Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Greenwashing?????

Below is an article from Triplepundit.com, its long but definitely worth a glance. The article mentions Nature Valley Trail Mix Bars….guess I have for a snack today…. Nature Valley Trail Mix Bars. It pays to be an informed consumer.

 

 

What does “natural” mean? The nature of this notoriously vague label is once again reaching the courts, this time in a lawsuit filed by two Californian women against General Mills. The plaintiffs claim, according to the New York Times, that General Mills has deceptively marketed its NatureValley products as natural when they contain highly processed ingredients, and therefore the company is liable for false advertising and anticompetitiveness.

This case is the latest in a number of lawsuits that have been filed lately against General Mills, accusing the company of using deceptive advertising for its products. In addition to the legal questions, this series of lawsuits brings other questions to mind – for example, does the label under debate violate the company’s commitment to ethics and intregity? And what does it mean for a company that prides itself on being responsible, or as its CEO puts it: “our approach to global responsibility is straightforward. It’s all about living our values – one of which is “We do the right thing, all the time.”?

This case is also important because it helps once again to bring to the public attention the debate around the “natural” label. Currently there are no legal requirements or restrictions for using the label “natural” on foods, and it can be a meaningless marketing term, but consumers nevertheless tend to value it. For some reason, as some surveys show, they even value it more than they value “organic” labels. Under these circumstances, is it any wonder that the “natural” label became so popular?

In the current lawsuit (which, according to Marc Gunther hasn’t even been filed yet), the plaintiffs explain, they bought Nature Valley’s products because they believed they were all-natural and therefore healthier, only to find out later that “they contain non-natural, highly processed ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), high maltose corn syrup (HMCS), and maltodextrin and ricemaltodextrin (together, Maltodextrin).”

What gave them the impression that the products they bought were all-natural? The packages of the products, the plaintiffs explain. For example, “on the front and back of both Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars’ boxes, the phrase “100% Natural” appears immediately beneath the NatureValley logo. The back of the Chewy Trail Mix Dark Chocolate & Nut Granola Bars’ box states: “100% Natural. 100% Delicious.” Given this type of language, they were expecting to buy all-natural snacks, not ones that contain HFCS, HMCS, and Maltodextrin.

As mentioned, this is not the first lawsuit against General Mills with this sort of allegations. Last October, Annie Lam of California filed a lawsuit against General Mills, claiming it is incorrectly describing the ingredients of its fruit snacks, citing strawberry-flavored Fruit Roll-Ups that contain “pears from concentrate,” but no strawberries. Lam also said, according to Reuters, that the packaging “was likely to deceive consumers into believing the snacks are healthful and natural, rather than a combination of artificial, non-fruit ingredients.” In May U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti in San Francisco allowed Lam’s lawsuit to go forward, noting that reasonable consumers might be misled by packaging that claimed the snacks are “made with real fruit,” and would not read the fine print.

According to AdWeek, that was the second lawsuit General Mills has faced for its Fruit Snacks. On June 2011, a woman sued the company for $5 million for misleading consumers about the health and nutrition qualities of Fruit Roll-Ups. The case was voluntarily dismissed a month later by the plaintiff, who decided not to pursue the case.

Another consumer lawsuit against General Mills was filed by Minneapolis law firm Zimmerman Reed, accusing the company of violating the FDA’s standard of identity for yogurt and knowingly mislabeling its Yoplait greek yogurt  because it includes milk protein concentrate (MPC), which isn’t listed by the FDA as an ingredient acceptable for use in yogurt. The use of MPC makes Yoplait Greek yogurt “neither Greek yogurt, nor yogurt,” the suit claimed.

All of these examples are from the last year, but it seems like General Mills had to face these issues even before that. AdWeek, for example, reported that in  2009, the FDA forced the company to discontinue misleading cholesterol and cancer-prevention claims on its Cheerios packaging.

So what do you think? Is this a frivolous lawsuit or should General Mills pay for “false” advertising?

Apple Drops Green Program

I’m not what most would consider a “gadget guru”. I enjoy the convenience of technology but I don’t have to have the latest and greatest. I replace the gadgets that get broken but I will not buy a new item simply because it’s a newer model. In today’s society I’m probably in the minority as lots of people sleep outside and wait in long lines to buy new products when they hit the stores.

