Posts by This Writer

10 years 1 month ago

Constant debate surrounds the real marketing and monetary benefits of CSR initiatives. Over nachos in Noe Valley (San Francisco) last night I mused with the U.S. operations director at AlterEco, Jeanne Cloutier, about the plethora of ethical certifications crowding the labels of the products we buy. Like many others at the crossroads of sustainability and marketing, we wondered how much this "Christmas tree" of ornamental labels really makes a difference to the consumer.

Luckily, there is one measure that can put a numeric value on the...

10 years 1 month ago

Last week, Gap unveiled plans to enter China with four Gap brand stores in full swing by the end of the year. The San Francisco-based company, parent to the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands, said the move marks the start of a "long-term, multi-channel" strategy to cater to the rapidly growing consumer market in China.

Gap has set itself up for the huge challenge of enforcing its sustainability and social justice guarantees while operating in a country known to violate many of these same values.

In many ways, Gap's entry into China will be a force of good. If one subscribes to Adam Smith, than Gap's move exemplifies a wave of economic...

10 years 1 month ago

In Martin Smith's open letter to Sir Richard Branson (CEO, Virgin Atlantic), he summed up a feeling of a generation in a Jimmy Dean Ham, Egg & Cheese sandwich. Why, he wondered, can Virgin Atlantic make such huge strides in sustainability while simultaneously missing the lynch pin in the entire concept? A cup of Fairtrade tea served next to a ‘sandwich' that exemplifies the unsustainability of half a dozen industries (factory farming, pharmaceuticals, trucking, oil & gas) is just one of the daily...

10 years 1 month ago

IKEA has been boycotted by thousands of Israelis due to "blood libel" in a Swedish tabloid, by Polish Catholics for featuring same-sex couples in advertisements and by for alleged dangerously breakable furniture. Yet, this rag-tag gang of complaints is remarkably benign for an organization with huge reach; IKEA is the third largest wood buyer in the world (after the Home Depot and Lowe's). How has IKEA managed to simultaneously make huge profits while keeping out of the fray?

Remarkably, IKEA is a Non-Profit founded by Ingvar Kamprad at  17 years old. IKEA is owned by the world's biggest charity (...

10 years 1 month ago

Eco Ego-Labeling

Currently, about 600 labels exist worldwide to certify qualities of environmental stewardship in products. Whether you're worried about a product's carbon output in China, its effect on Orangutans in Indonesia, or the "pot to plate" management of Southern Rocklobsters in Australia, you will find a certification for all of your environmental concerns - as well as those you didn't even know you had.

However, as labeling is a self-regulating industry, the credibility of these eco-claims varies widely. In carbon alone, there are hundreds of labels from the Carbon Trust to the Climatop. While the best...

10 years 1 month ago

Unilever balances on a precarious divide in the world of ethical consumption. With dozens of brands, Unilever's empire spans the spectrum of resource use ranging from sustainable to rapacious. Simultaneously accused of pillaging rainforests through negligent palm oil practices while lauded for rainforest protection under Rainforest Alliance certification, Unilever is a conundrum.

Ben & Jerry's is Unilever's sustainability poster-child. The brand has committed to convert all ingredients to Fairtrade by the end of 2013. Globally, this involves...

10 years 2 months ago

Horror stories leaking out of America's largest factory farms from Cargill to Tyson are enough to turn the stomach of even the most voracious carnivore. Regardless of your eating ethos, you are likely to agree with the majority of the population who would like to think the meat on their plate was not skinned alive, laced with hormones and antibiotics or subjected to unnecessary suffering.

Unfortunately, over 99% of meat in the US is produced in large factory farms where NGOs have unearthed brutal footage of factory farm workers reduced to sadism to deal with their daily reality of killing. Workers...

10 years 2 months ago

How many shades of grey should be tolerated?

As the upcoming conference on ethical certification (Certification, Consumption and Change) approaches, some onlookers call into question the ethics of companies involved in certification. Such skepticism raises the issue of whether  a company can be lauded for positive work and simultaneously appropriately condemned for corporate skull-duggery.

De Beers represents a perfect example of a company that blurs the line between green-washing and true corporate responsibility. A  list of  De  Beers'  infamous  history of malfeasance  reads like the CSR handbook of what-not...

10 years 3 months ago

Dedicated to my mother and ocean-stewardess on her birthday

BBC world news reports that as up to 5,000 barrels of oil a day spill into the gulf coast, local fishermen should go out and try to recover as much as they can before the slick approaches.

While the oil, visible on the ocean's surface and threatening  the livelihoods of fisherman and the lives of birds on the shore has caused international outrage and vast media coverage, there is a greater, less public, threat lurking beneath the surface of oceans.

Damaged caused by overfishing is said to be...

10 years 3 months ago

The definition of stakeholder engagement within the ethical certification movement seems to limit the flow of power from the global 'North' to the global 'South,' could this tide be turning?

Stakeholder engagement is a hot topic in the field of ethical certification. Fair Trade's definition of stakeholder engagement revolves around companies working with marginalized producers and workers to help them move from a position of vulnerability to security and economic self-sufficiency.

Sounds fair enough, but does power need to be 'given' to stakeholders to ensure greater equity in...