NY Times – Sierra Club cuts Deal with Kansas City Power & Light

windowslivewriternytimessierraclubcutsdealwithkansascityp-e013logo20sc20vert1.jpgIn today’s New York Times, Matthew L. Wald reports that the Sierra Club has negotiated a deal with Kansas City Power and Light, a Midwest electric company, “to take steps to cut carbon dioxide output by the amount that a new plan will produce.” The plan includes buying hundreds of windmills and undertaking a major conservation program.

Following on my recent post BusinessWeek – Hugging the Tree-Huggers, this is another example of the previously unthought of convergence of social sector activists and corporate interests to try to solve some of the planet’s most significant challenges. Continue reading NY Times – Sierra Club cuts Deal with Kansas City Power & Light

BusinessWeek – Hugging the Tree-Huggers

BusinessWeek logoAnother interesting article about the convergence of interests between corporate executives and environmental activists appeared in the March 12th edition of BusinessWeek.

Hugging the Tree-Huggers by John Carey leads off with a story about the recent mega takeover of Texas utility TXU Corporation and the importance of the public support for the transaction by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The TXU takeover is a sign of a remarkable evolution in the dynamic between corporate executives and activists. Once fractious and antagonistic, it has moved toward accommodation and even mutual dependence. Companies increasingly seek a “green” imprimatur, while enviros view changes in how business operates as key to protecting the planet.

A visit to the homepage of Environmental Defense Fund while writing this post revealed the  congratulatory headline: “Global Warming Victory: We brokered a buyout in Texas that will lead to a cleaner energy future.” (article)

Continue reading BusinessWeek – Hugging the Tree-Huggers

Fast Company’s – Fast / Profit Driven Solutions for What Ails the Planet

The March 2007 issue of Fast Company presents the Fast 50, a list of companies that are using innovative technologies and strategies to solve some of our planet’s biggest challenges.

The opening essay was written by Andrew Zolli, a consultant and futurist with Z + Partners and he does a great job in highlighting the evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility. Entitled Business 3.0 – The oblivious capitalist’s days are numbered, Zolli’s essay starts by citing Milton Friedman’s September 13, 1970 New York Times Magazine essay wherein the Nobel Prize winning economist argues that “the one and only social responsibility of business (is) to engage in activities designed to increase it’s profits.” Free-market, laissez faire economics at it’s finest.

Thankfully, today some business leaders see opportunity, competitive advantage and economic benefit in innovative strategies that can help save the planet.  Zolli writes:

Well ahead of slower-moving governments, companies of every size and in every part of the world are now waking up to humanity’s impending and interlocking crises, and the vastly lucrative rewards that solving them might bring

As with the Industrial and Information Revolutions before them, the protagonists in the “Eco-Innovation” Revolution will take the field with new approaches, ideas, and technologies that will upend our notions of production, consumption, wealth, and invention.

Zolli provides some interesting ideas for consideration: waste accountability leading to design for low cost disassembly; the LOHAS (“lifestyles of health and sustainability”) $227 billion market made up of consumers who are willing to spend a 20% premium on “clean, green products over nonsustainable alternatives”; and biomemetic and organic technologies such as Lotusan Paint and BAE Systems’ Synthetic Gecko. Zolli writes:

These products share one trait: They will win in the marketplace. Not because they’re eco-friendly or warm and fuzzy or have a Ben & Jerry’s seal of approval. They’ll win because they deliver better, cheaper, and more profitable results.

Seeking a competitive advantage through green and sustainable strategies is not really at odds with Friedman’s profit maximization model. Integrating social responsibility with corporate strategy can be good for business and for the future of our planet.

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NY Times – Companies Pressed to Define Green Policies

There is an interesting article in today’s NY Times written by Claudio Deutsch which discusses how investors have become much more focused on how companies’ environmental policies affect their bottomlines.

Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups is quoted:

“This has nothing to do with social investing. These investors are owners who want the companies to stop being laggards when it comes to minimizing risk and taking advantage of opportunities.”

Tracey C. Rembert, the coordinator of corporate governance and engagement for the Service Employees International Union, is quoted about her organization’s interest in Well Fargo:

“We want them to rethink their business, and set themselves up to take strategic advantage of climate change.”