I wonder what those folks think about Apple’s decision to no longer comply with environmental standards set by EPEAT. EPEAT is a certifier and global registry for environmentally conscious electronics and is backed by the EPA. In the past Apple has held a gold rating from the organization.

Although there are two sides to every story, rumor has it that since MacBook batteries can no longer be removed the machines are unable to be recycled. Because of this the computers don’t meet EPEAT standards.

This move comes as a shock since Apple has spent so much time and energy “greening” its head quarters. Apple fans…..what do you think about this?

Source: Ecorazzi.com

Interview with a small business owner- Eco Salon and Spa

I think it’s great when I come across a small business owner doing good things for the environment. Not because of regulations, but because it’s the right thing to do. Kristina Green, owner of Eco Salon and Spa has discovered that a little environmental stewardship can go a long way.

eco salon and spas - environmentally conscious salon and spa

Tell me about your business.

Eco Salon and Spa is a full service salon/ spa with an upscale atmosphere @ an affordable price.

Even the name of your salon reinforces your commitment to the environment. As a small business owner what prompted you to go green?

I feel that no matter how small, every effort counts. I love and appreciate the beauty of our planet. A journey of many miles begins with a single step. Together, small business owners can have a positive impact on our environment.

Your website mentions that your 5-year goal is to become completely Eco-Friendly. That’s a pretty commendable goal. How do you plan to accomplish this?

Our 5 year goal: We are continuously looking for ways to improve our environmental contributions. Our plan includes eliminating paper magazines in the salon by replacing them with tablets (like the Kindle), Adding an in house filtration system that would allow us to conserve water use, and partnering with our vendors to host events that will raise awareness.
What challenges have you faced in finding eco-friendly hair and skin care products?

Finding eco friendly skin and hair products hasn’t been as challenging as it may seem. Many manufacturers are aware of the evolving mindset of the average consumer, and they are developing products to fill the desires of these consumers. All of our products are not completely organic, however, they are all environmentally conscious. The packaging is able to be recycled and none of the products are tested on animals.

Have you always been eco-conscious, for example do you recycle/compost at home?

I have not always been eco-conscious. Over the years I have grown to appreciate the beauty of our planet. I have realized that small efforts can make a big difference. I have children now and I would like to leave a healthy planet for them and their children to enjoy. I do recycle at home, but no compost. Not yet.

What type of feedback have you been receiving from your customers regarding your environmentally themed salon? How do you involve your clients in reaching your goals?

My clients love that we are concerned about the environment. We involve them with our recycle program. We sell an organic oil that is a part of our regimen. All of our clients have this oil and must cover their hair with it prior to their appointments @ the salon. The bottles that we use to package the oil costs us about .25 each, but if our clients return the bottles for refills instead of purchasing new ones, we give them a $1.00 off discount.

Change is not always easy….or convenient….what tips do you have for other companies that would like to “go green” ?

My advice to other companies is to start small. Make small changes that you know you can be consistent with. Once you make the small change a habit, move to the next change.

How has going green improved your business?

Going green has improved my business, because people like to support those who take responsibility for the planet. People like to support good causes. My customers are proud to say that they are a part of our movement.

Anything you would like to add?
I would just like to add a thank you to you, for taking the time to focus on our company. Thank you for caring about the planet, and thank you for highlighting our efforts.

Read more of Kristina’s Story at EcoSalonandSpas.com and remember If you know of a small business owner doing great things for the environment contact the Office of Sustainability. We’d love to share their story!

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Interview with a small business owner

I think it’s great when I come across a small business owner that is doing good things for the environment. In a paper driven industry, Liz Thomas has found a way to “go green.” Although the changes were prompted by necessity, her business has flourished and customers are happier.

I have always hated the amount of paper accumulated in the tax preparation process. But more and more I find that employers (including LIFE) are providing employees with electronic W-2’s and electronic filing with the IRS is easier than ever. My goal this year is to have a paperless tax return. Through scanning and email I’ll try to see if I can do everything electronically. Wish me luck!

If you know of a small business owner doing great things for the environment contact the Office of Sustainability. We’d love to share their story!

 Tell me about your business:

Thomas Tax Management Service is an online tax service for individuals and small business. I started the business inCaliforniain 1987 after owing the IRS a large sum of money due to an inexperienced tax preparation services I used.  I have clients all over theUnited States, many that I have never met face to face. I advertise very little so my business feeds on referrals.

