Starbucks is ending the year on a high note: it's expanding in China, booming on mobile, and making good on its sustainability promise with a recycled design experiment. The company's hometown of Seattle will see the brand's first location made of "up-cycled" building materials — specifically, four used shipping containers, a hot commodity in architecture and design circles these days.
Starbucks spokesman Alan Hilowitz told the New York Times that the eco-friendly concept may lead to more container stores (not to be confused with The Container Store). It will also be one of a kind for another reason, the first "among the 17,000 Starbucks stores globally in that it will be drive-up and walk-up only with no space to lounge inside."
In another plus, the drive-through location will be mobile — as in portable, Hilowitz said, so easy to break it down and move to another location. “We see a lot of opportunities here,” he added. “We can put a store like this on a lot that will be developed someday but is free for two or three years, and then we can move it.”
The company was motivated by the idea of not letting the containers it uses for importing tea and coffee just sit and go to waste, he added.
Despite appealing to drivers (bound to get boos from environmentalists; perhaps there will be a discount for walk-up and cycle-up customers?), the store also intends to inspire customers to get their green on.
As the Seattle Post-Intelligencerreports, "A font familiar to Starbucks customers covers the side of one of the support containers: 'Regenerate, Reuse, Recycle, Renew, Reclaim.' (You get the idea. Lots of environmentally friendly “R” words.)"
And true to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's commitment to job creation, the location is already hiring!
Check out more images of Starbucks' first container-based store, courtesy of SeattlePI.com —
Selfless Tee just so happens to be a social enterprise that was a winner in the first Pepsi Refresh contest. In the words of one of the founders, Danny Bocanegra, “[Selfless Tee] runs campaigns with organizations using unique, cause-inspired apparel giving back 100% of the profits to the organization after the campaign.”
Hotels For Hope
Hotels For Hope is a social enterprise that was founded by Neil Goldman after a chance encounter with Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, and is being acknowledged as a Silver Sponsor at the Special Olympics Texas Fall Classic. In his own words, he “realized that [his] ‘ticket in life’ was to shift [the] for-profit business into a social enterprise.” What evolved was a company that adds a layer of social good to the simple act of securing hotel rooms
Yellow 108 is a sustainable hats and accessories company that uses salvaged and recycled materials. Textile factories produce an enormous amount of waste. Yellow 108 minimizes waste by turning it into something fashionable that everyone can wear. They are trendy and environmentally responsible. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Runa is a social enterprise beverage company that specializes in selling Guayusa (“gwhy-you-sa”). As the founder Tyler Gage will tell you, Guayusa is “a native Amazonian tree leaf that contains more caffeine and double the antioxidants of any tea.” That in and of itself is pretty fantastic. But, Runa takes it a step further. It is a hybrid organization and also runs a non-profit Fundación Runa.
I gave a talk at LA Green Festival on Saturday. It was an update on a guest post by my colleague Jerry Stifelman entitled Greenhushing Doesn't Help Anyone: Why Green Businesses Must Speak Up, arguing that it is as important for green businesses and organizations to communicate effectively about the good they are doing as it is to actually do it.
It is only through cultural change that we will achieve the kind of systemic transformation we need. And that cultural change can only happen if we make ourselves heard.
After the talk, an audience member brought up the notion of "green fatigue" - can we really talk about sustainability and "being green" to a society that is currently more preoccupied with job security?
The Term Green Will Go Away
After my talk, I attended a panel discussion that included fellow TreeHugger Jerry James Stone. During that talk, another audience member brought up green fatigue. And Jerry's response clarified something I had been struggling to articulate.
"If I do my job right," he said, "the term green will go away. There will be no green tech. Tech will just be green because it's a better way of doing things."
Jerry went on to argue that "green" is all to often thought of as a vertical—when really it's a horizontal. There is no singular "green" lifestyle or "green" industry—there are just ways to apply better, more sustainable, more innovative and more common-sense approaches to every single aspect of our lives.
We currently have an unprecedented opportunity to engage people in conversation about genuine change. But we may be better off abandoning the notion of "green" all together as we do so.
Saving the World, One Cliche At a Time
I am a big fan of events like the Green Festival, but walking around and viewing the booths was a powerful reminder that most companies and organizations in the "green" world are very poor communicators. They rely on imagery and content that helps them blend in, not stand out, and they do so in a way that guarantees they are only preaching to the converted. (See Jerry's other guest post on why originality mattersfor more on that one.)
Washington, DC – The Alliance for Climate Protection announced today that Alex Bogusky, one of the nation's leading creative directors and co-founder of the groundbreaking advertising firm Crispin Porter + Bogusky, is joining the organization as its Creative Director and Chief Marketing Officer.
The sustainability debate is about more than just climate change and what the US is going to do about it
Al Gore is one of the greatest sustainability leaders of our time. If anyone can issue a compelling diagnosis of the challenges we face, it’s Al Gore. But his recent call to action over what he terms the “climate of denial” – the failure of American politicians and the media to successfully act on climate change – offers misguided solutions.
Gore gets at the heart of the debate over how we can turn the public tide on climate change. Who will deliver the bold, inspirational leadership we need? What will shift awareness into certainty on the need for action?
Yet his proposed answers ask us to pin our hopes on reforming this broken political system. In doing so he discounts much of the incredible progress that is already being made outside of traditional politics.
