Green Small Business

Getting the Top One Percent to Chip In

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by

Greed. What is the purpose of collecting all the money you can if you can't take it with you when you pass away? I can understand wanting to live comfortably without having to stress over bills and debts. When you have so much money in the bank accounts that you could never realistically spend it in your lifetime, doesn't that make you a hoarder? It is said that the top 1-percent of the population now controls 39-percent of the world's wealth. All I can do is wonder, "Why?" Can't these people separate themselves from even a small portion of this money?

The "trickle-down effect" really didn't trickle down at all. Since most of these 1-percent have no interest in spending it, there is nothing to trickle down. Why not implement a few ideas to merely help those who have spent their money raising some of you 1-percent people to where you are? In fact, you might even make more money if you did. Investing in the future of humanity is probably the best investment you'll ever make.

1. Small Businesses - By investing $1.5 million in a small business and sticking the money into a savings account at 0.05-percent, the small business could pay its bills plus a single person making $25,000 per year while sustaining itself for 36.6 years. This is also considering that the small business doesn't make a single dime in revenue. If the small business makes money, then all the better. In fact, adding another person to the business making the same amount as the first would only decrease the business sustainability to 22.7 years. If the business manages to succeed and make money on it is own, then there is more money in your pocket as the investor.

2. Donations - Some don't like to give donations because they don't really know where the money is going and would rather not trust a stranger's word that it will get to those who are in need. If that's the case, then why not donate tangible goods? Aside from the fact that donations are tax-deductible, you can help others survive in order to keep your business running. No matter how you slice it up, it's the other 99-percent of the population that is keeping you rich. If they are unable to sustain themselves, they won't be able to sustain you.

3. Education - If you'd rather invest in something that will be beneficial to those who are in need, why not put it towards education? Although our school-system is sub-par in the United States, you could still put money towards teaching others how to sustain themselves. Grant it, there are many people in the world who are simply looking for a free ride and won't do anything to improve their situation. These people are a drain on society, but that isn't everyone that lives below the poverty line. Many of us are at this level through bad decisions and have been unable to climb out of the hole. Could you put your expertise and knowledge to help these people figure out a way to rise above that level? That is, without charging the $49.99 that you see on "get-rich-quick" websites?

It doesn't take a lot of money to change lives. When you control as much money as the 1-percent does, $25,000 can be nothing more than pocket change. Is it really that difficult to feed some of the money back into the populace? After all, most of these people are probably paying your way through life. It doesn't take much, just compassion for humanity.

Author Bio

Nancy Parker is a regular contributor to www.enannysource.com and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny background check tips etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com

The Spa Industry Looks Well and Good

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 by

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

Going deeper

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

Evidence and Earth Based

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

Bathing popularity

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

Oil overflowing

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

Wellness Tourism on the Rise

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

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

 

Six Reasons Why I Love the Green Festival

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you at the San Francisco Green Festival!

10 Do’s and Don’ts Of Social Media Marketing For Purpose-driven Brands

Monday, October 14, 2013 by

Refresh Agency has been helping young and mid-size companies in the natural products industry for more than 16 years.  We are a values-based, people-centric business, & we care to make a difference and lead people and our clients to take the necessary steps to shine from their true center – living & doing business from this place creates happiness and decisions beyond one’s own good. And, that’s what we are about: Making a difference for people, planet & profits.

We’ve worked with some of the leading entrepreneurial teams & companies dedicated to sustainability and social good – from Boulder, CO; New York, NY, Venice, CA, Copenhagen, Denmark, Delhi, India, Tokyo, Japan to Cape Town, South Africa including Justin’s, Clementine Art, GoodBelly, Crocs, Chocolove, Neve Designs, Ito En, Teas’ Tea, Spier & Sustainia.

Our expertise and focus is to build businesses from all over the world dedicated to sustainability and social good in the USA & Scandinavian markets through strategic and creative communication, PR and Social Media Marketing.

These 10 suggestions are based on my experience on how to build community, buzz and your brand through social media. The suggestions are meant as a guide and a roadmap. I encourage you to try the suggestions that speak to you for yourselves – adjusting your efforts along the way to find your own path to social media communication success.

1.  Do create a plan. Random acts of social media do not work.  A clear aim is the key to reaching our destination – and this goes for all facets of life.  Without a proper identified goal and direction your company would likely propel forward at a much slower pace, if at all. Random acts of kindness is a good thing – but ‘random’ is not a word to include in your social media marketing.

2.  Don’t talk about yourself all the time. It’s boring.  Building your business and brand through your values - what you give and share, what you care about - your values will draw me in if I share the same values. If you have a unique offer just for me, tell me about it and make me feel special, by all means. As a rule of thumb stay below 20% of self-promo talk, or your customer will doubt your authenticity and trustworthiness.  

3.  Do learn from your critics. Instead of seeing criticism as a negative, I suggest seeing the world from a perspective of curiosity, and a willingness to learn and expand.  It might be eye-opening to your business to understand a unhappy customers’ gripes. So, instead of shutting down at the sign of criticism, see it as an opportunity.

4.  Do respond! Engagement is two-way communication. 67% of brands on social media do not respond to posts on their profiles, which is astounding to me. You are sabotaging your own social media efforts, if you do not respond to a customer’s post. Social Media is about generating engagement - that means two-way communication. So, when your customer writes, it means you are on your way to creating engagement. So engage and respond in a timely manner!

