Corporate Culture

Growth from Culture: Patagonia's Innovation

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 by

In 2011, on one of America’s most profitable shopping days — Patagonia made an extraordinary move.

This outdoor clothing and gear company partnered with eBay on a new initiative. They kicked it off with a full-page ad in The New York Times showing their best-selling jacket with a banner that read:  Don’t Buy This Jacket.

Yes, you read that correctly: they wanted people to buy less stuff. Although this seems counterintuitive to corporate leaders charged with top line growth, they demonstrated an Innovation Management practice called “Systemic Authenticity.”

This term comes from The World Database of Innovation, an initiative that sprung out of a project with The Mayo Clinic in 2007. It is the world’s first broad look for statistics underlying Innovation Management practices.  The initiative looked at several thousand companies that have repeatedly transformed the world, grown the fastest, and shaped markets.  And in doing so it found that these high performers share 27 practices in common – what could be considered a menu or equation for innovation management.

A study by Dr. Rajendra S. Sisodia, states that "mission-led" businesses outperform the market by an astounding 9:1 ratio.  Even if it is only half right, we believe this fits the definition of innovation as "future top line growth" and/or changing human behavior on a wide scale.  Our own research has now shown three important aspects to this mission-led phenomena or Systemic Authenticity.  And we believe Patagonia’s newest innovation is one of the best examples of this practice.

A few months before its launch, Patagonia's R&D leader Randy Harward presented the Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign (part of the Common Threads Initiative) to a gathering of corporate innovation leaders at 3M. He was met with wide eyes, and strong commentary on how it ran against the basic concept of commercial self-interest. But Patagonia moved ahead anyway because they knew — almost like it was endemic — that this was who they are and one of the best expressions of their mission.

Later, some months after the launch, while at Google’s offices, Randy presented the idea again but met with significantly less resistance from the group of 25 CTOs at the table. Why? Because numbers talk: Patagonia had won more customers and believed that at the same time they reduced overall human consumption.

You might be thinking, “Okay, this was just a savvy PR move.” You might also ask, “How can they claim a success when more of their product was consumed?”

Since Patagonia’s goods last longer, one of their jackets will last as long as three average products meaning people consume less.  Also, their customers were actually opting to buy used items from their partner eBay. Add to this that their materials are far more sustainably produced than average meaning there is a net positive effect when their product is chosen over any average good.

So how does a radical, counterintuitive business model like this make it through any for profit company?  We know that Patagonia takes their mission so seriously that they have often voluntarily lost money on projects, and made immense investments for a small company such as helping to create the organic cotton supply chain, and building one of the most robust Cradle to Grave analyses in the world.

But, these sentiments are backed up by both a culture and systemic efforts aimed at achieving specific goals.

The campaign shows that their mission is incredibly genuine.  It is essential that a company's mission is genuine and we have found this to be the first important aspect of Systemic Authenticity.

Next, we saw that a company's mission cannot just be a consultant's word's sitting on the wall, but must also penetration through all staff, leadership, and beyond.  This is the second aspect.  On Patagonia’s campus you can feel it deeply — staff rattle off their mission in a short, casual breath “Yeah, sure, of course we’re here to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire…”  But it goes deeper. From the executive team to the warehouse staff, employees actually live the life of their core customers: the “Dirt Bag” as they fondly call them. They will tell you that if they didn’t live the lifestyle, they could not ever design for their core customer. And if they didn’t design for their core customer's extreme needs, they would not be making the stuff that the rest of the world also now wants.  You can even see that their customer is conscious of their mission – this is the deepest level of penetration and an admirable goal for all companies.

The third and final piece of this puzzle: in order to make a mission work for the company, we found real the company must know what it means in the real world.  The company must have a deep sense of what it is and is not, and specifically what it’s Core Competencies are.  For instance in this case, Patagonia knew it had the audience and strategy, and that the new business model would help them take the next step in expressing their mission.  But they also knew that they did not possess the Core Competency of crowd-souring used items and getting them into buyers hands, so they very smartly like there was not even a second thought called on eBay. The well-known article on Core Competencies by Prahalad and Hamel (1991) defined Core Competency and lays out the rigorous process of identifying yours.  

Together these three aspects make up Systemic Authenticity.  But why does it actually work?

While it is impossible to gather data on why, we believe from working with Patagonia and many others that there is a clear theme: know thyself. Yes, this is where spirituality and hard-core business cross paths.

We’ve all experienced the results that occur when we learn something new about ourselves and then make a meaningful move in this direction. Well, we have found that the same is true for a company. If your mission is real, and is felt and known by all of your team, then everyone knows which direction to go, which market opportunities are and are not for the company, and how to tackle these opportunities.  It in essence lessens the need for management, reduces the bottleneck that often exists at the leadership level and allows the company to more quickly innovate, grow the top-line, and to scale more with fewer failures and more quickly.

Leaders, think of how fast your company could move if you didn’t have to be in on every decision but still knew it was naturally heading in the right direction.

Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign is one of the best examples of Systemic Authenticity.  And its success in the marketplace makes it a true innovation. Patagonia believes that this and many other practices are what have led to their incredible top line growth, increased margins, and market share that any executive would be ecstatic to write home about.

And we have seen that any organization — corporate, government, or social — that seeks to grow or change human behavior can create their own Systemic Authenticity by adapting the three aspects described here.  With some basic work, and time spent on articulating and spreading the word on the company’s mission and identity, any company can implement this Innovation Management practice, and grow while doing something that just happens to be great for the world.

 

Want more?  This piece from The World Database of Innovation initiative was adapted for LOHAS from the original in Harvard Business Review, 2011.  This is one of 27 common practices the initiative found to be shared by the world’s innovation leaders.  We are publishing on each of these practices here and elsewhere.  Read more at HBR.org, and InnovationManagement.se

Good Investors Love Good Businesses…and Good Businesses Love the LOHAS Accelerator

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 by

Author: Cissy Bullock, Awesome LOHASIAN and CEO LOHAS Asia

We’ve got some seriously good news for LOHAS companies, because if you’re working for a sustainable future of our planet as well as your bottom line, there is a new generation of investors looking to help you expand across the globe, improving the lives of even more LOHAS consumers. LOHAS companies are already seeing rapid growth. Success stories like Patagonia and the delicious Innocent Smoothies prove that mission-based companies with LOHAS values embedded at their core, make very attractive investments.

The rise of conscious capitalism,  whereby consumers, producers and investors assess economic decisions based on their impact on the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profit, rather than just economic growth, is frequently cited as one of the megatrends for this decade. As part of this, more and more individuals are recognizing the benefits of Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS), and are seeking out more eco friendly, socially aware and sustainable products/brands to support a more balanced way of life. Take a look out of your window any morning before work, you’ll see more and more people walking, running and cycling; if they’re putting that much effort into their health, you can be sure that it’s not the only thing they’re consciously doing to improve their lives.

According to research by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), 56 million consumers in the US, a massive 18% of the population, are LOHAS consumers and the market is estimated to be worth USD290 billion. Across Asia – the worlds fastest growing consumer market – the LOHAS movement is spreading rapidly amongst cultures who have lived with health and sustainability values, and the importance of balance, in their hearts for centuries. LOHAS Asia was set up in response to this movement, helping good companies grow alongside the Asian LOHAS community.

16% of Asian consumers, approx. 300 million people, are LOHASIANS. Ask a resident of one of Tokyo’s bustling city streets what LOHAS stands for and 70% of them will be able to answer correctly. No real surprises, then, why Coca Cola chose Japan to test launch their ‘I LOHAS’ mineral water in their cornstarch, eco-crush PlantBottle.

Across the rest of Asia, awareness of LOHAS is growing, and in China alone, the number of LOHAS consumers is estimated to be 110 million. As environmental concerns escalate, such as those associated with the recent choking smog in Beijing that led one US embassy employee to famously tweet the message “Crazy Bad” in one of their daily air quality posts, health and sustainability will only become more important factors influencing individuals’ consumption choices.

Sustainable product innovation is being driven by the enormous market opportunity that exists with Asian consumers and increasing numbers of LOHAS entrepreneurs are responding with new and exciting market disrupting businesses. LOHAS Asia has members with a widely diverse range of products like Shokay, a yak down fashion brand which supports the herding communities which supply the fiber, to Saught who makes jewelry forged from old Cambodian landmines while supporting mine clearance programs, and eco-friendly household cleaning products made exclusively from soapnuts, called Soapnut Republic. Last year LOHAS Asia provided funding for Arterro, a sustainable art company.

The investment community is studying these exciting developments with interest, looking for conscious capitalists who are aligning purpose with profit. These investors recognize that good businesses make good investments, music to the ears of LOHAS entrepreneurs looking to scale their business, but concerned that the cost of investment is a lessening of the values upon which their company was founded.

With LOHAS companies looking for investment and LOHAS investors desperate to find the best opportunities within the market place, we put together the LOHAS Accelerator program, a business incubator that brings LOHAS companies together with an extraordinary team of cross-industry experts from Accenture, Google, Ogilvy & Mather, Silicon Valley as well as some of our own successful LOHAS entrepreneurs.

The LOHAS Accelerator team provides LOHAS companies with all the training, advice and support their business needs to develop a business plan into an investment winning pitch ready to present to venture capital funds.

LOHAS companies that are based in Asia, or have an Asian element of their business (supply, production, plans for expansion) can apply to pitch their business to our panel of LOHAS investors. Provided they can make a captivating business case, they could receive investment of anywhere between USD50,000 to USD10 million.

I spoke to one of the LOHAS Accelerators consultants, Chen Ley Ong, a triple-bottom line Silicon Valley angel and Cradle Fund mentor, "It's exciting to be a part of LOHAS Accelerator program because it brings forth the new wave of entrepreneurship – enterprises with a mission that benefit society and environment, i.e. social enterprises. The traditional business model is no longer a sustainable option. The LOHAS Accelerator program prepares entrepreneurs to shape and grow their enterprises in a healthy and sustainable manner."

Our last round saw the successful investment of $100,000 in LOHAS Hub Member, Indosole, who craft a range of fashionable and functional footware from old motorbike tires, which are salvaged directly from landfills, sanitized, and then transformed by the Balinese community who make them. This investment has helped them transition to a larger production facility in Indonesia, allowing them to increase inventory, attract further investment and build their team of quality staff, brand awareness and sales.

“Application to the LOHAS Accelerator was one of the best business decisions I have ever made.” Kyle Parsons, founder of Indosole, “The process was smooth, comfortable and very supportive from start to finish. The LOHAS Accelerator gave me the ability to identify my business model and then put it into action with experienced and professional consultants from Accenture; and all for free! Fortunately for Indosole, we got the funding we needed to grow our business. Additionally, we gained a strategic partnership with a group of people who genuinely care and have the ability to take our business to the next level in SE Asia.”

These are truly exciting times for the LOHAS movement, the companies working for our planet as well as their profit margin and the consumers who are trying to live a little more LOHAS. The unique LOHAS Accelerator program links the new wave of social entrepreneurs to enlightened investors and the skills and experience of experts from some of the world’s top companies. If you are interested in learning more about the LOHAS Accelerator, either as a LOHAS business or a LOHAS investor, please contact Cissy from LOHAS Asia.

 

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

2012 Holiday Shopping: The LOHAS View

Monday, January 7, 2013 by

Now that the 2012 holiday shopping is behind us it is clear that the early predictions of a strong season of sales was incorrect and actually the worst for retailers since the 2008 financial crisis. As a result, many retailers are left scrambling to get rid of excess inventory.

As retailers ask themselves what went wrong and what they might do differently next year, I hope they will consider the missed opportunity to connect with the growing number of more sophisticated consumers looking for value beyond discounted prices. This growing consumer base are more savvy in understanding and demanding ethical and environmental products that are in line with their personal values instead of just price point value. These conscious consumers are part of the growing Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) market. According to the annual trend research done by the Natural Marketing Institute, the LOHAS consumer segment is 13-19% of the population of adults and has close to $300-billion in buying power. The LOHAS consumer, which already has a tremendous impact on how companies address issues around the environment and health, is looking more closely than ever at what they buy and where they shop, with a different set of values in mind for their purchasing decisions. Their bottom line is not simply price.

