Affordable Investments: Owned Media and Partnerships

by Megan Yarnall

Social media is popular for various reasons including the fact that it’s easy to reach people and that it’s free. Media such as advertising and marketing often is not free, so for many companies it is hard, if not impossible, to find room in the budget. For companies who don’t mind taking a leap of faith, there’s another option, one that TerraCycle relies heavily upon: owned media.

I say “leap of faith” because sometimes you have to shell out some cash to create the owned media, and then be patient and wait for the fruit of your efforts to materialize. Here at TerraCycle, we just started a bi-weekly podcast that documents eco-tips, eco-news, and features interviews with key players from our partners such as Elmer’s, Dropps, and Garnier  as well as leading voices from the sustainable industry.

Of course there was some limited start-up capital required to outfit one of our tiny meeting rooms: making the space soundproof, purchasing a podcast mic and sound equipment, and making sure our social media manager had the most appropriate sound editing programs on his computer. So, how do we justify spending the money on something that won’t bring us outright income?

Well, the podcast is an affordable investment. The start up cost wouldn’t have paid for a few days of Google Ads and this piece of owned media (the podcast itself) becomes a multi-use platform. When people hear the podcast, they learn about the company, its mission, and then (hopefully) are encouraged to sign up for the TerraCycle Brigade program and help us collect and recycle waste! Moreover, we can offer interviews to our valued partners and create or solidify relationships with industry leaders.

Other pieces of owned media include books, TV shows, company magazines, and blogs. Some of these require a larger output of money, but in return the outcome can be greater. The product can end up paying for itself. Additionally, with things like magazines, you can partner with advertisers to help foot some of the costs involved.

Some pieces of owned media will be more of a challenge than others. You can always write your own blog, you can’t just sign up to have a TV show. As with all things, it’s easier to start small, at TerraCycle we began blogging for smaller sites years ago, today we write for the New York Times, Treehugger and other major news sites. TerraCycle was in the media long before the founder and CEO, Tom Szaky, wrote his book and appeared on the National Geographic Channel with TerraCycle’s show “Garbage Moguls.” But any company can find a unique engaging angle worth pitching for a show or a book; just turn on your TV to find a 100 examples of small business turned reality TV hit show.

Additionally, you have to remind yourself that owned media is an investment. There’s cost involved, and while it may pay for itself in the long run, you’ll have to be patient. For the less patient, or for those who can’t (or don’t want to!) put up the cash, blogs are a great option. Social media partnerships allow for collaborating with like-minded businesses and charities and you can support each other’s causes with guest posts and mentions.

The vital element is this: you must remember what you can offer to other people, not always what they can do for you, and you should keep in mind popular media and how people are consuming content these days.

For TerraCycle’s podcast, visit iTunes and search “Talking Trash with TerraCycle” or visit

Is Your Advertising More than Just a Green "Slice of Life"?

By Maria O. Pinochet, Ethical Markets Research Advisory Board According to advertising professionals, the declining attention span of audiences is a key factor in changes to recent advertising messages. The length of a person’s attention span depends on what a person is focused on and on what their level of interest is in a certain topic. Therefore, the normal period of focused attention fluctuates somewhere between seconds and minutes. In fact, studies, polls and data-gathering agencies report a downward trend for all types of attention spans – whether the activity is listening to a lecture, viewing a slide presentation, reading (this article!) or Web browsing.

With these declining attention spans, and in an effort to maintain the effectiveness of the advertising, many advertisers have chosen to create messages that appeal to simple human emotions such as fear and greed. They argue that, by sheer time constraint, advertising cannot develop a strong cognitive/rational argument and must, instead, present a “slice of life”; therefore, the message cannot be anything but an unbalanced representation.

Indeed, many companies take a bite of the green “slice of life,” but their green messaging turns out to be little more than a “sound bite” for consumer consumption. In such cases, a company’s public relations department has most likely crafted the green messaging in an effort to align with positive consumer opinions about how important it is for companies to behave in a socially responsive way, not only within the ecosystem that sustains their product and service but also toward the communities they serve.

However, upon further inquiry, one often finds no company involvement in green initiatives beyond the public relations as demonstrated by the number of sustainability officers emerging from marketing departments. Again, in such cases, the green “sound bite” is indeed just a “slice of life," a green washing that has no more value than the delivery of its feel-good message.

When emotional appeal is used in advertising, it is much too easy for audiences with different value orientations to perceive messages as more or less skewed or unethical.  When that happens, advertising messages may become subject to a higher level of controversy and may even be considered a misrepresentation of stakeholder interest.

Some feel that this reliance on primal emotions has made advertising, in general, unethical. They say such messages have no transparency, lack depth and clarity and are thus completely disassociated from the brand, product and service values.  Nowhere is this more apparent or more disputed than in the new practice of neuromarketing, where technologies such as MRIs attempt to identify triggers to bypass a brain’s evaluation process and go straight to its decision-making centers. Ethical Markets Media and the World Business Academy believe  neuromarketing's deliberate attempt to influence buyers in a manner that inhibits their evaluation processes is manipulative and unethical.  They have a petition which anyone can sign to have this practice stopped.

There is guidance and reward for companies that have as their core value to better inform buyers and to serve all stakeholders. The EthicMark®, one of the highest honors in advertising, recognizes companies that contribute positively to the advertising community with their inspirational messaging. Founded by Hazel Henderson of Ethical Markets Media, the EthicMark® is awarded by the World Business Academy for advertising “that uplifts the human spirit and society.”

Organizations like Ethical Markets Media, the World Business Academy and SRI in the Rockies (where EthicMark® winners are announced) are raising awareness about the positive contributions of ethical advertising.  What are you and your organization doing to raise the bar and write the next chapter in the history of advertising?

Readers: What’s your take on neuromarketing – and ethical marketing? Share your ideas on Talkback!

Note: This article has appeared on CSRwire

What Luxury Brands Teach Us about Sustainability

By Elisa Niemtzow, Sequoia Lab Principal.  

2011 marks an exciting year in luxury goods. After years of being singled out for lackluster social and environmental performance, luxury brands are recognizing the benefits of going green, and are starting to talk about it. Backtrack four years ago to the release of WWF-UK’s analysis of the luxury goods industry, and things looked bleak. For example, Tiffany scored a D+, PPR a D, and L’Oréal a C+.

This year, Tiffany launched its well-received sustainability website, detailing the responsible business practices that have made it a sector leader. PPR unveiled the first complete annual environmental profit and loss account for its brand Puma, committing to extend the practice to all of its brands, including iconic luxury houses Gucci, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta by 2015. Finally, L’Oréal pleasantly surprised more than just one sustainability expert at its inaugural global stakeholder forums this year.

Like other business sectors, luxury brands still face a lion’s share of challenges. In September, the Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA) in the U.K. lambasted leading designer clothing companies in its special report Style Over Substance, at the height of the “killer” sandblasted jeans problem involving brands such as Armani and Dolce & Gabanna.

For sure, there’s a lot of work to be done.

However, in reading the ECRA report, many companies received criticism for lack of available information, and ECRA assumed the worst. Dig a little deeper and I’m convinced that better things are brewing beneath the surface. Secrecy, after all, is a hallmark of the industry, which protects its craftsmanship and its margins like a mother bird her eggs.

I used to manage wholesale at Chanel, one of the most coveted brands out there (and one of the most searched for names on the internet). Online videos will take you backstage at December’s Paris-Bombay runway show, but you’d be hard-pressed to find much corporate information on this very private company.

Because of their glamorous role front and center, we expect the best from luxury brands (and that creates a special risk for them if customer perception of good business doesn’t match reality). But, as luxury brands begin conversations around sustainability, they face the same challenges as their non-luxury counterparts. Since I don’t have the space here to discuss all these questions, I’ll focus on that last one, i.e., how do you talk to customers about your social initiatives without detracting from key brand messages?How do you communicate on your sustainability journey, essentially a work in progress, without becoming a target for criticism or losing control of the dialogue? How does a corporate executive support sustainable consumption while meeting ever-increasing sales targets? How do you talk to customers about your green or social initiatives without detracting from key brand messages?

The question of how to communicate on CSR themes to customers comes up frequently with my consulting clients these days. Fortunately, luxury brands have the potential to excel in this arena. They know how to create universes – whether that’s stores, fashion shows, websites or ads – which are on brand, make you dream, aspire, and ignite all your senses.

First, let’s start with a CSR-focused ad campaign gone a little wrong.

Italian leather and fashion house Ferragamo pioneered eco-luxe in 2007, with the launch of a small collection of bags made of natural, metal-free leather. This year, it launched the Ferragamo World collection, with 5 percent of proceeds going to the vanguard Acumen Fund. What a great partnership, but what a bad ad.

Private Equity and EDF Climate Corps: A Growing Relationship

By Lillias MacIntyre, Program Associate, Corporate Partnerships Mcoachingmillions.comenefit is an essential characteristic of a successful relationship. At EDF – and especially within Corporate Partnerships – we continue to merge and strengthen the relationships within our networks to form alliances that work.