5.  Don’t have an intern handle your content. Take your social media brand communication seriously. This is your brand & communication to and with the outside world on a daily basis - treat it as such. There are certain functions an intern can handle, such as promoting the content posts on Facebook, build followers on Twitter, pin images on Pinterest and so forth, but when it comes to your direct communication & customer engagement, I encourage you to make sound and expert decisions for your business & ensure someone with proper credentials and communication skills is responsible for your brand on social media.

6.  Do make an informative and unique profile. The first page on your social media profile is an opportunity to quickly communicate who you are, what you stand for, what you sell - do include your website on the first page, where your customer quickly can get more information about you and purchase your product.  This is where branding and key messaging communication comes in handy. Why do you do what you do? What’s unique about your business? How does your visual identity look? Tie it all together.

7.  Do have the courage to say it out loud – take a stand. It is important to share your unique perspective with the world in order to stand out as unique, and not just a ‘me too’ type of brand. If you are not quite ready to communicate your big idea and viewpoints, perhaps because you are not quite sure how the world will react, then take it in small comfortable steps. However, promise yourself to continue to expand yourself outside your comfort zone, and allow your brand to unfold into its unique and vibrant identity.

8.  Do be proactive and engaging. Prior to attending an event is an excellent opportunity to be proactive. You know that people attending this event have a common set of values up front. Connect with others through #hashtag searches, content and questions to generate appeal and engagement. There is always an interesting way to engage with everyone. Be curious and show that you care in the way you engage.

9.  Do provide excellent customer service. See social media as a cost-saving customer service tool; even for small businesses. It takes a lot less time to answer a customer question on Twitter than to answer a phone call. It saves time, hassle and $ and is much easier for both of you. It does require that you stay alert and track your social media tools, and respond in a timely manner - that means preferably right away, but at least within hours.

10.  Do reflect - If I didn’t work here, would I care about this? An excellent rule of thumb when generating content is to ask yourself ‘If I didn’t work here, would I care about this?’  It’s like the ‘Daughter test’ – would I give my daughter this product to eat, or treat her the way I am treating my employees, or customers. If I would treat my own daughter this way, it’s a go. If not, reconsider, and change it.

 

 

Developing a Lexicon for Ocean Preservation

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

The Outer Bank Brewing Station: How Wind Saves this Restaurant More than $1800 per year

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 by

Located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, the Outer Bank Brewing Station benefits from a renewable energy source that sits 80 feet from the ground. A three-bladed BWC Excel motor generates enough power to offset the restaurant's needs saving the location between $150 and $250 per month. Of course locations such as this utilize far more power than the average home, but a unit like the BWC Excel could come close to reducing your energy bills to nothing.

Compared to Solar - Wind power is one of the fastest growing trends in the United States. Coincidentally, it is also one of the cheapest methods of renewable energy. Depending on the area you live in, a solar equivalent to how much power is produced by the Outer Bank Brewing Station's turbine could cost twenty to thirty thousand dollars more than the $50,000 construction this business implemented.

Sustainable Practices - The owners of the establishment, Aubrey Davis and Eric Reece, spent a great deal of time in the Peace Corp and did a lot of work in Thailand. Given their background, the two wanted the brewery to be as green as possible. Purchasing used copper to be used in the brewery and using recycled bricks, the building began to take shape. Sticking with their theme for a "green" production in 2002, Davis and Reece applied to develop the windmill as solar power alternatives were still far more expensive in comparison. Technologies for solar arrays didn't begin decreasing in cost significantly until 2012. However, wind turbines still remain to be somewhat cheaper for the power generated. The Board of Commissioners were less than impressed with the idea and locals commented on how the turbine would kill a great deal of birds during its operation.

Resistance of the Future - Davis and Reece fought an uphill battle in order to convince the Board of Commissioners to allow construction of the 80-foot tall wind turbine. Five exhaustive years later, and political changes for the board members, the owners of the Outer Bank Brewing Station were allowed the opportunity to erect the tower. At that moment, this restaurant became the first brewery to be powered by wind and has been featured in National Geographic magazine. To this date, not a single bird has been killed by the spinning blades of the windmill.

Green efforts like this one can help to make the world a more sustainable place, one small step at a time. It takes effort to overcome obstacles but it does pay off in the end. How many more sustainable practices could be put into place to reduce our impact on the environment and increase the sustainability of our homes and businesses?

Paul Taylor started www.babysittingjobs.com which offers an aggregated look at those sites to help families find sitters and to help sitters find families easier than ever. He loves writing, with the help of his wife. He has contributed quality articles for different blogs & websites.

 

Where is the best place to start-up your LOHAS business: Copenhagen, Denmark vs. Colorado, USA

Friday, July 12, 2013 by

An entrepreneur spotlight Q&A with Sandja Brügmann, Founder of Refresh Agency. Interviewed by Lizelle van Vuuren

Sandja Brügmann EmSpot Entrepreneur Sandja Brügmann

Let’s Talk Starting up in different countries, shall we? Would you say it’s easier being an entrepreneur in Copenhagen vs Colorado?

I would say that it is much easier being an entrepreneur in Colorado, and I would think in the US in general over Copenhagen and Denmark.

It surprises me to hear that! What are the key differences?

