Each year we at Wendel Rosen look forward to the Sustainable Industries Economic Forum in San Francisco.  This year’s theme “The Access Economy” will take a closer look at the relationships between brands and consumers.  The San Francisco event takes place on October 20, 2011 and is sure to inspire, as well as provide great opportunities for networking.

Event program:  

Alex Bogusky, iconoclastic ad man, who made Crispin Porter + Bogusky the world’s most awarded agency, then turned heads with the launch of the FearLess Revolution, shares his inspiring story and introduces Common, a collaborative brand for social entrepreneurs. 

Bonnie Nixon of The Sustainability Consortium

Bonnie Nixon, who redefined supply chain ethics and stakeholder engagement as Director of Environmental Sustainability at HP, talks about scaling sustainability in the world’s most impactful corporations from her new role as Executive Director of The Sustainability Consortium.

BBMG unveils a new branding campaign and the lessons learned from a case study with the founders of Getaround, a fast-growing, San Francisco-based Access Economy icon, winner of the 2010 BBMG Collective Prize presented by Sustainable Industries.

The featured presentations will be followed by interactive Q&A with the experts moderated by Triple Pundit founder Nick Aster (a prior Wendel Forum guest).

In preparation for the event, show host Bill Acevedo managed to get a few minutes with Bonnie and Alex for Episode 35 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on October 8, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio).  These interviews give a brief preview of some of the themes to be explored on the 20th. 

In the first segment, Bill talks with Bonnie about The Sustainability Consortium, a diverse group of stakeholders who have come together to drive a new generation of sustainable products and services.  A number of private retail and consumer product companies are engaged in the Consortium, along with representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academics.  All of these stakeholders are exploring ways to advance science to drive a new generation of innovative products and supply networks that tackle the environmental, social and economic imperatives we face today.

Bonnie explains how the future of The Sustainability Consortium is working to enhance science to better inform decision makers on the sustainability of products.  This research will generate new indicators and methodologies for understanding and evaluating the environmental attributes and impacts of products.  This transparency could empower companies, investors, consumers and other stakeholders to match business initiatives, investment decisions and purchasing choices related to specific companies and products to their own set of values and priorities. Imagine a world where you could use your phone app to scan a product and get a window into its entire lifecycle through the bar code!

In the second half of the show, Bill talks with FearLess Cottage’s Chief Creative Insurgent Alex Bogusky, who spent the first part of his career building great brands for companies.  At some point he became disillusioned with what he calls the one-sidedness of the brand/consumer relationship.  He took that frustration and founded The FearLess Cottage, described on its website as “an informal clubhouse for insurgents in a new consumer revolution.”

Alex explains that there is a current window of power in the hands of consumers to help shape companies and

Photo of Alex Bogusky

Alex Bogusky of FearLess Cottage

products to better match their values through consumption and buying habits. By asserting this “voting choice” the consumer/citizen can influence even the large corporations, which have considerable sway over government — and, in turn, over us.  He suggests that, while there is a potential for more transparency, consumers don’t always choose to look as closely as we should, saying that “democracy hasn’t permeated capitalism yet.” He challenges the listener to use resources like Good Guide and to vote with purchasing dollars as a way to combat corporate special interests. It is a challenge we should all take.

For those who are in the Bay Area and have an interest in a deeper discussion of these topics, we’ll see you on the 20th at The St. Regis for the Sustainable Industries Economic Forum.  
Post Links:

Listen to the interviews with Bonnie and Alex: Episode 35 of The Wendel Forum

The Sustainability Consortium website: http://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/

The Good Guide website: www.goodguide.com

The FearLess Cottage website: http://fearlessrevolution.com/

Sustainable Industries Economic Forum event registration: http://sustainableindustries.com/events/economic-forums/sustainable-industries-economic-forum 

BBMG website: http://bbmg.com/

Triple Pundit website: http://www.triplepundit.com/ 

Bill Acevedo online bio: www.wendel.com/wacevedo

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

In Episode 30 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on September 3, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio), show host Dick Lyons sits down to chat with Rory Bakke, President of Sustainable Concepts Studio and Director of Sustainability for GreenBiz

In addition, Rory is a key author of the newly developed environmental standards for enterprises through Underwriters Labs (UL) to develop the environmental standards for enterprises.  UL Environment (or ULE) is currently working on releasing ULE 880 (for manufacturing organizations) and ULE 881 (for service providers).

