Want to give a “good” gift? Nice list here from CSR Wire: The Social Impact Holiday Gift Guide 2012 http://ow.ly/fUDn9
Short post to say how excited I am about the upcoming Wiring the Social Economy event on Dec 4th in Vancouver
Bringing together social enterprise, non profits, community economic development and technology, the day is about learning, sharing and finding collaborative solutions.
The day starts with short keynotes from Carol Madsen of Pathways, Irwin Oostindie from W2 and Tim Beachy from United Community Services Coop. Then the rest of the day is unconference style with sessions coming from, and facilitated by, participants. Should be inspiring and lots of fun.
See you there!
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at EPIC in Vancouver on low-carbon careers. Then last week had a followup interview on the topic of green jobs and the green economy.
Both have prompted me to think more about what we really mean by “green jobs”. The first thing that comes to mind for most people is doing solar panel installations or planting green roofs. However, where I have seen the most potential is the embedding of green and sustainable practices into core business process of traditional companies. To truly have a green economy, ALL jobs must be green jobs.
The way I like to look at this is through the value chain approach. If you look at a typical manufacturer, there are raw materials coming in, work is performed to turn into a product, the product goes out the door to distributors and is sold to the end customers. In a Green Economy, every step in that chain has the opportunity for a green job. Whether this is purchasing a sustainable source of raw materials, ensuring that there are no toxic chemicals in the production process, optimizing the supply chain to reduce energy and CO2 emissions, and managing product recycling, there are many options for green jobs.
The other opportunity of course is for companies that support all of these functions. Providers of supply chain management software, logistics companies and even accounting firms can be well placed to take a place in the green economy.
While we should certainly be training more people to work in brand-new jobs, we must also be working with established educational and professional organizations to put green thinking into the existing workforce. The David Suzuki @ Work program is a step towards this taking an employee engagement tack but more is needed to support delivery of green and sustainable thinking into core business practices.
Has anyone seen examples of this being done well?
Back from a bit of a blogging hiatus!
I happened to be in Toronto a couple of weeks ago and was able to attend SAP Canada’s first Sustainability in Business Summit. There were almost 300 attendees for full day of presentations, workshops and networking – all interested in learning more about how to make business more sustainable.
Starting the day was Dr. David Suzuki who had some very interesting and provocative points. In his introduction, he noted the very fact of his invitation was a sign of progress. Ten years ago he would have been barred at the door! He also mentioned that “the environmental movement grew up fighting, but all fights create losers. The task now is to build bridges” and events like the summit are a great step toward that.
His most inspiring points, for me, was a reminder that “the way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. Do we see homes or real estate? Sacred groves or sources of timber and pulp? Living veins of the planet or river power?” This is not to say we cannot make use of the Earth’s resources, but we need to be conscious of the choices we are making. And to remember that these are in fact choices – the society we live in is one that we collectively invented. And things we invent are things we can change.
The closing speaker, from Stewardship Ontario, illustrated this exact point. Stewardship Ontario are responsible for dealing with recycled materials from all manufacturers in Ontario. Currently manufacturers pay 50% of the cost of recycling and this will soon increase to 100% as part of a concept called “Extended Producer Responsibility”. The message to manufacturers now becomes “You made it. Consumers buy it. When they’re done with it, it’s your problem, not theirs.” Of course, this cost will ultimately be passed on to consumers.
As David Eaves mentioned in conversation at Vancouver Change Camp – consumers are the only people who really pay in the end. This signals a move to a world where externalities are brought into the cost and price structures of business. If consumers will be forced to pay the “true” cost – of energy, recycling, waste reclamation, GHG production, etc. – of a product, we will be well on the way to a more sustainable economy. “Disposable” fashions and products built with planned obsolescence will no longer be affordable in mass quantities. Consumer behaviour can change based on economics. Growth in business will have to come from other, more innovative business models. And that is a good thing.
Many thanks to Delvin Fletcher, Cory Coley-Christakos and the rest of the SAP team that made the event happen. I look forward to continuing this important conversation.
I’ll close with a quote from Goethe that David Suzuki used to start his keynote:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!
And I promise not to have such a gap before my next post!
I’m very excited about SAP sponsorship for an upcoming developer contest by the Province of BC. The province is working with nine sponsors to develop an apps contest for climate action software applications. The contest asks participants to design fun, dynamic and innovative applications for both the Internet and mobile devices using government data.
Like the City of Vancouver did here, the province is developing a data catalogue focused on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions in preparation for the contest. This will be a great opportunity developers to take advantage of this data to build some really interesting applications.
An announcement about the contest is expected at GLOBE 2010 (Mar 24-26) so keep your ears open and I’ll have more info very soon.
What really struck me over the weekend was how out of touch organizations such as The New York Times still are, despite their efforts to modernize and incorporate new media techniques.
In this Sunday article, “Effort to Widen U.S. Internet Access Sets Up Battle”, the authors talk about a new initiative to improve access and speed to the Internet across the country. Part of the article mentions a new F.C.C. application that will “allow [subscribers] to test the speed of their home Internet and see if they’re paying for data speeds as advertised”.
