Good Intentions

Bubble On Green
Photo by Limbo Poet

The Wall Street Journal seems to take great delight in the idea that the corporate social responsibility “fad” might be passing. Hmm. An 8% reduction in corporate donations in 2008? By what percentage did sales fall in that year? More importantly, it’s been quite awhile since anyone advanced the idea that a company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility should measured simply by its donations. Read the article here.

Excerpt:
When the going gets tough, costly good intentions can go out the window. Company spending has been squeezed by the global recession and budgets for corporate social responsibility have suffered disproportionately.

A survey of U.K. businesses by KPMG and Business In The Community found a third of companies cut their corporate social responsibility budgets in 2009. Corporate philanthropy has also been hit, with a study by the Giving USA Foundation revealing that charitable donations by U.S. companies fell by 8% in inflation-adjusted terms in 2008.

Perhaps this is not so great a loss. There is a growing feeling among company executives that marginal initiatives, which can so easily be dispensed, are not enough to alter corporate behavior. In a speech last year, Stephen Green, chairman of U.K. bank HSBC, said: “There has been a tendency to compartmentalize so-called corporate social responsibility activities as an adjunct to the mainstream business activities.” Mr. Green believes in replacing corporate social responsibility with a new focus on “corporate sustainability,” which, rather than being an add-on to a business. “is about the raison d’être of the company itself.”

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Apple Again Resists Shareholder Pleas for Emissions Reporting

Rotten Apple
Fortune magazine named Apple the most admired company in the United States in 2008 and in the world in 2009. This certainly doesn’t sound admirable. Read the article here.

Excerpt:
In a repeat scenario from last January, Apple Inc. is contesting two petitions from shareholder groups to increase the company’s environmental efforts, according to Apple’s proxy statement, reports EE Times. Two of the proposals call on Apple to establish a board-level sustainability committee, and to report how the consumer electronics company will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address other environmental and social issues such as toxics, recycling and employee and product safety, according to the article.

In January last year, Apple opposed a shareholder resolution that would require the company to publish a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, despite unveiling a number of new green products.

Apple’s board is rejecting both petitions this year, stating the company has taken appropriate steps to protect the environment including posting information at its Web site since August about its carbon footprint and recently released products, reports EE Times.

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Monsanto’s Business Model: Ethically Less Than the Sum of its Parts

Dandelion

From a great blog that covers ethical issues in the biotechnology industry.  Read the blog article here.

Excerpt:
Monsanto is widely considered to be Public Enemy #1 by critics of the biotech industry. But most who’ve heard complaints about Monsanto don’t know much more than what’s contained in the single-sentence slogans.

But if you’re going to form an opinion, it’s good to know a little more. As a start, here’s a good story by Christopher Leonard, writing for the Associated Press (and coming to you via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), Monsanto seed biz role revealed. I strongly recommend the whole article. But here’s a taste:

“Confidential contracts detailing Monsanto Co.’s business practices reveal how the world’s biggest seed developer is squeezing competitors, controlling smaller seed companies and protecting its dominance over the multibillion-dollar market for genetically altered crops, an Associated Press investigation has found.

With Monsanto’s patented genes being inserted into roughly 95 percent of all soybeans and 80 percent of all corn grown in the U.S., the company also is using its wide reach to control the ability of new biotech firms to get wide distribution for their products, according to a review of several Monsanto licensing agreements and dozens of interviews with seed industry participants, agriculture and legal experts….”

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Researchers Compare the Carbon Pricetags of In-Store and Online Purchases

Interesting article, but more data might be needed before a conclusion can be drawn. Read the article here.
Excerpt:

From a carbon emissions point-of-view, is it better to buy products online or in a store? You probably guessed the former. And if so, you’re right, according to a study conducted by MindClick GSM, a sustainability consulting firm and released today by GigaOM Pro, a subscription based research and analysis service covering green IT (among other topics).
[…]
The researchers took these numbers and ran with them, calculating that the negative environmental impact of an in-store purchase made on Black Friday is 50 times that of an online purchase made on Cyber Monday. And in more general terms, it found that carbon emissions related to purchasing an item inside a store represents an increase of more than 15 times that of an online purchase.

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Kohl’s Pledges to Achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2010

Read the article here.
Excerpt:

Kohl’s Department Stores is the first retailer to commit to net zero emissions as part of its partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders program. Kohl’s pledges to achieve net zero emissions by 2010 and maintain carbon neutrality through 2012. The retailer said its goal is equivalent to offsetting the annual emissions from electricity used by more than 99,084 homes or removing 130,842 vehicles from the road for a year.

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Agribusiness Chief Slams Organics

Michael Mack, the chief executive of Syngenta, doesn’t think organic food is such a good idea. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that Syngenta is in the business of making pesticides and developing “crop protection” technologies. Read the article here.
Excerpt:

“Organic food is not only not better for the planet,” he said, in an interview at The New York Times building on Tuesday. “It is categorically worse.”

The problem, Mr. Mack said, is that organic farming takes up about 30 percent more land, on average, than nonorganic farming for the same yield (though this varies by crop, of course). If the world wants to feed its fast-growing population on existing cropland — and Mr. Mack is clear that he does not want forests chopped down to clear more land for biofuel production, let alone food — then productivity becomes a key factor, he said.

“If the whole planet were to suddenly switch to organic farming tomorrow, it would be an ecological disaster,” he said.

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Johnson & Johnson’s Sustainability Strategy Includes Avoiding Greenwashing

Read the article here.
Excerpt:

During the talk, Al Iannuzzi, Senior Director of J&J’s Worldwide Environmental Health & Safety unit, told a story of his early days as an environmentalist in the 1970s who believed that “corporations are evil.” He resisted working for big corporations until he read J&J’s Credo–which upholds its responsibility to its employees, the environment and communities–and found an interesting job within the company. He’s been with J&J now for nearly 30 years and wants everyone to know how J&J is using business for good.

“If we’re not saying anything, people assume we’re not doing anything,” said Iannizzi. So J&J wants people to know what their doing–but they don’t want to greenwash, either.

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