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Can Consultants Help Non-Profits Help Companies with CSR?

February 25, 2014

ACN is a great organization, but the organization does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in this blog. It’s just one guy’s opinion.

This morning I had the honor of speaking on a panel for the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits, along with Bill Bonner of Bonner of IMPR and Leah Bradford of the Kraft Foods Group and the Kraft Foods Group Foundation. In addition to being really impressed by ACN as an organization, I really enjoyed the lively and engaged crowd that had thought provoking questions and great contributions.

My task was to answer two questions:

  1. How are companies using consultants to develop corporate partnerships related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or sustainability?
  2. Does this market have potential?

CSR Defined

First, I think it’s important to start nearly every conversation about CSR by defining it. The simplest definition I give is Read more…


Six News Items You Should Read

February 19, 2014

Is Unilever CEO Paul Polman a sustainability rockstar? (see below for photo credit)

Here’s a second installment from my new series on top interesting news items to hit the airwaves, social media circuit, and newspapers over the previous week and a half. As a reminder, the topics covered will range from traditional business strategy, sustainability, cause-marketing, marketing research, entrepreneurship, anything in between, and an occasional wild card. None of these are selected by a committee, just bits of news that I found interesting.

  • Paul Polman = Sustainability Rockstar? Quite simply, I am a huge fan of Paul Polman and Unilever’s approach to sustainability. Marc Gunther recently published an interview with Unilever CEO. Shameless self promotion, Polman was also selected as one of six  “Sustainability Pioneer” in a report that I co-authored with Ellen Weinreb.
  • Four secrets of entrepreneurshipEntrepreneur magazine published an article on four things no one tells you when you start a business. As an entrepreneur, all of them resonated with me, but especially the second one: most businesses provide a lifestyle and a job, but not wealth. That’s not to say I haven’t done well financially with my company, I have. But it’s an important distinction for anyone considering starting a business and was something that was stressed to me in business school. IF you’re successful in business, you’ll able to provide for your family, go on vacations, etc. However, if you have expectations on Read more…

Social Enterprise: The Future of Cause Marketing?

February 12, 2014

I am a big fan of The Cause Marketing Forum. It’s the go-to place for information on starting a CM program and networking with the those that are creating value through this niche form of marketing. Their Cause Update blog does a great job of briefly summarizing new cause marketing programs and it was through that blog that I first heard about The Big C Competition. Essentially this competition, launched by the LIVESTRONG Foundation, will seek to fund entrepreneurial organizations that are addressing the needs of those living with cancer or caring for cancer patients. In total, sixty ventures will receive $140,000 and the grand prize winner gets $25,000.

This program stands in contrast to a lot of other cause marketing programs that are rather… transactional. You buy one product and a certain dollar figure or percentage or the “proceeds” go to a specific charity. There’s nothing wrong (usually) with these types of programs. It’s just that they’re… well… Read more…

5 Tips: Beginner’s Guide To Twitter

February 11, 2014

When I started my Twitter account over four years ago, Twitter was relatively new and there was a lot of talk about it being useless and a fad. I told myself that I’d give it 30 days and see if I could find anything useful in reading text messages with a limit of 140 characters. What on earth could this service provide that had a legitimate business value?

Within a week I was hooked.

Twitter is an incredibly useful business tool, nevermind a social tool. Someone once described it to me this way:

Imagine you’re standing beside a heavy flowing river of information and all you have is a spoon. You dip your spoon into the water and take a sip. That’s Twitter.

I’ve used Twitter as a marketing tool, as a way to connect with people at conferences, to meet like-minded people in my own city for coffee, (tactfully) espouse my opinions about politics, and – perhaps most generally, even though it sounds cheesy – express who I am as a person and professional.

I love Twitter. Even though my posts ebb and flow with the goings-on of the day, it’s a great service.

There are things that I wish I knew when I started and things I learned along the way that proved helpful to me. So if you’re just starting out on Twitter, or considering it, here’s a list of five things I did or wished I did along Read more…

Top 5 Interesting News Items in February (so far)

February 10, 2014

News events are more than Justin Bieber’s (latest) run-in with the law. It’s also more than strangely-colored-and-likely-dangerous hotel water from Sochi, Russia. So here’s what I hope will be a regular blog series: interesting news items that caught my fancy.

In terms of subject matter, the articles will deal with business strategy or marketing research or sustainability or cause-marketing or all of the above. Occasionally, like the post below with Bill Maher, I’ll include something that I think is interesting even if it’s off-topic.

Without further ado, here you go:

  • MillerCoors Brews a Beer to Battle Spirits Makers – This is a classic business strategy study. What should your company do when an indirect competitor is stealing away your business? Should you enter their business (spirits in this case)? Or should you create something that could compete with what your competitor offers? How do you do so without “cannibalizing” your own products? Find out how MillerCoors (which is just down the street from where I live, although I have yet to get neighborly free beer) is taking on its threat to “share of the throat.” (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
  • The Violent Gang Wars Behind Your Super Bowl Guacamole – Simply put, I had no idea that Read more…

Boldness: The Key Lesson From the Pioneers of Sustainability

September 18, 2013

Whether you refer to the field as sustainability, corporate social responsibility, or shared value, today social and environmental issues are more a part of everyday business than ever before.  We are now at a point where we can look back and celebrate the history of the field. And it’s in that spirit that I collaborated with Ellen Weinreb of the Weinreb Group to publish a report today where we identified six pioneers in two different categories of Chief Executive Officers and Thought Leaders.