This is due to many factors such as on the overall cultural differences and mindset of the two countries, to governmental structures, and all the way down to people’s culturally behavioral values, and the actual LOHAS industry I am focused on [LOHAS stands for: lifestyles of health and sustainability]. I have found my business community in Boulder, CO and nation-wide in the US in general to be extremely supportive, generous and helpful.

Can you say a bit more about the differences in mindset, cultural differences and governmental structures of the two countries – and how these influence the entrepreneurial start-up environment?

The politicians in Denmark say they want to focus on making Danish business culture and environment more fertile for entrepreneurial creators, but I do not quite see them understanding the high barriers standing in the way to make this a reality. High taxation, bothersome paperwork structures from VAT to taxation laws (substantially more complicated than the US tax laws), and costly price of services – all high interference roadblocks.  As a start-upper you just do not have the kind of time and resources required to maintain this kind of minimum structure. 

The US on the other hand has minimum governmental interference, which also means simpler reporting and paperwork as well as simpler taxation structures, and cost of services is relatively low – low barriers of entry as an entrepreneur.

Abundance versus scarcity as cultural mindsets and social culture:

The US is founded on the ‘American Dream’ – and if you have an idea and work hard, anything is possible (it’s an entirely other topic if this American dream is indeed still flourishing), as such people depend on other people to succeed, and we are all in the same boat. In my experience of my 16 years in the US, there is a mindset of camaraderie and abundance, where people are extremely open and supportive. I have been connected to collaborative partners and clients without even having to ask. I see this as an abundance mindset.

People in Denmark are not known to be a friendly, open and helpful people – and in my experience that stereotype has proven correct.  Danes tend to keep their networks closed and off limits. It is only a rare Dane, who will welcome you with an open mind, and think about your needs without their own benefit. That said, those people do exist, and I have met incredible people on my path – like attract like – and after my now 2 years in Copenhagen, I can honestly say that I have an incredible and supportive network of likeminded doers and visionaries. However, I believe it’s a rarety.

Furthermore, when I moved back to Copenhagen two years ago after having lived in Boulder, CO for 16 years – and with 10 years behind me as a successful entrepreneur and business owner, I was not met with an ‘awesome, so what’s your plan with your business now you are home’ – I was met with a scarcity mindset –more like ‘can you survive as a small-business owner’ mindset.

In the US I almost only meet people, who show genuine passion and interest when I share my passion and business vision. Just very different mindsets and cultures. Expanding beliefs and thoughts create exactly that – expansion. And the opposite is also true.

It’s quite comfortable in Denmark, and there is no need, so to speak, to work hard and create something from scratch. Being an entrepreneur requires a fearless and courageous attitude and a burning desire to do something better, new and to create. Danes are just too comfortable and contented – the driving force for change is almost non-existent.

What I will highlight as extremely positive about Denmark is the balance between work and family life, and the way children are integrated into life everywhere. People in Denmark strike me as being very good at living and ‘being.

In the US there is a high level of burning platform – there is no social and financial structure and safety net to catch and support you. Each person create their own safety and security parameters through hard work. 

So I would say, if you have the choice between being an entrepreneur in CO versus Copenhagen, I’d chose the US for all the reasons I’ve stated– however, that said, I am truly thriving in my new life and home base of Copenhagen. And I feel extremely fortunate to do business in both the US and Denmark, and the larger European markets. I feel I have created an exciting work- and personal life. I would not want it any other way.

 

Sandja Brügmann is the Managing Partner of @sandja, Facebook page Refresh Agency and Company website   Read the original Entrepreneur Spotlight Interview Now Lizelle Van vurren is founder and CEO of Emspot, a Denver based strategic marketing company, who enable business, start-ups and entrepreneurs grow organically through the power of competitive strategies, mindful marketing and by leaving a socially responsible footprint. The article was originally posted on Emspot Blog

Why individual actions matter: the power of a belief

Thursday, June 27, 2013 by

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

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

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

-break the bad habit

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

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

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

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

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

-show that you care

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

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

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

-walk your talk: practice your beliefs and values

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

-join the collective consciousness

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

-be an inspiration to others

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

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

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

-be the Einstein in your world

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

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

 

______

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

 

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by

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

Causes for Concern 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extreme weather means business disruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what to do?

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

And also:

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

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

 

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

An Expert's Advice on Buying and Supporting Local Business

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by

 

Believe it or not, there are as many answers to the question - what is a local business? - as there are “buy local” advocacy groups in the country. In my state of Colorado alone there are at least four definitions - depending on who you ask.

So to try and get a better understanding of how ONE Colorado small business advocate defines local business and what it meant to support local business – I had a Q&A session with Richard Fleming, Board President of the Boulder Independent Business Alliace (BIBA).

Q. What is Biba's definition of a local business?

A: Well, first, BIBA's definition of a local business was created to standardize how to treat businesses that apply to be members. Our [Biba’s] guidelines can be found on our website, and include the following four criteria:

  1. Private ownership
  2. Owned in majority by area (within 60-mile radius) resident(s)
  3. Full decision-making function for the business lies with its owner(s)
  4. No more than 6 outlets; bases of operation lie within a single state

There are specific reasons for some of these standards, like receiving marketing assets or aid from a corporate office. I think we can agree that a small business isn’t on equal footing with a large business when that large business can reach out to a corporate office for regional support.  For example, Boulder County Supplies isn't going to be able to compete with a company like Office Depot or Staples. The same goes for McGuckin and Home Depot or Lowe's - they simply don't have the infrastructure to out-market companies that large.