Since I was reading the article online, I thought that sounded cool and wanted to test my own speed. So I looked for the link to the FCC app – and looked and looked and could not find it anywhere. In fact, the only links in the article are to internal NY Times web site searches.
So of course, I leave the NY Times site, flip over to Google and search for the site. At which point the New York Times has lost any ability to capture any revenue, click-through traffic or anything from me. Why would I go back?
To me, this is a vivid example of a fundamental problem with “traditional” media. The Internet is not an afterthought or add-on – it needs to be part of the basic DNA of an organization for communication, collaboration and connection. Unless groups like the Times get this figure out fast, they won’t be around much longer. Of course there are other issues around business model and so on, but if consumers like myself cannot actually do what I need to do with the product, no changes to business models will help.
A recent email from Enterprising Non-Profits brought a very important issue for BC non-profits to my attention.
In December 2009, the BC Provincial Government issued a request for consultation on possible changes to the BC Society Act. Since then, a group of local organizations have been working together on developing a collaborative submission to help represent the interests of the not-for-profit sector in BC.
A copy of this submission, initially endorsed by 28 leading organizations from BC, is available here. The submission does a good job of describing some issues with the current Society Act (such as inflexibility in governance structures) and some things that are not required by changes to the act (such as mandatory audits at the cost of non-profits). What I find most interesting is the section on what is needed. Simplicity of incorporation is key but also support for social enterprise organizations.
Many organizations have been exploring the use of social enterprises to drive revenue and to achieve a public good at the same time. Such organizations and their objectives do not fit easily into the Society Act, the Business Corporations Act or the Cooperative Association Act.
The problem is that social enterprises are a hybrid type of organization and the tax treatment and investment rules are not very clear. This results in confusion on the ground and sometimes lack of investment until rules are clarified.
There has also been a sector based website established to build momentum and encourage more dialogue and education about the importance of this legislation www.yourtake.ca . The website is supported byVancity Credit Union, Vancity Community Foundation, the Vancouver Foundation and the United Community Services Co-op
In the words of Derek Gent, Executive Director of the Vancity Community Foundation,
We believe that a strong voice is necessary at this time, showing some solidarity and confirming that an overly restrictive regulatory framework is not in the public interest. Accountability is certainly important, but there is a significant risk that changes to the Act (which applies to the vast majority of not-for-profit organizations here) could result in new onerous requirements for compliance and undue limitations on activities or governance as we have seen in other jurisdictions. Given the very broad diversity of organizations in our sector here in BC and the already strained capacity, we encourage you to voice your opinions directly to the government through their consultation process http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/society_act_review.htm , and/or to show support for this collaborative response.
The deadline for submissions through the formal consultation is April 1, 2010, so even just a quick e-mail to email@example.com confirming your opinions about the prospect of increased regulation in the not-for-profit sector would be useful.
For those interested in adding support to the collaborative group, the team will work to compile lists of supporters for the collaborative response at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the website at where the submission is posted
Please take the time to read the submission and add your voice at www.yourtake.ca/sign-on-to-joint-submission/
Nice writeup in Going Green blog out of U.S. talking about SAP Vancouver’s commuting initiatives during, and hopefully after, the Olympics.
Great to see how we stacked up against the Vancouver and Canada averages. We have only 32% of employees driving solo as compared to an average of 67% in Vancouver, 72% across Canada and 77% in the US
The post notes a few reasons for this high level of non-car commuting:
- Downtown location near transit
- Showers and lockers on site
- Bike lockers
- Transit pass discounts
It will be interesting to see how many “converts” we have to the new way of commuting 3 or 6 months after the Olympics are over.
Plus I love the quote from Kirsten Sutton, our Managing Director, from her tweet. Saying she will be continuing to ride the bus now that the Olympics are over she says “You can teach an old dog new tricks”
Open Gov West is a very cool conference coming up in Seattle at the end of the month. Bringing together technologists, civic engagement organizations and governments, the conference is designed to “facilitate regional collaboration and share best practices across open government initiatives”. The concepts of open government have been very prevalent lately in forums such as The Economist and with the publication of the new book “Open Government“
Innovative governments and agencies are taking advantage of new technologies to create a different relationship with citizens. Rather than a limited and one-way flow of information, open governments create an environment for collaboration and conversation with citizens. Where citizens can not only access and make use of public information, but in turn influence government policy.
In an interesting twist, the two days of the conference take very different approaches. The first day is targeted mostly at government representatives and leaders of open government initiatives and takes a fairly traditional approach with keynotes and breakouts.
The second day brings in “Citizens, technologists, designers, academics, social entrepreneurs, policy wonks, political players, and government employees” and is built around the unconference format with some pre-determined sessions, but lots of room for anyone to propose a new session on the day. I had a great experience with this type event when helping to organize Vancouver Change Camp last year and the energy and ideas released have to be seen to be believed!
Register here and please pass on to your networks. Hope to see you there!