Saturday, October 25, 2008

Green Future; A Synergistic Approach to the Triple Bottom Line (*TBL)

A project to build community and more participatory political and economic systems and a green consumer base using a synergy of people, commerce and social objectives by building a business with social justice and green metrics as bottom line.

The keys to our success will include the following;

* Accountable

* Focus from Ground Up

* Green & Sustainable

* Income for All Participants

* Market-Based

* Open to all, Inclusive

* Profits to Higher Purposes

* Transparent

* Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Metrics (Planet, People & Profit)

* Voluntary

(*For more on the TBL see, Triple Bottom Line and Sustainable Business Strategies)

Briefly, we have four options for sources of capital to meet the difficult challenges we face;

* Business
* Wealthy Individuals, Philanthropists
* Government, taxes, regulation and law.
* Non Governmental Sector; non-profits, religious and educational institutions, foundations, etc.

There is often an interplay between these systems but at foundation is private business. They all bring advantages and disadvantages to efforts at Human advancement. If we are to break free from the limitations and inertia of the status quo we need a new way to synthesize these various components to give maximum influence to citizens and community members in rebuilding their communities and being co-creators of a vibrant participatory democracy. The idea that I propose combines the best aspects of the for-profit and non-profit worlds into a more effective and more sustainable hybrid organization; the purpose driven mission of non-profits with the capital aggregation of for-profit businesses. With this idea we can provide popular access to capital by creating a Social Venture Capital Fund (SVCF)

Below is an introductory outline, some quotes that address my assumptions and a narrative laying out the context that we find ourselves. The idea itself can be found on my blog here, (, and below. I look forward to answering any questions that you may have.

Triple Bottom-Line; the DNA of a Green Business starts with People

* Problem --
Declining consumer confidence, decreasing discretionary incomes, growing environmental challenges, deteriorating neighborhoods, tightening economy. Government that seems ineffective, business that seem heartless and waning trust in societal institutions; government, business and between people and communities.

* Solution --
A community-wide project combining voluntary effort, the desire of people to help others and participate in something larger than themselves and the revenue generating capacity of Network Marketing to create a synergy that will excite and inspire us all to greater achievement and community spirit.

* Result --
Increased social capital, stronger communities, lower expenditures on crime, stronger consumer base, increased tax base, and a vibrant civic thrust toward a green future.

* Business Model --
A hybrid organization composed of business leaders, representatives of local government, community stakeholders and non-profits utilizing Network Marketing motivated by social outcomes and green metrics.

* Underlying Magic --
People hunger for more meaning and purpose in their lives, businesses seek connection to consumers and employees and the means to join the growing movement to a green future without compromising profit. Network Marketing offers low start-up costs and a short learning curve.

Under Further Development;
* Marketing and sales
* Team
* Projections and milestones
* Status and timeline
* Summary and call to action

In a nutshell the idea takes Network Marketing and uses the revenue generated to endow a Social Venture Capital Fund (SVCF). The SVCF will be managed by a board composed of community stakeholders with the purpose of funding essential community and capacity building efforts and supporting the SVCF itself (salaries, marketing, admin, etc.).

The SVCF will have the mission of greening our community using Triple Bottom Line (TBL) metrics developed by our group. As we green our community using TBL metrics (aka People, Planet and Profits or P3), we can increase the discretionary income of our most vulnerable citizens, increase the ability of community members to become self-reliant, contributing, productive citizens, augment our education budgets, support the arts, etc. Amazingly, the more people that we can help, the more support we can draw from beyond our community in partnership with our efforts.

A community wide effort has the potential in full blossom to generate millions of dollars to address critical community challenges even as we lower our Carbon footprint, house by house, block by block, community by community. The idea can be utilized in less grandiose contexts as well. It can be mounted as a pilot program in a small business, a day care center, or a non-profit.

The Triple Bottom Line and our fundamental assumptions; P3 = Progress

"Individual and collective economic vitality is an important element of any sustainable community. In order to advance economic security extant economic opportunities must be preserved and new development encouraged. Generally, economic vitality is founded in "a healthy...economy that diversifies and co-develops sufficiently to create meaningful jobs, reduce poverty, and provide the opportunity for a high quality of life for all in an increasingly competitive world"
~(President's Council on Sustainable Development PCSD, 1996:15).

Simple & Integrated Perspective on Sustainability
Warren Flint, Ph.D

Advancement toward social equity requires particular attention to the progress made by those who are most disadvantaged in the community, usually women, youth and children, indigenous people, and/or racial/ethnic minorities.

