Global Social Justice

Social Media as Social Currency: Selling Through Social Influencing

Saturday, February 8, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

Passion

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

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

Purpose

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

Give

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

Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plan

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

 

* Sources:

Nielsen: Global research study April 10, 2012

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

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

Top photo credit: marketingtango.com

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

LOHAS Asia Forum set to land in Hong Kong

Friday, January 10, 2014 by

With the success of the inaugural LOHAS Asia Forum in 2012, Hong Kong will be hosting this year’s conference on the 14th and 15th of February 2014 at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre, Wan Chai.

The’ two-day LOHAS Asia Forum will bring together world-class health and sustainability speakers, innovative discussions and unparalleled networking opportunities for both businesses and entrepreneurs within the growing sustainable consumer market in Asia.

“We are seeing a huge growth in the number of consumers across Asia who are demanding better products and better behaviour from companies,” said Cissy Bullock, CEO of LOHASIA and co-organiser of the event. “These people are actively seeking out brands that share similar values and the Forum will help provide insight for companies wanting to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The Growing LOHAS Movement …

The socially responsible consumer is on the rise in Asia, with more and more people seeking to incorporate LOHAS values (lifestyles of health and sustainability) into their daily lives. As the region continues to urbanise and develop at a rapid pace, consumers are demanding better from the brands they buy – better products, better practices, better materials – as they seek to find balance between a higher standard of living and a lesser level of impact on the planet.

The LOHAS Asia Forum 2014, to be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, will explore this increasingly important consumer demographic and provide insight into how LOHAS businesses can best position themselves to take advantage of this rapidly developing market opportunity.

Important Visionaries …

Featured speakers at the LOHAS Asia Forum this year include:

  • Paul Wouters, Regional Manager for Ecover, one of the world’s pioneering LOHAS brands, who will discuss how companies can expand whilst still retaining their core values.
  • Cissy Bullock, CEO of LOHASIA, helping socially responsible businesses grow and connect, will be discussing the LOHAS movement and where businesses will be heading in the near future.
  • Tara Hirebet, Asia Pacific Head for Trendwatching.com, a leading global trends, insight and innovation firm, will share her insights on the future direction of the responsible consumer movement.
  • Richard Brubaker, founder of Collective Responsibility, will explore how business models are evolving in response to sustainability.

Speakers from across the region will share how the LOHAS opportunity is developing in their market, and panels of successful LOHAS entrepreneurs will share their experiences and insights in operating within this dynamic sector.

Background …

LOHAS Asia is in direct partnership with the USA-based LOHAS.com, which has been successfully organising LOHAS Forums for the past 17 years. The LOHAS Asia Forum 2014 (Hong Kong) will coincide with the 3rd annual Hong Kong LOHAS Expo, the biggest LOHAS industry tradeshow in the region.

The LOHAS Asia Forum website contains more information about the event, including daily programmes, featured speakers, networking opportunities and an easy online registration process: www.lohasasiaforum.com 

Know What Chemicals Are Safe

Saturday, December 28, 2013 by

UNACCEPTABLE LEVELS examines the results of the chemical revolution of the 1940s through the eyes of affable filmmaker Ed Brown, a father seeking to understand the world in which he and his wife are raising their children. To create this debut documentary, one man and his camera traveled extensively to find and interview top minds in the fields of science, advocacy, and law.  Weaving their testimonies into a compelling narrative, Brown presents us with the story of how the chemical revolution brought us to where we are, and of where, if we’re not vigilant, it may take us.

Over 80,000 chemicals flow through our system of commerce, and many are going straight into our bodies. Even our unborn children are affected. Due to this constant exposure, we have approximately 200 synthetic industrial chemicals interacting with our cells every single day. Until recently, modern science really didn’t understand what that could mean for all of us in the long run, but that is changing.

Globally, disease rates are on the rise. Theories about the causes abound, yet the issues are complex and often muddied by the maneuvering of political and corporate interests. To explore different facets of common chemical exposure, Unacceptable Levels, was made in consultation with experts in multiple fields and is guided by a father on a personal journey as he attempts to bring these issues to light for everyone. Its primary goal? To determine whether we can prevent disease before it strikes us.

Unacceptable Levels opens the door to conversations about the chemical burden our bodies carry so that we can make informed decisions now and in the future.  The film poses challenges to our companies, our government, and our society to do something about a nearly-unseen threat with the inspired knowledge that small changes can generate a massive impact.

If you're interested in hosting a screening, please contact Susan Cann.

"Unacceptable Levels" is a no-nonsense documentary that will challenge everything you think you know about health, safety, and environmental protection."  - Beth Buczynski, ecosalon

Transforming the Financial System: Perspectives and Ideas

Monday, December 16, 2013 by

By Don Shaffer, RSF Social Finance

When you are looking for the new or emergent, you usually have to look off-the-grid. In many ways as RSF Social Finance has grown, we too have had to go off-the-grid to develop our unique approach to finance.

In 1984, a school burned down in New Hampshire. RSF organized a group of investors to rebuild it. Since then, we have made over $275 million in direct loans to social enterprises. Our track record has been excellent, with just 2 percent in cumulative loan losses over 29 years, and a 100 percent repayment rate to investors.

The key: bringing investors and borrowers closer together. We have found that if the individual investors who are providing capital and the social entrepreneurs who are borrowing capital can be more visible to each other – if they can understand each others’ needs and intentions, and sustain a personal connection whenever possible – then risk decreases and fulfillment increases.

Participants in a transaction become participants in a relationship. We believe this is nothing less than the antidote to modern finance, and can be applied on a substantial scale. It is the opposite of high frequency trading.

Specifically, four years ago RSF adopted a new approach to loan pricing for our $100 million flagship senior-debt fund. Each quarter, we convene representatives from our staff, our investors, and our borrowers to decide what annualized return rate investors will receive the following quarter, and what interest rate borrowers will pay – a radical form of transparency.

We call it community-based pricing. The response from participants has been overwhelmingly positive – and our interest rate, referred to as RSF Prime, has been very stable. We are now off-the-grid of the global financial interest rate system and no longer directly affected by the vagaries of Wall Street.

But of course the vast majority of all 401(k) programs, pension funds, and endowments are tethered to Wall Street, so it is naïve to believe we are fully off-the-grid.

This circumstance leads to questions many of us in the social finance field think about:

•  What is it going to take for the number of socially and environmentally-focused investors to grow substantially?

•  Can it happen fast enough for those of us who acknowledge the urgency of climate change and natural resource depletion?

•  Are there enough sound investment opportunities for investors who want to go off-the-grid?

•  How will we address the perennial issues of risk, return, and liquidity when there are so few established intermediaries in which to place funds?

•  What are the long-term implications for those of us who anticipate needing funds for retirement and who want to embrace off-the-grid investing?

A Generational Voice

I believe the very definition of wealth will change in my lifetime (I’m 44), where measures like GDP evolve to measures of well-being. These indicators will put spiritual, community, and ecological health at the center of the human experience and pull us toward an economy and supporting financial system that are direct, transparent, and personal, based on long-term relationships.

This article continues on Green Money Journal.

