February 1, 2012 § 22 Comments
Back in August 2011, I wrote a post on brain sugar about a new water bottle that I had recently come across and was very excited about: S’well. The design, function, and charitable contribution of the bottle and company were all things that really impressed me. I became a big fan and loudspeaker for S’well – but that didn’t last long.
At the time, I purchased two bottles for myself and my fiancé, and seeing how much I loved my bottle, a few friends of mine as well as my fiancé’s mother also purchased bottles. We live in Canada, and sourced them from a local distributor – particularly as at the time of my first order, S’well wasn’t shipping to Canada yet.
Initially, the bottle was everything I read it to be. It kept my iced water cold, and hot water hot for 24 and 12 hours. But after a few months of use, I noticed my bottle would get very hot to the touch when I put hot water in it, and the water itself become cool in a matter of one to two hours. A long cry from the 12 it once supported. Cold water resulted in condensation on the outside – which is the opposite of what should be happening – and didn’t stay cold. Somewhere along the line, my bottle no longer insulated. (Note that true to the recommended product care, I did not put the bottle through the dishwasher, or leave it immersed in water. Only the gentlest hand-washing, rinse, and air dry for my bottle!) « Read the rest of this entry »
August 2, 2011 § 2 Comments
Initially, AirBnB appeared to be helpful and supportive, but according to the host, EJ, after she posted her horrific experience to her personal blog, AirBnB’s supportive stance seemed to stop. Since then, her post has gone viral, and the story has been muddied – with some even going so far as to challenge the truthfulness of her story. For weeks, EJ remained silent, until more recently, when she finally posted a follow-up that provided her point of view on some of the key events that had unfolded and to shed light on her appalling experience with the online rental start-up.
It would seem that after the supportive trail seemed to go cold, one of the founding members of AirBnB went so far as to call her and ask her to take down her blog or make her post about her experiences private, as it could impact AirBnB’s growth and chances of securing funding. News statements released seemed to insinuate that her claim and story may not be legitimate. All the while, to the media, AirBnB gave the strong impression that they were being supportive and helpful to EJ, and that a suspect had been apprehended with their help. EJ strongly noted to the contrary.
Through these collective actions over the weeks, AirBnB has demonstrated a very short-term, shallow, and immature response to a crisis that has only served to undermine the strong brand equity they have managed to gain in a very short period of time. For an online service company that relies heavily on good faith and trust between community members, the erosion of that very foundation can be devastating.
When crisis hits – particularly for an online service company like AirBnB – it is integral that the reaction is focused on their customers and the resolution of any situation – in this case, crisis – with integrity, compassion, and authenticity. Do that, and ironically, everything else that seems of grave importance – like reputation management and containing the damage – will be positively affected as a byproduct of the swift actions taken to demonstrate listening and crisis resolution. To do anything but will only detract from the the crisis at hand.
The silver lining to this story is that AirBnB reconsidered and decided to turn back and fully address the situation and look to make improvements to help prevent future tragic losses like what EJ experienced. Brian Chesky posted an address to their blog today, which is a positive move in the right direction. A very similar address has also been sent via email to all AirBnB members. Unfortunately for AirBnB, a lot of damage has been done to their community’s trust in them, not to mention what EJ has had to go through – a great deal of which could have been prevented. However, where others have pressed on in their old habits, AirBnB at least took inventory and made efforts to turn things around. So long as they continue on this path, I have no doubt they will be able to recover from this incident.
Besides, a lot of people will be watching and reading in the coming weeks on the next follow-up and hopefully conclusion in time for EJ. As a community, I’m sure those same people hope AirBnB makes good on their strong words and promises.
June 26, 2011 § 2 Comments
June 3, 2011 § 2 Comments
Earlier in May, Environmental Defence released a shocking report on the health risks associated with the toxic heavy metals found in makeup. The report, “Heavy Metal Hazard”, outlines the results of tests of 49 facial makeup items that were selected from across a spectrum of categories and brands. Originally, six Canadian women were asked to identify five pieces of makeup they use regularly, while Environmental Defence selected an additional five. In the end, 49 items were tested that included five foundations, four concealers, four powders, five blushes or bronzers, seven mascaras, two eye liners, 14 eye shadows, and eight lipsticks or glosses. The products were tested by an accredited laboratory, SGS Canada Inc., for the presence of heavy metals.
The danger of heavy metals is that collectively, they accumulate in your body over time and have been linked to long-term health issues such as cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, neurological problems (memory loss, mood swings) nerve, joint and muscle disorders, cardiovascular, skeletal, blood, immune, kidney, skin, and hormonal problems… and the list goes on. Essentially, every and any aspect of your body could be adversely affected. Where it relates to make-up, the heavy metals can be absorbed through your skin, and in the case of lip products, even ingested.