In May, I wrote about the increasing synergies between our Green Returns and EDF Climate Corps projects.  Both initiatives tap into important networks that make the business case for improving environmental management. To boot, in 2011, nine of the 49 companies participating in the EDF Climate Corps program were owned by private equity (PE) firms:

  • Booz Allen Hamilton (Carlyle)
  • Dunkin’ Brands (Carlyle)
  • Diversey (CD&R)
  • ServiceMaster (CD&R)
  • QTS (General Atlantic)
  • HCA (KKR)
  • SunGard (KKR)
  • Dave & Buster’s (Oak Hill)
  • ViaWest (Oak Hill)

Below are some examples of potential savings and reductions from projects identified by EDF Climate Corps fellows at PE owned companies:

Dunkin’ Brands – Tasked with identifying store-level energy efficiency projects and analyzing their financial potential, the fellow determined that a 15% reduction in electricity usage at 2,700 free-standing stores could result in collective savings of 80 million kWh, $12 million in energy costs and 47,000 MT in associated CO2 emissions annually.

Diversey – Four primary infrastructure improvements were proposed: on-demand hot water heaters, direct-fire space heaters, lighting sensors/controls, and a new compressed air system that could generate savings greater than $200,000 and 900 MT of CO2 annually over the life of each project.

Service Master – The fellow built on work from the previous year and found ways to reduce fleet fuel consumption and corporate electricity use by developing business cases for hybrid and electric vehicles in addition to identifying lighting upgrades.  These projects could reduce CO2 emissions by 143 MT, cut 114,000 kWh of electricity and save $15,500 in electricity costs annually.

QTS – With energy initiatives already in place, the fellow validated and improved those practices.  The company was enrolled in demand response programs, greenfleetmagazine.comalternate energy solutions were implemented, and recycling and e-cycling plans were developed.  If rolled out to a few facilities, these programs could cut 60 million kWh of electricity, 40,000 MT of CO2 emissions and 15 million gallons of water use annually – saving QTS $4.3 million in net operating costs over project lifetimes.  QTS plans to invest $10 million to implement the identified projects – a solid indication the company understands the value these initiative will add to its operations.

HCA – HCA participated in the program in 2010 and is also part of the KKR/EDF Green Portfolio Program, but despite this, the 2011 fellow was able to identify and evaluate two project ideas: the installation of Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) heating and cooling systems and modular boiler systems.  Both projects could yield reductions of 2.3 million kWh of electricity and 81.5 million kWh of natural gas, saving $2.3M in energy costs and more than 16,000 MT of CO2 emissions annually.  This could potentially save the company $16M in net operating costs over the 20 year project lifetime.

SunGard – In addition to being a part of the KKR/EDF Green Portfolio Program, this company participated in the EDF Climate Corps program last summer.  To build on current initiatives, the fellow developed a framework for establishing office Green Teams and Energy Treasure Hunt campaigns to identify additional opportunities.

ViaWest – The fellow focused on recycling, water efficiency, employee engagement and energy efficiency.  Recommended projects included corporate-wide electronic and cardboard recycling, PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) reduction targets, energy efficiency financing and lighting maintenance projects.  These projects could help ViaWest recycle approximately 75 MT of computers and cardboards and save 7 million kWh in annual energy use – cutting roughly 4,400 MT of CO2 emissions and generating$500,000 in cost savings.

ecoinstitution.comThe entire group of 2011 EDF Climate Corps fellows (including those placed at cities and universities) identified $650M in potential net operating cost savings; potential reductions in energy use equivalent to what 38,000 homes use per year; and opportunities to avoid CO2 emissions equivalent to the emissions of 87,000 passenger vehicles annually.  (Complete results and highlights can be found on our website.)

Host companies pay fellows $1,250/week for 10-12 weeks and reimburse for travel expenses to the EDF Climate Corps training and end of summer network event.  With an 86% implementation rate for energy savings over the first three years, the IRR of an EDF Climate Corps fellow can be greater than a top quartile PE fund.  Furthermore, by hiring a fellow, firms can jumpstart their environmental management programs and generate momentum for implementing the program throughout their holdings.

After this year’s results, we expect to have even more PE firms and portfolio companies involved in 2012.  Companies are signing up now as the February 23rd deadline approaches, so I encourage you to visit our website and learn more!

EDF Climate Corps places specially-trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit ourFacebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.

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The Paradox of Being National and Staying Local

by Megan Yarnall TerraCycle is a national and international company that stays local. Sound like a paradox? It doesn’t have to be one.

Since there’s usually a big push around “buying local” at the holidays, when everyone is doing more shopping than usual and trying to get the best prices, I started wondering how staying local fits into the plans for a national and/or international company, and how those companies can help encourage consumers to stay local. I’m not talking companies like retail stores, but instead companies like TerraCycle or even those that aren’t often consumer-facing (think, a national film company or a social services company).

The temptation to go to the large, national retail stores that are offering substantial holiday discounts and incentives is hard to resist, understandably. So what will help consumers veer toward local stores regardless? And why should a company not personally involved with, say, shoes, when people are looking for shoes, be concerned?

My answer here is community and personality. Even for a national company, engaging consumers at every level – including local – is key. Not only that, but by showing that your company cares about local causes in the areas it has offices, or the area it serves individually, you show part of your company’s personality, and that your company has depth. When you care about what your community cares about, they will care about you as well. Participate in a walkathon or help coordinate a gift drive. TerraCycle does this in August with its Graffiti Jam, works with local community improvement non-profits such as Isles, and enables its Brigades to donate to local charities in their respective towns.

One factor that can also help consumers buy local is knowledge. Consumers need to know why buying local is beneficial and why not all of the focus should be on cheaper prices at large stores. In order to engage people in your community, team up with a local shop to offer a “Buy Local Challenge” like the one run by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission.  Help them discover how to find discounts at local stores and local coupons (maybe suggest looking on community boards or in community handouts).

TerraCycle, a socially responsible company at our core, found a way to grow to 16 countries and still maintain our focus on being a local business. In each new market we expand, we find a local office, local shippers, local processing partners and hire citizens of that country to run our operations. The waste collected in a country stay in that country or region (in Argentina and Brazil for example uses the same facilities as needed) and nevers comes back to the US. So why we are turning into a global company each of our markets are kept very locally focused.

While national and international companies are concerned with more than local activities, it’s important to remember local connections and community so

companies can remember who they’re serving and can express their company’s personality and drives. What better time to do this than the holidays? So give your employees an extra day off if they volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food bank, donate to local charities on their behalf or find other ways to spread the holiday cheer to your workers and your community.

Who Is Your Farmer?

by Alberto Gonzalez, founder and CEO of GustOrganics, This is a fundamental question that, in an ideal world, we'd all be able to answer.

Knowing your farmer is about understanding his or her practices, motivations, challenges and ideas, but it's also about transparency. Transparency in agriculture means better practices, and better practices results in better food. I truly believe that if all Americans were able to meet their farmers, we would have a much healthier population and society. 

I am fortunate enough to have met many of the lovely farmers who provide the organic meats, dairy, and produce for my restaurant, GustOrganics. And a few weeks ago, I got an invitation from Organic Valley to meet organic dairy farmers Susan, Aaron, and David Hardy on their farm in Mohawk, NY.

I completely understand that most people don't have the chance to personally meet their farmers and visit their farms; therefore, I decided to ask the Hardy family some questions and share their answers here with you. —Alberto Gonzalez

Would you say you are a farmer or you work as one?

Susan: I am a farmer! Farming is our life, not just a job to us. We live with the land, we work with the land, we take care of the land, and it is in our souls. It is who we are. It has been wonderful to bring up our family on the farm and to raise our kids that way.

Why did you go organic?

David: There are a couple of reasons. When I was younger, I went to college and learned the conventional way of farming.  Then, in the mid-'80s I started reading this magazine called The New Farm (a Rodale Institute publication), and it opened my eyes to a whole new way of farming. In 1992, we bought this farm, and 1994 we started our new adventure as dairy farmers. We wanted to go the organic route because we didn’t like chemicals and we didn't want herbicides—we like pasture. We particularly like the concept of rotational pasture because grazing is a more natural way of farming—it's more sustainable and better for the cows' health. If the soil and the grass are healthy, the cow, the milk, and the people are healthy. Going organic was something that came naturally.

What made you join Organic Valley Coop?

David: Because it is a farmer-owned and farmer-run coop. Everyone from top to bottom is farm-related or an active farm member. And everyone on the board of directors is an active farm member. So everyone has input. In regional meetings, all the farmers gather and share their experiences, and we learn and change based on that dialog. Organic farming is a community and Organic Valley is one big community.

Are family farms better? If so, why?

Susan: We definitely feel family farms are better. We would not have chosen any other way to bring up our kids and we think it teaches good work ethics.

David: Family farms are boots-on-the-ground rather than suit-and-tie kind of operations. Farming is a 365-day-a-year commitment, milking is a twice-a day-job, and each person contributes his or her time.

In a few words, what do you think about America's food system?

David: The food system is controlled by a few large corporations, and what they pay the average farmer in the conventional world has been very stagnant for the past 30 years.  I think this is one of the reasons why conventional farms are so huge, because of the economies of scale. But as you get larger, you lose the localness and the connection to the land and the connection to the people who are buying your food. I think, if the corporations would improve the average pay of the conventional farmer, more farmers would change their practices to be more sustainable.

Is your farm sustainable?

