Sometimes, an idea is just so simple and good, it makes you slap your forehead and wonder why no one thought of it sooner. Professor Muhammad Yunus, the “father of microcredit”, spent years developing the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh with a financial concept that turned business lending on its head: lend self-selected groups of women up to $3,000 to get their small businesses off the ground.
The goal all along was to eradicate poverty, not to make a profit. Yet the loans perform positively, with repayment rates in excess of 99%. And this concept can work in any economy, and any culture, from its origins with 7.5 million Bangladesh borrowers to Grameen’s presence in 38 countries and over 100 million microcredit loans. Continue reading →
Here in North America, energy use represents approximately 30% of operating costs for commercial buildings, and HVAC comprises 30-80% of that energy cost. It’s not rocket science to recognize that implementing simple, energy efficient measures can dramatically reduce consumption; accordingly, business owners and commercial property managers are actively seeking ways to leverage these efficiencies without the costs and complications associated with complex burden of major structural improvements. Continue reading →
Bringing businesses into the “green” tent is challenging even under the best of circumstances, with sustainability initiatives commonly taking a back seat to immediate profit concerns and the everyday tumult of commerce. But small businesses, especially ethnic small businesses, are often left out of the public policy conversation and partnership opportunities that would help them go green. I attended this thought-provoking panel discussion, “Can Small be Green? – A Panel Discussion Building for California’s New Majority,” sponsored by The Greenlining Institute in partnership with 89.3 KPCC , which focused on how ethnic small businesses can help anchor California’s environmental policies in local communities. The Greenlining Institute is a national policy, organizing, and leadership institute working for racial and economic justice.
Since 1999, La Sirena Grill has been committed to supporting sustainability and what they deem “some simple beliefs: to preserve the planet for future generations, nurture the soil, be humane to animals, and accomplish zero waste while creating innovative food and a place to enjoy family and friends.” Not such a small order!
Whether it’s “people, planet, profit” or “ethics, environment and equity” or some other catchy alliterative phrase, corporations around the world are embracing the concept of the triple-bottom line (3BL): it simply makes good business sense to invest in sustainable, socially responsible business practices.
This past weekend, 10,000 activists gathered in Washington, DC for PowerShift 2011, a national summit focused on empowering young people to implement solutions to climate change. One of their key objectives was to send a resounding message to the US Chamber of Commerce: “you don’t stand for me!” In his speech at the event, author Bill McKibben criticized the US Chamber for “being the single biggest roadblock to reducing global warming emissions, and for urging the EPA not to regulate carbon.” Whatever your political views, these events demonstrate an organized effort and an important shift in voter and consumer expectations; businesses must heed the call for environmental responsibility to maintain and grow their consumer base.
I am reading a truly inspiring book from the local library and I don’t think I want to give it back…is that a problem? Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism, by Patricia Aburdene, much like Megatrends, her earlier partnership with John Naisbitt, shines a light on key societal and industrial trends that shape our ideology. Essentially, the book points out through numerous examples that the squishy side of social responsibility is inexorably linked to the quest for profitability.
Businesses and concerned citizens around the country are doing their part to conserve energy and incorporate more eco-friendly practices into their lives. Reusable bags are prevalent, recycling is commonplace, BPA-free water bottles are toted, incandescent light bulbs have been replaced with CFC’s….the list goes on. But one obstacle for many small businesses to joining the sustainability movement remains: the ability to calculate current environmental impact.