Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Did Donald Rumsfeld Push Through an Unsafe Food Additive?

Here we go again: the interplay of ethics scandals in the corporate and government worlds.

While I take this source with a grain of salt, I see no reason to doubt the allegations that a drug company pushed through approval of aspartame despite some serious health risks. Nor does it surprise me that Donald Rumsfeld was apparently involved. It would be in keeping with the amoral mentality he has shown over and over again in his current position.

One day, perhaps, we will have evolved as a species to the point where people will read this sort of thing in the history books and laugh, knowing how far we've come. Meanwhile, we can reach for our handkerchiefs.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Diversity in the Media--Still a Long Way to Go

Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times (who happens to be black) wrote this thought-provoking article about the dearth of people of color in positions of high visibility within the news industry, and how that plays out.

Among other effects, he finds the massive coverage of various white women's disappearances hard to justify in light of the acute lack of coverage when a black woman goes missing.

And one can speculate (he doesn't, in this article) about the often-negative portrayal of communities of color, especially inner-city ones--where the news coverage often focuses on crime and rarely talks about all the good community building going on.

Theses issues were expressed somewhat during the recent National Conference on Media Reform, which I covered extensively.

But Deggans also rightly points out that the major networks have had a massive defection of their most visible talent: "And despite an astonishing changing of the guard in network news that has seen Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Ted Koppel all leaving their high-profile jobs this year, no black person has surfaced as a realistic candidate to replace any of them."

Sometimes, 1960 doesn't seem so long ago. surely, as a society, we can do better.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Independent Publisher Combines Progressive Politics, Commercial Success

At Book Expo America, I interviewed Alice Blackmer, Publicity Director, Chelsea Green, which enjoyed runaway success with George Lakoff's book, Don't Think of an Elephant.

How the book came about: "Jennifer Nix was in California and got the word that George Lakoff was thinking of pulling together some sort of manual to try to help Democrats ahead of the election, in the beginning of July. Margo Baldwin [Chelsea's publisher] and Jen approached George about doing a book, so we could get it out to a broader audience. We lined up help via Alternet and a lot of progressive political websites. We rushed it through and were able to get it out about two months before the election.

"A lot of the information had been written, from the courses he taught, but he did have to do a lot of pulling together and extra writing, and then we got the foreword by Howard Dean; he understood the value of what Lakoff had to say. [Vermont Democratic Senator] Pat Leahy, Bernie Sanders [Vermont's lone member of the House of Representatives, and the only Independent in Congress], Howard Dean have always been very supportive."

The book title is taken from the name of one of Lakoff's lectures

Five weeks from manuscript until the presses rolled almost (unheard of in the book industry). Everybody pitched in. Initial print run of 20,000 (up from the 15,000 originally planned, after ordered 10,000 in advance). As of June, 2005, they'd sold over 200,000, about 40,000 of them before the election.

Chelsea's previous biggest seller, The Straw Bale House, has sold 125,000 over ten years, so Elephant was a quantum leap for the company. "This was so gratifying, to have been working away, publishing such timely and useful information, all the while knowing we were way ahead of the curve. Attached to the thrill of having a best seller move that way, starting to see the culture catch up to so many of the topics we publish on the backlist. We have backlist titles that are selling more than twice as much per month now as they did when they were first published. And of course the Lakoff book has helped to bring a lot of attention to the company in general, and really energized the entire staff."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Disturbing News on Sustainability

World Business Council for Sustainable Development just released the highlights of its 2005 global sustainability study. And what jumped out to me is the sharp decline in ratings for Scandinavia, the European Union, the US, and Canada for successful management of the transition to sustainability (broadly defined along the "triple bottom line" criteria of environmental, social responsibility, and economic performance). Scandinavia still leads the pack, at 59 percent, but in 2002, the rating was 83 percent. EU: 23 percent this year, 37 percent in 2002; Canada from 25 percent down to 12 percent; and the US, from an already measly 4 percent down to just 1 percent. Japan, on the other hand, boosted its performance form 20 percent up to 25 percent. Brazil, China, and India were rated for the first time this year, all of them in the single digits.

In the government-supported US climate of Money Uber Alles, it's not surprising that the US has fallen off. And the EU has just absorbed a lot of former East Bloc countries that are still recovering from the traditional neglect of human factors under their old authoritarian regimes. But what, I wonder, happened to socially progressive Scandinavia, with its strong safety net and seeming immunity from major business scandals? Have these counties backslid, or are their populations simply judging them by tougher standards?

Of course, in my book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, I show how a concern for the triple bottom line builds the economic success of a company in the long run. And isn't that what sustainability is really about?