The climate war heated up significantly today as President Trump signed a series of executive orders gutting the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce U.S. carbon emissions (The Washington Post). The orders instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite rules Obama instituted that would have led to the closing of old coal-fired power plants across the country. The policy is being pushed under a banner of “energy independence.” But the U.S. gets all of its coal domestically already, so: Huh?
The president doesn’t have legal authority to unilaterally revoke the Obama rules, known as the Clean Power Plan. That means these orders will kick off a long legal fight. Meanwhile, employment in the U.S. coal industry has been contracting for decades, thanks to reduced demand, competition from other energy sources, and increasing automation of those mines that remain open.
5 questions to figure out which brands are LEGIT ✌🏼
As a responsible shopper looking to do the right thing, you might think if a brand is openly talking about their environmental or labor practices, they’re probably legit. And if they show you a picture of a happy worker or an NGO partner, it’s probably a sign of good intent and practices, right? Swipe that credit card. 💳
Buyer beware — greenwashing is definitely a THING, and it’s not just the big fast fashion brands.
When does fearlessly breaking the rules turn into recklessly crossing the line? Maybe it’s when a CEO repeatedly fondles an employee’s breasts in public. That’s what the former PR head of Thinx, which makes period-proof underwear for women, says the firm’s (now former) CEO, Miki Agrawal, did to her (New York). Agrawal says the charges are “baseless.”
Thinx is a headline-making New York-based startup with a deliberately transgressive approach to product and messaging. It sells underwear, but it also crusades on behalf of “girls in the developing world who don’t have access to menstrual products.” Its subway ads caused a stir, and Agrawal has a long track record of courting controversy. A key part of Thinx’s mission, Agrawal wrote on Medium, is to “break the period taboo once and for all.” As she put it to New York: “I just love the taboo space.”
When my farm was first starting up in 2013, the farm-to-table community around Charlottesville was all abuzz about a promising local startup called Relay Foods. This was an online grocery store that, at least initially, sourced foods almost exclusively from farms in Virginia with the idea that “the farmers [are] the celebrities promoting their foods, as it should be.” Relay would just be the thing that brought the farms and the foodies together.
At a farmers’ conference in our county’s administrative building, a Relay rep reiterated this point about farmers being the center of the story, and even announced their new website would give each farm its own page to talk about its story and its products. A childhood friend of my wife’s was involved with the company at a very early stage and talked about it very convincingly. The company was attracting scores of young, idealistic employees committed to the idea of local agriculture.
We’re neck-deep in the middle of the biggest week in NewCo history. We just finished hosting the first-ever NewCo Shift Forum, our sold-out executive conference about capitalism at a crossroads. We held over a dozen hands-on MasterClass workshop sessions on Monday, and our Bay Area festival continues to roll on with our biggest list of host companies yet. I wanted to take an opportunity, though, to report from the Shift Forum on the three new awards we gave out last night as part of our first annual NewCo Honors.
The NewCo Honors celebrates three different kinds of organizations: first, the ‘NonProfitCo’ (we’re not sure if the nomenclature will stick, but we’re going with it for now), an award that celebrates a non-profit that’s going above and beyond on serving their communities. Next, we celebrated the ‘BigCo’: a large, established brand that’s transformed its operating model and put purpose at the core of what they do. Finally, we honored a single NewCo, which is a tough job to do given that we’ve identified over 2,500 of them across the world. A NewCo is, put simply, a new kind of company with innovative offerings and a deep-rooted focus on a mission beyond profit. There’s never been a more important time to identify and celebrate these types of organizations: they’re the engines of positive change in our society, and they serve as a model for changemakers and entrepreneurs across the world. Without further ado, here are the inaugural NewCo Honors winners:
I told a story a little while ago and received an interesting comment; here’s most of it:
Local food, organic food, “real” food produces less per unit of land farmed without a demonstrable improvement in nourishment. Do you really want to have to expand the amount of land in cultivation to feed the earth? Wholesale going “local” means having more limited diets. As long as this is limited to zealots and those who want to be accepted by their organic friends, and for whom the amount of their income spent on food is negligible, that’s great. It’s a lifestyle expense. But if you want to feed the prisons, the hospitals, the schools, and do it on a budget, this is an awful, awful approach.
Last night, my wife and I watched a Redbox movie on the tiny 15” television in our bedroom. It’s called “War Dogs,” and it’s about a pair of 20-something arms dealers who have wacky and unlawful adventures in procuring weapons for the U.S. military. The movie’s anti-heroes make a living by scouring a website that should produce a cold sweat in anyone that’s ever been involved in any way with government contracting: FedBizOpps. This is a website that lists practically every requisition for products and services needed by the Federal government — from office supplies to military hardware — and invites contractors to bid on the work. After watching the movie it occurred to me that the government probably uses the site to buy food as well, so I went digging and came across an object lesson in why Local has a gaping hole in its strategy for global domination of agriculture.
Big Food, Tiny Prices
Interestingly, nearly all of the food requisitions I came across were for the Bureau of Prisons. Even the small orders were for staggering amounts of food: 5,000 lbs of ground beef here, 2,000 lbs of chicken leg quarters there, 2,500 lbs of turkey breast over here. There was one contract for a straight bid on 20,000 lbs of beef burritos. The smaller offerings typically involved at least 10,000 lbs of meat. The larger orders shot north of a quarter-million pounds. And the only thing more shocking than the amount of food involved was the price.The most recent award (January 6, as of this writing) for well over 100,000 lbs of various meats was awarded to two suppliers for a combined total of about $30,000. Another, awarded just 24 hours prior, involved 127,000 lbs of beef, pork, and chicken plus about an equal weight of frozen vegetables and various packaged food, including 70,000 lbs of pancakes. This one was awarded across nine suppliers at a total value of about $190K. Fun sidebar: $50K of this was awarded to a company in Texas that paid a $100K fine in 2002 after pleading guilty to selling adulterated meat.
This is staggeringly cheap food being sold to the federal government by an awful lot of companies with the word “Importers” in their names. I was surprised by how few of the procurement items made any mention of a requirement for USDA inspection.
Kathleen McLaughlin is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Walmart, and also serves as President of the Walmart Foundation. Kathleen joined Walmart in 2013 after spending over 20 years at McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm.
In 2005, Walmart set three ambitious, and at the time, unprecedented sustainability goals for the decade ahead: be fully supplied by renewable energy, create zero waste, and sell products that “sustain our resources and environment.” The company closely measured these goals, and reported annually openly on its progress. And while cynics might claim the company’s moves were just another PR ploy, Walmart’s commitment had significant impact. When a company with half a trillion dollars in revenues shifts its focus, entire economies of scale shift with it.