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How brands are evolving in the area of sustainability marketing and communications — and how their stakeholders are asserting their own needs and preferences.

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Investors, Human Rights Advocates Set Expectations for Transparency Around Conflict Minerals

As companies prepare their first required reports on conflict mineral use to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC, key investors and human rights groups have released a paper that sets expectations for the contents of the inaugural reports required by Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Consumers Now Expect Companies to Step Up During Disaster Relief Efforts

As communities around the world continue to recover from natural disasters on epic scales, citizens will and are looking to companies — not just governments or aid organizations — to provide critical relief assistance. According to the 2013 Cone Communications Disaster Relief Trend Tracker, 87% of global consumers believe companies must play a role in natural disaster response — in part because the majority (69%) thinks corporations are better able to effectively respond.

Report: Product Sustainability Investments Will Accelerate as Business Benefits Revealed

Corporate spending on product sustainability initiatives will likely accelerate as sustainable product pioneers such as H&M, Nokia and PUMA share evidence of the business benefits they have achieved, according to a new report from independent analyst firm Verdantix. The study draws on data from a survey of 250 heads of sustainability in 13 countries, as well as interviews with product sustainability experts at PE International, PRé Consultants, Pure Strategies and Quantis.

Starbucks Pledges to Not Cut Workers’ Benefits Under Obamacare

Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz told Reuters this week the company will not cut hours or benefits for employees — referred to as "partners" — in response to Obamacare.While many other large companies in the food service sector have said they will need to shift costs onto their workers in anticipation of upcoming changes under the health law, Starbucks says it will not follow suit.“Other companies have announced that they won’t provide coverage for spouses; others are lobbying for the cut-off to be at 40 hours,” Shultz said. “But Starbucks will continue maintaining benefits for partners and won’t use the new law as an excuse to cut benefits or lower benefits for its workers.”

CEH Files Suit Citing Cancer-Causing Chemical in Nearly 100 Hair Care, Personal Care Products

On Tuesday, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) revealed independent testing finding a cancer-causing chemical in 98 shampoos, soaps and other personal care products sold by major national retailers. The chemical, cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA), a chemically modified form of coconut oil used as a thickener or foaming agent in many products, was listed by California as a known carcinogen last year. Products tested with high levels of cocamide DEA include shampoos made by Colgate Palmolive, Colomer, Paul Mitchell and many others. In addition, products marketed for children and a product falsely labeled as organic were found with the chemical, in violation of California law.

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Could 'Brown' Be Your Brand's New 'Green'?

With the announcement of the first synthetic burger grown in a petri dish, would it be more or less shocking to say “human waste is the currency of the future”? “Carbon footprints” and “data footprints” are carving the way for “microbial footprints.” Consumers are paying to get dirty … germ-dirty, that is. “Going viral" is taking on a whole new meaning in marketing. Online communities are flourishing around “intestine communities.” Brand ecosystems now have as much to do with biology as technology."Rotten" Is the New "Improved"

Don't Get Greenwashed: How to Make Sure Your Eco-Friendly Products Are the Real Deal

From electric cars to reusable shopping bags, it's undeniable that "going green" is one of the fastest growing trends out there today. This is great news for the eco-friendly consumer, as companies are scrambling to offer greener versions of their products to meet demand. Unfortunately, many companies have also noticed that it's much cheaper to claim to have environmental standards than it is to actually live by them. When a company misleads its customers about the environmental impact of its products or practices, it's called greenwashing.

Six Ways to Make Brand Sustainability Resonate with Consumers

Climate change. Resource scarcity. Pollution. Human rights. These are some of the most pressing issues facing business today. They are also some of the most difficult for consumers to relate to, let alone orient their lives around.According to a recent report from The World Economic Forum and Accenture, sustainability is in desperate need of a makeover. Despite millions of dollars spent marketing the concept over the past decade, only 28% of people know what terms such as “sustainable,” “responsible,” “eco friendly” and “green” really mean, and just 44% say they trust green claims coming from big brands.

Why Green Product Brands Fail

The Guardian recently published an excellent article on "Why Green Brands Are Failing to Capture Public Attention:"The answer is that environmental/social consciousness is only one part of what are much broader and more complex cultural shifts. Picking out this trend in isolation and trying to build brands around it using traditional marketing paradigms has a very low likelihood of success.

Coca-Cola Joins with Sainsbury’s For 'Don't Waste. Create' Campaign

Coca-Cola Enterprises has partnered with Sainsbury's to launch a new sustainability program that aims to increase the reuse and recycling of plastic bottles during the summer.The beverage company says its Don't Waste. Create campaign is designed to encourage consumers to use their waste packaging at home in a fun and useful way, while also promising to recycle.