Limiting to 6 outlets was primarily a way to better define our value proposition, and let businesses know when they've grown too large to benefit from our services.  We can make select exceptions, following Board approval, but the guideline helps to quickly deduce eligibility for most prospective members.


Q. What does it mean to support local businesses?

A: Support them. I mean support in a financial way.  Spend money.  People may not realize it, but spending money is one of the absolute best things you can do for a hurting economy.  Further, I'd ask that people talk about, involve themselves with, and recommend small businesses to their friends and family.  Engagement marketing, where you involve your social networks, is hugely beneficial to small businesses.  And it costs nothing, but saves independent businesses tons.


Q. What if you traveled outside Boulder County, to Ft. Collins, for example, should you buy a Boulder product you know is from Boulder, or a similar product made in Ft. Collins?

A: There are two main components to this question: 1) distribution and 2) manufacturing. Given the scope of the question, I'll only refer to distribution for now. The idea is to buy from where you live.  If you're travelling, please visit a local business instead of a chain store.  The majority of the time, your experience will actually be more pleasant, and they have a stronger, more direct focus on enhancing their own community through charity and the multiplier effect.  The multiplier effect is when money gets recirculated in a community because it isn't being transferred to a corporate office.  So, if you spend a dollar at Starbucks, all but about 14 cents goes to their corporate office to be spent on things that benefit their state (more likely their shareholders), not our community.  Those 14 cents are usually just payroll for their Colorado employees.  If you spend that same dollar at a local shop, like Caffè Sole, about 68 cents remains here.  That means there are more instances of sales tax being generated, which directly go to the things we love about our town - like parks and city services.


Manufacturing is actually a much more complex issue.  We are working on that. It's already started with food.  Boulder has a lot of farm-to-plate efforts because people recognize the benefit of eating locally sourced produce.  The best way to stimulate an economy is through manufacturing.  Boulder isn't really primed for that, but that's largely because we haven't completely solved the infrastructure issues.  We're trying to approach manufacturing from a progressive standpoint, but are still conforming to the old ways of doing things.  As the presence of B-corporations increase, we will see more instances of innovative, low-profile manufacturing that has much less of an impact on the environment.


Q. What if someone from Ft. Collins came to Boulder - would you want them to buy a local Boulder product, or a similar product they know was made in Ft. Collins?

A: This kind of bleeds into the manufacturing bit, so I'll just offer that I think you should support any local business.  It isn't about splitting the hairs between geography that close.  It's about the difference in community investment strategies. There's a mountain of difference between businesses that answer to stakeholders and those that answer to the self-interest of the community within which they reside.

 

If nothing else, I hope Richard's explanation of how BIBA works helps clarify the basic concept and importance of supporting and buying local. For a little more insight check out the YouTube video and share with us your feedback: How do you define a local businesses? Do you support your local businesses, and how? If don’t or can’t,  why not?

 

3 steps to Finding your Voice and Creating Stronger Social Media Content

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 by

We have all heard it, read it, seen it and shared it: Content is King! We get it, we must be out there creating content. Besides for trying to figure out how much to say, how often to say it, where to post it etcetera, etcetera... we also have to figure out what to say. Ah, white screen death or, as it is more commonly known, writer’s block. What if I told you I have a fix for that? I can help you figure out what to say and how to say it and add value...let me show you. 

It starts by knowing:

1. why you are creating content

2. why people may want to listen to you and

3. what playground the people you want to reach are playing in.

 

Here we go, numbered for your convenience:
1.Why am I even trying to write this drivel?!?!?

Ask yourself the following questions: What is it that I truly do. Not your title at your business. When it comes right down to it, what do you do? Who do you help? How are you impacting the world? Office? Community? Individuals? 

Now, write down your answers. I’ll wait.

2. Why should people listen to you? AKA: What’s in it for them? Are you going to help them see their inner needs? Answer their financial questions and set them up for a lifetime of security? Get them in their house instead of wet and cold on the front stoop with no keys (I’m talking locksmith not burglar wise guys...)? Are you a hand holder, butt kicker, motivator, advocate? What will people get out of connecting with YOU, the individual?

OK, go write your answers down. Still waiting.

3. Where are your people? Ah, trick question. First you must know who your audience is and where they hang out. Ask them. Invite your clients to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram and Pinterest. See where they connect. Do most of your contacts prefer to Link in with you? Then concentrate the bulk of your efforts on LinkedIn and finding others who are similar to your best clients. Do your customers enjoy the gift of gab? Facebook away! Knowing where to post leads you to the next step of learning the language of that platform.

This may sound daunting but a simple way to learn the culture and communication style of any platform is by watching. Which Tweets get RT’d (retweeted) the most? Which pictures get the most repins? What are your clients liking and sharing? Watch how others use your platform of choice and find your own style. Social media is not a one size fits all operation.

Now, go check out some sites.
Hey, I did not say get lost in the interwebs for four hours! Come back!

Now you know why you are writing, what’s in it for them and where they are hanging out. Whenever you find yourself at a loss for words look back at your notes (I know you took some, right?) and let them act as a jumping off point for what you want to communicate. 

