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Big Auto = Big Tobacco, or is it Big Oil?

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Consumer & Stakeholder Responsibilities, Corporate Sustainability, Corporate Sustainability Strategy, CSR, Social Investments, Sustainability, Sustainability Management, Sustainabiliyt and Economics

Seems car makers are the next Big Tobacco. Or is it Big Oil. Hard to decide with so many terrible examples to draw on.

In recent days, we have seen several car makers follow in the infamous footsteps of Volkswagen.

‘Tis a shame, but is it such a shocker? Some basic economics suggest we shouldn’t be so surprised.

Cheaters

First, we put up with cheaters. And if we have learned anything about big industries, we know they prefer inertia over change, and are quite capable of doing some nasty things to conserve the status quo.

Big Tobacco first hid, then “rope d’ doped” evidence that tobacco causes cancer. They only came clean when government found it profitable to sue them over health care.

Exxon buried climate change evidence and covertly funded war on it for decades, until solar and wind became obvious game changers. All of a sudden, they are green guys? Come on.

Let’s not forget the occult accounting

14 Events Shaping Gen X and Millennial Sustainability World View

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Uncategorized

As part of my forthcoming book Invest like you Give a Damn, I am looking at the sustainability investment needs and habits of Generation X and Millennials.

In the course of research, I identified generational “sustainability” values shaping events and connected them to investment habits.

Mil Gen X over

The graphic here presents a simple view of my findings. It suggests, among other things, that Millennials of active investment age (30 to 50) have been subject to more “influential environmental events” than Gen Xers.

What’s behind the graph? A bunch of data to be sure, too much to show here and keep your attention. So I did up a couple pie charts below to summarize the data.

Events Affecting Generation X and Millennials of Investing Age (ages 30-50)
Major events thought to affect Gen X and Millennials are listed in the Index of each charts. How I determined

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Invest Like you Give a Damn! Update

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Uncategorized

Over the last few weeks, I have interviewed over 30 investors with sustainability values. Few had aligned their investments with their values (most felt bad about this!)…. but it was still entertaining and enlightening talking with them, so thought I would share some tidbits from interviews (and one from my research)!

Awesome Great Quotes…

On understanding Best of Class investments (i.e., only the best performing socially and environmentally in each sector are included in a fund portfolio)….

Best of Class sustainable investment mutual funds: isn’t that like keeping the
axe murders out of the party (or portfolio!) but the drug dealers
and car thieves are more than welcome…

On why an interviewee doesn’t make sustainable investments…

…..being constantly overwhelmed by life… align my 401k with my values? Take on another
project….. with no support system or framework…? Right.

On researching financial advisors….

….I did more research buying a printer on line than I did to find my financial planner….

On investing generally ….

….my recent (conventionally invested) 401k is performing poorly, makes you want to stop investing,
but conventional wisdom tells you to ride it out. I don’t know. Are we are living in conventional world anymore….? Can we rely on conventional wisdom…?

On describing the issues facing Millennials…(quoted from the Guardian)

“You want me to sum up the main issues facing an entire generation in an entire country?
That sounds less scientific than a f@#king horoscope, you mad bastards.”

REMEMBER!!! If you know someone who would like to be interviewed let me know at mdess@esglobal.com…. remember they must be US or Canadian citizens and be between 30 and 50 more or less!  Interviewees get a free book and free participation in a financial planning seminar!

Please share with friends and colleges!

Invest Like You Give a Damn, forthcoming fall 2017, New Society Publishers…. http://www.newsociety.com/

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Brexit: Integration & UK Youth more hope for Sustainable World

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Politics of Sustainability, Sustainability, Sustainabiliyt and Economics, The Sustainable Century

Brexit was a resounding shot straight into the bow of HMS Progressive, with racism and anti-immigration the ugly sailors swabbing the load, ramming the charge and lighting the fuse.

The vote, indeed, may be the first of a long line of “facts be dammed”, “we the people know better.”

As unsavory as it is to write, when it comes to creating more sustainable economies, in some ways the people might know better (though in this case, not for the right reasons and with an often ugly spirit to boot). For at the heart of the “Leavers” well-known economic and social fears is an impulse to protect and promote what is local. This has great sustainability merit.

Why? Because the more local we can produce and consume the less damage we tend to do to ourselves, workers and the environment.

Globalization ensures we will never have completely local economies, and very few would claim that this would be a good thing either. But more balance would be, and thankfully, the world’s economies are on a slow, inexorable march towards both greater globalization and greater localization. While we are still years away from realizing the innovation and social re-engineering required to bring the full benefits of decentralizing forces (e.g., three dimensional printer manufacturing, community power networks, quality on-line education, and significant demand for locally produced foods etc.) the signs and sustainability delights of localization are everywhere.

Globalization is not All Bad…

Even while globalization and its discontents scared the British working class and older folks into voting to leave, these folks probably still want the all the “good” things offered by highly integrated global economies, such as cheap clothes, inexpensive food, and the like.

But they don’t want the uncomfortable things such as the incorrectly but still perceived loss of employment to immigrants and increased costs of public services, or the very real if incremental (and my books good) changes to the cultural and social status quo.

Change is inevitable, so unless the Leave crowd is willing to wear clothes of sheep’s wool, eat only UK-grown food, or work for less than billions of poor in developing countries, more not less integration is on the way.  Indeed, the EU will continue to demand of the UK pretty much the same free flow of capital, materials, and labor if it wants into Union markets.  Oh yes, Leavers can also forget the promised “Independence Day”, for, as one anonymous observer sagely pointed out, they are but swapping out “one set of distant and unreachable elites for another.”