TEDxCopenhagenSalon Green Natives

Saturday, December 7, 2013 by

 

Copenhagen is heralded as being a pioneer in green city planning, and the Capital of Denmark’s goal is to be the world’s first CO2 neutral capital by 2025. Danes are touted as the happiest people on planet earth (Denmark Is Considered The Happiest Country. You'll Never Guess Why, Huffington Post), so is it indeed possible to live climate conscious lives and be happy? I invite you to come and explore this with me...

 

TEDxCOPENHAGENSALON CLIMATE AND SUSTAINABILITY GREEN NATIVES

Date           Dec 9, 2013

Time           2-6pm CET ( Find your Time Zone )

Place          UN City, Copenhagen & livestream

 

LIVESTREAM IN ENGLISH   TedxCopenhagen invites all to get a sneak peek at what the Sustainability and Climate conversation might look like in a TEDxCopenhagen setting this coming Monday.

https://new.livestream.com/tedx/tedxcopenhagensalongreennatives

 

GREEN NATIVES

In the Seventies, they told us to turn off the tap when brushing our teeth, and we began to fear that acid rain would destroynature. In the Eighties we followed the voyages of the original Rainbow Warrior, and learned that spray cans were eating the ozone layer like Pac-Man on speed. In the Nineties we bought pieces of the shrinking Amazon while a metallic forest of windmills arose. And ever since, we have been exposed to corporate shills and quislings, COPs, melting icebergs, rising oceans, and a gathering storm that is casting its shadow ever longer and blacker upon our tomorrow.

We are all Green Natives – people born and raised in a world aware of climate changes and our planet’s limited resources. But will we act on what we know?

Some of us have already begun.

Photo: eperales. Used by permission

TEDxCopenhagen have found an exceptional group of acting Green Natives – starting in their own backyards, these visionaries are creating a better world for all of us, spreading their ideas from their local communities to the global community.

Today, Green Natives are revolutionizing the ways we produce energy and food, and the ways we use natural and urban spaces. We call them green not only because they work for a greener future, but also because they are beginners, pioneers, and pathfinders – they are those who dare to think and act as others have not before them. Each and all of them have strong visions of a better world and a greener future, and a passion to share them with all of us— their fellow Green Natives.

Follow and participate in the dialogue via hashtag #tedxcph on TEDxCopenhagen Conferize profile

 

 

Time Out for Peace is a Great Sentiment

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 by

Can you imagine how advanced we would be as a species if everyone on the planet respected each other? Beliefs, life-styles, skin color, and more are always driving a wedge between neighbors to the point of conflicts. Countries are constantly in conflict because there is a lack of respect on a global scale. Resources are exhausted during these conflicts that could have been spent towards a remedy to the situation prior to violence. But that's not how we do things on this planet. Although a Time Out for Peace has potential, it has an uphill battle for a variety of reasons.

1. Personal Beliefs - The views of a single individual in power will always play a role in the outcome of politics. We see it every day when we turn on the news. The belief one person has doesn't conform to the masses. People will try very hard to force a specific life-style on others for they believe it's in the best interest of the whole. Whether it is from a political standpoint, religious zealots, or health concerns for the common man, there will always be underlying personal opinions that take over the reins of rational thought.

2. Inner Focus - Instead of worrying about what our neighbors are doing, why not focus effort on what we're doing? This isn't a stab at the United States government, but more of a judgment of most so-called super powers in general. Grant it, we don't want to be "nuked" by the other guy. But if everyone conformed to focusing inward for sociological improvement, there would be no need for worry anyway. In the U.S., people are freezing and starving in the streets while we invade countries on the other side of the globe under the pretense that we're "fighting for our freedoms." If freedom includes starving to death on the streets, then the mission has been accomplished. North Korea regularly threatens war on South Korea while the people of this country are turning to cannibalism in order to survive.

3. Corruption of Power - As the saying goes, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." Although we should focus more on the internal workings of our own respective countries, there should be a line as to how one attains power in others. Should we sit back and allow countrymen of other areas to eat each other in order to stave off starvation? If a leader is determined to ignore advice from others while mistreating his or her subjects, should we stand back and allow the carnage to continue? Although these questions seem more towards pro-war, it gives you something to think about. Are we humane to allow the citizens of another country to suffer if we can prevent it? If the leader is unwilling to improve the situation within his or her borders, then what else do we do other than let those people suffer? All leaders should be conscientious of those within the borders and do what needs to be done to create a livable situation. Ruling through terror and fear is not earning respect and admiration.

Instead of focusing on the negatives, we should be praising the positives. There is so much hate in the world, it may be next to impossible to benefit from the fruits of peace. All we can really do is change the things we have control over. If we set a positive example, others could follow which could eventually lead to an understanding. Understanding a culture goes a long way to understanding the people. And understanding each other could help us realize that we are humans on this planet and can benefit from the wisdom of each other.

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Reed is a freelance writer and a resident blogger at Liveinnanny.org. She particularly enjoys writing about parenting, childcare, health and wellness. In addition, she is an expert consultant on issues related to household management and kids.

Ethical Economist Hazel Henderson Interview

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Spa Industry Looks Well and Good

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 by

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

Going deeper

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

Evidence and Earth Based

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

Bathing popularity

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

Oil overflowing

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

Wellness Tourism on the Rise

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

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

 

Green Bonds Have an Impact

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 by

Green Mutual FundsHow Mutual Funds is helping change the climate of fixed income - By Madalyn Metzger, Everence Financial and Praxis Mutual Funds

The goal of most investors is to achieve a positive return – with success typically measured in annualized percentages. And while this is an important measure, a growing number of investors are looking for more. Specifically, they’re looking for ways their investments can make a difference, and improve the quality of life in their communities and around the world.

That’s where green bonds come in. First introduced by the World Bank in 2008, green bonds (also known as qualified green building and sustainable design project bonds) are designed to help investors make a positive impact on environmental projects through their investment portfolios.

The market for green bonds has picked up steam over the years. Since their introduction, the World Bank has issued approximately $3.5 billion in green bonds. And while they’re somewhat new to the scene, green bonds make complete sense to Praxis Mutual Funds, a faith- and values-based fund family advised by Everence Capital Management.

Praxis approaches its investment strategy through stewardship investing, a philosophy of financial decision making that balances social and financial considerations and is motivated and informed by the fund family’s faith convictions. This focus is driven by the company’s core values, which include the need to respect the dignity and value of all people, demonstrate a concern for justice in a global society and work toward environmental sustainability.

“At Praxis, we want to do our part to transform our world,” said David C. Gautsche, President of Praxis Mutual Funds. “Our investment philosophy consists of company selection, shareholder advocacy and community development investment. Our core values embrace a wide range of environmental, social and governance concerns, as well as traditional, prudent financial considerations.”

Praxis applies this strategy to all of its five mutual funds – but it is especially notable in the Praxis Intermediate Income portfolio, which includes more than 10 percent of green bonds and other high social impact bonds. In addition, the Praxis Genesis Portfolios (three diversified funds-of-funds celebrating their third anniversary this year) include the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund in their portfolio mix.

Making a High Social Impact Through Bonds

When it comes to stocks, it’s easy for investors to see how they can have a positive social impact by including progressive companies in their portfolios and/or utilizing shareholder advocacy to help goad companies to better social and environmental performance.

