Tag Archives: Sustainable Development

Radical Industrialist and Sustainability Leader: Ray Anderson

Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface, Inc. a recognized leader in sustainable business, and a friend died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 77.

Ray was one of the most vocal proponents of environmentalism’s role in business. He founded Interface, a producer of free-lay carpet tiles, in 1973, and it grew to be a $1 billion company and the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet. Continue reading

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What is Urban Mining?

What is Urban Mining?I’ve had my share of name calling working in the environmental field over the years. They’ve ranged from “Nut” to “Professor”. Concepts that I’ve proposed have been met with resistance and laughter. One of my favorites was when I was describing the process of thermo-chemical technology, which helps convert waste materials into biofuels such as ethanol. Its technology is able to process diverse carbon-based feedstocks, including sorted municipal solid waste. I was quickly told that Buck Rogers didn’t work here and that feedstocks were what we feed the cows back home. But, guess what? A little over a year later a leading waste company announced a strategic investment in a company with a proprietary thermo-chemical technology!

I’ll admit that I smiled when I read that press release.

For me this was another example in a long line of experiences that demonstrated how individuals react to new concepts that challenge the status quo. They can ignore the issue, change the subject, use denial or just laugh.

Urban Mining, for me, is another example of a concept that challenges the status quo. Continue reading

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Social Media and Sustainability

I had an interesting call yesterday. I was asked if I thought Social Media had a role to play within the sustainability activities of the caller’s organization. Like any good listener I replied, “Why do you ask?”

He told me that his competitors have been using more and more social media activities and he was concerned that he might be missing something.

I asked him if his company was currently using any social media platforms. He said they were on Facebook and Twitter. I asked how they were using them. He said that they posted coupons, tried to track customer complaints and posted recent company press releases.

I didn’t see a pretty picture developing here, so I thought before I told him to jump on the bandwagon and throw open the barn doors we should go back to the beginning and start by looking at his question from a sustainability perspective instead of purely a social media one. Continue reading

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Facility Management the Unsung Heroes of Sustainability

Not to long ago I was in a meeting to discuss sustainability initiatives. I looked around the table and saw representatives from marketing, environmental, legal, and corporate social responsibility. What I didn’t see was anyone from the Facilities Management group or the Architectural Design and Build group. The meeting began and we talked about all of the buzz topics; green media, social programs for young people, energy usage and of course, carbon footprint. Every time I hear the discussion of carbon footprint and someone gives a statistic about how many cars that equals that we have taken off the road I’m reminded of Joel Makeower’s comment ” I sometimes wonder whether adding up all the cars-taken-off-the road marketing claims would yield a number that exceeds the actual number of cars on the road.” Strategies For The Green Economy

I participated in the meeting and didn’t say anything about the missing potential team members, until the end of the meeting. That’s when they asked me if I had any other thoughts or questions I’d like to add…You know I did. Continue reading

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Sustainability as a Profession

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with a group of college students regarding sustainability. They had a list of questions that were centered around career opportunities. Such as, what kind of jobs are available, what kind of education and experience are required and will sustainability persist or will it fade away?

It occurred to me during the conversation that these were the same questions I have been asked by companies and organizations. I told the students that many of the companies they were looking to go to work with were asking the same type of questions.

I gave an example of a company that recently directed two recruiters to me. They had told the recruiters to ask me what type of person would be needed to fill the positions and to see if I knew of any viable candidates.

I thought this was a little strange. They didn’t ask me if I was interested in the positions, but they wanted me to help them understand the requirements and find people. Wasn’t I good enough to work for the company in one of the roles? But my favorite call so far has been the one where the recruiter called and told me that she had been hired to fill a Sr. Sustainability Director position. She wanted to know if I could tell her what that was. Continue reading

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Externalities and Sustainability

If you haven’t gotten your April issue of the Harvard Business Review, then go to your local news stand or book store and pick it up! Christopher Meyer and Julia Kirby have done an excellent job of presenting an article on corporate responsibility that is based on business strategy that even the toughest business leader can appreciate.

The title of their article is “Leadership in the Age of Transparency“, not one mention of sustainability, corporate social responsibility, philanthropy or green. They cut straight to the point, “Leadership”, the place where organizations want their brand! How many times have you sat through a corporate meeting and heard “We will position ourselves as the leader withing our industry.” Continue reading

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The End of Sustainability? Part II

Thank you for all of the comments and emails. It seems that my last post, The End of Sustainability, contained something that many of you could relate with and have experienced in your careers. A good many of you wanted to know more. I was asked, “You only listed a few examples, could you give more examples of areas where I can look within my company?”

So, in this post we’ll go over a few and point you to other resources that you can use to help you spread sustainability throughout your organization.

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The End of Sustainability?

I was asked recently if this sustainability movement was over. I have to admit I was puzzled by the question. I asked my friend what he meant? He said, “You know, the leaked climate change emails, the Copenhagen meltdown,the head of the U.N. Climate Chief resigned, and BP, Caterpillar and ConocoPhillips not renewing their memberships in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. With all this bad news doesn’t that make you think that this sustainability thing has ran its course?”

That’s when it hit me. He thinks sustainability is only about climate change!

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Micro vs Macro Sustainability

Remember the expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”? That expression came to mind this past week during a discussion on sustainability.

I was having lunch with a colleague and she was saying that the Triple Bottom line should be described as “Profit, People and Planet”. I mentioned that it was most commonly referred to as “People, Planet and Profits”.

She said that we were saying the same thing, that it was just semantics and moved on to another topic. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I didn’t think we were really discussing semantics. Continue reading

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What is Biomimicry?

I was in a meeting recently and one of the designers in the room said “I think we should use the newest approach to design, biomimicry.” I almost fell out of my chair. “Newest approach?” This approach isn’t new. Da Vinci studied birds in flight to better understand how man could fly.

I didn’t say anything, and trust me, that took great restraint.  I caught myself and realized that with all of the recent “green” and “sustainability” buzz going around some people were just now getting exposed to this and other sustainable development concepts.

Which brings us to today’s blog, “What is Biomimicry?”.

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