LOHAS consumers are vital to understand because they are the early adopters of values based products and services and bring them to mainstream awareness. They are also willing to put their money where their mouths are, showing tremendous loyalty to the brands that reflect their values. They are the consumers who have demanded products such as hybrid vehicles, cfl light bulbs and organic foods find shelf space in big box stores and will continue to do so.

I see 5 areas where most retailers missed the boat in their 2012 marketing campaigns when it comes to connecting with their customers:

  1. Transparency: ‘Green fatigue’ means LOHAS consumers are taking a closer look at where products come from, how and where they are made and transported. They demand a closer look across the supply chain of the products they buy. Transparency is all about being clear about your intentions, actions and impacts. Companies that can share successes and failures and leverage the tools and avenues of social media and engage whole heartedly will succeed. Companies and nonprofits alike can learn from the upstart nonprofit "charity: water." In just 6 years, they’ve succeeded in creating a compelling brand, a track record of results and a tribe of committed, engaged supporters.
  2. Balance: Today’s hectic lives don’t look to be stopping soon as work/life balance for many is off. The 2012 Stress in America™ survey revealed that, as it happens year after year, people in the United States suffer from high levels of stress. Research suggests that stress, which has been shown to adversely affect animal brains, is also detrimental for humans. The desire and need for personal time and space is increasing. LOHAS consumers are on the leading edge of living more balanced and fulfilling daily lives, putting their collective buying power toward purchases and experiences that bring balance to their lives against all the craziness in these tough, chaotic times. They have moved from impulse buy to deliberate investment.
  3. Personal Development: The ultimate goal of achieving his or her full human potential and living a more aspirational life are of utmost concern to the LOHAS consumer today. Whole Foods, Apple and BMW are a few success stories that provide consumers with items and environments that provide this. People patron these well known brands for different reasons but one common thread is that these companies think way ahead of the curve when it comes to innovations, design and comfort.
  4. Community. Building community around your brand is more important than ever as ‘Bigger’, ‘better’, ‘faster’ and ‘more’ have been replaced with ‘shared experience’ and ‘dialogue’. Retailers need to build a strong and devoted community as sounding boards for new innovation and insight into what their customers want and need. Consumers are more skeptical about ads and more interested in word of mouth recommendations. According to a 2009 Nielsen study, 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, while only 33% trust online ads. Myriad on-line communities and blogs show examples of how brands like Method, Care2, Zappos and Ecomom present a sensitivity to this in their marketing. Make sure to have a distinct personality and strong voice rather than dry response to any feedback you may get.
  5. Spirituality: The Mayan prophecy has come and gone but desires for spirituality remain high. Today’s LOHAS consumer seeks a more spiritually rewarding life. The current growth in this market group strongly supports the notion that spirituality is no longer relegated to the New Age periphery but is undeniably migrating to the center of mainstream cultural awareness. This can also be seen in the yoga market.  The 2012 "Yoga in America" study, released by Yoga Journal shows that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study*, an increase of 29 percent. These consumers seek out and support brands that understand and reflect their spiritual goals.

 

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

 

"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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Looking Forward – Relevance Achieved

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 by

socially responsible investingLooking Forward – Relevance Achieved By Amy Domini, CFA, founder, Domini Social Investments ( Article from Fall 2012 - Special 20th Anniversary issue of GreenMoney Journal and  www.GreenMoney.com )

Looking forward ten, even twenty years, what will Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) have become? What will it have accomplished? What will the field look like? Today, I build a case for a good future. In a word, it will largely be marvelous.

Roughly 15 years ago, I spoke in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is a spectacular setting, one that makes a person proud to be in a great nation like ours, one that protects such places. Yet, as I reminded the audience that day, it had not been the public that had kept the Grand Tetons pristine. It was one man, John D. Rockefeller, who had purchased the land and given it to the nation.

This is the classic dilemma we in SRI struggle with every day. It is great that the Grand Tetons are a public treasure, but they became so on the backs of crushed labor forces, pollution and selfishness. One man made his money and then gave it away, but he set in motion the international oil industry, an industry that is robbing us of a climate, a future.

That day I challenged SRI to become relevant. Today, I can see clearly that it has. Over the next twenty years, the positions we have taken and the battles we have fought will lead to a universal understanding that what we have been saying, the way you invest matters, is absolutely correct. We will see our guiding principles integrated into the mainstream. We will be astonished at the acceptance and the impact that we have had.

How We Became Relevant - Performance Matters

Perhaps the most devastating argument we faced early on was the Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT). It argues that the previous “prudent man” idea of buying good stocks alone, created risk. Introduced in 1952 by Harry Markowitz, the original premise was simple: investors should focus on overall portfolio risk. Simply put, even if you love software, you still shouldn’t build an entire portfolio of software stocks. Astonishingly, this revelation won Mr. Markowitz a Nobel Prize in Economics and caused the entire financial services industry to argue that the individual risk characteristics of a company mattered little.

Against this backdrop, SRI seemed hopelessly old fashioned. We argue that each company, by virtue of the industry within which it operates, faces a series of risks that we label as risks to people or the planet. We then argue that taking too large a risk is not necessary and further, that it perpetuates an acceptance of these risks. Wall Street pundits stated with great authority, but with no basis, that our form of analysis flew in the face of Modern Portfolio Theory and so would fail. Our largest barrier was that, to use the vernacular, every smart person knew SRI was stupid.

The evidence proved otherwise. The MSCI KLD 400 Social Index has not only debunked the premise of MPT, but also shown that risk avoidance works. The index has outperformed -- and has done so with a lower standard deviation. Clearly, examining the risk of corporate behavior tells us something about a company that is useful to investors.

Why We Are Relevant – An Increase in Reporting

SRI practitioners have pushed for “extra-financial” data and have gotten it. At first, true comparative data on companies was extremely scarce in some areas of keen interest to the concerned investor. Any good researcher understands that the newspapers are a lousy place to start. The fact that we know that Apple sourced from Foxconn does not tell us what Hewlett Packard does. What is needed is data that is universally ascertainable, without the company answering a questionnaire (which allows them to self-define), and the data must be quantitative in nature, e.g. I don’t care as much about a statement that a company seeks diversity as I do about how many minorities have been hired.

Today, thousands of companies self-report. Whereas the one or two companies that issued Social Responsibility reports thirty years ago were real outliers, today it is so mainstream that Forbes magazine maintains a blog to follow them. Accounting giant PWC makes available the 2010 survey of CSR reporting on their website. The highlights: 81 percent of all companies have CSR information on their websites; 31 percent have these assured (or verified) by a third party. Their 2012 update contains examples of what to look for when writing (or reading) them.

Who was pushing for this disclosure? It wasn’t civil society, it wasn’t Wall Street; it wasn’t government. It was a loose confederation of concerned investors who consistently pushed for greater and more standardized “non-financial” information.

Why We Are Relevant – An Increase in Regulation to Disclose

Regulators are beginning to expand on the data corporations are required to disclose. Remember, there was no God-given definition of the right way to report financials to investors. In 1932, when reforms to protect investors began, regulators looked at some of the pre-existing methods and evaluated them. This led to audited annual reports on income statements and balance sheets. It led to quarterly unaudited reports. These had, in the past, come to be viewed as important in judging the financial soundness of a corporation.

However, the regulators did not stop with accounting issues. Given that the 1930s were a period of high unemployment, the number of company employees was considered important, and so its disclosure became mandated. There is no reason that more robust social and environmental reporting shouldn’t be in the financial reports. We already disclose a company’s hometown, without companies complaining of the inappropriateness and burden of so doing.

The Initiative for Responsible Investment at Harvard University maintains a database of Global CSR Disclosure requirements. In it we find 34 nations are taking steps. In 2009, Denmark, required companies to disclose CSR activities and use of environmental resources. In 2010, the United Kingdom required companies that use more than 6,000MWh per year to report on all emissions related to energy use. Malaysia, in 2007, required companies to publish CSR information on a "comply or explain" basis. Regulators, recognizing the societal costs of less than full cost accounting, are moving in to mandate disclosure.

Mainstreaming - With this solid base, here come the “big boys”

Conventional asset managers and the academic community have brought SRI to the mainstream. I began by saying the future for SRI is marvelous. Consider a world in which every major financial asset management firm demands that its staff study the social and environmental implications of the investments they make and bases recommendations upon it.

But this has already begun. Consider MEAG, the American portfolio management branch of Munich Re. Their team buys only publicly traded bonds which then back the insurance the firm issues. They use ESG criteria to give their research the edge and to avoid risk. When I met with their research team, I found that they use several of Domini’s Key Indicators. No, we don’t publish the indicators. It also was not a coincidence. The two firms independently discovered the same indicators to be telling because they both use the same logic in approaching the issues. Or there is UBS Investment Bank, where analysts specifically address the social, environmental or governance risks of a company they are recommending.

Finally, look at the all-important realm of academia, where MPT began. Just three recent examples are telling:

The Impact of a Corporate Culture of Sustainability on Corporate Behavior and Performance by Professors Robert Eccles and George Serafeim, Harvard Business School. “… we provide evidence that High Sustainability companies significantly outperform their counterparts over the long-term, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance. The outperformance is stronger in sectors where the customers are individual consumers, companies compete on the basis of brands and reputation, and in sectors where companies' products significantly depend upon extracting large amounts of natural resources.”

Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Finance by Beiting Cheng, Harvard Business School, Ioannis Ioannou, London Business School, and George Serafeim, Harvard Business School. “Using a large cross-section of firms, we show that firms with better CSR performance face significantly lower capital constraints. The results are confirmed using an instrumental variables and a simultaneous equations approach. Finally, we find that the relation is primarily driven by social and environmental performance, rather than corporate governance.”

An FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for Financial Innovation: Applying the Insurable Interest Doctrine to Twenty-First Century Financial Markets, by Eric A. Posner and E. Glen Weyl, Law School, University of Chicago. “We propose that when firms invent new financial products, they be forbidden to sell them until they receive approval from a government agency designed along the lines of the FDA, which screens pharmaceutical innovations. The agency would approve financial products if they satisfy a test for social utility …”

The Next Twenty Years

This article limits its scope to only one leg of the SRI stool. It does not discuss the growth of shareholder activism, which is vibrant. Nor does it address the mainstreaming of selling products with narrow and specific social purpose, also a burgeoning field. Rather, by looking at the application of social criteria to an investable universe alone, we see that barriers have been removed, and that now both a mountain of money, and the force of government and academia, will work with us and introduce our goals into mainstream investment thinking.

We know we can make money, government is increasingly with us, and academia is swinging our way. Now, the rapid acceptance of more robust and integrated accounting has done away with the last barriers. This brings us the assets to have impact. As society sees the full cost of traditional business behavior, SRI will be embraced as the single most important lever towards building a better world than the planet has ever seen.

 

Article by Amy Domini, who has worked for decades to advocate that financial systems must be used to create a world of universal human dignity and ecological sustainability. She authored or co-authored several books. Her most recent, Socially Responsible Investing: Making a Difference and Making Money, was published by Dearborn Trade in 2001. She writes on the topic frequently. Her articles have appeared on the Huffington Post, the OECD Observer, GreenMoney Journal and the Journal of Investing. She is a regular columnist for Ode Magazine.

Time magazine named her to the “Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people” in 2005. President Clinton honored her at the inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, citing her role in making socially responsible investing a global trend. The Dalai Lama, during a Town Meeting on Ethics, heard her presentation and urged his audience to give it credence.