Photo of Rory Bakke in studio

Rory Bakke in studio with The Wendel Forum

During her conversation with Dick, she explains the process that UL has used to develop the standards and gives an overview of the program.  These standards have been developed with global input and an emphasis on being able to audit each individual aspect.  To participate, a company will first need to meet a baseline set of prerequisites. 

Beyond that, there is a point system for core requirements and leadership indicators in five major domains:

  •  Environment (including aspects such as greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy efficiency, compliance with regulations, product stewardship, etc.)
  • Governance (obligations to shareholders, board actions and  corporate practices)
  • Labor and workforce 
  • Community engagement and human rights
  • Customers & Supply Chain (resolving issues with customers, dealing with supply chains huge factor)

While there are already many forms of product certification, this comprehensive set of standards is meant for the enterprise or organizational level.  Listen to the interview and let us know what you think about the program.  Is this certification something that your enterprise would value?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Rory Bakke: Episode 30 of The Wendel Forum (mp3)

Underwriters Lab Environment website: http://www.ulenvironment.com/ulenvironment/eng/pages/

Dick Lyons website bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

The modern movement for sustainability and green building has had a longer history than many might expect based on the heightened visibility we’ve seen in the last several years.  David Johnston of What’s Working, Inc. has watched the ebb and flow of interest in this movement since the 1970s from a front row seat.  Remember the oil crisis of the Seventies?  Anything seem familiar? 

In Episode 25 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on July 23, 2011), David provides a little perspective on the modern state of green building in a conversation with green building attorney and show host Donald Simon. They discuss what’s working (pun intended) to drive green building and sustainable communities.

Take a listen and let us know what you think is on the horizon. . .

Show note: On July 30, 2011, The Wendel Forum will be re-running Episode 21, a compilation of interviews with some of the finalist companies from the 2011 San Francisco Business Times Cleantech and Sustainability Awards.  These are some great companies operating in the sustainable business space, worthy of notice.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with David Johnston: Episode 25 of The Wendel Forum (mp3)

What’s Working website: http://www.whatsworking.com/

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

About Donald Simon: www.wendel.com/dsimon

If an icon of American industrialism has figured out the nuances of engaging all stakeholders (not just shareholders) in a dialogue on the impact of societal trends on its industry and company, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) must have gone mainstream.

In  Episode 24 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on July 16, 2011) Nick Aster, founder and publisher of Triple Pundit, chats with show host and green business attorney Bill Acevedo.  They cover topics including Nick’s observations after attending the recent Forward With Ford Trends Conference in Michigan, the effect of the economy and politics on sustainable business practices, and communication trends for reporting CSR.

Nick Aster of Triple Pundit

Nick Aster of Triple Pundit in studio with The Wendel Forum

Nick’s key takeaways from the conference?  Ford has identified four major societal trends to address (i.e., an aging population, youth culture, green/sustainability, and safety).  They’ve taken a proactive role in reaching out to engage an inclusive audience of stakeholders (not just shareholders) in a dialogue around these trends.  It’s a strategy that many other major corporations should consider.  If you search for the conference on the Internet, you should stumble across a wide cross-section of blogger accounts – all part of Ford’s master plan.

The TriplePundit.com mission is to provide a platform to advance the conversation regarding trends in sustainable business, with an emphasis on “business.” Primary audiences range from corporate folks introducing sustainable practices in big old-school organizations, to entrepreneurs and MBA students.  The multitude of perspectives creates a dynamic exchange with a variety of voices.

Listen to the interview and then we’d like to hear what you think.  What’s your view on the evolution and future of CSR for companies large and small?

 
Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Nick Aster of Triple Pundit:  Episode 24 of The Wendel Forum (27.22 min)

CSR Hub rating system website: http://www.csrhub.com/

Nick’s Triple Pundit post “Is the ‘Light Bulb Ban’ a Communist Plot”: http://www.triplepundit.com/2011/07/light-bulb-ban-communist-plot/

Triple Pundit website: www.Triplepundit.com

Forward With Ford Trends Conference:  http://media.ford.com/mini_sites/10031/FordForward/

Green 960 AM radio website:  www.green960.com

About show host Bill Acevedo:  www.wendel.com/wacevedo

Are you looking for the latest in employee benefits for your recruitment and retention efforts in a challenging economy?  Group Energy thinks they have found an employee benefit that’s a win-win-win-win (we’ll get into that later) for companies that value sustainability.

