Dead in Iraq

This is pretty amazing.

More detail at SMH:

As the game [America’s Army – an interactive project funded by the Pentagon which it uses to enlist recruits] continues around him after he is killed – and usually under a hail of abuse from the other players – DeLappe types in the name, age, service branch and the date of death of each soldier.

Make it about “more”

Seth Godin suggests that arguing for less (emissions, food miles etc.) is the wrong approach.

Instead we should be pushing for more: bigger energy efficiency, more kilometres per litre etc.

As much as I’d prefer not to indulge this idea of “more” it makes sense as a way to achieve results based on the current mindset (which as Seth points out is not so new).

Mention in Next

Seems I got a mention in today’s Next insert (in the SMH and Age): It’s web take 2.0. I had a few words to say on page 2 regarding WWF’s use of social media tools like blogs (and blogs) and YouTube and Flickr and MySpace and wikis (used internally).

(Just a quick note – the interview was done a few weeks ago while I was still working at WWF).

I haven’t seen the print edition yet, but they came and took my photo too. Not sure if it made the cut though… Yep – they used the photo. Big one too… Feels weird…

More on carbon neutral business

In a previous post, I pointed to a some articles by Joel Makower on the “green-rush” – companies scrambling to become “green”.

I just came across another post by Joel: Is ‘Carbon Neutral’ Good Enough?. This passage in particular (actually taken from an earlier post) caught my eye:

buying offsets for an energy-wasteful home or business and calling it environmentally responsible is akin to buying a Diet Coke to go with your double bacon cheeseburger — and calling it a weight-loss program. Efficiency (and calorie reduction!) comes first.

This is what was so interesting about the announcement from Yahoo! – they are actively distancing themselves from this position.

It’s a concern I’ve heard from quite a few people. Australian carbon credits provider, Climate Friendly re-inforce the “Reduce, Renew, Offset” ‘hierarchy’ that I’ve mentioned before (also promoted by WWF).

And it is also reflected in Energetics’ paper The Reality of Carbon Neutrality (PDF 52 KB) paper.

If ever there was a business case for an agreed framework or guideline for reporting on carbon neutrality, so that consumers, analysts and investors can determine with absolute clarity the genuine aspiration from the green wash – this is it.

The Energetics paper suggests that “carbon neutral” as a claim is problematic, unless backed up with life cycle analysis, verified and audited by a third party, and accreditation under a variety of standards (including the Australian and International Standard AS ISO 14064 used by the Australian Government’s Greenhouse Friendly program).

Energetics’ position leans a bit on risk management – that companies that claim “carbon neutral” status without going through such processes open the company up to reputation and financial risks:

Companies should be aware when they consider proclaiming their carbon neutrality, based on a less rigorous approach than the one outlined above, that there is a real reputation risk for Boards and Executives of accusations from civil society of “green wash”.

At present the ASX Corporate Governance Council is deciding to what extent they will require or recommend that ASX listed companies should voluntarily report on non-financial risk with regard to environment, social and governance risk and to what extent they will define reporting frameworks. Issues around carbon neutrality will fall within such guidelines or frameworks should they emerge.

It’s a useful approach, if only because risk is one of the key drivers leading businesses down the path of carbon neutrality. The other, of course, is marketing – perhaps one of the drivers of green wash?

From NIN to Chick

The last two nights have been awesome – getting to see some great music from opposite ends of the spectrum.

On Wednesday night I joined Tobes and when and saw Nine Inch Nails, as they tour on the back of their new album Year Zero.

The venue was the Big Top at Luna Park – the sound was really good, especially when I was in the crowd near the front. An amazing amount of energy in the band – despite a few technical glitches – right up there from start to finish.

Standout tracks, for me, were Survivalism, Heresy”, and Hurt (one of my favourite, all-time NIN tracks – I was stoked when they played it, despite the loud-mouthed f&*kwits that were talking behind me most of the way through).

Yet last night I found myself on the other side of the bridge, literally and figuratively, at the Sydney Opera House watching jazz legend Chick Corea with Gary Burton and the Sydney Symphony.

I really wanted to see this gig (it’s not often you get to see Chick Corea in oz) but wouldn’t have made it except for the generosity of my new employer who arranged tickets for the team.

