CSR Blogs

The Rich Palette of Nonprofits

Sustainability Activist, Influencer or Observer? What are you?

What kind of Sustainability person are you? The question I wanted to pose to you today is whether you believe you are an Activist, Influencer or Observer when you are looking to promote Sustainability? ( I am assuming that you care about our planet, responsible business practice i.e. Sustainability because you are reading this).

I feel that this differentiation is very important in the context of Sustainability and making a difference in this world to change it for the better. Each of these three categories imply positives and negatives in my opinion and I have outlined what I mean with each of these categories below:

Activists are people that are especially active, vigorous advocates of a sustainability cause. They do what they say in a way that is not always acceptable for the general public.  They shock or break the laws in order to get attention for the cause they are support. This can be positive or negative depending of the persons viewpoint. Activism is very controversial and highly sensible. Do not get me wrong. We need activists but they have a certain extremism which many people can not relate to easily. Examples obviously include the Green NGO’s such as Greenpeace, etc in this world.


Sustaining Relevance

The juxtaposition of several events last week had me dwelling on that most current of challenges - how to define what "sustainability" means to people in a corporate enterprise. 

If you've ever attended a talk, panel session, or conference on the subject of "sustainability", you know that sometime within the first hour, someone will provide a definition of the word.  They'll usually start with the famous Brundtland definition "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs".  People who haven't


6 myths about microfinance charity that donors can do without

Is microfinance a good bet for a donor? We feel the answer is complicated, and that the many extreme exaggerations of microfinance’s impact get in the way of making an informed decision.

This post summarizes the differences between the stories you’ve probably heard and the reality according to available evidence.

Myth #1: the way microfinance charities help is by giving people loans to expand businesses. Success stories like


How to Build A Better Nonprofit Board: It's About the Board Chair

Buying Carbon Credits

Picture a greenhouse on a sunny day.  The sun’s rays pass through the panes of glass in the ceiling, flooding the greenhouse with light.  Those same panes of glass act as insulation, trapping the heated air within the greenhouse’s walls.  On a summer’s day, a greenhouse can quickly become hot, humid, and uncomfortable.

Emissions from cars, planes, and power plants are responsible for a phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect.  Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, and other gases (commonly known as greenhouse gases, or GHG) combine in the atmosphere.  This mixture of gases...

Getting Our Hands Dirty

When I was a freshman in college, I rallied a group of new friends from my dorm to go volunteer one afternoon. It was early in the school year, and I wanted to prove to my hall-mates that community service was a fun, easy, low-impact sort of way to give back and feel good. Minimal commitment, quick pay-off, done-in-a-day – a perfect fit for college students!

The community service day was actually organized by my school, so once each of us signed up we were sent to work on different projects throughout the area. In hindsight, I don’t remember what project I worked on that day. But I...

Motivating or Crushing Team Spirit: What We Can Learn from Nonprofit Boards

How to Market Your Cause to Skeptical Consumers

We all know that the business value of cause marketing is directly proportional to the degree to which stakeholders know about the cause program. However, all too often corporations are leery of broadcasting their cause initiatives because they’re afraid of being seen as inauthentic by skeptical consumers.

Since 2007 Self magazine has been conducting research to explore women’s emotions resulting from the good a consumer perceives she does by purchasing socially responsible products and brands. As reported in Advertising...

Are charities helping? We don’t know

In a recent debate, David Hunter’s article on the nonprofit sector has taken heat for its assertion that “While nonprofits work incredibly hard, with passion and dedication, and


Short Term Profits Equal No Long Term Goals.

Businesses have an equal responsibility to the environment.  In the quest to “take while you can and no thought of the future,” businesses have seen profits and then folded when the heat was on due to illegal acts. (Take your pick or examine the coal mining business.) With multiple sites on the net that promote awareness to the environment and how beautiful it is, plus the benefits of reduce, reuse, recycle – why, oh why are profits still so important?  Are businesses banks?  Nope. They just want a piece of the pie and willing to justify a means to an end.

The other day a question...

Enter the Sustainable Century – Part 3

Strategic communication for business will be critical as President Obama ushers in a new green vision for America and the world.
“We will move forward with investments to transform our energy economy, while providing incentives to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. We will press ahead with deep cuts in emissions to reach the goals that we set for 2020, and eventually 2050. We will continue to promote renewable energy and efficiency, and share new technologies with countries around the world. And we will seize every opportunity for progress to address this threat in a cooperative effort with the entire world."
- From President Barack Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 23, 2009
As mentioned in my previous post, President Obama is ushering in a new green vision for America and the world.  Each company will need to take a close look at its current strategy, and determine where, when and how it makes sense to introduce or expand environmental sustainability programs, partnerships, policies and processes into its operations.  But in terms of strategic communication and stakeholder outreach in support of business goals, there are some clear and deliberate actions that every company, regardless of size or sector, should be actively considering.