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Federal Government Rates Tesla Model S Safest Car of All Time

The Tesla Model S has received a five-star safety rating in every subcategory from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), making it part of the one percent of all vehicles tested by the federal government to achieve a perfect score.While NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5, safety levels better than five stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars.Tesla says the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants. While the Model S is a sedan, it also exceeded the safety score of all SUVs and minivans, which takes into account the probability of injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents.

Walmart, Gap Detail Bangladeshi Worker Safety Coalition Plan

Walmart, Gap and several other US retailers met this week in Chicago to implement their independent Bangladesh factory safety plan, which was developed after multiple factory accidents, most notably the Rana Plaza collapse in April that killed more than 1,100 workers and injured hundreds.The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety includes 20 North American apparel companies and retailers, industry associations, and non-governmental organizations, such as Macy’s and Target, as well as new signatories Costco, Intradeco Apparel and Jordache Enterprises. The organization has pledged to have safety standards in place by September 10, and claims to have already dispersed $45 million to hire safety inspection staff in Bangladesh.

Advancing Sustainability: From Revolution to Evolution

Cross-Posted from Behavior Change. Sustainability, like brands, must not be a fight against or a vision outside society, but part of it. It is time to drop the proselytism, quit the “sacrifice for a better world” argument and above all stop trying to change people’s behaviours. In order to fully go mainstream, sustainability shouldn’t attempt to influence behaviour and, instead, make ‘the greener option’ desirable for everyone. Moreover, historically, experiments of standardization have often resulted from totalitarian regimes to dull aesthetics.

First Stewardship Travel Program in US Launches in CA Wine Country

San Luis Obispo's County Business Improvement District (SLO CBID) has commenced the country's first Stewardship Travel program to promote appreciation for place and culture, adventure, enjoyment and learning, while also providing clear opportunities to participate in regional conservation and preservation.SLO CBID says the project has been five years in development, and provides curious, active, and caring travelers with a well-defined road map for fun and meaningful vacations in 10 destinations along Highway 1 of the Central California Coast including Ragged Point/San Simeon, Cambria, Cayucos, unincorporated Morro Bay, Los Osos/Baywood Park, Avila Beach & Valley, Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, Oceano and Nipomo.

AT&T and the Nature Conservancy Team Up to Help Oregon Customers ‘Skip the Bag’

Cross-Posted from Behavior Change. AT&T has partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to encourage AT&T customers to skip the bag when purchasing items from its retail stores in Oregon by donating 10 cents to the Nature Conservancy for each check out bag its customers choose to forego.AT&T says its “Skip the Bag” campaign, which runs from now through January 31, 2014, is part of an effort to empower customers with sustainable choices, increase efficiency and minimize impact on the environment. The program is designed to support The Nature Conservancy's efforts to protect and restore the lands and waters on which all life depends.

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Investment Group Ranks Sweden ‘Most Sustainable Country in the World’

Swiss investment group RobecoSAM has ranked Sweden the most sustainable country in the world in its recent ranking of 59 countries, which gauges a wide range of environmental and social governance issues like carbon emissions, social cohesion and civil liberties.RobecoSAM says it designed the report to offer investors a deeper insight of issues that may affect a country's credit rating but are not typically considered by traditional sovereign ratings, like climate change.

Google Reduces Carbon Footprint By 9%

Google has announced it emitted 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, a 9 percent decrease from the year before, according to the company’s latest carbon footprint data.The search giant says it used new reporting guidance from the Carbon Disclosure Project to buy carbon offsets to reduce its 2012 footprint to zero. Google also claims it has been carbon neutral for six years running.

Sustainability Ideas Must Be 'Made to Stick'

Calls to shake up the sustainability community seem to be becoming increasingly frequent — the latest that I’ve read coming from the State of the World 2013 Report. With a warning that sustainability is in need of a “dramatic reboot,” it suggests a failure to deliver on the wealth of opportunities being promised.

The Rise of the Scratch Card Brand

We're living in The Age of Scratch Card Brands — social networks have closed the gap between brands and the businesses that deliver them to the extent that businesses now sit immediately beneath their brands. Social networks have rendered the factory and boardroom walls in glass — a rude employee or a river foaming with effluent can be captured on a phone camera instantly, be on YouTube in seconds and viewed by millions shortly after. Potential health and safety violations tolerated by out-of-sight factory workers are no longer out of mind to the consumer activist buying the brand promise four thousand miles away.

Obsession Over 'Natural' Aside, Burt's Bees a Rightful Leader in the Personal Care Industry

Burt’s Bees is an incredible American success story. Roxanne Quimby’s venture into beeswax candles took her from New England craft fairs to lip balm and personal care products sold in thousands of drugstores across the United States, before she eventually sold her company to Clorox for $913 million in 2007. That acquisition has been one within a recent trend of large food and consumer packaged goods companies buying smaller ones for more “natural” or healthful products: Colgate-Palmolive owns Tom’s of Maine; Coca-Cola snapped up Honest Tea; Kraft has long owned Boca Burgers.

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