We live in a social media driven world because people love stories. Share your stories, add value to your clients and the world and always Be Authentic!

For more small business social media and community building tips and tools contact: Dafna Michaelson dafna@journeyinstitute.org www.journeyinstitute.org

Attend the  Creating Engaging Content for Getting Found and Being Chosen Social Media Workshop presented Dafna Michaelson hosted by Dex Digital on June 18th during the LOHAS Business Conference in Boulder.  For more information on your business’ findability score please visit: www.HowFindableAreYou.com/LOHAS

Get your Findable Score™. It's fast, free and easy! Learn how consumers search for businesses in your industry and get advice to improve your visibility. Your score is free and so is the marketing insight.

5 Ways to Increase Energy Sustainability Within Your Business

Monday, May 20, 2013 by

If you're a business owner, you understand the need to cut costs as often as possible in order to promote growth and profit within your company. For every dime saved from spending on one aspect of your business, another can be further increased. For example, saving money on your electric bill each month could put that money into your marketing budget for continued growth. What can be done around the business in order to promote saving money on energy and promoting sustainability?

1. Lighting - As your business may stay open for hours at a time, you could be utilizing a great deal of energy just in lighting alone. Although fluorescent tubes and CFL bulbs are prevalent in many locations, what else can be done? 

  • Spending less than $25 for motion sensing light switches can prevent rooms from wasting power when no one is in them.
  • Solar Energy kits that cost less than $200 can power some of the lighting within the establishment.
  • Dimmer switches can be used to dial back lighting that may be too bright for the area

2. Computer Equipment - Contrary to the beliefs of some techs, computers do not need to be turned on all day and night. In fact, this constant use can impact a computer in a number of negative ways. Cooling fans and computer hardware have a finite lifespan. For each hour spent turned on, the computer system is one hour closer to needing repair. Your servers are the only thing that should be operating constantly.

3. Solar Arrays - Although this could be an expensive investment depending on your energy needs, your business could benefit from tax credits and subsidies for implementing solar power developments. If you are able to install the panels yourself, your business could slowly build an array one panel at a time in order to save a great deal of money on the installation costs as well as the electric bill of the facility. Over time, your business could generate 100-percent of the power it needs in order to conduct day-to-day operations.

4. HVAC Systems - Keeping your establishment comfortable for your customers and staff can improve business relations and productivity. Using products such as Insuladd paint additive can help keep the costs of running heating and cooling units down as they promote thermal barrier technology. Essentially, this adds a layer of insulation to your walls within the paint. Energy efficient cooling and heating appliances such as a Haier air conditioner and an EdenPure heater can decrease these costs as well while providing a comfortable atmosphere.

5. Reduce Electronics - In a small business, is it realistic for everyone to have his or her own printer? Even a device that is unused such as a printer is pulling power while it's turned on. Sleep mode on monitors is still draining power as well. By reducing your appliance load to only necessities, you can save on the amount of power that is wasted by unused and idle hardware.

Although you don't have to invest thousands of dollars to create a 100-percent sustainable power method from solar arrays, there are many ways you can reduce the spending on energy costs while promoting a more eco-friendly atmosphere. The investments you make now for sustainable methods within the business will help your growth in a variety of ways. Investigate other methods of improving efficiency within the workplace and give a boost to other aspects of your business.

About the Author:

Ken Myers is an expert advisor on in-home care & related family safety issues to many websites and groups. He is a regular contributor to www.gonannies.com. You can get in touch with him at kmyers.ceo@gmail.com

The Case for Building a Fiercely Loyal Community

Thursday, May 2, 2013 by

fierce loyaltyI know you may be thinking “Why do I need to read about the case for building a community? Everyone already knows it’s the latest and greatest marketing trend.” Which is precisely my point.

If all the community building going on right now is only based on the fact that it’s a marketing trend, it’s doomed to be just another flash in the pan. And haven’t we all had enough of those?

If, however, you build your community with a solid understanding of the fundamental business ROI that a community can bring to the table, it will be an integral part of your business success strategy. And isn’t that what we’re all after?

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get neck deep in what I call The ROI of a Fiercely Loyal Community:

ROI #1 – Raving Fans Who Will Help You Spread The Word

In this loud crowded marketplace we all operate in, it’s really really critical to have a group of people who will help you spread the word about what you are up to.

What makes them want to spread the word?

Maybe you’ve let them beta-test your latest new thing for free and they’ve found out how awesome it is. Maybe you asked them to help you create your latest new thing so they feel ownership in it. Or maybe you’ve made them feel like such a vital part of what you are doing that they feel invested in making sure it succeeds.

ROI #2: A Grassroots Research and Development Team

A fiercely loyal community that is invested in your success is like having access to a brain trust comprised of your ideal clients.

Instead of just asking them what they want, tap into their imaginations. Empower them to help you tease out the real problems they are facing so you can co-design powerful solutions. Let them play with the stuff you’re working on so they can help you make it better before you ever release it to the public.

ROI #3: A Client Base Waiting to Gobble Up Whatever You Offer

You’ve got to have clients and customers to stay in business right? Imagine clients who’ve been involved in helping you design and build your latest thing. They know it’s going to solve their problem and that it’s going to fit them like a glove. Think they’ll want to buy it?

Even if they haven’t been intimately involved in the design process, bring them along with you as you are designing. Ask them questions. Learn who they are. This insider feeling helps them see how you design solutions just for them.