In essence, we are practicing sustainable development when we find the means to equally and simultaneously address economic development with environmental protection, while also insuring that the most disadvantaged people in our society are provided the ability to improve their quality of life. If disproportionately impacted community members aren't able to improve their well-being, the best designed plans will not meet with success and future generations will not enjoy a high quality of life. This is the nexus of sustainable development and equity -- without equity and justice considerations sustainability objectives cannot be achieved.

In this context therefore, we are affirming that sustainable development not only embraces wisdom and stewardship in the management of natural resources, but also considers fulfillment of basic human needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and the provision of economic means through which to achieve these needs for all peoples in present generations, without compromising the ability of other species sharing our world or future generations to meet their own needs."

“When the fundamental principles of fairness and equal justice through the rule of law are shaken, the cornerstones of our democratic society are threatened. Respect for justice and laws is diminished when large segments of our society do not have equal access to civil justice because they cannot obtain legal assistance to resolve disputes that touch on the very basics of life (e.g., health care, food, and shelter) or to seek legal redress of their grievances.”
~Yale Law & Policy Review, Vol. 17, No. 1, 1998

"Because legal services are increasingly necessary in a complex society, prepaid legal service plans analogous to health insurance have become an important means of assuring basic rights to millions of citizens."
~Ralph Nader

"NOTICE: This person is a member of the Legal Shield program and has 24-hour telephone access to legal representation by a law firm provided by Pre-Paid Legal Services, ® Inc. and subsidiaries. To any law enforcement officer or security personnel: If it is your intention to question, detain or arrest me, or if you intend to remove my children from my custody, or serve me with a warrant, please allow me to call my attorney immediately."
~The Legal Shield card offered by Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc.

The project that I am working on is unconventional and at first glance, complicated. It utilizes some components that are not held in the highest regard. It is a bridge, a pump primer and catalyst, not an ends unto itself. It, no doubt, will have detractors. It is not a perfect idea because no idea can satisfy all interests, but it is practical, doable and uses market forces, volunteer energy and the human desire to help, to achieve it's aims. It is a low risk idea with a potential large upside. I believe that in full blossom it can green lower-income neighborhoods, provide liquidity in areas of most need and assist our efforts at forestalling economic collapse. Bold assertions true but I believe that I can make the case for this outcome if given the opportunity.

The idea can be found here, A Vehicle, a Method and a Bridge to a Green Future, ( along with supporting info. With this idea, we can create a new business model that will endow a social venture capital fund for many underfunded needs such as;

Funding small business start-ups, community cooperatives, support for early childhood education, tutors for students, additional income for teachers, support for the arts, hurricane mitigation, solar and energy conservation upgrades, neighborhood gardens, additional tree canopy, etc., all done using green metrics, local labor and the latest in green tech. We could make our neighborhoods LEED certified block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.

You are probably aware of the condiments company, Newman's Own. Newman's Own ( is a company started by Paul Newman that donates all profits and royalties after taxes to educational and charitable purposes. I believe that this concept --using private enterprise for public good-- can be utilized in many other applications.

Wall St. wobbles waiting for Main St. to find it's footing and Main St. is scared. Noted conservative journalist and commentator David Brooks put it this way;

"If there’s a thread running through the gravest current concerns, it is that people lack a secure environment in which they can lead their lives. Wild swings in global capital and energy markets buffet family budgets. Nobody is sure the health care system will be there when they need it. National productivity gains don’t seem to alleviate economic anxiety. Inequality strains national cohesion. In many communities, social norms do not encourage academic achievement, decent values or family stability. These problems straining the social fabric aren’t directly addressed by maximizing individual freedom."

It seems that everyone is treading water until manna falls from heaven. Meanwhile, firms are laying off, businesses are failing, families frayed, communities are stressed, and people are suffering.

Free markets are constantly weeding out marginal players, this is par for the course. Economic dislocation always involve some pain. Yet, we may be in uncharted territory as we face severe challenges domestically and from abroad. Because of war commitments, huge entitlement programs and a citizenry hammered by a low tax mantra, policy makers have extremely difficult choices to make. Education budgets are being cut even when studies show that investments early on save expenditures down the road. Public safety costs are escalating and recidivism as well. We are increasingly paying more and getting less.

Essentially this is a method to use the power of the free market, volunteerism and self-help to build beauty, self-sufficiency and sustainability from the ground up in areas of society that are now a drain on public resources and often resistant to current remediation methods. The impulse to do good works, the need for social justice and the quickening wave of excitement about green energy creates an elegant community project generating a synergy greater than it's parts.

