Business Going Green

Social Media as Social Currency: Selling Through Social Influencing

Saturday, February 8, 2014 by

A 5 Step Guide to Inside – Out Influencer Social Media Marketing

Social influencing is the ability to influence behavior through your social & digital networks. A strong ability to influence your social network equals high social currency net worth, which doesn’t just translate into a high number of followers and engagements, rather it is of direct financial impact on your company’s bottom line and potential for long term success.  

Purchasing power is in the hands of people, and business is no longer B2B or B2C, rather business is S2S – soul to soul. Success in business is dependent on personal relationships. 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family*.

As the communication gab between brands and consumers have largely disappeared, and consumers can get access to any information about your company, and reviews on how other’s, whom they trust, experience shopping with you, your customers go social to find out about you, before they buy. And, they do not go to your website. They go to the key influencers talking about your business.

Social technologies offer effective & efficient ways to increase & engage your network both locally and globally, and it is of great value to most businesses to find the key to building social currency.  So, how do you crack this code to become a trustworthy social influencer?

Passion

Get beneath what you do & sell, and into the core of why you do what you do. Draw your audience towards you with your contagious passion for why you do what you do. If you are only focused on what you sell, the communication and connection with your audience will be too superficial to build social influencer standing.

If you grow and sell tea, then share all about why you are passionate about tea – perhaps it’s the fine flavor variations in tea from specific regions of the world; perhaps it’s the health benefits of herbal & green teas, or perhaps it’s the beauty of tea ceremony and the tradition of tea & slow living.  

Purpose

People are hungry for meaning & connection with other people, and purpose is a strong motivator in attracting a community of like-minded people, who share your values and can help bring your purpose-driven cause and business to life. Give your audience a way to connect and be part of your purpose. If you talk about a product on your company Facebook page, drive the context back to your purpose. Why is it that sharing this product with your followers is important. If the answer is ‘to sell more product’ you are not digging deep enough. Underneath the desire to sell more lies your true purpose.

Give

When you give from an authentic place - considering what the person in front of you needs or feels inspired about; because without a manipulating & self-serving hidden motive, we connect with people on a deeper level. If you keep this behavior consistent over time, you develop trust and loyalty with your audience & community. And, that’s what you need – people, who are loyal to you, who come back again and again, and, who also act as your ambassadors telling their friends about you. They will start doing this on their own, when you clear your attachment to a particular outcome and give to them from a clean place.

Trust

Trust is build over time, and is based on your consistent trustworthy behavior through all the touch-points between you and the people, who encounters your business – both internally & externally. This includes your website, all your social media profiles, any marketing materials, products, packaging, displays, written words, visual communication, how employees are treated – and most importantly, the behavior of everyone on your team, and how you and your team act in your local community and in the world at large. People buy from people they trust.

Evaluate your business on the below Trust Equation, so you can determine the current standing of your company’s trust building ability. From here you can create actionable efforts to increase the areas of weakness.

Credibility:  Your expertise as shared with your audiences. How knowledgeable are you in your field? Does your audiences see you as a credible expert? Do they listen to you?

Reliability:  Are you being consistent in frequency, tone of voice and visual feel in all touch-points? Do you follow through on delivering what you promise – every time?

Intimacy:  Your ability to make someone feel comfortable in opening up and being themselves with you.

Self-Orientation:  Where is your focus? The more you focus on the other, the more trustworthy you come across. If you are too self-oriented, you come across as low in trustworthiness.*

Plan

Random acts of social media do not work. If your goal is to increase your social influencer status, then you need to create a plan. But, before you plan, work through each of the above stages, and do your work. Observe yourself, your brand, your employees and all your communication touch-points thoroughly. Be honest with yourself. Identify your weaknesses, and create an action plan to improve these areas. Continue to observe, and fine tune behaviors again and over time. I recommend that you see this process of becoming better as a playful process of imperfection. There is no final perfection, but rather, this is a lifelong process of finetunement.

 

* Sources:

Nielsen: Global research study April 10, 2012

Jeff Bullas: The 10 Big Social Media Marketing Trends in 2014. Jan, 2014

Social Media Today: Is Self-Orientation Killing Your Trustworthiness by Charles Green

Top photo credit: marketingtango.com

 

 

Sandja Brügmann is founding partner & chief creative strategist at Refresh Agency, a specialized communications agency driving leadership transformation, international business, public relations and social media focused on the sustainable and social business lifestyle markets in the USA and Europe.

Refresh Agency service businesses on the leading edge of the sustainability and social-good areas globally including ITO EN, Matcha LOVE, Nisolo Shoes, Clementine Art, Sustainia, GoodBelly, Addis Creson (Better Place, Kashi), Chocolove, Neve Designs, Spier and TEDxCopenhagen spanning from Boulder, CO, New York, NY, Tokyo, Japan, Copenhagen, Denmark to Cape Town, South Africa.

Sandja was born and raised in sustainability-minded Denmark. A grounded island girl, who grew up on the beautiful island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. She is a certified yoga instructor, a Danish National Team Archery champion and former Olympic hopeful, a Dean’s Scholar at University of Colorado in Boulder, and she adores her daily lessons as a parent.

 

 

 

 

Unique Investment Options: Parnassus Workplace and Asia Funds

Saturday, December 7, 2013 by

A good place to work makes for a good investment – that’s the basic premise of the Parnassus Workplace Fund. In other words, a company that treats its employees well should be successful as a business. Since its inception over eight years ago (on April 29, 2005), the Parnassus Workplace Fund has demonstrated the truth of this premise.

The idea for the Parnassus Workplace Fund was first presented to me by Milton Moskowitz, co-author of the annual Fortune magazine survey of The 100 Best Companies to Work For in America. Russell Associates, the analytics group and creator of the Russell 2000 Index and other benchmarks, had contacted Moskowitz and told him that they had done a study of the publicly-traded companies in the annual Fortune list, and found that the stock-market performance of those companies had been excellent, handily beating the S&P 500 over long periods of time.

Moskowitz called me with the news and urged me to start a mutual fund that invested in companies with good workplaces. I was hesitant at first, because studies are not the same as investing with real money, and the results can be very different. However, the idea struck a chord in me because I’d always felt that a company with a happy workforce made for a good investment, but until then I had no way of proving it. Despite my initial hesitation, I decided to go ahead and start the Parnassus Workplace Fund with Milton Moskowitz as a consultant to the Fund. The Fund has been successful, and as of June 30, 2013, it has over $350 million in assets.

We use two sets of criteria in making investment decisions: financial and workplace. Assessing the financial criteria involves doing fundamental analysis to find companies with high returns, good products and services, sustainable competitive advantages and solid balance sheets. Once we have done the financial analysis, we make an estimate of the value of the company. Usually, we will only buy a stock if it is selling for no more than two-thirds of its intrinsic value. This gives us an important margin of safety.

While the financial analysis is quantitative, the workplace assessment is qualitative. We think it is important to visit companies and talk with management to find out if a company has a good workplace. While almost all companies will say they have a good workplace, the ones that impress us the most are ones that can give specific examples and articulate policies that make them good places to work. Important characteristics include: some meaningful form of profit-sharing or stock-ownership; good health-care and retirement benefits; support for working mothers; an emphasis on training and personal development; job flexibility; and recognition for accomplishments. We like companies that respect their employees, genuinely care about them and don’t just treat them as hired hands.

I think that picking companies with good workplaces is one of the keys to the Fund’s success. Some of the extra return we get is because of our financial analysis and using a value approach to investing, but a lot of our edge comes from choosing companies that are great places to work. If people are happy at work, they will be more productive, and this means better results from the same number of people. It also means that that there will be lower turnover, and this results in less money spent on recruiting and training new people. More importantly, workers at this kind of firm will help to save money for their employer and also find ways to develop more business for the company. It’s impressive what can happen when happy workers are allowed to be creative and come up with ways to build a better business.

The Fund is careful about taking risks, making sure that there is the potential for more upside gain than downside risk. The market has really taken off so far in 2013, so we have to be careful to avoid stocks that may be over-valued. Right now, the economy is improving, so there should be more upside, but there’s no doubt that some valuations have gotten ahead of themselves, so it’s important to look at both potential risk and potential return.

Parnassus Asia Fund

On April 30, 2013, Parnassus started its first new fund in eight years: the Parnassus Asia Fund. This is our first venture into international investing. Asia is a very dynamic and creative place. It contains the world’s fastest-growing middle class, and it is the scene of much technological innovation. Asia is also a region with a lot of entrepreneurship, and it is developing deep financial markets. Given that the region is growing at a fast pace, and we expect that growth to continue, it makes sense to invest in Asia ahead of future positive developments and despite all of the complications in doing so.

Continue reading this article on Green Money Journal.

Ethical Economist Hazel Henderson Interview

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 by

I spoke with Dr. Hazel Henderson, a true icon and visionary in the world of corporate responsibility and ethical economies. Dr. Henderson is a world-renowned futurist, evolutionary economist, a worldwide syndicated columnist, as well as a consultant on sustainable development, and author of 10 books including the award-winning Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy. Also she was one of the co-editors of The UN: Policy and Financing Alternatives. Hazel is the founder and editor-in-chief of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) and the creator and co-executive producer of its TV series. Her editorials appear in 27 languages and in 200 newspapers around the world, and she has received many honorary doctorates and awards.

Hazel has recently released a publication entitled “Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age: From Economism to Earth Systems Science” from the UK’s Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and Tomorrow’s Company. It will appear soon in the US from Cosimo Publications, NY.

I am in full agreement with Wisdom Network's Pamela Davis who stated “Hazel Henderson has her finger on the pulse of the economic transformation that can and must happen if we are to move forward together in prosperity in the 21st century. Her down-to-earth solutions are at once brilliant and simple enough for all of us to understand and implement.”

From the first time Hazel and I met many years ago, I have counted her as a friend. She has been a mentor to me and a consistent supporter in the growth of GreenMoney over the last 20 years. I am pleased to share this extensive interview with the still very active Dr. Henderson who recently celebrated her 80th birthday. 

CLIFF:  Will you share some of the highlights from your career with us. How are things in the business world different than you thought they would be by 2013? Are we on the way to creating a responsible economy that is not dependent on exponential growth and that works for more people?

