Tag Archives: sustainable development

Putting Typhoon Haiyan in the context of the “Fierce Urgency of Now.”

What brings home the catastrophe of Typhoon Haiyan are two speeches I recently added to EarthSayerstv especially in the context of the urgency of addressing climate change and what we citizens need to see happen as suggested by Jeffrey Sachs in today’s Financial Times.  Home IF we take the time to listen to our EarthSayers Mary Robinson and Jeffrey Sachs.

tn_24971First, Mary Robinson addressed climate justice in a speech to participants at the BSR (Business Social Responsibility) conference, November 5-8 in San Francisco. She talks about climate justice and the fact that the people least responsible for it are the most impacted as is the case in the Philippines. She reminds us of the importance today of Martin Luther King’s phrase,  “the fierce urgency of now.” Mary Robinson served as the seventh, and first female, President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002. She heads up the Mary Robinson Foundation on Climate Justice.

tn_24972Secondly, Jeffrey Sachs presents the key note presentation on sustainability, most particularly sustainable development (environmental and economic) for the first Global Grand Challenges Summit 2013 in London.  The lecture is on how sustainable development must occur and how countries are not doing enough to meet this in either terms of energy and the economy. Video Published on Mar 30, 2013.

What you and I need to see happen:

In an October 15th 2013 article in the Financial Times in response to the climate catastrophe of Typhoon Haiyan, Jeffrey Sachs notesPeople need to see credible energy plans, pathways for each country and region to a prosperous low-carbon future. Such pathways can be found, but aside from excellent work in a handful of places, such as the UK, Denmark and California, such long-term planning has not been done… The basic elements of a pathway include four key pillars: more electricity from low-carbon technologies rather than coal; replacing fossil fuels with electricity as the fuel source for sectors such as cars and household heating; greater energy efficiency in industry and the home; and the end of deforestation (which emits carbon).

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, November 15, 2013, Portland, Oregon.

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The Sustainability Language Barrier

FIRST and foremost, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about the democratic use of language. This is extremely important when it comes to educating our citizens about sustainability.

What matters is not how the advertiser (you or academic or activist or advocate or consultant) likes to talk about its products (services, ideas, concepts, processes, mission, cause, objective), but how customers (citizens, students, clients, users) actually talk about them.”


One example of search on the term, sustainable development and the associated keywords and phrases:
sustainable developmentThe yellow indicates terms that present an opportunity to develop what is called, search directed content, and create webpages with appropriate titles and links.

Feedback on what is being used in search has become all the more important because search engines are also contributing to the poverty of attention that advertisers, educators, well, nearly everybody is complaining about.

poverty of attention

Adapted from a blog post Why SEO Doesn’t Translate by Guy Gilpin , Monday, August 9, 2010

Two Silos: Marketing and CSR

I wrote a version of this article yesterday on the CSR/Sustainable Development Network, but wanted to repeat myself.

In the July issue of The Economist a particular sentence jumped out at me as being relevant to my experiences in the world of sustainability as a marketer. The sentence read “part of the reason” economists failed to see the crisis coming “as partly due to the professional silos which limited both the tools available and the imagination of the practitioners.”

Marketing Silo
I don’t t think it’s just an issue with economists. As a marketer involved in creating Earthsayers.tv, the voices of sustainability, I was slow to recognize marcom as a silo, but it is, and it is limiting imagination and creativity, two capacities crucial to bringing about change or as Jeffrey Hollender of Seventh Generation puts it, doing “the right stuff, quick enough.”

Here are several symptoms of the marketing silo and its effects.

Organizations continue to expend resources on mediums that marketing professionals feel comfortable with and are, in the end, unsustainable – events and print – while adoption of Web 2.0 tools is slow. How are marketing resources allocated today in your company? Do your executives rely on processed information, fearful of new technology and slow to embrace collaboration across the enterprise and with partners? Are any executives you know using video to blog like John T. Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems does? His observation: “Today’s world requires a different leadership style – more collaboration and teamwork, including using Web 2.0 technologies.”

Let them eat cakeA recent report by the WWF-UK entitled, Let Them Eat Cake, calls out the six myths that have further strengthened resistance from the marketing industry, an industry pivotal as “the marketing function is at the heart of the sustainability debate, because it is the interface between the forces of production and consumption.”

One debunked myth in the WWF-UK report suggests many marketers are just waiting for permission and an appropriate framework in which to engage with sustainability issues even if not familiar with the language of sustainability. One of the leaders of high tech in the U.S. was Admiral Grace Hopper who advised people new to the industry (I heard her speak in 1981) to not seek permission as much as learn how to apologize. Are you waiting for permission?

wpp reportEven Sir Martin Sorrell in the WPP’s Social Responsibility Report (2007/2008) advises his flock “to shape and encourage consumer demand for sustainable products and lifestyles; to restore the true value of durability; to reject the superfluous in products and packaging; to make much of what has passed for fashion deeply unfashionable…” Quote him in your apology.