Gore’s powerful and timely summary of why the political system is broken offers us a critical opportunity. If his judgment is correct, the scale of change required to reignite progress on sustainability, including issues like climate change, is both radical and unprecedented.
Here are four new ways of looking at the sustainability crisis, and some examples of how these perspectives are already helping to drive solutions.
Leadership is not limited to US presidents
The world is increasingly complex and interconnected. As technologies continue to spread across the globe, from basic mobile phones to new social media channels, power is shifting in unpredictable ways. Recently we’ve seen the most popular (and one of the most politically influential) British newspaper rocked by an ethics scandal and shut down forever – driven by the combined power of a new network of voices outside the political sphere.
Layer climate change on top of this rapidly shifting landscape of power, and it would be damaging to suggest that leadership lies exclusively in the hands of the president of the United States.
But this is exactly what Gore does when he says that America is “the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future ... and the president is the only person who can rally the United States.”
In reality the definition of what makes a great leader is changing, just as the traditional barriers to leadership are breaking down. Today leadership potential sits in the hands of anyone who can access, analyse and strategically use information.
Just ask any of the beneficiaries of Nike’s GreenXchange initiative, which open sources life cycle design methods to make better products available across the retail industry.
Rethinking leadership in this way makes it hard to accept Gore’s belief that “without presidential leadership that focuses intensely on making the public aware of the reality we face, nothing will change”.
Climate change is a symptom
More evidence is surfacing daily to show the true depths of the systematic issues we’re facing. The latest results of the Carbon Tracker, revealing that high-carbon investment could be the next sub-prime crisis, are but one example. As we begin to understand more about the central role natural resources play in supporting our economies and societies, nothing short of a transformation will be in order.
Increasingly the best way to look at climate change is as a symptom of this wider crisis, rather than an isolated issue. It’s this very treatment of climate change as a singular topic that has driven the polarised media landscape Gore calls attention to.
This singular way of thinking also leads Gore to put energy at the centre of the climate debate. Cutting emissions and shifting to renewables is a great place to start, but it’s hardly enough to create a truly sustainable world.
Plenty of thought leaders in the world of sustainability are guilty of this “carbon fundamentalism”. Bill Gates has been especially dogged in his promotion of nuclear energy, even to the extreme of saying that energy efficiency doesn’t matter. That’s the kind of talking point the media will relish as today’s story, distracting us from tomorrow’s solutions.
Reducing your impact is yesterday’s task
Back in the 1970s when policies to protect us from pollution first emerged, the idea of minimising negative impacts on the environment was pretty innovative.
Not anymore. Starting now, everyone is an activist – especially the small handful of forward-thinking businesses that are already helping to shift sustainability from responsibility to opportunity. These companies understand that the ultimate goal for any organisation that wants to truly future-proof its business today isn’t to reduce negative impact or “footprint”.
That’s still important, but the real innovators are focused on how their business can deliver a net positive impact on sustainable development.
Unilever wants to use its products to help more than one billion people improve their health and well-being. Nokiaenvisions using its core technologies to help create a world where everyone is connected and contributing to sustainable development.
Ironically Gore names Wal-Mart as an example of a “sustainability leader” we should be using our consumer dollars to support. He cites the company’s aggressive reduction of its carbon footprint. By choosing to buy from companies like Wal-Mart, Gore believes, we can send a strong signal to the business community about kind of change we demand.
This is an unfortunate example. Leaving aside the reality that Wal-Mart controls about 14% of the total US consumer market anyway – leaving most Americans with little choice about where their dollars go – this is a company that maintains harmful social policies. Amid accusations of falling below industry standards for employee pay to systematically discriminating against female employees, Wal-Mart hardly seems to be a beacon of social sustainability.
The company says that they have had strong policies in place against discrimination “for many years”. But they are missing the point.
We should all be speaking up to support companies that are truly thinking radically and systematically about sustainability. Wal-Mart is not – yet – one of those companies.
“Unknowledge” is power
In a world where business as usual in the ways we live and work is most definitely not an option, we can only benefit from accepting there’s a lot we just don’t know or understand yet. Nicholas Nessim Taleb calls this “living with black swans”, or being robust in the face of systematic uncertainty.
Businesses that will be thriving over the next few decades will be those who accept the scale of the risks they face – not merely image-wise, but regarding their very license to operate. Focusing on next quarter’s shareholder return is unlikely to deliver that kind of thinking.
Unsurprisingly, companies in the controversial extractive industries that have the most to lose from a transition to sustainability are huge barriers to action here.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 exposed the gross failure of oil majors like BP to understand and address risks in their businesses. Even so BP continues to insist their business strategy moving forward should be to “continue to move farther into harsh, remote and complex geographies, from deep water to the Russian arctic; from oil sands and unconventional gas to giant fields”.
Gore admits himself that “wishful thinking and denial lead to dead ends”. Relying on the political system to change is wishful thinking. We need to refocus the debate on solutions for a sustainable future, and overcome the denial that stands in the way.
By continuing to challenge ourselves to find new ways of looking at the crisis we face, we have a shot at achieving Al Gore’s objective of “perceiving important and complex realities clearly enough to promote and protect the sustainable well-being of the many”.