HAZEL:   First of all, Cliff, I want to remind us all that 80 is the new 60! My physician tells me that my biological age is 60 – so I’m going with this! I work out and swim every day, eat mostly raw vegetables and fruits, local and organic from our farmers market here in St. Augustine, where I’m standing (in the accompanying photo) by our Champion Tree donated to our Ethical Markets Library during our Spring retreat in May 2013 by Terry Mock, co-founder of the Champion Tree Project International and the Sustainable Land Development Initiative. 

As to highlights, I would say my most intensive learning experience was serving in Washington, DC as a science policy wonk from 1974 until 1980 on the Technology Assessment Advisory Council for the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), on the National Science Foundation’s RANN Committee (Research Applied to National Needs) and on the National Academy of Engineering’s Committee on Public Engineering Policy (COPEP). It was an all-male world, and I recall being asked by my fellow advisors to OTA at the first meeting in Room 100 under the dome of the Capitol if I would please go and get coffee for us! Yet, the intellectual challenge was exhilarating. I remember riding the private train under the Capitol with many members of Congress and Senators who served on Science and Technology committees; testifying before the Joint Economic Committee on the need to set up what became the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Back then, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would bring the President’s budget over in a truck and dump these documents at Congress, where we had no staff assigned to digest the budget and offer our own review of its priorities! Today, CBO has become almost too powerful an arbiter – scoring all legislative proposals as well as those of the President.

I then wrote my second book, The Politics of the Solar Age, published by Doubleday in 1981, downloading all I had learned about the contesting special interests, lobbying and forces shaping our national policies on energy, transportation, agriculture, trade, taxation, military and foreign policy. I saw the fight begin as the fossil fuel and nuclear power sectors pushed to preserve their subsidies, how US auto companies had also colonized congressional committees with perks, campaign donations and populated scientific panels with their intellectual mercenaries. I realized how hard it would be for the “Solar Age” economy I envisioned to emerge. Indeed, as we now know, renewable energy companies still face an uphill battle with fossil fuels and their annual global subsidies of over $500 billion, the coddling of the inherently unsustainable nuclear industry, protection of favored agribusiness, etc. I remember at one of our OTA meetings in the late 1970s, James Fletcher, who became head of NASA told us that if similar subsidies had been given to solar, wind, energy efficiency, geothermal and other technologies, we in the USA would have already been powered 100% by renewables! This set me on my future path.

A recent highlight was receiving the blessings of Verena Schumacher, widow of my late friend and mentor E. F. Schumacher, to name our over 6000-volume Henderson-Kay-Schumacher Library. This helps keep Schumacher’s flag flying in the USA. He wrote the Foreword to my first book, Creating Alternative Futures (1978), and I still teach occasionally at UK-based Schumacher College.

Click here to continue reading this interview on Green Money Journal.

 

Hazel Henderson on the design revolution from Katie Teague on Vimeo.

The Spa Industry Looks Well and Good

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 by

ispaAfter attending the 2013 International Spa Association (ISPA) annual conference, it certainly was apparent to me that all is well and good in the wellness industry.  From my observations, the $14+ billion U.S. market looks to be growing at a steady and healthy pace. “Things certainly are looking up.” Said Roberto Arjona, General Manager of the legendary Rancho La Puerta Resort and Spa. “We have not seen reservation bookings for our resort like this since before 2008 and we are now over one hundred percent capacity going into next year.”  Rancho La Puerta is not the exception. According to ISPA’s 2013 research, people visiting day spas, hotel and resort spas, and destination spas are all on the rise from 156 million in 2012 to 160 million in 2013 and spending has increased to an average of $87 per visit ; almost a two percent increase over the previous year. ISPA organizers said conference attendance was also back to pre-2008 numbers with packed educations sessions, and a busy expo floor showcasing interesting new products and services. I have been coming to this show for several years and here are some of the major observations I see trending in the wellness space:

Going deeper

It appears that spa product companies are becoming more intelligent and in touch with ingredients that promote healthy-aging rather than anti-aging. In previous years it was sometimes difficult to find truly natural and organic brands that were not greenwashing.  Labeling is a tricky thing and not many brands carry certifications such as USDA organic, Ecocert, or Natrue to verify their claims of being organic. This is because many are small boutique brands and find certification expensive. I did see a lot of companies claiming to be eco-friendly or natural and when questioned further most had intelligent responses and provided a deeper back story on sourcing and manufacturing.  

Evidence and Earth Based

I saw a lot of brands promoting benefits of natural ingredients such as seaweed, oils, stem cells and anti-oxidants. Although these ingredients have been used in spas for years if not decades, it seemed that there are more or perhaps I am just now beginning to recognize them. The science and evidence based elements of research as it relates to natural and organic based skincare regimes is more apparent and bringing about a new products that are very interesting including brands like OSEA, Dr. Hauschka, and Pino. However, with the FTC green guidelines recently released it is important that brands be aware that any eco claims that cannot be backed are subject to fines.

Bathing popularity

Kniepp claimed their sales of salt bath products have doubled in the past year due to the growing awareness of the ability to re-mineralizing the body through salt mineral bathing.  Salt products harvested from salt mines of the Himalayas or from European seas such as Kerstin Florian seemed to be more prevalent. I love salt baths and think they are a great component of a healthy regiment. But hearing that salt demand is on the rise globally is concerning. I hope the purity is maintained while the mining of this is also environmentally conscious.

Oil overflowing

It seemed like every other vendor was promoting essential oils which I think is a good thing.  For years many aromatherapists have claimed the healing benefits of essential oils.  I ran into an old friend Michelle Roark, the founder of Phia Lab, who was a professional skier, engineer, and now perfumer. She is doing energetic measurements of essential oils in kilojoules. She claims she has scientific proof of the calming or energizing qualities of oil frequencies. Here reports should be public soon and will demonstrate scientific proof of health benefits in using essential oils which is quite exciting and I am sure will be welcomed by the aroma therapy community.

Wellness Tourism on the Rise

My favorite session was on the growth and expansion of Wellness tourism presented by Suzie Ellis of SpaFinder. She spoke on “Why You Should Care About Wellness Tourism: Latest Research on the Global Wellness Tourism Market - And How Spas Can Benefit.” She covered the distinctions of medical tourism vs. wellness tourism. Susie said medial tourism focuses on reactive, symptom based medicine that people travel to another state or country to fix and heal. This includes cosmetic surgery, cancer treatments and organ transplants. Wellness tourism promotes a more proactive and less invasive approach that promotes a healthy lifestyle focusing on physical activity, diet and personal development or mind body experiences.  This has become a $439 billion dollar global market with major potential. It encompasses not only spa but alternative medicine, active lifestyles, yoga and mind body fitness which are all overlap the LOHAS market.

I was very impressed at how far the industry has not only grown but also how LOHAS values on wellness have become more integrated.  It appears that spa goers have become more conscious of how they surround themselves in spa settings and what type of ingredients they are putting on their skin and the spa companies are responding.  The recession has made brands and properties smarter in their decisions as it relates to communicating their mission to consumers and property greening as it relates to dollars and cents.  Although work still needs to be done, I look forward to what the industry has in store in the coming years.

 

Six Reasons Why I Love the Green Festival

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 by

Green FestivalWhen the organizers of the Washington, DC Green Festival approached me this past spring about becoming their regional director,  I wondered if an event like this still resonated with consumers. Even though the event is widely recognized as the nation’s premier sustainability event, I asked myself if there was enough demand for an actual event in today’s age of virtual this, "there’s an app for that” and hash tags becoming part of our ever day lexicon.  Especially in a sector where green events have come and gone. Well, I found out that the resounding answer is YES! If my experience in September is any indication, while technology may have taken on a prominent place in our daily lives, there is absolutely a place in consumers’ lives for good, old fashioned face-to-face events.  We crave community and in-person interaction now more than ever. Technology hasn’t lessened the demand for this type of interaction. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It has increased.  People want to talk with others, gather information and look someone in the eye while doing it.  They want to touch and try out products, taste samples and see for themselves what resources are available to them.  Most importantly they want to be part of a like-minded community and participate in that community.

As my colleagues working on the San Francisco Green Festival gear up for the last event of the year November 9 & 10 at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center, it seems like a good time to  reflect on some of my favorite elements of the Green Festival.

1.       At its core the Green Festival message is about celebrating what is working in the community and providing consumers easy-to-use, actionable solutions they can take home with them and implement right away. Whether it be delicious vegetarian recipes from  Washington Post Food Editor Joe Yonan’s new book ‘Eat Your Vegetables’  to DIY ways to repurpose furniture courtesy of Habitat for Humanity, to tips on bike commuting, composting, gardening, energy efficiency and so much more, there truly is something for everyone.  Kids too.

2.       The opportunity to connect with and learn from inspirational businesses, organizations, nonprofits and other like-minded individuals who believe in making a difference, leaving our planet in better shape then we inherited and finding ways to live an eco-friendly life.  The Festival routinely features well-known, national change agents like Ralph Nader or Amy Goodman, as well as locally-based leaders like Bernadine Prince, co-founder and co-executive director of FRESHFARM Markets, yoga teacher Faith Hunter of Embrace DC, who lead free yoga classes all weekend long in the Yoga Pavilion  and Fashion Fights Poverty, which curated a green fashion show .

3.       The event talks the talk and walks the walk.  Organizers actively encourage attendees to bike or take alternative transportation to reach the Green Festival. Anyone who bikes to the Festival receives free admittance.  Over 90% of waste generated by the Festival is diverted from landfills. There is even have a dedicated team of volunteers who sort through the trash making sure nothing is missed.

4.       As consumers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from, who prepared it and how it was made, that evolution has been reflected in the programming at the Festival. Food as a topic was addressed from every angle imaginable from the control of food production by a handful of large companies, to vegan baking tips from ‘Cupcake Wars’ veteran Doron Petersan, to growing gardens and food in small spaces, to leading area farmers markets and nonprofits showcasing how they are making it easier for consumers to have access to fresh, healthy and local foods.  Exhibitors offered healthful options for mom’s and mom’s to be, fair trade chocolates, juicing and smoothies, raw foods, and organic products just to name a few.  There were panels on how food creates opportunities for conversation about the environment and more.  Food is such an integral part in allowing us to live full lives, and there is so much going on behind the scenes that the average consumer has no idea about, so it’s important to provide opportunities to entertain, educate and inspire change all under one roof.

