Pause to support a cause

Paying consumers for their opinions is not a new tactic, but market researchers are now proposing to give money to causes instead.

The ‘Pause to Support a Cause’ initiative will pledge money to a not-for-profit of your choice when you fill out a market research survey.

In essence, you get to feel like you’re making a contribution without doing much, NFPs get a more regular source of income and researchers can get opinions from people who otherwise wouldn’t bother.

This seems to be the next step up from programs like Ripple, where ad revenue goes to a cause for each click, and FreeRice, where users play a word game and view ads for rice donations.

However, the hope behind ‘Pause to Support a Cause’ seems to be that consumers will look at ways to contribute to their favourite NFPs beyond giving their opinion.

The advisory team has a few big names, with members from Ashoka, SIFE, Hershey’s and P&G.

The program is still in Beta with only selected organisations being allowed to participate. However, you can submit your contact details to get involved or keep updated.

What do you think? Would you take the time to do surveys for donations?

CSR course to be made compulsory for undergraduates

CSR Course Compulsory Adelaide

Should CSR training be mandatory for all business students?

It seems that if we are to have corporate citizenry at all levels of business, this needs to be the case. Currently most CSR managers are internal hires, coming either from ‘corporate communications’ departments or technical backgrounds. It’s much harder to find specialists who have the training to execute the concept of ‘doing well by doing good’.

However, most universities have been slow to offer students the option to learn about  CSR, let alone making it a core component of business degrees.

The University of Adelaide has recognised the need to incorporate CSR into their business curriculum. Their ‘Corporate Responsibility in Global Business’ course started out as a Masters elective, but in 2010 will become a compulsory subject for Bachelor of Commerce students in their final year.

The man behind the course is Jim Redden, whose previous work on the Australian Government’s  WTO Advisory Committee, with mining companies and expertise in developmental economics are evident from the course content. He started out with aid organisations such as Oxfam, and is now conducting research and teaching for the Institute for International Trade (University of Adelaide).

So what’s actually in this course?

Key topics include: risk management, triple bottom line reporting, transparency, corporate governance, poverty and development issues, corporations and trade rules and environmental issues.

The approach is firmly grounded in practical management. Generally for students, environmental issues are the most accessible, as well as being the main issue faced by CSR managers in Australia. But they are challenged to think of strategies for real world situations across all topics.

In order to achieve this, industry involvement is vital. Admittably Adelaide, one of Australia’s smaller state capitals, has fewer internal CSR practitioners than its compatriots in the Eastern states. However, Jim has been able to bring in a variety of speakers to challenge his students to think about the issues they will face in the industry.

Past speakers have come from banks, mining companies, unions, NGOs, the Department of Consumer Affairs and Transparency International. The most controversial? A discussion of whether an arms retailer can ever operate ethically, and how that might be achieved.

The course aims to allow students to make up their own minds about the degree to which the behaviour of contemporary global corporations is ethical and responsible. Students are equipped with the practical tools to deal with the real and complex issues of poverty, conflict, environmental disasters and corruption – so that they can choose to make a difference as future managers.

Practical analysis also extends beyond lectures; the major project for the course is a research report where students must analyse and critique a company’s corporate responsibility efforts.

You might be wondering how a course like this is assessed – when so many CSR professionals debate the scope of the practice, how do you ensure that students fully understand the field?

Apart from the report already mentioned, students are required to write answers to short one page case-studies on global corporations for most tutorials and sit an exam (60% of the final grade). The exam covers key defining concepts (what is CSR, reporting standards, technical terms, international bodies etc.), requires analysis of a case study and argumentative essays (eg. ‘Should codes of conduct for global corporations be voluntary or compulsory by law?’).

Of course, CSR is a broad subject that is difficult to compress into a 12 week course. Jim stresses that it is primarily meant to provide a foundation for students, provoking them to think about the key issues, learn about management options and sort the corporate responsibility from the PR stunts.

What else would we like to see in there? I could see some scope for emphasising the importance of internal CSR training, using community investment for effective marketing, and giving some directions on SRI. But as a start it’s good to see social responsibility being pushed as a topic that all managers need to be aware of and not just a one-person role description.

What do you think about the course?

[For more info about the course or to talk to Jim, contact the Institute for International Trade on +61 (08) 8303 – 6900 or the School of Business at the University of Adelaide.]

The course aims to allow students to make up their own minds about the degree to which the behaviour of contemporary global corporations is ethical and responsible. The emphasis is more on giving students the practical tools to deal with the very real and complex issues of poverty, conflict, environmental disasters and corruption – so that they can choose to make a difference in their future jobs.

Choice: Eco Phones

Green Phones

Their low cost and our (well, some of us) constant need to have the latest and greatest cell phone has seen them piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. This is even more worrying as toxic metals in these devices pose serious health threats should they find their way back into our immediate environment (e.g. Mercury seeping into waterways where it eventually ends up in food, causing brain damage).