In Episode 23 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on July 9, 2011), Jessie Denver, CEO and Founder of Group Energy, talks with show host Bill Acevedo about her consulting firm, which works with organizations to set up employee engagement programs that pool employees’ buying power for energy improvements in their homes.

Jessie Denver, CEO of Group Energy in Studio

Jessie Denver, CEO of Group Energy in Studio

At no cost to the employer, Group Energy organizes employee buying groups that have resulted in savings of up to 40% off the cost of home solar installation. 

The process starts with employee education to build program awareness.  A group forms within the company, and the group appoints a committee to work with Group Energy to review responses to an RFP process based on the needs of the participants. 

Each campaign gets its own webpage for internal promotion, status tracking and communication.  Once installations occur, there’s even a dashboard for tracking energy savings for the group, giving the program a quantitative element that will be particularly attractive to those responsible for tracking and communicating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts for companies.

The Win-Win-Win-Win

With a variety of projects completed now, Group Energy has found that these campaigns have a number of benefits:

  1. Employees Win . . . by getting substantial savings on home energy improvements, including for solar, water heaters, insulation, etc.  Employees are engaged in the management of the process and have a high degree of engagement with their company and each other.
  2. Employers Win . . . by offering a relatively rare (so far) benefit to employees, aiding in employee loyalty, retention and recruitment.  They can also tout the program as a part of their CSR programs and use the campaign tracking statistics in their sustainability measures. 
  3. Lenders Win . . . by offering financing for these projects, including some new products that have evolved out of recent specific campaigns. One credit union developed a new low interest unsecured loan model for participants that don’t have a lot of equity in their homes.
  4. Installers/Contractors Win . . . because these pooled buying groups streamline the sales process, an expensive and time consuming component of running a solar installation business. 

This type of innovative thinking has the potential to make solar and other energy improvements available to a much wider audience of people than might otherwise pursue it on their own. 

Listen to the entire interview and let us know what you think.  Are you aware of other programs that engage employees in similar ways? 

 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Jessie Denver: Episode 23 of The Wendel Forum (27.26 min)

Group Energy website: www.mygroupenergy.com

Group Energy email: info@mygroupenergy.com

Group Energy information: Group Energy Info Sheet  [PDF]

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

About host Bill Acevedo: www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In the second part of our two part series, show host Dick Lyons chats with three more finalist companies from this year’s San Francisco Business Times Cleantech & Sustainability Awards, held on June 16, 2011.  In Episode 22 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on July 2, 2011), Dick learns more about the following companies:
 

Winner: Cleaire (interview with Brad Edgar, President and CTO, and Gale Plummer, CEO)
Category: Transportation

Description: Based in San Leandro, Cleaire designs and manufactures diesel engine filtration systems that could be used to remove particulate matter from exhaust in one million diesel engines in California –- and an estimated potential universe of 40-50 million vehicles already in service world wide.  They distribute and service the technology through a qualified dealer network whose customers include fleets of buses, construction equipment and trucks.

Winner: Solazyme (interview with Harrison Dillon, Co-Founder, President and Chief Technology Officer)
Category: Sustainable Fuels/Chemicals

Description: Solazyme makes oil – all kinds.  Their renewable oils are used in applications ranging from jet fuel to food products.  Dillon and his partner, CEO Jonathan Wolfson, started the company eight years ago in a garage in Palo Alto (where have we heard a story like that before?), originally setting  out  to make a diesel oil substitute from algae.  Since then, they’ve expanded to be able to custom design oils that can be used in a multitude of products.  Their oil can even be found in natural products carried by retailers such as Whole Foods and GNC.  By putting these healthy oils into food products, they are able to take out the saturated fat and keep the products both low fat and satisfying.

