j A o J e N n A

Caro's Adventures in Moldova!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

When tree huggers fight

Climate change bad. Renewable energy good. Birds good. Wind farms... great, ok, or the devil?
I've been sifting through the research and the blogs to weigh the impacts of wind farms on wildlife vs. their benefits of clean, renewable energy. (Full disclosure - this summer I'm working for NaiKun, a Vancouver-based company developing a 320MW offshore wind farm in northern BC.)

I'm convinced that the benefits of wind power - i.e. fighting climate change and resulting habitat loss - vastly outweigh the downside for a few birds. Wind turbines account for about 0.003% of all bird deaths estimated to be caused by human activities, according to the National Wind Coordinating Committee Wildlife Workgroup. Many environmental groups and individuals, including the Audubon Society, Greenpeace, and Bill McKibben, agree with me. Most endorsements come with the caveat that wind farms should carefully placed away from migratory routes and sensitive habitats.

What I'm more concerned about is an argument made by some anti-wind groups - that the studies by wind developers are biased, wind is big business (true; about $4b was invested this past year), and therefore can't be trusted. These statements come from those who purportedly have environmental interests in mind.

How does an individual or company counter such arguments against those who fundamentally disagree with your purpose? More data, empathy, or don't bother to respond?

Checks and balances are great, including for social enterprises, but what happens when these checks and balances get in the way of achieving real solutions?
(photo from ScienceDaily.com)

Monday, May 21, 2007

do corporations have a social responsibility?

Stanford Business Magazine this week tackled the above question in several articles .... here is an excerpt:

"In 1970, the late economist Milton Friedman famously said the goal of a company is to maximize profits, as long as it’s doing so legally and ethically. Although some experts still say that view offers the clearest picture of how businesses should make decisions, most business executives take a more expansive view. A 2006 survey by McKinsey & Co., for example, found that only 16 percent of worldwide business executives said companies should focus on getting the highest possible returns while obeying all laws and regulations. In contrast, 84 percent said large corporations should generate high returns to investors but balance this with contributions to the broader public good. This interest in doing good raises questions about what, exactly, corporate social responsibility is, how it can be reconciled with profit making, and whether “corporate social responsibility” is even the best term to use. "

certainly one question we are trying to tackle is: do corporations have a responsibility or an opportunity? or both? perhaps it is semantics, which Prof Brady alludes to later in the referenced article, but in many ways there is a substantive difference that arises in the approach of the organization or business. it can be a "let's cover our backside" or "let's figure out how to apply our business model in a way that creates value for both shareholders and society". starbucks has arguably created a growing and dynamic specialty market out of "socially conscience" coffees. so has unilever in india by repackaging consumer goods to fit the needs of the "bottom of the pyramid". these are businesses identifying and taking advantage of social opportunities that make business sense.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

incubators in Nepal

one of the amazing things about pursuing the idea of ReelImpact is that there is no end to social issues to tackle and likewise there is no end to the solutions business can address to mitigate / solve those issues.

take for instance, the Design for Extreme Affordability class, taught in the d.school with GSB Professor, Jim Patell. One of this quarter's projects is creating (that's right, creating) an infant incubator that can be sold in Nepal. the challenge of course is making it cheap enough (yet at high enough quality) so that people can both buy it and gain value from its use.

challenging, yet rewarding. trying to arrange for a team member to blog about his experience in bringing this project to fruition. stay tuned.

Friday, May 18, 2007

making it stick

Chip Heath spoke yesterday at the Stanford d.school's CIA-KGB class. Amazing how simple ideas heard together or heard in a new framework all of a sudden can become profound. It is easy for some to question books / concepts like Made to Stick or Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point and wonder if they can really take these principles and create a tipping point or a sticky idea ... it seems easier to formulate hypothesis via ex post analysis -- particularly given circumstantial noise and deviation; however, I really think Prof Heath is onto something with his book.

He introduced three of his six key principles for "sticky ideas" to our class:
- Simple
- Concrete
- Stories

As we think about ReelImpact, clearly the challenge is how to communicate to a passive or even uninterested audience that business is creating good -- to pull them in through the story -- the human interest of the lives being changed and dire circumstances being mitigated. To do this in a concise, disciplined, sticky way will certainly be challenging. But I really like the mental model that Made to Stick lays out and hopefully it will help point us in the right direction.

I particularly like "simple" ... all good ideas should immediately resonate -- often with an existing emotional connection. For instance, despite our name "ReelImpact: Capturing the Power of Business to Create Social Value", what has resonated most with people is when we say, "we're doing the Inconvenient Truth for Social Business". Immediately they get it ... media, documentary, changing perceptions / raising awareness, connecting to emotional concerns.

Yet ultimately the success of our message will be in the power of the story we can tell. Us telling a story and us enabling others to tell their story. The amazing thing is how many stories are out there -- how many people have something to say and are not sure how to say it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


This is my first time blogging on the site, so let me say hello: I'm Jason K, a first year MBA student at GSB and a member of the PMP Executive Committee. We had the pleasure of seeing Reel Impact 'in action' for the first time at our retreat this morning and it has huge potential.

Our group was made up of the 'greenies' and we set to task tackling a huge problem: Most people rarely think about where the products they purchase come from and the impacts of their purchases. We decided to study the orange juice that we had for breakfast, from the source of growing and processing in Brazil, shipping to the US, reprocessing in America, and then shipping nationwide and to our plate. Although I had thought about this issue before, putting it within the framework of a presentation or media blurb forced the group to be concise and simple in our presentation. As a result we made a human supply chain, and with each member of the group representing one step of the process. Our solution was to have an ecolabel on products (or a service where one could text for this information) that was easily accessible to the consumer.

Eventually, if these labels were to take hold, there might be opportunities for the OJ company to find efficiencies in their supply chain and reduce total global impact (and thus achieve a better ecolabel rating). For example, there might be more (but smaller) reprocessing plants all over the US so that the product can be shipped in concentrate form more energy efficiently. Or, more oranges can be sourced locally. [We actually discussed this exact topic in Jin Whang's Supply Chain class earlier this quarter..]

I think it worked too well. The OJ consumption rate at lunch went wayyyy down.

Return to New Orleans

Here is a clip from our mini-social innovation challenge. We challenged students to brainstorm issues that they are familiar with or have interest in .... and consider how to use business to create change.

One member of this group was recently in Dallas and was impacted by the mass of billboards asking New Orleans residents to return from their post-Katrina exile. Here's a view into this group's experience this morning.