The report “Pioneers of Sustainability: Lessons from Trailblazers” is the result of a survey of prominent leaders in the field of sustainability conducted by the Weinreb Group. Among the Chief Executive Officer Pioneers, survey respondents selected Lee Read more…

Press release: From CEOs to Tree-huggers: Diverse Group of Six Leaders Named “Pioneers of Sustainability”

September 18, 2013

BERKELEY, CA (September 18, 2013) – In a report released today, an unlikely and unusual matching of six business executives, and thought leaders were named as “pioneers” in corporate sustainability.  The report “Pioneers of Sustainability: Lessons from Trailblazers” is the result of a survey of prominent leaders in the field of sustainability conducted by the Weinreb Group. Among the Chief Executive Officer Pioneers, survey respondents selected Lee Scott of Walmart, Paul Polman of Unilever, and the late Ray Anderson of Interface. In category of “Thought Leaders,” sustainability professionals chose Paul Hawken, Peter Senge, and Michael Porter.

“Sustainability would not be the same without the contributions of these six pioneers,” said Ellen Weinreb co-author of the report and founder of the recruiting firm the Weinreb Group. “In their own way, they helped build the momentum so that the expectations of businesses go beyond the balance sheet.”

The report is designed to be useful for current CEOs considering how to make their mark in sustainability and for sustainability practitioners. All five pioneers were interviewed for a section about themselves and their thoughts on some challenges facing the world today. In addition, a former colleague of the late Ray Anderson shared his perspective on Anderson’s work.  The pioneers noted many success stories of sustainability becoming a part of everyday business for many companies. At the same time, there is still a need for more progress so it is more commonplace for companies to look at the impact of their business operations on the people and the planet in addition to profit.

“One of the central themes from all of the pioneers is that there is no better time than now for companies to take sustainability seriously,” said James Epstein-Reeves co-author of the report and head of the business strategy consulting company Do Well Do Good, LLC. “These pioneers teach us that starting your company’s journey or finding more dynamic results from current business approaches can be both an act of bravery and necessity. The path doesn’t need to be 100% clear, but executives should have the audacity to try to make the interdependencies of commerce, society, and the environment thrive. And ultimately, the future of success of business depends on assured and plentiful access to talent, raw materials, and customers.”

The free report is available for download on the Weinreb Group’s website: This is the latest publication of the Weinreb Group, which holds a library of research reports analyzing Chief Sustainability Officers and Sustainability Careers.


About the CEO Pioneers:

  • Ray Anderson, Founder and Former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Interface, Inc. – Ray Anderson led carpet manufacturer Interface to become, according to many, the leading company in sustainability. Anderson was the company’s passionate and unabashed leader and left no ambiguity about where he stood on business practices related to people and the planet. In addition to inspiring many, including many of his fellow Pioneers, Anderson’s advocacy changed the entire carpet industry.
  • Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, The Unilever Group – Paul Polman is the current CEO of Unilever. As the acknowledged head of his company’s commitment to sustainability, Polman has made several bold moves including the ending of quarterly profit reporting to reinforce the long-term view of the company’s investments and business goals. Polman looks at the “bottom line” differently than any other CEO currently in business
  • Lee Scott, Retired Chief Executive Officer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Lee Scott is the retired CEO of Walmart and led the company through one of its most dramatic and perhaps unexpected transformations. Perhaps no other company faces as many critics as Walmart. But Scott fought naysayers, both inside and outside of the company, with boldness and audacity to make sustainability issues a top priority at the world’s largest retailer.

About the Thought Leader Pioneers:

  • Paul Hawken, Environmentalist, entrepreneur and author –  Paul Hawken is the former CEO of Smith & Hawken who put pen to paper to write The Ecology of Commerce. He spread the word about sustainable business practices at a time when such thoughts were seen as revolutionary at best and downright crazy at worst. But his passion and drive attracted an enormous number of followers including several Pioneers, but especially Ray Anderson.
  • Michael Porter, Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, Harvard Business School – Michael Porter collaborated with his Harvard University colleague Mark Kramer to develop the concept of “Creating Shared Value,” which outlines sustainability from a competitive strategy perspective. His reputation as a leading authority on competitive strategy lent an element of seriousness to the field. Through his efforts, many proverbial doors were opened that otherwise might not have been.
  • Peter Senge – Founder, Society for Organizational Learning and Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management – Peter Senge has helped bring “systems thinking” into the mainstream, which identifies how companies learn, act, and evolve as an organization. Senge built upon his strong reputation in organizational development to help further sustainability. Among other endeavors, he helped in founding the Sustainable Food Lab and co-authored The Necessary Revolution. The book provides a clear articulation of how and why business can lead the effort for a more sustainable world and is considered a mandatory guide for many in business.