This year Thomas Tax Management Service has gone paper free. Tax preparation has traditionally been a very paper laden industry….as a small business owner what prompted you to go green? 

Thanks to modern technology, Thomas Tax management Services (TTMS )went paper free in 2011.  I have been gradually taking the business to less and less paper over the past 4 years. A move toNorth Carolinain 2006 had me considering closing my small tax business, since my clientele was inCalifornia. When I realized that 90% of myCaliforniaclients were more than willing to “snail mail” and email me their tax documents, I decided to keep the business open. Since then myNorth Carolina,South CarolinaandGeorgiaclientele has grown as well as myCaliforniabase. For the local clients, I may meet with them initially face to face, with the majority of their documentation being sent to me via email. For clients that are too far to meet with, a consultation is done on the phone, a tax organizer is sent to the clients (via email), and then all the info is returned to me completed with tax documents (via email).

With the IRS encouraging taxpayers to file electronically and in some case making the practice mandatory, my paper usage was cut down by 65%.  I am able to file a tax return electronically and send a copy to clients via email.  So not only is going green helping the environment, I am saving money on paper, printer ink, and postage. This past tax year a few of my clients insisted on filing paper returns, so I updated my fee schedule to include e-filing in the price of preparation. . .  so for the first time since 1987 all 100% of my clients filed electronically.

What challenges did you face in making the transition to be “paper-free”?

Very few challenges were faced outside of clients wanting paper returns. It’s been a win-win situation over all.

Have you always been eco-conscious, for example do you recycle/compost at home? 

I have become more eco conscious since moving toNorth Carolina. . . While inCaliforniaI can’t say that I did much recycling.

What type of feedback have you been receiving from your customers?

Many times customers don’t comment on how smooth a process is (it’s almost expected). . . my customer base continues to grow, so I take that as my feedback. . . all positive.

Change is not always easy….or convenient….what tips do you have for other companies that would like to “go green”?

Many times change equates to spending money. . . I think if small changes are considered first, many times you will find you are saving money.

Do you have plans to implement other “eco-friendly” policies? 

I’m looking into seeing what else I can do as an internet business

How has going green improved your business? 

I have been able to save money in regards to postage, paper and printer ink.

Casual Tuesday’s ???

Many companies have implemented “casual Friday’s”. This is the one day of the week that employees, who usually dress in suits and ties, get to wear more relaxed, less formal attire. I have always heard that casual Friday’s boost employee morale and that being comfortable allows the creative juices to flow.

Dress_Codes

Well today I learned of a different reason to institute dress down days. Employees of Japan’s Ministry of the Environment are dressing down to conserve energy and prevent electricity shortages in light of its nuclear crisis.

Starting on June 1, the program called the Cool Biz campaign, calls for office temperatures to be set at 82° Fahrenheit and for a no-suit, no-tie dress code. There is also a SUPER Biz Campaign which goes an extra step by starting on May 1, and relaxes the dress code even further by allowing employees to wear t-shirts, polo style shirts, sneakers and jeans (but does not allow athletic wear, shorts or flip-flops).

 Although not to the degree of the Ministry of the Environment, other companies across Japan have adopted similar policies. What are your thoughts on the program? If this were implemented at your place of employment how well would it be received? Would you “scare” your customers away?

Source: Earth 911

Photo: D. Scott Abbott

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LIFE students respond to BP case study

The President’s Climate Commitment requires LIFE to make sustainability a part of the curriculum  for all students. A great example of LIFE fulfilling its commitment is in Wanda Benjamin’s Ethics in Business and Technology (BSN 201) class. Students in this class were asked to read and comment on a case study titled “BP (Beyond Petroleum) Focuses on Sustainability.” I have included responses from some of LIFE’s future business leaders.

 “BP (Beyond Petroleum) Focuses on Sustainability”

 The case study provided a history of the company, delves into controversies regarding business practices, environmental damage and hazards to workers. The article also talks about BP’s efforts to improve its image and manage decisions related to ethics and social responsibility.

After reading the case study the students were asked to propose solutions to BP’s dilemmas and to give a rationale for their recommendations. Joy Weaver, summed up the assignment with this question.  “Prior to the oil spill, BP was doing a great job at improving its image and the impacts of these efforts were being felt everywhere. So what should BP do now seeing as its image is back for public scrutiny again?

