Missing Voices: Green Business Leaders Discuss Representation at Rio+20

Missing Voices: Green Business Leaders Discuss Representation at Rio+20
Sustainability and Green Leaders Meet with United Nations to offer representation at Rio+20.

By Martha Shaw and Aman Singh

Nearly 100 sustainable business leaders crowded onto the 10th floor of the UN Church Center in New York City on May 1st to join a conversation with Chantal Line Carpentier, Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Program Coordinator of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and other UN representatives.

The topic: To hear from the “missing voices” of over 200,000 entrepreneurs from organizations including the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), Social Venture Network, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), B Lab, CSRwire, Green America and ‘buy local’ green business networks.

The meeting was hosted by The Temple of Understanding, and organized by Martha Shaw, to explore ways that founders of socially- and environmentally-responsible ‘triple bottom line” businesses might bring their voices to Rio+20, and beyond.

“We Must Raise Our Voice Now”
ASBC’s David Levine started the conversation by stressing that the gathered entrepreneurs are conscious of their global counterparts who are also running businesses that presuppose green practices and help serve social needs while making money.

“Whether they are social enterprises, micro enterprises, women’s groups or development groups, they all carry the same sensibilities of a triple bottom line. They are finding a balance between profits, social and environmental goals,” he said. “This voice is missing in our country today because a monolithic voice led by multinationals dominates all dialogues.”

Levine ended by emphasizing that this is the opportunity for the entrepreneurs to market their leadership and present their pioneering work on a global stage as a way of creating shared value. “This voice is new and we must raise it,” he ended.

“Define Sustainable and Green Business”
Green Map System’s Wendy Brawer picked up where Levine left by adding that until we define what “sustainable business” means, creating this coherent voice will be hard.

Jumping into the dialogue, CSRwire CEO Joe Sibilia made it clear that “any business that integrates the human condition into its operations, whether you call it humanity or spirituality, is sustainable. These entrepreneurs are using business to create a values-driven and sustainable world,” he said. “Financial gains cannot be the only objective. It’s that simple.”

Eco-preneurs at Rio+20
Temple of Understanding’s Grove Harris interjected by adding that it is “practices like the ones Joe is highlighting that need to be voiced at Rio+20. It is important to bring these issues to the table by showing business practices that manifest in social value.” She also added that traditionally, non-governmental organizations have not proven sophisticated enough to support our future and voices. “We need business to be there.”

More examples of mission-driven business enterprises solving many social and environmental problems, including the eradication of poverty, were offered, as was a comparison to the restraints of multinational corporations who are bound by law to act in the best interest of stockholder profits.

Though Sibilia, Harris, Brawer and B Lab’s Peter Strugatz offered several examples of supply chain relationships among green businesses and corporations going green, they also pointed out that many other models exist for ways the world can do business outside the restrictions of a corporation.

United Nations: Collaborate & Lead The Conversation
After hearing everyone out, Chantal Line Carpentier, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Program Coordinator, took the floor to urge the attendees to work with the UN in representing their issues at Rio+20.

She also emphasized clarifying ambiguous language about sustainability and suggested that the sector come to an agreement on what “private public partnerships mean” and “how you can help influence policy and regulatory frameworks.”

“Consider this as a strong call for leadership. There is a lot of talk about business doing more but how? Show us, offer best practices, define CSR, and align practices with the United Nations Global Compact guidelines,” she said.

Carpentier also recommended that the entrepreneurs make an effort to demystify the language around lifecycles, supply chain analysis and sustainability.

Finally, Tess Mateo, an advisor to the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), pointed out that the Women, and Indigenous People Major Groups would be good allies and recommended that we remain cognizant of working together with the other enterprises in promoting our voice on the global stage.

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Conscious Consumer in a Nutshell

Part 1 in Earth Advertising’s 4-Part Series on Consumer Behavior

Have you heard the one about the early adopter who married a true believer? Their children were 22% reluctant, 32% savvy, 17% enlightened, 29% adverse — and X% prone to little green lies.