Ms. Domini works with high net worth individuals at the Sustainability Group in Boston; she also founded Domini Social Investments, LLC ( www.domini.com ), a no-load mutual fund family for socially responsible investors. Between the two firms, she manages roughly $2 billion in assets, all invested with environmental and social objectives in mind.

She holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and received her B.A in International Economics from Boston University. In 2006, Ms. Domini was awarded an honorary Doctor of Business Administration from Northeastern University. In 2007, she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. Ms. Domini is a past trustee of the Church Pension Board at the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.). Among others, she is also a past Board member of the Governing board of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the National Community Capital Association, and the Social Investment Forum.

 

For more information go to- www.GreenMoney.com

 

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From Growth Capitalism to Sustainable Capitalism: The Next 20 years of Sustainable Investing

Monday, December 3, 2012 by

By Joe Keefe, President and CEO, Pax World Management  (From the special 20th Anniversary issue of the GreenMoney Journal and www.GreenMoney.com )

Twenty years from now, we will have either successfully transitioned from our current economic growth paradigm to a new model of Sustainable Capitalism or we will be suffering the calamitous consequences of our failure to do so. Likewise, sustainable investing will either remain a niche strategy or it will have supplanted mainstream investing. This is the critical point we must embrace: sustainable investing can no longer simply present itself as an alternative to traditional investment approaches that ignore environmental, social and governance (ESG) imperatives; it cannot simply be for some people; it must actually triumph over and displace traditional investing.  

The current model of global capitalism - call it growth capitalism - is premised upon perpetual economic growth that must ultimately invade all accessible habitat and consume all available resources.[Footnote 1] Growth capitalism must eventually collapse, and is in fact collapsing, for the simple reason that a finite planet cannot sustain infinite growth. Moreover, the dislocations associated with this infinite growth paradigm and its incipient demise - climate change, rising inequality and extreme poverty, resource scarcity (including food and water shortages), habitat loss and species extinctions, ever more frequent financial crises, to name just a few - will increasingly bedevil global policy makers in the years ahead. The public sector is already experiencing a high degree of dysfunction associated with its inability to confront a defining feature of this system: the need for perpetual growth in consumption spurs a corresponding growth in public and private debt to fuel that consumption, which has roiled financial markets and sovereign finances across the globe. 

Meanwhile, the environmental fallout from this infinite growth paradigm is becoming acute. All of earth’s natural systems – air, water, minerals, oil, forests and rainforests, soil, wetlands, fisheries, coral reefs, the oceans themselves – are in serious decline. Climate change is just one symptom. “The problem is the delusion that we can have infinite quantitative economic growth, that we can keep having more and more stuff, on a finite planet.”[FN 2] The problem is an economic system that makes no distinction between capital investments that destroy the environment, or worsen public health, or exacerbate economic inequality, and those that are aligned with earth’s natural systems while promoting the general welfare. Under growth capitalism, a dollar of output is a dollar of output, regardless of its side effects; short-term profit is valued regardless of the long-term consequences or externalities. 

It is therefore discouraging that, in the U.S. at least, there is no serious discussion in mainstream policy circles about alternatives to the present system. Nor do I think there will be for some time given our current political/cultural drift. Political and economic elites, and the public itself, remain committed to growth capitalism, accustomed to “having more and more stuff,” for a host of economic, social and psychological reasons. As Jeremy Grantham has written, “[t]he problems of compounding growth in the face of finite resources are not easily understood by optimistic, short-term-oriented, and relatively innumerate humans (especially the political variety).”[FN 3] Our campaign finance system, wherein policy makers are essentially bought off by and incentivized to advance the very interests that stand to profit most from the current system, is no help. Making matters worse, large segments of the public do not even accept what science teaches us about climate change, or natural systems, or evolution, or a host of other pressing realities. The late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. Today, it seems that a growing number of people, aided and abetted by special interests that stand to benefit from public ignorance, are increasingly opting for their own “facts.”

So, neither the public sector nor corporate and economic elites, as a result of some newfound enlightenment, seem poised to consider alternatives to the current system. To the contrary, their first impulse will be to resist any such efforts. This is the critical problem at the moment: while there is an array of powerful forces aligned against the type of sweeping, systemic change that is needed, there is no organized constituency for it. There are individuals and groups who support this or that reform, or who are focused on critical pieces of the larger puzzle (e.g., climate change, sustainable food & agriculture, gender equality, sustainable investing), but there is no movement, no political party or leader, no policy agenda to connect the dots.

That is a shame because there is a clear alternative to growth capitalism that has been articulated in recent years by a diverse body of economists, ecologists, scientists and other leading thinkers - including leaders in the sustainable investment community.[FN 4]

Although there is as of yet no unified theory or common language, let alone any sort of organized movement to speak of, what has emerged is essentially a unified vision, and that vision might best be described as Sustainable Capitalism.[FN 5]

Sustainable Capitalism may be thought of as a market system where the quality of output replaces the quantity of output as the measure of economic well-being. Sustainable Capitalism “explicitly integrates environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into strategy, the measurement of outputs and the assessment of both risks and opportunities…. encourages us to generate financial returns in a long-term and responsible manner, and calls for internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.”[FN 6] Essentially, business corporations and markets alter their focus from maximizing short-term profit to maximizing long-term value, and long-term value expressly includes the societal benefits associated with or derived from economic activity. The connections between economic output and ecological/societal health are no longer obscured but are expressly linked.[FN 7]

There is no question that growth capitalism must give way to Sustainable Capitalism. It’s as simple, and as urgent, as that. Over the next 20 years, the sustainable investing industry must play a pivotal leadership role in ushering in this historic transformation. We will need to connect the dots and catalyze the movement. Why us? For the simple reason that finance is where the battle must be joined. It is the financial system that determines how and where capital is invested, what is valued and not valued, priced and not priced. The sustainable investment community’s role is vital because the fundamental struggle is between a long-term perspective that fully integrates ESG factors into economic and investment decisions and our current paradigm which is increasingly organized around short-term trading gains as the primary driver of capital investment and economic growth regardless of consequences/externalities.

The notion that sustainable investing can simply keep to its current trajectory - a few more assets under management here, a few more successful shareholder resolutions there, a few more GRI reports issued, another UN conference, an occasional victory at the SEC - and achieve what needs to be achieved on the scale required is, frankly, untenable. We need to be more ambitious in our agenda.

We will also need to take a more critical stance, not only advocating for ESG integration but against economic and investment approaches that ignore ESG concerns. We will need to consistently critique the notion that externalities associated with economic output are somehow collateral, or that financial return is sufficient without beneficial societal returns, or that markets are inherently efficient and self-correcting. We will need to unabashedly offer sustainable investing not as an alternative approach but as a better approach - as the only sensible, responsible way to invest.

I believe the sustainable investing industry will also need to align itself with a more explicit public policy agenda - while remaining non-partisan - and work with like-minded reformers to advocate for that agenda. For example, sustainable investors should be sounding the alarm about resource scarcity and advocating for a massive public/private investment plan in clean energy, efficiency technologies and modernized infrastructure.[FN 8] The age of resource scarcity and the need for efficiency solutions is upon us.[FN 9] At Pax World, we offer a fund - the Global Environmental Markets Fund (formerly the Global Green Fund) - whose investment focus is precisely that. Our industry needs to fashion such investment solutions, and I believe there will be opportunities to do so collaboratively as well as competitively.

I also feel strongly that the greatest impediment to sustainable development across the globe is gender inequality. Advancing and empowering women and girls is not only a moral imperative but can unleash enormous potential that is now locked up in our patriarchal global economy. Sustainable investors need to press the case that gender equality needs to be a pillar of Sustainable Capitalism. At Pax World, we also have a fund - the Global Women’s Equality Fund - whose investment focus is exactly that.

In my view, the sustainable investing community should also be advocating for public funding of federal elections, either through a constitutional amendment or, absent an amendment, through a voluntary public funding system. The notion that we can tackle any major public policy issue, let alone undertake the epochal transition to Sustainable Capitalism, while politicians and regulators are captive to the very interests they are supposed to regulate, is beyond naïve. We will not be able to reform capitalism if we cannot reform Congress. 

Finally, asset management firms like my own will need to find ways to craft new, more persuasive messages, launch new products, form new partnerships, and fashion new distribution strategies and alliances that are focused on lifting the industry as a whole, because a rising tide will lift all boats. Pax World has taken a step in this direction in launching our ESG Managers Portfolios, where many ESG managers and strategies are now available under one roof in one set of asset allocation funds. There is more to be done - together, as an industry. 

The times call for leadership. The transition to Sustainable Capitalism is necessary and urgent, as is the triumph of sustainable investing over investment approaches that effectively prolong and exacerbate the current crisis. Twenty years from now, our industry will be judged by whether we have met this burden of leadership. Our impact either will be dramatic or inconsequential. We either will succeed or we will fail. We should resolve to succeed, and to work collaboratively toward that end. 

 

Article by Joe Keefe, President & CEO of Pax World Management, headquartered in Portsmouth, NH. Pax World manages approximately $2.5 billion in assets, including mutual funds, asset allocation funds and ETFs, all of which follow a sustainable investing approach. Prior to joining Pax World, Joe was President of NewCircle Communications (2000-2005), served as Senior Adviser for Strategic Social Policy at Calvert Group (2003 – 2005), and was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Citizens Advisers (1997-2000). A former member of the board of US SIF (2000 - 2005), Joe was named by Ethisphere Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics” for 2007, 2008 and 2011, and in 2012 was recognized by Women’s eNews a one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century, where he was the sole male honoree. 

You should consider a fund's investment objectives, risks and charges and expenses carefully before investing. For this and other important information, please obtain a fund prospectus by calling 800.767.1729 or visiting www.paxworld.com . Please read it carefully before investing.

Equity investments are subject to market fluctuations, a fund’s share price can fall because of weakness in the broad market, a particular industry, or specific holdings. Emerging market and international investments involve risk of capital loss from unfavorable fluctuations in currency values, differences in generally accepted accounting principles, economic or political instability in other nations or increased volatility and lower trading volume.

Distributed by ALPS Distributors, Inc., Member: FINRA            PAX002590 08/13

Footnotes:

[1] See, William E. Rees, “Toward a Sustainable World Economy,” Paper delivered at Institute for New Economic Thinking Annual Conference, Bretton Woods, NH, April 2011, p. 4.

[2] Paul Gilding, The Great Disruption, Bloomsbury Press, 2011, p. 186.

[3] Jeremy Grantham, “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever,” April 2011 GMO Quarterly Letter.

[4] I am thinking of such writers and thinkers as Wendell Berry, Lester Brown, Paul Gilding, Herman Daly, Thomas Friedman, Paul Hawken, Richard Heinberg, Mark Hertsgaard, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, Bill McKibben, Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers & Dennis Meadows, James Gustave Speth and, of course, E.F. Schumacher. Contributions from the sustainable investing community include Steven Lydenberg’s Corporations and The Public Interest, Robert Monks’s The New Global Investors, Marjorie Kelly’s The Divine Right of Capital, and The New Capitalists by Stephen Davis, Jon Lukomnik & David Pitt-Watson. See also the work of The Capital Institute, www.capitalinstitute.org

[5] Credit Al Gore, David Blood, Peter Wright and the folks at Generation Investment Management for putting a stake in the ground and endeavoring to define and popularize this concept.

[6] “Sustainable Capitalism,” Generation Investment Management LLP, 2012, p. 2.

[7] This notion of Sustainable Capitalism is not unlike the concept of “shared value” s advanced by Michael E. Porter and Mark E. Kramer. See, “Creating Shared Value,” Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2011.

[8] See Daniel Alpert, Robert Hockett & Nouriel Roubini, “The Way Forward: Moving From the Post-Bubble, Post-Bust Economy to Renewed Growth and Competitiveness,” © 2011, New America Foundation, www.newamerica.net

[9] See Jeremy Grantham, “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever,” supra; See also, “Resource Scarcity and The Efficiency Revolution,” Impax Asset Management, www.impaxam.com

 

For more information go to- www.GreenMoney.com

 

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Innovating Up River

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 by

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Bigadventures

Unlike this lucky bloke,  green innovation is starting to feel pretty dam hard.

