Will Ben & Jerry’s continue to be Social Leaders?

Ben & Jerry’s mission statement (see http://www.benjerry.com/activism/) aligns with my own personal career goal to guide businesses to become more socially and environmentally responsible. (see www.michaellemons.com/about) I think environmental and social responsibility should be an integral part of any corporate culture. The environmental and social initiatives of a corporation should be something that all members of the organization feel ownership of and fully participate in.

The desire to contribute to the greater good of the society in which a company operates must be a core value present in all the members of the team. The social and environmental goals should be big hairy and audacious goals and the core value of social responsibility should be a timeless guiding principle for the company. I think Ben & Jerry’s does an excellent job of meeting these requirements. It seems like Ben & Jerry’s was actually thinking about and establishing the importance of the triple bottom line long before it became a common business practice.

Today, many companies have realized the importance that the stewardship of the community and environment in which they operate plays an important role in the amount of top line growth on their income statement. Ben & Jerry’s realized this long ago, and worked hard to maintain their core values and envisioned future through their day to day operations of the business. They truly led by example by talking the talk and walking the walk.

I am concerned that the acquisition of the company in 2000 may have shifted the company culture and forced the managers to focus more on bottom line growth by minimizing costs. They appear to have done this by scaling back corporate philanthropy and maximizing corporate social integration. I hope Ben & Jerry’s will continue to be a leader in the area of corporate social responsibility, and I am curious what all of my readers think?


October 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm 5 comments

Question and Answer

Q:  What is sustainable lighting?

A:  There are 4 elements to a sustainable lighting system:
1) quality of lighting
2) energy
3) toxicity
4) life

Source: GreenBiz.com

July 23, 2010 at 12:40 pm Leave a comment

Geothermal Expert Weighs In (Part 2)

I had the opportunity to interview Matt Miller. Mr. Miller is the Lead Design Engineer at GBL Geothermal, a Reno, NV based turn-key Geothermal Heat Pump provider.  Matt is an IGSHPA certified designer and a LEED Accredited Professional. GBL Geothermal is a company that is leading the way in clean energy technology.

This is part two of two.

Michael: What is your recommendation for a home or business owner who wants a net zero building? How would you combine your system with other systems and what other systems would that be? (For the Reno area)

Mr. Miller: The idea of a net zero building is one that we come across a lot, and it brings up a few interesting points.  A building that uses no more energy than it produces and emits a net-zero amount of greenhouse gasses is very difficult and often expensive to build, but we can get close to that goal for a fraction of the cost of actually hitting the zero mark.  Heating, Cooling, and Hot Water heating make up about 75% of a home’s energy use, so you want to make sure that you get that part right.  There is a lot that can be done to the shell of a building so that that 75% is as small of a number as possible.   People do not have unlimited funds right now no matter how important being green is to them.  Sometimes other options make sense, but that usually depends more on the customer than the other technologies.  We look at the Return On Investment (ROI) to find where first dollars are best spent.   We can set up a hierarchy of options using this method, and often times a GHP system along with some insulation is glaringly the best option.

Michael: Will this be different for the California area?

Mr. Miller: The net zero numbers look similar for Northern California, but they change once we get to Southern California.  Solar options start to make more sense down there, including Southern Nevada and Arizona.  This is because the dominant load is drastically towards Air Conditioning, and the peak of that load matches the peak solar output, so in this case they are a good direct match.  Again, the ROI changes for every building, so it is important to have your energy professional crunch the numbers to see what the best option is.

Michael: In your experience, what is the best program for green building certification? (Ex. LEED, GreenStar, EnergyStar)

Mr. Miller: I have been impressed with the LEED building program; however, in general I believe that supply-side, market-driven solutions are the most robust mechanisms to steer climate change in the right direction.  Geothermal Heat Pumps fall on the Energy Efficiency side of the energy equation, and because they do not generate renewable energy like solar or wind, we cannot take credit for the saved electricity, saved greenhouse gas generation, etc.  There needs to be national standards for accounting for Energy Efficiency similar to the green tag program.  It is more difficult to take account for a kilowatt saved then generated, but we think that there is a way to meter these savings where they will not hold back the commercialization of the technology.