David: We are a sustainable farm. We are an all-grass-based dairy farm. We are conserving soil

all the time, and we are building organic matter all the time. During times of excess rain, our soil keeps absorbing water and during the dry periods like this past summer, our pastures stay green, which is a testament to the resilience and the moisture-holding capacity of our soil. The longevity of our cows also speaks to sustainability. The average age of our cows is about 11 or 12 years old. In a conventional dairy farm, the average age of the cows is about 3.5 years.

Susan: I have 3 sons and 70 daughters [in obvious reference to her cows].

What kind of food do you eat?

Susan: We grow our own food.  We raise beef, pork, and chicken.  We have a large vegetable garden, and we pick apples and berries.  We bake our own bread with organic flour from the local coop. We also produce our own eggs and, of course, milk. During the whole year, we buy about 20 percent of our food from the store and 80 percent we produce ourselves.

What does happiness mean to you?

Susan: Working together and with my kids makes me very happy; having people like you with an encouraging vision and perseverance to see your vision through makes me happy, too.  Making a difference in the world also makes me happy. Having my family together at the table, sharing conversation and food, and having that food be all homegrown/homemade and taking a moment to realize and appreciate that—it's quite a feeling of satisfying accomplishment.  I know that we have educated our children with strong work ethics and there is a ripple effect of that education, passing on an understanding of how important organic is (literally) from the ground up.

Please check these videos from the organic farm story:

Biodiversity by Dr. Guy Jodarski

Susan Hardy’s cows names

So, while only in an ideal world everyone can shake hands with their farmer and visit their farm, we can all make an effort to know how our food is produced. To me, there’s nothing at all idealistic about that.  —A.G.


What can Web 2.0 teach us about CSR?

By Wayne Visser As part of the Quest for CSR 2.0 series

By May 2008, it was clear to me the evolutionary concept of Web 2.0 held many lessons for corporate social responsibility. At the time, I declared: "The field of what is variously known as CSR, sustainability, corporate citizenship and business ethics is ushering in a new era in the relationship between business and society. Simply put, we are shifting from the old concept of CSR – the classic notion of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility,’ which I call CSR 1.0 – to a new, integrated conception – CSR 2.0, which can be more accurately labelled ‘Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility.’"

The allusion to Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is no coincidence. The transformation of the Internet through the emergence of social media networks, user-generated content and open source approaches is a fitting metaphor for the changes business is experiencing as it begins to redefine its role in society. Let's look at some of the similarities.

Web 1.0

  • A flat world just beginning to connect itself and finding a new medium to push out information and plug advertising.
  • Saw the rise to prominence of innovators like Netscape, but these were quickly out-muscled by giants like Microsoft with its Internet Explorer.
  • Focused largely on the standardised hardware and software of the PC as its delivery platform, rather than multi-level applications.

CSR 1.0

  • A vehicle for companies to establish relationships with communities, channel philanthropic contributions and manage their image.
  • Included many start-up pioneers like Traidcraft, but has ultimately turned into a product for large multinationals like Wal-Mart.
  • Travelled down the road of "one size fits all" standardization, through codes, standards and guidelines to shape its offering.

Web 2.0

  • Being defined by watchwords like "collective intelligence," "collaborative networks" and "user participation."
  • Tools include social media, knowledge syndication and beta testing.
  • Is as much a state of being as a technical advance – it is a new philosophy or way of seeing the world differently.

CSR 2.0

  • Being defined by "global commons," "innovative partnerships" and "stakeholder involvement."

  • Mechanisms include diverse stakeholder panels, real-time transparent reporting and new-wave social entrepreneurship.
  • Is recognising a shift in power from centralised to decentralised; a change in scale from few and big to many and small; and a change in application from single and exclusive to multiple and shared.

So what will some of these shifts look like? In my view, the shifts will happen at two levels. At a macro-level, there will be a change in CSR’s ontological assumptions or ways of seeing the world. At a micro-level, there will be a change in CSR’s methodological practices or ways of being in the world.

Macro Shifts

The macro-level changes can be described as follows: Paternalistic relationships between companies and the community based on philanthropy will give way to more equal partnerships. Defensive, minimalist responses to social and environmental issues are replaced with proactive strategies and investment in growing responsibility markets, such as clean technology. Reputation-conscious public-relations approaches to CSR are no longer credible and so companies are judged on actual social, environmental and ethical performance (are things getting better on the ground in absolute, cumulative terms?).

Although CSR specialists still have a role to play, each dimension of CSR 2.0 performance is embedded and integrated into the core operations of companies. Standardized approaches remain useful as guides to consensus, but CSR finds diversified expression and implementation at very local levels. CSR solutions, including responsible products and services, go from niche ‘nice-to-haves’ to mass-market ‘must-haves.’ And the whole concept of CSR loses its Western conceptual and operational dominance, giving way to a more culturally diverse and internationally applied concept.

Micro Shifts

How might these shifting principles manifest as CSR practices? Supporting these meta-level changes, the anticipated micro-level changes can be described as follows: CSR will no longer manifest as luxury products and services (as with current green and fair-trade options), but as affordable solutions for those who most need quality of life improvements. Investment in self-sustaining social enterprises will be favored over cheque-book charity. CSR indexes, which rank the same large companies over and over (often revealing contradictions between indexes) will make way for CSR rating systems, which turn social, environmental, ethical and economic performance into corporate scores (A+, B-, etc., not dissimilar to credit ratings), which analysts and others can usefully employ to compare and integrate into their decision making.

Reliance on CSR departments will disappear or disperse, as performance across responsibility and sustainability dimensions are increasingly built into corporate performance appraisal and market incentive systems. Self-selecting ethical consumers will become irrelevant, as CSR 2.0 companies begin to choice-edit; i.e., cease offering implicitly ‘less ethical’ product ranges, thus allowing guilt-free shopping.

Post-use liability for products will become obsolete, as the service-lease and take-back economy goes mainstream. Annual CSR reporting will be replaced by online, real-time CSR performance data flows. Feeding into these live communications will be Web 2.0 connected social networks, instead of periodic meetings of rather cumbersome stakeholder panels. And typical CSR 1.0 management systems standards like ISO 14001 will be less credible than new performance standards, such as those emerging in climate change that set absolute limits and thresholds.

As our world becomes more connected and global challenges like climate change and poverty loom ever larger, businesses that still practice CSR 1.0 will (like their Web 1.0 counterparts) be rapidly left behind. Highly conscientised and networked stakeholders will expose them and gradually withdraw their social licence to operate. By contrast, companies that embrace the CSR 2.0 era will be those that collaboratively find innovative ways tackle our global challenges and be rewarded in the marketplace as a result.

Note: This article has appeared on CSRwire


by Woody Tasch First, let’s admire this fist:


The Economist put this on its cover earlier this year to celebrate the Arab Spring.

Let’s use it, today, for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

People raising their fists, peacefully, against “greed is good,” against wildly inequitable distribution of wealth, against fortunes made on derivatives and bail outs and what Warren Buffett called “financial weapons of mass destruction.” Fists raised against fast money--you know, the stuff of 1,000 pt. drops in the Dow in 20 minutes and Goldman Sachs bonuses “trimmed to $16 billion.”

People raising their fists not against tyrants and political oppression, but against distant bankers and invisible investments, going who knows where on the planet and doing who knows what to who knows who in the ever-accelerating pursuit of maximum financial speed—more, bigger, faster, and unlimited gains for them with their hands on the levers.

I see your fists and raise you a tent. A tent?

Not just any tent. This tent:

In this tent on a farm field in Vermont last year, 600 of us from more than 30 states and several foreign countries gathered and committed $4 million to 12 small food entrepreneurs from around the country who are creating jobs, getting toxics out of the food chain, restoring soil fertility, preserving ground water, keeping carbon in the soil and out of the atmosphere, fighting diabetes and otherwise striking at some of the root problems—literally and metaphorically—or our economy and our culture. Showing the way towards life after fast food and fast money.

This is the tent of Slow Money.

In it, we are beginning to put some of our money to work as far from Wall Street as far can be… that is, near where we live, in things that we understand, things that bring tangible, immediate benefits to our communities.

We are starting with small food enterprises, which bring fertility to the soil of the economy: small organic farms, grain mills, creameries, local slaughterhouses, seed companies, compost companies, restaurants that source locally, butchers and bakers and, sure, a bee’s-wax candle maker or two, food hubs, community kitchens, community markets, school gardens, niche organic brands, makers of sustainable agricultural inputs, and more.

Could this be the beginning of a new kind of investing, something as powerful, in its own right, as protest? As powerful as conscientious objecting? Can we call it conscientious investing?

We invite some of you to take a break, let your arms down and give your fists a rest for a moment, and join us.

Our goal: one million Americans investing 1% of their money in local food systems, within a decade. We think this is the path towards an economy that is healthier, fairer, more balanced, more sustainable.

We are still small, but sprouting. 20,000 people have signed the Slow Money Principles. 2,400 have joined the Slow Money Alliance, a national network and emerging group of eleven local chapters that are facilitating the flow of millions of dollars into scores of small food enterprises around the country. The 2011 national gathering held in San Francisco this Autumn took another step towards this goal of one million Americans investing 1% in local food systems. We featured 30 new entrepreneurs, all currently seeking capital.