5.       The creativity and diversity of the exhibitors and sponsors.  They ranged from larger companies like Ford Motor Company test driving their fuel efficient vehicles and Equal Exchange Fair Trade Chocolates sampling and selling their tasty chocolates to small mom and pops like Karmlades selling environmental friendly cleaning products that smell wonderful and clean naturally without chemicals. I fell in love with one-of-kind scarves from a local clothing designer that were designed in the DC area and made with bamboo, an eco-friendly and super soft material.  Other exhibitors whose creativity caught my eye included a woman who used old scarves, jackets and other materials to make home goods, including a pillow made out of a World War II Army uniform, as well as the exhibitor who made bags, wallets and iPad covers out of old football and basketballs. Talk about reusing and recycling!

6.       Organizers are committed to reaching out to the community and making the event accessible to everyone. Complimentary tickets to the event are handed out at events throughout the area, can often be found online and through special social media promotions.

I think the most powerful take away for me was that there continues to be a thriving community, whether they be consumers, speakers, businesses or nonprofit organizations, who are devoted and committed to creating change.  To steal an oft quoted phrase from Ghandi, the Green Festival gives me hope that we will be the change we want to see in the world.

Hope to see you at the San Francisco Green Festival!

Developing a Lexicon for Ocean Preservation

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by
 
Water covers more than 71 percent of the earth's surface, yet we have no international ocean police. (Photo, Kevin M. Gill, flickr)
 
Water covers more than 71 percent of the earth's surface, yet we have no international ocean police. (Photo, Kevin M. Gill, flickr)
Almost a year ago to the day, I found myself diving in the Cook Islands with Conservation International’s Sylvia Earle, Greg Stone and Peter Seligmann.  Perhaps you recall my article “Diving with the Dream Team”?  This was my first immersion, literally and figuratively, into the recently raised – and critically important – issues surrounding ocean conservation.   A lot has happened in the last year to make this a topline agenda item for NGOs, members of the business elite, and conservation societies alike.   To use an appropriate metaphor, ocean policy and preservation is the next big wave of environmental consideration and concern.
 
Think back to Teddy Roosevelt’s initiatives to promote nature and encourage land conservation in the 1920s – we are at that same point in time with regard to the oceans.  As in, the first inning.  No, make that top of the first inning.  It is an exciting field to study but one that resembles the Wild Wild West.  I hope to shed some light on what important new and existing preservation projects mean to the public, the fish, the coral reefs, and our future.  We are past the point of prevention but rather, we must undo some of the damage we have done – caused mainly by ocean acidification, overfishing, and bottom trawling.  There are many new and vague terms that leave the average swimmer, diver, and/or surfer, palms up.  This will serve as an introduction to the vernacular being used to describe these projects.
 
Let’s start with ocean acidification.  Basically, this refers to the increased carbon dioxide that is now in our atmosphere.  Thus there is more carbon, and less oxygen, directly contacting the oceans at sea level than in the past.  This is negatively affecting the health of coral reefs and other flora and fauna underwater.
 
Now about overfishing.  Think about this in a different way: On terra firma, vehicles are generally limited to paved roads.  And we have a huge infrastructure of local, state and federal police who patrol our roadways.  Now think of the skies, which are carefully supervised by the FAA, designated airspace, and a large network of control towers in major cities throughout the globe.  Both on land and in the air, penalties for not following the rules of the road can be quite punitive.  Simple enough.
 
Currently, without a network of satellite monitoring AND collection of significant fines in place, there is essentially no punitive way to stop overfishing and other detrimental activities. (Photo, wikimedia)
Currently, without a network of satellite monitoring AND collection of significant fines in place, there is essentially no punitive way to stop overfishing and other detrimental activities. (Photo, wikimedia)
 
Now, think about the oceans.  Water covers more than 71% of the earth’s surface.  Yet we have no international ocean police, no “ocean FAA” if you will…only a relatively infinitesimal handful of Coast Guard and related non-military vessels, worldwide, to guard the seas.  So what’s a mother to do about less-than-trustworthy fishing boats – mostly carrying the flags of European and Asian nations – that are overfishing, bottom-trawling, shark-fin-hunting and other extremely damaging activities?
 
Over 100 million sharks are killed every year -- mostly for their fins, as in shark fin soup. Unconscionable. (Photo, fastcompany)
 
For this answer, I sought out a few of the world’s leading experts, including none other than Sir Richard Branson.  He is a member of a group called the OceanElders, which consists of 14 dignitaries who are committed to protecting and preserving the world’s oceans and the wildlife therein.  Other members include Queen Noor, Ted Turner, Neil Young, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jackson Browne, and Dr. Sylvia Earle, among other luminaries.  Anyway, I asked Branson if by using technology, is there any way to successfully monitor the oceans for commercial fishing vessels, polluters and other maritime villains?  His comments:
 
OceanElders, a group of 14 dignitaries who are committed to protecting and preserving the world's oceans and the wildlife therein. (Photo, oneworldocean)
 
“Remote sensing of shipping from satellites is already a reality. Vessels that carry the required transponders can be tracked and identified in real time. The flaws in the present systems are that vessels can turn off the transponders and that they are not mandatory for all vessels. International agreements and treaties can fix that. The UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the best agency to organize and execute an improved ship location program.”
 
Out of the UN’s 193 member states, 170 are currently members of the IMO – including both large and small players alike, such as China, Japan, US, UK, Thailand, Madagascar, and Mozambique.  “This means that once an action is approved by the [IMO], that action has force of domestic law in the member states. So a more vigorous ship tracking program can have teeth,” Branson explained.  But what about enforcement?
 
“One option that is technically feasible today is unmanned vehicles (AUVs) that are constantly on patrol and prepared to call for assistance when needed. Another enforcement idea that really appeals to me is to develop a global directory of fishing vessels which habitually fish in distant waters from their home ports.  As trespassers are identified, they go into the database and are flagged.  A similar scheme is used by many of the major maritime nations to identify problem vessels. Those in the database that have poor safety and/or operating records can be denied entrance to seaports or will not be allowed to depart unless certain remedial steps are taken.”
 
Map of Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) in the Galapagos.
 
Branson provides a realistic and honest appraisal here of where we are on this pressing issue.  And clearly, we are indeed in the first inning.  What happens when a less-than-honest fishing vessel enters a protected zone and dredges the area for sharks, killing everything else in the net’s wake and disturbing the coral to boot?  If the ship’s transponder is turned off before committing the crime…nothing.  And currently, without a network of satellite monitoring AND collection of significant fines in place, there is essentially no punitive way to stop this activity.  Which is why 100 million sharks are killed every year – mostly for their fins, as in shark fin soup.  Unconscionable.
 
So are there any parts of the ocean that are being protected?  There are a number of marine protected areas (MPA) throughout the world.  One small but significant example lies in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, called PIPA for (Phoenix Island Protected Area).   PIPA is located in the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiri-BAS), an ocean nation in the central Pacific approximately midway between Australia and Hawaii. PIPA constitutes 11.34 percent of Kiribati’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and with a size of over 150,000 square miles, it is one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean.  (For more info on PIPA, listen to this TED Talk.)
 
Conservation International’s Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist, Gregory Stone, was the driving force in conception and creation of PIPA.  Kiribati has declared that three percent of this EEZ is a “no catch zone” and fishing is strictly prohibited.  Three percent may not sound like much, but this is still a large area – 4,500 square miles – and it is home to high value reefs, bird nesting islands, and tuna fishing grounds.  There is a sensitivity here because poor countries such as Kiribati derive significant income from taxing the fishing vessels. Thus they must be compensated from other sources to make up for the lost revenue in return for their cooperation.
 
Covering over 150,000 square miles, PIPA is one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean. (Photo, Conservation International)
 
I had an opportunity to catch up with Dr. Stone on how Conservation International (CI) is trying to craft a way to monitor the PIPA area, among other protected waters. “We are talking to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) about how we can use satellites to monitor the waters.  Extremely sophisticated aerial cameras are available, and these could be used for ocean surveillance and enforcement.  If we can create a way to document the presence of a vessel and, through licensing and electronic observation, obtain the name and home base of the boat, we would then be able to track and ultimately enforce severe fines and other penalties,” he explained.
 
Indeed, enforcement is easier when there is a government that has rights to the water space in question.  What happens when this is not the case, for example, in the Sargasso Sea?  The Sargasso Sea is the earth’s only sea or ocean without a land boundary. This extraordinary open-ocean ecosystem is bounded by currents circulating around the North Atlantic sub-tropical gyre.  The Sargasso Sea provides habitats, spawning areas, migration pathways and feeding grounds to a diverse ecosystem, including a number of endangered yet commercially important species.  Dr. Earle has called it “the golden rainforest of the ocean.”
 
I consulted Sargasso Sea expert David Shaw, a respected business and social entrepreneur who is also a National Park Trustee. Shaw put into proper perspective the challenges the environmental world faces when trying to educate the public on the threats to ocean health. “A big issue is trying to create a consciousness about the world’s largest habitat.  Unlike the terrestrial world, ocean health is often not part of our daily thoughts in the same way that unhealthy air, rivers or land may be. We need to understand that world oceans are not infinitely forgiving…we cannot see all the damage. And we are best served if debate about ocean health and other environmental issues is based on fact-based science versus emotional arguments,” Shaw explained.
 
Shaw is founding chair of an alliance formed to study the ecology of the Sargasso Sea and to create a range of stewardship measures to conserve its health.  The Sargasso Sea Alliance is led by the government of Bermuda, working with other nations as well as NGOs.  So far, among other results, the Alliance has developed a robust “Summary Science and Evidence Case for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea” with over 74 collaborators.  Under executive director Dr David Freestone, the Alliance is planning to bring the governments of the countries around the Sargasso Sea – including the US, Dominican Republic and Portugal – together with the European Union Commission to Bermuda in 2014 to sign an international declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea and to establish a permanent Sargasso Sea Commission, based in Bermuda, to oversee the health of this unique high seas ecosystem.
 
Dr. Sylvia Earle has called the Saragasso Sea "the golden rainforest of the ocean." (Photo, sylviaearlealliance.org)
 
The urgency to protect ocean wildlife is not strictly the fantasy of environmentalists and watermen.  We are talking about a far more serious question: How will we feed the world 20 years from now? Indeed, if we do not stop the systematic destruction of our ocean resources, we could have a serious seafood shortfall; this is on a collision course with simultaneous population growth.  It would seem the key is to create a way to monitor overfishing, and soon.  The concepts that Branson and Stone talk of, using GPS and related technology for this purpose, would seem to be our best chance for monitoring the oceans successfully.  Question is, who will organize the nations of the world in this effort, and how do we effectively police two thirds of the earth’s surface?  If we don’t collectively address and solve this pressing issue, the phrase “plenty of fish in the sea” may turn into a deadly falsehood.
 