This project will not raise our taxes. This project will not force government regulation on overburdened business or people. This project will facilitate our working together to create green communities, bringing capital and income to areas of historic deficits. Please keep an open mind and have a look. As presented, it functions in a municipal context. I can show how the framework can be utilized in for-profit and non-profit organizations as well. Using this method, business owners may enhance recruitment, retention and job satisfaction for their valued team members and support Social Ventures through an innovative funding mechanism.

Thank you,

Bill Milner
Delray Beach, FL

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
~Thomas A. Edison

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Green the Bailout from the Bottom Up

Green the Bailout
September 28, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
New York Times Online

Many things make me weep about the current economic crisis, but none more than this brief economic history: In the 19th century, America had a railroad boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many lost money. But even when that bubble burst, it left America with an infrastructure of railroads that made transcontinental travel and shipping dramatically easier and cheaper.

The late 20th century saw an Internet boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many people lost money, but that dot-com bubble left us with an Internet highway system that helped Microsoft, I.B.M. and Google to spearhead the I.T. revolution.

The early 21st century saw a boom, bubble and now a bust around financial services. But I fear all it will leave behind are a bunch of empty Florida condos that never should have been built, used private jets that the wealthy can no longer afford and dead derivative contracts that no one can understand.

Worse, we borrowed the money for this bubble from China, and now we have to pay it back — with interest and without any lasting benefit.

Yes, this bailout is necessary. This is a credit crisis, and credit crises involve a breakdown in confidence that leads to no one lending to anyone. You don’t fool around with a credit crisis. You have to overwhelm it with capital. Unfortunately, some people who don’t deserve it will be rescued. But, more importantly, those who had nothing to do with it will be spared devastation. You have to save the system.

But that is not the point of this column. The point is, we don’t just need a bailout. We need a buildup. We need to get back to making stuff, based on real engineering not just financial engineering. We need to get back to a world where people are able to realize the American Dream — a house with a yard — because they have built something with their hands, not because they got a “liar loan” from an underregulated bank with no money down and nothing to pay for two years. The American Dream is an aspiration, not an entitlement.

When I need reminding of the real foundations of the American Dream, I talk to my Indian-American immigrant friends who have come here to start new companies — friends like K.R. Sridhar, the founder of Bloom Energy. He e-mailed me a pep talk in the midst of this financial crisis — a note about the difference between surviving and thriving.

“Infants and the elderly who are disabled obsess about survival,” said Sridhar. “As a nation, if we just focus on survival, the demise of our leadership is imminent. We are thrivers. Thrivers are constantly looking for new opportunities to seize and lead and be No. 1.” That is what America is about.

But we have lost focus on that. Our economy is like a car, added Sridhar, and the financial institutions are the transmission system that keeps the wheels turning and the car moving forward. Real production of goods that create absolute value and jobs, though, are the engine.

“I cannot help but ponder about how quickly we are ready to act on fixing the transmission, by pumping in almost one trillion dollars in a fortnight,” said Sridhar. “On the other hand, the engine, which is slowly dying, is not even getting an oil change or a tuneup with the same urgency, let alone a trillion dollars to get ourselves a new engine. Just imagine what a trillion-dollar investment would return to the economy, including the ‘transmission,’ if we committed at that level to green jobs and technologies.”

Indeed, when this bailout is over, we need the next president — this one is wasted — to launch an E.T., energy technology, revolution with the same urgency as this bailout. Otherwise, all we will have done is bought ourselves a respite, but not a future. The exciting thing about the energy technology revolution is that it spans the whole economy — from green-collar construction jobs to high-tech solar panel designing jobs. It could lift so many boats.

In a green economy, we would rely less on credit from foreigners “and more on creativity from Americans,” argued Van Jones, president of Green for All, and author of the forthcoming “The Green Collar Economy.” “It’s time to stop borrowing and start building. America’s No. 1 resource is not oil or mortgages. Our No. 1 resource is our people. Let’s put people back to work — retrofitting and repowering America. ... You can’t base a national economy on credit cards. But you can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart biofuels and a massive program to weatherize every building and home in America.”

The Bush team says that if this bailout is done right, it should make the government money. Great. Let’s hope so, and let’s commit right now that any bailout profits will be invested in infrastructure — smart transmission grids or mass transit — for a green revolution. Let’s “green the bailout,” as Jones says, and help ensure that the American Dream doesn’t ever shrink back to just that — a dream.

The bottom-up bailout: Pay off all delinquent mortgages Helping average Americans fixes fundamental problem
Oct. 1, 2008, 10:02PM
Washington Post

The theory underlying the bailout plan stalled in Congress is that rescuing the finance industry will restore market stability and that the benefits will eventually trickle down to average Americans. Thus, solving the subprime mortgage crisis has morphed into a much larger challenge: reassembling the architecture of the financial markets, which seemingly requires giving the Treasury secretary nearly a trillion dollars and extraordinary latitude to pick winners and losers.