Fixed-income investors, on the other hand, can’t make a positive impact in the same way, because they don’t have company ownership. And because many of those same progressive companies are young and small, they likely aren’t borrowing from the public investment grade bond market yet. However, bondholders can help organizations and companies bring down the cost of borrowing at the margin – effectively making an impact in places where a stock portfolio couldn’t. Also, some of these organizations don’t have public stock, and companies borrow for specific energy projects that would not issue equity in the public market.

To continue reading this article visit Green Money Journal

Developing a Lexicon for Ocean Preservation

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

Inter-Generational-Chocolate

Monday, September 2, 2013 by

The world population is going to be 9 billion people by 2050 and in my experience, at least 99.9% of them will love chocolate. The buying mobility of ‘middle-classes’ now mean more people know about and want chocolate. NOW. When you consider a product that has been commoditised down to the gram, and that it is a diminishing resource, and most people LOVE it and eat it a lot, it seems impossible to work out the math of how to think about a sustainable future. That, in my opinion, is abstract mathematics.

‘ Abstraction in mathematics is the process of extracting the underlying essence of a mathematical concept, removing any dependence on real world objects with which it might originally have been connected, and generalizing it so that it has wider applications or matching among other abstract descriptions of equivalent phenomena.’ Wikipedia 2013.

It makes me think of this:

 

 

Chocolate is running out. And we might not have choco-treats for our grandkids.

The industrialisation process took more than it gave back in the last 100 years of chocolate.  There is no way that the ever-increasing appetite for chocolate and the ability for plantations 20 degrees north and south of the equator can meet every chocoholic’s needs.  We have more people in the world, and everyone seems to love chocolate.  We yield less cacao every crop naturally. More chocoholics, less cacao.  What’s gonna give?

 

The background:

Deforestation is pumping out carbon from Brazil to Columbia and with our little cacao pods growing north-west of South America in Ecuador, the great forests who protected our favourite treat are no longer able to grow like they used to. We’ve noticed this. We’ve noticed this on our 100 year-old rubber plantations in Papua New Guinea that our family worked on for two generations, and now we notice it in Ecuador in cacao farms that are producing 30% less cacao than they did five years ago when we first investigated the area.

It is an overwhelming topic to ponder. How to save chocolate? And even more funky to ask, what is killing chocolate exactly. Because if we know what is REALLY making the big difference, then theoretically, we could stop it. Later in this series, we will discuss this more in depth. For now, come for a walk on the wild side with me:

The world population is going to be 9 billion people by 2050 and in my experience, at least 99.9% of them will love chocolate.

The need for more chocolate drives environmental damage even further – mono-crop farming and genetic modifications are the two biggest predators in a formally peaceful forest.  Can you imagine increasing population (and subsequent chocoholics) while reducing supply (cacao trees are dying). That’s just the cacao trees.

What about the other things you find stuffed into modern chocolate – sugar, milk and other animal fats (go on, check the ingredients list on the backside of your nearest chocolate). Remember the details of what you read on the packet guidelines of your favourite chocolate? This is where it starts to become relevant.

And we start hearing this green-washed word a lot. Sustainability.

 

Inter-GENERATION-al Equality

Sustainability is not an adjective, it’s a verb.

It is about equity. It is a very unemotional and clear concept. It means that the decisions I make today, with my cacao farming standards, our impact will not influence the opportunities that my children, or our farmer families’ children will have. It is called intergenerational equity, where we can meet our needs without damaging future generations. And this equity is measured via social, environmental, health and economic means.

It’s not a new idea, and it’s not my idea. Wikipedia well explains:

‘Intergenerational equity in economic, psychological, and sociological contexts, is the concept or idea of fairness or justice in relationships between children, youth, adults and seniors, particularly in terms of treatment and interactions. It has been studied in environmental and sociological settings.’ 2013.

Now comes the big question. If I told you that chocolate is running out where we are lucky to harvest out cacao because the temperatures are increasing, there is more unstable earth activity, there is more rain – would you consider your grocery list sustainable?

 

How did we get into this mess anyways?

Chocolate is running out.

And we might not have choco-treats for our grandkids.

Chocolate came from the wild. Google the word theobroma cacao and you can quickly inform yourself about the tree. It has a rich understory and complex series of insects and birds who give it life and make it sing.

It grows wild and chaotic in a forest with a rich understory and complex series of insects and birds who give it life and make it sing. Wild living, be it plucking cacao fruits from the tree through foraging or hunting for our meat was a normal way of living. But then, we got lazy and our ‘food’ became domesticated. Became hybridised and cacao, is one of the most manipulated species in the world. Cheap chocolate called an end to wild cacao. Pests, domestication, disease and the constant push to feed hungry chocoholics stopped the foraging for food. Then we added ‘things’ to our chocolate, it was no longer about finding a healthy theobroma cacao tree and plucking a few pods, but growing vast fields of cane for sugar and diary cows for milk to dumb down the essential aromas and flavours of natural cacao paste. In the end, the simple elements of cacao became a mess of carbohydrates, fats, and protein with extras being added all over the place in the name of faster, cheaper and sweeter.

How and where chocolate as an industry came from, and what that means to the bigger picture of food is the most important question to ask.

Domestication is a process (which is not necessarily new) and was the first modification that our ancestors made to natural balance.

 

Domestication: Which apple was chosen from the tree impacted the species propagation through natural selection, with us being the Darwinian predator.

How our food and chocolate sources can be better selected from natural wild species to re-expand the base of what we can eat and enjoy. And this is what we need to keep an eye out for.

By understanding the process of domestication we can learn the importance of maintaining genetic diversity, even within a certain set of  plant (and animal) species that currently dominate our global food system; like chocolate with cacao, cane and diary products. What the early 1500s of cacao development in South America can absolutely teach us is, the genetic diversity found in the many varieties of is the key to un-tapping opportunities to overcome disease, pests, and possibly even weather conditions like flood and drought.

‘Domestication (from Latin domesticus) is the process whereby a population of living organisms is changed at the genetic level, through generations of selective breeding, to accentuate traits that ultimately benefit humans.’ Description of domestication from Wikipedia.

Have a think about the role biodiversity plays in food system sustainability and chocolate futures. A great example of diverse farming is from Pye-Smith in his article ‘Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication’ – see the pdf here.

 Diamond, J. (2002) Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication. Nature 418: 700-707. If you want to know about the process and history of domestication, a good article by Jared Diamond looks at species domestication as calls it "the most important development in the past 13,000 years of human history."

http://bit.ly/domesticationbook

After reading this article, what do you think about what role biodiversity plays in food system sustainability and chocolate futures?

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Chocolate Nations

Thursday, August 29, 2013 by

Chocolate NationsOrla Ryan is a well-travelled financial and investigative journalist who lived in Africa for four years (Uganda and Ghana). Currently writing for the Financial Times in London, during the time of this book she was commissioned to Reuters and this project came out of a special grant for investigative reporting.  During her time in Ghana, she was specifically focused on the cacao industry.

