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40 Forest Facts…. Plant a Tree

If every American family planted just one tree, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually.

This is almost 5% of the amount that human activity pumps into the atmosphere each year…

There is so much good coming from the forests, its time we protect them for that animals and ourselves! Here are 40 facts why….

Forest 1

 

 

 

 

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El Popo Knows….

 The other day I read about the debate whether or not we had entered the Anthropocene epoch, or, that moment in geological time everything became about us, homo sapiens.

It was an article in the The Toronto Star and it made me think: hey! we weren’t the center of attention for much of Mother Earth’s time here on, well…. herself…..

But I digress.

First things first. It seems the Anthropocene isn’t even an official epoch yet, Read more

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Sustainability Leadership and a $70k Minimum Wage

Dan Price. Remember the name.

Dan is the CEO of Gravity Payments who recently decided every one of his 120 employees should get paid $70k a year.

Is a $70k minimum wage a dream?

Perhaps, but one that raises two intriguing questions: is such a minimum wage possible and, more than this, is it desirable?

Possible?

In the broadest of strokes, the answer is yes… for the USA at any rate.

Taking the 2013 US GDP of $17 trillion, subtracting 12% for corporate profits and $500 billion for taxes there is enough money to pay each of the 120 million full-time workers in the USA $70,000 and $35,000 to each of its 30 million part-time workers, and still have $113 billion in the pot!

If it works at the macro level, how about the micro?

Let’s take Walmart for example (of course!). Stephen Gandel of Fortune recently estimated Read more

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Smart Phones, Poverty and a Sustainable Future

Smart phone makers and broadband suppliers are going to love this article. All other companies, well, this article is about leveling the playing field for more and better sustainability. Please read on.

Every household on this planet should have a premium smartphone.

Every household on this planet should have free access to broadband Internet.

Each and every company on this planet should, by law, be required to have a third-party verified GRI report and mandatory sustainability labels.

(I also believe ardently in the power of brand, so much so that I believe all advertising should be banned. More on this at a future date.)

Why? The free market economy needs both freedom of speech and access to credible sustainability information if it is to overcome structurally inherent sustainability challenges. Read more

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Civic Spirit, Stuart Gulliver and HSBC

This morning international news was all a flutter about Stuart Gulliver, chief executive of HSBC, who sheltered millions of pounds in a Swiss bank account, the funds to which came ostensibly via a registered company in Panama.

That a corporate executive of his stature has a Swiss account is on its own of little account. That he has money slushing about between different banks in different countries is also not uncommon. It would indeed be more surprising if he hadn’t such accounts – except for the fact HSBC has been the center of a “we provide our clients “dodgy” tax shelters and sometimes money-laundering” services controversy for some time now.

“Income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf.” — Will Rogers, humorist

Has Gulliver been purposely avoiding taxes? Of course he has. No bank executive these days doesn’t. But there are lines of acceptable in tax avoidance — from the murky grey just-bad-form but still-okay, to the you’ve-stepped-over-into-dark shadows often illegal ones.

Did Gulliver stray into the shadows? Legally, probably not. Did he cross from good to poor citizenship? Undoubtedly.

Paying taxes is after all a measure of good citizenship. Good citizens pay them where some might say bad citizens set up foreign companies to funnel income through to unidentifiable Swiss bank accounts, and/or all sorts of other financial gyrations to avoid them.

“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice

I am not saying Mr. Gulliver is a bad citizen. Not at all. But many find it ludicrous why already very well off people typically work so hard to avoid paying taxes. If you are rich you get this; if you’re not, the of culture wealth is often just too far beyond us to understand.

But if you care about sustainability and/or you have lived or worked in a country where tax avoidance is common, you will notice life is hard for many, many more than it is easy.  That is to say, good tax systems seem to correlate with decent general welfare.

Most studies on tax avoidance and the common good, unfortunately, are ambiguous at best. Yet one can’t help but eyeball a tax-human welfare correlation in Norway, Sweden, Canada and the like, where more people are doing o.k. than naught and tax avoidance gymnastic are generally frowned upon.

Sidebar to think about – Is it outlandish to hypothesize an association between growing tax avoidance, concentration of wealth, and deteriorating national infrastructure even in well-off countries?

We can’t blame Gulliver for the practice of tax avoidance, income disparity, or the state of our bridges, roads, educational systems etc. But we can question his civic spirit as business leader. Given recent revelations/allegations of HSBC’s conduct we might also want to question his bank’s commitment to anything on the sustainability front as well.

“Where there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.” — Plato

Gulliver? He didn’t do anything outrageous or uncommon for someone in his position. Mucky yes, illegal no. Even so, if enough people – particularly influential people –condone tax avoidance through words or action, well, bad things are going to happen to civilization, that much is clear.

