Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Your French Fries and iPods Are Contributing to Environmental Degradation

A new list of bad companies is out. Condé Nast Portfolio has compiled a list of companies it feels "could be doing better, given their resources and position in their industries." While the list includes your standard evil oil and power companies, it includes some surprises. Simplot, maker of french fries for McDonald's and others is listed for their misuse and poor storage of chemical fertilizers. While this may not be a surprise to some, others may find themselves in a dilemma if they've been justifying eating McDonald's fries because the used cooking oil can be used to power their vehicle. The bigger surprise may be the inclusion of Apple. While Jobs & co may be consistently ahead of the curve in design, they are behind the curve in eliminating harmful toxins and developing recycling programs. While not mentioned in the article, Apple has been accused of being bad for the environment due to their insistence on designing products that only they can fix, for which they charge an arm and a leg. That tends to make iPods and iPhones disposable products, and the fact that they contain toxins only makes matters worse.

So what's the morale of the story for green businesses? First the Simplot example reminds businesses that they need the full partnership of all supply chain members in order to truly be green. One supplier, logistics firm, reseller or wholesaler can "offset" many of the positive environmental impacts a company makes. Second, design of a product should include a reduction of environmental impact throughout all stages of the product's life cycle. One source of ideas on this topic is McDonough and Braungart's book "Cradle to Cradle" (which I haven't had a chance to read yet). It follows a basic idea that at the end of a product's life, what remains should provide the raw ingredients for creating something else, similar to the way the death of one animal or plant can be the food that gives life to another. (This of course is not a unique idea. Others have written about Bio-Mimicry or sustainable design, but the Cradle to Cradle book has received a lot of rave reviews.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Charleston Battery (Soccer) Going Green

I think this is pretty cool. The Battery have installed solar panels at one end of their stadium. Not only will they power some of the electronic functions (like the scoreboard) but they are also quite visible to all fans "to get the word out to a wider audience about global warming", both in attendance and on TV (for the few games they're on Fox Soccer Channel.) I can't wait to get out to a game and check it out. I just hope they've set up some kind of net to prevent widely errant clearance passes from knocking out the panels.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Survey Asks How “Green” is the American Workplace?

I received this in a email from a colleague.

Companies say it’s not easy being green, but the benefits are great

Alexandria, Va., January 16, 2008 – “Going green” is a hot topic, but has the workplace caught on yet? According to the 2008 SHRM Green Workplace Survey released today by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 50 percent of surveyed organizations have a formal or informal environmental responsibility policy, but 43 percent have no such policy and no plans to implement one within the next 12 months.

“The findings revealed a surprising paradox,” said Susan R. Meisinger, president and CEO of SHRM. “The study shows that companies really do benefit from environmentally-friendly practices, and yet a large portion of firms have no plans to ‘go green’,” she added.

Companies that implement environmental responsibility programs report considerable benefits. Human resource (HR) professionals cite improved employee morale (44 percent) and a stronger public image for the company (42 percent) as top benefits. They also report increased consumer/customer confidence/choice (20 percent) and a positive financial bottom line (19 percent) as a result of the organization’s environmental responsible program. Survey respondents also cite increased employee loyalty (16 percent).

These findings indicate that “green” initiatives can be a selling point to attract potential employees, particularly among younger workers. “These employees check the background of organizations and talk with employees to find out for themselves if the ‘green’ CSR messaging delivers on its promise,” said Gerlinde Herrmann, SHRP, president of the Herrmann Group and a member of SHRM’s Corporate Social Responsibility Expertise Panel.

Despite the benefits, HR professionals admit that it’s not easy for their companies to become and remain environmentally friendly. The most common barrier to creating an environmental program is implementation cost (85 percent) followed by maintenance cost (74 percent). Other barriers include lack of management support (43 percent), lack of employee support (25 percent), and concern for workplace inefficiency (20 percent).