“Climate change will involve regulatory risks, reputational risks and physical risks to the companies in any bank’s portfolio,” she said. “We need to know that Wells Fargo is ahead of the curve in addressing it.”

Granted the “investors” quoted in the article come from the public and nonprofit sectors where concern for global warming and other social issues are much more  prevalent. They have also been focused on and speaking out about these issues for quite a while.  Continue reading NY Times – Companies Pressed to Define Green Policies

Transcendent Leadership

Michael Useem, Wharton professor and author of The Go Point (see review) participated in the recent World Economic Forum and reported about the experience over on The Huffington Post yesterday. The World Economic Forum: A Call to Exercise Global Leadership, Not Just Self Interest. Useem wrote:

…the event also served to define and reinforce a shared culture among participants. Central to that culture is an emphasis on transcendent leadership — the idea that standing above all other values is the ideal of a joint commitment to bettering the planet.

Business leaders, the British prime minister (Tony Blair) suggested, must therefore move beyond “corporate social responsibility” to embrace a “strategic engagement with the moral imperatives of the era.”

Powerful and ambitious words are what we should expect from our leaders; however, several recognized that they will ring hollow if not converted into action.

E. Neville Isdell, CEO of Coca-Cola and co-chair of the Forum, warned that the outside world sometimes viewed Davos as “the epicenter of ego” — and that the calling was now for all participants to make it, instead, “the epicenter of commitment.” James J. Schiro, CEO of Zurich Financial Services and another co-chair of the Forum, followed with a call to action. “I’ve been coming here for 15 years, and what’s evident is the rise of a focus on leadership and change.” Consequently, “I would ask everybody, when you return home, to exercise your leadership.”

Leadership is about making possible what was once perceived impossible. Transcendent leadership presents a vision of optimism, hope and a better world for all.  Does transcendent leadership represent what would be Collins’ Level 6? 

Only time will tell whether or not these world leaders who meet in Davos can set aside their provincial mindsets and make a collective difference in solving some of the world’s most difficult challenges.

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Wall Street Journal – Why Exec’s Warming to Climate Legislation

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Alan Murray writes about the recent changed corporate attitudes about global warming. (Why Key Executives Are Warming to Legislation on Climate Change. Unfortunately, you need to be an online subscriber to read his column; however, you get into the conversation at www.wsj.com/talkingbusiness.) 

Part of the answer is that corporate leaders are starting to perceive good business reasons to become “green” or more socially responsible. I wrote about this last month.

The February 2007 edition of the Harvard Business Review has an interesting article by University of Michigan business school professor C.K. Prahalad and Toronto-based consultant Jeb Brugmann entitled “Cocreating Business’s New Social Compact” on the related topic of the convergence between the corporate sector and civil society. (You can access the article for free after watching a brief ad on the HBR website.) This article follows on the heels of the December 2006 HBR article by HBS Professor Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer, managing director of FSG Social Impact Advisers entitled “Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility.”

More great media coverage for CSR.

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Corporate Social Responsibility in Business Media

BusinessWeek January 29, 2007

BusinessWeek magazine’s January 29, 2006 cover story is entitled “Imagine a world” and addresses the recent trend in businesses focusing on the “triple bottom line” by integrating social responsibility into their strategy and plans. BusinessWeek also produces a podcast each week that focuses on the current cover article. (Quicktime7 or iTunes required.)

The December 2006 edition of the Harvard Business Review, the HBR Spotlight was entitled “Making a Real Difference” and it also focused on corporate social responsibility. HBS Professor Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer, managing director of FSG Social Impact Advisers, wrote a very interesting article entitled “Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility.”

Additional interesting reading in this HBR issue includes From the Editor, “Corporate Social Responsibility: Getting the Logic Right,” the HBR Spotlight Introduction “Making a Real Difference” and “Disruptive Innovation for Social Change” by Clayton M. Christensen, Heiner Baumann, Ruddy Ruggles and Thomas M. Sadler rounds out this great HBR issue focusing on social changes. Finally, a free HBR Ideacast podcast with an interview with the authors can be also be downloaded. Continue reading Corporate Social Responsibility in Business Media