Enter, the Eco Phones.

Major phone manufacturers, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Samsung have all recently released phones touting Green Credentials as a key feature.

SONY ERICSSON

Earlier this month, Sony Ericsson unveiled its 2 new phones which pioneer a feature they’ve named ‘Greenheart‘, the C901 and the Naite (which comes with a “Carbon Footprint Calculator“?). ‘Greenheart‘, it seems, is the company’s new label for products which use:

  • Reduced Packaging
  • Recycled Plastics (min 50%)
  • Waterborne Paints
  • Electronic Manuals instead of Paper

The most impressive feature here has to be the use of recycled plastics with ‘reduced packaging’ and the use of electronics manuals sounding feeble. The company however hopes to expand these features through the entire product portfolio, which could collectively make a significant impact on the environment.

One thing to note here though is that the C901 actually has a pretty impressive feature set which includes a 5 megapixel camera with xenon flash and smile detector (because of course, knowing that you’re doing your part to protect the environment, why wouldn’t you be smiling), something which is in stark contrast to the other phones introduced here which are disappointingly lacking in ‘real’ features and seem to be targeted at very basic phone users.

MOTOROLA

The Motorola W233 Renew for example, announced in January, attracted this less than flattering comment from technology site Engadget:

“We hear this thing is made out of water bottles… and lameness”

The former is a fact, this phone IS made out plastic recycled from discarded water bottles, which I think is interesting because of its ‘single-source’ nature (think Green & Black’s Chocolate) but otherwise, do we really care what our recycled plastic used to be?

In addition to using recycled plastics, the phone also comes with a postage paid ‘recycling envelope’ to make it easy for purchasers to return their previous phone for recycling. Neat, but with the W233’s limited feature set, you might want to hang on to your older phone for just a little bit longer before mailing it away.

The press release that accompanied the launch announcement made it abundantly clear that the product’s designers had “people who put making phone calls as their number one priority in a mobile phone” in mind. Something which tremendously limits the appeal of the product, since a large population of us, I am sure, use our phones for so much more than just phone calls.

Motorola also reminds us that the phone is the world’s 1st Carbon Neutral Phone (much like Fiji Water is the world’s 1st Carbon Negative Water) through the purchase of carbon credits from carbonfund.org (the same people who awarded the product a CarbonFree Certification).

Samsung

Finally, in September 2008, Samsung launched an Eco version of their basic E200 phone, which meant that the phone now used:

- Bio-Plastics (from Corn) for its case

- Recycled Paper for its box

That can’t be it can it? Yes it is. The amount of carbon you would save by buying this version over the regular phone (as calculated by mobilegazette) is equivalent to the carbon generated by driving all of 382m in a Ford Focus.

Closing

It seems that life is still tough for the mobile phone buyer who wants to minimize her environmental footprint.

The good news though is that despite how the credentials of the current generation of Eco Phones seem lacking, they do seem to be improving with each successive product launch.

I do hope that next year will see mobile phone companies move beyond the gimmicks like ‘Carbon Footprint Calculators’, introduce measures to reduce their manufacturing process’ carbon footprint (real reductions, not ones achieved by carbon credit purchases) and take steps to eliminate (or at least reduce) the levels of toxic chemicals in their products.

What kind of Green Features would YOU like to see in your next Mobile Phone?

Military surplus reborn as Couture

Christopher Raeburn

Parachutes remade into Fashion? 

Christopher Raeburn is one designer who does not source his fabrics from the garment factories of China, Bangladesh nor Vietnam, instead.. his suppliers are the militaries of the United Kingdom, Germany and even the Czech Republic!

Freshly graduated from the Royal College of Arts in 2006, winning the Ethical Fashion Forum’s INNOVATION competition in 2008 and now working on collaborations with the likes of Tim Soar (a collection that includes jackets stuffed with recycled duck feathers from used duvets) and even Virgin Airlines (transforming their uniforms into bags), Christopher is definitely an ethical designer to watch.

Christopher gladly admits that the ethical awareness of his designs was a ‘happy accident‘ coming out his desire to use these particular fabrics (which he stresses are well made and will last). Into the future, we are sure that Christopher is taking his designs in an ethical direction more ethically, a sign of this is the dropping of fur (which popped up in in his 2008 womenswear collection) in all his 2009 collections.

We will be keeping a close eye on Christopher and are incredibly excited to hear who wins this year’s INNOVATION prize (Press Release in July).

Interviews with Christopher Raeburn: The Guardian, GreenMyStyle

Other Articles: London Fashion Week, The Discerning Brute

Twittering Responsible Business Summit: Part 1

Tweeting RBS09

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of Twittering The Responsible Business Summit Live from London, here is Part 1 of “The Journey of Hastag #RBS09″

First few tweets (Tuesday 5th May) were about how excited everyone was at the tweeting that was going to happen at the Responsible Business Summit and the introduction of the #rbs09 hashtag, from @Ethical_Corp, @davidcoethica, @mrochte and myself.

