Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

IfPeople made it to the SJF Summit on the New Economy in Durham, NC this September and found it

to be a truly inspiring conference. It was a strong showcase of how diverse and robust the new economy is. There were really incredible solutions in every area of clean tech from energy and waste water treatment, to irrigation and air filtration.  Counter to many misconceptions about green solutions, these businesses were showing the energy and water savings from these solutions is so great that the payback is often less than a year! 

Stop Leaving Money on the Table!
Companies that are using traditional means of addressing this issues are literally leaving money on the table. If installing a green air filtration system costs you a $100,000 investment up front, with a 1 year payback, your future savings after that first year are $100,000 a year before calculating in inevitable rises in energy costs.

So why aren’t these solutions already the norm?
Systems change is always on our mind…and our work is about giving companies that are bringing breakthrough solutions with a solid business model the sales and marketing tools and processes to succeed. So we hate to see good opportunities for going green go to waste! Here’s some of the barriers we see to that:

1. Resistance to change
We are resistant to change even when the dollars and cents add up. Take, for instance, a new approach to maintaining good air quality. Air quality in most factories is maintained by constantly turning over the air inside a building. Forcing air from inside a building to outside requires a tremendous amount of  energy. Not only that, but the air brought into the building must be climate controlled which also uses up energy.  A company we met at the conference has a different approach. Instead of moving air in and out of the building, they focus on changing existing air into something breathable and environmentally friendly.  They attract indoor pollutants into a bio-digester, which breaks down the compounds into inert particles.  It’s a completely different approach that doesn’t just require a cost-benefit analysis, but calls for a paradigm shift. 

People are resistant to such shifts. If we are going to meet the challenges of climate change, peak oil and water and other challenges, we will need to be ready to embrace the new paradigms required to make these shifts a reality.

2.  Poor sales process
Even if there’s a great opportunity to save money with a product, if the sales force behind that product is not effective in selling, there won’t be product uptake. People make decisions for different reasons depending on their role in the company, their interests, and their priorities. It’s important to understand what is relevant to the various parties in a sales pipeline and to make sure your company can systematically engage decision makers until they make the sale. Having strong systems for automating your marketing processes can make a huge difference in how many prospects you convert to customers. Without these processes it is even more challenging for innovative companies to bring their constituents along and help the masses embrace the changes you are bringing to market.

3.  Poor Key Messages
Different decision makers have different concerns that must be met before they invest.  The person concerned with compliance wants to know that your air purification system is going to work, and meet all regulations and standards.  The CFO wants to know that your ROI numbers are real and reliable.  And the maintenance staff who took care of the old system wants to be secure that they are not being put out of a job. Make sure that the messaging is right at the right time based on where you are in the sales process and who you are working with!

Alright green product and service companies…we hope that’s helpful insight from our takeaways from the SJF Conference. Hopefully we’ll see you there next year! And in the meantime, contact us for help on marketing and sales for your green products!


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This October, the Green Business Works Expo 2010 is coming, and ifPeople is hoping to see you there! On October 27, Chris will join a roster of speakers for break-out sessions around some of the latest innovations in sustainability. His talk, Sales and Marketing Optimization Through Technology Get Your Head in the Clouds!, will show green businesses how salesforce automation strategies can help their company make the most of their sales and marketing initiatives. If you want more than just the break out, you can get some insights on what might work for your own company by meeting Chris or Tirza at their table during the Expo on October 26th.

The Expo will be full of information on everything from Assessing Supply Chain Opportunities to de-constructing Energy Policy. Not only will the breakout sessions be thought provoking and informative, there is also an impressive roster of keynote speakers who have made great strides in several green industries.With keynote speakers like Auden Schendler, Executive Director of Sustainability for Aspen Skiing Company or Alya Z. Kayal, VP of Sustainability Research for Calvert, it is clear that this conference is attracting a high caliber of accomplished men and women who are paving the way for more sustainabile industries.

Whether you’re coming for the breakout sessions, the great keynotes, or just to survey which businesses are engaging in sustainability, there will be something of value for you and your buisiness. You can register to attend here.

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Tirza’s just entered a contest and shared her writing on sustainability, the intersection of technology (including social media) and people networks. We hope you’ll check it out, and while you’re there, please take an extra 1 minute to vote for this blog post! This could get Tirza to Amsterdam to cover the GRI sustainability and transparency conference!

Please read and vote here: http://ow.ly/1KUF3

Comments at that link are welcome also!

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Wake up call

I was doing a bit of competitor analysis on some electronics and computer recycling firms and was thoroughly impressed how confusing the information on the topic is! Seems the waters have gotten stirred after CBS 60 Minutes did a piece on how not to do computer recycling, bringing up the serious issues of exporting hazardous waste to poor countries and what happens to it as it gets absorbed into other economies, people, and their environment. This got a lot of people’s attention, and left many people with the sensation that it isn’t worth it to recycle since it is all being shipped to China/India/Africa/wherever.

