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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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Social Stands are Good for Investment

Most American investors think that socially responsible mutual funds contribute to better corporate behavior, according to a new major investor survey conducted by Calvert []. Knowing that a company is rated higher in terms of their social performance would make 71 percent of Americans more likely to invest in that company and 77 percent would purchase more of their products and services.

Going through email that was not a priority when it arrived, I found the above tidbit in David Batstone's WAG newsletter (from last April, I confess).

Those are remarkable statistics. Over 2/3 use social responsibility as an investment screen, and over 3/4 as a factor in making a purchase.

So why do we still have so much unresponsive, focused-only-on-financial-bottom-line, and downright nasty corporate behavior? Because people don't realize that good corporate behavior is a direct path to better profitability. If you'd like to educate a corporate friend on this, I recommend my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First--it outlines exactly how and why companies succeed better by doing the right thing.

An Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid

(I am sending this letter by postal mail, with copies to my own Congressman and Senators). If enough people write similar letters, maybe they'll actually do some of this stuff)

Dear Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Reid:

It is thrilling to be able to write to both of you congratulating you on the Democrats' election victories and on your new positions in majority leadership.

The Democrats have been given a window to make real change. I'm writing to ask that we not squander it. It is time for meaningful change on order of FDR's First 100 Days--before the window slams shut and the American people once again have the sad image of a spineless do-nothing Congress, only this time with the Democrats in charge.

The biggest issue facing the US is foreign policy. President Bush managed to squander a huge international reservoir of good will toward the US in the aftermath of 911, along with the entire Clinton budget surplus, and the Democrats must work to rebuild our standing not as a rogue state but as a leader among nations in the campaign for world peace and prosperity. Specifically…
  • Get us out of Iraq NOW! That troubled country will face a civil war regardless of how long we stay. The longer we stay, the longer and more bloody that war is likely to be. As in Vietnam, let's get out and let them get it over with. Less blood will be shed than by staying. The only possibility I see for avoiding civil war is to divide the country among Sunni, Shi'a, and Kurdish factions—but that strategy hasn't worked well elsewhere in the world (e.g., India/Pakistan, Serbia/Albania, Ireland/Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine). Demand from the Bush administration an immediate timetable for phased withdrawal within 90 days.

  • Bring North Korea and Iran to the bargaining table. Use diplomacy to avoid additional wars.

  • Play a peacemaker role in the Israel/Palestine/Lebanon conflict--through which, if real progress can be made, it might actually influence Iraq toward peace.

  • Change the dynamics of the US role in Latin America. Right now, we're seen as "the neighborhood bully." It is time to form working coalitions with the promising new governments in that region, to identify and work toward mutual objectives.

    Another "elephant in the room" is energy policy. It is time for a Marshall Plan-style campaign for true energy independence, based on renewable and nonpolluting technologies such as solar, wind, and small-scale hydro. We need to see our rooftops as an energy (and possibly food) resource, and the government needs to put programs into place to make these systems affordable to those who can't come up with the large capital investment necessary to eliminate oil dependence and reduce carbon emissions/global warming in the long run. These could even be loans paid back directly out of energy savings. Large-scale involvement would bring down the price, make it affordable to every homeowner, reduce or eliminate dependence on foreign oil and uranium, reduce CO2 buildup and thus global warming. I live in a 1743 New England farmhouse and even in this somewhat challenging environment, solar systems provide nearly all our hot water and a portion of our electricity.

    A third major concern is fair elections. For starters every American needs to know that if they are registered to vote, they will be allowed to vote, and that their vote will be counted accurately. This requires a Federal law mandating voter-verifiable paper ballots, hand-counted in open and supervised public session. But beyond this basic and fundamental right, we need to be looking at other electoral reforms. Top of my list is Instant Runoff, which would take 3rd parties out of the role of "spoiler" and into the same kind of meaningful force and alternate voice that they provide in other democracies around the world.

    Fourth, the role of Congress. In the last few years, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibilities to the American people. Highly dubious, extremist Presidential appointments are approved with little debate. Massive bills are shoved at members at the last minute, with no time for adequate review. And the Legislative branch has been largely afraid to challenge the continuous power-grabs on the part of the Executive branch. The American people elected you to be part of the checks and balances, and I trust you will help your colleagues rise to their responsibility.

    And finally, there's the question of what to do about the many high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush administration. Rep. Pelosi, I understand why you would not want to engage in the divisive and all-consuming process of impeachment--but at the same time, we should not give these people a free ride for the serious crimes they have committed--for establishing a culture of greed, corruption, abuse of power, negation of the Legislative branch, corporate favoritism, unnecessary and unjustified curtailment of liberty, an international role as a pariah who has created space for terrorists that never existed before...and the unnecessary death and injury of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in a move that only strengthened the hand of our terrorist enemies. Perhaps the appropriate response is something like South Africa's Commission on truth and Reconciliation, that holds the perpetrators accountable but does not divide the country.

