting sucked into the catalogue for a minute, I noticed the ads are more like soft-core porn than an advertisement for a product. Dov claims to use many of his sales associates as models in his advertising and explains that he does much of the photography himself. Additionally, the CEO is open about having sexual relationships with some of his employees, and often holds work meetings in his bedroom. To me, his behavior is blatant admittance of crossing into a PR nightmare.

Dov’s actions communicate mixed messages to consumers. As the public face of the company, he suggests that he cares about workers rights, but continues to be charged with sexual assault and harassment charges. This contradictory approach regarding treatment of American Apparel employees is a double standard. From a business perspective, his actions pose a serious risk to the integrity of the company, and the board should oust him. Furthermore, this is the perfect opportunity for American Apparel to re-brand. As an informed consumer, I associate the sexually provocative ads with sexual assault. Moving from trashy, exploitative advertising, into a classier aesthetic may help disconnect Dov’s actions from the brand, helping the public to realize that American Apparel’s core mission is to provide fashionable, garments in an environment that fosters fair labor practices.

But in the meantime what do socially responsible, concerned consumers do?

Image credit: Sherwin Huang/Flickr

3P ID
69610
3P Author ID
4295
Prime
Off

How to Make Nuclear Energy Safe

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

By Pankaj Arora

When you’re sitting on an archipelago with more than 100 volcanoes and a unique cross-section of tectonic plates underneath, the 54 odd nuclear reactors, the possibility of disaster starts to look like a "when" rather than an "if."

The 40 year old Fukushima reactor was built in the 1970s, when Japan’s first wave of nuclear construction began. Since the power back up failed in the disaster international attention has been drawn to nuclear energy and its designation as a clean fuel.

Tens of thousands of people in Germany formed a human chain recently to demonstrate their fear of and opposition to the nuclear power. The protesters urged the state to learn from the Japanese disaster and reconsider nuclear.

Prior to the earthquake in Japan, a nuclear renaissance was emerging worldwide. Now more than ever, nervous consumers will demand increased safety standards, more rigorous planning, careful checklists and increased transparency in the whole nuclear political system.

Planning for safe nuclear energy

There are 3 major challenges to be overcome with nuclear power:


  • Problem of nuclear waste disposal and recycling

  • Radiation hazard

  • High cost and high capacity installation over long time frame


Good strategic planning raises awareness about potential threats and opportunities. Many feel that it is still a clean, safe and cheap way to supply energy with a relatively good track record – only 3 major accidents over 14,000 reactor hours of experience in 32 countries – 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. TheWorld Nuclear Association) tells us that one was contained without harm to anyone, the next involved intense fire without provision for containment and the third severely tested the limits of containment. The Association also lays out an approach of Prevention, Monitoring and Action - which works best with high quality design and construction.

 

Stewart Brand, a long standing proponent of nuclear power called nuclear a ‘design problem’ which can be fixed. He says, “Radiation that looks like a great evil in basically a design problem. Nuclear provides a clean base load electricity that produces waste just a size of a coke can as compared to a coal fired plant that belches out 16,000 tons/year of CO2 emission for the same power supply. It needs to be made safer so that each state, each province can run its own modular and thorium power plants that can be carried on trucks, require no refueling and can be run for 60 years and then be buried in their own grave.”

Dr. James Hansen, Director at NASA Goddard Institute of Space studies, the most popular pro-nuclear advocate, in an interview with the Bigthink website, proposes that renewable energy is still very expensive and doesn’t provide consistent base load energy. The current second generation nuclear plants have technical problems that third and fourth generation reactor designs can overcome - like the full use of nuclear waste - but such designs will come in the next 10-12 years.

Proper planning with advanced design of nuclear reactors is what is needed to move ahead with the nuclear agenda.

Nuclear security is the most essential element of safe nuclear. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear security plan can be achieved through "prevention, detection of and response to malicious acts, and Information coordination and analysis.

