Voices of Challenge
Please review our Commenting Guidelines before posting.
Question: How do we incent consumers to take meaningful, positive action on the issue of climate change?
Companies love to talk about how they've achieved cost savings through energy-efficiency programs (rightfully so!), but consumers may be getting an unfortunate mixed message. While quick to acknowledge cost savings to show their energy management efforts are working, companies are much slower to extend any kind of savings to consumers who want to reward them for using less energy (and emitting less CO2). Instead, the conventional corporate wisdom is to ask consumers to pay more for products and services with green attributes rather than explicitly share the return on investment in climate action. An obvious “climate” discount or rebate could connect climate action to lower costs and change the marketplace.
Question: Can one label adequately compare products' sustainability?
This, unfortunately, is a ridiculously complicated question! I wish it weren’t so. Having said that, it would be great if companies should aim for a one-size-fits-all label for their products, ideally certified by an independent third party. It should take into account the overall responsibility of the company (a CSR rating) and a science-based lifecycle assessment of the product (carbon footprint, water usage, use of recycled material, etc.). It would seem to be to be possible, if not easy, to reduce all this to a couple of letter grades, A through E, with one for the company and the other for the product. Fortunately, smart people are already at work on this. I’m thinking of the sustainability consortium convened by Wal-Mart and the folks at UL Environment, among others. Let’s all wish them luck.
Question: Which NGOs and local community partners have an effective track record of helping companies scale their efforts to improve the lives of factory workers?
Companies have realized that complying with labor legislation alone is not enough to foster productivity and achieve sustainability. They have redirected strategies and managerial initiatives towards approaches that improve living conditions of workers and their families. In developing countries like the Dominican Republic, several NGOs like CIPAF are working with different free zone businesses to conduct research that aims to improve workers’ quality of life and to increase productivity. The transition from “research” to “action” is difficult, since changing cultural and thinking takes time, money, effort, and will. One local example of a company focusing on actionable change is Knights Apparel, which is working with residents of the Villa Altagracia community to increase wages and transform the community’s economy.
Clean Water Action
Question: How can companies scale engagement efforts to maximize the impact to their communities?
5 key strategies: 1 partner with NGOs to select activities that connect employees with local causes, with your customers, and with other NGO supporters; 2 include a fundraising component/option so participating NGOs receive financial resources to advance their mission longer term; 3 include activities in which anyone can participate and where creativity and enthusiasm can amplify measurable results (for most people, “volunteering” includes personal philanthropy); 4 keep it fun, even when hard work is involved – shared fun creates great memories and brings people back for more; 5 thank all participants and recognize outstanding effort and leadership.