The fundament of her book is about exposing the realities of the daily work program and calling on better education and a less corrupt government, and she really writes this for conscious consumers. The book is a good eye opener for those who love chocolate and want to inform themselves more about the complexity of the environment of cacao farming in West Africa. Given that there are almost two million small producers in West Africa, who farm and produce about two thirds of the total world cacao crop these are highly significant stories to tell. Not just from the economics, but the human aspect.

For perspective fifty percent of the world's cacao beans come from Ghana, the world's second-biggest producer, and its neighbour Ivory Coast, the world's biggest.

You want to read her work because she’s not emotional, but rather factual about the description. Giving a fair say to everyone involved. You might find it difficult to read as it looks at the causes of farmer poverty, and you’ll see an almost helpless role within the context of global commodity trading and the simple farmer’s daily battle to just live from his crops. Economic and geopolitical analysis with the human touch, it gives you a clear view of what is going on with the majority of chocolate.

It is a quick read, eight chapters in 160 pages. Weekend reading, where you will probably clean your cupboards out thereafter and look up more about sustainability reporting in chocolate.

You’ll read that for every £1 chocolate bar, just 7p is spent on cocoa ingredients, while 43p goes to the manufacturer. You’ll look for justice. And hopefully, start within yourself. What gifts you give, what snacks you enjoy, and just start looking at the back of pack a little more.

Typical cacao farmers receive just 4 per cent of the final price of an average bar of milk chocolate in Europe.

Ryan’s book gives you a background on Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire cacao farming histories, and then highlight where and how child labour is used on cocoa farms (specifically child and slave labour). Stories of government and cacao board corruption, the role of international traders who come to town to try and help. She shows how unfair Fair Trade is and that in current economics, there is dwindling futures for chocolate, by simply no-one wanting to go into the business anymore.

  ‘Orla's Chocolate Nations is a captivating read, painting a lively picture of the West African cocoa trade from a variety of perspectives. It casts a critical eye over the role played by governments and multinationals, while also putting fair trade and child slavery campaigns in perspective. It gives us all a good deal more to think about when we eat 'the food of the gods'." - Daniel Balint Kurti at Global Witness

"A courageous and thoughtful account of a murky industry." - Times Literary Supplement

"Chocolate Nations is a fascinating account of the struggles of cocoa producers in West Africa, almost all of them smallholders, and what it takes to turn a crop of cocoa into a warehouse full of Ferrero Rocher." - Jeremy Harding, The Guardian

"Paints a disturbing and subtle picture of an industry few chocolate consumers think about." - Sydney Morning Herald

Read an excerpt from the book: http://bit.ly/ChocNations

Buy the book here in Amazon

Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa (African Arguments) [Paperback]

 http://bit.ly/BuyChocNations

 

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Pink Bank Accounts

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 by

rural bank for womenA pink bank account could be a tipping factor in reducing gender equality in developing countries. It is also one of the most fascinating potentially-emerging trends for women’s rights that I’ve seen in a long time.

The whole topic started with my resistance to go to Western Union and transfer cash to some ladies who were helping me on a research project in Ecuador (where our cacao is farmed and ground). As a third generation social entrepreneur, you don’t need to tell me how questionable ‘holding accounts’ are, regardless of the institution, and I have experienced first-hand the exploitation of my gender in developing countries, so the chances that my dear helpers can even access 100% of the cash I send is unlikely, without a bribe, a note, a kiss, a whatever.

A bank account is difficult to set up sometimes, especially if you’re from a rural area, inconsistent with finances and don’t have a clear local ‘backer’. I watched many times, the large lines in Guayaquil of agri-financing at a local government institution and the ‘uncles’ that would accompany some of the ladies who came in from the mountains to pick up their cash, only able to get the cash if someone ‘credible’ came with them.

I recently read a paper that made my heart click. And I thought, albeit it totally cliché, of pink bank cards. E-Cash payments can actually help bring girls out of poverty, and back-influence core gender inequality topics of schooling, disease prevention and reproductive health programs. The idea, is to target adolescent girls (because they are in the time / place to best learn and use new ways going forward).

The terms is called ‘financially-inclusive e-payments’, and it is a double-header, meaning to improve an adolescent girls’ access to financial services and to teach her about asset-building opportunities.

Adolescence is the time of exploration and learning, the prime opportunity to not only help a girl get work but know how to access her cash and what to do with it. I realise that the problem of over overall poverty, and even equal access to working opportunities is already highly unbalanced.

The UN has a massive program targeting this,  The United Nations Millennium Development Goal 3, to “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women,” as well as Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation etc.

My personal approach in social entrepreneurship is to contribute small, do-able, meaningful actions that are closely related to something I can understand. It is not my skill-set, nor ability to affect HIV, but this idea of helping girls understand the fundaments of finance, is a very small but meaningful idea we could get behind.

Girl-centered asset-building strategies is what it’s called.

Over the past decades, we have seen e-payments for savings but there is still the big gap for specific invest, grow and leverage elements. Micro-credit has been a huge contribution in this area, but there is another level that can be achieved.

Overall, the idea is that it could provide adolescent girls with access to formal financial systems, help them get their formal identity and rights, help funds that support major girl-focused programs to achieve a better return on investment (and see where their schemes go), and of course, let’s not forget the banks, it helps them expand their customer base. I know, the last one sounds totally banal, but if there is one thing I have learned about ‘sustainability’, it is that every idea and program must be, end-to-end, a win-win for everyone in the chain. If that means a bank. Then so well be it. Another benefit is that social protection payments can go directly where it needs to be, and not filtered through a third (or seventh) party. This means that actions of great needs, like education and health can actually produce better results as the cash will be used with skill, and also directly sent where it is needed.

What about the other things you find stuffed into modern chocolate – sugar, milk and other animal fats (go on, check the ingredients list on the backside of your nearest chocolate). Remember the details of what you read on the packet guidelines of your favourite chocolate? This is where it starts to become relevant.

The multiplier effect is the core of any effect, from tipping point to purple cow.

The ideas range from in-school banking (via e-payments) to using the information of the bank account to target adolescent girls to be and feel independent, show to savings habits can be developed and what personal and community investment can mean. In over a dozen countries across the world, more than 50 percent of girls—and in some nations as much as 87 percent—do not complete primary school.

Globally, approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school at all. In Ecuador, thankfully that rate is higher, so we DO have a chance to access them in a systemised way.

Adolescent girls are the most vulnerable population on the planet. Between the ages of 10-19, there are over 580 million girls. At least 90 million of these beloveds are in low-income countries where the income is less than USD 1,005 per year per person.

They can either join the economy, or go to the kitchen or the fields.

Over 100 million girls aged 5-17 are involved in child labor, with the most of them doing dangerous work. Studies show they also do a lot of ‘informal work’ where girls are particularly isolated and vulnerable. The sooner they can be counted, and use methods to ensure that the benefits they work for come directly to them, the better they can influence other major topics such as health improvement.

Teenage girls are not only the answer to social improvement, but the World Bank has a study indicating that they are also the key to economic growth and stability. My family are all social entrepreneurs, and hardly did charity.

The difference, between charity and helping someone help themselves, in my mother’s words is dignity; in the end, it is empowerment. 

Adolescent girls are apparently the biggest contributing factor that can influence intergenerational poverty than programs targeting children generally. 