New York’s Green Giant

Perhaps you’ve heard. New York’s iconic landmark, The Empire State Building, is undergoing a radical transformation: a $550 million renovation incorporating a comprehensive energy efficiency retrofit. The highly-publicized project is projected to save 38 percent of the building’s energy, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 105,000 metric tons over the next 15 years and lower building costs by $4.4 million annually. That makes the building’s tenants happy, and it’s also good for the City of New York.

A whopping 65 to 70 percent of New York City’s carbon emissions are projected to come from buildings, whereas very few examples of pre-war commercial building energy retrofits exist anywhere in the United States. That means the Empire State Building is literally clearing a path for thousands of other buildings to follow. It happens to be doing so with a visible commitment to the principles behind the sustainability movement – people, planet and profit.

In an effort to build stakeholder advocacy and encourage more commercial buildings to initiate similar energy retrofit initiatives, owner Anthony Malkin of Empire State Building Company has made a remarkable commitment to transparency.  He has decided that the company will share all of the new processes and technology it develops and lessons it learns during the retrofit with the public. “It is my hope that people will be able to take a look at what we did here and be able to replicate the process,” he says.

You’re Sure You Want to Eat That?

A couple of weeks ago, the folks I follow on Twitter (a terrific bunch of CSR and social enterprise experts) were all abuzz about a New York Times article that told the story of a young woman from Minnesota. What was all the fuss?

Well, it turns out that this woman, 22 year-old Stephanie Smith, ate a bad hamburger – made from E.coli-laden beef – and it paralyzed her.

We’ve all heard about...

What you do is not interesting: Say what you love

If you watch NBC’s The Office, you may have wondered, when, amidst all the shenanigans, do the good people at Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch get any work done. In fact, because you rarely ever see them actually do any work, you’ve probably also wondered what they do. No matter: What they do is not interesting. You watch the show for what happens outside of what they do – it tells you who they are, it tells their story. What makes them interesting is, in great part, what they love. (Just fill in the blanks.)

The same goes for your sustainable marketing. Nobody cares about what you do – everybody else is doing it. They want to know what happens outside of what you do. Because what you do for work is what you get paid for, the things you do because you love doing them make you more interesting – they express who you are, they tell your story.

The development or manufacturing of your product? Boring – every company has a production process. What services you provide and how? Boring – every company provides a service. What you helped your customer achieve? Less boring, but still not it – every company helps achieve something. Add a dimension to your narrative: tell them what you do outside your company’s processes or sales.

(You’ve surely heard the advice to sell the benefit not the feature, to sell the sizzle not the steak, to sell the hole not the drill bit. In the conflict-resolution narrative your customer had a problem, which your product helped resolve. That’s not what I’m talking about. After all, how many companies deliver the same benefit as yours?)

When It Comes to Boards, Are For-profits Just Catching Up to Nonprofits?

Once I started training and placing business executives on nonprofit boards sixteen years ago, they began asking me to help their boards to become more effective; moreover, simply "training" them was not sufficient. Neither was board "self-assessment." So, I developed a board assessment and development model and mentored others how to do conduct the process as well. Elements of my approach are described in Leveraging Good Will, and in...

Green Clouds

A couple of weeks back, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced the White House Cloud Computing initiative.  Cloud computing, he said, was the "green computing option". The presentation video concluded with the phrase "lower cost, faster, greener."
Twice in the past few weeks I have been asked, "What is Cloud Computing and why is it green?". I expect - hope - to get this question more often. So let me practice an answer here - and I'd appreciate any suggestions you have to offer.
Basically, Cloud Computing is a model in which IT infrastructure and software are offered as services to users over  the Internet
Simple enough, right? At first glance, it doesn't sound particularly new.  Applications such as Salesforce.com and EMC's own Mozy On-Line Backup have been served up over the Internet for a while now.  And indeed, those applications are part of the gathering cloud. But cloud computing implies much more.
The difference
The cloud itself comprises many services running on a set of pooled, highly configurable hardware and software resources.  In fact, those resources are so dynamically configurable that services can easily get more resources, give some up, or even move to a different set of hardware while still running.
Clouds are be self-provisioning, or "on demand". Like the similarly named cable service, there's no human intervention necessary to order and start receiving your service.
Click here to continue reading.

Realizing Your Worth: MBA Program Trashed on Harvard Business Podcast

What does it take to create an outstanding leader? Apparently, not a Harvard MBA. Based on a study by Henry Mintzberg of 19 Harvard trained CEOs identified as superstars in 1990, ten were outright failures and another four are mediocre at best. Only five of the 19 seemed to be doing all right. This year alone, another 150,000 MBA's step into leadership positions in corporate America. How do MBA's become leaders we can trust?

I couldn’t believe my ears.

“Fundamental weaknesses in graduate management education are a significant cause of the current economic crisis.”

“You don’t become a manager in a classroom, and you certainly don’t become a leader in the classroom.”

“The (business) schools will claim, as many of them do, that you’re being trained not only for business, but government and for the social sector, and that’s just dead wrong.”

I like listening to the Harvard Business Ideacast (podcast). Some of the interviews are a little boring, but more often than not, I get a lot out of them. Henry Mintzberg, the professor of Management Studies at McGill University was recently featured (episode 138). He was being interviewed about his article in the Globe and Mail this past March entitled ‘America's monumental failure of management’.