It is not surprising, that the very much plugged-in English Youth voted 70% to stay in the Union. They “get” the bigger picture and can see the good bits of globalization. They also “get” the local thing, as thousands of Millennial social entrepreneurs, farmers, and innovators are making lifestyle choices that eschew the ways of those stuck in the past, or those unwilling/unable to change. UK youth, along with millions of their peers the world round are shaping a fantastic future literally as they create the forces of globalization. And they are doing this increasingly on their own “local” terms. It is our shared responsibility to help, not hinder their chosen path.

Neither the Brits nor the rest of the world for that matter, are ready for intensely localized economies. That day will come. In the meantime, as much anyone wants otherwise, integration offers far more benefits than isolation. It also offers more hope for the creation of globally and locally sustainable economies.

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Payday Lenders – Resident Evil of Financial Industry

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Uncategorized

Payday loans are in the news, again.  Fortunately, for the right reason this time as the US government is finally trying to crack down on them.

Not soon enough. Payday lenders are the resident evil of the financial industry – or, as the New York Times calls them “peddlers of ruin” (PORs).

A friend of mine once took a payday loan. It took her five years to pay it off.  Miss a single payment or can’t pay off your loan in full, on time, all the fee fun (for the lenders) begins.

Let’s be clear. Payday loans respond to a tremendous need, but demand does not justify usury. Pretty much everyone is on board with this (except the lenders). But is everyone on board with fees and rates that can top 1000%?

Didn’t think so. But why is this horrid weed allowed to flourish?

Because the majority of payday loan clients are low income, most living on minimum wage paychecks. And who cares about them?

Low income folks need credit just like all the rest of us. But unlike higher wage earners, an unexpected $250 hospital bill when your son breaks his arm can be financially devastating.  You will need a loan and fast. But how do you pay a loan due next pay day if it costs more than your $300 a week paycheck? Use candles, walk 20 miles to work, cut off the gas, don’t eat, what? In the end, over 85% of folks pay many time more in fees than they do in interest.

POR lenders will tell you rates and fees are necessary for credit risk management. Nonsense. It’s about pillage and plunder straight up.  If a small credit union in Kenya can charge farmers with less than an acre of land 34% for a $250 loan repaid over a year and still be profitable, why can’t PORs? Because they make too much money and don’t care about people. This is not just bad for borrowers, its terrible for the economy as well.  See John Oliver’s excellent review for why this is so.

The proposed legislation will impede PORs but it won’t stop them from doing harm. Put ‘em out of business I say, let credit unions, local banks and responsible financial institutions do a better job. The means we can import from Kenya, the will has to come from here.

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Celebrate Life not the GDP

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Uncategorized

Today the New York Times reported an upward revision of first quarter 2016 US Gross Domestic Product of 0.8%. Growth, they said, was “better but still weak.”

Better for who and what?

Certainly not for millions on minimum wage. Even if they actually got the extra 0.8%, or $100 or so bump on their annual salary, saying this would help a financially struggling family, is like saying if only the Yugo had had had better cup holders it would have been a truly great car.

What would help?

Awhile ago I wrote a post proving everyone on minimum wage could earn $70,000 and it would cost corporate America a fraction of their annual profits.

That would make a difference. But, how would we power growth, corporates would say? We need the profit to reinvest!

Ok, if that was true why is Corporate America which sitting on $1.9 trillion in capital?

We don’t need growth to survive. Actually, its quite the opposite. The planet is clearly telling us to consume less not more.

But we are hooked on growth. It’s a drug: GDP goes up, our adrenaline spikes. It goes down, we fear for our pensions.

There is no easy way off this roller coaster.

My guess is that if we reviewed our family budgets, we’d find a few things to not spend on. A modest start to be sure. But the savings would line our pockets and, more importantly, reduce our financial stress and ecological footprints.

Commercially manufactured aspiration to spend on things we could do without is at the root much that is unsustainable.

Celebrate the life, not the GDP.

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Inner Rebels Unite for Good

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Uncategorized

For years, the pressure of “conventional” has conditioned us.  News, commercials, social media…. and we all start to look and act a certain way around 35 (yes even Millennials).

Conventional is not bad, it’s got some good things.

But it has led to bland convenience over outrageous experience; a daily race over prolonged moments of pleasure; superstores over cool niche shops; tasteless over intense; endless desire over lasting satisfaction.

Maybe we can’t change convention, but we can engage in micro acts of rebellion:

Resistance is not futile. Ignite your inner rebel. Don’t let convention stand in way.

This blog post was inspired by my ongoing research for Invest Like You Give a Damn (New Society, fall 2017) where I am interviewing 60 to 100 people on how they align or not, their sustainability values with their investments and financial planning.

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Exxon and a Badge of Shame

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Carbon and Sustainability, Climate Change, Corporate Sustainability, energy, Exxon, Uncategorized

Yesterday we learned that Exxon will ban The Guardian newspaper from attending its annual general meeting for what it calls “biased” reporting.

Biased?

As in Exxon’s 40 years of repressing business busting climate science findings?  Or what about a long-time company executive cum US lobbyist who in early 2001, successfully “squashed” US government venues presenting overwhelming climate change evidence in favor of focusing on gaps and uncertainties?

Then yes, The Guardian is biased about good reporting. Badge of honor to them.

Good grief, let’s face it: almost all reporting is biased these days. But transparency and access to information is fundamental if the economy is going to efficiently meet the needs of society. Like it or not Exxon, climate change is more important than you. And besides, if we don’t have information how can we make informed purchases, which, increasingly figure what kind of world we want to live in.

Want more fuel on this fire?

