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Weekly Roundup: London clean up, renewable energy and the debated death of CSR

   /   Aug 12th, 2011Europe, United Kingdom, Weekly Roundup

Every week, we round up the SocEnt news and discussions you need to know.

Riot Recourse

In case you haven’t heard, massive riots have rocked London and surrounding areas since last weekend. Looters ransacked businesses and homes, buildings burned and cars crashed, with an estimated 80% of rioters under the age of 24. The media has pinpointed a web of causes, including racial tensions, high youth unemployment and persistant economic inequality. To catch up in depth, see Mother Jones’ explainer.

But a response has emerged from a team of “Riot Wombles,” pseudo-social entrepreneurs who have adopted the responsibility to clean up the streets. They use the Twitter account @RiotCleanup and the hashtags #riotwombles and #riotcleanup, and also spread word via Facebook and their website, to broadcast cleanup logistics and ask for donations to help ruined shops rebuild.

Their Twitter account collected more than 50,000 followers in less than ten hours, and a glance at the #riotwombles hashtag reveals other online campaigns to support victims of riot violence, as well as discussion about businesses that have responded by giving out food and coffee to locals amidst the chaos.

Forbes has written that the cleanup activists are helping Londoners feel empowered instead of helpless in light of the violent events. And the Guardian ran a story about how social enterprise could be the key to preventing future riots over economic inequality.

Londoners were crying “Make tea not war” and “stay in and drink tea” as they created an online tea party flashmob, uploading pictures of themselves sipping a hot cuppa to the hashtag #OperationCupoftea in a purely British form of nonviolent social protest. These social entrepreneurs are also selling special tea blends on their website and giving 100 percent of the profits to the cleanup efforts.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the government will consider banning people from social networking sites if suspected of criminal activity.

Renewable Energy On The Rise

This week, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century’s (REN21) released their ”Renewables 2011 Global Status Report.” According to their analysis, renewable energy use in the global power, heat and transportation sectors reached an estimated 16 percent of “global final energy consumption.” Global investments in renewables increased by 30 percent since 2010, and emerging economies in developing countries have also increased their share of investment, supply, and use in renewables.

Trying to pinpoint the cause of the jump,  Triple Pundit pointed out that the events of 2010– the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and an Arab Spring that led to rising oil prices–might have spurred the global economy to look at other options. According to REN21′s report, new technology and improved design have also contributed to renewables’ rise.

Wind also received a bit of buzz, as the New York Times highlighted designers looking for cost-effective ways to make turbines large enough to produce high mega-wattage. Renewable Energy World reported that Iowa now receives 20 percent of its energy from wind.

But the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which recently released the U.S. Wind Industry Second Quarter Report, warned that without the extension of the Production Tax Credit, and a more stable economy overall, the industry’s growth will stall. (If you don’t have time to read the whole report, the Renewable Energy World article provides highlights.)

A report on Bloomberg also noted that despite promising gains, the debt deal’s spending cuts could have negative consequences for the renewable energy sector, reducing its burgeoning competitive edge over fossil fuels.

Is CSR Dead?

A piece on The Guardian caused a bit of a stir this week, as Dermot Egan proclaimed that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is reactionary, inadequate and, effectively, dead. He notes that though the term CSR has been around since the 1960s, its rise to fame in the last decade proves that it’s little more than big companies scrambling for a marketing gimmick that will please both their employees and their customers. In his eyes, social enterprise–companies whose core mission revolves around social good–is the future.

One commenter wondered if his article had any point at all, doubting that companies will be willing to make that shift.

On Twitter, reactions to the piece were mixed. “You know it’s late in the game when mainstream media picks it up,” remarked one. Another grumbled, “More terminology whinging. Is this productive?” And yet another tweeter took a more positive spin: “Sustainability skills and good business skills are increasingly the same thing.”

In related news, Get Satisfaction developed an interesting, if somewhat cluttered, infographic with the results of an executive survey on the future of social business. Their predictions had a distinctly digital slant, and most cited technology as the industry taking the most advantage of social business opportunities.

Meanwhile, Levi’s began a partnership with Matt Damon’s poverty-reduction effort, Water.org on Facebook. They’re  using a Facebook ad called a “sponsored story,” which appears in news feeds and in the upper right corner of a user’s profile. Once 100,000 clicks have occurred on the ad, Levi’s will make a donation to Water.org. In fact, Water.org is getting quite crafty with social media. They’ve got a contest going in which people use the hashtag #twakeover to create buzz about the worldwide water crisis; the winner gets the chance to be Water.org’s main tweeter for a week in September.

Worthwhile Weekend Reads

  • On the Harvard Business Review, Umair Haque wrote a beautiful essay on fundamental power shifts, and the larger implications of the London riots.
  • TED Talks founder Richard Saul Wurman is creating a new, more conversational platform for discussing ideas with the world.
  • The NY Times launched beta620, their site for experimental projects, meant to bring together web techies and journalists in a space conducive to innovation. NYU j-prof Jay Rosen, known for his expertise in digital media, gave his opinion of beta620 on Twitter. Neiman Lab sees beta620 as a breakdown in barriers between journalists and the world they write about.
  • In a Social Good podcast, blogger Beth Kanter explains how nonprofits can reap the benefits of using the new Google+ social network.
  • After a wave of corruption, NY State Governor Cuomo created a task force to crack down on state-supported nonprofits that may be abusing tax dollars.
  • Inc.com shares seven steps to a culture of innovation that have been determined keys to success in high-growth companies.
  • Ever thought about living off the grid? This writer is doing with his family, and blogging for the New York Times about the experience.

And a few announcements…

  • Triple Pundit put out a helpful guide to working with metrics and reporting them, and announced an upcoming certificate course in Metrics Reporting.
  • Additionally an upcoming conference at the Wharton School will address “the future of sustainable business metrics.”
  • King’s Fund, a UK thinktank and health care charity, released a report emphasizing that the health care social enterprise sector requires support in key areas order to move forward.

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