It turns out that when you ask people how environmentally responsible they are, how much they care about polar bears, or what they would sacrifice for clean air, expect creative latitude in their answers. Studies show that studies need more studies to study. Earth Advertising thanks and supports all of our survey colleagues by offering an up-to-date directory of conscious consumer studies upon request. After all, we are all in this together. We are pioneers in the green marketing jungle. The truth is, green consumers are a moving target for media planners and the shelf life of research reports can be shorter than cheese. One poignant news story about risky spinach, an environmental mishap, or shipment of toxic toys, can turn a consumer behavior pattern on its heels.

Research reports on environmentally and socially responsible purchasing attitudes and behaviors are sprouting up everywhere. Marketing professionals have been intent on describing people most likely to shop with an environmental conscience for a decade now. In the early 90’s around the time Earth Advertising’s eFlicks Media published its initial marketing reports on “conscious consumers,” Paul Ray coined the term “cultural creatives” to better define the market potential. Today’s businesses, from Fortune 500’s to start-ups, are hoping to turn research numbers into sales figures. Some are staffing up on sustainability experts to decipher it all. Meanwhile marketing directors struggle to apply consumer research results to brand identity and media spending.

Even more important to some businesses is the amount of adversity they can expect from environmental deficiencies. Companies can no longer rely upon public relations to fix negative press about unsafe products and practices. How much people want to know about a company or product is the question many brands ask. Playing it safe, businesses are adopting responsible practices quickly on the chance that green is the new marketing tool.

Click here for the full report.

SBNYC, New York City’s Network Of Locally Owned Businesses, Joins BALLE National Initiative To Support Local Living Economies. by Martha Shaw

SBNYC, New York City’s Network Of Locally Owned Businesses, Joins BALLE National Initiative To Support Local Living Economies. by Martha Shaw

NEW YORK, Sep. 02 /CSRwire/ – September 2, 2008 – A major milestone toward becoming the world’s greenest city, New York City’s new network of sustainable local businesses has gained international clout. The Sustainable Business Network of New York City founded in January 2008 has been accepted as a member to national BALLE– Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

“SBNYC was founded to support what has always made NYC distinct— its locally owned and operated businesses. These give meaning to our daily lives, offering a sense of community and local jobs,” says Sandi Franklin, Director of the Center for Urban Environment, which is the headquarters for SBNYC. “Acceptance to BALLE gives members in NYC’s five boroughs access to a wealth of resources designed to help them prosper, network, mentor one another, and build the kind of leadership we need for a strong and sustainable local economy.”

To welcome New York City as BALLE’s newest member, Judy Wicks from Philadelphia’s White Dog Cafe and Foundation addressed SBNYC and affirmed the importance of local business, the “backbone of a just society.” BALLE, which now has over 50 networks and 30,000 members nationwide, is the brainchild Ms. Wicks and other members of the Social Venture Network.

SBNYC founders, members and staff attended the 6th Annual BALLE Conference in Boston on June 6 where hundreds of independent business owners, local government officials, and community leaders gathered for four days to share strategies and ideas on how to grow community wealth through strong locally-owned businesses. Among the speakers were Majora Carter, Sustainable South Bronx founder and the author of Greening the Ghetto, and Bill McKibben, founder of Step It Up and the author of Deep Economy.

Membership to SBNYC is open to locally owned and operated businesses who recognize their role as agents of change and who are dedicated to creating innovative solutions that result in lasting improvements to local and global communities. Membership in New York City has grown to 65 businesses with concentrations in areas such as renewable energy, local manufacturing, local & sustainable food, independent retail, and green construction and design.

SBNYC’s mission is to connect New York City’s local entrepreneurs, to provide expertise on how to implement a triple bottom line for people-planet-profits, and to increase awareness among New Yorkers about the tremendous impact of how and with whom they do business.

