Organic Farming Industry

5 tips to get the most out of your Expo West trade show experience

Monday, February 24, 2014 by

EXPO is a tremendous opportunity for manufacturers to introduce their new items and brands to retailers and consumers.  Retailers are always on the lookout for cool new items to drive sustainable sales.  Manufacturers wanting to make a lasting impact should be prepared to do more than the thousands of other brands on the shelf.

Think of EXPO as a large retail store.  Instead of only potential customers shopping for your product you're also trying to attract retailers.  Of all the items in your category, how do you stand out against the competition?  Having a solid EXPO strategy can help you make a lasting impression with retailers, potential customers, and even food bloggers. 

Know your purpose:

Your booth looks great, your sales team is energetic and motivated, and you have plenty of samples to pass out but what is your purpose for being at Expo?  Is it to sell cases or is it to address’s a specific unmet need?  A lot of brands get so caught up in selling that they lose sight of their original purpose.  To me this is what the natural channel is really about.  It's about authenticity, helping consumers, and making a lasting impact.  What selling story do you want retailers to communicate on your behalf?  Your presentation at Expo should clearly communicate and educate retailers. 

Know your competition:

Most manufacturers can list their competitors but how many manufacturers are experts on their competitor’s products?  Knowing your competition helps you sell against them and differentiate your brand.  Retailers are not looking for another “me too” brand.  They want a strong brand to take a leadership role in the category - a brand that appeals to their customers. 

Everyone in your booth needs to be prepared to answer any question about a competitive product.  They should use that as an opportunity to help differentiate your brand against the competition.  For example yes, our competition is gluten-free but did you know that we are also non-GMO certified?

Know your target consumer:

Retailers manage literally hundreds of different categories and thousands of items.  They cannot be experts in everything.  It is up to brands to educate retailers on the category and help them sell more of your products.  This could be the greatest differentiator between you and your competition.  Set yourself apart by helping retailers meet their shopper’s needs.

Be an expert in your category:

A lot of small companies know very little about the categories they compete in.  Being an expert in your category includes more than just listing each of your competitors. It also includes understanding how your category is meeting retailer’s objectives:

•  Is the category up or down?

•  Is there enough holding power in the categories for the top brands?

•  How does the category increase foot traffic for the retailer?

•  How important is the category to other departments in the store?

A good way to become an expert in the category is to be prepared with a complete category review for each of the key retailers you plan to connect with in addition to the regions you sell in. Retailers will be extremely impressed that you've made an effort to understand your category at their store.  This creates a unique opportunity for you to highlight your brand and will help them grow sales.

Have a follow-up strategy:

Have a strategy in place to capture contact information, important conversations, and organize notes for follow-up after the show.  I'm amazed by how many exhibitors run out of business cards and sales literature before the end of the show.  I'm equally amazed by the lack of follow-up on the part of some brands.  After spending all the money, time, and energy to exhibit at EXPO this is a huge missed opportunity.  At the very least, exhibitors should thank people for coming to their booth.  Not only is this courteous but you never know when a contact might be in a position to grow your brand.   

See you there!

 

Organic and CPG Industry Strategic Advisor Daniel Lohman CPSA is an expert in the organic and natural CPG industry. With more than 25+ years experience, he is certified at the highest level of category management proficiency: Certified Professional Strategic Advisor.

Responsible for growing sales and teaching Category Management theory and principals while at Kimberly-Clark and Unilever. His extensive knowledge and expertise extends beyond that of a traditional Category Manager and has earned him recognition and a reputation throughout the industry as a thought leader.

 

Dan is a Natural Products EXPO speaker, is internationally published, writes for LOHAS, New Hope 360, The Natural Food Merchandiser, Supermarket News, and World Alliance for Retail Excellence and Standards.  Dan is the author of Strategic Solutions and Guide to Grow Your Natural Business and the author of the What You Need To Know blog at CMS4CPG.COM.

How Inefficiency Hurts Your Business for Sustainability

Saturday, February 22, 2014 by

In today's technologically driven world, there are many ways a business can become more efficient. This efficiency translates to greater net income as well as promoting a stronger future for humanity. Let's face it, without focusing on the continuation of humankind, there will be no customers in the future. With all of the innovative developments at our disposal, there are still many people that prefer to perform archaic principles in business that are not conducive to growth. In what ways can this inefficiency hurt your business for sustainability?

1. Wasting Time - One of the most valued commodities of any business is time. By not investing in ways to increase efficiency in the workplace, your business is losing money through wasting the one thing that cannot be recuperated. Instead of the pencil and pen ledger, software exists to allow you to reduce the time spent on record keeping exponentially. This means less paper is used, less time is wasted and more money remains in your bank accounts instead of paying staff to do the work that only requires a few clicks of the mouse.