Still, nearly three out of four employees from companies without environmental programs say they want their employers to “go green.” Seventy-three (73) percent of surveyed employees in companies without an environmental responsibility policy thought it was very or somewhat important that their organization develop an environmental responsibility policy.

“It is possible for every organization to provide some level of environmentally responsible practices,” said Victoria Johnson, M.S., PHR, the human resources director of Fellowship House and a member of SHRM’s Corporate Social Responsibility Expertise Panel.

Other notable findings in the SHRM Green Workplace Survey are below.

• While C-suite support for company initiatives is key, relatively few at the CEO/President (15 percent) level are responsible for creating the environmentally responsible program and fewer (four percent) are responsible for program implementation. The majority of such programs are created by a senior management team (32 percent) and roughly the same number (31 percent) are also responsible for implementation.

• HR professionals rank the top five environmentally-responsible practices to be: 1) encouraging employees to work more environmentally friendly (83 percent); 2) offering a recycling program for office products (83 percent); 3) donating and discounting used office furniture and supplies to employees or local charity (73 percent); 4) using energy efficient lighting systems and equipment such as ENERGY STAR® equipment and occupancy sensors (66 percent); and 5) installing automatic shutoff for equipment (63 percent).

• Employees offer a slightly different view and rank the five most important environmentally-responsible practices as follows: 1) donating and discounting used office furniture and supplies to employees or local charity (53 percent); 2) promoting walking, biking, taking public transit (49 percent); 3) using energy efficient lighting systems and equipment (43 percent); 4) offering a recycling programs for office products (39 percent); and 5) encouraging employees to work more environmentally friendly (36 percent).

• Both human resource professionals and employees state that their primary, or number one, motivation for participating in environmentally responsible programs is to make a contribution to society. HR professionals placed more weight on environmental (53 percent) and economic (46 percent) considerations as second and third most prevalent company motivators. Employees report public relations strategy (26 percent) and health and safety considerations (24 percent), respectively, as the second and third driving factors.

The Green Workplace Survey’s 429 HR professional respondents represent publicly- and privately-owned companies, nonprofits, and the government sector. The 504 employee sample was randomly selected from U.S. telephone population. All employee respondents were either employed full time or part time.

A complete copy of the survey is available at www.shrm.org/surveys. (But it's for members only).

Friday, February 22, 2008

More About Ports

I posted a report a couple weeks ago about the state of pollution in ports, with Charleston being one of the worst. I've recently been reading more about what some businesses are doing about it. I'm sure many of you have heard about the Skysail: a large sail added to a freighter to reduce fuel usage (and thus emissions), used by DHL. Today I read about the Coalition for Responsible Transportation, which was founded by Target, among others, and recently joined by Wal-Mart. A quick description from their website:
C.R.T. is comprised of private sector companies who strive to be responsible stewards of the environment by not only complying with all environmental regulations but by implementing business practices that minimize diesel emissions and encourage sustainable practices. C.R.T. founding members, NYK Group Companies, Target, Total Transportation Services, Inc., are actively seeking to partner with other like-minded companies who share in their commitment to the environment and the communities in which they operate.

So are any local companies involved or thinking of getting involved?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Greening Your Business

Continuing on this topic from a couple of weeks ago... I ran across this (pdf) today. Five technology companies provide advice on making the office more green. Most of what's in there might be old hat to many of you, but this is geared more towards the mainstream. What do you think? Is there anything in there that's new to you or perhaps presented in a different way that might make the argument to go green more appealing to the average corporate executive or middle manager? Does the message sound any different given that's it's European (other than talking about Pounds and Euros)?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another Good Event Tonight

Just a quick note to say that I hope everyone had a good time this evening and did some good networking. Turnout was a little less than I expected, but a combination of: holiday, weather and short span in time since the last one kept some people away. But I will still say this was a success. Several people indicated that they met someone in their industry of interest or made some other worthwhile connection. And it's especially satisfying to know that several of those connections were between CofC students and members of the community, because that's one of the main reasons we hold this event. As I've mentioned in an early blog, I'd like to hear some of the success stories. So if you've got one from this event (or the previous one) and are willing to share, please post a comment.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Green Business Incubator