CSR Silo
Yet if marketing is slow on the uptake, what of Corporate Social Responsibility professionals? Operating from another silo, limiting both the tools available and the imagination of the practitioners? I offer but one symptom and look to fellow network members to think about their own experiences.

At the eighth annual Corporate Philanthropy Summit hosted by the CECP this past June in New York City the bywords were collaboration, systemic change, advocacy and sustainability as reported online in “on Philanthropy.”

It’s good to see sustainability on the short list, BUT its strategic importance as the business and investment strategy is not understood as reflected in this meeting report.

Sustainability needs to be a strategy not a program. It needs to be the strategy that drives all programs, all investments. Advocacy focused on supporting the cause of sustainability nets big changes precisely because it brings a focus to collaborative efforts, all of us need to be on the same page at the strategic level and we are not.

Silo Demolition
One company involved in silo demolition and referenced in the report, Future tense: The global CMO by the Economist Intelligence Unit (sponsored by Google) is IBM. They seek to remove the barriers between its communication functions to include “marketing, media and public relations, corporate communications and, eventually, the company’s corporate citizenship function which is responsible for promoting IBM’s corporate values.”  Would you recommend this in your organization, and if not, why not?

The WWF-UK report includes a ten point plan for sustainable brands, two of which are particularly relevant to this discussion:

1. The Corporate Responsibility Function should act as a driver of innovation, using its combination of sustainability expertise and broad strategic view to tease out consumer insights.

2. Collaborate. Create multi-functional, multi-skilled teams that include personnel from all relevant functions, including marketing communications, investor relations, product design/development, brand strategy, financial planning and analysis, and corporate responsibility.

In closing, I quote a recent letter to the Editor of the New York Times by Aliza Wasserman. She points out another field of siloes, special interests, which should come under the sustainability banner. (We have created a taxonomy for sustainability as part of our earthsayers.tv project)

“The story that is waiting to be told is the one that unites these issues (health care, climate change and economic crisis) as symptoms of our decades’ long failure to create moderate, forward-thinking systems that are built on concepts of sustainability and prevention.” ALIZA R. WASSERMAN, Cambridge, Mass, July 30, 2009

The professional class, “siloed” and often issues focused, has a chance to bring about the right stuff, quick enough, if the keynote is advocacy and collaboration, and I would maintain, the key initiative is sustainability as both a business and lifestyle strategy. It can’t be business as usual.

The reports referenced here are on my whitepaper library.

Sustainability and the VC Taskforce Roundtable

Each month the VC Taskforce hosts The Elevator Pitch Roundtable an opportunity for entrepreneurs “in a startup that is currently seeking capital” to present a 90-second elevator pitch to a panel of VCs, usually four. These are very interesting as the panel gives a score of their interests based on the pitch and the Q/A that follows.

If I were to expand beyond my experience with this group it seems to me many VC’s, not ALL of course, have no sustainability strategy for their investment activities. If they venture outside the business as usual space, they have a laundry list of sustainability related categories, as do the big consulting firms. See my blog article below on laundry lists. Mobile, alternative energy and bio refineries is a list from Khosla Ventures and under “the things we care about”  (Khosla Ventures), you will find some of this and some of that.

  • Microfinance – SKS, SHARE, ASA, CFTS, Jamii Bora Grameen USA, Unitus – with a goal to provide credit to over 25 million “below poverty line” borrowers. See also An Anti-Poverty Success Story; Video
  • Environment – GE Ecomagination Advisory Council, Chairman of India Advisory Board of the Cleantech Network
  • Education – Indian School of Business – a world class school of business, DonorsChoose.org – teachers ask for private funding on thousands of projects
  • Health – Public Health Institutes of India, UNICEF
  • Affordable housing – Global Home – goaled to build a $5000 home!

Companies need to put all the wood behind one arrow as spreading energies across a broad spectrum of sustainability categories has proven to be pretty ineffective.  Jeffrey Hollinger of Seventh Generation hits the nail on the head when he talks about the need for companies – and VCs are no exception – to make sustainability their core business strategy.

At one Roundtable they poohed-poohed two technologies relating to reducing energy consumption in existing buildings (big, big source of greenhouse gases), but got  excited over a travel Website catering to honeymooners.  That’s when the question entered my mind: Are we twittering while Rome burns?

It’s going to take more than Al Gore to turn things around, if they can be turned around.

McKinsey weighs in on Battery-powered Age

McKinsey Quarterly article

Electrifying cars: How three industries will evolve

My friend and alternative energy colleague, Paul Steinbroner of Energy.tv, has been documenting the electric car industry for years, knows EVERYBODY, and is in the process of raising funds for a major alternative energy documentary staring plug-in pioneer, Dr. Andy Frank.  Here’s what McKinsey says about plug-ins:

“are projected to offer a lower cost of ownership than vehicles with improved internal-combustion engines, but only if fuel prices and taxes cooperate.”

Hope to get some comments on the McKinsey story.