The Responsible Company — Book Review

The Responsible Company Book CoverThe book Let My People Go Surfing led me to read The Responsible Company, by Yvon Chouinard, founder, and owner of Patagonia, and Vincent Stanley, co-editor of Patagonia The Footprint Chronicles®.

In The Responsible Company, Chouinard and Stanley have distilled their 40 years’ experience building and operating a world-class business that is profitable as well as people and planet friendly.

Book Review

The Responsible Company focuses on what makes a company responsible: making a profit for shareholders, providing for the well-being of employees, making excellent products, being a good force in the community, and protecting nature. The authors share what they have learned via stories of their successes and failures, and provide a set of checklists at the end of the book (also available online).

One tale tells how employee headaches in a Boston store led to Patagonia converting all 66 products that used cotton to organic cotton within 18 months. No easy feat.

In another story, Patagonia puts their own spin on corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting by initiating The Footprint Chronicles® which traces Patagonia products geographically from design through receipt of finished goods at their warehouse.

Another segment describes Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative based on the 4 Rs (reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle). It includes encouraging customers to not buy what they don’t need or won’t last (an interesting sales strategy), repairing and recycling products, as well as helping customers resell clothes they no longer need. A fifth R was added, “… to reimagine a world in which we take from nature only what it can replace.”

A large portion of the book deals with the elements of business responsibility.

  1. Responsibility to the Health of the Business – in order to be a socially and environmentally responsible company, it has to make a profit and stay in business.
  2. Responsibility to the Workers – care for, reward, and engage workers which include everyone in the supply chain who helps make or sell its product.
  3. Responsibility to Your Customers – provide a quality service or product that lasts, be truthful, provide customers with information on environmental and social choices embodied in the product or service from the time of purchase forward.
  4. Responsibility to the Community – be mindful of impacts on neighborhoods and cities where the company operates, communities of interest, and the virtual community of social media.
  5. Responsibility to Nature – our economy depends on nature. Keep in mind 90% of a product’s environmental impact is determined during the design stage. Energy, water, travel, toxic materials, construction, and office operations impact nature.

The Bottom Line

The Responsible Company is a short, easy-to-read book that is for everyone businesses, employees, and customers.

Business leaders and managers receive practical information and ideas on how to jump-start their own responsible company efforts.

Employees have an opportunity to reflect on their own work, support their own company’s responsible actions or even instigate their own.

As customers, we learn what types of questions we should ask before buying products. Sometimes, it’s as easy as asking oneself if we need it and then realizing we don’t.

I was heartened to read about Patagonia’s willingness to share information and engage with competitors and companies not typically known for their environmental records. Maybe we can all work together towards a better business and economic model after all.

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7 Ways to Stay Warm Indoors in the Winter and Be Green

U.S. Winter Heating Degree Days - U.S. EIAStay warm indoors during the winter, be green, and save money. Being mindful of what you wear and do inside can help keep you warm while reducing heating costs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects temperatures to be colder this winter than last year with home heating costs as high as $2,494.

It’s Winter

What constitutes winter varies widely in the U.S., but most people experience a drop in the inside temperature of their home (some a huge drop) and utilize supplemental heating to keep the inside warm. Warm being a relative term.

Winter heating requires resources like oil, natural gas, and electricity which generate greenhouse gases and pollution. Using less is good for our planet and your wallet.

A good starting point is to accept that it is cold and you probably need to dress differently in the winter, yes even when you are inside. Instead of heating your home and office to be warm enough in the winter to walk around wearing a short-sleeved cotton t-shirt, you can turn the thermostat down and put on a sweater.

Hats On

Although there is not a consensus on how much body heat is lost through your head, covering it up, even inside helps you stay warm. Most everyone probably has a camping beanie hidden in the back of a drawer. Sometimes I just put on a baseball cap and that helps too.

Turtles, Gaiters, and Scarves

If my neck is warm I feel warmer in general. Turtleneck shirts and sweaters keep your neck warm but to me, they feel claustrophobic. One of my solutions is to wear a neck gaiter which is a fabric tube you pull over your head. An alternate solution that doesn’t mess up your hair is to wrap a scarf around your neck.

Layers are Good

In the old days, people wore long underwear to stay warm during winter months. Now we have base layers. Although the one-piece union suit style is still available, two pieces are more flexible. Base layers are made of cotton, wool, silk, or polyester and come in a wide variety of styles including those that work under business attire.

Layering clothes is an effective and flexible technique for staying warm outdoors and in. Put on or take off a sweater, flannel shirt, fleece jacket, or shawl as needed.

Warm Hands

Even when the house is relatively warm, my hands will often feel cold. I have thought about wearing mittens or gloves but they are not functional for indoor activities.

Author's Indoor Warm Clothing Collection - hat, neck gaiter, scarf, base layer, fingerless mittens, fleece throwMaybe it is the season or that I am a Charles Dickens fan, but recently I thought of fingerless gloves. Bob Cratchit, a character in a Christmas Carol,  wore fingerless gloves while sitting on his stool and toiling away as a clerk in the freezing office of Mr. Scrooge. As luck would have it, I found a pair of fingerless mittens (fingerless gloves have individual finger holes) in a local shop made by a local artisan.

Once the palms of my hands warm up so do my fingers and I can still type and do other things around the house. I just wish I had thought of this back in the days when I used to work in freezing office buildings.

Toasty Toes

When my feet are warm, I am more apt to feel warm all over. Although my kids seem to be able to go barefoot in the house year round, I utilize footwear (heavy socks, slippers, or shoes).

Throw It On

When you are sedentary your circulation slows down and you may feel cold. Instead of turning up the heat, keep a fleece or wool throw or blanket handy at home and/or the office. Sometimes I put a throw over my lap while sitting at my desk or toss one on my bed at night as an extra layer. Beats turning the heat up.

Get Moving

Periodically getting up and walking around ramps up circulation which warms your whole body. 5 or 10 minutes make a big difference. At work, walk around while listening to a conference call on a cell phone or walk down the hall to talk to a colleague instead of sending an email or text message. At home, walk around during TV commercials, back and forth tidying up, or read the news on an e-reader, smartphone, or tablet.

Challenge yourself to see how creative you can be to stay warm and turn your thermostat down or even off.

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