Many out there are struggling to develop new sustainable strategies, products, processes and implementing them all by pushing against the current flow.  Most are attempting to look at this world with green tinted glasses and reform almost all of the products and processes we live by.  The opportunity is certainly abounding and yet the reality can be sobering.  
Innovators are being asked to be more even more compelling, operate with less resources, and eek-out more value to each respective need.  A greater responsibility to improve current models, under the lens of sustainability, is falling on the brave and courageous few people to change the world.  The true goal may be to actually recruit "green" marines, the few and the proud… Hooo-Rah!


Pick any challenging real world issue and look closely… you can find just a handful of truly passionate social entrepreneurs working for change in that arena.  Whether the innovation is in food, agriculture, energy, technologies, products, or waste... we are being asked to redesign them all.  Only a few out there are truly developing system-wide changes to save time, resources and precious money, all in the greater name of sustainability.  When did the fate of so many lay in the hands of so few? But are we all trying to rebuild a ship after is has hit the iceberg and taking in water? Let's hope not.



At some point it all begins to feel like paddling upstream against the current while having "conventional" rocks appear in your path.  One can imagine the timeless innovators felt this great resistance… maybe we are no different now.  Oddly, most what we are transforming makes a product, service or process- simpler, easier, cheaper, with have less impact.  Consider clean technologies such as electric vehicles; simple to use (no gas), effective operations (gets you there) and easy to power (plug-in). Yet in today's ecological thinking, we must still prove the business case for them. Who is being asked to prove the business case for pollution, obvious waste with the harsh negative impacts we see daily... no one!



A collective grand vision for the green movement is to get all parties involved into the millions of innovations, as our evolution is seeking the best collaborative solutions to our varied modern problems. If we leave these crucial tasks only for a few to solve, making major inroads may simply take too long.  The conventional model is to work in a resource constrained systems that are functioning under old corporate cultures of; time equals money, bigger and better, and of course... not "my" problem.  


Our greatest task as innovators is now recruitment of conscious leaders... yes I do mean you! If you have made it this far, then you too could decide that now is the time to rally and gain momentum. Whether it be for noble ideals, lofty aspirations, personal gain or for the greater collective good of future generations... does it really matter anymore?  What matters now is what you do, how you live and what you support. We are all gifted with constant access to new communication channels, reliable information and available resources.  Even though there are few valid excuses left to claim… some certainly will.



If we wait, if we dilly-dally, if we decide not to give these bold efforts 110% now... where will it leave us all exactly?  Will we be able to move our own evolution forward fast enough to make real progress? Can we recruit others fast enough to the grand vision, so they can grasp it for themselves and realize this is our only way forward.  It may simply come down to values and a few questions to ask.



Trust- Do we have enough to move forward together?


Integrity- Similar to trust, can we commit to do what we say we will?


Responsibility- Can we find our own and help others see theirs?

Creativity- Can we look at the real issues with freedom and inspiration?


Motivation- Will what we are building move others to action?

Interested to hear your ideas, solutions and opinions?  Please share them here, it is a first step towards change. 

Jared Brick recently attained an MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School in SF.  He is developing the first ever reusables tracking platform, rewarding consumers everywhere in their retail experiences.  Follow the journey at traxactions.com or on twitter: traxactions

The Future Looks Bright - Depending on who You Ask

Thursday, March 22, 2012 by

One of my most favorite talks from last year's LOHAS Forum was from futurist John Petersen. I had met John in Shanghai at a Chinese LOHAS Forum and was quite impressed with what he has to say. I asked him what exactly makes up a futurist and he told me his job is to look at all kinds of things - galactic movements, cultural shifts, sublte energies, economics - pretty much everything, and see if there are patterns and relationships. Past patterns are also indications of what is to be expected in the future and to be a successful futurist one cannot rule out anything that the general public may dismiss. Sounds like an interesting job description. I asked him how he uses his skills for employment and he told me that a variety of governments use his findings for a variety of things such as defense planning or disaster preparation. Singapore hired him to develop a 'Suprise Anticpation' project for thier country so they would be prepared for everything ranging from an invasion to upprising to even aliens landing. Because of his broad scope and perspective we thought it would be great to have him present at LOHAS. Here is a clip on part of his talk.

He brings into the climate change conversation a much larger perspective that cosmic rays which bombard the planet are the main reason for the shifts in climate and that we should expect more as sun spots are on the rise. He also states that the cosmic rays are causing mutations through subtle radiation. This can raise alarms or it can also explain the lift in consciousness throughout global society. Are we to become superheros or toxic avengers? Only time will tell.

 

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

LOHAS Asia – A Growing LOHAS Development

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 by

Last week marked the first LOHAS Asia conference inspired and designed off of the LOHAS Forum. The event was held in Singapore and brought in a modest but enthusiastic crowd of 200 business people from Malaysia, Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and China. I was fortunate to keynote and experience the excitement of the event first hand and was very impressed. I have been to many Asian conferences and they tend to be a mixed bag. Often events done by  Asian trade associations tend to be lecture style in format and seldom provide any interaction with the audience. Language barriers also add an extra challenge when discussing complex concepts. However this event was very different in design and style and extremely refreshing. In Singapore people speak English and have adopted western styles of thinking. Adam Horler, president of LOHAS Asia designed an interactive program that brought in high power speakers representing companies like Google and Six Senses Resorts as well as others who were local green specialists. LOHAS Asia and LOHAS USA are affiliate groups that work together to promote LOHAS awareness in both regions of the globe. LOHAS Asia has representatives in various countries in  Asia ranging from Japan and China to Thailand and Malaysia. Each contributes time to promote LOHAS Asia initatives in the region as well as maintain relations with LOHAS USA.


The sessions presented were a mix of green values, branding strategy, trends, design and LOHAS entrepreneurial initiatives that were informative and inspiring. Bobby Paterson, a former Scottish professional soccer player, introduced his Happiest app that helps measure a person’s happiness and provide rewards. Matthias Gelber, winner of the Greenest Person on the planet award by 3rdwhale in 2009 and Malysian resident, spoke passionately on the need to be aware of our actions and make changes in our lives for the planet. Another spoke on successful branding strategies that LOHAS companies could learn from. The most fascinating for me was Amena Lee Schlaikjer's talk on how LOHAS is entering the Chinese market and how it is positioned to provide access to stress-free living. With pollution, food scares, straining work force and cultural pressures pressing upon Chinese it makes sense that LOHAS can offer a path to a simpler and cleaner way of life.
 

me presenting at LOHAS AsiaLOHAS Asia is designed around the LOHAS HUB Directory. The directory is free for companies to sign up however companies must take a pledge to integrate LOHAS principles or provide an initiative which they are to report on one year after registering. Once in the HUB companies can interact with each other and network. Consumers can search companies by country to find local companies that are pre-vetted. Not all companies who apply are accepted. This is all nice but the key element is that the HUB is a resource for Asian based investors interested in funding LOHAS startups. There is a tremendous amount of VC and angel capital that is ready to be injected with the caveat being that they must be a LOHAS company that is listed in the HUB. The LOHAS Asia team will present companies to investors. Those start up companies receiving funding will also go through a start up boot camp that will  be provided by Proctor & Gamble. Google will also provide a suite of tools and trainings for small business. Not a bad upside for signing up for free on the LOHAS HUB Directory eh?
 

LOHAS is still very new to many in the Asian region despite its massive proliferation. Many may have heard of it or seen a store promoting a LOHAS sale but rarely do they know what it really means. This was the purpose of the conference. After the conference not only did people understand it but wanted more or wanted to partake in expanding awareness. There is a lot of fertile ground for LOHAS in S.E. Asia and I look forward to future events. The next events are in Shanghai and Singapore. Stay tuned for details.

 

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


 

Why it’s Important to Recycle Your Content

Sunday, February 5, 2012 by
If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that your corporate culture doesn’t see plastic bottles and paper bags as disposable items with a limited shelf life. You wouldn’t toss a soda can into the garbage or throw a milk jug in the dumpster. So why would you spend valuable time and effort creating purposeful, inspiring content and let it go to waste? Like all good products, the content you develop can have a second life. Be a conscious leader and recycle your content too.

3 Reasons to Recycle Your Content

  1. Increase Engagement – Everyone connects differently. One customer might prefer reading blogs while another lives for Twitter.  Reusing your content helps you connect to people where they are and increases the chances that they’ll see the information and take interest.
  2. Improve SEO - Search engines love new content and continually scan your website for updates.  Repurposing content lets you increase your web pages as information flows from an e-book to a landing page to a blog post. It also gives you the ability to send keyword rich links back to your site as you publish the content to different platforms.
  3. Reduce Clutter – Nobody likes waste.  Don’t churn out useless or uninteresting information. Invest the time and resources to develop several solid pieces of content and recycle them.

3 Ways to Recycle Your Content

Businesses create content for many reasons (to inform, educate, engage, get leads, etc.). But, a single piece of content should never be just that. Ecological thinking applies to content too.

  • Reposition a Presentation - After giving a presentation, write a blog post highlighting the key messages, and post the presentation on Slideshare.
  • Recycle an e-Book – After you publish an e-book, break the chapters out into a series of blog posts and share them through social media.
  • Repurpose a Press Release – After submitting a press release, write a blog summarizing the news and repurpose it once again in an e-newsletter.
The Content Life Cycle

 

Content can and should be repurposed, repositioned and reused.  Just remember to customize your recycled content for each audience. Let your content come full circle and take on a new life of its own.  

 

To see an example of recycled content in the making, check out the original post on our content marketing blog.

 

LOHAS Trends 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012 by

After reviewing the numerous trend articles out there and considering my own perspectives I have put together some that I think are relevant to LOHAS. Here are a few that I feel are relevant for the coming year:

1. Whiskey is for Drinking, Water Is for Fighting Over
droughtThe famous Mark Twain quote will become more prevalent in society as new realities of water scarcity will become better known to an ever growing global thirst.  Everyone will talk about it but few will do anything. Sadly, it may only start to take off if humanitarian crises hit close to home.  As we focus on our societal water use, it is an admission that climate change is our new reality and it is time to start managing the effects. The material risks associated with increased droughts and flooding will be among the most poignant effects of climate change. You may already be talking about this with the lack of snowfall around the country during the early part of this year.

2. Capitalism is Changing as We Know and it Should
Since the Industrial Age, businesses have built their wealth off of the extraction of natural resources. Unless businesses start to value and protect these resources, this cycle will have a devastating impact on the lives of our children and grandchildren.  Richard Branson echoes this sentiment and also believes it cannot survive in its current model. This can also cause potential ecoflation identified in 2008.  Many people have begun to realize that business as usual is no longer an option. What is an option is to reinvent capitalism and truly be a force for good in the world. Certification groups such as FairTrade and Benefit Corporation are working to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.  The changing economic scene provides unique opportunity for innovation and success in unconventional settings. The sky is the limit as new ways to do better business are taking root everyday.

3. Blurring the Differences Between “For-Profits” and “Non-Profits”
nonprofit forprofitThere has been a surge of entrepreneurs providing innovative business solutions with the purpose of “doing good”.   In these tumultuous times when unemployment is high, many are turning their backs on the job fairs and putting their efforts into creating new businesses that fill needs such as TaskRabbit, and Viatask.   Non-profits will incorporate more for-profit business models into their programs. There is a strong growth in social entrepreneurialism globally and this will increase with the emergence of new solutions for world issues. Groups like the Social Venture Network, Sansori and Unreasonable Institute will increase to provide resources for start ups. Social enterprises will encompass the very definition of business and 2012 will be an important year.

