April 22, 2011


Toward a Kinder, Gentler Corporation

Just Like Better World Club! Y'know, a Corporation the Bush Family Could Love

Let's Make Sure California Passes its Benefit Corporation Legislation

Traditional corporate law defines the fiduciary duty of corporate officers and directors narrowly, making it difficult for businesses with a social mission to make the kinds of complicated decisions they face every day. California AB 361, currently under review by the California State Assembly, was drafted and introduced with the goal of creating a new class of corporation, the B(enefit) Corporation, that 1) has the corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment, 2) redefines fiduciary duty to require consideration of the interests of employees, community, and the environment, and 3) reports on its overall social and environmental performance using an independent third party standard.

Not familiar with benefit corporations? Then you must not live in Maryland, Vermont, or New Jersey, where laws to enable corporate leaders and investors to run their businesses in ways that consider the interests of non-traditional stakeholders and pursue a broader mission than simply maximizing profit have already been enacted. Similar legislation has passed the legislature in Virginia and is working its way through the legislatures of several other states, including California, the home state of New Voice of Business where Better World Club President Mitch Rofsky serves as a board member.

And there's that aphorism: "As California goes, so goes the world." No? We'll leave it to our friends at New Voice of Business, then, who (like us) believe that by passing and enacting AB 361, "California has a chance to be a real leader in creating the legal infrastructure necessary to support sustainable businesses in America."

Once the legal infrastructure exists, investors will have a stronger market based option for supporting solutions to some of the world's most difficult problems. What's more: no new taxes. Even the Bush oil companies could get on board with something like that, right?

We urge our readers in California to drive change by contacting their Assembly members and asking that they support AB 361 to create a new class of corporations with a legally codified commitment to benefiting society and the environment. A sample letter is available here.

Don't live in California? Forward this email to a friend who does. (Forward it if you live in California and just contacted your legislators, too.) The California Assembly reconvenes on April 25th. Let's make sure that the members of the Assembly open their inboxes to as many messages as possible.

Are you a business person? Find out more on how you can align your business with the new capitalism alongside New Voice of Business.

And then, you know, forward this email to a friend.

Which is Worse: a Castrated EPA or an Impotent One?

(We're Polling the Men in Our Office)

Obama and Congress Complete 2011 Budget Negotiations to the Sound of One Hand Clapping

We're just past the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the federal government still hasn't acted decisively to hold corporations like BP and other fossil fuel giants like it accountable for the damage they do to the environment and public health. We're also just a few days past tax day, and those same corporations are still enjoying tax breaks and government subsidies.

Let's just go ahead and keep ignoring that elephant in the room for the time being. At least we've got a budget for the year, right? And, in the end, budget negotiations didn't completely strip the EPA of its regulatory power like they might have. Or did they?

Environmentalists were generally (and happily) surprised when President Obama took a strong stance on maintaining the EPA's power to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. That same administration announced a massive expansion of US coal mining in late March that promises to greatly increase pollution and our national carbon footprint.

Maybe Obama was just making concessions to fossil fuel supporters knowing that he'd need leverage to push his hard line on the regulatory mandate of the EPA? It's possible. The budget was indeed passed without the proposed riders that would have forbidden the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, the budget also included serious cuts to funding for EPA programs, including some designed to combat climate change.

At the end of negotiations, the EPA budget was cut by $1.6 billion (16 percent). Almost half of that ($797 million) was taken from the EPA's Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, but the Obama administration also agreed to $25 million in cuts to funding for state and local implementation of the EPA's fledgling greenhouse gas programs. As a result, state regulators will likely have difficulties issuing required permits to large polluters.

In addition to cuts at the EPA, the new budget also cut $550 million from energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, $116 million from Department of Interior climate programs, and a whopping $1.4 billion from proposed high speed rail projects. The Obama administration may have saved the regulatory integrity of the EPA, but the budget it enacted certainly doesn't do any favors for US efforts to fight climate change.

