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Marc Gunther seems to be relishing his role as green curmudgeon (or at least provocateur) over at GreenBiz.com. To judge by the comment stream, he hit a nerve with his recent “In Defense of the Plastic Bag.”
Here’s my response:
It may seem complicated, Marc, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be — if we ask the right questions. “Paper or plastic?” (or “this plastic or that plastic?”) aren’t the right questions. Nor is “Should we tax or ban all plastics because some end up as litter?”
No, I don’t want to “impose my beliefs on others,” but I do want everyone to bear the full costs of their decisions and actions. This challenge of getting the prices right is, I think, at the heart of most of our environmental problems.*
Probably the best way to address the plastic bag problem is extended producer responsibility (EPR) — have the entities that produce what becomes “waste” be responsible for the costs of dealing with that waste — rather than imposing those costs on ecosystems and other people. It’s worked in many EU countries, as well as Canada and Japan. Natural Logic’s white paper, Product Stewardship & Extended Producer Responsibility: Towards a Comprehensive Packaging Recycling Strategy for the US, lays out analysis and strategy for establishing EPR in the US. (The work was commissioned by Coca-Cola, and contributed to by a diverse group of stakeholder; the opinions is presents are Natural Logic‘s alone.)
* This is a topic which I’ve been thinking and writing about for a while. See, for example:
Memewatch: Getting the prices right
Get This: Overcoming the Key Barriers to Building a Sustainable Economy
CFOs, Sustainable finance, & Getting the Prices Right
The True Cost Economy: Ecologizing Capitalism
(and my book-in-progress, “Getting the Prices Right,” in 2012)

The Ps? BP, and now HP.

The Qs? What are these people thinking? Why is this so hard?

Whatever happened to those simple ethical rules:
– What would happen if everyone did it?
– What would your mother think?

Forward looking ethical corporations, socially responsible corporations and all that are worthy commitments, but hey, folks, everything — whether in business or in life — starts with the fundamentals. No shortcuts.

(Time for a little shameless self-promotion.)
“Measuring What Matters” webinars
Using sustainability indicators to track and drive better performance
August 21, 2006, 12:00-1:00pm Pacific / August 29, 2006, 10:00a-11:00am Pacific

Program Summary

In response to popular demand, Natural Logic will begin offering a series of webinars, to deliver more information, to more people, with less carbon footprint!
First up: “Measuring What Matters.”
Everyone knows that what gets measured gets done.
But how do you make sense of the growing mix of sustainability indicators, metrics, and KPIs that are such an essential part of sustainability reporting?
How do you select powerful measures˜and compelling goals– that help track and drive better decisions, and better performance?
And how do you actually put those measures to work for your organization: supporting strategy, implementation, and results?
Logistics

Monday, August 21, 2006
12:00pm to 1:00pm Pacific (3:00pm – 4:00pm Eastern)
or
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
10:00am to 11:00am Pacific (1:00pm – 2:00pm Eastern)
(Check your own time zone))
Price: $149
Satisfaction guaranteed: We’re so confident you’ll get what you want from this webinar that we’ll refund your full fee if you’re not satisfied. It’s risk-free.
Register now using this link, or paste this URL into your browser:
http://www.meetingbridge.com/seminar/?9025596

Details

This webinar is designed for people and organizations who have been grappling with the challenge of integrating sustainability into day-to-day work throughout their organization. Bring your specific issues and challenges for discussion.
Measuring What Matters will cover
– How and when to set powerful goals
– How to select relevant metrics for every level and purpose
– How to manage the nuts & bolts of managing metrics:
collecting, analyzing and deploying performance indicators
This webinar is based on Natural Logic’s popular day-long workshop: “Measuring What Matters: Tools for Assessing Progress towards Sustainability” Some representative comments:
– “Excellent!”
– “Informative and inspiring.”
– “I’ll be able to use the info to review our divisions’ performance measures.”
– “The most valuable sustainability workshop I’ve been to.”
Webinar leader