Proper nuclear security protocol will include:


  • Potential hazard to the local community. Choosing appropriate geological locations to construct the power plants.

  • Strong Regulatory infrastructure to promote harmonized safety standards

  • Total cost of the reactor – including the CO2 emissions released in the initial construction

  • Total time taken to build the reactor

  • Installed capacity to be high as only then the costs can be justified

  • Involvement of all stakeholders – Electric power companies, local and central government, scientific community, banks and general public

  • Nuclear waste – either to be buried in deep saline formations or be recycled back into the reactor as currently done by France and Japan

  • Security and terrorism

  • Decommissioning

Transparency

The Fukushima incident has called for increased transparency in the public and private sector, as the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) received severe scrutiny from the international community because of the problems at the reactor.

Conflicting views prevail in the mainstream - on one end of spectrum are people like James Hansen, Stewart Brand, The World Nuclear Association and on the other are people like Al Gore who brought mass awareness to the world about global warming and activists like The Greenpeace opposing nuclear as dirty, expensive, unsafe and a threat to world peace. This presents a confusing picture to the masses.

What's next

The risks of a nuclear blow out are immense and can’t be discounted. The dangerous, risky and the poisonous effects can last forever. Even Japan’s Fukushima incident hasn’t done much to stall other countries' expansion of nuclear power. The International Herald Tribune stated that – China has 11 operational reactors and 10 new ones in the making, and India has 20 current and plans to build dozens in the future – and so are countries like Italy, Russia, Czech Republic, and middle-eastern countries like UAE, Jordan, Bahrain also sticking to their nuclear energy policies. About 3/4th of France, 1/3rd of Japan and 1/5th of US is powered by nuclear power.  Even Japan plans to move ahead with its 60% goal of going nuclear in the coming years.

Nuclear energy is one step up from the fossil fuels – at least you know your hazard in nuclear reactors – coal plants externalizes the emissions on the society. The world is heading to nuclear, no doubt – the question is how good can we get on our designs and transparency system that can act as transitionary technology leading into the world of sun and wind. If the right parties sit at the discussion table with a set of appropriate checklists and common goals, which will bring higher transparency, accidents and radiation hazards, can be controlled, thus touting its claim as a clean, sustainable energy source of the future.

Pankaj Arora blogs at http://environz.org/ and is passionate about sustainability and believes that however we may call it, one thing is a given -  it’s huge and it’s everywhere, slowly shaping our lives. He is also an Engineer and is studying MBA in Sustainable Management.

Image credit: Unsplash

3P ID
66601
3P Author ID
100
Prime
Off

Top 10 Climate Change Strategy Consultancies

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

Despite the weak regulatory environment at the federal level in both the U.S. and Canada, there is growing demand for helping executives understand how to mitigate climate change at a profit.  This demand comes from local regulation, such as California’s cap and trade program and Ontario’s regulation phasing out coal-fired power plants, and other drivers such as the desire to increase efficiencies or the need to meet increasingly stringent supplier requirements, such as those from Walmart.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the top Executive MBA programs promoting profitable solutions to climate change, something I refer to as Climate Capitalism.

This week I’d like to look at companies offering strategic consulting services to assist companies identify climate capitalism opportunities.  I used a range of sources for this research including: this research from Verdantix, other related articles, and direct email and phone conversations with some of the top contenders.  Also I relied on my own experience working the past few years in the carbon markets to provide some guidance.

This top 10 list is based on a few criteria such as a focus on climate strategy and the years of experience the consulting firm has with the provisioning of strategic management services in the area of climate change.  I also looked for thought leadership in the space.  Hopefully this list helps aspiring climate capitalist job seekers to identify potential employers, and also provides some guidance to corporations seeking climate strategy guidance. (The list is in alphabetical order as I was not able to truly distinguish amongst these leaders)

1.)   AT Kearney. Like McKinsey & Company, AT Kearney has a long track record of success in business and strategy consulting.  In fact, their predecessor was founded in 1926, the same year as McKinsey (below).  AT Kearney, in recent years, has begun to move into the environment and climate change arena.  Their sustainability group offers sustainability strategy, product and service optimization and sustainable supply chain consulting.  AT Kearney of course is active in thought leadership in the areas of sustainability and climate change strategy and practice.