Read more by Jennifer Schwab on her Inner Green.

The Growth of Online Yoga and Fitness

Friday, July 26, 2013 by

Online yogaUnless you have been living in a cave you already know that yoga has hit the masses. According to a 2012 study by Yoga Journal the U.S. 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from 2008 and is an increase of 29 percent. Fitness clubs, studios and yoga practitioners have increased spending on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations, and media to $10.3 billion a year. This is up from $5.7 billion in 2008.

Will it continue to grow? In my mind there is no doubt. I see 3 main elements contributing to yoga and fitness going online.

1.  Technology - More and more people are connected via mobile phones, tablets, and computers that provide faster and easier communications and accessibility at an accelerated rate.
2.  Proven Business Model - The progression of various new subscription commerce business models is growing rapidly and ranges from razor blade sample services to fitness memberships.
3.  Behavior Adaptation - The growth of self monitored fitness and fitting time around an individual’s personal schedule compared to the individual arranging their schedule to participate in a fitness class.

These three elements have created a growth and innovative ways to engage with individuals relating to fitness never seen before. There are several LOHAS fitness companies that have successfully used these key elements. I have been fortunate to meet a few online yoga companies and their founders and here are some that I think are doing it right:

My Yoga Online logoMyYogaOnline- www.myyogaonline.com
MyYogaOnline is $9.95 per month and claims to be the #1 yoga website in the world. Their site provides a selection of over 1000 yoga, Pilates and fitness videos filmed in studios around the country such as Laughing Lotus in New York City and 8 Limbs in Seattle.

MyYogaOnline started in 2005 and by Jason Jacobson and his wife Michelle Trantia. Prior to starting MyYogaOnline Jason was in fitness and was a boxing coach. He hung up the gloves for business and film school. His wife was a yoga instructor. And they came up with the idea that combined their passions for film, business and fitness.  When it started streaming media was barely available. "The technology wasn’t there.” says Jacobson, “When we started out I thought things would go a lot faster. I thought that in 5 years everyone would be streaming to TV's.”
Although their projected growth was slower than expected, they are still growing at a rapid pace. Today, they have over 20 employees and are expanding their Vancouver offices for more space to include their own yoga studio.

MyYogaOnline has a very engaged yoga community of 300,000 yogis that are quite vocal and wants to share experiences they have.  They interact with their community with online giveaways and newsletters and also have good relations with many yoga festivals such as Wanderlust.  MyYogaOnline establishes relationships with yoga festival management teams to film the events, and share the festival experience with their community online. They also edit highlight promotions for future festivals. Filming at festivals provides them a unique connection with the yoga community.  Their website is nicely organized and intuitive to navigate.

Yoga Vibes logoYogaVibeswww.yogavibes.com
Yogavibes is $20 per month and features videos filmed in real yoga studios and offer a variety of vinyasa-style classes from renowned teachers like Ana Forrest, Dana Flynn, Faith Hunter, and Sadie Nardini, plus a full primary Ashtanga session with Kino MacGregor. By partnering with Exhale yoga studio and the Wanderlust Festival, YogaVibes keeps their content fresh and timely. You can choose classes based on their style, length, difficulty, anatomical focus, or teacher.

Founder Brian Ratte created YogaVibes after experiencing his own life transformation through yoga in overcoming personal trauma and wanted to share this insight and experience with others.  Extensive work-related travel had him doing yoga classes in studios around the world. Although he was away from home and familiarity, Brian became very drawn to the deep sense of unity he experienced in the yoga-sphere. He saw how people really connected in yoga classes and opened up to new things.

Ratte is also an executive at IBM and began to see the growth of consciousness in society and in business.  He began researching all kinds of things ranging from quantum physics to conscious business practices. He wanted to bridge his two world of yoga and technology and felt compelled to do so. In 2005-06’ he started creating business on his personal time between raising family and work. He started filming yoga classes and launched YogaVibes with 20 classes.  

YogaVibes classes have all kinds of types of people in classes representing all types of viewers.  “People like to see people like them in classes and we have many feedback comments to support this.” says Ratte. It  has a model that focuses on meeting people where they are at by not having famous teachers and attractive settings for yoga . It seems to be working as the YogaVibes has doubled its growth rate every 6 months for the last 4 years.

GaiamTV logoGaiamTV.com www.GaiamTV.com
GaiamTV is $9.95 per month and an extension of Gaiam, one of the country¹s largest producers and distributors of yoga and fitness DVDs, has joined the online video market with the launch of its streaming service, GaiamTV.com. This strategic move has positioned Gaiam to become a leading hub of yoga and wellness on demand. One can access almost every DVD produced by Gaiam in the last 15 years from your computer or mobile device.

Gaiam TV offers over 1,000 yoga and fitness titles with the brand¹s mainstays like Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman and Mari Winsor, along with newer names like Kathryn Budig, Shiva Rea and Seane Corn. In the fitness realm, Jillian Michaels is their marquee name.  Gaiam TV's original digital titles include top talent like Kia Miller, Tommy Rosen, Amy Ippoliti, Chrissy Carter and dozens more covering every yoga style and level.

But what makes Gaiam TV different from other online yoga services is the wealth of additional transformational content offered. Subscribers can learn valuable life lessons from top spiritual leaders like Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and the Dalai Lama; venture to the edges of reality with exclusive programming with hosts like George Noory and David Wilcock; get a first-hand look at cultural narratives from around the world; or discover the latest in green technology. This positions Gaiam TV well, since other online yoga services don¹t venture beyond yoga content.

These are only a few online fitness options currently available and more will show up as well as new concepts as it evolves. If you are into yoga and general fitness I recommend you try one as this may be the new norm for many gym goers or travelers.


 

A New Printer and a Greener World

Monday, July 22, 2013 by

My business needed a new desktop printer recently. My old HP color laser jet still worked, but had run out of 1 of its 4 inks. It refused to print without a new cartridge.

Normally, this requires a trip to Staples and parting with $150. This time, I thought about it. 

From a triple bottom line perspective, a printer has significant impacts. Like any business person, I look for the best lifecycle cost. I buy reliable equipment (thank you, Consumer Reports) and use it as long as possible. However, a green business considers additional factors, including ways to:

  • reduce energy cost and pollution. My old printer was an energy hog. My new one carries the Energy Star label. My electric bill will shrink a bit and I do a happy dance every time it does.
  • reduce paper cost and pollution - Minimizing paper use has both business and environmental benefits. I'd rather keep trees around to absorb carbon dioxide (and provide shade in this hot Florida summer!) than cut them down to make paper. Especially since the paper manufacturing process is one of the most toxic out there.  I also print double-sided, use recycled paper, and recycle all paper that passes through my business.
  • reduce ink cost and pollution. When I bought the color Laser jet, I didn't know about the $150 cost per ink cartridge. Shame on me for not asking. This time around, the cost per cartridge will be $10 - $15. They'll need to be replaced more often, but the cost per page will still be about half what it was. 
    I'll continue to recycle my ink cartridges. They don't degrade well, and recycling them keeps plastics and heavy metals out of landfills.
  • enhance productivity. Much as I'd love to go paperless, I'm not quite there yet. As a writer and editor - who writes and edits EVERYWHERE - paper is sometimes more practical than lugging my laptop. Scribbling ideas in the car while waiting outside my daughter's school or marking up copy at a teeny table over lunch - these places don't lend themselves to laptops. The new printer lets me work "my way," while moving my business in a greener direction.
  • reduce equipment needs. The new printer also has fax, copier, and scanner capabilities. This was an unexpected bonus that just made sense. Why have multiple machines - in my case, a printer and fax - when one will do? I will donate my old fax machine - 29 years old and still working - to someone who needs it. And where the fax machine once sat, I'll add a nice, big plant to improve both the scenery and the air quality in my office.

Why spill so much "digital ink" about a new printer? Because it's just one example of how you can turn a seemingly mundane business decision into a strategic one, with both immediate and long-term busines benefits. The next time you are in the market for business equipment - stop and assess the greener alternatives!

 

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal of Great Green Editing. She creates content for green businesses and enterprises in the health, education and nonprofit arenas. She is a graduate of Harvard College and received her MBA from MIT. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in 2013 and Platinum-level recognition from the Green Business Bureau in 2012. She can be reached at info@greatgreenediting.com and at 813-968-1292.

 

Thinking Outside the Bottle

Thursday, July 18, 2013 by

In the fall of 2012, green cleaning company Ecover purchased Method to become the largest green cleaning company in the world. For the first time since the acquisition Adam Lowy, Co-Founder of Ecover and Tom Domen, Head of Innovation for Ecover shared details on why this occurred and what they see in the future for the cleaning industry at the LOHAS conference.

Ecover was the first green cleaning brand that was created in Belgium in 1979 to eliminate phosphate pollution. Since then they have continued to pioneer innovations and demonstrate ecological benefits while providing a quality product. They grew to be the largest green cleaning company in Europe. Method was developed 1999 because the founders were frustrated with the way business was being done and there was an opportunity to create change in cleaning. The category of cleaning was untapped in the 90's and there was a trend with LOHAS consumers with a demand for better products. They became successful by bringing together style and substance and sustainability is built into the design of the product. The product is about making sustainability desirable and grew into a 100 million dollar company in 8 years.

Green cleaning is 4% of the cleaning category. Although Ecover and Method have a dominant position they feel that this is a failure. Their goals with the merger are to radically change the at a scale that can have greater impact. They feel there is no such thing as a green consumer. “You need breadth to cater to many needs and wants. With 2 brands focusing on 1 mission we can bring green to mainstream rather than pull consumers to think green.” Says Lowry.

Adam shared that the average person does 300 loads of laundry a year. Method created a concentrate to replace large jugs commonly used. They were able to change behavior of the consumer to adopt these smaller concentrates which are now common in stores today. This is an example of bringing green to mainstream.
Ecover and Method created an innovation roadmap to go beyond what is possible today to explore solutions for tomorrow. The roadmap dreams include growing cleaning products in the garden, washing machines that incubate cleaning products. They looked at these dreams and are building a roadmap to reality.