“Measuring the Economic Effects of Investing in Girls: The Girl Effect Dividend,” the World Bank’s Jad Chaaban and Wendy Cunningham wrote that if young women in Brazil were employed at the same levels as men, the annual national GDP would rise USD 23 billion. In lifetime income by that logic, they calculate that India would add almost USD 400 billion to its GDP.

Big steps, big goals, but something that is a little smaller and helped by technology could be e-payments targeting teenagers.

Making pink bank accounts and teaching fun finance school.. I am going to try this. Usually when I travel, I hold events about nutrition, and often reach out to areas of a society who are not well informed about processed food vs fresh food. I am often in areas of not desperate poverty, but where industrialisation spread it’s toxicity and supplies cheap candy and processed foods, and I teach about making chocolate fun and healthy. There is a chance in this, to slip in a few finance lessons.  That is a very do-able idea. Which can start now.  And will. On my next event.

For perspective, I looked around for some models, and in the developed world found that the Girl Scouts movement has a program for girl-focused finance development. Check it out here: http://bit.ly/girlscoutaccount

The barriers that exist for AGYW to access cash (what the academics call adolescent girls and young women) range from regulatory to physical, to cultural:

 

The Adolescent Girls Initiative at the World Bank

Launched on October 10, 2008, as part of the World Bank Group’s Gender Action Plan, the Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) aims to help adolescent girls and young women make a successful transition from school to work.

The program is being piloted in 8 low-income countries–including some of the toughest environments for girls. Each program is tailored to the country context, with a common goal of discovering what works best in programming to help adolescent girls and young women succeed in the labor market. Each pilot includes a rigorous impact evaluation. With new knowledge of what works, successful approaches can be replicated and brought to scale. http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/gender

 

 

What's On For Serious Global Foodies In The Next Weeks?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 by

food festivalThese are the key foodie events that conscious consumers should keep an eye out for in August/September. You'll find the range of aroma and flavour experiences from local and regional foods, as well as a focus on seasonal cooking, within the field of healthy lifestyles and full-flavour living. See you there my dear LOHAS blog readers!

August 10, 2013  Cardigan River and Food Festival - Cardigan, Ceredigion, Wales

August 17, 2013  Franschhoek Winter Wines 2013 - Franschhoek, South Africa

August 19-23, 2013 International Conference - Ecological Organic Agriculture Yaounde, Cameroon

  • Encourage Agriculture/Livestock
  • Encourage Income Generating Activities
  • LCDEC Mobilising Savings and Delivering Micro-Credit
  • Local Development Planning
  • Encourage Gender Equality
  •  Women Training and Empowerment Project (WTEP)
  • Encourage Adult literacy
  • Working With Communities In HIV/AIDS Prevention And Care
  • Encourage Skills Development
  • Encourage Institution Building

August 23-26, 2013  Real Street Food Quarterly Festival - London, England

The Real Food Festival is also about creating a level playing field upon which even the smallest producers can offer their fabulous, lovingly nurtured food and drink to a huge number of potential customers. What drives them to do this is the desire to show everyone the importance and enjoyment of eating food that has been produced cleanly and sustainably, where the producer gets a fair price for their goods.

August 29-30, 2013  Whisky Live - Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

September 2-4, 2013  Food and Hospitality Oman - Muscat, Oman



September 5-7, 2013  Chocolate Salon - Mexico City, Mexico



September 5-7, 2013  Expo Café - Mexico City, Mexico


September 6-8, 2013  Niagara Food Festival 2013 - Welland, Ontario, Canada

September 7-8, 2013  Franschhoek Uncorked 2013 - Franschhoek, South Africa

September 8-10, 2013  Specialty Chocolate Fair - London, England: Hosted by award winning Patisserie Will Torrent and featuring demonstrations showcasing the latest techniques and trends from the Academy of Chocolate, Damian Wawrzyniak, Valrhona, Alistair Birt, Cocoa Bond. (industry only, good for food writers!)

September 9-12, 2013  Fine Food Australia - Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 (industry event only & great if you’re a food writer.)

September 11-14, 2013  26th Paisley Beer Festival - Paisley, England



September 12-15, 2013  Mondial de la Biere - Mulhouse, France

GMOs in the News: Washington State Labeling Campaign in Full Swing

Sunday, June 16, 2013 by

The debate over genetically engineered foods continues to heat up in the U.S. Here's a summary of recent headlines. For those attending the 2013 LOHAS Business Conference, a seminar on GMOs and Labeling will be held on Thursday, June 20 featuring Ken Cook of Environmental Working Group, Robyn O'Brien of Allergy Kids, T.J. McIntyre of Boulder Brands, Lennon Bronsema of Yes on 522, and Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural Marketing.

Washington State Yes on 522 Launches GMO Labeling Campaign into Full Gear
With a new website, www.yeson522.com, the recent hiring of professional campaign management staff, and $1.1 million in contributions received, the Yes on 522 campaign to label GMO foods in Washington State is swinging into full gear and is appealing to natural and organic products business leaders to help fund what many experts say is the best opportunity to achieve mandatory GMO labeling in 2013. At a recent press conference, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), co-sponsor of the Boxer-DeFazio federal GMO labeling bill, said it is critically important to support the Washington State initiative to give greater weight to the Washington, DC, federal GMO labeling efforts, given biotech’s strong lobbying presence in the nation’s capitol. In a letter to donors, Yes on 522 finance chair David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s reported that the campaign has launched an ambitious grassroots outreach program called “Kitchen Conversations,” in which advocates can receive a kit containing information to host informal gatherings among voters, and is rolling out a “Dining Out for 522” chef’s fundraising campaign. The campaign scheduled its first stakeholder meeting for May 31 in Seattle. Presence Marketing/Dynamic Presence is among the leading supporters of the Yes on 522 GMO labeling bill. Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural Marketing is helping lead fundraising efforts and outreach to natural and organic products industry leaders. For information and to contribute, visit www.yeson522.com.

Whole Foods Market Endorses Washington State’s Yes on 522 GMO Labeling Bill
Joining a coalition of leading Washington State-based retailers including PCC Natural Markets and Marlene’s Natural Foods Market and Delis, among others, Whole Foods Market on April 25 announced its support for the Yes on 522 (www.yeson522.com) campaign to label genetically engineered, or GMO, foods. In support of Yes on 522, Whole Foods Market launched a grassroots effort, Will Vote for Food (www.willvoteforfood.com) to engage consumers and build support for the ballot initiative. “This issue is about transparency and the consumer’s right to make informed decisions,” said Joe Rogoff, president of Whole Foods Market’s Pacific Northwest region. “We believe that growers using genetically modified seed, and producers using the products grown from those seeds, have an obligation to share that information with their public. And the price paid by the food industry for relabeling is a pittance compared to the distrust that increasingly results from their concealment. We support Yes on 522. At Whole Foods Market, we will vote for food.”

