Down with the dot.coms

CCB

 

Posted in: Environment, Technology & Innovation

Down with the dot.coms

February 01, 2001

Be ethical and sutainable, says dot-com report

IT and dot.com entrepreneurs say that social and environmental issues are important to them personally and to their companies, yet few do anything in practice to address the concerns, according to a survey published in January. The report, Dot-com ethics: e-business and sustainability , forms part of the year-long Digital Futures enquiry by Forum for the Future into e-commerce and the new economy. Based on responses from over 100 companies, the findings included:

• 65 per cent say social and environmental issues are important or very important to their companies and 92 per cent say important to them personally;

• 57 per cent believe that companies with a good environmental and social reputation are likely to benefit from improved financial performance;

• but 79 per cent do nothing to measure or manage their environmental impacts; and

• 66 per cent do nothing to measure or manage social impacts.

Despite the lack of action, the report concludes that the positive effects of e-commerce will outweigh the negative and recommends that new economy companies sign up to a Declaration of Co-dependence . It also suggests practical steps such as closer engagement with local communities and green delivery options at online retailers. Amazon.com and eBay are among companies profiled. Contact James Wilsdon, Forum for the Future, on 020 7251 6070 (http://www.forumforthefuture. org.uk)

But US companies show it’s not all bad news

A consortium of eight US technology companies, including Alta Vista , E*Trade , Microsoft and Intel , joined forces in January with the conservation group, Forest Ethics , in an initiative to stop purchasing ‘old growth’ wood, use more recycled paper fibre and cut packaging overall.

Meanwhile a study by the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions at Carnegie Mellon University found online book retailer Amazon.com uses 16 times less energy in warehousing and shipping per book than traditional bookstores. However e-commerce requires 2.5 times more packaging than regular shopping. Contact Forest Ethics on 001 510 533 8725 (http://www.forestethics .org) or CECS on 001 703 750 6401 (http://www.cool-companies.org)

Euro-talkers online

Cable & Wireless is using new technology to help Europe’s young people talk to each other about citizenship. The £100,000 project, run with the Institute of Citizenship , includes teacher resource materials and a website about European citizenship, called Speak Out! The site encourages students across Europe to get online, discuss their views on European citizenship, and communicate with European leaders. Beginning in March the site is also offering chat rooms in four European languages, celebrating the European Year of Languages. Employees also have an online discussion network. In December, Cable & Wireless also supported the Churchill lecture to the English Speaking Union by the journalist, Sir Trevor McDonald, on learning across international boundaries. Contact Charlotte Wolff, Cable & Wireless, on 020 7315 3484 (http://www.citizen.org.uk/speakout)

Wealth of the Welsh

BT is helping the Welsh prove to the world how much more their national culture holds than the stuff of stereotype. Britain’s largest telecommunications company is sponsoring an online competition for young people to design a website that reflects the diversity of people’s lives in Wales. Entitled From the past grows our future , the initiative is part of BT’s ongoing support for the Urdd festival. Contact BT on 020 7356 5000 (http://www.bt.com)

Green sites go live

Two new web sites are helping companies and others gear up for the next Earth Summit, Rio+10 , due to be held in South Africa in 2002. The Commission on Sustainable Development, a UN-affiliated site, tracks developments in the environmental debate since the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 at http://www.un.org/rio+10/index.html.

UNED-UK, the multi-stakeholder forum working for sustainable development, has also launched http://www.earthsummit2002.org to help preparations.

Meanwhile the US-based Sustainable Energy Coalition, which includes several business coalitions and private companies among its members, has created http://www.sustainableenergy.org to foster debate about renewable energy and climate change.

Comment

After the hype, the fall. The last few years have seen extravagant claims for the wonders of the new economy. Andy Grove, chairman of Intel, confidently asserted “There won’t be any internet companies [within a few years]. All companies will be internet companies or they will be dead.” Stock market bulls foresaw perpetual boom as e-commerce broke the traditional business cycle. Others saw salvation for the planet through resource efficiency and new low-impact lifestyles.

Now, with dot.coms running out of cash and recession looming, down to earth with a bump. The Digital Futures report confirms what has been apparent for a while, that new technology companies – whether big battalions like Microsoft and Intel or the more ephemeral start-ups – have generally failed to address their very real social and environmental impacts. It is old economy companies like Shell and Ford which have made most progress in mapping, reporting and seeking to reduce their impacts.

And yet let’s not forget that the internet does hold out very real prospects for social and environmental gains, as well as economic and customer satisfaction benefits. Above we report just two examples of how telecommunication companies, Cable & Wireless and BT, are using the new technology to achieve some old-fashioned community benefits, like improved communication across national borders and cultural divides. The lesson is surely that everyone, dot.com company or not, can have a positive impact only if they work at it.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 56 – February, 2001

COMMENT:

After the hype, the fall. The last few years have seen extravagant claims for the wonders of the new economy. Andy Grove, chairman of Intel, confidently asserted “There won’t be any internet companies [within a few years]. All companies will be internet companies or they will be dead.” Stock market bulls foresaw perpetual boom as e-commerce broke the traditional business cycle. Others saw salvation for the planet through resource efficiency and new low-impact lifestyles.

Now, with dot.coms running out of cash and recession looming, down to earth with a bump. The Digital Futures report confirms what has been apparent for a while, that new technology companies – whether big battalions like Microsoft and Intel or the more ephemeral start-ups – have generally failed to address their very real social and environmental impacts. It is old economy companies like Shell and Ford which have made most progress in mapping, reporting and seeking to reduce their impacts.

And yet let’s not forget that the internet does hold out very real prospects for social and environmental gains, as well as economic and customer satisfaction benefits. Above we report just two examples of how telecommunication companies, Cable & Wireless and BT, are using the new technology to achieve some old-fashioned community benefits, like improved communication across national borders and cultural divides. The lesson is surely that everyone, dot.com company or not, can have a positive impact only if they work at it.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 56 – February, 2001

COMMENTS