A bit of real information then started coming through with a link to @Ethical_Corp founder Toby Webb’s post ranking the sessions at the conference by number of registered attendees (in case you were wondering, Embedding CR in your Company and Supply Chain Management came out tops).

Then came questions from both me and @davidcoethica to our followers, wondering if anyone else was going to be at the summit. I don’t know about David but I didn’t get any responses.

At the same time @Ethical_Corp used the attendance of CEOs of Timberland, IKEA and the Chairman of Shell to gain further interest. Which proved to be successful as it was retweeted by Chris Jarvis @RealizedWorth and @SteelyGreen.

Word also seemed to getting out of the hashtag-o-sphere with @robarj (Ryan Jones, Global Brand Manager at P&G) tweeting about the conference and Mario Vellandi @mvellandi retweeting it adding #rbs09.

 A day before the conference @davidcoethica sent out a list of sessions happening during the conference and asked the community if anyone had any questions, immediately retweeted and replied to by @RealizedWorth who was interested in employee engagement (I am guessing because Chris’s profession is creating great employee volunteering programs).

In the same day, the first exhibitor came online, Charles Bosher @cbosher, Corporate Membership Manager at the NCVO, tweeted being ‘weirdly looking forward’ to the conference.

The claim to 1st Tweet on conference day went to neither me nor David with Martin Smith @Martin_CSR, CEO of JustMeans, claiming the prize.

But what definitely kicked off the questions was @davidcoethica tweeting that he had just arrived at the conference and was taking questions. Retweeted by Ginee @loopyginee.

@SSRIMikeTyrrel How do co’s plan to communicate sust. Perf. To investors now that banks thar organised meets for them are closed?

@RODIEN When will a treaty be signed by the worlds (business) leaders that CSR in EVERY company is mandatory?!

@MsNotMr I’m curious about Green & Blacks and what they are doing to promote responsibility in their industry

@Martin_CSR You should ask the opening panel how they plan to use social media to better engage stakeholders

@Martin_CSR also took the opportunity to tweet about a new podcast about Timberland’s Sustainability strategy just before their CEO’s keynote, fantastic timing. This was immediately followed by the JustMeans crew jumping on with a few retweets of @Martin_CSR from co-founder @KevinEdwardLong and the official @justmeans_CSR account.

Words of encouragement came through too

@fair_ruth Hope #rbs09 goes well, would be interested to hear more

Then the summit kicked off.

(Look out for Part 2 later this week)

Wooden Bicycles Galore

Wooden Bicycles

So you’ve gone from Prius to Bicycle, how more Sustainable can your transport be? 

How about a Bicycle made out of a Sustainable material, like Wood maybe?

At last month’s Milan Design Week, designer Ross Lovegrove, with Danish Bicycle Company Biomega, unveiled a Bicycle handmade in Denmark out of Bamboo, a material abundant in China and the fastest growing woody plant on the planet.

Think you can out-do Ross? Bamboo Bike Studio, still fresh from its launch 3 days ago, will give you (at least) the tools to do so (BYO Talent) with their $1,000 2-day course teaching you to make your own bamboo 2-wheeled transport. (Did I mention that the proceeds go to a venture with Columbia University’s Earth Institute to build the world’s 1st Bamboo Bike Factory in Ghana?)

Someone the Studio would love to have as a guest instructor would be Berliner, Arndt Menke, who for his diploma thesis created the ‘Holzweg‘ bicycle frame made entirely out of wood, beautiful, and with the potential for serious performance weighing in at an impressive 2.3kg.

Need something not only from nature but designed to perform IN nature? Waldmeister (translation: Forest Master), also based in Germany, handcrafts its bicycles’ wooden frames and outfits them with top notch components providing comfort and control in and out of the woods.

Source: Fast Company

Czech Households to Receive $500m for Green Home Improvement

Today, Japan is contributing to our potential for a further reduction in emissions – Martin Bursik, Czech Environment Minister

Solar Heating: Now Subsidized

Solar Heating: Now Subsidized

To fulfill its target to buy 100 million metric tons of Carbon Emission Rights, Japan has bought 40 million metric tons of these rights from the Czech Republic at a cost of $500m. The Eastern European country sold the ‘redundant’ rights it had earned by reducing its carbon emissions by a decent 24% (from 1990), significantly above its pledge (Kyoto) of 8%.

To put the reduction in perspective, Germany reduced its emissions in the same period by approximately 22% but will unlikely engage in a similar trade as its Kyoto pledge was a significantly higher 21%

The Ministry of Environment, led by Green Party leader Martin Bursik, will use the substantial financial inflow to subsidize Czech households’ building or installing environmentally friendly heating or insulation systems.

The move will not only reduce the country’s energy use and carbon emissions but, perhaps more importantly for the regular Czech household, significantly reduce their heating bill during the current downturn.

More at: PlanetArk, CarbonOffsetsDaily


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