Can we design new systems appropriate to the realities of investing in the 21st century? By starting with direct relationships we bypass the intermediation that is taken to an extreme in modern finance. Each individual’s action to take 1% of their money and invest it in these entrepreneurs is paving the path towards a new economy, one based less on extraction and consumption and more on preservation and restoration.

While we use the 99%er side of our brain to protest against the bad 1%, let’s also use the Slow Money side of our brain, and our heart, to roll our sleeves up and begin investing a good 1%.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find our way to life after fast money.


Woody Tasch is Chairman of Slow Money, a national 501(c)(3) organization formed to catalyze investment in local food systems. Tasch is author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered. To get involved, start by signing the Slow Money Principles at:

Womens cooperative partners with some of the foremost fashion houses in the business

by Sass Brown Maria Teresa Leal, known as Tete to her friends, is a force to be reckoned with.  The founder, driving force, and visionary behind COOPA-ROCA, the Rocinha Seamstress and Craftwork Cooperative in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she has powered this group of artisans from home sewers and craft workers to creative partners with some of the foremost fashion, interior and installation artists around the world.  An arts educator by training, mentored by the famous educator and theorist, Paulo Freire, she founded COOPA-ROCA in the early 1980’s.

Visiting the family housekeeper in the favela (read urban slum) on the weekend, Tete was encouraged by the residents, to establish free Saturday craft classes for the children of the favela.  Bored with teaching art to the children of Rio’s elite, she was excited and enthused by the eagerness of the children of Rocinha.  Intercepted by the mothers of the children one day, as she was delivering a bag of textile scraps to her class, she was persuaded that they could put better use to the scraps of fabric than their children. Tete watched as the women fashioned all manner of home wares from these unwanted scraps of fabric, working with techniques like patchwork and fuxico, a type of patchwork that is made from circles of fabric gathered into a centre and attached to each other, and so the sparks of what would become COOPA-ROCA were ignited.

The craftwork produced by the artisans became the idea behind organizing the women into a cooperative. Focusing initially on organizing and evaluating the women’s skill set, a small production force was developed to produce decorative craftwork by reviving traditional Brazilian craft techniques.  Impressed by the range of skills and techniques the women knew, Tete began prompting the women into improving their techniques and standardizing their workmanship.  At first selling the simple hand crafted home wares at local markets, over the years Tete has built the cooperative into an internationally recognized creative powerhouse.  Partnering with designers such as Osklen, Lenny, Cacharel, Paul Smith, Agent Provocateur, Lacoste and C&A.  COOPA-ROCA have also worked withinstallation artists Ernesto Neto and Tord Boontje, and decorated lounges at the Salon di Mobili Milan, Rio and Sao Paulo fashion weeks, and the New York Craft Fair.

The mission of the cooperative is to provide work to the female residents of Rocinha, arguably the largest favela in South America, with somewhere around 180,000 residents, allowing them to work from home, and contribute to the family income without neglecting their domestic duties, hence improving their quality of life.  The cooperative has approximately 150 members along with some important partners in the fashion and interior design, and installation art markets.  Partnerships have been developed through commitment and dedication to networking, along with Tete’s ongoing determination to promote the work done by the cooperative of artisans.  A fierce advocate for COOPA-ROCA, she does not allow anyone to take advantage of the artisans.

There are no reliable figures on the exact number of inhabitants in Rocinha, due to the fact that the favela’s are not a product of urban planning, but an outgrowth of a burgeoning population of residents migrating from the drought ridden North East of the country, otherwise known as Nordineastas.  Much as the usual global pattern of urban poverty, many of the residents of urban ghetto’s migrate from rural areas, in the hope of finding more and better opportunities to provide for their families in the city, when the reality is sadly often the reverse.  Subject to prejudice and racism, the often under-educated residents, also become the under or unemployed, creating the raw material for the rampant drug trafficking gangs in the area.  Denied opportunities for lawful and legal employment, most people will do what they must to support their families, leaving many few choices.

The favela itself is a cubist jungle of cinderblock apartments, one teetering on top another, often several stories high, rising up the hill situated between two of the richest areas of Rio, Gavea and Leblon, home to Rio’s elite gated communities and private schools. Disparities between rich and poor in Brazil are stark, with public health and education incomparable between neighbors.  Rocinha ranks as the 6th worst municipality in Rio.  There is not one single local hospital or doctor for that matter within the confines of the favela.  The residents have an average of 4.1 years of formal education, with less than 1% of the adult population earning a degree above high school diploma level.  Although most houses have basic sanitation, plumbing and electricity, the streets are narrow without gutters, turning them into rivers during the rainy season, with make shift electrical wires criss crossing the narrow streets.

Tete, an Ashoka and Lead International fellow, has been involved with programs related to UNDP, NGO’s, local and federal government organizations, been awarded a grant by the Rockefeller Foundation, and a Claudia Award Finalist, amongst many other accolades.

The development of ‘special’ projects has strengthened the cooperatives network as well as served to promote the sustainability of the cooperative in the long term.  Projects have included the design and production of a limited CD box set for Brazils Culture minister, Gilberto Gill, covered in patchwork, a special presentation at Selfridges department store in London in celebration of the year of Brazil, which included a magnificent fuxico shirt for Paul Smith, a fashion show in Paris in collaboration with Cacharel, with the cooperative reworking and reinterpreting the collection, and various installation pieces for artists, Ernesto Neto, and Tord Boontje, which includes a wonderful hand crocheted light fixture knows as the Come Rain, Come Shine Chandelier.

Unemployment and under employment is the bane of existence for migrants who have settled in the favelas. Tetê realizes that, despite good intentions, small enterprise programs generally fail because they do not consistently produce high quality goods, they don’t understand and develop markets, they fail to make best use of their workers' skills, and they fail to see themselves as viable, competitive manufacturers competing in a global economy. Tetê’s pioneering work with the artisans of Rocinha has revealed two realities about business and poverty, one, that workshops owned by poor women can compete in the world of high fashion; and two, that making quality goods is an effective means for poor women to compete in global markets, as well as act as a means to earn a descent living. Rather than organize poor women to produce poor goods, Tetê has raised both the standard of the product and the living standard of those producing the good. This philosophy guides the cooperative, defining a standard of best practices in community development and fair labor standards.

There have been many challenges in the development of the co-operative, however COOPA-ROCA continues to expand their commercial partnerships while increasing the scale of production and the number of its members. COOPA-ROCA are now moving onto a new stage in their development, and are in the process of developing the COOPA-ROCA brand by producing a small collection of mixed fashion, accessories and interior items for sale through their own e-commerce site.


Gaming for Good, Gaming for Green

by Megan Yarnall When I was growing up, my exposure to video games was limited, thanks to my mother. She didn’t want her kids to be influenced by the violent behavior and gore often depicted – and acted out – on the screen. Studies show that children are influenced by what they see on the screen, and at that time the influence was believed to be largely negative.

However, it’s been shown that games can have a positive influence: according to Jane McGonigal in an article from the Huffington Post, when players can “the best version of themselves” in a game, they set high aspirations and are confident within the game, and this “can trickle into our real lives.” Kids who played Rock Band and Guitar Hero, says McGonigal, expressed more interest in music and learning how to play instruments outside of the game as well. And if this is true for music, why not recycling?

Green games such as LogiCity, The Climate Change Game, CEO2- Climate Business, and Plan It Green are all examples of video gaming for good. These games teach players how to manage the environment and business to effectively take care of the planet and consider how our actions affect the health of the Earth. TerraCycle’s own Trash Tycoon is taking on the recycling problem.

If someone recycles in a game, and decides what to make with the trash and recyclables they collect, they can think of this off the screen when they are in their kitchen or in the school cafeteria. With Trash Tycoon, for example, when players buy Kraft Cheese food items in the game, and recycled the plastic cheese packaging in the game, the same behavior is more likely to be emulated in daily life. According to McGonigal’s article, kids who played “ ‘pro-social’ games […] are more likely to help friends, family, and neighbors in real-life for a full week after playing the game. Positive behavior in a game can translate into positive behavior in reality.

Embracing these trends and using games in a positive light can be an important tool in encouraging change, especially for kids. By making a game out of recycling and environmental care, kids forget that they’re learning and don’t realize that they’re creating daily and potentially life-long habits thanks to their entertainment.

Not convinced? According to Huffington Post once again, “playing games can prepare us to tackle challenges like curing cancer, ending world hunger, and stopping climate change.” Games can make a difference. Giving people of all ages the chance to experience real-world consequences through a game can give them a sense of the reality of that problem. Let the kids put their hand on that mouse and play away.

The Grass Can Be Greener Where You Least Expect It: Green Education for All Ages

by Megan Yarnall

Traditionally the main focus of education is younger generations, something for kids, something for those who are not already “old and wise.” In the green world, though, that notion must be turned upside down. Thanks to great strides in environmental science, recycling, and packaging science, the way we care for our environment and the eco-choices we make as consumers are constantly changing and therefore the need for education and ‘re-education’ remains constant regardless of age.

The seemingly inherent challenge is that educating all ages should require different tactics for the various target groups. Children comprehend and interpret information differently than adults and will be concerned with, engaged and inspired by a different set of topics and approaches: rather than the carbon output of a car that a child cannot drive, the child will be concerned about his or her toys, homework, or a pet.