ROI #4: Reduced Customer/Client Attrition

We’ve all heard it: “It’s cheaper to keep a client than it is to go out and get a new one.” Happy, thriving, fiercely loyal communities are your greatest asset in keeping your current clients and customers engaged with you.

When your clients are engaged in your community and feel like it plays a vital role in their lives and/ or their businesses, they aren’t likely to leave you for the latest and greatest widget. Leaving you means leaving the community and that is just a price they aren’t willing to pay.

ROI #5: Happier Customers and Clients

Happy customers and clients are a delight to do business with. They complain less, refer more business and actually may spend more money with you.

Did you know that all of the happiness research out there points to two things that are most vital to our happiness: connection and engagement? Many of your customers and clients are actively looking for this connection and engagement. When you provide that for them, they will see you as a source of happiness. Which is a pretty awesome (and uncommon) thing for a business to provide.

So there you are. Five solid business ROI’s of a Fiercely Loyal Community. Which ones speak to you? Which ones would have the biggest and/or most immediate impact on your business? Focus on building your community to achieve those ROI’s first, then focus on the others. You’ll be well on your way to creating a Fiercely Loyal Community that is anything but a flash in the pan.

Attend the Get Found and Be Chosen presented Barry Moltz hosted by Dex Digital on June 19th during the LOHAS Business Conference in Boulder. For more information on your business’ findability score please visit: www.HowFindableAreYou.com/LOHAS

Get your Findable Score™. It's fast, free and easy! Learn how consumers search for businesses in your industry and get advice to improve your visibility. Your score is free and so is the marketing insight.

Barry MoltzArticle By Barry Moltz - Barry is a nationally recognized expert on small business who has given hundreds of presentations to audiences ranging in size from 20 to 20,000. Barry Moltz gets business owners growing again by unlocking their long forgotten potential.  With decades of entrepreneurial experience in his own business ventures as well as consulting countless other entrepreneurs, Barry has discovered the formula to get stuck business owners unstuck and marching forward.  Barry applies simple, strategic steps to facilitate change. Details on Barry can be found on his website www.barymoltz.com.

LOHAS: You Had Me at Hello

Monday, April 22, 2013 by

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

A focus on green business

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

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

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

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

The sustainable business view from here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good News

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

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

What do YOU want to hear about?

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

About the Author

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

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

Why Do I Need a Brand? My Customers Already Know Me!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 by

Many small business owners ask this same question, whether they are a plumber, lawyer or landscape architect, they want to know why they need a brand. To them, it seems like a waste of time and money. They are too busy finding customers to focus on building a brand!

In this increasingly crowded business world, it is very difficult to stand out from other companies. Access to the internet coupled with next day shipping has removed most distribution barriers and many products have become commodities.  To the consumer, many companies provide similar products or services, so they just search for the lowest price.

A company's brand ensures their value can stand out out from their competitors. It also helps that the company can "get found" when a customer is shopping. It makes them memorable to the consumer!

In any economy, people buy when they are in pain and have the money to solve that it. Any marketing activity a company does ensures that the business can get found when the customer is ready to buy. If the company can't be found by the customer, they have no chance of being chosen. A consumer has to consider that company (i.e. put them in the “maybe” pile) to get a sale. Most successful companies get chosen over 33% of the time they are considered by a customer. The key to growing a business is to get considered by more shopping customers.

Some small-businesses confuse a brand with a logo. A brand separates the company from their competitor. It is an emotional experience. What will the customer see and feel when interacting with a company?  The brand is what the company is known for, the pain it solves and its values. Alternately, a logo is just a graphical representation of the company's name. While the logo can be recognizable, it is not the brand.

Consumers will pay more for brands that add value. For example, what comes to mind when a consumer thinks of Apple? The company is known for innovative, hip, easy to use, and expensive technology. This is evident in all Apple's products and stores. For consumers, the Apple brand clearly adds more value since Apple is one of the most valuable company in the world. Similarly, the Starbucks' brand is not just about selling coffee, they are seen as a warm and friendly atmosphere where customers can stay awhile.

Brands help companies connect with the consumer's pain. Remember, a valuable service is what a customer seeks, not what the company wants to provide.

Developing a brand is an investment process. Consumers stay loyal to brands they buy and remember.  It makes it harder for them to switch to a competitor. In this social media connected world, eventually satisfied customers will promote the company's brand making it even more powerful.

Article By Barry Moltz - Barry is a nationally recognized expert on small business who has given hundreds of presentations to audiences ranging in size from 20 to 20,000. Barry Moltz gets business owners growing again by unlocking their long forgotten potential.  With decades of entrepreneurial experience in his own business ventures as well as consulting countless other entrepreneurs, Barry has discovered the formula to get stuck business owners unstuck and marching forward.  Barry applies simple, strategic steps to facilitate change. Details on Barry can be found on his website www.barymoltz.com.

Attend the  Get Found and Be Chosen  presented Barry Moltz hosted by Dex Digital on June 19th during the LOHAS Business Conference in Boulder.  For more information on your business’ findability score please visit: www.HowFindableAreYou.com/LOHAS

Get your Findable Score™. It's fast, free and easy! Learn how consumers search for businesses in your industry and get advice to improve your visibility. Your score is free and so is the marketing insight.

