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 »
October 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
On March 11, 2011, the Highland Companies — backed by a US hedge fund, the Baupost Group — applied for a license to excavate a quarry in southwestern Ontario, just north of Orangeville. The quarry would be the largest Canada has ever seen and span 2,316 acres. For those living in the area, this would be the equivalent of the area in Toronto from the Don Valley Parkway to Dufferin Street, and St. Clair Avenue down to Lake Ontario. Of particular importance is the destruction of precious Class 1 farmland, which would result from the excavation, as well as the impact to the water in the area. The proposed quarry would plunge 200 feet below the water table, which feed in the headwaters of five rivers. The result would be that 600-million-litres of water would need to be pumped from the mega quarry every day, in perpetuity.
What is especially disturbing is that this prime farmland was originally purchased with the stated intent of farming it. However, immediately upon consolidating ownership of the land, Highland Companies has turned around and promptly filed application for a mega limestone quarry; a quarry that will destroy the high-quality soil of Ontario’s farming heartland, disrupt the waters of 5 major rivers for generations to come, require water pumping generators to pump the water in perpetuity due to the permanent disruption of the underlying water table, and create immeasurable impact to the vast acres of neighbouring farmland, not to mention very real potential of pollution of the pristine water that currently serves over one million Ontario residents.
More information about this issue can be found at Canadian Chefs Congress.
In particular, on October 16th from 11am to 5pm, an event will be held where Chef Michael Stadlander and 70 other of Canada’s best Chefs will be cooking in solidarity with the movement to Stop the Mega Quarry. Be there to share the land and make a stand. Tickets are pay what you can and can also be bought either through the site, or at the event the day of. All proceeds will go towards assisting with the legal costs of fighting the Mega Quarry.
Thank you very much for reading this post, and do pass the word along. This land and water is ours. We have an opportunity to take a stand, so let’s take it.
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.
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.
June 10, 2010 § Leave a Comment
In a recent report by Reuters, Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn is offering its workers at the Shenzhen plant an opportunity for a 66 per cent wage increase in reaction to the recent wave of suicides and deaths. It’s an “opportunity” for wage increase as employees would need to pass a three-month performance review for the opportunity to earn 2,000 yuan ($300 CDN) a month. Employees would also be provided the option to work overtime, “making it more voluntary than in the past”.
The wage increase comes in addition to a universal 30 per cent pay increase on the cash portion of wages that was recently announced, as well as the installation of safety nets at the factory as a preventative measure to suicide attempts. All of which are notably tactical reactions. « Read the rest of this entry »
May 24, 2010 § 1 Comment
Apple is making the headlines again lately, and this time, it’s not with good news. Foxconn, a major electronics manufacturer that assembles Apple’s iPhones and iPads, has seen yet another employee suicide: the eleventh suicide attempt in the last year, and ninth successful one. Nan Gang, a 21-year old employee of the company, died after jumping off the four-storey building. But wait – this isn’t new. We’ve seen this before. The question is why is it still happening, and happening so frequently.
May 3, 2010 § 1 Comment
In the recent calamity that has befallen the Gulf of Mexico, government agencies, environmental groups, and most of all, British Petroleum scramble to contain the environmental disaster that has resulted from the recent explosion of a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Questions and criticism have been flying about how this could have happened, and more pointedly, who is to blame.
April 19, 2010 § 2 Comments
I have always been very impressed with Anthropologie, but lately, even more so. Not only is their customer service personal, responsive and outstanding, but they have recently implemented a campaign that I thought was ingenious. At the end of a sale, they ask their customers if they are willing to forego the shopping bag, and by doing so, will have the opportunity to be automatically entered into a raffle for store credit.
Smart. Not only does it make the customer think about whether he or she really needs that bag, but it creates incentive for the customer to walk out without another unnecessary shopping bag in an oh-so-subtle and tactful way. Less bags means money saved for Anthropologie, less garbage and a chance to win store credit for the customer, and less waste for the environment. Everyone wins.
Really fantastic. I’m always a fan of waste reduction. Big points for Anthopologie for being thoughtful and responsible.