GOOD

Why I Nominated Erika Karp for the GOOD 100

Erika told me she was out to transform the all-powerful capital markets so that they would correctly value sustainability, thereby reorienting capitalism to a higher purpose. Whoa.

Illustration by Lauren Tamaki

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How Businesses Can Do Their Part After a Natural Disaster

As corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes more integral to business strategy and less of an "add-on," companies are realizing they need to be more than just fair weather friends to their consumers, stakeholders, and society at large.

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As corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes more integral to business strategy and less of an “add-on,” companies are realizing they need to be more than just fair weather friends to their consumers, stakeholders, and society at large.
The recent swell of disasters—including Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma tornadoes—has led a number of companies to take action to help with relief efforts. For example: Verizon committed $100,000 in grants to disaster relief in the Oklahoma City area; the Office Depot Foundation provided cash donations to Oklahoma residents via local nonprofit organizations such as Feed the Children, as well as school supplies through its National Backpack Program; and Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) provided safe drinking water to Oklahoma residents through partnerships with the Red Cross and AmeriCares.
At the same time, consumers are examining and commenting upon what companies are doing. In fact, new research shows that consumers are closely watching corporate social responsibility practices as part of their purchasing decisions.
Social media is the epicenter of where this corporate social responsibility conversation is happening and where companies should be engaging with their consumers. The new study says more than half (62 percent) of consumers use social media to address or engage with companies around their corporate social responsibility efforts. These conscious consumers are either praising the positive action of businesses (34 percent) or sharing negative information (26 percent), and rightly so.
With social media channels functioning 24/7, people have more avenues than ever before to engage businesses about their efforts. In response, companies have an opportunity to explain how their actions are generating positive social and environmental impact and good business return.
But that opportunity goes beyond just jumping in to help after a natural disaster or tragic event. It exists for companies on a wide array of environmental and social issues. In Nestlé Waters North America’s case, for example, we have been heavily focused on trying to make recycling programs more effective, since we want to get plastic back for reuse.
Consumers certainly have a right to review how any business is impacting society and the environment. In that spirit, I invite you to join NWNA for a Twitter chat about our 2012 Creating Shared Value Report on Tuesday, June 18 from 1-2:15 p.m. Eastern Time, using the hashtag #SharedValue.
My colleague, Heidi Paul, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs at NWNA, will participate in the question and answer session to discuss specific areas of business activity where value can be created for both society and shareholders.
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Hollender Speaks (Part 3): On What's Next for Jeffrey Hollender Jeffrey Hollender, Fired from Seventh Generation, Has Plans to Fix The World

Jeffrey Hollender always thinks big. So what does the pioneering founder of Seventh Generation have planned now that his company cut him loose?



Jeffrey Hollender used the company he founded as a pulpit to call for radical change across business and public policy. Now that he’s been let go from Seventh Generation in a shocking move outlined in part one of this post, the outspoken founder who suggested his title should be Chief of Un-Fucking Up the World is going to try to live up to that billing by trying to build a movement of co-ops to change the way business is done.

“This is an uncomfortable experience that forces me to question things that I didn’t have to question,” he says referring to his firing last year. This situation has moved Hollender to ask himself: “How do you design the next stage of your life to exponentially increase the positive impact you can have beyond what you’ve done at Seventh Generation? And that’s a bit of a daunting question.”

Hollender has been taking this time off to formulate a plan. “I’m reading stuff I never read. I’m going places and meeting people I never would have,” like the American Economics Association meeting two weeks ago, he says. He went because he wanted to see how different kinds of economists would interact, Marxist economists and feminist economist and Chicago school economists for instance. It turns out they don’t interact, so it wasn’t as fascinating as he’d hoped.

So what has he come up with for the next venture? In the short term, he wants to write more. “I’ve gone for a long time without writing. I am re-launching my own website,” he says.

“I’ll be writing three or four times a week,” he says. “I miss that opportunity to reflect and organize my thinking about what’s happening. And I must say I never thought I would enjoy tweeting. I’ve learned that you can actually pass on some pretty interesting and valuable information” in 140 characters.

Also in the short term, he has several books out, The Responsibility Revolution is still on shelves and a new green living guide, Planet Home has him excited. He says it is the first green guide to take a systems-thinking approach. “This is what happens every day: You go to Whole Foods, you buy organic chicken if you can afford it, and you cut it up on a surface that you sprayed a disinfectant on to clean, and you just actually reapplied more pesticides than if you went and bought a regular chicken.” He wants us to think wider than that kind of behavior. “The truth is, sure, buy the organic chicken, but make sure you are paying attention to the rules that are governing what is organic. There is a political part, there is a social part, to being green and living a healthy and well lifestyle.” And yes, there's a health part too, and Seventh Generation cleaning products for the cutting board instead of the chemical disinfectant wouldn't hurt either. The colorful coffee table book covers all that and everything else from light bulbs to banking.

This holistic view, this call for a wider consciousness, is echoed in his plans for after the book tour which starts this month—a big part of why he’s finally speaking out publicly about his firing now is that he will most certainly be asked about it while promoting his Planet Home.

As for long-term plans, “if anything I must say it’s still early. It’s early in me moving beyond Seventh Generation and it’s early in me developing this new picture of what I want to do.” He seems confident it won’t be a charity. “I might start another business because … I am not sure I want to fund something I do through donations. I actually see that business can be an engine to create profits to finance" my plans. He adds, “I’m unlikely to sell toilet paper and laundry detergent.”

Hollender is more clear on the problem he wants to tackle than he is on the method, and he’s well aware he’s picked a mammoth of an issue that isn’t likely to be solved with a single start-up. “We live in a world that is incredibly compartmentalized, where there are 2 million NGOs who have divided up the landscape of what’s wrong with the world, carved up their little piece and are effectively competing with all the other NGOs for resources and money… I believe that what we need is a new framework and a new context for how to deal with the problems the world is facing because what we are doing isn’t working.”

He wants to build that framework. He cites a few examples in the direction of what he’s thinking about including the Mondragon Corporation in the Basque region of Spain where thousands of worker owned cooperatives all source and supply each other, creating a network of over 80,000 owner-employees working with equitable production methods. Their slogan is “humanity at work.” “It is an amazing paradigm for where business needs to go,” says Hollender.

Closer to home Hollender is also inspired by the Evergreen Project supported by the Cleveland Foundation. It's another system of employee-owned cooperative businesses combining together in a local economy to do business differently. “We need to create these models of what it will look like, of where we are going, and prove the success in a way that is beyond Seventh Generation. Seventh Generation was out on the leading edge, but to me this is a much more significant step.”

So how exactly will the magnate of recycled toilet paper muster together a new way of doing business? “I’ll give you a metaphor, because I don’t know the answer. I don’t have a business plan yet,” he says.

“Think of an orchestra, where you have to assemble lots and lots of people with different capabilities. And the challenge is to get them to all play the same song and work together in a way they don’t usually work together. My sense is that I may be one of the conductors. So I am looking for those people who can be leading members of the orchestra."

“So at the moment I am developing the business plan. I am looking for those partners. And trying to find out what the business model will be because it needs to have a self-sustaining business model,” Hollender says.

We will be watching for this to take shape and wish Hollender good luck in tackling such a huge undertaking. If he proves as prescient on business ownership models as he was on cleaner cleaning products, this will be a sector to watch closely.

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BOOK: Five Strategies for Social Innovation by Jason Saul

Five strategies to help companies switch from traditional do-good strategies like philanthropy to creating real profit while solving social problems.

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