Both Chick and Gary were amazing musicians – and the folks I was with likened the musical interplay between them as being akin to dancing. It really was an awesome show – some of the symphony arrangements didn’t quite hit the mark, but there were some beautiful and magic moments. A very special event that I’ll remember for some time.

If only every week was filled with as much inspiration!

Greener than thou

Just getting through a backlog of blogs. Two excellent posts from Joel Makower on the massive trend towards “green business” these past few months.

Is there a green business bubble? talks about some of the press asking if this current momentum is just a fad. The key pull-quote for me (though I recommend reading the whole thing):

… With no [definition of “green business”] standards, the bar is free to drift continually higher. And that seems to be what is happening. For example, as more companies claim some form of carbon neutrality, the value of carbon neutral as a marketing claim becomes increasingly devalued. And as the bar rises, laggard companies, even if fully compliant on the regulatory front, are finding themselves further and further behind, from a reputational perspective.

I’ve actually spoken to a lot of people lately that have commented on whether all these businesses rushing to be “carbon neutral” are just greenwashing. Joel’s take is quite interesting in this regard.

But on the topic of greenwashing, Joel posted: The Greenwasher in All of Us.

Another great article, but the highlight:

I’ve been seeing the “G” word showing up more and more, in both local and national media. And while it’s generally good that we maintain high standards for companies’ seeking to claim environmental leadership, I can’t help but ponder the hypocrisy of it all: how much more we expect of companies than of ourselves.

I’ve heard the sentiment that “government and companies aren’t doing enough” as a reason not to try harder or do better. It’s an easy escape hatch from taking responsibility for our own actions. Heck, I’m just as guilty.

In some cases it truly is an issue – a lack of infrastructure, a lack of products readily available etc. But I think on some level it’s also a sense of powerlessness – that my personal efforts won’t make a difference unless business and government do their bit. There’s truth in that – but it certainly doesn’t let us off the hook.

I don’t usually do big quotes, but this next passage from Joel’s post is really powerful, to my mind anyway:

When I speak to audiences about the greening of business — nearly every week these days, or so it seems — I often conduct an informal poll to see how audience members behave in their personal lives: how many drive hybrids or carpool to work, or are simply driving less; how many have installed solar panels or purchase green energy for their homes; how many use organic or low-toxic gardening techniques; how many seek out locally produced goods; how many have taken the basic measures at home — have installed energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, water-saving devices, insulation and weatherstripping, and the like.

Some audiences are more tentative than others in volunteering answers, but even the most enthusiastic groups tend to have only a handful of members who appear to taking more than a few token actions.

That is, few of us have gone very far out of our way to make changes that we all know are necessary to address today’s environmental challenges.

This admittedly unscientific research has limited value, of course, except to raise the inevitable question: Why aren’t we doing what we’re asking companies to do?

I’m guessing that in the few seconds it took for you to read the preceding question you’ve already formulated some kind of answer: It’s hard to do everything right … It takes too much time and costs too much … I want to do these things, but never seem to get around to it … My spouse/partner/friends don’t share my interest in being environmentally responsible … I’m not sure which products and companies are truly the good ones … I have doubts that if I do these things that it’ll really make a difference.

Sound even a little familiar? Does that make you malevolent? Probably not, though reasonable minds will disagree.

One need modify the above statements only slightly to make them appropriate for companies.

And that is the sentiment I hear from business that I’ve spoken to about this stuff. It’s very similar things that stop us individually from taking action. So if a company takes some steps, it’s sometimes easy to bag them (I’m as guilty as the next person). But they also deserve some credit for taking those first steps. Sometimes those steps are incredibly difficult – with lots of competing interests, internal politics, inertia pushing back.

Sometimes it has taken an enormous effort from just a few people in an organisation to get those changes off the ground. As much as it’s easy to forget – companies are made up of people. If we bag out their efforts, it’s easy for them to throw their hands in the air and say “why bother?”

I, like Joel, am not saying businesses should be let off the hook. But I do think that the attack mentality that sometimes follows when businesses announce a new green initiative is counter productive. Sometimes it’s warranted too. Where that line is drawn is pretty difficult to determine – but perhaps thinking about it as if it were us making the change and responding accordingly might help put it in perspective.