New Leaf Markets Require GMO Labeling; Terra Organica Labeling GMO Products In-Store
Following in the footsteps of Whole Foods Market, Santa Cruz, CA-based natural retailer New Leaf Community Markets announced it would require labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients in its seven stores by 2018. New Leaf was an early retail member of the Non-GMO Project and a strong supporter of California’s Prop 37 2012 GMO labeling measure, which was defeated by a narrow margin. New Leaf co-owner Scott Roseman commended Whole Foods for taking the lead on the labeling issue and said the five-year deadline gives manufacturers time to update packaging or research alternative ingredients. In related news, Stephen Trinkaus, owner of Terra Organica in Bellingham, WA, asked his customers what they wanted in terms of GMO labeling. The choices were: do nothing, label products that contain GMO ingredients, or get rid of the items altogether. Customers overwhelmingly chose labels, so Trinkaus began labeling products in the store that are likely to contain GMO ingredients. “I thought it would be simpler than it is,” Trinkaus told the Seattle Times. He wants customers to know if a manufacturer is working to replace GMO ingredients with non-GMO alternatives – many are after Whole Foods Market’s announcement to require GMO labeling in 2018, he said – and is revamping labels in his store to display more complex information.

Vermont, Maine Advance GMO Labeling Legislation
On May 14, despite concerns over lawsuit threats from the biotech industry, Maine’s House Agriculture Committee passed a GMO labeling measure on an 8-3 vote. The bill, LD 718, offered by Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington) wouldn’t go into full effect until 2018, and only after four of the nine northeastern states approve similar laws. However, they may be one step closer to realizing that goal: on May 10, the Vermont House passed a mandatory GMO labeling bill by an overwhelming 107-37 vote, again, despite massive lobbying efforts by the GMO biotech industry and threats to sue the state. If approved by the state Senate and signed by the governor, the bill, H 112, could make Vermont the first state in the nation to require labeling of genetically modified foods. But the measure likely wouldn’t go into effect for two years, and it would not affect meat, milk or eggs from animals that were fed or treated with genetically engineered substances, including GMO corn and the rBGH cattle hormone. While GMO labeling is not required in the U.S., according to the Center for Food Safety, 64 countries, including China, Russia and all EU nations currently have GMO labeling laws in place.

Monsanto CEO Blames Social Media for “Elitist” Anti-GMO Sentiments
Citizens who are against genetically modified foods or are calling for mandatory labeling of GMO foods are guilty of “elitism” that is fanned by social media, and they fail to consider the needs of the rest of the world, said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant in a May 15 interview with Bloomberg Press. “This place is getting busier and more crowded,” Grant said. “As long as you’ve got money in your back pocket and you drive your station wagon to the supermarket on weekends, then it’s out of sight, out of mind, so far.” The advent of social media helps explain why many people in the U.S. have come to oppose genetically engineered crops in recent years, Grant told Bloomberg. Grant feels that GMOs are the answer to feeding the world’s growing population, while opponents point to increased use of toxic synthetic pesticides associated with GMO agriculture, the fact the farmers can no longer save seed if they are practicing GMO farming, the potential contribution of GMO farming to global climate change, and peer-reviewed studies that warn of risks to human, animal and environmental health. In related news, executives from Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Chemical – among the world’s largest producers of GMO crops and pesticides, and owners of a significant majority of the world’s seed companies – told Reuters that they are developing a national promotional campaign aimed at turning the tide on growing public sentiment against GMO crops. With GMO labeling measures before the federal government and more than 20 states, the biotech firms seek to limit the spread of such initiatives, which the companies say would only confuse consumers and upset the food manufacturing industry, according to Reuters. The biotech industry is still working out details of their marketing campaign, but it will likely have a large social media component, the company executives said.

Supreme Court Rules for Monsanto in Seed Case
Rejecting an Indiana farmer’s argument that his planting of seeds he had bought second-hand did not violate Monsanto’s GMO seed patent, the U.S. Supreme Court on May 12 ruled unanimously that farmers must pay Monsanto each time they plant the company’s genetically engineered soybeans. Farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman asserted that because the company’s herbicide-resistant, Roundup Ready soybeans replicate themselves, he was not violating the company’s patent by planting progeny seeds he had purchased elsewhere. However, the justices unanimously rejected that claim, with Justice Elena Kagan writing there is no such “seeds-are-special” exception to the law. But Kagan warned that the Monsanto decision was a limited one and did not address every issue involving a self-replicating product. The court ordered Bowman, a conventional farmer, to pay nearly $85,000 in damages to Monsanto. The Supreme Court’s decision implies that Monsanto has the legal right to stop farmers from saving seeds from patented genetically modified crops one season, and plant them the next season.

More than 2 Million People Rally in 52 Countries to Protest GMO Giant Monsanto
From a single Facebook page started in February, the March Against Monsanto held on May 25 drew more than 2 million people in 52 countries and 436 cities to protest chemical giant Monsanto and the genetically engineered seeds it produces. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” protest organizer Tami Canal told USA Today. “It was empowering and inspiring to see so many people, from different walks of life, put aside their differences and come together,” she said. The group plans to harness the success of the event to continue its anti-GMO cause. “We will continue until Monsanto complies with consumer demand. They are poisoning our children, poisoning our planet,” she said. “If we don’t act, who’s going to?” Protests were held in Los Angeles, Portland, OR, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and elsewhere around the globe. “As a single company, Monsanto is the tip of the iceberg representing the threat that unchecked corporate power has in corrupting our democratic institutions, driving family farmers off the land, threatening human health and contaminating our environment,” said Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now, in a May 28 commentary in the Huffington Post.

After Being Rejected by Consumers, Will GMO Spuds Make a Comeback?
While the FDA weighs approval of GMO salmon, a dozen years after Monsanto ditched its GMO potato after disappointing sales, an Idaho company, J.R. Simplot, asked FDA in mid-May to approve five varieties of GMO potatoes. The varieties have been genetically engineered to avoid black spots and designed to have less acrylamide, a naturally occurring but potentially toxic chemical. Simplot, according to MSN News, sells potatoes to McDonald’s for its French fries, and McDonald’s rejects potatoes with black spots. The FDA is also reviewing the “Arctic” apple, genetically engineered by Canada-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits to resist turning brown when cut. While Simplot said 20 field trials demonstrate that GMO potatoes are virtually identical to their unmodified cousins, Bill Freese, senior policy analyst with Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety, said that genetic engineering is a “noisy, unpredictable process,” where the best-intentioned genome tinkering could be accompanied by unforeseen effects on human health and the environment. “The biotech approach is to change the food on a genetic level in quite frankly risky ways with inadequate regulation to adapt a crop to an industrial food system that’s really unhealthy in so many ways,” he said.

Roundup Pesticide, Used in GMO Agriculture, Linked to Increase in Autism, Diabetes, Cancer
In a study published April 10, 2013, in the scientific publication Entropy, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology linked the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, the most widely used herbicide in the world and the one most closely associated with genetically engineered agriculture, to increases in the incidence of diabetes, autism, infertility and cancer in humans. Through the inhibition of a crucial enzyme, Cytochrome P450, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body, report the researchers, leading to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases, Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, Entropy 2013, Vol. 15, April 10, 2013. For a complete executive summary of peer-reviewed research demonstrating the human, animal and environmental health risks associated with GMOs in food and agriculture, click here.

 

Is Fair Trade Part of the LOHAS Movement?