While it isn’t all that bad (there are solutions), it certainly is more scary than I had anticipated. Another powerful clip about the matter is from the Basil Action Network (BAN), which points out that despite the fact that most so-called recyclers claim they are doing the right thing…they aren’t. So the small business person we saw in the 60 Minutes clip claiming to be responsible isn’t the only one who is lying about it.In fact, from what I have seen, this whole electronics/computer recycling industry is way behind on transparency and accountability.

The piles of obsolete computers that got shipped to Nigeria and didn’t even work, then end up being set on fire, is saddening. Got data concerns? Check out the clip where they pull harddrives from those machines in the heap and then recover data on them after they have supposedly been “wiped”. Got legal concerns over recycling? Check out all the id tags left on computers that end up in that situation – from public and private institutions.Is your company’s name in that pile? Do you really know what happens to your electronics?

Are you listening yet?

It’s not all bad news, I promise! But we should feel bad for the legacy of toxic crap we are loading the planet with, and I didn’t want to gloss over that before getting to a bit of what I discovered in my research. The cold hard facts, though, point to US irresponsibility on handling of electronics: 130,000 computers are thrown out in the US every day. Over 100 million cell phones each year go to the landfill. While this means we continue to poison our water supply, please also note that this is just plain stupid: cell phones have higher concentrations of gold than the ore it was mined out of originally. And the precious metals within computers and cell phones can be reused over and over.

So what happens?

What I quickly discovered in looking into the companies that handle electronics recycling is (a) I don’t understand the lingo they use and (b) I don’t think the people looking for a place to recycle search via Google (gasp!). Regarding the first lesson, I found the use of “asset management”, “asset recovery”, “electronics recovery” and lots of other fancy terms for what seems to be saying “take my technology mess and make it go away in a nice way”. My question is, do the people in companies who have to deal with this stuff understand that lingo, or is the industry using too much jargon to actually make it easy for people to act?

The second lesson is mostly gleaned from my experience of searching for keywords (computer recycling, electronics recycling, and the ones above), which yielded just one actual “recycler”. So it seems that (i) people aren’t using Google to search for recyclers and (ii) people aren’t recycling electronics in general (see the stats above).

Furthermore, given the profit opportunities in the business, most recyclers don’t actually recycle: the big margins are on getting your goods and reselling what is still valuable. Just about everything after that seems to be “logistics” and “downstream”, meaning the company you thought was handling this for you actually isn’t. So though it seems there are a TON of computer recycling places, there are actually just a few, and most of the collectors of computers send to those same ones. And that is what makes it so hard to know what happens with your electronics! Unless they are actually taking it apart on site, then you have to follow containers/trucks to find out the truth (like they did in the 60 Minutes piece).

Apparently this is an industry with only recently emerging attention to transparency, accountability, and standards. Though almost everyone claimed ISO certifications (most 140001, some 9000s as well), this just means there is a management system in place (not that it does ethical things), so don’t get too excited about that. Two more serious standards have emerged. One, called G.R.A.D.E. from the large consultancy IDC (good luck finding something on IDC’s site about it over than the for sale reports on various companies), has been awarded to a handful of companies. However, I couldn’t actually tell that the certification meant “yes, this company recycles computers, we saw it and it was done in a sociall responsible and environmentally friendly way”. The other standard that has emerged is from the folks at BAN, called e-Steward. As best I can tell, this is a voluntary standard and recyclers state that they do things in a good manner. So, in an industry shown to have corruption,

The web presence of these companies is widely varied. I don’t know if any of the ones I looked at are exporting their waste illegally or not…nor have I seen that any of them have actual recycling facilities. Just going on a pure web presence, I saw what seemed very casual treatment of the subject on some sites to very deep information and serious treatment on others (http://www.redemtech.com ). I saw some sites that gave me a creepy feeling, something along the lines of an Enron (http://www.electronicrecyclers.com/ ).

Personally, I’m fed up of corporate crime. I think we are entering the age where corporate crimes get treated seriously – from corrupt banks, investment schemes, to toxic waste exporters. I hope the companies exporting toxics are seriously penalized and their executives treated as criminals.

Watch CBS Videos Online

So what is the good news?

Oh yeah…there is at least some good news! I actually toured a facility myself here in Georgia, which happens to be the only one that processes the material in the state (most others are shipping it overseas). They specialize in handling recycling for companies, governments, or folks with lots to recycle in dealing with it effectively. The company, Recycletronics, just launched a new website with a lot more information. They’re based in Marietta, GA and if you’re interested, go take a tour! You can see the process, from intake to shredding and sorting of the materials! I got a great tour from the founder and CEO, Nader Nejad.