Once Exxon sunk its teeth into natural gas fracking to become the leading US natural gas provider, lo and behold, it changed its tune about that climate change stuff. In a Janus-like epiphany, an Exxon company representative said in 2009, we “recognize the risk” of climate change and have to stop associating ourselves with all this uncertainty research.

Exxon later went on to support a carbon tax which would hurt higher carbon producing coal far more than natural gas. So the environment is now more important?

It’s so very hard to take Exxon seriously about anything. Take fracking. Exxon is essentially fracking the hell out of every crevice in America. Its great  for Americans they say, even as millions are protesting and dozens of state and municipal jurisdictions are banning it. Meanwhile Exxon’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, is suing a fracking company for having the nerve to do the very same, but in his back yard. 

My own take: skip the part where we spend millions to find Exxon and their Fossil Fuel compatriots guilty like the tobacco companies of scheming to defraud the public. Let’s just go ahead and fine them out of business or into a sustainable business model.

Badge of shame to Exxon.

If you are an investor, join the fossil fuel divestment movement by chucking fossils from your portfolio. At the very least, don’t go to their pumps.

PS If you check the embedded links in this article, you will find citations from The Guardian, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, just in case you were wondering about bias.

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Fiercely Cool Eco-warriors Fibershed Sustainable

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Clothing, Consumer & Stakeholder Responsibilities, Enviromental Clothing, Fibershed, Sustainable Clothing, Sustainable Supply Chains

I came across a new word today. Fibershed.

It’s been around for a while, and I am a bit upset I hadn’t heard it before. Not only is it a great term, but its just so much fun just to say!

A fibershed is like a watershed, except it refers to the area around where you live from which natural fiber clothes can be made….. from growing the fiber, to design, to distribution.

Most folks fibersheding are fiercely cool eco-warriors like Rebecca Burgess. She is the Northern Californian-based coiner of the term fibershed , and her Fibershed center does all sorts of innovation and advocacy work. Rebecca went so far as to live in fibershed clothes for a year. But baggy and scratchy didn’t turn out to be her thing. And, I would ask, who wants to look like a 13th century monk anyhow?

Fortunately, Slow Fashioned fashionista companies are growing quickly, and natural fibers is their thing. Few big companies offer much in the way of fibershed clothes, but organic and fair trade clothes are widely available.

If you are an investor and want to make a clothing statement, check out the equally outstanding clothing advocacy work at As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy campaigning organization. Make sure any clothing related company in your portfolio has at least signed the Cotton Pledge Against Forced Labor in the Uzbek Cotton Sector. Write them if they don’t.

Have a sustainable day.

 

Gavel

Suing over Climate Change

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Climate Change, Sustainability

The moral, social and environmental case for action against climate change is clear and incontestable.

This much we know.

But the legal case? Spurred by youth-led legal suits against governments in Oregon and Massachusetts, today’s New York Times Room for Debate asks the question: Can Citizens Sue the Government Over Climate Change?

Eric Posner of the Chicago law school says unequivocally: “The answer is no. Citizens cannot sue the government unless the government causes a “concrete and particularized” harm to them — as opposed to a government action that affects everyone the same.”

Legally there is merit to this position. I would point out two counter considerations. First, environmental degradation almost always unjustly affects marginalized groups more than those typically responsible for creating the problems in the first place, be it at a global or local level. So the effects are often quite particular.

Second, our young – those inheriting our messes — are also a “particularized” group are they not?

Writes Says Kassie Siegel director of the Climate Law Institute and senior counsel at the Center on Biological Diversity, “The fact that a legal theory tackles new problems in novel ways does not necessarily mean it is unlikely to prevail. And court decisions do not occur in a social vacuum.”

If the politicians can’t make the changes required at the policy level, change the laws and make them take real action.

GG SF

Toronto, San Fran, & Denmark: Symbolic Acts of Sustainability

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Denmark and sustainability, Garbage, Plastics, Red Meat, San Francisco and sustainability, Sustainability and Meat, Sustainability and Plastics, Toronto and Sustainability, Uncategorized

Last week the City of San Francisco announced a ban on plastic bottles to be phased in over the next year or so.

This week the City of Toronto approved a five cents per plastic bag charge.

Given the environmental mess plastic creates, I said “YEA” and happily twitted out the announcements.

A twitter colleague challenged my happiness by saying, and I paraphrase: So what? This will change nothing.

Indeed, so what? One could legitimately observe that the Toronto and San Francisco decisions are moot. Nothing more than mole-hill solutions in front of mountainous problems.

And they are.

Indeed, some 319 billion pounds of plastic are floating about in the oceans alone, with 9 million metric tons added annually. More than one million plastic bags are used on earth every minute.

10 things you can do to fight plastics in the oceans from National Geographic

In a global sense this makes bans and taxes in Toronto and San Francisco merely symbolic (although perhaps tactically…. to read more see link under sharing icons…

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Viva Panama Papers & Taxing Information

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Tax Avoidance, Tax Avoider Class, Tax Evasion, Uncategorized

It’s in the news again, corporate transparency, albeit not exactly with a focus on directly on companies.

First, the second installment of the Panama Papers is coming out with enormous lessons on transparency in accounting and tax reporting to be had; and second, a newly published paper shows the effects of government surveillance on freedom of information. Both have critical implications on freedom of speech and use of information with significant possible impacts in the struggle to create a more sustainable global economy.

Corporate transparency is imperative for sustainability. We know this. Without it how can you calculate the sustainability implications of how a product is made, what it is made of, how it is marketed etc. And if we can’t know this, how can you put a price value on its inherent contribution to sustainability?

Unfortunately, greater transparency in the economy is typically a game of inches.  This is as true for accounting as it is for corporate sustainability reporting.