Let’s not kid ourselves, Mr. Gulliver is a poor example on many fronts. He let his employees, clients (including me), company and country down.

Perhaps HSBC should show a little civic spirit of their own (not to mention protect their brand) and let him go, free to wander over the lines of his own choosing without them.

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Corporate Conservative Sustainability, Foxenomics, H&M, & Vested Interest Malarkey

I was a more than a bit shocked last week when H&M’s CEO warned of a social and economic catastrophe if we stopped buying the 20% of things we buy but don’t need.

In my politely Canadians way I said in a post that this was a having-the-cake and wanting to-eat-it too variety of argument.

Unfortunately there is both truth and misconception in the catastrophic perspective.

It is true that immediate reduction of unnecessary consumption would lead to loads of “dislocation.” Not the least of which in developing countries, a subject I will treat in a later post.

It is misconceived however because capitalism is a net sum game. Humans will always produce about the same amount of wealth within the bounds of our more or less free capitalist system.

What we choose to produce and consume, what we choose to value… well that is a whole different matter. And right now we have a highly wasteful, material economy, we value things. What we need is a less stuff, more experience based Dont buyeconomy. That’s a cultural change not economic one, and a change certainly not lead by the hoped for technical fix we are implicitly relying on.

We’ve known this for years. This is not news.

Sadly in this statement we also hear strains of our friendly Foxonomic Ecopundits whose fear-first message tells us “fixing” the climate will have devastating economic costs.

This is nonsense on two counts. First, because just as we value diamonds jewelry (whose functional value outside making someone happy is almost nil), we will soon start valuing a stable climate. Paying for a sustainable global habitat, I dare say, will not be seen through the lens of cost but of value.

Second, we all know most Foxonomics for what it is: vested interest malarkey.

What both Fox and the CEO of H&M (albeit wrapped in softer language and genuine sustainability efforts of H&M) warn us of is that vested interests are at risk. To get this point we need only look at the explosive growth of alternative energy and how it will soon tear the established energy order asunder (especially coal/centralized utilities)

For any one company or vested interest to cry “Catastrophe Ho” in support of continued materialism is like saying the flotilla is sinking but save my boat ‘cause it has fewer leaks.

Besides consider the catastrophe if we don’t move from an economy of stuff to one of experience.

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Conservative Sustainability Disruptions… nowhere fast?

C&M’s CEO Karl-Johan Persson was recently quoted in the Guardian saying “If we were to decrease 10% to 20% of everything we don’t need, the result on the social and economic side would be catastrophic.”

Karl is right. The implications of not wanting stuff we don’t need are, quite incredibly, incredible.

How insane is that?

Disruptively insane but maybe not in the way Mr. Persson might want.

A good disruption implies innovation or change that does away with the old way of doing things. The best disruptions change not only the players on the field, but the field itself. A clean slate.

From this perspective, most efforts to make our economy sustainable are far from disruptive. Rather, they are premised on the idea we can “tech” our way to “sustainable” without fundamentally altering our unsustainable lifestyles.

We are only fooling ourselves believing “endless want” could ever be sustainable.

The opposite, however, can be liberating.

Imagine the feeling: 20% less stuff in your house; 20% less gas to buy; 20% less work; 20% less preoccupation; 20% more time to smell the roses, spend with your kids, read books…..

The correlation may not be that direct but we are talking about the 20% we don’t actually need! Personally and economically disruptive? No doubt: but more so for some than others.

That is crucible. Disruptions are always not good for everyone. Someone – usually with a vested interest in way thing are – tends to lose more than others.

Because H&M sustainability efforts are far better than most what comes next I say with the greatest respect: H&M’s fast fashion business model is antithetical to sustainability. Implicitly or explicitly, it underwrites values of waste, haste, inequality, inexplicably complex supply chains etc.…..the very stuff of the impossible-to-tech-our-way to sustainability pathway.

We do not need throw away fashion, no matter how closed-loop the cycle, no matter how caring the supply chain. Perhaps even less desirable is the endorphin inducing shopping culture it engenders.

To say we should continue to want things we don’t need is incredible (!) and invites a catastrophe far greater than naught. Suggesting this in the context of sustainability is like saying driving fast towards a cliff is dangerous so let’s learn to drive fast more safely.

A post coming soon will look at why not buying things we don’t need wouldn’t be as catastrophic as we might think…

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Stakeholder Muscle in the Sustainable Century™ ….

Market places were once more than just places of commerce, they were also important gathering places, social events, where news was delivered, politics organized, betrothal commitments made, and legal proceeding conducted…. social currency in fact figured almost as great as financial.