Of all the heavy metals, the most concerning ones are arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury because they’re not only banned as “intentional ingredients” in the cosmetic industry (with draft limits as potential impurities), but are identified as being “toxic” in Canada because of their health implications. After the big four are beryllium, selenium, and thallium, which are also considered intentional ingredients, and finally, nickel.
What’s concerning is that at all of the facial makeup products tested positive for at least one or more heavy metal. Below is a summary of the results from the report.
Of those tested, some of the most popular, and well-loved brands were the ones testing the highest for traces of heavy metals. Even those testing the lowest, still contained at least two heavy metals. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 22, 2011 § 2 Comments
Today is Earth Day, and this past Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the last day or so, I’ve been reading a lot about the aftermath of the spill, especially as we approach (now bypass) the one year mark of what has been called the worst offshore oil spill in US history.
WAToday out of Australia featured a number of personal stories of some of those directly affected by the spill. Others, like The Guardian, have covered the memorial trip of the families of the eleven men who lost their lives on the rig, and some of the vigils and quiet protests of the disaster.
What is more sobering is the difficulty families and communities are having getting payment from the $20-billion compensation fund BP set up last year. To add insult to injury, BP made headlines yesterday with their lawsuit against the owners of the Deep Water Horizon rig and makers of the device that failed to stop last year’s spill. It’s disappointing to see after all the dramatics, furthered negligence, and finger-pointing the world witnessed last year – one year later, nothing has changed for the company once touted for their commitment to social responsibility.
April 21, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The Girl Effect was created by The Nike Foundation in collaboration with partners like the United Nations Foundation and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls. Since then, there have been a number of initiatives and organizations that have taken on the movement with their own campaigns that focus on girls in combating poverty and illiteracy.
Assume this initial condition: A 13 year old girl stands at a crossroads with two choices before her: school or child marriage. The problem is it’s not usually a choice.
Married, she is more likely to die from childbirth at an early age; she is more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases; she is more prone to become a victim of partner violence; she never receives an education; and she is unable to contribute to society in a way that has a larger social impact and helps to push the human race forward.
With an education she marries later in life—to someone she chooses. She decides the timing of her children and is in a position to make decisions about her own health. She invests money in her children’s health and education, and is able to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Other people recognize her value and contributions, and begin to understand that all girls have value.
Multiply that scenario by the 600 million girls in the developing world and it’s easy to comprehend how a small change in an initial condition is capable of determining the course of humanity. That is powerful.
The human race cannot progress when half of the world population lives without the same rights and respect afforded to its male counterpart.
That’s a powerful message – and the brilliant design and execution of this campaign make the message even more powerful.
For more information about the girl effect and/or to contribute to the cause, go to girleffect.org.
March 22, 2011 § 4 Comments
McDonald’s caught my attention again recently with the release of their 2010 Corporate Responsibility (CR) report. I have to admit to feeling incredibly torn, as I read through the report and 2011-2013 goals that McDonald’s has established. On the one hand, the awareness and effort to move towards a more corporately responsible state is a great sign of industry momentum in favour of social responsibility. On the other hand, McDonald’s product traditionally collides with the principles of corporate responsibility, which would make a global claim to corporate responsibility and sustainability misaligned. But is it misaligned if this is a glimpse of what’s to come in the future?
The concept of corporate responsibility is one that permeates through not just what a company says, but also in what they do, how they do it, and the essence behind the product or service they offer. Integrity, responsibility, and ethical consideration of all areas of business and product or service development are the holy grail of corporate responsibility that CR practitioners work hard to help companies achieve. Some companies get it, others don’t – and increasingly, I believe that the public can tell the difference and are holding companies accountable.
In McDonald’s case, the very core of what their product is, how it is produced, and what it actually stands for has traditionally been held to be in direct conflict with the meaning of corporate responsibility: mass produced fast food lacking in many of the essential nutrients we need. Food that has been engineered to taste delicious, but adding little to no benefit to the body. In addition, customers are almost always prompted to consume more of it: “Did you want to super size that?” A rather disturbing practice considering obesity and Type II diabetes are universally on the rise. Good for the bottom-line, not so good for society.
The phenomenon of McDonald’s food itself has been so interesting that in 2004, Morgan Spurlock made the documentary, Super Size Me, to capture the effects of McDonald’s on him when eaten daily. Since then, McDonald’s food itself has also become an internet meme. Customers all over the world took to their make-shift labs to test how long McDonald’s food would take to rot. We have all heard of the 12-year old burger and fries, and Joann Burso’s perfect year-old Happy Meal. Although, by far, the best test I have seen is by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt in his variable-controlled test in A Hamburger Today.
All this to say – the current perception is that although McDonald’s is a fun brand with delicious food, when it comes to food quality and long-term nutrition, McDonald’s severely falls short.