8 things That Makes the LOHAS Conference Unique

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 by

LOHAS Forum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Monday, December 31, 2012 by

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

The Next 20 Years of Sustainable Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where We Need To Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

For more information go to- www.GreenMoney.com

 

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Marketing Biobased Content Credibly

Monday, December 17, 2012 by

Communicating the benefits of “biobased” content, the world’s newest ecological marketing term, is often tricky. Biobased represents all of green marketing’s traditional challenges — including greenwash — but has additional, unique challenges all its own. Happily, strategies and a credible third party label now exist.

Opportunities For Biobased Products and Packaging
There are many reasons for a business to use biobased content instead of traditional petroleum-based ingredients in their products, including:  it helps grow the farm economy, promotes energy independence, and helps manage carbon impacts, providing a useful hedge against potential future carbon taxes. Finally, biobased agricultural and other renewable material can mitigate petroleum’s wild price fluctuations, supply disruptions and geopolitics.

From an image and marketing perspective, a shift to biobased content can enhance reputation with stakeholders, including risk adverse investors. It can boost sales in the B2B and B2C sectors, as well as support and enhance many types of ‘green’ claims. Let’s look at these in more depth.

Selling opportunities are growing in the federal, commercial, and consumer markets. In the U.S., for instance, the federal sector will benefit from an Obama executive order signed in March 2012 to double the amount of biobased purchases.

Initial market research suggests consumer willingness to purchase biobased products and packages. Research commissioned by Genencor in 2011 suggests 40% of Americans are ‘aware of’ the term biobased and 77% will ‘definitely’ or ‘likely’ buy comparable biobased products.

In the consumer sector, biobased content can halo a brand.Coke’s new partly sugarcane-based PET ‘PlantBottle’ (with ‘up to’ 30% bioplastic), reinforces the brand positioning of Coke’s health-oriented Dasani bottled water and Odwalla juice brands. PlantBottle is now being licensed from Coke by H.J. Heinz for its iconic ketchup brand. An image of the bottle is below.

In 2010, 83% of U.S. adults identify with ‘green’ values, with various segments expressing their own reasons for likely interest in biobased. For instance, the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) segment represents the deep green consumers who take a holistic approach to all things sustainable and green; Naturalites look for organic food, natural personal care, cleaning and pet foods; Conventionals conserve natural resources; and status conscious Drifters who like to be seen carrying cloth shopping bags and driving a Toyota Prius. (Source: The Natural Marketing Institute).

Together, these consumers fuel a $290 billion U.S. market for natural products, renewable energy and more benign household products. Well-known brands that actively incorporate biobased content include Ford, Seventh Generation, Stonyfield Farm, and Procter & Gamble’s Gillette ProFusion and Pantene brands.

Marketing Challenges of Biobased

1. Unfamiliarity. Consumers don’t know the meaning of ‘biobased’. The term is not in the dictionary and is limited to scientific, engineering and B2B usages. USDA, which introduced a “USDA Certified Biobased Label” in early 2011, defines biobased as made from agricultural materials, forestry and marine based sources; so, even a well-informed consumer needs to learn that biobased products come from more than soy and corn.

2. Risk of Greenwash. Because biobased is unfamiliar but sounds ‘green’, consumers can infer such environmental benefits as “natural”, “renewable” and “biodegradable” which may or may not be the case depending upon the product. Benefits that are too easily and often incorrectly implied or overstated increase reputation risk.

Green marketing lessons of the past still apply. As Mobil learned the hard way, in the early 1990’s, their Hefty trash bags which were marketed as ‘photodegradable’ (although not called biobased) were pulled from the market after seven state attorneys general sued saying that the bags would disintegrate (i.e., break down into small fragments under the influence of heat and/or oxygen) but not degrade in landfills for which they were intended and advertised. (See the recently revised FTC Green Guides for further detail.)

3. Science. The ASTM D6866 scientific test standard upon which the USDA Certified Biobased label is based, helps define ‘biobased’ and accurately measure content.  Even with this credibility, results present communication challenges. Because the test measures biobased content as a percent of total carbon content, minerals and water are excluded. This can make comparisons difficult between products that contain minerals and water versus those with only biobased ingredients.

4. Red flags. Despite its many benefits, biobased content raises some red flags among some segments of consumers. For instance, some biobased products could compromise performance;  a case in point, the first Sun Chips ‘compostable’ bag made from corn-based PLA bioplastic had to be withdrawn because it was noisy; PLA manufacturer Natureworks quickly reformulated.

Also, some consumers take issue with biobased materials made from genetically altered crops (as is the case with most corn and soy grown in the U.S.), or are concerned about the effect agriculturally-based content may have on food prices.

Some may also question the sustainability of the harvesting practices. Finally, some consumers are concerned that biobased ingredients are imported rather than domestic, thus representing carbon impacts associated with transporting the materials from distant shores, or steal business from domestic farmers.

5. Confusion and misinformation. Still, many consumers — and even product marketers — mix up the terms ‘bio-based’ and ‘bio-degradable’. Both these properties are absolutely independent. Biobased refers to the origin of a material and biodegradable refers to the end-of-life. Biobased does not mean a material is biodegradable and vice-versa.