Markets today may seem more impersonal, even ethereal, but doing business now is no less a social engagement than it ever was. How business is conducted, and how goods and services are produced and exchanged deeply affects the way in which we spend much of our time on this planet. It affects how our resources are used, how our communities are organized and thrive – or not, how we related to neighbors, communities, countries, family members and much more. Doing business remains an innately complex human affair and we are all stakeholders in a massively interconnected web of economic and social relationships, impacts, and outcomes.

Super charged by the power of social media, sustainability minded stakeholders are increasingly flexing their muscles to let companies know exactly what they expect. Advocacy groups in particular have harnessed the internet to let their opinions be known and to flex their influence.

But its more than just opposition to what is not right sustainably. Companies that are brave and smart enough are now learning from stakeholders. They are learning to accept even proactively seek out critique and, ironically, support from stakeholders, even some that were once considered the “enemy.”

And stakeholders have more than just opinions to offer, in their diversity and differences of perspective they can help companies create shared stakeholder value in ways that advance both stakeholder and company needs. Stakeholder involvement in companies is quite simply about the future of business in a sustainable world.

Sustainable Century
 
This is the theme of Chapter Two of The Sustainable Century by Design or Disaster my soon to be published book (355 pages approx).  For more information write me at mdess@esglobal.com
 
 
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Market Signals = The Lifeblood of Sustainable Capitalism

Sustainable CenturyThe Sustainable Century by Design or Disaster (my upcoming book) is guided by seven themes (see box). Below is an overview of Chapter One where the theme of market signals is explored as critical to creating a sustainable global economy.

In a world crowded to excess with hopelessly uncreative, ineffective and wasteful conventional marketing efforts, it may seem hard to believe that sustainability values, obscured as they may be, are growing in strength and having increasing influence on the supply of the goods and services we want and need.

Still not nearly strong enough to push the market over a “sustainability tipping point” or the moment when sustainability drives the majority of demand impulses and supply reactions, sustainability signals are notable and rising in volume.SCDD 7 thoughts

Growth of fair trade markets, organic foods, non-GMO food production, the sharing economy, and most important of all, sales of products with some inherent “sustainability value” in conventional retail outlets are growing at rates much faster than “traditional” products/markets.

It will take some time to block out the great static of superficial unsustainable demand and replace it with deeper universal sustainability values, but all the signs point to great change in store.

Chapter One of The Sustainable Century by Design or Disaster explores the nature, strength and challenges behind making louder more forceful sustainability values market signals.

Excerpted from upcoming book by Marc de Sousa Shields, Managing Partner ES Global, The Sustainable Century by Design or Disaster…. For more information write info@esglobal.com
 
 
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On Low Oil, Fulcrums and a Sustainability Tipping Point Moment – All Hell Shall Stir for this!

Malcom Gladwell gave the world the tipping point. In it he argued a few people with the right idea at the right time can affect great social change.

Many now believe we are nearing a tipping point for a dramatic climate change fix.

I agree but not because enough folks are on board but because the fulcrum point of change has shifted.

Let me explain.

Think of a society, or any given issue as a plank resting on a fulcrum or point of support. As social, economic, and political contexts change, the fulcrum shifts to favor one world view or another… see- sawing back and forth if you will.

With each shift, the amount energy required to affect major change one way gets harder or easier. Tilting one end of the see-saw right to the ground is equally difficult until the fulcrum point is met, until SWISH, somehow your butt is on the ground.

Large or small, in combination or isolation, suddenly or evolutionarily, contextual variables work to move the fulcrum along under the plank. Sustainability fulcrum moving events are many. They include Rana Plaza, Exxon Valdez, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the rise of social investment, among many others.

The fulcrum has been shifting slowly in favor global Climate Change action for some time. Low Oil is a fulcrum moving event. In fact, it may be THE variable needed to shift the fulcrum over to a Gladwellian tipping point.

The sudden and precipitous drop in oil price has put the oil patch/energy sector in a house of havoc. Images of BP’s Gulf Coast oil spill are still fresh in our minds. The oil divestment movement has noisily served notice with some pretty strong voices. A growing number of conservative politicians are publicly admitting climate change is real. New Energy is a sleek alternative, with new technologies gaining ground daily on Old Energy.

Will Low Oil cause the Climate Change Wall to tumble down?

Hard to say. But one thing is sure: Old Energy is weak and the energy required dramatically shift climate change fulcrum is the lowest it has ever been.

The Low Oil window is likely open only for a short time, a strategic moment for climate change to be sure.

We need to strike now with a global carbon tax (or equivalent).

There is occasions and causes why and wherefore in all things.

All hell shall stir for this.

Henry V

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