But what about their CR report? The report itself outlines all the major CR areas of concern that I would be interested in:
- Corporate Governance & Ethics
- Nutrition & Well-being (including marketing guidelines)
- Sustainable Supply Chain
- Environmental Responsibility
- Employee Experience
This in itself is very promising. It suggests McDonald’s is looking at CR and sustainability from the holistic perspective I was talking about above. Apart from this, it would also seem that McDonald’s has been working on the above areas since 2004 (interesting, the same year Super Size Me was released). « Read the rest of this entry »
January 11, 2011 § 3 Comments
Today, the Commission that was assembled by President Obama immediately after the Deep Water Horizon gulf oil disaster released their final report about the disaster.
The verdict: If the industry does not change how they operate and the government does not adjust its regulative policies, another disaster is inevitable.
That’s a frightful forecast.
Even if you did not follow the news reports around the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a quick scan of the table of contents within the report would give you a very good sense of the events that led up to and followed the oil spill that was labeled “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced”. From Part 1, “The Path to Tragedy” and the quote, “Everyone involved with the job… was completely satisfied…” through Part 2, “Explosion and Aftermath” – “But, who cares, it’s done, end of story [we] will probably be fine and we’ll get a good cement job” to the final section, Part 3, “Lessons Learned” – “Safety is not proprietary“, the table of contents powerfully highlights the milestone perspectives that characterized the disaster at every point.
Overall, the report gives a methodical take on the events leading up to and giving rise to the disaster, and the actions (and inactions) taken that caused further difficulty. Finally, and probably of the most value, are the recommendations for changes in how the oil industry currently operates and the level of government regulation required.
Below is the summary of conclusions the Commission made, coming out of their six-month investigative report.
- The explosive loss of the Macondo well could have been prevented.
- The immediate causes of the Macondo well blowout can be traced to a series of identifiable mistakes made by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean that reveal such systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire industry.
- Deepwater energy exploration and production, particularly at the frontiers of experience, involve risks for which neither industry nor government has been adequately prepared, but for which they can and must be prepared in the future.
- To assure human safety and environmental protection, regulatory oversight of leasing, energy exploration, and production require reforms even beyond those significant reforms already initiated since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Fundamental reform will be needed in both the structure of those in charge of regulatory oversight and their internal decisionmaking process to ensure their political autonomy, technical expertise, and their full consideration of environmental protection concerns.
- Because regulatory oversight alone will not be sufficient to ensure adequate safety, the oil and gas industry will need to take its own, unilateral steps to increase dramatically safety throughout the industry, including self-policing mechanisms that supplement governmental enforcement.
- The technology, laws and regulations, and practices for containing, responding to, and cleaning up spills lag behind the real risks associated with deepwater drilling into large, high-pressure reservoirs of oil and gas located far offshore and thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface. Government must close the existing gap and industry must support rather than resist that effort.
- Scientific understanding of environmental conditions in sensitive environments in deep Gulf waters, along the region’s coastal habitats, and in areas proposed for more drilling, such as the Arctic, is inadequate. The same is true of the human and natural impacts of oil spills.
The report is available for free download. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading it. It’s well-written, easy to follow, and fascinating. More than that, it’s a window into the changes necessary to prevent future disasters such as the Deep Water Horizon oil spill from happening again and spotlighting those who are accountable for change.
August 23, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Late last week, I came across a blog post by Dr. Cleve W. Stevens, the founder and President of Owl Sight Intentions, Inc., giving his perspective on BP’s management of the Gulf oil spill earlier this year.
He talks about the differentiation between a transactional approach to operations, problem-solving, and leadership, compared with a transformational approach. My own personal interpretation is that much of the world still operates within a transactional paradigm, driven by the short-term motivation of economic profits. A transformational way of being occurs when a greater vision is taken on that strives towards enabling the personal growth and holistic well-being and betterment of other people and a community alongside a person or organization’s development. It is a long-term motivation driven by mutual benefit and sustainability. Dr. Stevens uses BP as an excellent example highlighting not only the difference between the two approaches, but also the magnitude of the outcomes: both potential and actual.
The original post can be found at CSRwire’s Talkback blog and I have also included it here below. I highly recommend reading it. It’s not only a great read, but offers compelling insight into the way companies and individuals carry themselves. If nothing else, it presents interesting food for thought.
At the end of the day, only you can decide what kind of leader or company you want to be.
August 11, 2010 § 2 Comments
One man’s dream and vision is now a reality and having global implications and impact. At the Techonomy conference in San Francisco last week, Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of MIT’s Media Lab and the One Laptop per Child foundation, about the program he grew into an international phenomenon.
Perhaps one of the most notable comments Negroponte made about the recent success of One Laptop per Child was that fifty per cent of the children in Peru who use One Laptop Per Child have been observed to be teaching their parents how to read and write. The program is not perfect, with many children still lacking access to the internet, an issue that is still being worked on; however, the latest results are still worth applauding.
A video clip of Negroponte’s talk is below.