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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 going on vacation to a desert island that you own… you probably don’t have the right expectations. Here’s a great way to think of this point & draw a distinction if you’re considering starting your own shop: If you’re starting a restaurant, will it just be one or two locations? Or will it be several hundred, if not franchised? If the former, you’ve got a lifestyle business. There’s nothing wrong with that, but realize what you’re getting into and make sure your expectations match and plan accordingly.
  • Six trends in corporate sustainabilityThis article in the Guardian covers a 2012 Green Biz study that identified some familiar trends. Despite it being from 2012, I believe all six are still relevant today and one of the trends particularly resonates. The study identifies a gap between corporate risk assessment & response to the scale of sustainability challenges. I’ve seen this in my work. In a corporate risk assessment, it’s not uncommon for there to be a quantification of disasters such as a major supplier failure, political unrest overseas, new regulations, or natural disasters. But drought is often looked at in terms of water conservation and not necessarily persistent, extreme, and record-breaking droughts such as what we see in California. Without water all business could stop. Restaurants would not be able to clean and serve food. Utilities may not be able to cool machinery. And the agricultural impacts should be pretty obvious. This is a material sustainability issue to nearly every business in operations today. Do companies only quantify severe droughts but not complete water shutdowns cause by extreme droughts? In my experience, yes. What other sustainability issues are companies not imagining and planning for?
  • One billion dollar climate change fund – I doubt the Obama proposed $1b fund for climate adaption will ever actually happen, but still I found it interesting and a further sign of what we are all facing in this extreme weather. (WSJ)
  • The new iPhone 6 – I also doubt that this is actually true, but it’s still kind of fun and this fits into the “wild card” categories of stories. Entrepreneur magazine posted a rumor about what the new iPhone 6 will look like. While I’m not one of those people that stands in line for hours on release day, the nerd in me is kind of excited.
  • Food sustainability – Joel Makower published this article about the rising interest of major food companies in sustainability. It comes from the 2014 State of Green Business report published by Green Biz. It’s a great summary of many of the pressing issues: water, energy, & Genetically Modified Organisms in food.

photo credit: brentbat via photopin cc

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