Key areas they plan to focus on together are:
•    Eliminating fossil fuels. Ecover is using bio plastic derived from sugar cane.
•    Provide sustainable sourcing. Ensuring sources are not competing with food, and farming is environmental.
•    Natural formed products how can we grow a product instead of manufacture one. Ecover grows surfactants from yeast and other materials that are radically low in environmental impact.
•    Be resourceful in user space and teach people proper usage behaviors.
•    Create cleaning products that make your home more healthy.
•    Partnering with cleaning appliance manufacturers to improve washing processes and be more efficient.
•    Change from selling cleaning product volume to new business models.
•    Create micro location manufacturing.
•    Improve manufacturing facility waste management.
•    Ultimately be a company that works symbiotically with both society and nature.

This model is capable of evolution and behaves like an organism rather than an organization. This has an opportunity to lead to a better world but needs business to change how they play the game. Market leaders breed a bias against progress and more of a focus on position maintenance. This It is easy to focus on incremental change rather than create a business to become a force of change. The hard truth is that business committed to sustainability must be committed to uncertainty which runs against common business practice and shareholder value. Ecover and Method both believe that this is biomimicry at an organizational level and is what is needed to make the world a better place and are committed to breaking business as usual.


You can watch their full presentation here:




 

7 Organic Cleaning Products You Can Make at Home

Monday, July 8, 2013 by

Home Made CleanersNot only can cleaning products run up your grocery bill, but most commercial brands are made with harmful chemicals. These products may contain neurotoxins, carcinogens, depressants and heavy metals. Some of the health issues associated with these toxins include respiratory problems, allergies, headaches, dizziness and even cancer. As a result, many people are beginning to seek out green, organic products to clean their homes. However, buying products made organically can often cost you even more than their chemical counterparts. Luckily, you don’t have to buy the expensive brands at the store; you can make most organic cleaning products yourself at home. This will save you money and protect your family’s health! Most of these homemade, natural products use the same ingredients in different combinations. You will want to stock up on borax, white vinegar, essential oils (of your choice), baking soda, tea tree oil and an all-natural bar soap. Liquid castile soap, citric acid and rubbing alcohol also come in handy. Don’t let this list scare you away from making your own cleaning products, though. These items are all fairly inexpensive and will last quite a long time. You’ll find that your grocery bills will lessen and you will more than make your money back after only a couple of shopping trips!

  • Laundry Detergent - Grate a third of a bar of natural soap into a pot containing six cups of water. Boil the water to melt the soap. Add a bit of baking soda and borax, then mix until they are dissolved. You’ll now add this to a bucket that has four cups of hot water in it and mix it again. Then, add another gallon of water and stir one more time. Allow it to sit for 24 hours. You only need a half cup of this mixture for every load of laundry. It smells great, is all natural and saves you money!
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner - The first thing you will want to do is sprinkle the inside of the bowl with baking soda. Its abrasiveness and cleaning power will give it a good scrub. Then you will want to add 10 drops of tea tree oil because of its antibacterial properties. Finally, pour on some white vinegar. The ingredients will fizz, doing most of the cleaning for you. Swish with the toilet brush, flush and your toilet is clean!
  • Window Cleaner - Mix up three cups of water with two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, a quarter cup of white vinegar, half of a tablespoon of liquid castile soap and, if you wish, about five drops of essential oil for scent. Put it in a spray bottle and use it to wash windows and mirrors.
  • Dishwasher Soap - Mix up a cup of borax with a cup of baking soda. Add to this a half cup of citric acid and a half cup of kosher salt. Use one tablespoon per load of dishes.
  • Wall Eraser - To remove pen, crayon and marker from walls, use a half teaspoon of borax, a teaspoon of baking soda and a half cup of warm water. If you wish, you can also add some grapefruit essential oil. Spray on the wall and wipe with a sponge to simulate the scrubbing power of those pricey wall erasers.
  • Hardwood Floor Cleaner - Mop your hardwood floors with black tea. Simply boil water as you would for tea intended for drinking by adding three tea bags. When it’s cooled, pour it into a bucket and use your mop or a rag to clean your floors. The room will smell fresh and the wood will shine!
  • Air Freshener - This one is very simple, yet extremely effective. Simply fill a spray bottle with water and add to it several drops of the essential oil of your choice. If you’d like to pack an even more powerful punch into your room deodorizer, try mixing a teaspoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of lemon juice, several drops of any essential oil and hot water. This one will tackle stronger odors and it is safe for people and pets.

Remember when you are using these homemade cleaners that you are not only protecting your family and saving money, you are also helping the environment. Commercial cleaning products can seep into the public water supply by way of your drains. Water treatment plants have to work harder to get these chemicals out of the water. Over time, these chemicals will build up and may effect wildlife and the planet itself. Also, making the items yourself allows you to use the same containers over and over, eliminating the need for new plastic containers to be made and the waste of discarded containers in landfills. In short, when you make your own cleaning products, everyone wins!

This post was originally featured on www.Housekeeping.org

Why individual actions matter: the power of a belief

Thursday, June 27, 2013 by

Often I am asked if, given today’s scale of destructed habitat and the need for broad collective restoration, our individual actions count. “Does it mater that I bring my own carrier bag to store daily, that I walk to work, that I compost and flush natural rather than harsh toxic chemicals down the toilet after my home cleaning?

Many people get into the “green” habits because it matters to them, which is the best motivator. Others get desperate and discouraged as they feel their green actions are a clean drop in a polluted ocean. Yet another feel they will join the efforts when others do it as well. Understandable.

Here I second those that call for more than individual actions. However, that is not to say that such actions do not matter quite as much, if not more. Here a small reflection on what individual actions can entail:

-break the bad habit

If you are unhappy about the way we are doing things, complaining and feeling frustrated will only create negative energy and not get you far. So taking your individual action might be more rewarding.

-manifest your discontent with the “business-as-usual” way of doing

We are what we do and we do what we believe in.

-be willing to “risk”, innovate and go out of your comfort zone

Stretch your limits. The more you are willing to “give up” the more you will gain when you reach your goal. Change is not about comfort.

-show that you care

This is not about the good against the bad guys; no need to show the world that you are “better”, but to prove to yourself that you can do things differently.

-see that individual damaging or doing nothing are the same thing

Understand that “only by trying” there can be a better way. There is only sure way to fail: that of being passive.

-walk your talk: practice your beliefs and values

Whatever you do, just do what resonates with you. If avoiding recycling feels good to you because you justified to yourself that it makes no sense, then that it is what it is. Yet if you believe in doing things the better way, than you have it clear.

-join the collective consciousness

If individual actions do not matter so much than how did we get to this collective mess? Might it be that each and everyone contributed? Lets twist it around then.

-be an inspiration to others

There is need to wait for others to change things you don’t like. You can be the inspiration to others; you can provoke a collective change.

-discover a life of possibilities (there is not only one way of doing things) each and everyone is the creator

As Nick Vujicic says “attitude is an altitude” and I add that our imagination is the only limit to our possibilities.

-be the Einstein in your world

We all admire those who achieved something so achieve something (regardless of its scale and reach) and admire yourself.

The most important reason of all is that we only can do what we deem/believe is possible. So lets start shifting our unsustainable paradigms and imagining the possibility of creating a whole new world. (Law of attraction)

 

______

Described as “a tireless advocate of an ecological lifestyle and a fierce defender of nature”, Hana takes any opportunity to engage in sustainable living as a sustainability strategist, citizen and as well as a consumer. With over a decade long international career in various settings, her ambitions go beyond motivating others through Hana's greenliving blog. Professionally her aim is to look at today’s environmental issues in a holistic way, through a systemic lens and to strive for long-term improvements rather than short-term fixes. She established EarthMatters, a collaborative consultancy to help others advance on issues of sustainability.

 

Hurricanes: Bad for Business. LOHAS Conference: Good for Business!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by

June 1 was the official start of hurricane season. It’s also the start of the “rainy season” here in Florida. Tropical Storm Andrea has already visited, dumping over 3 inches of rain in a couple of hours. We seem to be off to a fast start.

Causes for Concern 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), 2013 is expected to be an "active or extremely active" hurricane season.

At the same time, the Earth just crossed the threshold to 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. For those of you who don't follow climate issues, that's not good. According to the New York Times, that's the highest level in 3 million years. This level of CO2 warms the planet and provides the fuel for ever stronger hurricanes. It is no coincidence that 8 of the top 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred just since 2004.

For a wide-ranging view of the costs of climate change, read this study from the National Journal. It covers the many ways that climate change costs money right now.

As a Floridian, I have begun the usual preparations for hurricane season: stocking up on drinking water, non-perishable foods, batteries, First Aid kit, etc.

But as a small business person, I know that my green business is at risk from extreme weather. If the electricity goes out, so does my equipment – phones, laptop, printer. My connection to customers is lost, and my work for them is delayed.

That would make me an unreliable service provider – something I promise customers that I’ll never be.  My customers (bless them!) don’t care that the U.S. electric grid is fragile. They just want their stuff.

If the pond behind my house floods, then my home office may become a large puddle. It hasn’t happened in the 12 years we’ve been here – but it could. If I lose both power and my work location, a whole new set of costs and problems ensues. And I will lose time and money as I scramble to recover.

If the worst happens, e.g. Tampa gets hit squarely by a big hurricane, then there’s the possibility that my home and business get blown away. Which U.S. city is considered most overdue for a hurricane this year? According to NOAA, it’s Tampa. And yes, I do take that seriously.

Extreme weather means business disruption

Property damage, work delays, even death. We just saw a text book case of this with Hurricane Sandy last year. No business is immune. From the farmers who watch their drought-stricken crops wither in the field to the property insurers who have to pay out claim after claim (and sometimes don’t), no one benefits from extreme weather.

So why don’t businesses step forward and say – loudly and clearly - to their representatives, their customers and their suppliers: “Climate change is a big deal. We know it threatens our livelihoods as business people, and we know it’s a threat to you, our customers. Here’s what we plan to do about it, and here’s what you, our customers, can do to help.”

On the one hand, it’s a naïve question. On the other, it’s a simple, straight-forward one. Either way, it requires an answer.

I wonder at the continued folly of many big corporations around climate change. According to Ernest Moniz, formerly of MIT and newly-confirmed Secretary of the Energy Department: "We will need not only technology innovation and policy innovation to achieve a low-carbon future — but also business model innovation."

That’s a diplomatic way of saying, “The old “grow-at-all-costs, put-profits-first” model will be the death of us. We need a different approach.” The chances of that happening voluntarily – especially in the hide-bound energy sector - are slim.