Many such as myself, wait with great hope for some dramatic development that will allow us in one fell swoop to gauge the sustainability of any product anywhere, anytime with a single tap of a screen.

Alas not yet. But we can take heart with Panama… the Panama Papers that is. Late last week, Business Insider reported that May 9th The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists will “unleash” another huge data dump on how the TaxAvoider Class hide their cash.

We don’t have to imagine all the phones ringing nervously off the hook at accounting firms. But before we fully judge, let’s be clear, most of the TaxAvoider Class have little to no idea what their advisors actually do with their money, let alone the tax laws and loopholes driving decisions. Some clients might recall the words “aggressive tax stance” or whatnot, but little else.

Plausible deniability or plain stupidity…? (click Continue Reading below the share buttons to continue)

Capture

Ecology, Leadership & the End of Civilization

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Civilization, Ecology, Sustainability, Uncategorized

This morning I revisited two amazing articles which I wanted to share with you all this weekend.

One is from March of this year, published in the New York Times and written by E.O. Wilson, a renowned Harvard professor emeritus of biology who argues…

….Civilization is at last turning green, albeit only pale green. Our attention remains focused on the physical environment — on pollution, the shortage of fresh water,

big comanies

Big Company Sustainability Fail: Let’em Bern

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in alternative energy, Banking, Corporate Sustainability Strategy, Large Companies, Uncategorized

Are big companies bad for the world?  Many recent articles on willful big company malfeasance and the emotional populist pull of the Bernie Sanders campaign are begging to me wonder.

Some context. Last week I wrote about #Degriding ourselves of public and private utilities through decentralized, community, neighbor to neighbor power exchanges.

Like almost any change we want to see, I argued that if we put our minds to it, we could probably have 100% and decentralized clean residential energy within

Inspire

Invest Like You Give a Damn Research Interviews

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in ESG, Ethical Investments, Impact Investments, Social Investments, Sustaianable Investments, Sustainability, Uncategorized

If you found this page, you are thinking of participating in the Invest Like You Give a Damn research interviews

Some background on the book. It will be based on the stories, experiences and thoughts of people like you — people who either align their personal investments with their social and environmental values or not! It will also feature some “how to” materials to help guide people interested in making their investments more sustainable.

I am very glad you are interested in participating, for while there are so many great books on sustainability investment, very few focus on investors’ experiences, feelings and thoughts! Our goal is to understand personal barriers to more sustainability investment. Conversely, we also want to know what might motivate and excite you to make more sustainability investments!

Remember, you don’t have to be an investor, have a big portfolio, or currently make sustainability related investments to participate! All that is required

Energy

#Degriding Ourselves of Corporate Energy

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in alternative energy, Carbon and Sustainability, clean energy, Climate Change, energy, power

There are so many hopeful alternative power technologies that 100% renewable is possible in the very near future.

This is great, but there is more that alternative power can do than just clear the air, and what I think most about is #degriding.

#Degriding is a term I use to encourage the phasing out of long and medium distance power transmission. #Degriding is less about power use than it is about economic democratization of power generation!

Fully sustainable economies are those that control the impacts of production and consumption in as local a fashion possible. The rational is that the greater control we have over the impact we cause; the more care we take to do no damage. So what 3D printing could do for localization of manufacturing , #degriding can do for power. More concretely: it’s neighbors selling to neighbors and communities to communities.

Big Coal and Gas Utilities and Big Oil? They’ve served their purpose and our communities just don’t need the influence of self-interested companies who have demonstrably not been on the side of sustainability even when it comes to clean energy.

Don’t think so? Last week Triple Pundit reported on corporate plans to transmit wind power in and around the Midwest. Plans for local generation in Nebraska are being derailed by quarreling corporate and government interests.

Beyond thwarting corporate interests and giving power to the people, long distance transmission is inefficient compared to selling to a neighbor. It affects millions of acres of wildlife and is visually unattractive. Can you imagine a future without wires?! Older neighborhoods and developing county cities will certainly welcome the end of visual grid pollution.

Power independence is possible and it affords the opportunity to take greater community control of our economies at the same time.

 

 

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Climate Change and Corporate Sustainability – When measuring is not enough…

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Corporate Sustainability, Sustainability, Sustainability measurement, Sustainable Value Creation

I once believed if you threw enough evidence at people, corporate executives included, they would succumb to the logic of the need for greater environmental and social responsibility in business.

Evidence, fact, proof was all that was needed. So I became a measurer of all things sustainable. I began with the simplest of things: numbers of people affected, parts per millions inhaled, species lost… Nothing worked even on my best of friends who knew better. Business as usual.

In response, an obsession grew. I would hunt down arcane measures of happiness and productivity, returns to moral on philharmonic donations. I couldn’t stop. I consumed hundreds of labelling schemes, corporate codes of conduct, policy and regulatory regimes. Consumer and C Suit polls, I snacked on them whilst gorging on best of class lists, investment screens and filters…..

Intellectually obese with both good and bad measures of why we ought to change our production and consumption habits, I threw my hands up in surrender. Nothing it seemed worked.

It was then I realized that numbers do not a psyche change.

Our inability to change even in the face of overwhelming fact, runs deep. Carolyn Gregoireon of the Huffington Post argued that “we can’t just focus on giving people information about the issue” and expect them to come to a logical conclusion.

“People” pioneering Environmental Psychologist Renee Lertzman adds “would spend many hours telling me about how distressed and sad they are about the way things are changing … Then I would hear people move quickly to denying that they care at all.”

Is denial another sad story of depression and hopeless angst in the material age? If so, proof, I have found it rarely provides respite to the sufferer. Perhaps a sustainability angst pill is order?

