Corporate sustainability, by the numbers: Who’s up, who’s down, who cares?

This has been a big week for corporate sustainability rankings, with the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and the Carbon Disclosure Project releasing new reports. Vote Solar and the Solar Power Electric Industries Association showcased the  top 20 corporate users of solar power in the US. A book called Good Company just landed on my desk, along with its own 2012 Good Company Index. And October will bring the World Series, Halloween and, of course, the annual Newsweek “green” rankings of big public companies.

All of which raises a couple of questions.

Do these ratings and rankings matter?

More important: Should they?

Undeniably, they do matter, mostly but not entirely because of the prestige they confer upon companies that do well. Press releases are flying! “Carbon Disclosure Project Salutes Con Edison” (Really?) “PepsiCo Earns Sustainability Accolades.” “GM Named Top Solar User in the U.S. Auto Sector.” This is all well and good. Some middle-management executive had to fill out those CDP forms or buy those solar panels, and why not recognize their efforts with a salute or an accolade? [click to continue…]

Shop with your (gay-friendly) values

67838081_e8084e86acWith the (yuk) holiday shopping season upon us, this weekend seems like a good time to devote a series of blogposts to the idea of shopping with your values. But before I get to today’s topic–the Buying for Equality guide published by the Human Rights Campaign–let me first humbly suggest that one way to express your values this season, if you care about leaving a more sustainable planet to our children, is not to shop at all, or to shop less.

Over-consumption is a problem. If all of the 6.8 billion people on the planet lived like Americans we’d be in trouble. Today, Black Friday, the busiest day of the year is also known as Buy Nothing Day. This year the organizers are saying:

We want you to not only stop buying for 24 hours, but to shut off your lights, televisions and other nonessential appliances. We want you to park your car, turn off your phones and log off of your computer for the day.

This is a nonstarter for me. I’m not parking my car, turning off my phone or shutting down my laptop (obviously). No way, no how. Indeed, I worry that a call to action like that turns off more people than it inspires. I much prefer the holiday messaging from the Center for a New American Dream, which exhorts people to simplify the holidays, by planning a holiday with more fun and less stuff. But most of us still want at least some stuff. Today, and over the next couple of days, I’ll try to suggest some ways we can acquire stuff that aligns with our values. [click to continue…]

Talkin’ ‘Bout ReGeneration

So Dell, which is getting more gung-ho about the environment all the time, has built an elaborate  website called, all about saving the planet. I can’t quite figure out what Dell is hoping to accomplish, to be honest–there’s no clear explanation on the site–or even how a company got an “.org” address. The most striking thing about the site is a cool (if kind of pointless) wall of graffiti where you can write an answer to the question “What Does Green Mean to You?” and see it show up on an interactive, ever-changing display, so long as you agree to register for the site.

Anyway, there’s a blog on the site, videos, “green” tips, inspirational stories and the like. Dell says, rather grandly: “The ReGeneration is a global movement—a group of people committed to sustaining the world’s natural environment.” Well, maybe, but if there is, it is unlikely to be managed by Dell, or any other company.

I tell you all this not to promote Dell but to promote myself!  One of my favorite corporate PR people, Bryant Hilton of Dell, recently interviewed me for the site and posted my comments on the blog. For whatever it’s worth…

This blog, meanwhile, has been quiet lately because I’ve been immersed in a major story for FORTUNE that should be out by early next week. It’s not part of my usual beat. Instead, a profile of a man who has been on the front page of every newspaper in the world this week. Stay tuned….

Dell shifts into neutral

Carbon neutral, you may remember, was the word of the year back in 2006, but as my friend Joel Makower (executive editor of, aka the guru of green business) has written, no one knows exactly what it means or even how to define a company’s carbon footprint.

So when Dell announced today that the company had become carbon neutral, I decided to take a closer look in my Sustainability column at and Here’s how the column begins:

Dell is announcing Wednesday that it has become carbon neutral by turning out the lights in its offices, buying wind power and protecting endangered forests in Madagascar.

It’s all part of CEO Michael Dell’s commitment to make the company that he started back in 1984 “the greenest technology company on the planet.”

But what, exactly, does becoming carbon neutral mean?

It turns out that there’s no agreed-upon definition of carbon neutral, even as rock groups like the Rolling Stones, events like the Super Bowl and the Oscars, and a growing number of companies have set carbon neutrality as a goal.

You can read the rest here.