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The True Cost of Our Daily Bread
Joel Makower, 17 Jan 06

Here's a competition you can really sink your teeth into.

Sustainable Ventures is offering a $10,000 prize for a study on "Our Daily Bread, What Does It REALLY Cost?" The competition aims to encourage the development of integrated social, environmental, and financial metrics.

Sustainable Ventures is a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and educating "beneficial owners" -- those lucky souls with pension and trust funds invested in their names -- to take an active role in the management of their investments. It develops curricula to inspire these individuals to influence their fund managers to achieve integrated performance -- social, environmental and financial -- rather than financial performance alone.

The winning study of the "Daily Bread" competition must provide an analytical framework of "integrated performance metrics" -- the social, environmental, and financial costs associated with a loaf of bread. (Why bread? "Because many people eat some form of grain-based staple on a daily basis," says the group.)

The first phase of the effort invites individuals and teams of researchers to identify the integrated metrics for bread. The second phase will be to disseminate these metrics to the marketplace "so people can make more informed choices about the products they buy and the services they use."

"These metrics will underlie the evaluation of integrated business performance and create the tools to encourage people to make choices that protect and restore our world," say the organizers.

There are two dates that qualified individual candidates or teams of researchers can submit papers for prize consideration:

  • Individuals or teams who deliver the first drafts of research papers by April 26th will be considered for attendance at the June 5th Candidate's Forum at Tufts University in the Boston area. Sustainable Ventures will sponsor one team leader or individual participant for each paper.

  • Candidates who produce final papers by August 23rd may be considered for the $10,000 prize to be awarded in the fall of 2006.

    Throughout the award process, a Candidate Online Forum is available to encourage participants to work in teams, add materials for discussion and initiate and participate in new discussion topics.

    Sounds like a worthy exercise, any way you slice it.

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