Though the tactics for reaching the audiences often needs to be different, it’s still most effective and efficient – you reach the mostpeople – when you combine audiences and catch everyone at once. The hard part, of course, is finding this middle ground.  What will inspire and impact children and adults alike, without confusing one group or boring the other.

At TerraCycle, we’ve found that one of the best ways to do this is to put green lessons where they’re least expected. For us, this means retailers and playgrounds. By placing bins in stores like Old Navy and by partnering with stores such as Target and Walmart, which cater to both adults and children, we can catch the attention of both groups. Many people don’t expect to see backpacks made from Capri Sun drink pouches on the shelves – drink pouches belong in the food section!  These items often get an equal gasp from parents and children alike, albeit for likely differing reasons.

We recently donated recycled playgrounds to four schools across the country that were made out of used flip-flops collected at Old Navy stores during the “Flip-Flop Replay” last spring. Kids play on the playground, and parents take their children to the playground, making the playground a common point of interest between the two groups.  Thus both groups have their environmental understanding expanded, albeit in different ways.

Furthermore, these points (Target, Old Navy, playgrounds) are community spots. Anyone can frequent them and anyone can be involved, and when one person sees another participate, the pressure is on. In this case, “peer pressure” can be helpful in encouraging everyone to participate.

By reaching across all ages and consumers big and small, adults and kids can learn at the same time, and learn together, which makes the lessons stronger for each generation. While sometimes they will still need individual lessons, putting green lessons in unexpected places that cater to both groups is an effective method of teaching them at the same time and encouraging community involvement in green efforts and projects! Plus this method can be more fiscally sustainable. A key challenge for educators, NGOs and for-profits alike.

Artisanal Denim, The Art of Manufacturing Eco Denim

by Sass Brown        The premium denim market has been trending towards artisanal denim for quite some time now. However, what masquerades in advertising campaigns as hand distressed denim, too often translates to abysmal working conditions and production scale sand blasting, not individual hand deconstruction.  The sight of lines of workers wearing protective clothing and welding helmets, or simple bandanas tied around their face, in factories already steamy from hot washing and dying processes, armed with high velocity sand blasting machines, the grit creating a constant rain, breaking down to silica particles, and responsible for lung disease, hardly constitutes fair trade.  Nor does it gel with the TV imagery of the boyfriend lovingly toiling away with his hand tools to replicate the years of wear in his favorite pair of jeans, as a gift to his girlfriend.

The Clean Clothes Campaign recently targeted denim manufacturers in a high profile campaign designed to raise awareness about the process of sandblasting in jeans production, and spotlight those that refuse to stop using this destructive practice.  Turkey recently enacted a countrywide ban on sandblasting after 46 former operators contracted silicosis.   Several manufacturers have also recently denounced its use and banned it in the production of their own jeans, including Levi’s and H&M.  However, Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana steadfastly hold onto the practice, with what the Clean Clothes Campaign describes as “total indifference” to their campaign.  Dolce and Gabbana raised particular ire when they returned a call from the Clean Clothes Campaign notifying them of their intent to target the company, with D&G reportedly saying “thanks for the information (but) it did not interest them”.

There are some artisan jeans however, that are just that, hand made, each one unique.  Denim at this level of the market is truly luxury,

produced mostly in Japan and Italy, and sold exclusively through high-end retailers such as Colette, Paris.  Dutch brand Denham is one such label, with an extensive line of hand constructed denim jeans individually hand sewn by artisans, in their production facilities in Hiroshima, Japan.  As it says on their website “Made in Japan with 100% artistry, love, passion and NO shoes.”  This is a place where denim finishing is considered an art, where the knowledge base to perfectly deconstruct a pair of jeans is highly prized, not downgraded in a conveyor belt mentality of quantity versus quality.  This is a company that ‘worships tradition’ while embodying the rebel attitude of James Dean or a young Marlon Brando.  Their women’s Boyfriend jean for example, is made in strictly limited numbers, and ‘leaked’ to a highly select group of global retailers. Their production facility is the antithesis of a sweatshop, clean, Zen, and bright, where jeans are hand finished and constructed not in the factory piece work system, where individual sewers do only one small repetitive task, so as to achieve maximum speed.  Denham jeans are constructed holey by individual sewers.

The latest addition to the custom denim market is 3X1, so called after the standard right-hand twill weave construction specific to typical denim.  Based in New York, they are taking luxury jeans to the next level, with total customization, for the denim connoisseur.  Scott Morrison, a veteran from Paper Denim & Cloth, Earnest Sewn and Evisu, founded this unique retail store, showroom space and production facility in Soho, New York, as a reaction to economies of scale, and simply as a place to do one thing “really, really well”. The studio style environment beautifully merges with the old loft style building in New York’s Soho, and incorporates a custom tailor shop, and a textile merchant (all be it specializing in denim), all in one.  A customer can order jeans on the premises from a multitude of styles, fits, denim, finish, studs and stitch color, with over a hundred different denims to choose from, and endless permutations of cut, fit, finish and material.   Capacity production is twenty-five pairs of hand made, made to order jeans a day.  This is truly denim as a luxury item, not to mention an antithetical statement to global branding, with no name and only a discreet selvedge tab folded inside the back right pocket.

The use of vegetable dyes, natural indigo and water cleaning systems go a long way to improving a product that is responsible for major pollution, as well as labor violations.  In a world where water is beginning to be valued as a non renewable natural resource, that is being depleted at an alarming rate by agri-farming and bottled water companies, the embedded water content in a pair of jeans is alarmingly high. Traditionally made of cotton, a water hungry crop, the calculated embedded water content, the amount of water used to make a product from production of the raw materials, in an average pair of jeans, is 10,850 liters, that is approximately equal to 72 1/3 bathtubs full of water!  With 450 million pairs of jeans sold annually in the US alone, that adds up to approximately 4.8 trillion liters of water, or roughly the equivalent of half of California’s entire yearly urban water demand!

Conventional cotton farming has long been responsible for upwards of twenty-five percent of all insecticide use worldwide, yet the denim market has been slow to embrace the use of organic cotton.  The rules for organic cotton production, spinning and weaving are strict.  It takes a farmer three full years to turn around a conventional cotton crop to an organic one, to ensure that all pesticides have been eradicated from the groundwater, and the soil where the plant is grown.  In which time the farmer looses the scale of cotton production only achievable through the use of pesticides and insecticides, while not yet able to gain organic prices for his crop; an expensive endeavor for a farmer who needs outside support to see them through this ‘transitional’ stage.  All spinning, dying and finishing then needs to be wholly separated from conventional cotton, for fear of contamination.

Nudie Jeans from Sweden are one of a few companies however that produce a full range of one hundred percent organic cotton jeans, along with blended organic and conventional denim, and recycled denim fiber. They also utilize potato starch and pre-reduced indigo in place of chemical alternatives. Working exclusively with natural indigo instead of the hydrosulfite synthetic version, which allows them to biodegrade the exhausted dye-baths through simple waste disposal systems, instead of polluting the environment.  Proponents of the superior qualities of genuine indigo dye, as true denim elitists, they recognize the ancient and epic history of this ancient practice dating back to Pharaonic times.

Denham recently launched a range of Virgin jeans made from paper selvedge.  Consisting of fifty percent recycled Japanese paper pulp and fifty percent indigo cotton, the jeans are designed to be worn in more quickly, and have an ultra lightweight feel.  They come packaged in a zip up denim laundry bag and are accompanied by a bar of Cathartic soap made of natural enzymes, and formulated to preserve the paper selvedge.

Italian label, Naked Ape Eco Clothing, so named to represent our natural, naked, non-polluting past, work only with natural and wholly organic fibers, certified by a laundry list of accredited certification bodies, including Ecocert, USDA and the Soil Association.  This is not a brand that does things by halves, their entire collection of denim and cotton twill; unisex pants are made from organic cotton.  The full collection includes super skinny chino’s and carrot tops; how the Italians refer to low crotch styles, in a wide range of neutrals, pastels and brights, and include a full range of fits, cuts, washes and finishes, in a down to earth, democratic package.

UK brand Monkee Genes was born in 2006 by Road Team.  With a twenty-five year heritage in the denim industry, the founders were

bored with the conventional denim market, and decided to produce their own change by founding the company, and invigorating it with a fresh, vibrant and youthful direction.  Monkee Genes produce one hundred percent certified organic denim and cotton Jeans with a retro twist, innovative fits and styles, all in classic denim and vibrant cotton sateen.   With an Indie Jean rebellious heart, their motto is No blood.   No sweat.  No tears.  The brand focus on the Fair Trade aspect of production, and were the first and only jeans manufacturer to be awarded the soil Associations Global Organic Textile Standard, requiring that all factory working standards are considered as important environmental factors.

Haikure is a brand new Italian denim label on the market from this fall, winter season.  The label name is based on the tradition of restrictive Japanese poetry – Haiku, combined with the endings of the words; nature, future and pure. This lifestyle brand proposes exclusive, elegant and refined denim garments, entirely created by means of eco-sustainable materials and processing.  Each pair of jeans carries a QR label, which allows you to track all the production information of each individual pair of jeans through the use of any camera equipped mobile device, and an internet connection.  With detailed information from the certification of the organic cotton, to the production of each trim and treatment, the brand aim at complete transparency, in a market that has traditionally been anything but.