Winner: Driptech (interview with Peter Frykman, CEO)
Category: Water

Description:  Driptech makes affordable drip irrigation systems that allow small-plot famers in developing countries to have access to the same water-efficient irrigation that large plot farmers have used for decades.   The key to the technology (which includes some nifty precision laser manufacturing technology) is distributed local manufacturing.  Amazing what a class project at Stanford might turn into!

Coming up this week:

Tune in Saturday morning (July 9) to hear from a company that gives collective buying power to individual employees in organizations for home energy improvements (such as solar panels, insulation and water heaters).   If you’re out of radio signal range, remember you can always click the “Listen Live” button on the station’s website at www.green960.com

Post Links:

Listen to the Interviews: Episode 22 of The Wendel Forum(22.17 mins)

Cleaire website: http://www.cleaire.com

Solazyme website: http://www.solazyme.com/

Driptech website: http://driptech.com/

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

About show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

In the first part of a two part series, show host Dick Lyons chats with several of the top executives from finalist companies at this year’s San Francisco Business Times Cleantech & Sustainability Awards, held on June 16, 2011.  In Episode 21 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on June 25, 2011), Dick learns more about the following companies:

Winner:   InterContinental San Francisco (interview with Peter Koehler, General Manager)
Category: Best Practices, Large Company
Description: This 33-story, 550- room, luxury hotel recently earned LEED Gold certification.

Finalist: Propel Fuels (interview with Matt Horton, CEO)
Category: Transportation
Description: This company brings consumers flexible fueling stations (ethanol and biodiesel), largely by installing green pump stations in existing gas stations across California. They hope to become the leading provider of clean fuel in the country.

Winner: Primus Power Corp. (interview with Tom Stepien, CEO)
Category: Energy Storage
Description: This development-stage company builds large-scale batteries that will enable us to warehouse electricity from variable renewable energy sources, leveling transmission peaks and valleys and making the delivery of renewable energy more reliable.

Winner: Numi Organic Tea (interview with Tisha Winters, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator)
Category: Best Practices, Small Company
Description: In addition to selling an organic product, this Oakland-based company has instituted a number of environmentally-friendly measures, from green packaging to product weight reduction that results in lower transportation costs. 

We’ll share more interviews with award finalists on the July 2 episode of The Wendel Forum.  Tune in Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. on Green 960 AM radio to hear the broadcast.  And if you’re out of signal range, you can click the “Listen Live” button on the station’s website at www.green960.com.  We’ll talk to folks from winning companies Solazyme, Cleaire and Driptech.

So which green companies would you choose to honor, if you were in charge of giving an award?  Tell us about the unsung heroes in green business! 

Post Links:

 Listen to the Interviews: Episode 21 of The Wendel Forum(27.28 mins)

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

About show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

“We make soap.”  That was the response of Method Home Products co-founder and chief greenskeeper Adam Lowry when asked what his company does.  Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Method is well known as a model “green business.” One of the founding B Corporations, in 2007 Method changed its corporate structure to institutionalize its commitment to people and the environment (as well as profits).  Adam sits down with show host Donald Simon to discuss what it means to be a benefit corporation in Episode 20 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on June 18, 2011).

Adam Lowry and Donald Simon in Studio

Adam Lowry and Donald Simon in Studio

So, what are B Corporations?  They are companies that choose to publicly measure themselves against metrics that include social and environmental missions.  (By the way, Wendel Rosen is also a certified B Corporation).  The certification program is administered by B Lab, a non-profit organization based out of Pennsylvania.

Currently, Adam and Donald are part of a working group that is promoting the passage of Assembly Bill 361 (Huffman) pending in California legislature.  AB 361 would create a new corporate structure (think C Corporations or S Corporations) available to companies that want to build social and environmental values into their core mission.  The Benefit Corporation form of entity would protect the corporate officers (and hold them accountable) for socially- and environmentally-driven decisionmaking. It requires transparency and verification (trust, but verify) from those companies choosing to take its form.  Donald and Adam discuss specific examples of what this might mean in real world application for companies, including their duties to shareholders. Remember when Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was sold?

We’ve discussed the problem of greenwashing and false environmental marketing claims at The Wendel Forum before.  Adam suggests that there is a natural shakeout happening currently for businesses that are not as green as they say they are.  B Corp Certification and a future benefit corporation form of corporate organization would promote transparency and require third party, independent, recognized standards (that are credible and comprehensive) to battle greenwashing and provide additional certainty for consumers.