At ifPeople, we’ve been seeking and implementing responsible ways to run our business – and to deal with the nasty side of technology – for the last six years. We hope a greater awareness of the issues of electronics recycling will help more people get concerned and take action to both properly recycle and to make sure others do too!

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ifPeople is formalizing more of its green practices and we’re glad to have our team part of this push. Earlier this year, we announced our certification as a B Corporation. This week, we are sharing the news that we joined the Clean Air Campaign‘s partnership program.

ifPeople is a Silver level Partner with CAC (check us out on the partner page!). We’ve got several programs in place, from Work from Home days once a week to logging clean commutes to win prizes on a monthly basis. For us, it was a pretty easy step – we leverage the Internet for collaboration day in and day out – and teleworking is something made possible by the technologies we use. It’s also really cool to see 3 bikes in the parking lot on several days!

For remote collaboration, we love – and live in – the cloud! We use Plone for intranet and collaborating with clients (document sharing, global view on projects, etc) and a web-based tool for project management we created called Agilito. We also use Dropbox (internal file sharing – slick interface and free!), instant messaging and knowledge sharing tools like Diigo. One of the best features of the Internet-based business…on work from home day, we take our phones home, plug them in, and then it’s business as usual! That’s thanks to VoIP, for those of you not familiar with the technology – the phone gets plugged into the Internet (not the phone company’s copper).

We’re working on some clean commute data (the system is down right now…) and also keep exploring ways to green the company. If you’ve got ideas, feel free to share in the comments!

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The explosion of “green” programs, organizations and events in the Atlanta area over the last 5 years is impressive. When we first relocated ifPeople to Atlanta, there was almost nothing on the green scene. Now, it is a dizzying array of activity. As I’m trying to get a handle on my own plans for the week, I decided a post to shed light on some of the activities and give others a chance to share activities they are organizing, attending, or recommending.

Corporate Sustainability: You can’t ignore it any longer!

April 22, 2009, 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM
Location: The Retreat of Dunwoody at Villa Christina
This sounds like an interesting way to start the morning. The talk is being put on by Atlanta Woman magazine. Check out more details here.

Earth Day 2009 Party in the Sky

7:00PM, Wed, Apr 22, 2009
Nelson Mullins (Atlantic Station), 201 17th Street, Ste. 1700, Atlanta, GA

This looks like a particular highlight for the day – green roof party venue. This is the annual Earth Day gala of Earth Share of Georgia. More info.

Other events

Those are the ones I am planning to go to at this point. Here’s some others you might want to know about:

I’m sure there are more, but I was having trouble finding ones that (a) hadn’t already happened and (b) looked good. If you know of some quality events, please comment! I’ll incorporate as many as I have time to to the post.

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St. Patrick’s Day was all about “green” at Atlanta City Hall today with a press conference with Mayor Franklin, the Office of Sustainability and Sustainable Atlanta. The occasion was the release of the Sustainability Plan for Atlanta as well as the municipal carbon footprint. Both are the first of their kind for Atlanta and will provide a benchmark for future efforts to improvements in environmental and quality of life.

The carbon footprint of the city’s infrastructure, buildings, etc (but not residents) in 2007 was 540,000 metric tonnes, according to the study led by Georgia Tech’s Valerie Thomas. Read more of the report. Mayor Franklin was a signatory of an accord of Mayors to reduce city carbon dioxide emissions by 7% by 2012. Armed with an understanding of the starting point, the city plans to release an annual report to update progress towards its goal. Given that there is a fair bit of waste in the system, many changes can be done at no cost, resulting in energy savings right away!

It was quite exciting to be surrounded by people talking about green jobs, renewable energy (in GA!), and transit options, but in general attention to climate change and sustainability lag in Georgia. Georgia is one of only a handful of states in the US to still not have a Climate Action Plan – and it’s not just a “southern thing”, as all of our neighboring states have such plans already! This benchmark of carbon emissions is the first step towards an Atlanta Climate Action Plan.

In other relative measures of local sustainability, the Mayor also referenced SustainLane.com’s annual measure of sustainability in the top 50 most populous cities in the US. In the latest version, Atlanta ranked 19th overall, but is a combination of areas where it truly excells (green building, where it is a leader in the country), and areas where it lags severely (land use planning, transportation, and air quality – all linked to each other and to local power structures). See more of Atlanta’s ranking.

Now that the report is out, the hard work begins! Hopefully the work of improving environmental impacts can go beyond just the responsibility of the Office of Sustainability and become part of the city culture, but clearly organizational change and educational challenges lie ahead. Additionally, keeping tabs on all of this data to see how we are doing overall related to our goals is an important part of maintaining transparency and ensuring efficient reporting in the future.  Clearly lots of new processes have been started – let’s hope they achieve the same level of efficiency and excellence the Mayor wants for the City’s sustainability!

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