Posts Tagged ‘environmentally responsible’

Not Just a “Pick-Up” Line

posted by Andrew Cuneo

I think many of us who listen to the evening news broadcasts expect to hear a lot of the same thing: Fighting here, budget cuts there, unemployment is “XX” high. But every so often, you come across a story that makes you feel good about where the human race is going. And this happened to me Wednesday evening. As my daughter and I sat on the couch watching NBC Nightly News, a story at the end of the telecast came on that both made us stop and listen.

A young group of individuals called “Pick up America” is driving across the country picking up roadside trash. Traveling in an old school bus running on recycled vegetable oil, the youth group started in March 2010 in Maryland and have since traveled 2/3rds of the way across our nation picking up close to 140,000 lbs of litter left by careless motorists. They get local volunteers involved, bring a sense of accomplishment to those who participate and leave lessons for future generations to live by. Why do it? Member Jeff Chen says: “We’re young people and need to take a hold of our future.”

It’s time we all shared the enthusiasm these “pick up artists” are exhibiting. Though too young to understand, my daughter watched. It’s a lesson I hope she (and for that matter we) learn – from activities in everyday life to what you do in the office.

What do you do to help the environment?

Do plantations cause violence and death?

posted by Tara Knight

It’s a powerful question. Certainly, the last type of question I expected to see leading me into a corporate global sustainability microsite. Amazingly, it wasn’t my first surprise during my visit to the Stora Enso Global Responsibility site.

Stora Enso’s CSR microsite is ambitious. An integrated paper, packaging and wood products company based in Helsinki, Finland, Stora Enso is one of the world’s largest pulp and paper manufacturers, with operations in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Stora Enso and Hill & Knowlton’s Helsinki office built this global sustainability site to communicate Stora Enso’s commitment to sustainability. I was introduced to the site by a colleague, Jari Lähdevuori, who is part of the H&K project team that developed the microsite.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a tour, allow me to offer you a brief overview of the site. In addition to questions like “Do plantations cause violence and death?,” the site also asks visitors “How much does the forest industry accelerate climate change?” and “Does recycling paper really do any good?” Each of these questions are answered by different employees of the Stora Enso company and its stakeholder groups (including customers, forest owners and activists).

I was seriously impressed when I toured the site and found a one-on-one interview between Sini Harkki,  Greenpeace’s Nordic forest campaigner and Stora Enso CEO Jouko Karvinen where they speak quite frankly about the challenges and efforts of Stora Enso’s forestry policies. The site also includes experiential elements such as “How to build a plantation” , a module on “Lessons Learned”, and a “Test Yourself” knowledge section narrated by Carrot Mob Finland.

I asked my colleague on the project team, Jari Lähdevuori, to tell me a bit more about how this project came about:

Tara: What was the reason for the site?

Jari says: Stora Enso felt the communications about their commitment to sustainability were lost in the wash of messages from mainstream media and Non-Governmental Organizations, which seemed to have much greater reach and impact. Stora Enso did not feel their own sustainability messages were reaching the general public on a global scale.

Stora Enso wanted to communicate their sustainability policies and practices directly to the public, and bring more attention to these topics. To do that effectively, our team felt we needed compelling and entertaining content – hence, the global responsibility site.”

Tara: It’s no surprise that the site has been successful. What has the feedback been?

Jari says: “The internal feedback from Stora Enso has been very good – the site is seen as a very fresh way of communicating sustainability in a credible manner. People who have seen the site are very impressed. In fact, Stora Enso’s Head of Communications Lauri Peltola was asked if it can be used as a CSR case study at the G20 summit. It has been an exceptionally powerful way of communicating – and demonstrating – how they do business.”

Stora Enso’s Global Responsibility microsite is clearly a great example of companies really ‘walking the talk” and using the power of new media technologies to approach CSR communications with transparency and credibility by making corporate CSR practices accessible for the average person.

Far Beyond Sustainability

posted by Chad Tragakis

By Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President, Washington, D.C. Office

It’s great that the word sustainability is in such common usage today. It suggests that people, organizations and institutions have accepted that environmental responsibility matters, and that we all play a role in achieving and ensuring it.

Still, I know plenty of people (both within the broader community of CSR thinkers and doers as well as outside of it) who find the word problematic. Few would argue that the term is overused, and much has been raised and written about the limitations of sustainability as both a word and a concept. Despite these limitations and challenges, though, usage of the term persists.

There is great diversity even among the most often quoted and widely used definitions of sustainability, among them, those developed, adopted or advanced by the United Nations, the World Business Council for Sustainable DevelopmentBusiness for Social Responsibility, and the World Resources Institute. Looking at these and at other definitions of sustainability collectively, a common theme emerges. There is a strong focus on maintaining, preserving, and ensuring the continued viability of a process, product, resource, system or state. Many would argue that, in terms of the environment and natural resource management, achieving this level of performance by business would be incredible. It would certainly be a good start.

The notion of becoming truly sustainable and having no impact on the environment is becoming an increasingly popular mantra for business. It could even be considered de rigueur for today’s CSR reports and global citizenship communications. But what if a company were able and willing to go beyond simply sustaining, beyond having a neutral or zero impact? What if, instead of just maintaining the status quo, they could have a net positive impact? What if business could actually restore the damaged and broken elements of our environment?

Household and personal care products company Seventh Generation prominently lists “restore our environment” among its global imperatives. And in its code of basic working conditions, Ford states that it seeks to become “an environmentally restorative and truly sustainable company in the long term.” I love the fact that both Seventh Generation and Ford use the notion of restoring. They are among the only companies I have seen who are using that term.

Many companies are in strong positions to add to and enhance the world around us – to rebuild, refresh, replenish, and repair. This is the thrust of Ray Anderson’s concept of the Restorative Enterprise. Anderson is the founder and chairman of Interface, an Atlanta, Georgia-based carpet and flooring company. As their Web site explains:

Interface committed to become the first name in industrial ecology worldwide. Ray set before his global team the challenge to convert Interface to a restorative enterprise. As a first step, this means reaching sustainability in our own business practices. To become truly restorative, however, will require Interface to ultimately return more than it takes. We will meet that higher goal by helping other organizations achieve sustainability.

The key line to me is “return more than it takes.” Anderson and Interface recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of the launch of Mission Zero, a promise to eliminate any negative impact the company has on the environment by 2020, and the first part of their commitment to becoming truly restorative. Since that time, the company hasreduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30%, reduced total energy intensity by 45%, powered seven of Interface’s facilities with 100% renewable electricity, reduced water consumption in modular carpet facilities by 74%, and diverted over 100 million pounds of materials from landfills.

I am firmly in the camp that subscribes to Anderson’s ideology. But the best part is that regardless of your opinions or beliefs about environmental responsibility, you can’t argue with Interface’s cold hard business numbers. Since launching Mission Zero, Interface has enjoyed a 60% increase in sales and a doubling of its profits. By eliminating waste, the company has also avoided more than $400 million in expense, more than enough to cover the costs of all of the other parts of the initiative. And product quality, overall efficiency, and employee morale have all increased.

I continue to be fascinated and encouraged by the Interface story, and by the charismatic and pioneering Anderson. Interface is the first and arguably only real poster child for the notion of the restorative company. I hope this won’t be the case for too long.

On outdoor hikes and fishing trips when I was young, I remember my father instilling in me an ethic that has been popular with outdoors enthusiasts since time immemorial – that is to leave the natural places we visit better than we found them. Clearly, this was instilled in Ray Anderson somewhere along the way. And if he has his way, he will instill this approach in an entire generation of business leaders, so that other companies can follow down the restorative trail that Interface is so successfully blazing.