2.)   Blue Skye is a niche sustainability strategy consultancy that deserves to be mentioned here.  While only founded in the past 10 years (2003), they have quickly built a name for themselves by providing quality sustainability consulting.  In their own words, Blue Skye uses “the lens of sustainability to create new, innovative, wealth-creating strategies. We reframe, restage, and reshape "corporate, social, and environmental responsibility" to be an opportunity, not an obligation.” Turning environmental and climate change challenges into business opportunities is what this whole series in Triple Pundit is about.

3.)   ICF International does not have the same ubiquitous brand recognition that companies like AT Kearney and McKinsey have but it definitely has an impressive track record in climate change consulting.  Their climate group: “helps public- and private-sector clients worldwide develop climate change policy, interpret and comply with regulations, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, evaluate risks, and identify opportunities.”  Carbon Finance Magazine has rated ICF the Best Carbon Advisory/Consultancy five years in a row.

4.)   McKinsey & Company Consulting. When it comes to strategic management consulting services of any type, it is hard to argue with McKinsey.  McKinsey was founded in 1926 and has regularly been at the top of the rankings for strategic consulting work.  This gives them an advantage when they decide to apply their expertise to emerging fields like climate change. Their sustainability group is quite active in thought leadership and consulting in areas such as carbon management, the economics of climate change and water issues associated with climate change.

5.)   PwC, formerly known as Price Waterhouse Coopers, like McKenzie and AT Kearney has a long track record of strategic and business consultancy expertise dating back to the founding of its predecessors in the 1800’s.    Their Global Sustainability practice has over 700 sustainability and climate change consultants and has “been advising policy makers and business on climate change since 1997, helping them to analyse issues and develop practical solutions to the challenges they face.”

6.)   SustainAbility. Like Blue Skye, SustainAbility is a niche sustainability consultancy with a strong focus on strategy and an emerging practice in climate change.  Their climate change strategy practice focuses on “Developing strategic responses to the risks and opportunities posed by climate change.” Recent clients in this arena include Shell and Ford Motor Company.

Others that would surely enter in anyone’s top 10 list include, 7.) Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company), 8.) CH2M HILL, 9.) Deloitte, and 10.) GreenOrder.

Trillions of dollars will be spent in the next decade on low carbon solutions across every sector of the economy.  With that kind of money on the line, you can bet that there will be a growth in demand for consultants who can read a balance sheet, articulate a business case, and understand technology trends, regulation and other drivers associated with the transition to the low carbon economy.  If you are looking for a job like this or a company that excels in this area to provide consulting to your business, these top 10, and many others are a good place to start your search.

Image credit: Pexels

3P ID
65874
3P Author ID
4266
Prime
Off

How Do Organic Farmers Use Technology?

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

By Hunter Richards

Demand is on the rise for organic produce. A survey by the Organic Trade Association found that sales revenue from organic food in the U.S. had exploded to $25 billion by 2009 - twenty-five times that of 1990.

Organic farmers can’t use the same technology as conventional farmers - like pesticides and genetic engineering - to increase yields. There’s a misconception that they stubbornly shun technology, preferring age-old tradition over modern methods. But it’s not true. These farmers can use their understanding of natural processes - the mating habits of pests, for example - to optimize yields and care for their crops. The surprising results can make you wonder where to draw the line between technology and nature.

Organic Solutions: Software and Beyond

Jeff Birkby, Outreach Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, recognizes technology’s broad potential: “To me, technology is neutral; it’s neither good nor bad. It’s how it’s applied that makes the difference.”

