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Navigating the Reset World with BSR

Navigating the Reset World with BSR

GreenBiz.com is pleased to be a media sponsor of the 2009 Business for Social Responsibility Conference, happening October 20-23 in San Francisco.

The theme of this year's event is "Reset Economy, Reset World," and the conference explores the trio of global crises -- economic, environmental and social -- that have overturned the concept of business as usual in the last year.

As part of our coverage leading up to the conference, I spoke with BSR President and CEO Aron Cramer last week to discuss some of the issues that the conference's speakers and sessions will discuss.

The full interview is posted as a podcast on GreenBiz Radio, where you can listen to the podcast as well as read a transcript of our talk. Below is a short excerpt from our conversation.

Matthew Wheeland: BSR is very engaged with especially water issues, there are supply chain issues. Can you give us an example of a recent activity that companies -- that BSR members or BSR projects have worked on, that serve as an example for showing business concern beyond just profits?

Aron Cramer: Well, we are, in any given year, we're working on 150 - 200 projects with our 250 member companies, and there are a couple that, I think, are particularly interesting in this year, in 2009.

One is that we worked with Sprint and Samsung in the development of their reclaimed phone, which is an actual handset, a mobile phone, that Sprint's put into the marketplace. It's a Samsung phone that is a truly sustainable handset, and the issue of e-waste is obviously one of considerable concern.

A lot of people believe that companies are just always trying to sell the next new thing, regardless of the impact on the environment, but here's an example of a couple of companies who took a very common consumer device and tried to redesign it from the ground up to make sure that it didn't just have a green coat of paint, but in fact was based on sustainability principles from the beginning.

And I think when you see more companies designing for sustainability along the lines of this phone that we have the great opportunity to work on with Sprint and Samsung, then you get into an economy that is much more like a closed loop economy. And I think that's the kind of thing that will not only deliver great results for the companies that are doing them, but also I think will begin to reshape the very core of the economy.

On another note, we've been working with Walmart and a number of its suppliers in China. Walmart has made some very big, audacious statements about its objectives on sustainability, and we've been working right there on the ground with Walmart and a number of its suppliers, with staff person embedded in Walmart's headquarters in China to help these big suppliers simply reduce their energy use.

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