“Taking personal accountability is a beautiful thing because it gives us complete control of our destinies.”
― Heather Schuck, The Working Mom Manifesto

One should never make light of true psychological affliction. But it is hard to understand why a recent Mayo Clinic report found 70% of Americans are on or have been on one form of psych drug or another.

Denying humanity is on the wrong course with material consumerism may be yet another chapter in the slow maturation process of our species where no one seems responsible for anything save their self-gratification – the gods know I am guilty of that feeling. Is this a kind of bipolar “I hate this but it’s not my responsibility to change type of relationship?”

No snowflake ever feels responsible for the avalanche, but as John E. Lewis once famously said “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

The stuff of transformation, the stuff of sustainability competitive advantage, the stuff of change is not in the numbers. The stuff of real change is the story of it all, the role each of us will take, the stuff that gets us up off the proverbial couch.

Sustainability values are the values to survive. The story of sustainability is not about numbers but about how we will survive or not as a species.

NEW! The Sustainable Century Podcast Featuring Guest Ruth Solomon on CSR in Ethiopia

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Consumer & Stakeholder Responsibilities, Corporate Sustainability, CSR, CSR in Ethiopia, Sustainability, The Sustainable Century Podcast, The Sustainable Century Podcasts

In this edition of The Sustainable Century Podcast, host Marc de Sousa-Shields speaks with Ruth Solomon.

Ruth is director of Organization for Social Development in Ethiopia, a vibrant country, rich in culture at the cross roads of Africa and Arabia. Its recent history is one where hope and poverty abound in frequent destabilizing events from war, to mass immigration in and out of the country.

The country, says Ruth, is emerging with its own model of growth and development, and we spoke of how companies can play a role in the emerging new Ethiopia, and how Ethiopian companies are, or not, beginning to take their social, environmental and economic roles more seriously.

If you enjoy the podcast, pass it on, press like in all the right places, and tweet your opinion out to the world, and lets get the conversation going on more and better corporate, consumer, and investor sustainability…..

For more information about Ruth’s organization, see www.osdethiopia.org

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VW Say it Aint So… An Enormous Sustainability and Brand Fail

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Carbon and Sustainability, Consumer & Stakeholder Responsibilities, Corporate Sustainability, Industrial Accidents, Sustainability

VWs, I used to love them. But how can I now? How can anyone?

Manipulating emissions tests? Wow? That’s the stuff of movies not real life.

The only question, really, is how hard and how long will VW be punished?

If experience is telling, probably not hard enough and not for too long, and that’s too bad.

Remember our outrage at Walmart and its systemic bribing of Mexican officials to avoid zoning and environmental protection laws? Its stock went down 20% for a week or two, until, like the stuff on its shelves, it became a bargain and investors bid it right back up. VW’s is down 17% as I write…

But cars are not cheap towels or televisions. We stake our lives and that of our families on them every time we turn the starter. So perhaps the spanking will last longer? I know I want to trust without reservation what the makers of my car say about their vehicles.

Of course, that is just the consumer side of the story.

On other side is that of the silent nasty emissions VW put in the air against their owners wishes. Even a quick

lesotho

Ending Poverty is Key to Sustainability

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in CSR, Poverty and Sustainability, The Sustainable Century Podcast, The Sustainable Century Podcasts

(Writing from Lesotho in Southern Africa)

Not long ago, I wrote a piece or two arguing the world economy could not be sustainable until we dramatically increase consumption in the developing world while radically reducing the same in the developed world.

Feedback was voracious, voluminous, and unequivocal: any increase in consumption is bad.

While at a personal level might I agree, at a social level, not really.

Until you’ve been poor it’s quite hard to “get” poverty: or, as Jonathan Swift wrote, “there is nothing so hard for those who abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want.”

It’s difficult to even express this sentiment without seeming somewhat offensive. Poverty is hard. Poverty grinds hope relentlessly against the stone of despair. It is one moment, one crisis,

NEW! PART 2 – The Sustainable Century Podcast Featuring Guest Coro Strandberg on Social Value Creation

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Corporate Sustainability, Shared Corporate Sustainability Value Creation, The Sustainable Century Podcast, The Sustainable Century Podcasts

 

In this episode of The Sustainable Century podcast, host Marc de Sousa Shields continues his conversation with Coro Strandberg about how companies and stakeholders can create shared value on seemingly intractable social, economic and environmental challenges.

Coro was recently named the top CSR Consultant in Canada by Canada’s Clean50 and is one of the most well regarded thought leaders in corporate sustainability… simple as that. She is head of Strandberg Consulting, a Vancouver, Canada-based advisory helping companies, industry associations and government accelerate sustainability through business.

Reach out to Coro at coro@corostrandberg.com , http://corostrandberg.com or on Twitter @SustainOurWorld

Sustainability Hopes and Who Pays the Price? Podcast with Heather White.

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in CSR, Sustainability, Sustainability and Apple, Sustainable Supply Chains

In this special edition of The Sustainable Century Podcast, host Marc de Sousa-Shields speaks with Heather White about sustainability in supply chains, brand responsibilities, vegans saving the world, and about her powerful new (forthcoming) film: Who Pays the Price – The Human Cost of Electronics.

Heather is an inspirational sustainability leader. In 1995, she founded Verite, a NGO dedicated to making corporate supply chains meet international sustainability standards. Verite went on to become recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative as an exemplary model of social entrepreneurship. Since then, Heather has advised global brands on supply chain, social monitoring and training issues, and undertook a fellowship at Harvard University.

Most recently, Heather has applied her wisdom, experience and compassion as a filmmaker to producing Who Pays the Price (currently in post productions –  see the trailer at http://bit.ly/1KdazbY).