Monday, June 10, 2013 by

fair tradeLOHAS shoppers powerfully and naturally embrace the values of health and sustainability. But those life-affirming values are the only ones that inspire them. They also care deeply about social justice, the defining ideal of the expanding Fair Trade movement.

Fair Trade (FT) challenges one of the most basic assumptions of free enterprise--that buyers will always seek the lowest, or “free trade” price. “No, thanks,” reply FT advocates. “We choose instead to pay a ‘fair’ price so that producers receive a living wage.”

FT shoppers refuse to support a system where farmers with no bargaining power cannot negotiate the prices they need to survive and to invest in their businesses or communities. Fair Trader might also consider that farmers faced with such an untenable system may turn to growing drug crops for needed revenue, thus destabilizing communities from the poppy fields in Asia to cities all across the Americas to the streets of Amsterdam.

“The roots of Fair Trade are in coffee, but the model can be applied to many more categories, and in recent years the list of certified products has expanded dramatically,” says Paul Rice, President and CEO of Fair Trade USA, one of the world’s two largest certifiers of FT products. “Fair Trade empowers consumers to make a difference. With every cup of coffee, every bar of chocolate and every banana, we can actually lift people out of poverty and help preserve the land.”

Carolyn Long of Chevy Chase, Maryland, starts her day with a ritual of mindful reflection, global responsibility, and the aromatic scent of FT-sourced Ethiopian light-roast coffee. “It means a lot to know my choice is making a difference in the lives of farmers,” says Carolyn, who also enjoys Chocolove organic FT chocolate bars.

Carolyn would buy more FT products if she knew where to find them. A recent survey revealed that 62 percent of consumers feel the same way. Today, Fair Trade USA’s “Fair Trade Finder” mobile applications for iPhone and Android deliver a national directory of FT-certified products. Fair Trade fans can tag their favorite products and share their locations with others.

Today millions of FT fans promote the self-sufficiency of 1.2 million farmers and workers in 70 countries throughout Asia, Latin America, Oceania, the Caribbean, and Africa. Fair Trade shoppers have translated the value of social justice into a $4.5 billion global movement. In 2012, Fair Trade USA estimated total US Fair Trade sales alone at $1.2 billion.  

The efforts of FT shoppers are transforming the marketplace. More than 60,000 U.S. locations sell some 10,000 FT products, such as tea, sugar, fruit, chocolate, and soccer balls. And new FT products regularly appear on the shelves. Today, South Africa exports FT wine and the Palestinian West Bank exports FT olive oil. You can find FT vodka and FT-mined gold.

Look for the FT label whenever you shop:

• Buy FT bananas, rice, and body care at Whole Foods.
• Find FT flowers at the local Giant supermarket.
• Pick up Ben & Jerry’s diverse array of FT ice-cream flavors anywhere.

• Dagoba chocolate, made with FT-certified cacao, is widely available.

• Get your Kirkland Signature FT coffee at Costco.
• Buy FT wine at Sam’s Club, Target, or Whole Foods.

• You’ll also find FT products at Wal-Mart, Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s, and Kroger.

 

The FT Java Trade  

The most ubiquitous FT product, however, is coffee. Fair Trade USA certifies more than 100 million pounds of FT coffee each year. More than half of FT coffee is also organic. At least 30 percent of the beans purchased by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters are FT-certified. Starbucks began buying FT coffee in 2000 and played a critical role in building the U.S. FT coffee market.  Dunkin’ Donuts was the first national brand to sell espresso drinks made exclusively of FT beans. Peet’s Coffee, Allegro, Sumptown Coffee, Sustainable Harvest, and Crop to Cup are respected for their high standards and direct relationships with coffee growers. “The choices we make at the supermarket and café impact millions of people around the world,” says Dean Cycon, founder of Dean’s Beans, which sells 500,000 pounds of FT organic coffee each year.

 

FT Handicrafts

“Social change consumers” spend $45 billion a year, says eBay’s Robert Chatwani, who helped build the website of Good World Solutions (GWS), which works with 30,000 artisans globally. GWS’s web-based Fair Wage Guide, consulted by 900 companies in 81 countries, calculates the wages craftspeople need to support themselves and their communities. “Our technology gives workers a voice,” says GWS director Heather Franzese.

Ten Thousand Villages supports tens of thousands of artisans; its 256 stores sell “eclectic village wares” from more than 30 countries. Every FT purchase is a values statement. Fair Trade handicrafts remind us that each object is filled with the craftsperson’s soul and character.

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As Buckminster Fuller, the great American engineer, inventor, and futurist, said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality . . . [instead] build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” That’s exactly what the Fair Trade movement—from farmers and certifiers to consumers—is well along the way toward achieving.

 

Patricia Aburdene is one of the world’s leading social forecasters and an internationally-renown speaker. She co-authored the New York Times number one bestseller Megatrends 2000. Her book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism (Link for Megatrends 2010: http://www.amazon.com/Megatrends-2010-Rise-Conscious-Capitalism/dp/1571745394/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353425143&sr=1-2 ), launched a business revolution. Patricia’s new book, Conscious Money: Living, Creating, and Investing with Your Values for A Sustainable New Prosperity, was a finalist in the Green category for the “Books for a Better Life Award.” Read Chapter one of Conscious Money at http://www.beyondword.com/consciousmoney/index.html Patricia was named one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Behavior” and serves as an Ambassador of the Conscious Capitalist Institute. Patricia’s journalism career began at Forbes magazine and she was a public policy follow at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA. Her website is www.patriciaaburdene.com<http://www.patriciaaburdene.com>.

Beyond Our Own Lifetime

Monday, June 3, 2013 by

Posted by Brent Giles on May 14, 2013 for Powdr Corp's "Carbon Copy" Blog

I believe we can visualize beyond our own lifetime.

My rant on this post is caused by “Americans Global Warming Beliefs in April 2013”

I’m surprised that individual and local weather events are still the basis for some to argue against climate change.  When I look at extreme weather events worldwide combined with empirical temperature records I have to believe something is going on.  Extreme weather events such as in 2011  and in 2012!  Are you excited to see what 2013 brings?

What will it take to convince us?  Global temperatures have increased.  The latest “Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States” isn’t good news either.  Shouldn’t we, at the very least, consider this is a possibility and do something?

Most people have a goal or vision for their future.  Does that vision go beyond their lifetime or the lifetime of their immediate family, really?  Probably not, truth be told.

Many of us are too short sighted and selfish.  We choose to believe things that fit nicely in our comfort zone and individual boxes.  We expect immediate gratification and results, if I do this today then I’ll see thistomorrow.

In 1712 Thomas Newcomen built the first commercially successful steam engine which was the first significant power source other than wind and water.  The industrial revolution began 300 years ago and so did increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, environmental damage and many other pollutants.  These are now some of the rotten fruits of our success.  It has taken 300 years to get where we are today.  What makes me think I can recycle this plastic bottle today and see results tomorrow?

I spend a lot of time wondering how to connect to people.  What can I say that will help someone believe the issue and then have the initiative to help solve the problem?  What is the key to understanding that I am part of the problem, that I am responsible and accountable?  How to reduce our impact on the environment?  It’s a hard problem but there is a solution, me and you.