Does the much debated 2011 budget represent a defeat for climate efforts disguised as a victory? Or did the EPA dodge a bullet that might have left it crippled in future years when funding cuts are expected to be rolled back?

The Republican House of Representatives is likely to target the EPA again during the debate over raising the debt ceiling and then again in its 2012 budget legislation. What compromises will the Obama administration make then?

Which raises the question: Is a defunded EPA effectively any different from an EPA with limited regulatory powers? Let's hope so.

More "Washington Watch" in Kicking Asphalt

- NHTSA Finds No Electronic Malfunction Responsible for Unintended Acceleration in Toyotas...Then Toyota Voluntarily Recalls 2 Million More Vehicles for Possible Acceleration Problem...Huh?


Germans happily pay more for clean energy. Why don't Americans?

by David Roberts,

So one of the most startling things I learned in Germany last week is that the country's renewable energy law -- the EEG -- is now and has always been popular with the public. Why is that startling? Because the EEG explicitly charges German ratepayers an extra fee. It's right there on their electricity bills! In fact, the utilities, which are not big fans of the EEG, work to make the fee as prominent as possible. Today it amounts to about 15 percent of the bill, which isn't huge (about four beers a month, I was told) but isn't nothing either.

And yet the German public is OK with it. In 2005, a poll found that 25 percent thought the level of government support for renewable energy should stay the same -- and 62 percent thought it should increase! In 2010, another poll found 73 percent of the public supported continuing or increasing the program. In 2011, EEG tariffs were, for a variety of contingent reasons, spiking. For the first time, 40 percent of Germans said the tariffs had gotten too high. (They're expected to resume falling in coming years.) Then again, in the wake of Fukushima, fully 71 percent of the German public said they'd pay 20 euros ($29) more per month for clean, non-nuclear power.

Complete Story

Additional Ways to Get Where You're Going:

When men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go, and you've just... No! Don't eat the mushrooms. Those are for cleaning up radioactive contamination.

It's a dandelion! It's crabgrass! No! it's a super weed!
The Gulf disaster one year later: deep water event horizon? Maybe not...

If you would like to contribute your opinion to Driving Change's "Giving Directions" please email it to us at


Earth Day organizers call for "a billion acts of green"

by James Kelleher, Reuters

The annual effort to raise public awareness about the environment and inspire actions to clean it up marks its 41st anniversary on Friday, coinciding with the Christian Good Friday and Judaism's celebration of Passover.

In an effort dubbed "A Billion Acts of Green," organizers are encouraging people to observe Earth Day 2011 by pledging online at to do something small but sustainable in their own lives to improve the planet's health -- from switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs to reducing the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

Complete Story

Will you be in Portland, OR this Saturday? Celebrate Earth Day with Better World Club at Washington High School (SE 12th and Stark). Manning our booth for us should count as an act of green or two. Event organized by City Repair.

New York 2011: Chevrolet debuts 2013 Malibu, surprises with 38-mpg ECO model

by Chris Paukert,

It says something about the breakneck pace of America's mid-size sedan segment that the departing Chevrolet Malibu was beginning to feel long in the tooth. Introduced for the 2008 model year to great fanfare and critical praise, General Motors' family four-door has seen its appeal dinged by new entries from companies like Kia, Hyundai and Volkswagen, along with massively updated models from companies like Ford (not to mention perennial favorites from Honda and Toyota).

Chevrolet surprised attendees at its press also rolling out the Malibu ECO, an eAssist-equipped high efficiency model that's expected to earn fuel economy ratings of 26 mpg city and a lofty 38 mpg highway. Powered by a 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder and aided by the aforementioned eAssist mild hybrid system and special aerodynamic tweaks, GM says the Malibu ECO can go up to 550 miles between fill ups, delivering fuel economy figures that would make some hybrid family sedans envious.

Complete Story


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