Here is what some of the students had to say……

  • “Having a department or outside party inspect to verify upkeep and maintenance is being followed [will] help ensure that employees are accountable and do not neglect or ignore early signs. Transparency will [ensure] that the company is really trying to redeem themselves and have nothing to hide.” Benita Jackson

 

  • “Good publicity is only going to help BP as they strive for a new image and continue to become environmentally friendly. It also helps out all the stakeholders as well. Good media shows the stakeholders that what they are invested in is improving the world and not destroying it.” Ben Mateialona

 

  • “I think that BP’s efforts on renewable energy as well as its establishing a Code of Conduct are the first steps in the right direction. It is very hard for a company whose main business is drilling and extraction of fuel to truly gain a totally positive view from consumers; however its efforts to educate people on going green will greatly help.” Megan Page

 

  • “It just seems to me that BP has repeated the same mistake time and time again for instance, “The twenty-first century found stakeholders more wary of companies, especially after decades of repeated violations and misconduct on the part of the oil industry.” …..So it seems apparent to me that if they just retrain their organization to abide more ethically by the leadership of upper executives that BP can prove to be sustainable.” De’Aires Peterson

 

  • “Upper Management should lead their employees by setting an example and making ethical decisions at all times. Peter F. Druker says, “Management is doing things right and leadership is doing the right thing.” BP should continue to show environmental stewardship and continue to make society more sustainable. BP should have a plan in place to fix oil leaks and they should act with a [sense] of urgency. BP should always make their stakeholders their first priority.” Christina Thornton

 

  • Community presence, BP should not just commit to the occurrence of future problems but create a sense of belonging within the communities where it has the drilling sites. Just like it did during its inception in founding a hospital, Abaden, for its employees, BP should look for more opportunities to work with the local communities.” Joy Weaver

 

The Office of Sustainability would like to thank Wanda Benjamin and the entire class for their hard work and for allowing their work to be shared with our readers. Personally I was impressed and enlightened by their responses. What a great way to incorporate sustainability into the classroom!

Have telephone books become extinct?

With all the technology that surrounds me, I no longer have a need for a phone book. Actually, I think it would take me longer to look up a number in a phone book than to find it on the internet. (A side from my personal opinion)…..From an environmental standpoint, about 19 million trees and 7.2 million barrels of oil are used annually in the production of phone books. This equates to a lot of resources being used in the production of an unwanted product.

It seems like the City of Seattle shares my sentiments.

Seattle is on the verge of passing the  nation’s first phone book “opt-out” law. The “opt-out” registry will be funded by publishers through a 14-cent fee for each book distributed. The publishers are upset that the law does not apply to other forms of media and the Yellow Pages Association offers its own “opt-out” option and disagrees with the city maintaining a separate registry.

Seattle officials state that the “opt-out” registry which will be managed by a third party will reduce clutter, increase residential security and save the people of Seattle, money.

Rodale.com  explains the nuts and bolts of the new ordinance

THE DETAILS: The Seattle city ordinance would require the various publishers of yellow pages phone books to establish a city-administered opt-out website so people can choose to receive which of the three business phone directories they want, or none at all. The publishers would also be required to pay a licensing fee to cover the cost of operating that site, as well as a $148-per-ton fee for any books that are delivered to residents; that fee is the amount it costs the city to recycle phone books. (The law doesn’t apply to standard residential phone directories, as Washington state law requires that phone companies publish those.)

Not surprisingly, publishers of yellow pages phone books aren’t happy about the new law. Two companies that publish the books, as well as an industry association, have sued the city on the grounds that it infringes on their First Amendment rights to free speech and being able to communicate with whomever they wish. Adding to their complaint, the industry association has already developed a nationwide opt-out site, so a second city-administered site would be redundant. And they’re concerned that, should other cities follow Seattle’s lead, multiple city-administered sites would just create confusion.

WHAT IT MEANS: The ordinance is still being debated in city courts, but it’s scheduled to take effect on January 1. Who will win remains to be seen, but it is a sign that city and local governments are increasingly weary of coping with cumbersome recyclables.

What do you think about Seattle’s new law? Should it be passed? How often do you use your phone book and would you opt-out of receiving one if  you could?

Source: Earth911.com