4. Gamificating Your life
Expect and increase in the game addiction methods to make a world a better place this next year. Game and point system rewards programs such as My Recycle Bank , My Energy and Greenopolis will see newcomers such as Ecobonus that rewards points to green and organic shoppers. More smart apps will provide LOHAS shoppers and energy efficiencies for homes and automobiles. 

5. Evidence Based Sustainability
Proof of sustainability will be emphasized more than ever as businesses will seek cost effective measure to reduce bills and be a good environmental citizen. Purchasing departments will be requiring vendors to document how they address sustainability issues within their own businesses will become more commonplace. As facilities and businesses increasingly operate in a more sustainable manner, they will turn to "dashboard" systems to help measure, manage and report progress.

6. We'll All Want to Plug in to Plug-in Hybrids
plugin hybridHybrids are not new but the latest improvements in technology will allow them to be more affordable to the average consumer. If electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are the trail-blazers, plug-in hybrids could be the game-changer the auto industry has been seeking. The prospect of a car that can travel distances of up to 40 miles using electric power before switching to a gas engine for longer journeys promises to overcome the biggest objection to electric cars - the fear the battery will run out mid-journey.  Design also looks exciting. We only need to look into BMW i8 roadster concept and visualize where this might take the car industry in near future. The high profile Vauxhall Ampera and Toyota Plug-in hybrid will create a lot of buzz this year and assuming the cars offer reasonable performance they could quickly become the default option for green-minded motorists and cost-conscious fleet operators

7. More Fun with Sharing Stuff
Sharing will not only be a part of social media but of reality. Considerations of downscaling due to financial, lifestyle reasons or social pressures will increase in sharing the excesses of the past decade as we become more conscious of what we have that we don’t use that others can borrow. Rent Stuff, Loanables and Rent Stuff Easy allow you to do exactly what they say.  A while back Sharable listed eight ways to share your stuff. That's about few of those thousands of ways of giving your stuff (or money) away for charity. Couchsurfing connects travelers with people who offer their homes as an economical place to stay. Rising oil costs will put pressure on transportation and the demand for shared and public transportation. Transportation share programs such as Zipcar, Bixi or Bcycle will increase. In four years the number of registered users have gone up from less than one million to more than four million. By carpooling, shared trips have gone up from less than three million to almost eight million.
 
8. Responsible Profitability Attracts Attention
Responsibility has been strongly associated with greater profitability, equity and asset returns, and shareholder value creation. But that’s no longer good enough. Today, the bar is being raised; success is itself changing. Companies are beginning to be judged against a whole new set of criteria by customers, governments, communities, employees, and investors. They’re already saying, so you made a profit. Yawn. Did you actually have an impact? Did what you do have a positive, lasting consequence that was meaningful in human terms? Several studies have provided evidence suggesting that betterness yields greater equity returns, asset returns, and profitability. This not only makes sense for those who are mission oriented but also for risk management.  One recent study found firms that score strongly in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) find that their cost of equity capital financing is consistently lower than firms with weaker CSR track records. Responsibility fuels outperformance because it is risk management: better insurance against adverse future events.

9. Emphasis on Corporate Culture
Successful startup companies such as Method, Zappos and New Belgium Brewery are all preachers of their unique culture developed around their workplace. They preach not to chase the profits but to chase the dream. Engaging employees as a collective of ideas and not compartmentalization is a new form of corporate structure. It is not just about the fun office parties and surroundings but understanding the larger mission of the company and empowering employees. Creative agencies and culture builders have seen the need to train and educate companies on these emerging traits that are attractive for the young new work force.

10. Natural Disasters Will Continue
Expect your homeowners insurance rate to rise in 2012 as weather related damages cost $70 natural disastersbillion in U.S. economic losses in 2011.  All the indicators on climate risk are pointing the wrong way.  The financial and human cost of extreme weather and climate-related disasters is on an unmistakably upward trend. Meanwhile, our energy infrastructure remains as risky as ever with the Fukushima disaster following the BP oil spill in highlighting how fragile our energy supplies really are. It is a safe bet that 2012 will again be marred by a large-scale environmental tragedy of one form or another. Meanwhile, sensible businesses and policymakers will start taking climate adaptation more seriously.

References for these trends are:
Ecopreneurist.com
Taombo.com
Greenbiz.com
Huffington Post
PR Newswire

Are there any missing? Let me know what others trends you forsee for 2012 and LOHAS.

 

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

The Common Good Enterprise: A New Term for an Emerging Field

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 by

This editorial was originally published on CSRwire's Talkback blog.

non profit businessAs an investment advisor, I (Jim) am often asked to sit on nonprofit boards. I have grown uncomfortable with the term not-for-profit to describe these organizations, which often embrace business principles in their operations. For example, DC Greenworks generates income from government contracts and fees for green roof installations.

In 2002 I (Alicia) had difficulty finding graduate courses that blended business and social values. At a 2009 Net Impact conference, I was overwhelmed by the presence of over 2,000 MBA students interested in the common good.  When a conference attendee told me his girlfriend had complained of being assigned my father’s book When Corporations Rule the World, a tome on pitfalls of global corporations, yet again as part of her MBA program, I knew the world was changing.

A new sector is being born that blurs the lines between for-profit and not-for-profit worlds.  Business used to be about jobs and profit. Civil society organizations were the avenues to give back beyond job creation and products.  

Today an increasing number of businesses are building healthy communities, living wages and sustainable products into their corporate DNA. And more civil society organizations are embracing business values.

The Private Sector Has a Broader Mission

476 companies with $2.27 billion in annual revenue are certified now as B corporations, a designation given to businesses that meet environmental, governance and social criteria by the not-for-profit B Lab.

Certification has been followed by a tidal wave of state legislation giving such businesses legal jurisdiction.  Maryland, Vermont, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, New York and Virginia are front runners. In 2012 Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and DC will likely follow.

This legislation is significant. It supersedes a body of law legally interpreted to mean corporations must consider shareholder value before taking into account other stakeholders—including communities, employees and the planet.

Jim, who played a major role in passing two of these laws, co-founded a company that will become a B corporation called Blue Ridge Produce. The company aggregates locally grown food for sale to grocery stores and institutional buyers in the Washington DC area.  With the common good built into its corporate DNA, Blue Ridge Produce aims to maintain a healthy farming community in the region and will:

  • provide secure markets for local farmer
  • reduce the carbon footprint by keeping food closer to home
  • convert conventional growers to organic producers

 Business networking organizations like the Social Venture Network (SVN), B Lab, Social Enterprise Alliance, Investors’ Circle and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) are further helping the trend become a global movement.

While the Nonprofit Sector is Adopting Business Principles

Change is also happening within civil society organizations, motivated in part by technology entrepreneurs grounding their philanthropy in business values. The Skoll Foundation funded by eBay mogul Jeffrey Skoll provides grantees funding to develop engines of growth.  Called resource engines, some grantees are using funds to build business principles into their non-profit structures.

Created in 2009, the civil society organization Practice Greenhealth receives over half of its annual budget from membership dues paid by health providers like Kaiser Permanent in exchange for services aimed at greening their hospitals. Founder Gary Cohen built this resource engine after talking to entrepreneurs at the Skoll World Forum.

Language Is Powerful

Nothing captures an emerging trend like a name.

A name can in fact determine whether an idea or product popularizes or stays relegated to a small group of believers.  Just look at the dolphin fish. Only when restaurants began using its Hawaiian name Mahi-Mahi did this fish, which has no relation to the dolphin, begin to gain popularity in the United States.  After all, who wants to eat Flipper with an apricot glaze?  

Social enterprise, mission-driven business and for benefit corporations are a few of the descriptors for organizations blending business principles with common good aims.

We believe the movement can better communicate the power and purpose of this emerging field.

A New Operating System: The Common Good Enterprise

In our search for better lexicon, Jim came across a neglected phrase we would like to bring center stage: “the common good enterprise.” Here’s our definition:

A for-profit or not-for-profit organization whose primary purpose is to promote the well-being of people and/or the planet.  The organization generates at least a percentage of its revenue through the sale of goods and services (adapted from Kevin Lynch; Advertising on Higher Ground).

Why “common good enterprise”?

Its power is its clarity.

Common comes from the word “commons,” which describes a relationship to the community as a whole. Common good intuitively includes a regard for the planet, respect for individuals’ human rights, and support of communities.

The word “enterprise” is also self-explanatory—and speaks to revenue generated from the sale of goods and services.

 Common good enterprise is clearer than other terms such as its more popular sibling “social enterprise.”  Does “social enterprise” exclusively describe businesses? Or non-profits? Does “social” include the planet? Only leaps of the imagination can make the connection.

Conclusion

The labels we use for this new field matter.  Easy to grasp language provides a framework to help the public co-create this emerging sector.

Clear terms can translate into financial benefit. Why not pass legislation providing government procurement advantages to common good enterprises—whether companies or civil society organizations?  Could such language catalyze new capital pools?

It’s time to embrace “common good enterprise”—a term for organizations using business principles in support of the common good that will help mainstream the movement and make opportunities this field opens up a reality. 

Jim Epstein

Jim is the founder and Chairman of EFO Capital Management Inc., a family investment firm based in Washington D.C.  Jim is the developer of Belmont Bay, a mixed-use, pedestrian friendly community on the Occoquan River near Woodbridge, Virginia and is finalizing plans for a village development at the north end of Culpeper County, Virginia. Early in 2011 he founded Blue Ridge Produce, a local food aggregation operation that sources food from Virginia and the eastern seaboard for sale to grocery stores and wholesale and institution buyers in the Washington Metropolitan area.  Jim is a member of the Congress of New Urbanism and Social Venture Network.  His wide- ranging interests have led him to serve as Chairman of Dance Place and DC Greenworks, as a Board member at Trickles Foundation, and as an Emeritus member at Pathfinder International

Alicia Epstein Korten  Be Your Brand

"Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast" Peter Drucker

An award winning author, keynote speaker and culture consultant for ReNual, Alicia has led corporate culture transformation initiatives that have set offices on fire with new ideas, engaged employees, produced loyal, happy customers and increased profits.  Clients include Levis, Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Longfellow Sports Club, the Ford Foundation and the United Nations.  Her latest book Change Philanthropy is the winner of an Axiom Business Book Award gold medal.  She is a contributing author to Wake Me Up When the Data Is Over:  How Organizations Use Stories to Drive Results, an affiliate of the Social Ventures Network, a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate of Brown University. 3 facts about her: she motorcycled across Bali, lived on a garbage dump in the Philippines for a week and recently fulfilled her life long dream of swimming with dolphins.

Contact Alicia for a complimentary consultation: (703) 875 – 9139 or email her
Follow on Twitter: Search “Alicia Korten” or try @beyorbrand (may change as we are rebranding)
Renual YouTube Videos
Sign up for ReNual’s culture-zine at: www.renual.com

 

 

Delivering Happiness

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 by

Tony HseihI recently attended a conference where the keynote speaker was successful entrepreneur Tony Hsieh, CEO of the successful online apparel shop Zappos.com. In 1999, at the age of 24, Tony Hsieh sold LinkExchange, the company he co-founded, to Microsoft for $265 million. He then joined us as an advisor and investor, and eventually became CEO, where he helped us grow from almost no sales to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually, while simultaneously making Fortune magazines annual Best Companies to Work For list. In November 2009, Zappos.com, Inc. was acquired by Amazon.com in a deal valued at $1.2 billion on the day of closing. I was very interested to know what makes Zappos so unique.

