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  • Flickr image by Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia

    Rice paddies and colorful tractors are common sights in remote parts of south India. So, too, are small shanties, brightly painted shops and coconut palms. But nowadays, in some villages, solar panels have also become part of the landscape, covering shingled roofs and competing with the palms for sunlight.

    The panels are helping to catapult energy-poor villagers – who previously had no, or only very limited, electricity – into a more sustainable future. This leap to renewable energy is the result of an innovative business model that’s being rolled out to low-income communities in the state of Karnataka.

    The company behind this new model is Simpa Networks, a technology company that aims to make sustainable energy affordable to all – even those who make less than $2 a day. In particular, Simpa targets customers who have limited access to electricity and use kerosene lanterns, which can pose health and safety risks, to illuminate their small homes. It also targets customers with little, if any, disposable income, who can’t afford to buy its solar products for $200 to $400 each – even though Simpa claims its system could yield significant savings over its 10-year lifespan. …

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  • The promise of business-model innovation has long captivated the sustainability field, generating plenty of hype. But all the talk has yet to yield many real business-model changes.

    You might not know it to hear companies talk. Any business change can end up being classified as “business model innovation”. In a BCG and MIT survey of executives and managers earlier this year, nearly half of the respondents said their companies had changed their business models as a result of sustainability opportunities. However, the majority of innovations we see involve changes in companies’ processes and/or products, not underlying business models….

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  • Another year, another COP, another step closer to the brink. It must seem to the casual observer that the UN climate negotiations are an exercise designed explicitly to create gridlock and failure. Judging by many of the blogs, comments and tweets I’ve been reading since bleary-eyed delegates stumbled out of the Durban ICC on Sunday, the most recent episode has provoked some strong but mixed reactions: politicians claiming a triumph of multilateralism, NGOs decrying the lack of progress on issues of substance. Both views hold some merit. As someone who was present in Durban for the regulation fortnight – but missed the 36 hours of injury-time – I’d like to weigh in with my personal reflections.

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  • This is the last in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: one, two, three, four, five, and six.

    Back in the UK now and reflecting on the news filtering out this (Sunday) morning. Given the threat yesterday of a chaotic collapse, with echoes of Copenhagen, I was relieved to hear of the final outcome. The very best was never going to be equal to the full climate challenge we face, but this COP has made some major strides in securing a long-term mitigation roadmap with ‘legal force’.

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  • This post was co-authored by Mark Lee (SustainAbility) and Chris Coulter, (GlobeScan) and originally appeared on Guardian Sustainable Business on 15 September 2011.

    It’s tough now to be optimistic about policy, the economy or their combination. The eurozone is reeling in the face of defaults and potential defaults as well as lack of shared vision about managing and paying for future challenges. US stock markets entered August downbeat after the bitterly partisan deficit showdown. They then suffered major declines by the month’s end, while the job-creation numbers released at the start of September suggest American economic malaise will linger. Emerging economies remain vibrant, even boisterous, but questions about inflation in Brazil and elsewhere are amplifying, debate over corruption has taken centre stage in India and pundits wonder how China can maintain torrid growth while its western export markets remain in the doldrums.

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  • Image: AFP via sacbee.com

    The past week has been, in many ways, a watershed in post-independent India, with millions of Indians – young and old – taking to the streets in a public demonstration against corruption. The crowds have been unprecedented – I certainly do not remember anything like this since the late 1970s – and has cut across geographies and classes. And the man who has galvanized this is a 74-year old Gandhian called Anna Hazare (pronounced Ha-zaa-ray), a retired army soldier whose public contributions started in his small village in western India but who gradually became a relentless crusader against corruption in public life. Will this be a defining moment in India’s democracy? Are there lessons to be learnt, including for corporations in democracies? But I am getting a bit ahead of myself…

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  • In early July, after nearly a year of drafting and several rounds of consultations with business and civil society, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India announced the adoption of the National Voluntary Guidelines for Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business

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  • Get Well Soon

    13 Jul 2011Caren Holzman

    The Lancet recently published a major international study revealing that 347 million adults worldwide suffered from diabetes in 2008 – a number that has doubled since 1980 and exceeds that shown in previous studies. As it was a scientific study, it doesn’t address the staggering economic implications of this number in terms of lost productivity and exorbitant healthcare costs for treatment and support. However, a study also published in June in Value in Health contends that nearly one in five people with diabetes are regularly unable to attend a full day at work due to disruption caused by episodes of dangerously low blood sugar. And one in every ten healthcare dollars in the US is spent on diabetes and its complications.

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  • Photo: Flickr user Meena Kadri

    A week ago, as I waited at a traffic light in Mumbai, I witnessed an incident of grand theft auto—well, perhaps it was not grand, but something was stolen, and it involved an automobile. Here’s what happened: A barefoot woman in a grubby green sari scurried into the street, carrying a big empty water jug under her arm. Without shame, she went straight to the back of a brightly painted water tanker truck which was waiting for the red light to change. On the back of the water tanker was a large faucet, and when the woman turned the valve, water spurted everywhere, soaking her sari and filling her jug within seconds. The woman’s children and husband watched by the side of the road as she stole the water

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  • It's time for a rethink on the future of nuclear power, but the answers are far from clear.

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  • Despite the hope microfinance has not made poverty history - once again we are in need of new inclusive business models.

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  • New Year, New Life

    19 Jan 2011Mark Lee

    Population numbers are staggering, but the answer, in terms of how many is too many, is more complicated.

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  • New microfinance rules in India have reopened a range of basic questions about microfinance wherever it is practiced.

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  • Forbes' latest list of billionaires leads us to wonder: what will the future of philanthropy look like?

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  • Gary Kendall on the hangover from COP 15, and the prognosis for COP 16 later this year.

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  • In India and elsewhere, "license to operate" means more than just following the rules.

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  • It was at midnight of August 14, 1947 that India became free from almost 350 years of foreign rule.

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  • A bunch of us were sitting last week in the swanky office of a leading Indian multinational group in central Delhi...

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  • In early July SustainAbility’s work with one of Tata Group companies brought me to India.

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  • Given the coverage of the BP oil leak, a significant development in Bhopal has largely slipped under the media radar.

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