If you enjoy the podcast, pass it on, press like in all the right places, and tweet your opinion out to the world, and lets get the conversation going on more and better corporate, consumer, and investor sustainability…..

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Two Sustainability Costs & Walmart’s New Supply Chain Fees

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Corporate Sustainability, CSR, Sustainability, Sustainability Management, Sustainable Supply Chains

Walmart announced last week it would require all suppliers to pay warehousing and shelf stocking fees. The new policy, the company says, brings consistency to supplier treatment as some vendors had been charged in the past, whereas others had not.

Wal-Mart claims the changes are aimed at working with suppliers to serve “shared customers” and achieve the low prices “they expect and deserve.”

I don’t disagree. Consumers need low prices. But, and as is always the case with WalMart, the question is: at what cost?

There are two points worth note.

First, if you have or are a supplier to Walmart, you will know the siren call of sales volume. But you will have also likely felt the sting of restrictive delivery rules and the great, constant pressure for ever lower prices.

Most venders have already cut costs to the bone, so it is not hard to imagine how this new squeeze might tempt suppliers,

Corporate Sustainability Strategy: Blame Stakeholders When Things go Wrong Podcast (PART 2)

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Uncategorized

Is it the stakeholder’s fault when things go terribly wrong for a company? According to David Chandler it is.  And are all stakeholders equal? What if one stakeholder has more power or money than others, what happens then? Is their opinion more important simply because they can dominate the message?

If you caught David Chandler’s The Sustainable Century podcast Corporate Sustainability Strategy & Whose to blame when things go WrongPart 1, you are going to love Part 2.

David is a professor at University of Colorado and is co-author of Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders, Globalization, and Sustainable Value Creation. For more about David: http://bit.ly/1t8rMfh

If you enjoy the podcast, pass it on, press like in all the right places, and tweet your opinion out to the world, and lets get the conversation going on more and better corporate, consumer and investor sustainability…..

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Trans-Pacific Partnership and G7 – Already Punting Climate Change Hopes?

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Carbon and Sustainability, Climate Change, CSR, Sustainability

In the days after the Group of Seven (G7) announced 2100 decarbonization, I have written more than a few articles, bushels of emails, and innumerous tweets on what may be the turning point in the climate change battle.

For some reason, however, each time I wanted to type “G7”  I would type G8 thinking of Russia, and worse, each time my finger refused to un-shift after pressing the G and hitting the 8.

As any touch typist knows, an un-shifted 8 gets you an “8” whereas a shifted 8 you get an “*” or an asterisk.G7 new

Not coincidentally perhaps, * is used in writing as a reference mark for a qualification or to indicate omission, doubtful content etc.

What my finger knew in revolt was good news fades fast.

And it has.

All this week, G* team member President Obama, along with the presumed moral support of his Canadian and Japanese mates, worked feverishly to fast-track the climate-opaque Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

In a blog earlier in the week I suggested G* leaders were punting on climate. Ink on the G* Field of Daisies photo wasn’t even dry and climate was once more and again the world’s political football despite dire need for brave political action.

Inspire

 

 

Jesse Fripp “Poverty is not a Construct….”

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Corporate Sustainability, Corporate Sustainability Strategy, CSR, Uncategorized

Jesse Fripp has been working for a just and sustainable world for all his career.

In our talk on The Sustainable Century Podcast, Jesse and I discuss poverty, especially in developing countries but not exclusively, and about what companies can, can’t and should do about it…

Jesse worked as a Managing Director at Enclude, an international development advisory, and is now with the AK Agency for Microfinance. His views in this podcast are his own.

Check out #TheSustainableCentury on Twitter or @CSRCounts

SCDD 2 The Sustainable Century Podcast Series – With new interviews every two weeks, the series features leaders, doers and stakeholders working for more and better corporate, consumer and stakeholder sustainability….

Inspire

 

 

american-football

G7 Leadership Punting the end of Carbon?

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Carbon and Sustainability, CSR, Politics of Sustainability, Sustainability, Sustainability & the Oil & Gas Sector

I am told we should applaud the recent announcement by G7 leaders on ending carbon use by 2100.

We should do so because it is a truly moment of unity on a crucible of our age. But we should keep the applause short for at least three reasons.

First, think of oil and such like Social Security in the United States.

Social security has brought enormous benefits to both individuals and society over the years, but is in obvious need of radical reform if it is to continue to provide affordable benefits into the future. Ditto agricultural subsidies, ditto defense spending, etc.

We may quibble the details but we all know this to be generally true. But which politician, besides those labeled wacky, socialist or inclined to political suicide would seriously touch Social Security reform?

Second, and entirely related, since the Congress of Vienna, through to the League of Nations and the United Nations today, nations states have consistently reverted to the self-interest mean.

Emerging markets countries, petroleum nations, Frackers, big oil, amongst others all have and will exert tremendous influence on any meaningful international or national carbon reform. To whit the Koch brothers and their legion of followers, Euro Oil’s idea of less carbon being natural gas, and Australia’s carbon tax reversal. Does anyone really think Russia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Exxon, Shell etc. are going down without a fight?  It should scare us greatly that all major oil companies, save StatOil, have reportedly gutted their alternative energy departments.

Third, the unimaginably rapid emergence of fracking is only going to make oil and gas cheaper. OPEC’s refusal to reduce production volumes in the face of low oil prices is testament to this market reality. They fear Frackers who have pushed oil and gas volumes up, prices down and world supply out much further than our carbon soaked atmosphere could ever withstand.

Unimpeded the market will do what the market has always done, and unregulated, cheap will always trump dear.