He had a lot to say about Business Schools, and it wasn’t good.

Enter the Sustainable Century – Part 2.

Strategic communication for business will be critical as President Obama ushers in a new green vision for America and the world.

“The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied. Our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred. If we continue down our current course, every member of this Assembly will see irreversible changes within their borders. Our efforts to end conflicts will be eclipsed by wars over refugees and resources. Development will be devastated by drought and famine. Land that human beings have lived on for millennia will disappear. Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act; why we failed to pass on an environment that was worthy of our inheritance.  And that is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over.”
- From President Barack Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 23, 2009
Building on my previous post, President Obama is moving quickly to reframe the environmental debate and reset expectations on the part of many stakeholders.  All this change will have both an immediate and a long-term impact for business.
Despite some uncertainty over the timing and substance of legal and regulatory changes to come, whether you are an American firm, or a global enterprise doing business in or with the U.S., there’s a new sheriff in town.  And despite the policy and political challenges Obama faces, companies would do well to take stock of the fact that the very citizens who voted for a green president are the same consumers who will vote for clean energy, for products with recycled content, for low energy consuming electronics, for reduced product packaging, and for companies with a genuine and demonstrated commitment not only to quality and value, but to sustainability.

Icestone CEO: "Buy American and Ask Questions" - An Interview with Miranda Magagnini

Today, I visited Miranda Magagnini, Co-CEO of one of New York's leading ethical companies, IceStone at its headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Brooklyn site, which used to be owned by the U.S. Navy to produce the USS Missouri and other famous war ships, is now home to IceStone, which is waging its own battle for a better world by creating green alternatives to stone surfaces and counter tops. The company, which Miranda runs with Co-CEO Peter Strugatz, produces durable surfaces made of recycled glass and concrete. Their product is not only made from recycled materials but is also recyclable itself. The company has achieved an extraordinary level of certification, including LEED, Cradle to Cradle GOLD, and B Corporation.

Miranda was especially proud of their company's B Corporation Certification since big companies simply don't have the ability to be transparent enough to get B Corporation Certified. There are only 190 B Corporations, including Seventh Generation, Good Capital, and Greyston Bakery (listen to our interview with CEO Julius Walls, Jr. here). IceStone's logo is featured prominently on the B Corporation website. Miranda also showed me a stunning table made from their refined collection (pictured in photo from their website). She also had some cautionary advice for would-be ethical consumers.

Non-Profit Social Responsibility

In addition to some lively feedback (positive and negative) to my recent post about the The Bay’s current Think Pink campaign, I also heard from a number of people in the last week about the $2.7. million g0lden parachute that the SickKids Foundation gave former president Michael O’Mahoney (as it was reported in the Toronto Star, the $2.7M included his final salary of $600,000 and $2.1M in “incentive payments” and money to compensate him for leaving before the end of his contract).

 People I...

Free Green Energy Tools – Data Collection Centers and Buildings

Green energy is a focus of companies wanting to save money and reap the many benefits of a federal Energy Star rating. In fact, what the U.S. and other advanced countries like Japan are doing is sharing information and tools that anyone can use. Perhaps you’ve read about the benefits of energy efficient data centers, but there is always more to learn.  Virtualization offers one strategy for decreasing the number of computer servers needed to maintain your company’s data functions.

On October 2, 2009, the Green Grid met at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Among the participants...

Smart Giving: Look Who's on the Board

CSR Debates "Capitalism: A Love Story"

Jeff Klein, CEO of Cause Alliance Marketing, recently posted a story indicating why he thinks Michael Moore’s new film “Capitalism: A Love Story” leaves out an important chapter. He writes: “While some capitalists work on Wall Street, and some of those Wall Street capitalists focus on money and their personal wealth at the exclusion of nearly all other things, many other capitalists build and run companies that focus on creating value for more than just themselves. Many of the capitalists on Wall Street invest in companies for reasons beyond their own self-interest and are actively participating in the emergence of Conscious Capitalism.”
Klein is a proponent of a “contrasting, more hopeful perspective” on capitalism. He optimistically points to purpose-driven companies that create value for stakeholders as well as shareholders, and books like Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose (Wharton School Publishing: 2007).
Being the author of several books on purpose-driven companies myself, I am familiar with the territory and can certainly appreciate where Klein is coming from. Still, even the most enlightened corporate responsibility professional has to acknowledge that, alongside the Whole Foods and Honest Teas of the world, there are the Citigroups and Halliburtons. Which companies control the most wealth? We cannot ignore the truths that Moore dramatizes, because they will not dissipate on their own.

Philanthropy and Service: Getting the Best Return on Your Investment

One year ago, I wrote a post here on "Building Your Nonprofit Investment Portfolio: Leveraging Your Impact." In the post, I recommended how to decide where to make your personal contributions in order to make a difference on the issues that matter to you most.

Given the economic challenges of the past year, I looked back on that post to see what I would update. Surprisingly, nothing, in terms of how to choose where to invest. What I would like...


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