Well, since I’m talking about responsibility and accountability this might be a good time to mention politics! Beginning on day one after election and for the rest of the term it seems there is only one goal and that is to get re-elected.  I’ve already mentioned short sighted and selfish, right?  Party lines trump moral values, human values, and logical decisions.  Career politics should be abandoned.  “The greater good” will not be the result of policy and regulation enacted by self-serving career driven politicians (big revelation).

Speaking of politics, I’ve been thinking about the images of five Presidents, Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson and Grant.  Surely they are the answer………………..but

Money, money, money, money, all the money in the world can’t buy me a drink of clean water if there isn’t any.  All the money in the world can’t make the air fresh or control the temperature.  Thank goodness the answer isn’t ‘all the money in the world’.   Each and every one of us has the ability to do what’s necessary to cause change.  It’s all about choices, choose wisely.

So we go to work every day and spend countless hours trying to collect more of those five Presidents images.  And when we’re at work we probably spend countless hours dreaming about being out in nature doing what we really want to do!  Lucky me because I get to spend time thinking about our environment and not feel guilty.  So should you.

Reality check; in nature the outcome will be as it always has been, survival of the fittest.  As of today, that ain’t us?

“If we don’t change the direction we’re going, we’ll end up where we’re headed”

 

In Praise of Telecommuting

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Successful Telecommuting

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

Logistics

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

Mindset

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

Operating procedures

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

Telecommuting and kids

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

So telecommute if you can!

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

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

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

 

 

 

LOHAS Food Trends

Sunday, May 5, 2013 by

I am fortunate to be able to connect with various experts in a variety of LOHAS related categories as well as research various articles predicting what to expect as new opportunities and market trends in the growing LOHAS market. Based on my discussions and findings, here are a few things that I think stand out in the organic and natural food vertical of LOHAS:

1.       A growing awareness of ingredients and sourcing – organic, GMO, fair trade

Those who are opposed to genetically-modified organisms in their food — everything from grains to fish — are getting louder and their concerns heard as demonstrated when, anti-GMO activists hijacked Cheerio’s Facebook page. But following the defeat of California’s Proposition 37, which would have been the first legislation to require GMO labeling, the community is bound to get noisier than ever.

2.       Closing the Price Gap on Organic

Consumers will be able to find certified organic products in all sections of the supermarket and pharmacy.  Expect an evolution of other industry sectors, such as organic personal care, pet food (more like pet treats) dietary supplements. What manufacturers create or retailers carry all depends on the target customer. Capturing discriminating LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) customers goes well beyond one person: it spreads to their families and pets.

3.       Accessible Organic

Larger organic production, from farm acreage expansion to processing facilities, will translate into organic landing where it is most needed: schools, hospitals, food banks, convenience stores and in mainstream America’s home. Some communities are better served by organic than others, but organic will continue to pop up as distribution channels increase beyond grocery stores. New markets will open to organic food growers, makers and sellers as consumers look for cleaner food beyond grocery stores.

4.       Gluten free integrated into all food options and will be a common part of menu options

The gluten-free market, by comparison is expected to have reached US$1.3 billion in sales by 2011. However, the gluten-free market, which is still in its early growth, is expected to achieve higher growth rates (31%) from 2011 to 2014. Sales in the category have doubled in the last 5 years and are expected to double again in the next 3 years to $5.5 billion by 2015. The new ‘gluten-free’ is already here. With food allergies rising worldwide — at least seven per cent of Canadians have a food allergy — more companies will build facilities dedicated to manufacturing foods free of allergens like dairy, peanuts, egg, soy and shellfish.

5.       Healthy Fast Food - Other Chipotle type chains on the rise.

According to Baum & Whiteman, other chains are following suit, but need to make sure they capitalize on more than just comfy décor and made-to-order food: Companies  will needs to wear its heart on its sleeve … incorporating not just value, but values. Expect more fast food chains to promote sustainable food choices and friendly casual atmospheres. Giants like McDonald’s are embracing this with their new calorie information menus

6.       Food waste awareness on the rise

Americans throw out nearly half of their food, tossing up to 40 percent in the garbage each year, according to a new study. That adds up to an estimated $165 billion according to Natural Resources Defense Council. As more people seek to squeeze money out of their budgets this will be scrutinized as more become aware not to mention restaurants that may waste more .

7.       Chia seed and fermented beverages rule

The nutty tasting Chia seed has more protein, energy and fiber than any other whole grain. The seed is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Three ounces of Chia contains the same amount of Omega-3 fatty acid as 28 ounces of salmon, as much calcium as 3 cups of milk, as much iron as 5 cups of raw spinach, and as much vitamin C as seven oranges!   Chia drinks & oils have seen over a 1000% growth in 2012 according to SPINS. No, we’re not talking about the kind you grow in a pot, but 2013 is all about adding the chia seed to your diet.

8.        Chill out power drinks

In a rebound from power shots such as 5 hour energy and Red Bull there are now drinks that promote relaxation using supplements and herbs. The drinks, which evolved in Japan as far back as 2005, contain no alcohol but some have melatonin, a hormone that can cause drowsiness for those suffering from insomnia and high stress.

9.       Sustainable seafood continues to grow  

According to the National Restaurant Association’s chef survey, sustainable seafood is a top trend among chefs. And sustainability initiatives, such as the well-known Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, report an increase in the number of chefs and operators following their guidelines.

10.   Organic soil promoted as carbon reduction

According to the Organic Center Analyzing  international experts headed by scientists from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in Switzerland have concluded that organic agriculture provides environmental benefits through carbon sequestration in soils. Not only are their health benefits but global environmental benefits.

11.   Increased Demand on Transparency

Consumers demand transparency they will come to know what organic means across categories such as personal care, household cleaners and dietary supplements. Natural retailers are already at the forefront by using shelf talkers that tell the story behind the products. Manufacturers only have so much room on labels but can provide more detailed information on their website, Facebook and Twitter. Social platforms will allow consumers to become educated on organica. Companies such as Stoneyfield Farms and Nature’s Path are leaders in this.

 

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

Art Lends a Hand to the Beauty of LOHASIAN branding.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 by

Check out the iconic sculpture, The Hand, a work of art I saw in Uruguay recently, by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázaba. Installed in Punta del Este in 1982, this sculpture was originally envisioned by the artist as a warning to swimmers about the rough surf just steps away. But to me, this iconic sculpture is more about hope. Humanity. Our connection with nature. And our ability as humans to keep reaching for the sky.

So it goes with art or any creative endeavor.  Meaning and interpretation contain as many layers as we have words to express. The same is true with marketing, messaging and branding. As the head of a global and mobile, Minneapolis/St. Paul-based advertising and marketing agency, I know that messaging that resonates with one person may not with another.

That's the beauty of brands. Part art, part science,  brands that try to be a lot of everything; amount to a lot of nothing. Brands are unique. They speak a language all their own. They are how we connect emotionally to products, services and businesses. And of course, while a luxury brand might convey the quintessential aspiration for one person, the same brand could smack of needless excess to another.

Like art, we all see things a bit differently. And at the end of the day, perhaps branding is fundamentally all about offering a little helping hand. Connecting. Reaching out. Of being held. And holding.