Tony shared with the audience that he views things differently than most. He perceives Zappos as not a shoe company but rather a service company that happens to sell shoes. One of the key things I heard Tony say was that they take funds that are typically set aside for advertising and apply it to customer service. In 2008 over $1 billion of sales was done with repeating customers and word of mouth. What was it that makes people come back to buy things at Zappos? Tony stated it was because they consider customer service as the number one priority. This is nothing new to sales and marketing.  I think we have all heard this before but what Zappos does differently is apply it to their corporate culture. Instead of viewing customer service as what the customer receives they view it as to what the customer experiences. Because Zappos is an online store their phone service is vital for success. They have their number in big numbers on every page of their website so people can easily find it and call. They recognize that the customer service must be good. But the people who call don’t often result in a sale and this is not the focus of the call center. Instead Zappos uses the call center as a branding opportunity. Yes sales do happen through the call center but that is not the call center’s primary focus. This is a very different way of looking at a call service center. They also provide overnight shipping anywhere in the U.S. They recognize this is expensive but it adds to the customer experience and out paces competitors. Zappos considers the extra costs as a marketing cost rather than an additional expense.

Corporate CultureYou would think the mantra in the company is all about customer service. It is a strong component of what Zappos is all about but the larger priority is creating a strong corporate culture and they work on maintaining, nurturing and protecting it. Zappos human resources department has an interview on culture for new employees to see if they are a good fit. Once they are accepted by Zappos the new hires go through a 5 week training course and once the training is complete they are given a choice to either join the company or be given $3,000 on the spot to leave. This process weeds out those who are focusing on the paycheck and not committed to the Zappos culture. Internal annual performance reviews value 50% based on culture and growth within the company. They want employees to contribute to the success of the Zappos culture with recommendations and initiatives.  All new hire training covers history of the Zappos culture and experience in their call center.  Customer service is not just a department but part of the whole company. All have to answer calls and understand the skills it takes which include executives, accountants, IT and other non-customer service related departments. When customers get the perfect fit of all of these it equals happiness. If customers get what they want and have a tremendous experience they feel happy. Therefore Zappos believes they are delivering happiness.

Zappos created 10 core values for their company. Tony stressed that it is important to not make these values meaningless. They must be committable core values. At Zappos they are used for hiring and firing people.

Here are Zappos 10 Core Values:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble

This results in every employee living the brand alignment of value and in doing this it equates to long term sustainable growth. Zappos is now educating other companies on culture with online tools and seminars. Recently a refrigerator company has gone through the training and have seen their sales increase.

Another ingredient for success is to focus on a higher purpose beyond profit. It is important to think bigger than money and focus on what motivates you? Create that vision and chase the vision not the dollar. Perhaps it is being a good parent or good citizen. Tony stated in his talk, “Don’t chase the paper, chase the dream.”

He also pointed out the difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation can be used to a point and makes up a large part of how leaders relate to their teams. But there also needs to be elements of inspiration that tap into the deeper and stronger soul energies of a person.

With today’s technology and digital aspects of sales there is a difference with high touch compared to high tech. High tech provides broader and faster access to customers and is a good tool. But it is only a tool. High touch provides an emotional connection with people to ensure their experience with a company is top notch. Zappos focuses on the high touch because it believes it makes customers happier. An example of a company that does this well is Cirque de Soleil. They are not in the circus business they are into the experience and emotions business.

Zappos is currently creating a new community building imitative in Las Vegas where they are based. Rather than go the Nike and Google campus model Zappos will integrate their main headquarters into the existing local community and use existing buildings. They plan to build residential businesses and use existing areas to build other business opportunities around Zappos with the Zappos mission. They offer daily tours of their headquarters to anyone interested. They will pick you up from the airport and share their story with anyone willing to listen.

Tony said according to happiness research we are really bad at predicting what will make us happy. For example most think that winning the lottery will provide happiness. But studies have shown that many winners are not happier than they were before. In fact in some instances it has caused more problems than benefits.

Why is happiness so mysterious to attain? It is because our current society messaging values perceived control and progress which are to demonstrate accomplishment which we are told will make us happy. Instead we should focus on connectedness and meaning which give us a sense of community, well being and contentment.

There are three types of happiness:  1. The Rock Star lifestyle with riches and fame where everyone loves you and what you do. This is very rare.  2.  Flow which is when someone is in synch with their challenges. Athletes talk about this when they are in the zone. This is not as rare but more sporadic and based on the correct circumstances. 3. A clear understanding of meaning and higher purpose. This is something that can be called upon from an individual at all times and anywhere. This is much more long lasting and sustaining.  

But people always aim for rock star.  We should reverse our efforts – meaning, flow, rock star. Once we do this happiness will ultimately follow.

 

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

THE LOHAS Book: The Gospel of Sustainability

Thursday, November 17, 2011 by

Gospel Of Sustainability: LOHASFor many years I have thought that there needs to be a book outlining the principles of LOHAS. A book that gives the origins of the concept and history on its evolution, the various sects that comprise the LOHAS concept and how they intersect and overlap and provides the different angle that LOHAS takes in as it relates not only to sustainability and health but also the spiritual aspect that I find many books on sustainability lack. I thought of writing one myself but realized it would take a lot of research and time to give the proper depth and understanding that I feel is needed to fully express the scope and scale of LOHAS.

It appears that Monica Emerich author of The Gospel of Sustainability: Media, Market and LOHAS has beaten me to the punch and with good measure. Monica was on the original team that conducted the first research in developing LOHAS and is a research affiliate at the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Colorado and president of Groundwork Research and Communications.  Her book is the first comprehensive look at the development of the LOHAS marketplace and discourse of the natural blending of sustainability with self awareness in society and natural worlds. Emerich draws on a myriad of sources including previous LOHAS Forums, LOHAS Journal articles and top leaders in the LOHAS world that are business, political, academic and philosophical. The book points out that LOHAS is not just about being with mindful consumption of values-based products and services but explains that there is a message about personal and planetary health that is reforming capitalism by making consumers more conscious.

Prior to this book I always had to refer to Paul Ray's book, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World which was the inital book that identified the conscious consumer base that is now known as LOHAS. His book is great but was done in 2000. Monica's book is much more up to date and takes in current events of the last decade. I find the book a great read and the best source out there that fully explains what LOHAS is and has the potential to become.  Anyone who wants to better understand the LOHAS marketplace has to put this on their must read list.

 

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

LOHAS Goes Urban

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 by

Earlier this year I attended the Urban Green Summit. This was an event that focused on the inner city citizens of Denver to promote better awareness of green and sustainable business opportunities. It was definitely a crowd that I wanted to connect with and peaked my curiosity to know if LOHAS aspects penetrate different cultures and economic circumstances. I was not disappointed. The event was developed by CURE-T’s Dr. H. Malcolm who received federal funding to promote green jobs and education in Colorado. Dr. Malcolm is a mover and a shaker and you can’t help but be magnetized to his presence and his message. He is always deflecting praise and bringing in others to highlight. This is a sign of a great leader in my book. He also echoed a concern that I have myself: Why is it that the urban communities of color always appear absent in green initiatives, conferences and activities? The LOHAS market tends to target the largely affluent caucasian market. But there is plenty of opportunity unseen and untouched in the minority dominant urban markets as well.

The summit had a star studded panel that included Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All, environmentalist and author, John Francis III and founder of Green for All and current president of Rebuild a Dream, Van Jones. These heavy hitters were mixed with other local movers and shakers in the green movement. Unfortunately I was hoping that there would be more people in attendance at the event. I was told from an insider that having an event on a Saturday morning early is not so PC in the African American communities. There were indeed more people who were there as the day progressed.  I found it to be a very interesting event and demonstrated that green needs to be connected to the urban community by education and clear benefits. The best presentation for me came from Van Jones.

Here is what Van had to say to the urban based audience. See if it resonates with you:

van jones“These days people are gathering in unusual groups. Not large groups but different ones. They are the ones who grew were the sensitive children. These are the ones that wanted to save the polar bears and save the world and were disturbed by the mistreatment of others. This tribe is just beginning to find each other. There are more people entering life who are sensitive. Something happening where humanity is being tested and if we don’t pass nothing will be left. Will humanity prove to be a blessing or a curse. This the first time technology and size make up a force of nature. The creator could have made us as robots he did not. We are something more interesting. We have free will, choice and decision making abilities. All other species are set in process.

Will we be locusts or honey bees? Both work hard but one is destructive and one is constructive. Locusts wipe out everything in its path. Destroy habitat until there is none at which point they die. Bees work is a blessing. It makes life of others possible. This movement is deeper than just solar panels and part of interest is the growing sense of peril. I cannot believe that only one race cares for the earth. The U.S. colonization was just as much about land as it was about labor. Land is sacred. We need to remember to view it as such instead of a commodity. We need to remember the difference between a tree and lumber, an animal vs. a pelt, a person vs. a slave. These sacred beliefs were considered paganism. Indigenous peoples of the world have this wisdom and are outcasts in modern society. They are called witches, druids, and pagans. It turns out they are quite wise. They are also known as the highest ecological wisdom. It is only now after 500 years of colonization that the children of the colonizers are coming around to honoring this wisdom.

Do we belong to the earth or does the earth belong to us? An economy that is run by fossil fuels equals trouble in the future. We run a civilization that runs on death. Coal is 40 million years old. Oil is 60 million years old. Both are made up of dead materials. We burn death in our cars and as electricity but are shocked when death shows up as asthma and global warming. We are much better when we have a living economy. One that runs on life such as the sun, wind and water.

So how do we get there? We need to change our ways. Change has 4 drivers. There are the mystics. They see the vision of what we are to become. Then there are the artists who popularize the vision. The entrepreneurs who create the technologies and then the politicians who create the rules.  The current culture is not ready for change. The Tea Party is a buzz saw. And yet the biosphere is so small that we need change. We are a soap bubble in the universe.  What can we do? The last economy had 3 mistakes: 1. Consumptions 2. Credit 3.Ecological destruction

Production has moved overseas and our economy was based on spending. Kill it, shrink wrap it, sell it, trash it was the method. The past 18 months has seen the most wacky weather and environmental changes. Mother earth is telling us something. We need to adopt a strategy of green growth, restoration and conservation. Create local consumption that respects the earth. If I had talked to you all in 08’ it would have been very different. You would have all been smiling. Obama will take care of us. Now everyone is looking gloomy. This was only 2 ½ years ago. Do you remember where you were when he was elected? When he was sworn into office? How you felt? We forgot how we got to that moment. Obama was not the author for hope. The movement for hope didn’t start with Obama it started in 03’. When Bush went to war you stood up. More people mobilized in the 1st week than Vietnam did in 6 years. We lost but we didn’t quit. In 06’ Kerry ran and was only 100K votes short of an Indiana win and lost but we didn’t quit. In 05’ Katrina hit as did the Huffington Post and YouTube. We had the 1st speaker of the house. Obama was out there as an unknown Senator selling a book and ran into the movement and found us. Don’t insult yourself. Obama inspired us but we inspired him first. Now it is time for the movement of hope and change. This can’t be about things we are against but things we are for. We need to be willing to connect people with work that needs to be done. Soldiers are coming home to nothing. Nation building needs to be done here too. There is a saying – bankers get rich in good times, the people go broke in bad times. We need to praise and support our public employees – teachers, fire fighters, nurses and police. Now rich people don’t pay tax and communities are abandoning them when they never have abandoned us.

You were born for a reason. You are sensitive for a reason. Depression is terrible. It clouds you so you can’t see the opportunity. They tried to kill hope in 68’ when Kennedy was assassinated. We are throwing away our efforts because FOX TV is mean. We have been through much more than the tea party. In 1906 no woman could vote, no paid holidays, no weekend, no child labor laws. People fought year after year until today. You fought when they had clubs and guns. We didn’t have social media and yet we mobilized. Are you going to be locusts or honey bees to make the next century ordinary or extraordinary and beautiful.”

Love to hear what you think of what Van Jones has said and if you feel LOHAS can be intergrated into urban markets is a better way.