And the energy industry is not alone. Professor Michael Toffel of Harvard Business School writes, "Corporate Sustainability is Not Sustainable." In short, he describes how the actions of even the best intentioned corporations to date are not up to the scale of the problem.

So, what to do?

One postitive step - go to the LOHAS conference next week!

And also:

  • Get educated about climate change and share what you know. You don't have to be a scientist to understand the basics of what is happening. One source of information I rely on is Climate Progress.
  • Lower your carbon foot print. LOHAS is a great source of information, but so are sites like Practically Green and Green America.
  • Vote with your dollars. Switch to greener products and services. Check out Vine.com - Amazon's market place for greener and more sustainable items. And explore the LOHAS Hub. Truly green businesses that transact with other green businesses move the economy in the direction it needs to go.

Is this a shameless plug for the LOHAS conference? Yes. (And no, Ted Ning didn’t put me up to this.) But attend, connect, and find at least one new way to support a more sustainable economy. That’s the value of the LOHAS conference: learn, do, and – oh yes! – enjoy!

 

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal oGreat Green Editing. She provides writing and editing services to green businesses and social enterprises that value high-quality content. She is a graduate of Harvard College and received her MBA from MIT. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in April 2013 and Platinum-level recognition from the Green Business Bureau in 2012. 

In Praise of Telecommuting

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 by

telecommutingYahoo's decision to end their work-from-home policy caused quite a stir. I won't second-guess Marissa Mayer's decision to do this, because I'm not there. She's got on-the-ground knowledge.

However, as a long-time telecommuter and huge fan of this mode of work, I would leave Yahoo rather than give it up. Here's why:

From a green business perspective, telecommuting is a Triple Bottom Line practice.

People - Commuting to work is generally not adored by those who do it. Telecommuting:

  • Gives you back your life - literally. How much of your life do you want to spend sitting in traffic? My last employer was 15 miles away, a 30 to 45-minute trip during rush hour. When the traffic was really bad, it was closer to 90 minutes a day. Conservatively, that's 5 hours a week for 50 weeks a year or 250 hours a year. Do the math for your commute. Really think about that number. You never get that time back.
  • Reduces stress. For me, almost any activity is less stressful than driving in rush hour traffic. And stress, as a recent Fortune article reminds us, can kill you. Among other things, I use the extra time to sleep. That's not lazy - that's healthy. Wondering if being crazy-busy is bad for you? It is.

Planet - If the Earth could hug people, it would hug telecommuters because they:

  • Use less gas. And thus are responsible for less pollution related to the drilling for, transporting, refining and distributing of oil and gasoline.
  • Produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. In my case, not driving an extra 7500 miles per year avoids about 3400 pounds of GHG emissions. TerraPass has a simple calculator to help figure out what you could save, based on your specific car and commute.
  • Can drive their cars longer. My Honda Civic Hybrid is 10 years old. Not buying a new car - with all the attendant steel, rubber, plastic, glass, fabric, electronics, wiring, etc. required - conserves natural resources for the planet.

Profit - Telecommuting cuts costs and boosts revenues for my business.

  • Cost savings include:
    • Lower car maintenance bills. I replace tires, brakes, oil and so on less frequently because I drive my car less. The Honda dealer has actually tried to buy my Civic back becuase it's in such good condition.
    • Lower bills for gas. Driving 7500 miles less per year means using about 166 fewer gallons of gas. At $3.50 a gallon X 166 gallons, I save about $583 a year. If you don't drive a hybrid, you'll save a lot more.
    • No tolls. My old route cost $3.50 a day, $17.50 a week, about $875 annually.
  • More revenue comes from:
    • Using the extra 250 hours a year to do more billable work. I don't burn the midnight oil. I just use the time otherwise lost in commuting.
    • Using the extra time to invest in ongoing business education. From conferences to courses to reading business books, it's essential in order to provide the best client service. 

These are MY numbers. According to Global Workplace Analytics, some 3 million Americans telecommute some or all of the time. That's a fraction of the number who could telecommute. I encourage you to try it!

Tips for Successful Telecommuting

How you telecommute really depends on your work style. There's no one right way to do it. Here are 5 tips that work for me:

Logistics

  • Have an office space with the proper equipment. Have people who can troubleshoot your equipment when it acts up.
  • Office doors physically separate my workspace from the rest of my life. When my daughter was young, she knew that closed doors meant that Mom was working and she had to wait. Unless she was bleeding. My doors have big glass insets, so I could see if she was bleeding.

Mindset

  • Focus on results. When I write something for a client, they don't care if I wrote it at Starbucks or behind my office desk. They just want it to be good and achieve their business objectives. Businesses that don't trust that you are working unless they can see you are behind the times.

Operating procedures

  • Maintain regular communications with your boss and co-workers, or with clients. It keeps isolation at bay and ensures you are in the loop when circumstances change. Take the initiative to overcome the "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome.
  • Get out of the house every day. Continual sitting is actually a health risk, so don't feel guilty about taking breaks. It gives both body - and your creativity - a boost.

Telecommuting and kids

One thing I did not do was work from home and try to care for my child at the same time. My daughter always had childcare in a different location. That choice worked well for my family. Your choice may differ.

So telecommute if you can!

It's a win for you, your clients, and the planet. How often is that the case?

Final shout out: Here's A Visual Breakdown of the Benefits of Working from Home from the LOHAS blog in October 2012.

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal of Great Green Editing. She provides writing and editing services to businesses and social enterprises that value high-quality content. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in April 2013 and Platinum-level recognition from the Green Business Bureau in 2012.

 

 

 

4 signs that your target market should include Conscious Consumers

Thursday, April 25, 2013 by

Conscious Consumer

Image from BBMG

Conscious Consumers are an active and growing purchasing segment in the U.S. and worldwide. All you have to do is look at why LOHAS exists to see the potential economic impact of this group (and that doesn't even take into account the social impact). The term “conscious” is three-fold, applying to consumers who consider more than price and convenience when making a purchase decision – they also consider impact on their health, the environment and the greater good.

If you are one of the 73% of companies who has “sustainability” listed as a strategic priority and you are not already thinking about the 70 million Conscious Consumers in the U.S. as a market segment, here are four signs that you should be:

  1. Your product or service is more environmentally friendly than your competitors’. Conscious Consumers are sensitive to being green. They do not always make the most green choice available, but they at least consider environmental impact. Whether your product or service is green because it has less packaging, uses less energy or is made more locally than alternatives, they care.
  2. You offer a product that makes a healthy difference. With obesity storming on the scene as a public health concern, millions of Americans seek ways to incorporate physical activity and healthy eating into their busy days. Foods are being fortified in new ways (protein in your water, anyone?), treadmill desks are on employee wish lists and even apartment window boxes no longer function as ashtrays, but sprout mini urban gardens. If you make it easy for people to live healthier, Conscious Consumers need you.
  3. You aim to “do well by doing good.” Corporate social responsibility programs are now part of most large companies’ strategic plans. Your program may engage all your customers like Target’s multi-pronged “here for good” campaign, or as a smaller company, perhaps you strive for 100 percent participation in an annual United Way campaign or spend a day building a house for Habitat for Humanity. Whatever your effort may be, if Conscious Consumers know about it, they’ll be more likely to spend a few more cents on your product or recommend it to others.
  4. You want to reach influencers. At one point, environmentalism and health advocacy were fringe issues for hippies and extremists. The mainstreaming of these ideas has all but eliminated political differentiation – Republicans and Democrats alike turn off the water while they brush their teeth and take reusable bags to the grocery store. Conscious Consumers come from all different backgrounds, but are consistently early adopters who make conscientious purchasing decisions that they share with friends, family and co-workers. If you want people who are likely to increase your word-of-mouth marketing, you want Conscious Consumers.

Conscious Consumers certainly aren’t going anywhere. They’re going to keep making decisions based on what really matters. Are you in a position to help them make a difference?

Green Spas And Salons: How To Make Your Business Truly Sustainable

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 by

Green Spas And Salons: How To Make Your Business Truly Sustainable, a new book for the Spa/Salon/Hospitality Industry by Shelley Lotz, helps owners and managers develop smart, sustainable practices for long-term business success.

This unique guidebook summarizes business practices, sustainability principles, and green building  all in one. The book sifts through the “green hype” to focus on best practices. This guidebook goes beyond the spa industry and most  of the principles are applicable to any business or lifestyle. 

  Planning guides with personalized action plans, how-to steps, and worksheets are included. Tools are given for evaluating services, products, supplies, operations, and building elements. Ideas for staff engagement, client needs, and marketing are incorporated, along with the science and the economics of sustainability. Guidelines for purchasing, water and energy conservation, waste reduction, and indoor environmental quality are all covered. 

  The book is described by Mary Bemis (Founder of Insider's Guide to Spas, and Founding Editor of  Organic Spa Magazine) as “an invaluable resource for spa and salon owners.”  Kristi Konieczny,   Founder of The Spa Buzz, says “The most powerful and practical resource for sustainability of spa and salon operations I have ever seen.”

Visit www.greenspasandsalons.com  for more information.

Inspiring spa case studies include: Agave Spa, Aji Spa and Salon, Atlanta School of Massage, Be Cherished Salon and Day Spa, Complexions Spa, Crystal Spa, Elaia Spa, Glen Ivy Hot Springs, Natural Body Spa and Shop, Naturopathica, Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, Spa Anjali, Spa at Club Northwest, Spa Moana, Sundara Inn and Spa, The New Well, Vdara Spa and Salon, and Waterstone Spa.

Shelley Lotz has over 25 years of experience in the spa/wellness/beauty industry as an esthetician, educator, and business owner. She is a major contributing author of Milady’s Standard Esthetics Fundamentals, a core textbook for esthetician students. She started an institute of aesthetics and is also a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. Contact her at lotz.shelley@gmail.com.

The book will be featured at LOHAS and Ted Ning is one of the book contributors, as the LOHAS philosophy is a key part of the green business movement. 

 

LOHAS: You Had Me at Hello

Monday, April 22, 2013 by

This is my first blog post for LOHAS and I’m happy to be here. I’ve been reading LOHAS newsletters for over a year now. I nodded in agreement so often that I jumped at the chance to join the conversation.

A focus on green business

While LOHAS covers many topics, my posts will focus mostly on green business. I am an MBA and spent many years in corporate America before leaving to start my own green business in 2011.

I believe that business can and should play a key role in the transition to a greener economy. Traditional big businesses have enormous financial and people resources at their disposal.  When they decide to move in a particular direction, they can do so with an impact that a small business can’t match.