Solar, wind, kinetic and other alternative energy technologies meanwhile are approaching price tipping points making their widespread adoption inevitable. Some well-placed subsidies, strong policies discouraging fossil fuel extraction and effective carbon taxing will give alternatives that final over the top shove they need.

Is this in the cards?

G7 leaders have put the strongest ever rhetorical line in the sand for ending carbon. But words alone are not going to be nearly enough to easily and quickly overcome Social Security like entitlements, national self-interests, market inertia, cheaper fossil fuels and influential, obstinate, well-financed vested interests.

The problem, most inconveniently, is now, not in 85, not in 50, not even in 30 years. Until we see swift, effective politically costly action, a cynic might rightly assume G7 leaders are simply punting to those next in line.

PS How convenient it was that Mr. Putin was not present at the meetings!

Inspire

 

Introducing The Sustainable Century Six Pack of Blog Readings!

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Corporate Sustainability, CSR, The Sustainable Century Podcasts


The Sustainable Century Six Pack features six Sustainable Century blog posts read by Marc de Sousa Shields author of the Sustainable Century by Design and Disaster™ blog and book (forthcoming).

The Sustainable Century Six Pack No. 1 explores a range of issues from leadership vision and building corporate sustainability Dream Teams, to having coffee with the worst sustainability corporate skeptic.

Readings include:

  1. Just a Snicker away from more and better corporate Sustainability
  2. Hemingway on Sustainability Reporting: Don’t be Hollow be Material
  3. Sustainability Leadership and the Vision Collaborative
  4. Sustainability Strategy Dream Team
  5. Now I’m No Anthropologist
  6. Sustainability Visionary Leadership needs to give way in part to Sustainability Managerial Leadership

Download and enjoy your The Sustainable Century Six Pack every month!

Check out The Sustainable Century Podcast ™ featuring interviews with sustainability leaders and doers from around the world.

Inspire

 

 

Train

Sustainability Subsidies, Solar Power, Trains and Glorious Bastards

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Consumer & Stakeholder Responsibilities, Subsidies, Sustainability, Sustainable Energy

Much has been made of the $5.3 trillion global fossil fuels subsidies and many have vilified subsidies in the process.

It is well known that not all subsidies are equal, nor is there consensus on which ones are good and which are not.

The more conservative among us tend to be fine with defense or industrial agriculture subsidies but balk at “green” subsidies, pointing accusatory fingers at the not-so-long-ago Solyndra debacle as evidence of left-wing nuttery.

The smarter response to Solyndra is, however, not fewer, but more green subsidies.

Why?

Well, because subsidies are meant to mess up markets, change the game, dismantle barriers, shake up the status quo, and in the process build new economic roads down paths to places better than where we are headed now.

Subsidies done well don’t just disrupt markets for new market development sakes either. They are meant to have substantial net public benefits as well, or

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Modest Solar Subsidies in Germany and Big Energy Sustainability Myopia: Something To Celebrate

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Sustainability & the Oil & Gas Sector, Sustainable Energy, Uncategorized

A mere $23 billion or so in solar subsidies helps the Germans generate over 50% of its electricity needs on really sunny days.

Compare that with the $5 trillion in global subsidies for fossil fuels and we see what a great deal the Germans got on competitively priced energy while dramatically lowering overall carbon emissions.

That 46% of German solar was installed by individuals and farmers is incredible and exciting, especially as only 7% of alternative power was provided by the country’s big 4 energy companies . Indeed, German fossil fuel companies fought furiously to forestall clean energy reforms “which, had they embraced may have led them to long term relevance.”

Chevron and Exxon recently announced they too would take the path of fool hearty and denial. In response to BP and Shell’s call to the UN for help pricing carbon, Exxon chief Rex Tillerson said “We’re not going to be disingenuous about it (climate change). We’re not going to fake it.”

Big energy myopia is something to celebrate, encourage, facilitate (maybe even subsidize?).

Decentralization of energy production is as desirable as it is inevitable. It has massive implications not just for carbon reduction, but will free us from the historic grip of energy oligarchies, upon which it would seem the sun is finally about to set.

The Sustainable Century Podcast Featuring Guest Coro Strandberg on Social Value Creation

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Corporate Sustainability Strategy, CSR, Shared Corporate Sustainability Value Creation, Sustainability, Sustainability Management, Sustainable Value Creation

In this episode of The Sustainable Century podcast, host Marc de Sousa Shields speaks with Coro Strandberg about shared value, her vision of transformational companies and why it’s in a company’s interest to help resolve some seemingly intractable social, economic and environmental challenges.

Coro was recently named the top CSR Consultant in Canada by Canada’s Clean50 and is one of the most well regarded thought leaders in corporate sustainability… simple as that. She is head of Strandberg Consulting, a Vancouver, Canada-based advisory helping companies, industry associations and government accelerate sustainability through business.

Reach out to Coro at coro@corostrandberg.com , http://corostrandberg.com or on Twitter @SustainOurWorld

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Who do you Trust More: Investment Banks or Fossil Fuel Companies?

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Banking, Brand Trust, Sustainability, Sustainability Management

The other day I wrote that fossil fuel companies were slightly detached from reality when one of them in an advertisement, Gulf Oil, ask us to trust them.

On Thursday, Jamie Dimon CEO of JP Morgan, in a hiss-fit of irritation and superiority, called his shareholders lazy.

Talk about detached, the Fossils got nothing on Dimon.

Is this  haze of arrogance obscuring the many important and necessary things investment banks do? Free advice: even if you don’t give a single hoot about sustainable economics, there is one set of stakeholders you don’t want to cat scratch often, and that’s shareholders.