 

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

3 Keys to Activating Your Life Purpose

Thursday, September 8, 2011 by

Written by Jean Houston

Jean HoustonAs I travel around the globe speaking and training, I have consistently found that most people ask me the same question, ‘how do I discover my purpose in life?’  In the past, who you became was determined by your family and circumstances. You didn't have much choice. But now there is an open moment in history where you have the chance to tap into the soul of your purpose. 
 Millions of people right now are experiencing a yearning and desire to awaken to their unique gifts and offer them in service to the world—while living a life of joy and fulfillment. It's a surging of the human spirit, a virtual global awakening, at a scale that no one has ever seen before. Simply put, people are longing to finally feel fully alive and to fulfill their unique purpose in life.
So then why is living a life of meaning and purpose so difficult? It is because our current social systems have not been set up to prepare us to live a life of true purpose. That's because today's culture exists not to nurture our highest aspirations, but to ensure our basic survival.

Our educational system is designed to create good workers who will slot into jobs and careers later in life—not to empower fiery, creative people who are forging the path ahead together.

Our social contracts exist to perpetuate the status quo—not to encourage our highest potentials to blossom. Is it any wonder why so many people's best attempts to evolve themselves and our culture fall short of the goal? We simply haven't been trained in how to bring the possible future into the present.

It's not that they don't have the talent or interest to live purposeful, meaningful life. The issue is far simpler. People struggle to activate their "purpose code" because they haven't woken up to--or are only partially awake to--our situation as a human race. Most people hold on to old, limiting beliefs of themselves and our human story. Overwhelmed by all the changes in the world around them, most people live their lives within a "small story," and therefore confine themselves to a "small self." That's why so many people feel that they don't have a purpose, or that they aren't able to actually *live* the life they were born to live.

     There is a saying that “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” I believe that it is butterfly time.  Just as the guidance cells in the mush that is the caterpillar in its cocoon suddenly begin to activate the transformation of mush into butterfly, so too this is the time when we realize that the guidance or imaginal cells of our bodies, our communities, and, yes, even of the cells of our planet are calling us to come together in all our parts to form something gorgeous, interdependent, living lightly on the Earth, cross pollinating cultures, ideas, spiritual forms, glowing with the light that suffuses us, becoming transparent  to transcendence.  And to rise out of the mush we have been caught in these many hundreds of years and to take flight in the air of the new story which is emerging in our time. 

 For the fields we traverse, the many flowers of mind states and soul knowings we now enter are those that belong to the whole, earth, to many cultures, to what I am calling PanGaia. And as the butterfly pollinates and cross pollinates from place to place, flower to flower, so do we also if we have the will and the willingness to discover our purpose and  be part of this extraordinary moment in time.

Three Keys to Empowering New Beliefs

 The first key to activating your life's purpose is to hold new beliefs about yourself and about your role in the Great Story of where humanity is headed.

       Living a great life, requires that you understand the challenges and opportunities of our moment in history. To understand this for myself, I've gathered information from my work in over 100 countries and 40 different cultures and what I've discovered has served as a sure guide on my path. Specifically, I have found five great shifts in our understanding of the story of our time that are affecting everything we do today.  I believe that awakening to the power of these shifts will help you cultivate your sense of compassion and of the infinite possibilities of this moment.

The five shifts are:
• Our understanding of who and what we are and what we need to become in order to be able to deal with the complexity of our time is evolving.

• Human societies are in the process of re-patterning. Social constructs are dissolving and whole new stories are trying to emerge, such as the rise of women to a full partnership with men across the globe, and many others.

• How we conduct business and governance is shifting in the midst of vast ecological and financial changes.  This is perhaps the most important social event of the last five thousand years, because these issues  impact almost everything in our lives.

• The rise and fusion of different cultures--we are swiftly moving towards a planetary civilization that accentuates the uniqueness of each culture while blending them together. Think of the great fusions of food and of music and of beliefs.

• Whole new orders of spirituality are emerging that are not about religion. The new cosmologies are giving us a view of ourselves that we never had before. For the first time ever, we find that we don't just live in the universe, but that the universe lives in us.
      

This journey begins by letting go of old beliefs and patterns to make room for the new beliefs and capacities that will empower you to awaken to and live your higher purpose.

 The Second key allows you to discover and realize the vast field of inner intelligences—using multiple means of knowing and being in order to gain insight into life at a level to which that most people rarely have access.  These skills are to be found on four levels of your human capacity, sensory-physical, psychological-emotional, mythic-symbolic, and unitive-spiritual. As you learn how to utilize the extraordinary capacities to be found at each of these levels you literally move into new ways of being.  For example, you will learn how to play with time in such a way as to take five minutes and experience it internally as hours—these are "hours" you can use to develop a skill or move a project forward.

You will learn to access "inner experts", willing helpers or personas that will help you navigate the complexity of life with elegance and confidence.
 
The third key gives you the means to break free from unconscious, habitual ways of reacting to life that were born thousands of years ago, and embrace higher ways of being for a new era.You will discover ways to move through life with ebullience in your bones and an appetite for celebration—seeing everything as an expression of the Creator. You will move through life, motivated not by guilt or obligation, but by gratitude and an abiding zest for doing the things that are called forth by living out of your higher purpose.

Dr. Jean Houston is presenting a FREE 75 minute downloadable audio seminar entitled 3 Keys to Discovering and Living Your True Purpose Available Now at www.DestinyandYou.com .

Dr. Jean Houston is a Scholar, Philosopher and one of the foremost visionary thinkers and doers of our time. She is considered one of the principal founders of the Human Potential Movement. A powerful and dynamic speaker she has served as consultant to several agencies of United Nations including UNICEF and the UNDP. She has worked in over 100 countries training leadership at every level to enhance skills and purpose so as to bring a new mind to bear upon challenging issues. A prolific writer and author of 26 books including A Passion for the Possible and The Mythic Life, Dr. Houston has recently joined the faculty of Evolving Wisdom, today's fastest growing global e-learning company specializing in transformative education, to provide her wisdom online in a cutting edge format.
www.DestinyandYou.com

 

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

Top LOHAS-ish Fall Conferences for 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011 by

LOHAS crowdHere it is mid August and already I have to start working on my conference attending schedule for the fall of 2011. It seems like I have to do this earlier and earlier each year primarily because there are so many LOHAS oriented conferences being added or are catching my attention that I did not know of before. I have done a post on what events I think are important the past 2 years and here is my 3rd installment of top green/health and wellness/social enterprise/sustainability/leadership conferences worth considering as you plan your conference schedule for the fall.

For those new to the conference scene, there are two seasons – fall and spring. There are associations and organization that provide 1 or 2 events a year usually during those months. This is primarily because summer is a time when many set up personal vacation time and winter has more holiday time and weather issues.

Conference strategy
In determining which event is best for you take a look at the speakers and topics that will be presented. It is also important to look at the sponsors and how the event is presented via the event website. This will give you a feel on the type of companies that will be attending the event and what type of audience the event is trying to attract. By viewing the agenda content you can get an idea on how in depth they plan on going on topics. Also look at the networking opportunities that are in the program. Some events consciously embed them in the program via receptions, meals and outings and others do not. It is really up to you to make the best of the time for your own networking purposes.

On site
I find attending events to be incredibly stimulating. However I also find them to be extremely exhausting. Make sure you eat right, drink plenty of fluids, keep to a good sleep schedule and maintain a steady energy balance. For the large trade shows make sure you wear comfortable and supportive shoes for those hours on the exhibit floor. There are plenty of after party events to attend at which you can have some great business talks. It is up to you to make sure you know what formula works best for you. Set up meetings in advance if you can. That way you have some anchors to build the rest of the day's plan around and not get too lost in the shuffle of things - especially if they are large trade shows.


Leadership
Women in Green - August 30-31st Santa Monica CA
Focuses on women in leadership positions that promote green business. Although all the speakers are women you don’t need to be of the double X chromosome to attend. This is the second year of the event and according to people who attended last year it was about 200 people. This year there should be more.

Conscious Capitalism - OCT 12-14 Austin TX
You need an invite to attend this prestigious event that brings many CEO’s together to discuss conscious leadership within organizations. It is a relatively small event with around 200 attending. John Mackey of Whole Foods co-founded this and has people ranging from the CEO of the Container Store to Jean Houston speaking on how business can drive conscious change.

Green
Green Initiatives Conference Sept 29-30th Ft Lauderdale FL
A new event on my radar that has some interesting presenters and sponsors. The event team that is putting this on look like they have a tech background and may be one of the main focuses of the event. There are larger corporations participating such as DOW, HP and Coca Cola. It looks like they will focus on sustainability within larger companies and case studies from experiences.

SXSW Eco Oct 4-6 Austin, TX
SXSW music festival looks to sing a new green tune this year with the addition of a green event. Former LOHAS speakers who will be presenting include Simran Sethi and Philippe Cousteau. This is thier first year and the B2B event looks interesting. A great idea tagging it onto SXSW.

Opportunity Green Nov 9-10 Los Angeles, CA
OG is in its 3rd year and brings together green business and sustainable design in LA. They have about 800 attendees from all walks of life – corporate, entrepreneurs, media and of course Hollywood. They hold a great green design competition and it is a high energy event with interesting sessions and booths ranging from LED lighting for studios to BMW to water filters.

BSR - Nov 1-4 San Francisco, CA
The big one for the larger corporations that has been around a long time focusing on the corporate responsibility of multi-national corporations. Last year they had over 1000 in attendance. If you are looking to connect with the bigger companies on CSR initiatives this is the one to check out.


Funding and Finance
SOCAP Sept 7-9 Fort Mason, San Francisco CA
A vibrant event focusing on investing into social entrepreneurship. This event brings together large funds and banks with social entrepreneurs. Competitions on business plans are submitted ahead of time for a competition for funding and there is great education on raising capital for the startup and social enterprises.

SRI in the Rockies OCT 2-5 New Orleans, LA
A flagship event for social responsible investing(SRI) that brings SRI funds together with financial advisors. They also bring in a mix of speakers who focus on humanitarian, social and environmental impacts such as Jane Goodall, David Bornstein, Hunter Lovins and Bill McDonough. If you want insights on SRI and where it is headed this is THE event to attend.

Slow Money OCT 12-14 San Francisco, CA
Slow Money is a network of food activists, investors and entrepreneurs who nurture a range of conversations in order to actively develop funding and investment channels for local and sustainable food enterprises. Like Slow Food, they have local gatherings and a larger main event promoting a slow and steady investment into businesses who are seeking an alternative to the conventional Wall Street type investor.  Speakers include David Suzuki, David Orr and Vananda Shiva.

Investor's Circle OCT 26-27 Philadelphia, PA
A membership organization that  support a great entrepreneurs that are addressing social and environmental issues. They look at 10-15 high impact deals that are seeking investment.  They also provide a due diligence process that starts once the event is complete. It is about 200 people in attendance who are angel investors, fund managers, family office managers, foundation executives and trustees, wealth, financial and philanthropic advisers and their clients and other accredited investors.

Industry Specific
EcoTourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference Sept 19-21st Hilton Head SC
With over 30 inspiring sessions, 50 leading industry partners, and impactful and engaging keynote presentations, the ESTC 2011 (Hilton Head Island, SC, USA, September 19-21, 2011) sets the platform for ongoing dialogue promoting innovative ideas and practical solutions, driving change in global tourism.

Expo East Sept 22-24 Baltimore MD
Attended by as many as 25,000 industry professionals and featuring thousands of exhibits, Natural Products Expo East is the largest natural, organic, and healthy products trade show on the East Coast. With the newest and best-selling products and branded ingredients available this show features the best in organic at All Things Organic/Organic Products Expo-BioFach America, offers an extensive retailer training program and provides an advocacy platform through a strategic partnership with Natural Products Association East. Natural Products Expo East is ranked as one of the top 200 tradeshows in the US.

Greenbuild Oct 4-7 Toronto Canada
Greenbuild is the green building industry's can't miss event. It's where we go to learn about what's new in green building practices through the extensive educational sessions, see the latest technology and innovation in the exhibit hall, and perhaps more importantly, where we go to do business.  Greenbuild is a one-stop shop for credential maintenance. From pre- or post-show LEED workshops to sector-specific summits, from green building tours to concurrent educational sessions, you will find the education you need at Greenbuild. Most sessions at Greenbuild will be approved for continuing education credits for LEED and other professional credentials, allowing you to maintain your credential with ease.