Unfortunately, in my experience, big business's singular focus on quarterly profits conflicts with the vision, courage and patience necessary to reinvent themselves as truly sustainable enterprises.

So while I celebrate all businesses that move in a greener direction, I see smaller (and privately owned) businesses as leading the way for now. They have a nimbleness and a willingness to embrace change that larger businesses often lack. I suspect that until government mandates the changes necessary to move sustainable practices from optional to mandatory, certain business players will remain in the old, unsustainable model. In the meantime the rest of us need to charge ahead.

The sustainable business view from here

I also want to share the view from my current home in Tampa, Florida. Despite its moniker as the “Sunshine State,” Florida lags on policies ranging from renewable power standards to mass transit. One reason I read LOHAS is to keep up with developments in places like California and Colorado that are – ahem – ahead of Florida in this regard.

We have astonishingly beautiful natural resources in Florida. (That's a roseate spoonbill in the picture above.) From the Everglades to the Gulf beaches, there is “natural capital” here that needs to be protected. Not just because it’s pretty – although you’d think a state whose largest industry is tourism would understand its value. But because when the natural environment is healthy, so are the people – physically and economically.

Here are 3 challenges I’ve encountered as a green business owner. Which ones resonate with you?

Lack of awareness – when I say “green”, many people think I am referring to the color, or that I am describing myself as a newbie. (I’m not.) The topic of greener business is generally not on people’s radar here.

The schools educate kids about sustainability issues better than the mainstream media does for adults. Case in point: I asked a local publisher several years ago why his Florida business-focused magazine did not have a regular feature on green business. He replied that his readers (of whom I am one) weren’t interested in that. I find that stories about green business, green jobs and green learning programs are generally under-reported.

Fragmentation of effort – there is tremendous fragmentation and lack of coordination across green businesses, nonprofits and government agencies when it comes to efforts to go green. When I go to EcoFests, green business networking events and climate change conferences,  I am struck at how many well-intentioned people are struggling to do basically the same things. Imagine if all this effort and resource were consolidated and coordinated in an organized fashion. The whole impact could be greater than the sum of the parts.

Under-funding – too many businesses still see sustainable business practices as optional or a PR move. It’s long past time to invest in something more than recycling bins. To me, green business is a money-making venture for everyone.  Did you know that green jobs are the fastest growing sector in the economy?

The Good News

There is a lot going on under the radar. Last week I attended the 5th Annual Sustainable Business Awards at the University of Tampa. 13 winners collected awards and applause for their “triple bottom line” approach to business. Their businesses ranged from LED lighting to community-supported agricultural farms to recycled air filters. With one or two exceptions, you probably wouldn’t recognize any of their names. But these are the business that will shape the future.

Opportunities in green business are limitless. As a business person, I see the need to reinvent our economy in a more sustainable fashion not just as a daunting challenge, but as a huge opportunity.  To make a good living while helping to save the planet  - what’s not to love?

What do YOU want to hear about?

So that’s LOHAS blog post #1 for me. Let me know your thoughts and tell me what you’d like to hear about in future posts.

About the Author

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal oGreat Green Editing. She provides writing and editing services to green businesses and social enterprises that value high-quality content. She ensures that their content and communications – their business face to the world – are correct, clear and compelling. She is a graduate of Harvard College and received her MBA from MIT. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in April 2013 and Platinum-level recognition from the Green Business Bureau in 2012.

She can be reached at info@greatgreenediting.com and at 813-968-1292.

8 things That Makes the LOHAS Conference Unique

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 by

LOHAS Forum

1.    Cross section of attendees is like no other event. LOHAS brings together Fortune 500 companies with start up entrepreneurs, investors, nonprofits, thought leaders and media who all want to make the world a better place. It is a great networking event for those who want to stretch their comfort zone and meet new people.

2.    On the cutting edge of what is next. LOHAS has many cutting edge thought leaders, researchers and visionary presenters who have a pulse on trends that often become mainstream. If you want to know what will be mainstream in 2-5 years then the LOHAS conference is a must attend event.

3.    Permission to drop the armor of image is granted and expected.  Everyone at the event wants to know who each other is at heart first and then get to professional interests second. This makes the networking much easier as attendees are sincerely attentive to each other’s needs.

4.    Market data worth thousands of dollars is presented by a variety of green market trend specialists. Those that are interested on what is happening in the LOHAS space can collect a tremendous amount of insight from these highly sought presentations.

5.    LOHAS is Embedded Into Boulder. LOHAS uses distinctive historic landmarks in downtown Boulder as the venue for attendees to experience the charm of the city during the conference during June.

6.    LOHAS has a Legendary Gift Room. Rather than provide a pre stuffed conference bag of brochures that are typically dumped in the hotel room we provide a gift room of various items from LOHAS companies that attendees can pick and choose from. Attendees love this and the gift bags are usually quite stuffed when people leave the room!

7.    Program content transcends green business to include elements to connect with the human spirit and community in a way that is energetic and inspiring.

8.    Not just a conference but a community celebration! We have a variety of ways built into the event ranging from morning yoga and meditation to musical entertainment to after parties to engage the senses for attendees.

Don't miss out. We would love to see you there! REGISTER HERE.
 

 

Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, LOHAS.com and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit  www.tedning.com

Shoppers' shifting values will lead to more green, fair, quality purchases

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 by

The sharing trend that became popular with Zipcar is likely to expand to other industries such as tools and baby gear as consumers readjust their spending patterns to focus less on conspicuous consumption and more on making thoughtful choices with their money, says one leading social forecaster.

In the improving but not yet booming economy of 2013, Patricia Aburdene, author of the New York Times bestseller "Megatrends 2000" and most recently "Conscious Money" (Atria Publishing; $16 paperback), predicts priorities and values will play a bigger role in shaping spending decisions.

"Key concepts like practical, quality, meaningful, simplicity, chemical-free, local and sustainable will be what encourages consumers to open their wallets," said Ms. Aburdene, who lives in Boulder, Colo.

For the most part, people are still feeling some financial stress brought on by the Great Recession that started in December 2007, which she says is fueling the popularity of sharing trends such as Zipcar, which allows members of its sharing network to reserve cars for personal use by the hour or the day.

The car-sharing niche created by Zipcar in January 2000 is already starting to see more competitors. Hertz, Enterprise and UHaul have come up with their own versions of short-term car rentals. Regional competitors such as City CarShare in San Francisco, Mint in New York and Boston; and I-GO in Chicago also are becoming bigger players.

"Car sharing is taking off because people are realizing how darn much it costs to own a car," Ms. Aburdene said, adding that car sharing is more of an urban phenomenon.

Other new societal demands and behavior that she expects will gain more traction are transparency, fair trade and third-party verification of products.

Just as the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" helped consumers in past decades put their trust in a product, Ms. Aburdene says more shoppers will be drawn to seals of approval from groups like Greenpeace and the Rain Forest Alliance. "Those product seals will let consumers know the company is socially responsible and the consumer is making a difference in the world when they buy the product," she said.

Fair trade is another growing global movement that will affect spending, according to Ms. Aburdene. Fair trade products -- ranging from coffee to chocolate to wine -- sometimes cost more so that farmers are paid fairly for their efforts.

Gerald Celente, publisher of The Trends Journal in Kingston, N.Y., said he agrees with Ms. Aburdene's analysis of 2013 trends in general. But he says the majority of Americans are on a downward economic path and may not have the luxury of making socially conscious spending choices, especially when there are cheaper alternatives.

"While they can have the best intentions, it's a stomach issue and a pocketbook issue. People are falling out of the middle class in huge numbers," said Mr. Celente, who forecast the popularity of gourmet coffee years before Starbucks became a household name and bottled water decades before Coke and Pepsi got into the business.

Mr. Celente, author of "Trend Tracking" and "Trends 2000" (Warner Books), said Ms. Aburdene's trend predictions for the new year refer mainly to a small segment of people in an affluent society, but do not apply to the masses of Americans struggling to make ends meet.

However, Ms. Aburdene has a pretty good track record of past predictions.

In "Megatrends 2000," which was published in 1990, when many economists warned of tough economic times ahead, she and co-author John Naisbitt instead predicted a booming global economy during the 1990s. The book also predicted the Pacific Rim would come to prominence in the 1990s, and it certainly did, with China and the economies of the Four Tigers (Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan) expanding at explosive rates.

"When you look at the trends for 2013, the social trends have a very strong economic flavor to them," Ms. Aburdene said. "The way consumers can begin being conscious about money is to start by reflecting on their values and priorities so they spend money in ways that feel right to them."


First Published February 26, 2013 1:15 am by Tim Grant: tgrant@post-gazette.com

Conscious Money & Conscious Capitalism

Friday, January 25, 2013 by

Two of today’s greatest megatrends, Conscious Money and Conscious Capitalism, are cut from the same financial cloth. And each of these innovative strategies flies in the face of conventional money thinking—which insists that human values should play no role whatsoever in financial decisions. That view is clearly incorrect. Values powerfully shape our choices (even if we’re unaware of it) and our behavior. Our choices and actions write the story of our lives—and our money lives. I’d go even further: positive values support us make better financial choices. Why? Because values engage the heart in the way that sound financial practices honor the head. When heart and head are in sync, our emotions are steady, our mind is settled, and our direction is clear—all of which enhance our ability to make good economic decisions.