Gil Friend, founder, president and CEO of Natural Logic, Inc., is a systems ecologist and business strategist with 35 years experience in business development and environmental innovation — and inventor of the Business Metabolics™ key performance indicator (KPI) system. He authors The New Bottom Line, an internationally distributed column offering strategic perspectives on business and environment, and writes and speaks worldwide on business, environment, and resource policy issues.
Natural Logic

Natural Logic provides strategic, analytic and management services, supported by proprietary protocols and tools, that build our customers’ profit, resilience and competitive advantage through exceptional environmental performance.
Our strategic assessments evaluate your company’s aspirations, processes and productivity, identify opportunities to recover the lost profit embedded in “waste” of all kinds, and uncover your hidden profit potential. Our design, training, implementation and monitoring services help you put the “how” into practice.
Natural Logic. Sustainable performance you can take to the bank.™
Questions?
If you have questions, or to schedule the full, day-long Measuring What Matters workshop for your organization, call 1-877-628-5644 (outside the US call +1-510-849-5467) or email measures at natlogic dot com
We look forward to seeing you on line!

Deborah Streeter’s extended interview with me at the NCIIA conference in March 2006 is now posted at the Cornell University eClips web site. (You get a collection of thematic clips, as well as transcripts.)

I haven’t watched them all yet, but my favorite so far is this one, on the strategic importance of aiming ahead of the trend. (I’m sure there’s a way to enclose the video right here, but I don’t know what it is.)

I’ve got more video coming in, from various recent presentations (including — for something completely different — Green Festival) — and I’ve added “Build a demo reel” to my GTD list. (Helpers welcome. 😉

From the impressive Sonoma County (CA) Climate Protection Campaign: climate crisis haiku! A few samples:
A frog in water
Doesn’t feel it boil in time.
Dude, we are that frog.
ÖHaiku Hullabaloo winner,
Grist Magazine, July 2004
and
Reduce by one fifth
First step to protect climate
Together no sweat
ÖMerrilyn Joyce, 9/23/03
and
CO2 haiku
Is not so easy to do
I’m getting hot now
ÖDoron Amiran

Sez Gary Liss, Mr. Zero Waste:

If you’re not for zero waste, how much waste are you for?

Nice, eh?
(Disclosure: Natural Logic is working with Gary on the Zero Waste Plan for Palo Alto CA, as as the California Sustainable Business Council.)

From GreenLAgirl, via GreenBusiness.net:

The Greenlight Greenliving Essay Contest wants you to write a 500-word (or less) essay about how you’d renovate your home to make it environmentally friendly.Entries are due July 20, 2006.
The winner gets $2,500. Sez the website: Think as big or small as you want. Be creative and original!

(Greenlight is apparently a direct-to-consumer mortgage lender, FYI)

[Sunday Herald (Scotland)]:

Attempts by multinational corporations to talk up their social and environmental responsibility are so threadbare and misleading that they are preventing progress towards a sustainable future.
That is the conclusion of a trenchant new study by one of the Scottish Executive‰s leading environmental advisers, Jan Bebbington, a professor of accounting at St Andrews University.

The article is light on details, though, and I haven’t yet been able to find the original report.

Speaking of MSWG, I’ll be speaking at their conference later this morning, together with client Carol Kraege of Washington Ecology, about finding new sources of business value through innovative approaches to regulation. Specifically, we’ll talk about the recent pilot project we conducted with them, exploring how comparative benchmarking of environmental footprints in the pulp and paper industry — performance feedback — can drive better performance, and more streamlined regulatory approaches.

Apparently not.
I’m in Park City Utah today, for the Multi-State Working Group annual workshop. Salt Lake City Mayor, Rocky Anderson is giving the morning keynote, describing a surprisingly Salt Lake City Green program; they’re not on the SustainLane list, which rates only the 50 largest US cities, but they have met their 2012 Kyoto target six years early, so snaps on them!
When he heard that Senator Oren Hatch said that ‘the science of global warming is more like science fiction,’ Anderson called him and asked ‘Oren, what have you read about this?’ Sen. Hatch’s answer: Michael Crichton’s book, State of Fear! ‘That’s fiction, Oren,’ Anderson said, ‘you might want to read some of the science.’
There you go.