Still, it continues to amaze just how resilient US investment banks and their CEOs are considering myriad hubris. How long will shareholders (aka most of us via our pension funds) put up with their behavior and attitude that this outburst is surely just the tip of?

Perhaps not so long as one might think. The divestment movement, building on coal, which was constructed on tobacco divestment that was born of the divest from South Africa movement — all pretty successful — could easily turn its muck-raking eye to banking in a more organized and hurtful way.

That would be good for investment banking. It needs a good shot of humility through accountability and transparency, if only to root out costly insider trading, fraud, poor lending practice, and, oh yea, maybe to avoid the next near global economic melt down as well.

There are investment alternatives to JP Morgan. Indeed, there are plenty of high return financial companies the world round to fill out the financial parts of our portfolios while sending a strong sustainability market signal JP’s way. Many large and largely mistake-free Canadian and European banks pop to mind.

I wonder if Dimon’s peers hail him for his civic responsibility as they did Morgan’s founder John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan?  They probably don’t care as long as the mill keeps printing money. But do you think they wont remember the very minute profits fall?

P.S. I wonder what folks might be saying about Dimon lack of composure if he was a woman?

 

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JUNE 01 – NEW Sustainable Century Podcast Featuring Coro Strandberg….

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Shared Corporate Sustainability Value Creation, Sustainability Management, The Sustainable Century Podcasts

Coro Strandberg is a Canadian thought leader in corporate sustainability… simple as that.

In our upcoming discussion on The Sustainable Century Podcast, Coro and I discuss corporate social value creation, transformational companies, and why it’s in a company’s interest to help resolve some seemingly intractable social, economic and environmental challenges.

Coro is head of Strandberg Consulting, a Vancouver, BC Canada-based advisory helping companies, industry associations and government accelerate sustainability through business.  She was a long standing member of the board of directors of VanCity Credit Union and named the top CSR Consultant in Canada by Canada’s Clean50 this year, amongst other positions and awards!

Reach out to Coro at coro@corostrandberg.com , http://corostrandberg.com or on Twitter @SustainOurWorld

Or check out #TheSustainableCentury on Twitter or @CSRCounts

SCDD 2 The Sustainable Century Podcast Series – With new interviews every two weeks, the series features leaders, doers and stakeholders working for more and better corporate, consumer and stakeholder sustainability….

 

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Oil Leaks in Your Bathroom and Why Trusting Oil and Gas Companies can be so hard

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Sustainability & the Oil & Gas Sector, Sustainable Energy

Gulf Oil Corporation recently had an advert behind the home plate of a Boston Red Socks game which read something like: because you trusted Gulf Oil at the Pump… You can trust Gulf (Electricity) in your home.

It takes some steel to claim trustworthiness if you are a fossil fuel company (FFC) these days.  And in our homes at that?

Don’t know about you, but images of a Plains All American Pipelines bursting in my bathroom or a BP Deepwater Horizon erupting in my kitchen sink kind of leap to mind.

I have nothing against Gulf. I don’t particularly like fossil fuels, but they are not going away tomorrow, so we ought to judge FFCs by their transparency and plans to transition to environmentally sane energy, and not just our visceral sentiments about them.

Still, a not so clean and stellar impression of FFCs precedes them.

Indeed, when asked by a 2013 Harris poll “which industries are generally honest and trustworthy so that you normally believe a statement by a company in that industry,” just 4% of consumers found oil and gas companies to be trustworthy, beating out only tobacco companies… and even then by a mere 1%.

Here is just a short list of things that hardly inspire trust:

Fossil fuel companies will remain important for years to come, some will survive the transition to clean energy and other wont.

Trust will play a big role in the coming transformation and that trust will have to be earned through transparency and intention. Simply asserting trustworthiness, well, that is a start, but some serious effort will be required to gain consumer confidence along the way.

Photo credit: telegraph uk.

Corporate Sustainability Strategy & Whose to blame when things go Wrong

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Consumer & Stakeholder Responsibilities, Corporate Sustainability Strategy, CSR, Industrial Accidents, Sustainability, Sustainability Management

In this inaugural episode of The Sustainable Century Podcast Series, David Chandler of the University of Colorado discusses corporate sustainability strategy with your host Marc de Sousa Shields, where they explore themes of corporate stakeholder influence, responsible consumerism, and whose fault is it when companies do really bad things.

With a PhD and MS in Management, David knows his stuff! He is co-author of Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders, Globalization, and Sustainable Value Creation. For more about David: http://bit.ly/1t8rMfh

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19 Not-So-Rare Earth Minerals Running Out

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Resourc, Sustainability, Uncategorized, Water & Sustainability

We all know water is becoming scarce.

The developing world poor have known this all too well for centuries.

Herculean water conservation efforts by a few companies, cities and even some states show there is hope. But unless radically scalable solutions are found fast, California’s current drought is going to feel like a short, dry cough compared to what’s going to happen in the growing number of water-stressed communities around the world (e.g., Australia!).

Water is something we absolutely need to live, so we are pretty aware of its looming shortage.

What few realize, however, is that many other “life-necessary” resources are also coming close to running out.

Rare earth minerals have a noted “Scarcity Brand”, shortages of them threaten

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El Popo Knows

Written by Marc de Sousa on . Posted in Uncategorized

 The other day I read about the debate whether or not we had entered the Anthropocene epoch, or, that moment in geological time everything became about us, homo sapiens.

It was an article in the The Toronto Star and it made me think: hey! we weren’t the center of attention for much of Mother Earth’s time here on, well…. herself…..

But I digress.

First things first. It seems the Anthropocene isn’t even an official epoch yet,

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