I'd love to see something like this here. Of course, I think Noisette fills that role to some extent. Interesting to note that the idea was announced at Green Drinks NYC. Which reminds me, if you haven't been out to a Green Drinks event here in Charleston, you really should. The event is growing every month, it's a great complement to the Green Business Networking event (or vice versa since Green Drinks came first.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

Tuesday night I took part in a focus group run by CofC communications students working with the Charleston Green Committee. The discussion was quite lively and informative. In fact I barely got to say a word throughout the session, but my mind was racing (as best it could after a long day). The thing I came up with that seemed to unite all the concerns and suggestions brought up was that what is needed is to make being green, easy. Or to put it another way, the easy decisions we make every day should be green. One example that came up was recycling. The City of, and College of, Charleston do not do a very good job of recycling, especially compared to cities and colleges around the world. Right now it's difficult to recycle. In my building, I have to walk down to the end of hall, cross a bridge, down the stairs, to the end of another hall in order to deposit my recyclables in the proper place. Now I don't mind this at all, this is actually some of the little exercise I get in my day. But there are many others that are not willing to go out of their way to recycle - it's much easier to throw things away in the trash. There are trash bins everywhere - I've got one under my desk (which rarely gets used). So I have a simple decision to make - take the easy route and toss my recyclables in the trash can in my office or take a 2 minute walk to properly throw them away. But what if the easy route was to recycle? What if there were recycling bins everywhere and people had to go out of their way to find a regular trash bin? We'd see much more recycling because that would be the easy decision. We can apply the same logic to other decisions. For example, if I were looking to buy a new refrigerator and the more energy-efficient version was also the cheaper one, my decision would be easy. So if the "green" decision was the one that was quicker, simpler, cheaper, etc. it would be much easier being green. So to try to take environmental-friendliness to the mainstream, we need to take a look at each individual issue and find ways to make the green option, the easy option.

In case you're stuck with the old Kermit the Frog song in your head (or maybe you are NOW), here's the video: It's not easy being green. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Next Green Business Networking Event

After the success of the first networking event, my hopes are high that the next event will be just as good or better. As a slight change from the first one I'm proposing a topic of discussion - what local governments do to help or hinder green business and what they can do to improve. I think that through some discussion we should be able to identify several key things that can help green businesses (of which they might not be aware) and several key things that we should focus on getting our governments to do.

In case you haven't already received the announcement (and if not, please contact me so that I can add you to my mailing list) the next Green Business Networking Event will be Monday, February 18th, from 4:30 - 6:30 at the Tate Center gallery (second floor). Enter through the Beatty Center (5 Liberty Street), go up the stairs and across the bridge. Please bring anyone you know that might be interested.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Greening Your Business

One of the goals of this blog and the monthly networking event is to help existing businesses be more environmentally-friendly. This morning I ran across a useful guide (pdf) for organizations looking to improve their environmental awareness and reduce their carbon footprint. The first part of it basically outlines how one should organize the effort. Rather than just make piecemeal changes, organizations (including businesses) should take a more holistic approach. The guide does offer some useful suggestions regarding resource usage (energy, recycling, etc.) . It goes on to suggest looking beyond just your organization - consider your community and your business partners.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Valentine's Day

I know it's only a couple days away, but if you're like most people you still haven't gotten that special someone a Valentine's Day gift. But if you're not like most people (unfortunately) you're looking to make that gift as eco-friendly as possible. So what are your options. Well, if you're going the traditional chocolate route, aim for organic chocolates. If you're thinking flowers, get ones that will live more than a week (i.e. potted). You could also go in a completely different direction and make a charitable donation in your sweetheart's name. If you're shopping for actual product gifts I'd suggest that you visit any of the local green businesses. So if you are one of those businesses, please submit your suggestions (and store information) here in the comments section. I'm sure many of you have other suggestions, so feel free to post those, especially if they support local green businesses. For more suggestions you can check out the Green Guide, which lists several options for: flowers, chocolates, sleepwear and jewelry (and of course you know there's a local jewelry artist that is eco-friendly).