There is an easier and more politically palatable fix: Pay off all the delinquent mortgages.

The financial crisis is a liquidity crisis, yes, but it is ultimately a product of homeowner failures to pay. Unless this fundamental problem is fixed, we will continue to see — and need to treat — the symptoms. The proposed bailout ignores this. Yet the sum being demanded from taxpayers is almost certainly more than sufficient to pay off all currently delinquent mortgages.

If the government did this, all the complex derivatives based on these mortgages would be as good as U.S. Treasuries. Their fair value would jump to 100 cents on the dollar, rescuing teetering financial institutions. The credit markets would be resuscitated overnight. Foreclosures would stop.

Some will argue that it is grossly unfair to pay off the mortgages of borrowers who took risks and lost. In other words, why should my profligate neighbor be rewarded for overleveraging himself?

Because such unfairness is a small price to pay to avoid a rapid transition to a socialist economy, the collapse of our financial system (and its related global implications) and a frightening shift of economic power toward the executive branch. Why shell out $700 billion to Wall Street deal makers and the companies they managed into this mess? Wouldn't it be preferable for individual homeowners to benefit directly?

Implementation could follow the example of the Home Owners' Loan Corp., which in the 1930s issued new mortgages to a quarter of American homeowners. The government could offer to refinance all mortgages issued in the past five years with a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage at 6 percent. No credit scores, no questions asked; just pay off the principal of the existing mortgage with a government check. If monthly payments are still too high, homeowners could reduce their indebtedness in exchange for a share of the future price appreciation of the house. That is, the government would take an ownership interest in the house just as it would take an ownership interest in the financial institutions that would be bailed out under the Treasury's plan.

All this could be done through the Federal Housing Administration, with the help of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have the infrastructure to implement this plan rapidly. An equity participation structure would prevent thousands of foreclosed homes from being dumped on a strained housing market and would allow prices to reach a new equilibrium that is based on realistic demand for houses rather than on easy money or impending foreclosures.

Like the administration's proposal, this plan would result in the government owning assets. But these assets would be real estate, not complex derivatives whose true value would take weeks to discern. Homeowners would become partners with the government in resolving the crisis.

When Congress returns today, lawmakers are likely to modify and then pass the administration's bailout proposal. They should consider ways to implement this bottom-up solution. Combining this approach with the government's proposal could greatly benefit taxpayers. Yes, the government's swift purchase of illiquid securities would stabilize compromised financial institutions and the credit markets. But the notion that taxpayers would benefit in the long run is pure speculation, particularly if the government overpaid for the securities. On the other hand, once a government-sponsored refinancing wave kicked in, the full value of the securities in the government's portfolio would be restored, and they could be sold off in an orderly manner, with Uncle Sam taking profits that would cover the cost of the bailout.

The public is rightly concerned that the administration's bailout would benefit only powerful financial institutions. No matter how it's done, rescuing the financial system is a large, complex gamble.

This solution would start by helping ordinary Americans and would quickly spill over to revive the financial markets. Directly addressing the underlying cause of the crisis would help ensure that we would not be facing the same crisis again down the road.

While Wall Street has only recently felt the bite of foreclosures and delinquencies, communities across the nation will face greater financial and social fallout if the foreclosure crisis continues.

Koppell and Goetzmann are professors at the Yale School of Management. Koppell is director of the Milstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance and Goetzmann directs the International Center for Finance. This article originally appeared in The Washington Post.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bridging the Environmental and Social Justice Movements

A Light at the Crossroads: Bridging the Environmental and Social Justice Movements

"People working for social justice don't often expect to see compostable silverware, organic food, or hear the word "green" mentioned enthusiastically at meetings. Folks attending environmental gatherings don't often expect to see many people of color or to even hear the words “racial justice.” We can change this. For a start, we can insist on a new definition of green - one that includes racial, social, and economic justice alongside environmental sustainability. And we can choose to combine forces, demanding eco-equity from both directions.

A movement that is courageous and visionary on the environment, but cowardly and ignorant about social issues will fail.

A movement that is visionary and passionate on the social side, but is ignorant and indifferent on the ecological side will also fail.

There is a light at the crossroads. At the crossroads is a movement that could bring a beautiful, clean environment while ushering in new jobs and opportunities for people who need them. At the crossroads is a movement that could turn blighted land into new community gardens, while building lasting relationships among residents, creating real safety."
~Van Jones of the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Initiative