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May 23, 2010 Bahar Gidwani

Solution Labs Conference


Had the pleasure of being invited to the Solution Labs conference last week, here in New York.  About 60 folks showed up for the event, which was hosted in Bloomberg's headquarters and sponsored by folks like the Green Innovation in Business Network (GIBN), Environmental Defense Fund, Sony, BSR, and Cleantech Law Partners.  (BTW, I've only noted those partners I got a chance to schmooze with.)  The conference was emceed by folks from Dig In, a sustainability consulting group that is headquartered in San Francisco.

As you can guess, it is always a pleasure to sit and chat with 59 other people who care about sustainability, improving the world, doing good, etc.  The notes from the session are publicly available on a WetPaint Wiki, and you can get a full view of what happened at the session, there.  However, I brought home two observations to share--plus a couple questions I hope I can get help on.

First observation.  I was pleased to see a practical and business-like attitude among the participants.  There was no posturing or denouncing of society's evils--no call to man the barricades and start burning tires!  Instead, I heard tons of practical, well-supported, sensible ideas for making things better.  We really fulfilled the promise of the session's title--and offered solutions rather than positions.

Second observation.  I heard a big demand for a Web-based source of facts on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and more web-based communities of practice on various CSR-related issues.  It felt good to be providing the former through our CSRHUB site and I got several opportunities to mention resources we know for the latter such as CSRwire, GoodGuide, Alonovo, Climate Counts, Eco_Plum and WikiPositive.  I was disappointed that some of these sites are not as well known as they should be.  We need to do our share to communicate their value to the rest of our community.

First question.  An increasing number of corporations put information on sustainability and social performance into a separate section of their Web site.  For instance, Hanesbrands has a separate site that reports specifically on Hanes CSR performance.  Sony has also built a separate subdomain for Sony's CSR work.  It’s good to see mini sites on things like recycling (here is Dell's effort in the recycling area).  The CSRHUB site links to the top level Web page of all 5,000 companies we cover.  Should we also make room on our page for links to company CSR sites?  To other sites related to sustainability, within a company's Web space?

Second question.  Does the CSR/sustainability area have patent risk?  Biotech, electronics, and other fast-growing areas have been tormented by patent infringement issues.  Companies race forward and confidently introduce new products, only to discover that they have inadvertently stepped on a patent held by someone else.  I wonder if there are any broad patents pending or recently granted that could change our area and introduce risk and uncertainty into our product plans?

The GIBN folks are taking their Solution Labs program to a number of other locations.  If you are interested in CSR and sustainability, you should consider joining a session and contributing your ideas.  I know they would welcome your participation, and we’ll benefit from the information they capture and disseminate via their Wiki.

Published by Bahar Gidwani May 23, 2010