Michael: Some states are certifying buildings using non-profit organizations and some are going with for-profit organizations. Which one would you recommend and why?

Mr. Miller: We recommend putting a price on carbon and letting the markets and industry take care of the rest.  Subsidies have been very helpful up to this point, but if we were able to take credit for our green tags and sell them on a carbon market, this would be much more valuable then state driven certifications.  This would allow us to bury a ground heat exchanger that will outlast the life of the house or building that sits on top of it, and take credit for all of those free kilowatts that we pull out of the dirt.  When you add all of those up for 50-100 years, which is a very valuable micro utility.

GBL Geothermal is leading the way to improve the world for future generations by assisting businesses and consumers to achieve greater social and environmental responsibility.

March 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm Leave a comment

Geothermal Expert Weighs In

I had the opportunity to interview Matt Miller. Mr. Miller is the Lead Design Engineer at GBL Geothermal, a Reno, NV based turn-key Geothermal Heat Pump provider.  Matt is an IGSHPA certified designer and a LEED Accredited Professional. GBL Geothermal is a company that is leading the way in clean energy technology.

The interview will be divided into two separate posts. Please sign up for an email subscription to my blog if you would like to be notified when I post the follow-up. (This is only used to notify of  future blog posts.)

Michael: Please describe the installation process for your geothermal system on a new home?

Mr. Miller: The installation process for a new home provides us with many different options and allows us to custom design a Geothermal Heat Pump (GHP) that will provide all of the heating, cooling, and hot water needs for the house or building with the lowest possible upfront cost and the most efficient operation.  Our largest market right now for new construction is new, large custom homes.  Homeowners are taking advantage of reduced construction costs due to the building slump and are still actively building.  Our sales pitch to the architect, general contractor, and owner is simple:  We can install a Geothermal system in your home at a very small upfront cost, and it will cost next to nothing to operate and maintain.  The thing that makes these systems so cost effective for these types of houses is that the homeowner is able to take 30% off of the final cost of the Geothermal Heat Pump system, including the hydronic floors and ductwork.  The hydronics in the floors and the ductwork are expensive items that are already going into the house, and subtracting 30% from these items usually pays for the additional engineering costs and burying the pipes in the yard.  We often see payback periods that are under three years in these situations.   We are doing an installation now that involves burying the pipes under 7 feet of dirt that had to be moved to make the foundation of the home.  This means that we were able to bury them with very little additional expense and effort, and the owners get to take 30% off of the costs of moving the dirt for the foundation.  As you can tell, we really push the limits of the 30% Federal Tax Credit to deliver as much savings as possible to the customer.

Michael: Existing home?

Mr. Miller: Existing homes are usually more challenging of an installation; however we have yet to come across a house that we could not retrofit.  Homes that make the most sense for a retrofit are homes larger than 3,000 sq. ft. and on a lot approaching a half acre.  Anything smaller than this we will need to take a closer look at to make sure it isn’t too difficult to install the pipes in the ground and the current bills justify a payback period that makes sense. If we find a home that is heating with propane, it is usually a no-brainer for them to switch over to geothermal because propane is so expensive and getting more so.  There are a lot of homes in the south meadows area of Reno that are in need of a furnace change out, and we are finding that they are excited about the option to do something that is green, will keep them comfortable, and is going to last for a very long time.

Michael: Is there any difference for businesses?

Mr. Miller: Light commercial businesses are the toughest of the retrofit situations.  Often times the only possibility to install the geothermal ground heat exchanger is to drill through the parking lot.  This presents logistical difficulties for the business and is an expensive option. We have seen figures that show 70% of all commercial buildings that are going to be built by 2050 have already been built.  We see this becoming a severely underserved market as companies run out of options to reduce their energy expenditures.  GBL Geothermal and other companies are working hard to commercialize GHP technology for the light commercial market.  For the larger commercial market, GHP technology is a great fit.  Hospitals, schools, military bases, and government buildings are frequent GHP customers and easy sells because they are very interested in cutting operating costs.  It is neat to see the technology working from the smallest homes to the largest buildings in the world.

GBL Geothermal is leading the way to improve the world for future generations by assisting businesses and consumers to achieve greater social and environmental responsibility.