SBNYC builds on the energy of its members and the successful model of BALLE. Membership benefits include bi-monthly networking events, seminars and mentorship circles, inclusion in a local resource directory, website presence, and participation in a new Think Local First public outreach campaign to educate New Yorkers about the environmental, personal and community benefits of buying local goods and services.

To find out more about the benefits of SBNYC membership or to learn about upcoming events, visit http://www.sbnyc.org or write to info@sbnyc.org.

Green Apple Cleaners turning the Big Apple Green

New York, NY – January 31, 2008 – New York State has filed lawsuits against at least three companies for groundwater and soil contamination that they attribute to perc, the dry cleaning chemical perchloroethylene (PCE) used by over 90% of all drycleaners. In California and recently proposed in New Jersey, the use of perc in dry cleaning will be outlawed within the decade. Not only bad for your health, it turns out that harsh dry cleaning chemicals and traditional finishing methods can also be harmful to clothing by dulling the finish, breaking fibers and leaving residues on the garments.

The timing couldn’t be better for health conscious Green Apple Cleaners, the only environmentally friendly dry cleaner in Manhattan. At the Green Apple Cleaners plant in New Jersey, trained specialists using state-of-the-art CO2, Wet Cleaning and European Finishing equipment, treat garments with gentle handling. The special care they give to the clothes, and to the customers, has been recognized by Green Apple Cleaners’ acceptance into the elite group of prestigious cleaners – “America’s Best Cleaners(TM)”. Their care for the planet has placed them among New York’s top green businesses and they are one of the founding members of the Sustainable Business Network of New York.

Taking care of the environment was the brainstorm of entrepreneur David Kistner and his partner Christopher Skelley who founded the business in 2006. When Mr. Kistner’s wife announced they were having twins four years ago, he vowed to keep hazardous chemicals not only out of reach, but also out of their home. In searching for safer dry cleaning in New York, he found no alternative solutions. Two years later, Green Apple Cleaners is now servicing over 450 buildings in Manhattan and over 9,000 clients, including the big apple’s most celebrated personalities. Though the bulk of their business is pickup and delivery, they have already added two storefront locations last year with four more planned for 2008.

The popularity of Green Apple Cleaners is a sign that New York City is serious about going green. Another boost for the brand is that more people are catching on to the misleading “organic” signs cropping up on dry cleaning windows all over town. As the CEO and founder David Kistner says, “If clothes could talk they’d tell you that “organic” means volatile organic compounds – pretty tricky!”

On another environmental front, Mayor Bloomberg’s new plastic bag recycling law will require over 2,000 stores in Manhattan, including many large dry cleaning operations, to take responsibility for their plastic bags. “It is important to take as many steps as we can to recycle plastic bags,” Bloomberg says. “They are not biodegradable, but instead break down into small pieces that pollute the water and soil. Due to their light weight, plastic bags can easily escape from our sanitation system…” Green Apple Cleaners supports waste reduction with its signature black garment bags used to transport dry cleaning to and from their customers in eco-friendly vehicles. Any disposable bags they use are 100% biodegradable.

Early on, Green Apple Cleaners founders secured the telephone identity 1-888 I LUV CO2 to tout CO2 as the key to cleaner cleaning, and wrote the company motto themselves: The Cleaner Dry Cleaner. Get the real dirt on dry cleaning by visiting www.greenapplecleaners.com

What You Don’t Know About Your Cleaning Products Can Hurt You

By Martha Shaw (MVTimes, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts)

While the chemicals in modern household cleansers may dissolve more dirt and grime faster than ever before, the airborne particles and invisible toxic film left behind easily go unnoticed. There are thousands of chemicals lurking in cleaning solutions that are proven to be hazardous to our health and the environment in varying degrees. For many reasons, medical research can’t tell us exactly how much human exposure is too much. What we do know is that the household cleaning product market is nearly $18 billion strong and the industry has one of the most powerful lobbying forces in Washington to protect its liberty to produce and sell chemicals to consumers with few restrictions regarding health and the environment.