    In short, there's a big agenda, you have the support of the American people, and that support can be strengthened by an assertive program of action. I wish you the best of luck.


    Shel Horowitz

    cc: Hon. Richard Neal, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Sen. John Kerry
  • Sunday, November 26, 2006

    Blog Ethics Standards from WOMMA

    The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has in the last couple of months taken several steps to build ethics consciousness among its members.

    This, of course, is something I applaud. It's quite necessary, as word-of-mouth marketers include those who have (in the past) paid people to act as shills without disclosing their relationship.

    I put a link up to WOMMA's overall code of ethics some time back. Now, the group has released draft standards for marketers communicating with bloggers. (All of its ethics programs can be accessed from a single link--which, commendably, is a main link from the home page.

    This is good. And Dell Computer has already become the first major company to sign on to WOMMA's Ethics Adoption Toolkit.

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    A Play for Our Time?

    As it happens, tonight is the final run of a play that I'm in, about the courage of one Christian scholar, Johannes Reuchlin, who defends Jewish holy books from the German Catholic church's attempt--with the aid of a converted former Jew, Johannes Pfefferkorn--to confiscate and destroy them.

    The play is called "Burning Words," by Peter Wortsman. It's based on real events, and the main characters show up in a Google search.

    The author has been present for the entire three-show run, doing talkbacks after the show.

    Last night, he spoke movingly of the play's relevance for our time. He cited fundamentalist zealots of several major religions who have gotten into positions of power, and who have tried to foist equally crazy schemes on the rest of us, including the destruction of ancient and irreplaceable iconic art (such as the Taliban's wanton despoliation of an ancient Buddhist monument in Afghanistan).

    I'm proud to be a little part of this small effort to bring free speech and freedom of worship issues to the foreground.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Parking Becomes a Liability in Urban Planning

    Fascinating article in the New York Times about changing zoning trends regarding parking in urban cores, and especially near transit stations.

    Although condominiums without parking are common in Manhattan and the downtowns of a few other East Coast cities, they are the exception to the rule in most of the country. In fact, almost all local governments require developers to provide a minimum number of parking spaces for each unit — and to fold the cost of the space into the housing price.

    The exact regulations, which are intended to prevent clogged streets and provide sufficient parking, vary by city. Houston’s code requires a minimum of 1.33 parking spaces for a one-bedroom and 2 spaces for a three-bedroom. Downtown Los Angeles mandates 2.25 parking spaces per unit, regardless of size.

    Today, city planners around the country are trying to change or eliminate these standards, opting to promote mass transit and find a way to lower housing costs.

    As a New York city native who used to draw my proposed extensions to the subway system in my spare time, I've always been a strong advocate of public transit (and of bicycle commuting), and one of my only regrets about moving to our wonderful house in the country is that a car is essential to get anywhere. Neither mass transit nor bike is a realistic commuting option with the steep hills, narrow shoulders, and high vehicle speeds along our road, though in special circumstances I do bike to get someplace once in a while. And of course, I work from home but I still have to drive my son to school. And my wife and I ill sometimes go through many hoops in order to coordinate our schedules so we only need to take one car to get places.

    Many cities are well set up for public transit. Even in car-crazy L.A., I've found it easy to get around on buses and trains. And in New York, Boston, or Washington, I've usually found it actually easier to get around on transit than by car--although Washington's case is peculiar, where extending the Metro resulted in an ugly pattern of car-centered retail development, and accompanying gridlock, along the suburban rail corridors. In most of Europe, of course, transit is the expectation and private car commuting is an option exercised by only a small fraction. Even very small cities, such as Rostock, Germany, have a well-developed and much-used public transit network.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    More Election Irregularities–on Both Sides

    Two brief excerpts from this New York Times story:, the conservative journal, heralded a “massive meltdown in Pennsylvania” early in the day, citing “widespread reports of an electoral nightmare shaping up in Pennsylvania with certain types of electronic voting machines.”

    Among the litany of issues cited at Talking Points: computer problems that caused long lines in Denver; polling stations that stayed open later in Indiana after voting problems and delays; votes for Claire C. McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race that somehow registered for her opponent, Jim Talent; complaints that crashed an Ohio county phone system.

    In short, our work is not over even with most of the votes counted.