Beauty/Wellness
Natural Beauty Summit Oct 6-7 NYC
This is a smaller and formal event for the natural and organic beauty industry that brings together the mission driven companies such as Dr. Bronners and Weleda with the larger corporations such as Este Lauder, L’Oreal and Avon. It is more of a lecture format and a lot of presentation intake. If you are a data hound you will get your fill. If you are a networker you will need to work for it but there are good connections to be made. The group is a bit insular if you are an outsider but if you are seeking to enter the luxury skincare market it may be worth considering.

Green Spa Network - Oct 9-12 Sundance, UT
This event is made up of a group of spa resorts and products that want to go the extra mile in promoting green efforts in the spa industry. The event has about 100 passionate people who want to move the spa world in the direction of holistic and sustainable integration. They are a very open and friendly group that welcomes newcomers (and new members). Plus the events are always at pristine green resorts.

ISPA - Nov 7-9 Las Vegas
If you are in the spa industry you have to go where everyone goes which is the International Spa Association Conference. Every other year they have their annual event in Las Vegas which brings investors, products and service providers, spa techs and directors together. This is THE most well groomed event I have ever experienced with exhibitors providing facials, teeth whitening and massages. There is good data provided on the spa world and great sessions specific to spa owners and employees. ISPA provides great data on the spa market as well. 

Social Venture Network Oct 27-30 Philadelphia, PA
SVN is a membership organization of successful social entrepreneurs ranging from Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, creators of Ben & Jerry’s, to Van Jones, former Green Czar to Obama, to Tom Szaky founder of Terracycle. It mixes sustainability with community building and innovation and a ton of passion. You can’t leave this event without 2-3 bonding hugs. It is a great place to seek mentorship, collect ideas and also potential funding from successful entrepreneurs and community leaders who are interested in helping others. This overlaps with the Investor’s Circle previously mentioned.

Net Impact Oct 27-29 Portland, OR
Net Impact is a large event that brings 2500 students and corporations together. They have chapters associated with Universities all over the country with a large membership and the event focuses on social enterprise, green business strategies, and nonprofit work.

Public Events
Yoga Journal Conference Sept 18-25 Estes Park, CO
For yoga die hards and trainers interested in the business of yoga or just to improve their own yoga practice. Famous yoga instructors such as Rodney Yee, Sean Corn and Shiva Rae have taught classes here. There is a vendor area as well.

Greenfestivals
Greenfests are the creations of Green America and a designed to celebrate green and diversity in various regions. Their flagship event in San Fran pulls in 30,000 attendees and they have some amazing keynote speakers such as Dr. Weil, Deepak Chopra, Amy Goodman, Jim Hightower and many more. Companies large and small mingle together with the public selling their products and services. I think these are great not only to see what is being sold but to see who is buying and the similarities and differences each region has as it relates to green. There is always a colorful audience at Greenfestivals.
New York  10/1-2
Los Angeles  10/29-30
San Francisco 11/12-13

Bioneers San Rafael, CA 10/14-16
Bioneers is where ecology meets activism meets celebration. I could spend hours in the parking lot just reading all the bumper stickers on people’s cars (mostly hybrids). If you are into fighting injustices of the underserved, hearing the wisdom of traditional cultures and the stories of animals and unique journeys of people this is an event for you. There are workshops on business, youth, art, peace and more.  It draws about 3-5,000 who are all there because of the larger mission Bioneers embodies. Networking is great but you will need to be selective on who you connect with since there are so many types of people there.

 

Of course these are just a few of the many events out there of interest to me. There are many others that are international that I did not include. If there are any other events you see I am missing please feel free to comment and add.

 

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

Can Opinion Leaders and Business Gurus Bring on a Sustainable Culture?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 by
That's the question the folks in the natural products industry and other big brand businesses are exploring in Boulder, Colorado this week! LOHAS is the acronym that translates to Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.  Stay tuned for the latest cutting edge ideas coming from the heart of "Organic Land".  

Changing individual human behavior is the key to our future. Improving the quality of life is often the purpose of non-profit organizations. Julia Butterfly Hill ( the courageous activist / protector of Redwood trees) likes to call those entities For Benefit Organizations! That's a really nice way to think about the essence of their work.  

In Boulder, the for-profit sector will be exploring how their business practices can affect our society for the better.  Anyone interested in the triple bottom line approach to corporate social responsibility will find many members of their tribe at the St. Julien Hotel for the next few days! Astute observers will be watching to see if they can truly green our world, once and for all.

Time to Green our World

Whole systems, ecological thinking will most definitely be in vogue.

Convincing one another that cooperation and collaboration is the key to success is the first order of business. Reinventing business for the 21st century will require a radical transformation of "business as usual". We'll see if this crowd of motivated and energetic entrepreneurs is up to the task.
Reaching out to the main stream is the next challenge! Stay tuned.


_________________________________________________________________

Bud Wilson Bud Wilson was a student-athlete-activist during the tumultuous era at Harvard University and emerged with an interdisciplinary degree combining, child development, innovative education and urban social policy.  He the Global Director of Bio-Regional Leadership and an awareness instructor and wilderness guide for Sacred Passage and The Way of Nature. Bud has devoted his passion and energy to raising awareness (including his own) and shifting human consciousness to appreciate that we are all living in an interdependent, interconnected world where there is more than enough for all of humanity to live in peace and harmony. A proud dad of 2 wonderful grown children! 



Five Ways to Improve Your Marketing

Monday, June 13, 2011 by
If your marketing plan for 2011 looks like last year’s model, you may want to step back and take a bigger look at where your business needs to go in the coming years. We all get myopic especially when we haven’t seen a business climate or consumer marketplace like this – ever! Four game-changing trends followed by five plan-changing ideas:

 

Demographics Are Gross   Lumping people together according to their age, household income, or education level was fine in the heyday of mass marketing. But demographics aren’t a fine-enough filter in our multi-channel media-saturated world. It’s not enough to know, in the broadest of terms, who your target audience is. Now you need to know how they are and, most importantly, why they buy. And if you don’t know, you may be watching your competitors eat your market share for lunch.

 

Technology Converged    Personal computer plus Internet plus social networks plus mobile phones equals a convergence of technologies into one massive, uncontrolled, 24/7, global communications platform. At least two things happened: it empowered consumers to talk (or talk back) to brands. And it created new inter-connected means for brands and consumers to connect.  Five years ago, we didn’t have to consider how our big branding ad was going to play out as a streamed Internet video linking to a geo-targeted 2-fer coupon accessible via smart phone! The accelerating number of possibilities is enough to keep any savvy marketer awake nights.

 

Mad Men Meet Joe YouTube   You gotta love Don Draper. After a night of drinking, smoking and fooling around, he can show up for a major campaign presentation, pull a single concept out of his fedora, and have the client eating out of his hand. From the 60s to the 90s, big splashy ad campaigns reigned. Did they work? Sure, many did, especially when advertisers threw a ton of money behind them. Especially the funny ones. But then along came YouTube. Now any bloke with a slightly warped sense of humor, a flip camera and a log-in can generate as much buzz as a multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad. That can give marketers heartburn as they re-think how to allocate their budgets.

 

Consumers Rule   Marketing used to be easier. You created a product, you advertised, it you sold it. Back then, it didn’t matter much who bought it as long as enough bought it. It didn’t matter how it was made as long as it didn’t break before it got home. It didn’t matter if the means to the end were sustainable as long as the bottom line was. But in today’s world, consumers’ peer-to-peer influence on your top line is unprecedented.  What they don’t like, they don’t buy and they don’t hesitate to yelp their reasons why. And, by the way, most of those consumers controlling the cash are women. Well, three-quarters of it anyway, even when spending is down.

 

What Now?

The future is now and you can’t afford to wait. Visionary companies are searching for new ways to step up their marketing and engage new consumers using new technology. Here are five things you should consider.    

 

Consumer Centricity   Make your business revolve around the consumer not the other way around. Your product is not the centerpiece of your brand. Your customer using your product is.

 

Know Your Consumer Inside and Out   To build your marketing around your consumers, you need reliable, actionable intel. Research tools like Roberts Worldview Assessment, for example, provide psychological insights into various consumers’ values and behaviors and direction on how to engage them.

 

Total Consumer Engagement   Every consumer touch point becomes part of the brand. From the product itself to the ways the consumer can learn about it and interact with it to the retail or etail service experience.  Your internal and external support teams need to understand that entire experience and make sure every part of it delivers your brand effectively.

 

Brand Response    Before the Internet, tracking results was a bit sketchy. But with online analytics, the guessing is over. That’s why all advertising roads need to lead to the Internet. We call it Brand Response, the blend of brand ads to get attention, direct response to drive the action and online interactivity to make the sale. Great advertising and accountability ARE possible.

 

Change the House Rules   Look at your corporate culture. Are there any fresh marketing ideas being generated? If not, a more holistic process and a less silo’d organization can help. Sharing best practices to engage consumers should be a full team effort. 

 

Vanilla Ice, Skinny Jeans and Complexity: On New Marketing Programs for the LOHAS Consumer

Thursday, March 31, 2011 by

My company has been firmly planted in the green space since our birth in 2003.  We were not first, but we were pretty early.  A lot has changed.

 

We have made our way through the rapid change by studying the culture.  We produce content that is relevant to the various sustainability movements (there are multiple) taking shape around us.  Here are some examples of the type of content we produce to understand it all:

 

  • Biennial Green Language Survey of 100 Print Ads
  • Pop-Culture Lens studies exploring the meaning of sustainability in our culture
  • Our soaplabs design, test and prove innovative strategies with very trusting clients
  • An upcoming report that breaks emerging marketing trends into 6 narratives

 

Our latest green language study will be available (for free) later this month (if you’d like an advance copy, let us know here).  As a sneak peak, here is one of the findings: 

 

Green is no longer a driving element in print ads.

 

As we write the report, I’m reminded of a talk I gave at the LOHAS Forum in 2007.  The talk was called A Beautiful Ambiguity: Language, LOHAS and the Mainstream (If you’d like to download the nostalgic pdf, go here).  I remember saying to the crowd, "once green is mainstream our competitive advantage is gone."  My point was that we were all hyper focused on green as THE thing.  And at the time it was THE thing.  But at some point the rest of the market was going to catch up with us, and we would need to evolve.  That time has come.

 

I used pop-culture to illustrate the point and show how trends evolve.  For example, when bubblegum pop music starts using hardcore street language (or gang signs), the street must change how it represents itself – it’s no longer dangerous. It pushes it further.  When the skinny suburban kid steals your language, urban kids don’t want it back.  Or, more contemporarily, when your mom comes home in skinny jeans, things must change.  This is the way culture evolves – change happens in the margins, mainstream absorbs and the margin pushes it further. 

 

Fringe – Margin – New Fringe – New Margin – New New Fringe – New New Margin…and so on.

 

And throughout this continuous cycle of cultural evolution, the entire system becomes more and more complex.  It’s not unlike energy efficiency. The first 40% of efficiency (perhaps sustainability in general) was the easiest.  But by now we have changed the light bulbs and weatherized the house.  The next 40% will get progressively more complex and challenging.  It will require new technologies, processes, innovations and ways to measure impact. 

 

Similarly, sustainability marketing  programs need to engage consumers in new ways.  They need to be measured in new ways.  They must push the dialog further.  The programs that companies design to embody LOHAS are growing in complexity out of necessity.  I think this is a good thing.  It is part of cultural evolution.  One of the projects that graduated our soaplabs was More Than Promote - a strategy that measures marketing by its corporate, civic and cultural impact. 

If we’re not innovative in how we fundamentally approach marketing, we end up looking like a modern version of Vanilla Ice sampling Vanilla Ice sampling Queen. 

 

By John "Ice Ice Baby" Rooks