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ports are big pollutors. Big surprise?

A recent study of US ports, including Charleston, concluded that "Most U.S. ports are now among the largest sources of air pollution in their cities and progress toward reducing that pollution has been slow." And more interestingly "Charleston is the only port among the top ten U.S. container ports not to grant Energy Futures an interview during the researching of this report. It is also the only port that does not list a director of environmental protection among its port personnel." The report mentions that Charleston got an "F" from the NRDC in 2004, but has since made some efforts to improve, including formal partnership with SC DHEC. And of course, "There are no known applications of alternative fuels or advanced transportation technologies at the port of Charleston," which is a shame given the proximity to Southeast BioDiesel.

NY and IN learning from us?

Not really. But both states have recently launched networks in support of sustainable businesses. The INdiana Sustainability Alliance (INSA)"will bring together members of the sustainable development, green building, energy, water management, and clean technology industries by initially offering educational and networking events." The Sustainable Business Network of NYC will work "to connect, support and promote NYC owned and operated businesses." Of course these types of networks aren't new. A quick Google search leads to plenty of hits for sustainable business networks. Clearly this is a growing movement.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Upcoming events

EcoLibrio jewelry home show - Saturday, February 9th, 4-8 pm, Parkwood Estates, West Ashley. This is the wonderful work my wife does. She makes amazing artistic pieces of jewelry from recycled cables, wires and re-purposed beads. Check out her web page to see some of her great designs. For specific directions contact either margaret [at] ecolibrio.com or me at hansend [at] cofc.edu. There will be snacks, wine, a raffle and a prize for the person that brings the most guests. This is a great chance to pick up a nice, eco-friendly Valentine's day gift.

Green Drinks Charleston Wednesday, February 13th, 7 pm - ?? at the Trusted Palate, 563 King Street. Meet up with a dynamic group of individuals and organizations from around the Lowcountry who meet up once a month to enjoy cocktails, lively discussions, new friends, and good times."

Also from the Green Drinks blog site, there will be an Energy Film Fest in Florence from 12:00 noon to 4:45.

Alternative Energy Meet-up Wednesday February 20th at Huger (restaurant),587 King St

And of course the next Green Business Networking event - Monday February 18th at the Tate Center, 5 Liberty Street, 2nd floor, 4:30 - 7:00. I'm working on getting something a little extra this time.

I know I've missed some events, so please either add them in the comments or send them to me via e-mail and I'll update the post.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bringing sustainability to CofC

I got an email recently from one of the people that attended the first Green Business Networking event. Charlie Sneed of the South Carolina Green Foundation forwarded an article from Grist listing the top 15 Green universities, with the College of Charleston NOT being one of them. My response was that we've made some progress but have a ways to go. One major success was the founding of the Sustainability Committee, which was wonderfully championed by Burton Callicott. In fact, if you've received the latest issue of The Portico, you'll see that the cover page article is all about the Sustainability Committee featuring Burton's smiling face. (The Photoshopped CFL looks kind of funny, but I guess it's better than one really hanging over his head from a wire like a bad 1950's sci fi flying saucer.)

That's one great step forward, but we need to do even more. That's going to take effort from everyone. There are two potentially good opportunities to infuse sustainability into the College. One is the Strategic Planning Focus Groups that are beginning tomorrow. As per the official message:
"The College of Charleston is embarking on a strategic planning process that will define our core values and purpose; identify our academic, co-curricular, and community priorities; and guide us on our path to become a world-class institution. As a part of this process, we are seeking input from members of the College's faculty."
Although this appears to be open only to faculty, it's an opportunity for those of us that have a desire to see sustainability as one of the College's core values. So those of you like me that would like to see the status of sustainability improved at the College, volunteer to be part of the focus groups. As I've learned at the School of Business and Economics meeting today, response so far has been "tepid". So there shouldn't be much of a problem of getting into one of the focus groups.