There must be a way for technology to help organic farmers. I began researching this article with software in mind because, unlike pest removal chemicals and other conventional farming technologies, data management tools don’t directly affect crops - organic farmers are free to use them. And the systems are certainly there - Farmigo for business data management is one example. The Georgia Institute of Technology is even developing a new user interface for soil moisture data software.

But I became fascinated at how organic farmers can apply specialized technology in their fields rather than just in the office. Unlike their conventional counterparts, organic farming technologies cooperate with ecosystems. It made me question the definition of technology.

Can Technology and Nature Cooperate?

Ted Quaday, Communications Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, clarified the issue when I spoke to him. “We’re taking new knowledge, new information, and transferring that into real practical solutions in the farm field . . . is that new, innovative technology? I would argue that it is.”

According to the definition that I found on Merriam-Webster’s website, Ted’s right:

tech·nol·o·gy (noun, \tek-ˈnä-lə-jē\) - the practical application of knowledge, especially in a particular area.

Who said technology had to involve spinning blades and steel? Organic farmers use new research in the field - it’s an alternative type of technology.

The Trade-offs of Technology

Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers save time and labor in conventional farming practices. But the resulting efficiency comes at a cost. The production, transport, and use of these substances threatens water quality and leaves a sinister carbon footprint. The runoff causes algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico, draining oxygen from the surrounding area and killing nearby fish.

With more natural farming methods, organic farms avoid damaging the environment. These examples reveal how technology can help, even while adapting to natural processes:

Fertilization and Yield

To increase yields, conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers. But mechanical tools can be suitable alternatives. The roller crimper, a device dragged by a tractor through alfalfa and hay fields during harvest, breaks down the cell walls of plant stems to accelerate decomposition. This man-made tool increases soil fertility by speeding up the natural decomposition process - without artificial chemicals.

Another simple innovation that can increase yield quantity in organic farms is the hoop house, which is very much like a greenhouse - only easier, faster, and cheaper to build. Consisting of raised beds in a walled-off piece of land, it extends the growing season by protecting crops from bad weather and keeping them warm. More crops can then be produced for the local market, avoiding the need to import them from another location (which cuts down on potential carbon emissions). This research-oriented improvement helps farmers increase yields and benefit financially in a clean way.

Pest and Weed Control

Conventional farmers use potent substances in apple orchards to get rid of codling moths, tent caterpillars and other destructive pests. Organic farmers can’t use these chemicals because of their destructive side effects, but there are alternatives. Surround, a type of biodegradable clay, can be sprayed on apples to confuse insects. Once affected, pests no longer recognize the apples as food. The clay washes off and dissolves in rain, with none of the harmful effects of the more conventional methods.

Thanks to a better understanding of insect mating habits and chemistry, farmers can target and destroy pest populations without even touching the crops and soil. They can set up sticky traps, coated with female pheromones, that attract male flies and maggots. When they come in to mate, they become trapped and eventually die. Understanding the chemistry and deploying these traps required new research and designs, so it’s clearly a form of technology. It’s just not the giant robot with chainsaw hands that we all tend to imagine.

A Delicate Balance

Pure technology or not, organic farmers can merge nature and human creation to improve efficiency and protect produce. Adhering to strict standards has forced organic farming into creative action. Nature and technology, two apparently polar opposites, have seldom shared such a symbiotic relationship.

This was post was written by Hunter Richards, who blogs for Software Advice. The original article can be found here - Organic Farmers: Can They Be Tech Savvy?

Image credit: Unsplash

3P ID
63423
3P Author ID
100
Prime
Off

Cracking the Code: The Essence of Sustainable Development

Distribution Network
Primary Category
Content

It’s hardly news that after more than two decades of talk about the need for sustainable development, we humans continue to have a poor track record when it comes to achieving sustainable results. How can we implement change while up against the overwhelming current of business as usual? It will take a new perspective, new approaches and different means of leadership.