The average household contains anywhere from 3 to 25 gallons of toxic materials, most of which are cleaning agents, degreasers, polishers, disinfectants, waxes, sanitizers, deodorizers, anti-redeposition agents, bleaches, drain clearers, oven cleaners, builders, mildewcides, enzymes and optical brighteners. According to research conducted by the EPA, the air inside the average household is two to three times more polluted than air just outside its walls. One five-year study revealed that the levels of certain chemicals in many homes were 70 times greater than they were outdoors. Activists claim that we are all guinea pigs. What statistics do reveal is that homemakers and cleaning professionals have a higher than average incidence of cancer.

According to the Children’s Health and Environmental Coalition (www.checnet.org) small children are the most vulnerable. The ratio of chemical concentration to body size is higher, they touch most everything, and they have a habit of putting fingers and toes in their mouths. The same observations are true about pets. Many organizations have been founded to inform the public on how to keep homes and yards safe from toxic household cleaning products. Others focus on related health conditions. On the Island, groups have formed to look at how toxins affect human health and other forms of life when they pollute soil, surface water and groundwater. A common link among these local alliances is the Vineyard Conservation Society (www.vcsmv.org).

Across the country, there are other public-interest groups that are advocating for Right-to-Know laws that would require the chemical manufacturers of household products to list ingredients on the packaging. To keep your home safe, a rule of thumb is to choose products that voluntarily disclose the ingredients — even if you don’t quite know what they are. Instead, an arsenal of cleaning products have warnings: keep out of reach of children; hazardous to humans and pets; eye irritant; avoid food contact; flammable; avoid contact with eyes, skin and clothing; harmful if swallowed and do not induce vomiting. The most common environmental warnings are variations on: Do not reuse bottle. Rinse bottle carefully. Discard in trash.

While the big names in cleaning products can fuel a cleaning frenzy to get our homes cleaner than clean through enormous expenditures in advertising, smaller brands are often overlooked. But a growing number of safe, non-toxic cleaning products are getting a foot in the market. Finding these products requires looking a little harder. Name brands including Seventh Generation and Sun & Earth are safe choices available in some Island stores, and you can order others on-line at sites including www.ecos.com. Another healthy alternative is to make your own. Natural acids in orange, lemon, and vinegar and other things occurring in nature cut through grease and grime, and baking soda is an excellent abrasive. Water, the great universal solvent, does a great job of cleaning up most everyday messes. There are also non-toxic alternatives for almost every use of pesticides. For instance, pepper and natural boric acid sprinkled along baseboards, crawl spaces, and cupboards can create a barrier to insects.

Plenty of literature is available on fighting dirt and germs with healthy product choices and home remedies. You can download a free “Guide to a Toxin-free Home” at www.seventhgeneration.com, which also includes an index to chemicals. Other good sources are www.greenseal.org, “The Sierra Club Green Guide,” and the “Safe Shopper’s Bible: A Consumer’s Guide to Non-Toxic Household Products, Cosmetics and Food.”

Choosing environmentally safe products is a topic close to home on an island where natural resources are strikingly finite. Very little research is available on the individual destiny paths of toxins once they are poured, washed, and flushed into our septic systems and waterworks. While the dangers of chlorine-based chemicals and phosphates to surface and groundwater are well documented, others are not.

The best way to protect your family and the Island’s eco-system from toxic household cleaning products is to use only products that state specifically that they are toxic-free and earth-friendly. Then you leave nothing to chance.

Martha Shaw is a science and media specialist who focuses on sustainable practices. She lives in Oak Bluffs and is the founder of Earth Advertising, a production company that promotes conscientious consumption. She is on the New England Aquarium Marine Advisory Board and Vineyard Unplugged, and is a board director of MVTV.