And speaking of the SBE meeting, as some of you have probably heard, the Dean will be ending his term this summer. This means that at some point the search for a new dean will begin. My hope is that we can find someone that believes in the importance of sustainability. As a junior faculty I neither have experience with the dean search process, nor the influence to have much impact on the process, but I will certainly try to make sustainability a point of interest in searching for a new dean.

Of course if you're not a faculty member you're probably wondering what you can do (if you've even read this far). On that I'm not too certain and I hope that we'll have some commentary with suggestions. I would imagine that businesses and organizations in the area, as potential employers of CofC graduates, you should have some input into both processes. Likewise students should have some input since we're all pretty much here to provide you with an education and help you find a job (or at least prepare you for one). So I would think that if a great number of non-faculty started inquiring about how they can have a say in the processes of strategic planning and finding a new Business School dean that you might actually get one.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Green Consumers?

One of the several books on my shelf that I have yet to read, but have skimmed several times is The Sustainability Advantage, by Bob Willard (printed on 100% post consumer recycled paper by New Society Publishers). I don't know if it's a book I'd recommend (I'll eventually be making book recommendations when I get around to reading more), but there are some interesting bits in the book I've picked out via skimming. The first one has to do with a classic 2x2 (business academics love these) dividing up the green consumer behavior market. Of course it's not his original idea, it came from the Sustainable Enterprise Academy at York University, but it's interesting none-the-less. Basically it divides green consumers along their willingness to pay and their activism and breaks down as follows:
  • Green Consumers - high activism and high willingness to pay
  • Green Activists - high activism and low willingness to pay
  • Latent Greens - low activism, high willingness to pay
  • Inactive - low activism and low willingness to pay
The numbers assigned to each group would be out of date by now (from Fall 2000) so no point in reporting, but it's interesting to note that nearly 2/3 were in the High Willingness to Pay categories. This goes along with many other reports showing consumers' willingness and interest in "buying green."

So my questions to you are: Is this a reasonable way to look at the market? How do you and your business look at the market? Do you target any of these groups and what success have you had?

By the way, this is the first of what will be specific business strategy-oriented posts meant to help green businesses in Charleston grow (one of my dream list items below). I'll try to do these about once a week. If any of these topics end up being really "hot", I'll try to set up something at a future networking event to delve deeper into the discussion.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Got a good green business idea?

It's time again for the New Ideas for a New Carolina Business Idea Competition. The competition, in its third year now, seems geared towards green business. Environmental Sustainability is one of four categories for industry (bio-tech, engineering, software/IT, plus "other" are the remaining categories.) Indeed, last year's winner was Plugin Hybrid Coalition of the Carolinas, who will be in Charleston on Tuesday, Feb 5th as part of the "Get Plugged in Tour".

The grand prize is $5000, with $2500 for first and $1000 for runners up. Find out more at www.newideassc.com.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

State of Green Business

Joel Makower and the folks at greenbiz.com (no affiliation) have just released their report on the state of green business. You can download it here: http://stateofgreenbusiness.com/ (note that you'll have to fill out a short survey to download the report). According to them it "is the first report to take stock of green business activities in the United States, and features the debut of the GreenBiz Index, a set of 20 indicators of green business progress that we will update annually."

The report shows that the US has done well in areas like clean tech, energy efficiency and paper. But we are failing in terms of e-waste and carbon intensity. Given these two major weaknesses in green business in the US, what can we do here in Charleston? What do you do with your e-waste? What have you and/or your business/organization done to reduce carbon emissions?