Ecoinnovation: Sustainability & Going Green

Where Creativity Can Save the Planet

Transitions June 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bt25 @ 5:25 am

My last post happened one graduation, one week of family visits, one new job (!),  several celebrations, and many goodbyes ago.  It has been a wonderful, but very busy time of transition. Because of the aforementioned new job, I want to highlight two great organizations:  the Equinox Center and Qualcomm.  I have been lucky enough to work for Equinox Center over the past several weeks, and I recently started work for Qualcomm.  Although my new position is not directly related to their sustainability efforts, Qualcomm is well known here in San Diego as a leader in going green.

This link is a review of a sustainability recently taken by the Equinox Center.  The Equinox Center is an environmental policy organization that “researches and advances best practices and innovative solutions to balance San Diego’s regional growth with our finite natural resources.”

 

Can Corporate Social Responsibility Add Value? May 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bt25 @ 2:34 am

I’ve often wondered if corporate social responsibility initiatives can bring actual value to a business.  I recently came across an article written by Michael Porter (of Porter’s 5 forces) which really clarified what kinds of CSR strategies can contribute to a company’s success.  I’ve condensed and simplified the key points of the article below:

For many successful firms, corporate social responsibility is not merely a public relations ploy.  Rather it can create shared opportunity for both social welfare and corporate gain. Strategic CSR can also provide additional value to product offerings and differentiated market positioning.

When corporate social responsibility is done strategically it can provide a source of competitive advantage to corporations while creating real social change.  Strategic CSR is the adoption of small-scale initiatives that pertain to a companies’ core business.  The best CSR initiatives are both self-perpetuating and create meaningful impacts.  For instance, Microsoft created a partnership to broaden access to community college education for individuals.  This partnership resulted in both the generation of a well-trained workforce; from which Microsoft was able to address its labor shortage problem.  Additionally, this program created a notably stronger community college system.  Another example of a CSR program central to the core business of a company is that of Nestlé.  In order to ensure the highest quality ingredients for the company’s chocolate, Nestlé works with all members of its global supply chain to spread best agricultural best practices and technology, especially in underdeveloped countries.  This results in sustainable development, supplier loyalty, and high quality chocolate.

Nestlé Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy Image from Nestlé Corporate Website

In addition to creating a competitive advantage for a company logistically or with regard to product quality, CSR can actually help companies command better prices and create stronger brands.  For example, consumers are willing to pay a premium for coffees that are organic and fairly traded—it is (rather unfortunately) a strong differentiating factor in today’s marketplace.  Brand equity can also be built on a good corporate image; consumers who feel they are doing something positive by purchasing a product or service will be more likely to continue to purchase it.

CSR is good for public relations, but if that were the only benefit, companies would not continue to pursue strategic initiatives in this area.  Smart executives are realizing that social and environmental benefits do not have to be at odds with corporate interests.  Rather, social issues can be carefully addressed in ways that create competitive advantages for firms.

To access the original article:  http://www.fsg-impact.org/ideas/item/strategy_and_society.html

 

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery April 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bt25 @ 4:11 am

I was recently introduced to a new field called biomimicry, which I think is an incredible tool for solving problems and changing the way companies do business.  We are lucky here in San Diego because we actually have a Biomimicry Institute affiliated with our world famous zoo.  According to the institute’s website, “Biomimicry is the science and art of emulating Nature’s best biological ideas to solve human problems.”  These ‘problems’ can range from process innovations to product design.  The amazing side benefit of natural process design is that biomimicked products and practices are quite sustainable.

So this is all great in theory, but can biomimicry actually be profitable?

In a word:  Yes.  There have been many advances in materials design linked to biomimicry.  For example, self-cleaning surfaces that mimic the beading of water off certain leaves were recently inspired using biomimicry.  These surfaces have the added benefit of reducing the need for harmful chemical cleaners.  Building design is another area where nature has been inspiring.  Termite mounds use tunnels and venting to keep the temperature cool in their hot, dessert homes.  Architects have used these techniques to do the same–saving the monetary and environmental cost of heating and cooling.

Pax Technologies used biomimicry to design a highly efficient mixing blade. Image of impeller via PAX Scientific, all rights reserved; Image of calla lily via the equinest

Asknature.org is an entire database of natural processes that can serve as inspiration to product design.  Type the word “urban planning”  into the database and an entry pops up describing the usefulness of radiating lines found in sea urchins for city planning.  Radiating lines minimize the distance from the center, facilitating transportation to the outlying points–add branching, similar to the human circulatory system, and you have a highly efficient transportation grid.

I encourage anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit to have a look at some of these websites–you might stumble upon the next big thing.  Just be sure to thank mother nature!

 

Earth Day 2010 April 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bt25 @ 6:53 pm

In honor of Earth Day I’d like to focus on why this blog exists.  Our planet is an incredibly valuable resource and it is in danger.  If we don’t fundamentally change the way we do things, we will damage it beyond its ability to recover.  Earth Day is an marker of the importance of environmental stewardship; it is a time for us to appreciate the importance of the planet that surrounds us.  In the spirit of appreciation I’d like to post a few pictures from our recent trip to Big Sur.  The redwoods never fail to make me admire the value of nature.

Redwoods in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Ferns in Big Sur

This part of California is one of my favorite places to visit because the lush forest makes such a contrast to the desert of San Diego.

From the Last Forest Fire

Forest fires are a part of life in California, but the damage never fails to shock me.  Redwoods are naturally resilient to wildfires–their bark has adapted to withstand high temperatures, but this ancient tree just couldn’t survive the last one.

Wildflowers by the Side of the Road

We saw so many brilliant wildflowers, I probably took about 700 pictures of them.  I particularly liked this photo because it gives a sense of the foggy weather that characterizes Big Sur this time of year.

Happy Earth Day!