Today, conscious finance attracts more followers daily as business leaders and “ordinary” people alike seek new monetary models that integrate values into finance. The $290 billion LOHAS market of course, is well known to many, but consider also the $3.74 trillion Sustainable Responsible Investing (SRI) industry, which has expanded 22 percent since 2010. Each of these robust sector, which have continued to thrive despite a weak economic recovery, embody Conscious Money, illustrating how compatible values and money really are. So much for conventional thinking. In fact, traditional financial and consumer brands avidly pursue the LOHAS and SRI markets. 
Conscious Capitalism is a new breed of free enterprise that honors people, purpose, and the planet. Embraced by visionary CEOs, in the US and globally, Conscious Capitalism differs from traditional capitalism because it endorses the “stakeholder model” of business which considers the interests of all parties that contribute to corporate success—customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities, and the planet at large. Traditional capitalist theory by contrast tends to place investors first. For example, the late Milton Friedman, a Nobel laureate in economics, famously stated: “The social responsibility of business is to increase profit.” Conscious Capitalists are typically highly committed to growing profit, as well, but go they about it in a different way: by embracing a purpose above and beyond profit, such as promoting personal health or global sustainability. Human values like trust, justice, or transparency also play an important role in policy and behavior of conscious companies.  
Conscious Money, by contrast, is an approach to personal finance in which human values, inner wisdom, and higher consciousness guide individual financial choices, while people also observe sound monetary principles. The idea behind Conscious Money is simple: it’s about creating a positive, life-affirming relationship with money and a recognition that, when greater awareness (or consciousness) directs money choices, it can make a difference for one’s self, for others and for the planet at large. 
Figuratively speaking, your money becomes “conscious” when you infuse your cash, savings, expenditures, income investments, and philanthropic contributions with values, awareness, and positive intentions. 
Conscious Money and Conscious Capitalism are together building an unparalleled platform for meaningful economic co-creation. Because at the heart of every financial transaction lies the power of collaborative conscious choice. Conscious shoppers wield an enormous force for good in the economy. Conscious Capitalists, in turn, are more likely to invest in green innovation knowing that a growing market for green products exists. Each time individuals and businesses interact in a conscious exchange, the inner world of awareness and values tempers the marketplace of humanity, transforming our economic reality. With each positive life-affirming transaction, we jointly create a new and conscious economy that will sustain the future of human evolution and transformation.
 
Patricia Aburdene is one of the world’s leading social forecasters and an internationally-renown speaker. She co-authored the number one New York Times bestseller Megatrends 2000. Her book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism launched a business revolution. Patricia’s new book, Conscious Money: Living, Creating, and Investing with Your Values for A Sustainable New Prosperity, published in 2012, is a finalist is the Green category for the “Books for a Better Life Award.” Read Chapter one of Conscious Money. Patricia was named one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Behavior” and serves as an Ambassador of the Conscious Capitalist Institute. Patricia’s journalism career began at Forbes magazine and she was a public policy follow at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA. Her website is patriciaaburdene.com.
 

"The Next 20 Years of Sustainable Business" by Aron Cramer of BSR

Monday, December 31, 2012 by

[ Article form the special 20th Anniversary issue of the GreenMoney Journal (Fall 2012) and www.GreenMoney.com ]

The Next 20 Years of Sustainable Business

by Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR (Business for Social Responsibility)

Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio, and in this BSR’s 20th anniversary year, we are both looking back and looking ahead. And as we reflect on the past 20 years, it seems that everything has changed…and nothing has changed. There are reasons to celebrate great achievements, but even more reasons to redouble efforts to achieve the tangible successes that are necessary to put the world on a genuinely sustainable path. Just recently there has been an unprecedented turnout by business and civil society at Rio+20, while at the same time the American Meteorological Society reports that freak heat waves in the US and fatal floods in Russia were likely caused by climate change.

Most businesses, and many other institutions, now recognize that we have in our hands the ability to create an economy that delivers dignified lives of comfort and opportunity for the 9 billion people we expect in 2050; an energy system that enables economic growth without irreversible climate change; and access to food, energy, water, and technology. Whether or not we turn this vision into reality is not just of interest to sustainability professionals, it is nothing less than the central challenge of the 21st century.

There are indeed many great accomplishments that have been achieved since 1992. As sustainability enters the mainstream, we see that hundreds of millions of people have escaped poverty in the past generation, something never before achieved in human history. Most large multinational companies and countless small and medium enterprises (SMEs) all across the world have embraced sustainability. Consumers, investors, and governments have vastly more information than ever before to enable them to assess how business is performing on sustainability, allowing rewards for the best performers. Collaboration and dialogue between business, NGOs, and community organizations, once taboo, is now considered basic. Technology’s ability to connect us has created a global community unprecedented in human history. And where companies once saw corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a risk mitigation exercise, more and more understand sustainability to be the mother of all innovation opportunities. All this is great cause for optimism.

And yet, there are many, many areas in which, twenty years after the initial Earth Summit, progress is insufficient. Our planet continues to warm, with carbon levels nearing 400 parts per million, dangerously close to the point at which irredeemable changes will occur. We need only consider the thousands of record high temperatures in the early summer of 2012 in North America, capping the hottest year on record in the United States, to make the point. The International Energy Agency, hardly an alarmist organization, now sees serious risk of catastrophic climate change. Deforestation proceeds. Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals is inconsistent. The number of water-stressed regions in the world grows annually. And our measures of economic vitality remain tied to unsustainable levels of natural resource consumption. Governments have largely abdicated responsibility to take concerted action to promote low-carbon economic growth, wilting in the face of the global financial crisis. This litany makes clear that, by many objective measures, progress is far too slow – at best.

Without a change in course, the remarkable rise in living standards that have enabled countless people to live lives of dignity will either be halted or reversed.

But with new thinking, innovation, and collaborative action, we can transform our world, and turn the vision of sustainable, prosperous lives for nine billion people into a reality.

Where We Need To Go

If we are to build on the successes of the last twenty years, we need to change course. The task ahead is no longer about defining the challenge; it is about meeting the challenge. We don’t need more roadmaps; we need to move faster towards the destination.

The path forward is fundamentally different than the one we have traveled over the past two decades. In the first decade after the original Earth Summit, the time when BSR was founded, the primary challenge was to raise awareness in the business community about why sustainability was a crucial and legitimate topic for the private sector. In the subsequent decade, energies were directed less to awareness raising, and more to the integration of social and environmental strategies into business strategy and operations. For the decade ahead, integration remains crucial. Companies have made great progress in the past two decades, and we have been proud to play a role in that. There is considerable room to go further, and we write about that elsewhere in this article.

But a new decade brings a new approach. More substantial progress, however, depends on change not only inside individual companies, but also within entire systems. The era of the hermetically sealed, vertically integrated company is long gone. Every business, in every part of the world, operates within a web of systems: economic, cultural, political, and natural. Every business in every part of the world relies on networks of suppliers, customers, and investors. Even the most innovative companies won’t capture the potential of their efforts if these systems disregard sustainability. And as much as we value best practices, we also know from the past two decades that even the most creative experiments and demonstration projects are not going to meet the scale of the challenge.

So the solutions we need to achieve our goals must also be systemic. A genuinely sustainable economy depends on four inter-related elements: (1) the operational systems in which companies act; (2) the markets that shape the way investments are made and value is defined; (3) the stakeholder world that holds great promise, and (4) the world of ever more empowered individuals and connected communities.

   •     Truly Integrated Business Models: Business decision-making does not currently integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into investment calculations. Fifteen years after John Elkington popularized the triple bottom line, very few companies have actually integrated this model into their economic valuations. Whether or not financial markets change the game, there is an opportunity for companies to get smarter about the intangible assets that increasingly make or break their success. While some companies are experimenting with economic valuations that include elements like carbon, we have not yet seen widespread adoption of economic models that place a value on ecosystem services, community goodwill, or the risk of stranded assets. It is now widely agreed that these things have value; our task for the next decade is to get more precise about what the value is, and how to measure it. The Natural Capital Declaration that 57 companies signed at Rio+20 is a good start down this path.

   •     Financial Markets That Promote Long-Term Value: Despite the Great Recession, public markets focus as intensely as ever on short-term returns. Shares in publicly traded companies in the United States are held for an average of seven months, down from seven years two generations ago. Markets allocate capital with great effect, and the challenge ahead is to maintain the best aspects of market flexibility while reducing the relentless pressure of short-termism. Financial innovation, which was blamed for the crash in 2008, can also be parlayed into new mechanisms that help create long-term value. Integrated reporting, integration of non-financial risks and opportunities into definitions of fiduciary duty, the creation of “L shares” as proposed by Al Gore and David Blood, as well as other mechanisms will create a virtuous circle in which companies are rewarded for taking the long view, and investors are cushioned from the risks of excessive short-term thinking. And there is little doubt that there is also the need to restore trust in our financial system if the “real economy” is going to thrive.

   •     New Frontiers of Collaboration: The past 20 years introduced the concept of collaboration among companies and an increasingly powerful network of NGOs around the world. The next 20 years will see the lines between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations blur substantially. A world of dialogue between organizations defined by whether they are for-profit or non-profit may be drawing to a close. Can we imagine a world in which every enterprise is a social enterprise? A world in which every NGO thinks about market solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges? How will companies collaborate when every individual has a megaphone bigger than those available to the world’s biggest NGOs 20 years ago?

   •     The Empowered Individual: The next ten years will continue to put more and more information and autonomy into the hands of individuals and self-forming groups. The demise of business models relying on big businesses selling to passive mass audiences will accelerate. More and more information will be available to individuals. The “internet of things” and widespread sensors will make the invisible visible. Advances in biotechnology will provide quantum leaps in our understanding of how the world around us, and our choices as consumers and citizens, affects our health. These changes can – under the right circumstances – be a net positive for sustainability. And it is undeniably the case that companies will need to adapt to a world of truly radical transparency.

At BSR, we want to see a world with a truly inclusive economy that enables all people to meet their needs, shape their futures, and achieve their potential. We want to see a world that values and preserves natural resources so that future generations have the same – or better – opportunity to thrive. We see a world where economic health – for individuals and for nations and enterprises – is measured not by the quantity of consumption, but by the quality of life that economic activity delivers. And we want to see a world in which public policy and markets create the incentives and rules that make it possible for businesses that point in this direction to thrive. Companies that embrace this challenge will be the ones to achieve the greatest success…and the ones who create a world of which we can be proud.

The road ahead needs greater emphasis on systemic solutions like those I describe here. If real progress is made in these areas over the next twenty years, we will have done a great deal to accelerate… and will have more reasons to celebrate.

 

Article by Aron Cramer, President and CEO, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) (www.bsr.org ). Mr. Cramer is recognized globally as an authority on corporate responsibility by leaders in business and NGOs as well as by his peers in the field. He advises senior executives at BSR’s nearly 300 member companies and other global businesses, and is regularly featured as a speaker at major events and in a range of media outlets. Under his leadership, BSR has doubled its staff and significantly expanded its global presence. Mr. Cramer is co-author of the book Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-changing World, about the corporate responsibility strategies that drive business success. He joined BSR in 1995 as the founding director of its Business and Human Rights Program, and opened BSR’s Paris office in 2002, where he worked until assuming his current roles in 2004.

Previously he practiced law in San Francisco and worked as a journalist at ABC News in New York. He has expertise in integrating sustainability into business strategy, human rights policies and practices, and stakeholder engagement.

 

For more information go to- www.GreenMoney.com

 

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