Denim jeans have become the great social leveler, with their history stemming from work wear, they are democratic by their nature, despite the price tag that comes with premium denim. Comparing the denim market to the mainstream fashion industry is a bit like comparing dog years to human years – the denim market has 7 new trends for every regular fashion season.    At least now the latest trend seems to be sustainable denim!  So now there is no reason to sacrifice style or fit to dress with conscience in the latest denim trend.

You can sign the Clean Clothes Campaign’s petition to tell D&G, Armani and Cavalli to stop using sandblasting at

The Cheap Disease (1of 2)

by Alberto Gonzalez, founder and CEO of GustOrganics, U.S. food consumers are somehow programmed to buy food cheaply. Our national motivation to pay less seems to be in our social DNA. We suffer what I call The Cheap Disease.

This national sport has created a cancer that's been growing out of control inside our food system and our society. Consumers' consumption represents about 2/3 of the GDP in our country, therefore, whatever we buy is big business--and keep in mind that we all eat every single day.

As consumers, we are very vulnerable to marketing messages. When companies spend big money on advertisement and social media, we simply obey. We have been bombarded for years with messages prompting us to pay as little as possible for food. The idea is simple: The less we pay, the smarter we're supposed to be.

Even today, most food advertisement on TV focuses on promoting cheaper prices. The "to-be-smart" message to pay less for food is always present. In other words, we have simply been brainwashed for years because, in fact, cheap food means lack of good nutrients, with huge amounts of artificial and chemical contents, leading inexorably to bad health and, of course, an obscene amount of environmental damage. While chasing the cheapest possible food, we have opened the door for the key decision makers in our food system to transform it into the oil/chemical monster that it is today, and at the same time, our collective health has deteriorated to a point beyond belief.

It is fair to say that cheap food does not exist. When we buy cheap, in reality we are paying a very expensive price because we are--or will be--paying the difference saved at the cash register with our health and with extraordinary damages to our environment, which also means that we are seriously compromising the health of future generations.

The companies providing us with the cheap food are in reality externalizing the true cost of those foods.

The "cheap" food disease is not only affecting our health, but also that of farmers, animals, soils, water, and air. Factory-farming and the huge level of consolidation in the agricultural sector (the main culprits for our Cheap Disease) are putting family farmers out of work at an alarming rate. According to Farm Aid, 330 farmers leave their land every week. This is more than 47 farmers per day.

I know it's awkward to discover that we have not been smart at all but simply manipulated by Food Corporations and agribusiness, and in fact, our food-purchasing decisions during the last 50 years have resulted in very poor choices. Also, collectively speaking, we have become very sick.

Although, on more than a few occasions, many people pay high prices for food in restaurants, in general those prices are related to value created by the location, style, or chef; however, the ingredients are generally coming from factory-farming, so the economics of dining out are actually contributing to The Cheap Disease. In other words, the higher prices paid translate to better margins for the businesses, but don't contribute to consumption and support of true organic and sustainable farming.

In this country, most people do not make the connection between food, health, and happiness. The most obvious connection that I am sure everyone immediately detects is the one between money and happiness, hence, through this paradigm, "cheap" seems to be the main virtue in our food system, and it has proven to be a recipe for disaster.

To put it succinctly, while pursuing the illusion of cheap food, America became the sickest country on the planet.

What we eat matters big-time. Food is who we are, food cleans, food creates positive jobs, helps local communities, food incentivizes life but also death, destruction, and wealth for just a few. The choice is all ours.

Let's cure our Cheap Disease, now.

EDFbiz -- Sustainable Shopping: On the right track with GoodGuide

By Lillias MacIntyre, Program Associate, Corporate Partnerships OK – so you’re part of the ever increasing group of environmentally conscious global citizens trying to make a difference.  I’m sure you’ve found yourself browsing a retailer’s shelves or clicking through in search of a product more sustainable than the one sitting on your shelf at home…But you couldn’t remember if you should avoid PBDE, PFOA or NPEs!  Now, undeterred and armed with your smart phone, you launch the GoodGuide mobile app, and learn you should try and avoid all three chemicals.

GoodGuide helps consumers make better purchasing decisions by ranking product performance on a relative scale using an array of environmental, health and social impact metrics.  And with the recent launch of its “Transparency Toolbar” you can now browse products on and see how they stack up to the competition in areas of interest to you.  Naturally, the moment I learned about these tools I decided to give them a try.

The mobile app allows you to scan or manually input barcodes for product information and is a fun and convenient tool when it works.  With a database of about 120,000 products, you can opt to browse GoodGuide or simply use the scanner when shopping.  Conveniently, when browsing product categories, you’re given a list of “ingredients to watch for.”

The Toolbar is supported on Chrome and Firefox, currently works with Amazon, and will soon be supported by Walmart,SOAPTarget and Google Products.  While helpful when it finds a product from the database, this too has its inconsistencies.  For example, a search for “Avalon Organics Biotin B-Complex Thickening Shampoo” on,, and the mobile application produced an overall product rating of 6.2 on the first; a non product-specific 5.2 on the toolbar; and a 6.2 overall rating on the app.  Additionally, when clicking through for the “Full Rating” from the Toolbar, I was taken to a page with partial data and no overall rating.  It seems that in this case, the first Toolbar rating of 5.2 draws on overall company data (Avalon Natural Products).

Information on GoodGuide’s ratings and methodologies can be found on the website, but in general, data is acquired from many sources including scientific institutions, government agencies, NGOs, media outlets and corporations themselves.

That said, the next time you’re wandering the isles of your favorite retailer or searching for a great deal on, keep these tools in mind, because despite their kinks – you’re on a more enlightened path with GoodGuide.

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Staying green when there’s a lack of green (How to go green AND stay on a budget)

by Megan Yarnall Going green, or being green, has often been associated with expensive organic or eco-friendly products, lifestyle and habit changes, and limited luxury. But going green at home and in the workplace doesn’t have to break the bank.

Many tips that families use to stay green around the house and save money – such as turning off the lights when a room is empty – can be applied to the office as well.  This can lead to happier employees, reduced costs and of course a smaller carbon footprint.

First, a few things that can be done every day, with contribution from everyone in the office:

Tip #1 Limited printing. Most things don’t really need to be printed out in hard copy. And if they do need to be printed, you can re-use paper and print double-sided. When you’re done with it, stick in the recycling bin.

How we do this? Just the way it sounds! We print double-sided, or reuse paper when we can. We also only print when we need to, and do most things by email. Afterwards, we’re TerraCycle. So you better believe we recycle.

Tip #2 Turn electronics off. If a room is empty, turn the lights off. If a bathroom is empty, turn the lights off. If a computer is not being used, especially overnight or over the weekend, turn it off.

How we do this? Just the way it sounds! We turn our computers off at night, and turn the lights off when we don’t need them.  Power strips at each desk make it really easy to make sure monitors etc are not “leeching” overnight.

Tip #3 Reusable flatware. Most offices have small kitchens. Install an energy efficient dishwasher, and provide reusable flatware for employees. This will cut down on paper plates and plastic silverware being thrown away constantly.

How we do it? Here at TerraCycle, we also have an employee lunch program, in which lunch is served every day. This cuts down on takeout trash.

Tip #4 Mugs and reusable cups for guests. As opposed to offering a guest a bottle of water, offer a glass of water. Instead of offering coffee in a Styrofoam cup, have a clean mug handy.

How we do it? When we have someone in for an interview, or a business meeting, we use real glasses when we offer them water. The water comes from our cooler, which is hooked up to the city water, not shipped in.

Tip #5 Limit travel. Instead of traveling to a meeting, employ an application like Skype or GoToMeeting. Share screens, talk face-to-face, include as many people as you need – and don’t spend as much or leave so much of a carbon footprint.

How we do it? TerraCycle has offices in 15 different countries, with which there are meetings and calls a few times a week – via Skype.

Tip #6 Create a ride board to encourage employees to carpool, and help facilitate it to make it easy for them. Display who is coming and going, and locations and times.

How we do it? Some TerraCycle employees take the train down from New York, rather than driving separately, and when they arrive in the morning, one person picks all of them up. This cuts down on people driving from a far, and on people being picked up separately or taking separate cabs to the office.

Tip #7Make things from waste. Instead of buying new pen holders, make them out of recycled bottles or old mugs. Don’t buy new

furniture; buy used.

How we do it? TerraCycle’s office is made from waste from floor to ceiling – literally. The carpet is made of remnants, the desk are old doors and the walls are bottle, vinyl record etc.

There are other lengthier, more expensive projects (that will pay off in the long run!) that offices can investigate and institute in order to go green. While some of the upfront costs may be pricey, the money saved on energy bills in the end can make the investments just that – investments, rather than just costs.

Installing solar panels on the rooftop cuts down on electricity bills (eventually, you may have none!) as well as offering a source of clean energy for your office.

A green roof – which is essentially a yard and/or garden on top of your roof - helps insulate the building during the winter and keep temperatures down in the summer as it shields the building from the sun. (It also gives employees a neat place to take a break and eat lunch during the beautiful days!)

Many truly green moves that are more costly will pay off in the end anyway, but if you’re not ready to invest quite yet, the smaller green moves can make a difference in the meantime!