    I think the time has come for a mass movement around electoral fairness. We have the right to now that
  • Eligible voters are able to vote
  • Once they've voted, their votes are counted accurately using systems that cannot be hacked

    Watch this space. I will be contacting voting rights experts to help draft legislation, and then asking them to help contact mass-advocacy groups such as MoveOn and yes, its conservative counterpart RightMarch to create a massive bipartisan push for fair elections.

    The goal: Passed in 2007 and implemented in time for the 2008 elections.
  • Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    What the Vote Means

    Yesterday's big gain for the Democrats was a vote for peace, for ethics, for election process reform (most visibly in Ohio and Florida, where Ken Blackwell and Katherine Harris, architects of Bush's questionable victories in 2004 and 2000, were soundly defeated) and for competence.

    It was also, in many places, a vote for positive campaigning, Voters repudiated at least some of the candidates who put out the most vicious attack ads, including Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who lost the governorship of Massachusetts after 16 years of continuous Republican rule, and Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, who lost her seat.

    I actually had two personal friends running for Congress this time: Tony Trupiano in Michigan and Jeeni Criscenzo in California, both endorsed by Progressive Democrats of America. Both lost, unfortunately. But it was exciting to see them go this far.

    Now, it's up to the Democrats to actually put forth an agenda of peace, ethics, elections that can be trusted, competence, and positive focus. We will be watching!

    Corrupt Election Practices Continue to Put U.S. Democracy at Risk

    An Election Day message:

    At the core of democracy is the idea that citizens can vote, and their votes will be counted. Unfortunately, for at least the past six years, that lofty ideal seems to be at variance with reality. This year, the election is in process as I write this--and the number of posts crossing my desk that raise serious concerns about the validity of the process is just plain shocking.

    You want examples? I'll give you examples from five different states (note that I'm not passing judgment of the accuracy of these claims, which I have not personally investigated--but it does raise a whole lot of suspicion):
  • Virginia: dirty tricks include fliers that tell voters to skip the election, calls to registered voters falsely informing them that their poling place is changed or that they are not allowed to vote. Oh yes, and how about ballots that make it almost impossible to vote for the Democratic candidate for Senator.
  • Ohio: a spurious telephone poll that accuses the Republican gubernatorial candidate's opponent of hiring a child molester--on behalf of the same candidate who, as Secretary of State, has presided over the disenfranchisement of some 500,000 likely Democratic voters
  • Maryland: Report on security flaws in election machines was apparently sanitized by the company's own executives and hidden from governmental authorities
  • California: The most widely used voting machine has a button that allows multiple votes--although election officials say they've trained poll workers to watch for suspicious behavior or extra beep tones (hard to imagine how that will work in a busy, crowded, noisy poling place, however)
  • Nevada: A Reno voter had to sue a voting machine manufacturer on the grounds that her vote wasn't being recorded or counted (this quote is from her press release; the link is to the official complaint)

  • the Wyle
    Laboratory December 2004 test results of the AVC Edge with VeriVote printer that she
    and other Washoe citizens and most of Nevada voted on in 2004; and will again in 2006. Wyle tested the machines for reliability and certified the AVC machine suitable for Nevada voter use. Axelrod says Wyle’s operational, test and evaluation records reveal that test machines “ failed to operate when subjected to electrical surge, electromagnetic radiation and electrostatic discharge; overall standard reliability testing failed at 4, 8, and 10 hours causing the machine to lock up; VeriVote printers slipped out of alignment and/or repeatedly jammed and stopped printing even though the machines read “Printing Ballot Selections; and VeriVote Printing paper folded up on itself accordion style”. Axelrod also says, “Wyle engineers found that, “ongoing review of individual VeriVote paper receipts produced during testing show that a font size change had occurred on multiple occasions which in turn caused some of the information on the printer receipt to be found missing.” Axelrod also says that, “Wyle Laboratory suppressed and failed to print out VeriVote serial number data of machines under test so that printed rolls could not be traced back to the specific machine from which the voter receipts were printed.

    There's more--a lot more than these five states. But that's enough for now.

    Democracy: an idea whose time has the U.S., too.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    Good Article on Ethical Non-Sweatshop Clothing

    From the Christian Science Monitor, regarding Lesotho's once-moribund, now resurgent clothing industry, and how it shifted toward ethically clean clothing:

    But at the same time, an alliance of companies, NGOs, government representatives, and others were trying to find ways to protect the country's industry. Already, some brands had improved working conditions in Lesotho to answer concerns about sweatshop labor. The group realized that if Lesotho could start aggressively marketing itself as an ethical source of clothing, it could retain and even grow business. "Ethical trading gives you a competitive edge," says Andy Selm, regional textile and apparel specialist at ComMark Trust. "You can attract a better quality of customer."