For the first time, a condensed & balanced triple-bottom-line set of defining articles, collectively entitled The Fractal Frontier - Sustainable Development Trilogy, is now available for your review. The trilogy examines the reasons for our past failures, a new scientific basis for the essence of achieving sustainable development in the future, the nine universal principles that must be built into any sustainable project, ways to educate, plan and lead teams to achieve sustainable results, and much more.

SLDI News & Commentary Update: Developing a Sustainable Oregon Coast 

The southern coast of Oregon is a rare place on earth, where beautiful wild & scenic rivers tumble down through steep canyons, and the tallest and largest carbon-sequestering forests in the world on their way to a rocky coastline with wide stretches of sandy beach, before pouring out into the mighty Pacific ocean. Along the rugged coast are picturesque working ports, made of hillside homes, small waterfront cafe’s, vibrant art communities, and more parks per mile than anywhere in the USA.

The Port Orford Ocean Resource Team (POORT) has a mission to engage Port Orford fishers and other community members in developing and implementing a Port Orford Community Stewardship Area Plan that ensures the long-term sustainability of the Port Orford reef ecosystem and social system dependent on it. The Redfish Rocks area south of Port Orford has been designated a pilot marine reserve and a broader area of some 30 miles in length along the southern Oregon coast forming a unique 935-square-mile land and sea stewardship area is to protect terrestrial, freshwater, intertidal and ocean reserves. This model sustainability initiative is a prime example of a trend described in the current Oregon Planners Journal entitled Ecosystem Services: A new approach to planning that can help the profession to plan sustainably.

On February 11th, POORT will hold its 3rd annual Land-Sea Connection workshop to share healthy best practices with proactive agencies, NGO's and local stakeholders to improve collaboration within the stewardship area and encourage implementation of the Port Orford Marine Economic Recovery Plan. Located in the stewardship area headwaters along a 1000’ ridgetop overlooking old growth forest and the marine reserve, Ocean Mountain Ranch is a SLDI carbon-negative project that will provide for long-term yield of high-quality hardwood, softwood, and wildlife habitat while serving as a model organic forestry/grazing operation incorporating residential, agricultural, educational, recreational, and industrial activities to promote sustainable land development best practices on the southern Oregon coast by mixing nature, tradition, and economics for a sustainable future. You can watch a documentary preview of this ground-breaking eco-forestry project here.

Financing for ecosystem services is beginning to emerge from some compassionate climate capitalists who have been seeking out carbon offset projects that not only reduce carbon emissions but also have significant social, economic and/or environmental benefits in the communities where the projects are developed. These projects are often referred to as having co-benefits or some call them charismatic projects.  Charismatic carbon projects are poised to experience significant growth because there is increasing demand from offset buyers because companies that buy charismatic offsets gain more brand value for buying them than if they had just bought garden variety offsets.

Feature Publication

The Fractal Frontier - Sustainable Development Trilogy 

This trilogy of articles examines the essence of sustainability and presents some new perspectives on achieving sustainable results. Part I – Designing a Big Wheel for Civilization explores our checkered history regarding sustainability and provides a foundation of understanding for the future. Part II – Like Life Itself, Sustainable Development is Fractal presents new scientific understandings of economics, nature and social psychology and their impacts on sustainable development. Part III – The Universal Principles of Sustainable Development begins the process of defining the requisite outcomes in order to achieve sustainable results on any project.

Pass It Forward 
In the Pass-It-Forward spirit, SLDI is gifting the information in the document, along with the SLDI Code sustainable development matrix, on behalf of the sustainable land development industry, to anyone interested in collaborating to achieve sustainable results. 

It is important to note that the information contained in the document is universal in its application and need not be confined to land development projects.

Your participation and comments are welcome.

Image credit: Jesse Gardner via Unsplash

3P ID
61402
3P Author ID
392
Prime
Off
Tags