The ancient craft of felting is pushing modern fashion design into the future

by Sass Brown When you think of felting, one dominant stereotype comes to mind, that of the frumpy, middle aged spinster who whiles away the hours creating fussy, floral craft items with no real function and, to a sophisticated eye, even less form.  Indeed a quick Google search of felting courses will yield all kinds of retreats and short summer courses advertised with lots of photos of those very same ladies happily ‘walking’ their felted projects on a water soaked table top. In the last few years however, Generation Y felters have come to dominate this scene, growing up in places like Portland, where there has been a renaissance of all things non-commercial and DIY. Cute young things are finding new joy in the process of creation, while simultaneously removing themselves from the hamster wheel of consumerism and bringing new life to this age old craft.  There is however a third type of felter, a true artist, as opposed to a crafter, an intellectual, conceptual thinker, a designer who works through this ancient craft to bring new meaning and value to felting.  Such are the likes of Christine Birkle, Andrea Zittel, Elena Garcia, Francoise Hoffman and Pat Hopewell.

The ancient craft of felting has been practiced by many cultures around the world and has its share of legends that date back to biblical times.  One tale has Moses filling holes in the arc with sheep wool, which, when mixed with sea water and matted, made the boat watertight. Another tale dates back almost as far; a monk on a pilgrimage in colder climes fills his leaking shoes with pieces of discarded fleece, which when mixed with the monks sweat and the friction of walking, created the perfect pair of warm and waterproof insoles for his thin, worn shoes.  Whatever the truth, felting has been around for a very long time, with most academic accounts quoting the first century AD.  The Mongolians still use it to construct their yurts (nomadic tent-like homes), which are incidentally impervious to rain, snow and wind – pretty handy if you live in Mongolia!  Many nomadic tribes from the Gobi desert to Central Asia have an ancient history of felting, living on the wealth of their herds of sheep, camels or goats.

In many cultures, felting was critical to survival, as well as steeped in cultural tradition and meaning. Of course, felt was also constructed in to clothing, with colorful examples in multiple traditions, incorporating rich patterns, vibrant use of color, appliqué, embroidery and quilting in some cases.

The process of felt making is incredibly laborious, requiring long hours and even days of what is referred to as “walking the fiber,” a form of rolling, rubbing or agitating cross laid woolen fibers with a combination of hot then cold water and soap suds until the fibers “mat” together making a continuous piece of fabric.  Depending on the size of the piece, such as a yurt (a type of home), the “walking” process can involve entire families and communities, as well horses, donkeys and camels.

Historically, traditional craft techniques like felting have not produced eye-popping, avant-garde fashion. However, the felting craft is undergoing a renaissance.  With fashion’s focus on a return to more sustainable practices and a modern eye to form, function and true artistry, there are now a range of groundbreaking designers whose products are as beautiful as they are ecologically sound.

Christine Birkle, founder of the fashion label “Hut up” in Berlin, has caught the attention of such fashion luminaries as Dries van Noten and Matheo Thun.   She is a felter extraordinaire, renowned around the world for her creations.  She uses a technique known as nuno felting, which incorporates a base fabric, which is shaped and decorated through felting only selected areas.  Beginning with minimally seamed garments in silk, linen, or cotton she uses felting in place of darts, tucks and shaped seams, to give the garment shape, form and dimension.  Her clothing has an organic appearance in their shape and contour, creating soft, sophisticated pieces with richly detailed and understated textures.  There are no consistent thicknesses, no straight edges, and everything is organic.  Birkle’s designs have the sophistication of Muccia Prada and the retro sensibility of Paul Poiret.  She is the rare combination of an artist, a crafter and a successful fashion designer. Birkle exhibits and sells around the world, has shown her collections in Paris, Milan and London, and sells to Barney’s and Bendel’s in New York and Takashimaya in Japan.

Andrea Zittelis a California based sculptor and installation artist, whose work is an ongoing

experiment and exploration in living as it relates to shelter, food, furniture and clothing, and is in response to her daily routines and surroundings.   In the early 1990’s, as a young artist with very little money, working at an office job where she was expected to wear “something respectable,” she conceived the “Uniform Project”.  Starting as a pragmatic response to her situation, each season Zittel designed one perfect black dress, which she wore every day for an entire season.  The project evolved over the years to explore her changing interests.  Simplifying her concept over time, Zittel moved from a perfect black dress to working only with rectangles of fabric, then crocheted dresses, formed from a single continuous thread.  Then, in 2002, she discovered felting.

Fascinated by the flexibility of felting, Zittel creates seamless dresses formed directly into fiber and form in three dimensions.  Quickly exceeding her strict seasonal requirements, she produces variations in color, texture and ornamentation. She creates exquisite pieces with simple silhouettes incorporating all the uniqueness of the material with dripping hems and lava lamp like holes, varying in texture and thickness and imbuing each piece with a sense of organic connection to the material itself.

Born in Spain, but based in London, Elena Garcia graduated with a degree in Surface Textiles for Fashion from the London College of Fashion, producing her first collection in collaboration with friend, Ilya Fisher directly upon graduation.

Elena Garcia’s work blends daring design, traditional techniques and luxurious, eco-friendly textiles to create beautiful, timeless garments.  Her collection has a highly sophisticated, esoteric aesthetic, with a vintage-like respect for couture processes and boudoir sensuality.  The collection features silks made from organically fed silk worms and chemical free processing.  Much of the wool used in the collection for the nuno and needle felting, comes from the organically-reared British Blue Faced Leicester sheep.  Details include special silver clasps and stunning shell buttons.  All garments are handcrafted in their studio or produced by small local manufacturers and social enterprise units, working to provide work for local women.  All dyes used are free of metal, ammonia and azo compounds.

Elena’s work has been noticed by the likes of Suzy Menkes, who featured her work in an article for ____.  Her collection is available online through her website as well as through high end boutiques across the UK and the US.

French felt maker Francoise Hoffmann works in a three-dimensional collage of felting and fabric.  Based in Lyon, her designs include many of the local textiles for which the city is famous, including silk chiffon, velvet, linen and cotton lace. Hoffmann innovates using this traditional process with her combination of fabric, felting, print and graphic imagery, digitally printing her fabric with text and images.  The use of digital graphic imagery is something quite unique to Hoffmann’s work.

Wool shrinks, but silk does not, so Hoffmann must work from the back side of the fabric and envisage the migration of the fibers from the side they start out on, to the side they end up on.  Hoffmann must also be careful to maintain the soft hand of the silks, while ensuring all the fibers are firmly embedded; a fine balance to maintain.

Now with her own felting studio, she works on artists projects as well as one off apparel pieces for a whole range of customers.  Creating a velvet jacquard for Lanvin, Hoffmann’s pieces have been purchased by the museum of Art and Industry, La Piscine in Robaix, as well as the Cooper Hewitt in New York.  She has also created theatre costumes for Waltraud Meier’s Lonhengrin at the Opera de Lyon.


Pat Hopewell’s journey in textiles began as a lingerie designer in Nottingham, Trent, and took her through many years working in the

developing world.  Her experience in Bangladesh with a NGO training young people in fashion technology stimulated a desire to “make the cloth,” she subsequently returned to England and took a fast-track degree in textile design, specializing in weave.

Since graduating Pat has made woven and felted scarves, shawls, wraps, bags, broaches, wall hangings and art pieces, whilst periodically returning to the developing world to work on textile related projects, particularly in Nepal.  Embodying slow design, Hopewell works with the time-honored techniques of handloom, crochet and felting.

Working with varied and wonderfully colored soft merino wool, Hopewell loves to make felt using the natural colors and textures of the different breeds of sheep, to produce a whimsical, organic range of bags and purses more akin to ancient felted vessels than your average IT bag.  Bags have lace embedded into the felt and are finished with leather, beaded or corded handles. Scarves and wraps have a natural organic appearance with intriguing textures and tonal variations combining twisted and creped fine silk and raw fleece to create delicate effects.

These “artist designers” embody a new generation of felt crafters working with ancient techniques, yet creating hip, cool, intelligent designs that are groundbreaking in design aesthetic and ecological sustainability.  In this way, they are true to both the past and the future.

Show me the money: How Energy Efficiency Financing makes dollars and sense

By Namrita Kapur Here’s a quick pop quiz to test your knowledge on financing energy efficiency. True or False:

1. Energy efficiency financing provides risk-adjusted returns in the mid-to-high “teens.”

Answer: True

2. Energy efficiency is the hot, new asset class with massive amounts of investment capital catalyzing upgrades in building stocks and industrial facilities across the country to realize significant greenhouse gas reductions in the near-term.

Answer: False

As crazy as it may seem, this paradox exists today.  The Conference Board and McKinsey & Co. predict that energy efficiency is a $170 billion per year investment opportunity that can provide an average 17 percent rate of return. At Environmental Defense Fund(EDF) we’ve demonstrated the potential return through our work with leading business partners.  Our EDF Climate Corps program has identified investments to date that can create a whopping $439 million of savings in net operating costs. Another example – our work with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) has yielded over $160 million in energy efficiency savings across seven of KKR’s portfolio companies since the Green Portfolio Program began in 2008. Despite all of the promising research and results, we are currently seeing only a fraction of investment capital needed to realize these benefits.