March 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

Top 7 Requirements for “Real” Economic Recovery

This is the fourth in a series of posts that will note the key points from Directions 2010.

Dean Schultz, the President of the Federal Home Loan (FHL) Bank of San Francisco touched on a very important aspect with respect to the structure of our financial system, and that is: “[t]here is an implied guarantee that the government will back the investors.” He believes that in 1-3 years we will see legislation debate about the strength of the FHL system. FHL functions as a very important intermediary between capital markets and investors. The FHL bank is strong because it requires that the capital of participating banks must equal their assets. Mr. Schultz provided us with the top 7 requirements for “real” economic recovery.

Top 7 Requirements for “Real” Economic Recovery:

  1. A “reduction in the unemployment rate” by creating jobs, and encouraging small business owners to hire new employees. (Recently, there has been discussion of awarding incentives to small business owners that hire new employees. The crux of the problem is that they will not hire new employees unless their customers are spending money.)
  2. A “stabilization of housing prices.” (In reality, people will not feel wealthy again until they start to see their home values increase.)
  3. “We must see the foreclosure and default rates in residential and commercial property turn around.” (Most experts predict the commercial market will see an increase, not a decrease in this during 2010.)
  4. Lending institutions that can “meet the needs of the community”, without collapsing internally.
  5. “Strong capital position”
  6. “Sound underwriting standards”
  7. Finally, liquidity! He also notes that “funding from the FHL banks when necessary” is going to be an important component to “real” economic recovery.

I am optimistic about the opportunity for the economy to recover, and individuals like Mr. Schultz have an important role to play.

March 2, 2010 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

Executive Director of Regional Transportation Company Discusses Sustainability

This is the third of a series of posts that will note the key points from Directions 2010.

Mr. Lee Gibson is the Executive Director of the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC).

In his speech, he indicated that the RTC is trying to weave in sustainability concepts to their business model. Mr. Gibson’s definition of sustainability is, “making business decisions that are good for the economy.” This is an important aspect of sustainability. There are also the social and environmental components of corporate responsibility. I believe that corporate responsibility and sustainability go hand in hand. What we have found is that corporations that have a focus on environmental and social responsibility are better able to achieve economic sustainability.

Current RTC road projects include the widening of 395 from Moana to the I-80 interchange, and the construction of the Meadowood interchange.

Future projects include:

  • The SE Connector
  • The Pyramid Corridor/Connector

Long-term plans could include a street car for Virginia Street, and the development of a partnership with the City of Reno.

February 27, 2010 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

Marketing Expert offers Directions for 2010

This is the second of a series of posts that will note the key points from Directions 2010.

David LaPlante is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for One to One Interactive, and one of the most interesting speakers I have ever had the privilege to see.

According to Mr. LaPlante, “[i]n 2400 B.C. the Fleur De Lis represented something entirely different than it does today. Today, it represents the Super Bowl winners.” I think that the association (conscious and subconscious) a customer makes with a marketing symbol is one of the most important considerations for marketing professionals.

I have seen David present two times, and both times he was wearing his Smith hat while presenting. It is very interesting how he describes his attachment with their symbol. He believes that it actually helps define him as a person and identifies others to him that may have similar interests. For example, when he is in a crowd and sees another person who is wearing Smith sunglasses, he knows that he will be able to have a conversation with this individual because they have similar interests.

According to Mr. LaPlante, “Transparency is the new black.” We are in an age where interruption marketing is essentially dead, and permission marketing is alive and thriving. What this means is that a company will market to potential customers with information and tools that will help them make the purchase decision, instead of blasting potential customers with traditional advertising mediums like billboards. There are 2 levels to the brain. We can control the higher level, but we cannot control the lower level. Marketing professionals are working hard to determine the best way to appeal to the level of the brain we cannot control.

A product that he could see coming to market soon would use a smart phone to perform skin tests that will detect the nutrients we are lacking and send us advertisements for local restaurants that will meet our nutritional needs. Very cool!

A few books that David recommends reading: Ender’s Game, Snow Crash, and The Diamond Age

February 26, 2010 at 7:09 pm Leave a comment

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Michael Lemons

I will secure sustainability for your business with strategic CSR (corporate social responsibility) by making social impact integral to the unique value proposition of the company.

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