Next Steps for AB 361 in California

Donald will be a part of the group going to testify before the California Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee on June 29, 2011, in Sacramento regarding AB 361. 

If you are interested in supporting the legislation, you are encouraged to submit a letter to your elected officials.  Here’s a template to get you going: Template letter of support for AB 361.
Post Links:

Interview with Adam Lowry of Method: Episode 20 of The Wendel Forum(27.48 minutes)

Method Home Products website: http://methodhome.com/

B Corporations / B Lab website: http://bcorporation.net/

Green 960 AM radio website: http://www.green960.com/main.html

Wendel Rosen’s B Corp Listing: http://www.bcorporation.net/wendelrosen

Around the Capital legislation tracking website: http://www.aroundthecapitol.com/Bills/AB_361/20112012/

Article mentioning the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream: http://dowser.org/b-corp-better-laws-for-business/

Previous post about Environmental Marketing Claims:  http://thewendelforum.com/2011/03/08/environmental-marketing-claims/

Template letter of support for AB 361: http://thewendelforum.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/template-letter-of-support-for-ab-361.doc

The Wendel Forum LogoShow me the money!  Growing businesses need the help of sound business advisors, whether looking for capital or positioning for mergers or acquisitions. Many company leaders at young businesses in the sustainable marketplace are great entrepreneurs despite never having had formal business training. As their ideas take off, they need investors to scale their operations and guidance to make their company attractive in the right financial markets.  Add to that a desire to maintain their sustainable values and it can be hard to know who to trust.

Enter Chuck Slotkin, Founder and Managing Director of Nature’s Equity, a boutique investment firm operating in the sustainable business space for the past 20 years. Chuck joins show host Dick Lyons for a discussion of green business financing from the investment banker’s perspective on Episode 15 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on May  14, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio).

The two discuss the movement of specialty natural food and supplement products into the mainstream during the past couple of decades and what that means for companies looking to grow their operations.  Chuck addresses the importance of seeking investment teams and advisors who understand the natural product market, as well as the underlying value of products that tend to have very little strong science behind them.  They talk about issues unique to sustainable companies, such as maintaining the integrity of a supply chain post sale and taking companies through the investment process in a way that reflects their values.
Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Chuck Slotkin: Episode 15 of The Wendel Forum

Nature’s Equity: http://naturesequity.com/

Show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio: www.green960.com

In honor of Bike to Work Day, check out Episode 14 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on May 7, 2011), in which our guests discuss Bay Area transit issues and the impact and implementation of commuter benefits programs with show host Bill Acevedo.

Stuart Baker, Vice President of Business Development at Commuter Check discusses the ins and outs of commuter benefits programs for organizations and their employees. This win-win program allows employees to use pre-tax dollars for many of their transit costs and employers to lower their payroll taxes – who doesn’t love that?

Dr. Jeff Ritterman, a Councilmember in the City of Richmond, California, discusses the commuter ordinance that was recently passed in his city.  He says, “The only reason not to do this is laziness.”  He discusses what’s happening locally, as well as for cities and states around the country.

Kristine Roselius, Supervising Public Information Officer, for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, discuss the District’s Spare the Air program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  They have been encouraging people to change their behavior to improve local air quality for a long time and have been able to show results. Not surprising, transportation is the number one source of air pollution in the Bay Area.

What’s their message?  If you don’t already, try using the Bay Area’s public transit options and see how surprisingly easy it is to help improve local air quality.

Thursday, May 12, is Bike to Work Day! 

For local resources, check out these links:

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition: http://www.sfbike.org/?btwd   
Oakland Local: http://oaklandlocal.com/article/oakland-bike-work-day-events-thursday-may-12

 

Post Links:

Discussion regarding Bay Area Commuter Programs: Episode 14 of The Wendel Forum (25.47 minutes)

Commuter Check: www.commutercheck.com

Spare the Air / Transit planning websites: www.sparetheair.org; www.511.org

Association of Bay Area Governments website (Green Business Program business certification): http://www.greenbiz.ca.gov/

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

About show host William Acevedo: www.wendel.com/wacevedo

 

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