Investing in energy efficiency is important to our goals at EDF to clean up the air we breathe and stabilize our climate, and we set out to better understand how we can catalyze this marketplace.  We reviewed the literature; spoke with investors from firms Sustainable Development Capital LLP, Hudson Clean Energy Partners and GE Capital; and captured lessons learned from our work with leading business partners like KKR and programs like EDF Climate Corps.  We’ve consolidated the results of our research into a new report, “Show Me the Money: Energy Efficiency Financing Opportunities and Barriers,” which explores how organizations can overcome the challenges to energy efficiency financing and maximize the opportunities that are available for business and our planet.  We hope you will utilize the research we’ve collected and join  us in stimulating this marketplace.  Heck, we would be happy even if you by-passed us altogether and went straight to taking advantage of this lucrative asset class.

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The Visibility of the Going Green: The Trick of Engaging Consumers

by Megan Yarnall I recently read an article that claimed our steps to going green, as a country and as a world, have not been as scalable as we imagine. A consumer can’t see the carbon footprint they leave, and this makes it challenging for them to realize how much of a difference they are actually making in cutting back and cleaning our atmosphere.

Since the affects of a consumer’s efforts are essentially invisible, it is a challenge to both engage consumers and keep them in engaged in the green movement to be more. People are less likely to be adamant for a cause, or willing to make as big a sacrifice for that they can’t see, touch, and feel the effects of directly. Tangibility makes a difference.

It follows logically that to engage consumers, the green movement needs make both the threats and rewards more tangible. Many companies, including TerraCycle partners Capri Sun, Bear Naked, and Clif Bar, rely on consumers to make environmentally friendly choices after they use a product. Instead of simply encouraging consumers to recycle – throw the packaging in a bin and then forget about it forever – they’ve started encouraging upcycling, with which consumers can see their reuse and recycling efforts firsthand.                  

When consumers can see exactly what’s been made with their recycled trash – whether it is a new glass bottle, napkins, a park bench, or a backpack – they become more attached to the issue since it directly relates to them and they can see the effects and results of their efforts. Companies can raise interest by using what is tangible, whereas it’s more difficult to raise awareness and inspire action when results are abstract or unseen. Like the old adage says, “out of sight, out of mind.” This couldn’t be more true, especially when it comes to consumers.

Greenhouse gasses, our destruction of the ozone layer or the disappearing honeybee are examples of environmental issues that for the most part are invisible to the average person. While TerraCycle and other upcycling companies can show consumers what they, the consumer, have brought to fruition, this is a greater obstacle for companies that work on greening the air, the ocean, reducing carbon impact or lessening the addiction to fossil fuels.

In order to make these efforts more impactful, enabling them to reach more consumers and inspire more commitment, outreach needs to start by making these challenges more tangible.  How can we start making problems such as fossil fuel reliance and global warming more real and more visible for the masses?

When TerraCycle started, it made the idea of “organic” more tangible by showing something that was common to everyone: worms anddirt. Grocery store products marked “organic” are more abstract because there still is little education around what organic actually means and no official rating system (save maybe for OMRI and USDA) for labeling products as organic. People still don’t have a good idea of where these items are coming from, or how they’ve been grown, processed or treated. A consumer could gain a greater understanding of “organic” by seeing TerraCycle’s worm poop fertilizer, and their understanding could go from there, moving to the grocery store “organic” label, and further down the line.

Following the same thread, any movement that concerns the health of the planet should start at just that point: the Earth. The Earth is a tangible object that every human can see, feel, and touch. By focusing on a cloud of smoke from a tractor trailer’s exhaust pipe, instead of on invisible gasses in the atmosphere, the environmental effects are brought into the average person’s visibility, making it easier to engage that person. It’s often not that consumers won’t care – they just need to be given a visible reason.

The main focus of the environmental movement is right here at our fingertips, and no socially responsible company should overlook that invaluable tool. In looking to engage consumers and followers in “going green,” visibility and tangibility are the tricks, and it’s easiest to start at the most obvious spot: the Earth itself.  The SPCA, the Red Cross and Feed the Children have used this concept very effectively for years. We all know the heart wrenching commercials featuring abandoned pets or impoverished children or ruined neighborhoods and we all how quickly it inspires us to donate or get involved. The green movement needs to take a similar approach, think locally in regards to the Earth, and not allow consumers to not “See or Hear” the evil our planet faces.

Nissan (Finally) Gets the Pitch Right on the Leaf

by Andrew Winston As a car, the all-electric Nissan Leaf has received mostly great reviews. But as a positioning statement, Nissan has, in many marketers' eyes, missed the boat. After some missteps, Nissan may now be on the right path. An ad I pulled from Fast Company recently hits all the right marks.

The debate — or more accurately criticism — began last year with a now infamous ad showing a polar bear lugging himself from the Arctic to some guy's suburban driveway to hug him for buying a Leaf. The ad was gorgeous, no doubt, and the YouTube version has been viewed 1.3 million times, which isn't bad. But some green marketing leaders, such as Jacquie Ottman, found it a bit heavy-handed and way too focused on the hyper-green benefits vs. driving experience.

But even before getting to ads, some have pointed out that the name itself is a problem. A "Leaf" doesn't exactly speak to the same part of the male brain that car ads usally target — the caveman lobe that asks, "How will this car make me sexy and powerful?".

As one ad agency exec with a specialty in green marketing told me, "What guy is going to the pub and saying, 'Hey, I test drove a Leaf'?" As she pointed out, the print ads have focused on images like seals and kelp — it's basically the worst of green marketing, "like it's packaged in burlap."

Instead, experts suggest that the Leaf should be positioned in a much more exciting way, as the first electric car for the masses and a true innovation. This, Nissan could trumpet, is a new era of mobility!

So skip to the latest print ad, in which Nissan does something new. A fascinating, colorful graphic shows different cars on a spectrum of fuel efficiency. The axis is not, however, miles per gallon, but "miles traveled for one dollar." As the ad says in small print: "comparing miles per gallon is suddenly irrelevant."


The traditional mpg metric has always been really odd: who thinks that way? And the government has had a devil of a time plugging (forgive me) electric cars into their normal rating system. What the heck does miles per gallon mean if you use no gallons?

But showing how far I can go for each dollar I spend? Now that's dead on. This is brilliant marketing, in tight economic times or at any time. Nissan has declared a new metric for a completely new model of transportation. Bravo.

(This post first appeared at Harvard Business Online.)

It Takes a Country: Why Everyone Has a Part in Business “Going Green”

by Megan Yarnall In my last post, I mentioned how critical education is in influencing consumer behavior, and how the onus for change falls largely on the consumer. Educating consumers about the effect of toxins from products is crucial in consumers’ understanding of how something affects their overall health and the environment, and how the product can be used in a way that minimizes impact. However, education isn’t the only role a brand must play in promoting a green lifestyle.

While consumers have various options for what they do with the packaging after they’ve used the product, it’s only been recently that they have more green choices when it comes to what’s inside that product they purchase. The only party that can be held responsible for what’s inside the packaging is the manufacturer itself.

While I feel strongly that consumers must demand change in order to achieve change, in the end, it’s the responsibility of brands to be accountable for what goes inside the packaging. Consumers can help affect the choices that brands make by voting with their dollars, but if consumers only have green options to choose from they will go green. They’ll have no other choice.

Let’s take CFCs, for example. CFC stands for chlorofluorocarbon, which was a popular chemical compound used for dry cleaning, aerosol cans, and refrigeration/air conditioning, until it was realized that CFCs have an incredibly negative effect on the ozone, eating away at it quite quickly. When this was discovered, regulations on CFC use were put into place and countries around the world began making efforts and timelines to cut down on (and eventually try to cut out) CFC use.

Governments enacted standards and regulations, and brands made efforts to move away from CFC use in their products and maintain tighter control. Brands had to change their habits in order to adhere to regulations. Consumers had no choice but to buy products with limited CFCs – and other ways to fulfill the same needs were found.  A more recent, example is the use of low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints. But with limited government regulation, as was the case with CFC, the move to low VOC has been much more tempered.

While most negative environmental factors don’t have such a timely impact on the atmosphere or the Earth, they have an impact nonetheless. Government, brands, and consumers all need to play their part in cutting back on use of products that have a negative impact, whether it be environmental or health. Consumers must realize that what lies inside a package can affect environmental health and personal health. Brands must take responsibility for the scale of those effects and take control over what they expose both consumers and the environment to. When consumers don’t have the choice to expose toxins to the environment, they won’t do it – simply because they can’t.

And finally, in order to get all brands on board, corporate responsibility regulations and standards must be enacted so that these brands are held responsible by someone other than themselves – this will make them take action. Consumers can influence this as well by choosing wisely from the options on the shelf. Brands will have to take into account both the consumer and the government, and with everybody on board to make a change, the positive green differences will begin to surface. The CFC and VOC example shows clearly that it takes all three of these stakeholders in order to enact any massive social change. So instead of finger pointing and hand wringing it is time for a little more teamwork and shared responsibility between consumers, corporations and governments.

The only question left should be – to what degree can we start holding brands responsible for what they’re providing to the environment? How about consumers? Or Governments? For TerraCycle, the answer is easy. Because we’re an environmental company, we hold ourselves to the highest standard. Otherwise, our mission would be pointless and null. For other environmental companies, the same truth holds. How can other businesses and companies be brought on board?