Success Strategies for Marketing Biobased Products and Packaging

To market biobased products and packaging with impact, relevance and credibility consider the following strategies:

1. Promote uniformity to let consumers compare biobased content by adhering to ASTM D6866. Disclose the source of the biobased content and dsitinguish between content that applies to product and package. Understand implications of grammatical constructions of ‘made with’, ‘made from’ and ‘made of’.

2. Follow FTC Green Guides (in the U.S.) and other applicable country guidelines when making environmental marketing claims of or related to biobased content. The recently updated FTC Green Guides provides specific guidance for such terms that biobased products can support such as ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable’, and ‘renewable’.

Despite obvious consumer associations of biobased as ‘ecofriendly’, avoid what FTC describes as ‘generalized environmental benefit claims’.  Avoid images of ‘planets, babies and daisies’ that could imply the product is greener or contain more biobased content than in fact.
Make sure to portray environmental benefits from a total life cycle perspective.

3. Support claims with the USDA Certified Biobased label and other applicable biobased certifications to underscore credibility. Educate consumers on the meaning of ‘biobased’ and the underlying basis for the label.

4. Consider additional complementary sustainability-related certifications as appropriate. For instance, many products qualify forBPI’s CompostableUSDA OrganicU.S. EPA’s Design for Environment, and the independent Green Seal certification labels. The same is true for certification schemes in a number of other countries.

5. Carefully research and address consumer ‘red flag’ concerns. Reassure about performance and specify product applications.

Jacquelyn Ottman and Mark Eisen are colleagues at New York City-based J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., expert advisors to industry and government for strategic green marketing. They advised the U. S. Department of Agriculture on the launch of the USDA Certified Biobased label during 2011 and are now working with labelers on capturing the value of their participation in the program.

Jacquie Ottman is the author of The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Greenleaf Publishing U.K., 2011). Mark Eisen is the former environmental marketing director at The Home Depot.

Additional Blog Posts on this Topic:

Leading Universities for Sustainable Studies

Monday, November 26, 2012 by

The field of sustainability has evolved from a small niche of environmentalists into a transdisciplinary field that spans from local agriculture to global business. Today, people around the globe are much more aware of the problems facing mankind and the planet as a whole. The population is estimated to grow to nine billion by 2050, an increase that will only further strain our planet's natural resources. In these universities, teachers and students are committing their careers to developing the principles and practices that will allow the human race to achieve a sustainable future.

1. The University of California at Davis

UC Davis has a long history of teaching organic farming, but it wasn't until last year that sustainable agriculture was added to the curriculum. Today, UC Davis offers a degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems that explores the social, economic and environmental aspects of food and agriculture. This course of study goes beyond the farm and the table to the wider global impact of a sustainable food supply.

2. The Center for Alternative Technology

Located in Wales, the CAT eco-center focuses on all aspects of sustainable living and also provides classes for the public and professionals. Its permanent exhibitions of alternative technologies serve as the leading tourist attractions in the area.  In 2000, CAT began to teach post graduate studies, and in 2010 CAT built the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE). The WISE building currently serves as a lecture hall as well as a case study for sustainable architecture practices. Since 2008, the Center has offered a Professional Diploma in Architecture.

3. The College of the Atlantic

Students of the College of the Atlantic all share a single major: human ecology. Professors and students at College of the Atlantic approach sustainable issues through various areas of study – such as arts, sciences or business – offering a comprehensive approach to human ecology and its principles. The school also offers only a single graduate concentration, a Master's in Philosophy in human ecology.

4. Oregon Institute of Technology

In 2008, the Oregon Institute of Technology began the first four-year undergraduate degree program in renewable energy systems in the United States. This Bachelor of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering establishes the engineering principles that will promote and integrate alternative energy sources into mainstream society. The degree is taught in both Klamath Falls and Portland, Ore.

5. The Earth Institute at Columbia University

The Earth Institute is a branch of the Columbia University's NYC campus. The EI hosts a variety of majors and degree paths for environmental sciences. Students who are interested in conservation, engineering or evolutional biology can receive an education that will prepare them for careers that value the Earth.

6. The University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is located in Philadelphia and is often called "Penn". Like Columbia, it is an Ivy League school and is one of the oldest and renowned in the United States. The University offers a "Green MBA", which is actually a major in Environmental and Risk Management. The Green MBA teaches the "triple bottom line" principles that comprise a sustainable business model and is a good choice for those who plan to pursue careers with sustainable business initiatives.

7. Center for Sustainable Fashion at London College

This institution melds research, creativity and business to support a sustainable approach to the fashion industry. The Center for Sustainable Fashion at London College encourages social change through fashion trends. The institution challenges the status quo and encourages students to make a positive impact in an industry that can radically change the social and economic realities of our world.

8. The University of New Hampshire

 This school, located in Durham, New Hampshire, makes the list with its dual major EcoGastronomy. The major integrates sustainable agriculture with hospitality management and nutrition for a comprehensive and holistic approach to selecting and preparing food for health and taste.

9. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

Students of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design can select from a variety of different creative majors with an emphasis in sustainable practices.  Complementing sustainable architecture is the sustainable interior design initiative in which students learn the brass tacks of designing as well as the environmental impacts on human behavior and eco-friendly building materials and systems.

Nadia Jones is an education blogger for Onlinecollege.org where she writes about education news, online learning platforms, and accredited online colleges. She recently helped compile an Online College Catalogue for prospective students. Nadia welcomes your comments and questions at nadia.jones5@gmail.com.