2. Wasting Electricity - By not examining the electronics that are turned on all the time that don't need to be, you are wasting electricity. Not all computers and monitors need to be left on day-in and day-out. The only real appliance that should be left on is the server. That staff member you may have that is only at his or her desk once per week doesn't need the computer left on. This waste of electricity is damaging to your energy bill as well as hurting the rest of the community by taking energy that could be used elsewhere.

3. Wasting Paper - Did you know that nearly every aspect of any given business can be done digitally? Even receipts for purchases can be emailed instead of printed. Since tablets and smartphones can open most office documents, there is no real reason to have hard copies. Digital documents can be stored and backed up far easier than the printed counterparts - and will take up less physical space. The only real forms that may be needed are those that require personal initials or signatures such as real estate documents or contracts. Memos, correspondences and many other forms of printed material are no longer needed if you have the right alternatives. The financial savings alone from ink and paper should be more than enough incentive to look into efficient alternatives. 

4. Wasting Water - Faucets and toilets within the facility may be wasting water, but what about outside the business? Everyone likes to see greenery surrounding the headquarters or business establishment. However, is the water being put into keeping it green used wisely? There are still organizations out there that have sprinkler systems that operate when it's raining outside. There are products available now that can reduce the amount of time you spend watering the grass and flowers by up to 50-percent. This means you are wasting less water on the ambiance of your business while keeping more money in your bank.

As a business owner, you should be setting an example of professionalism. In a world where so many resources are dwindling rapidly, you need to realize that the business establishment greatly contributes to the loss of these resources. Look around your location and develop a strategy to become more sustainable for the environment and your profitability.

Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.

Social Media as Social Currency: Selling Through Social Influencing

Saturday, February 8, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

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

Passion

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

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

Purpose

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

Give

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

Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plan

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

 

* Sources:

Nielsen: Global research study April 10, 2012

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

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

Top photo credit: marketingtango.com

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Fire Your Manager. Hire A Leader.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 by
If you want to create a truly modern company, managers can no longer act like 'managers.'  The manager defined the leaden archaic corporate hierarchy of the past. In that construct, there was little room for self-correction and ownership on the individual level. Rather than taking the driver's seat by delivering customer value or improving products, the old corporate model trained one to do a job as a single cog in the machine. 
 
The issue is that technology is creating bean-counters that micromanage jobs at arms'-length.  Taylor introduced ‘scientific management’ back in the late nineteenth century as a way of getting the American worker to do as they were told. It aimed for efficiency by standardizing and routinizing the techniques for completing each task involved with a given job. The effect resulted in deskilling workers and dehumanizing the workplace.
 
The twenty-first century has given rise to 'digital Taylorism.' This involves translating knowledge work into working knowledge through the extraction, codification and digitalization of knowledge into software that can be transmitted and manipulated by others. Digital Taylorism has increased the role and power of a manager by using technology to monitor workers and make sure they are employing tools and techniques at a satisfactory level.
 
With task management software tools to break down every given task into multiple increments, workers get limited to doing exactly as they are told and filling whatever quota of tasks at hand.  Already, 80% of the corporations in America have their employees under regular surveillance and apparently this number is growing.* These practices, which intend to increase efficiency and, at least theoretically, enable more self-accountability, often end up disempowering and over-systematizing jobs to the point where individuals are expected to work with a 'machine mind.'
 
Without allowing employees to understand and participate in the entire business operation, managers are then stuck with the assigning singular jobs and limited responsibilities to others. Over-systematizing jobs through these new technologies often lead to an extreme domination of managers over employees. Without allowing work accountability and self-adjustment, managers must fix the problems of each internal mistake themselves and likely only when seen at the customer or end-product level.  They enjoy having to correct and possibly reprimand employees, or even worse, serve as referee in an escalation point when problems and mistakes are tossed back and forth. Fun, right. My advise?  Fire you managers and rehire a leader.
 
Don’t allow for processes to over-ride common sense!
 
Managers assign tasks, correct employees, and serve as an escalation point for a problem. Leaders don't do this. Leaders improve participation and increase autonomy and accountability in everyone's work. This leads to people doing something not because they are told, but because they want to produce the best possible product or service.
 
Get rid of micromanagement and processes that stifle creative thinking and productivity.
 
Allow the ideas, goals, and accomplishments of the company to become the main focus... as they should be.  This construct leads to the bottom up approach of modern businesses. Rather than management sitting at the top of the corporate model, the client and customer product takes the main seat in the company. Here, what matters is that the work gets done--and done right so it's delivering value to your clients.
 
References
* Parenti, C. (2001). Big brother’s corporate cousin: high-tech workplace surveillance is the hallmark of a new digital Taylorism. The Nation, 273(5), 26-30.
 
Laura Pretsch is a business advisor, innovator, entrepreneur and lifestyle aficionado. Laura has dedicated her life to developing the tools and understanding to help others innovate and create better lives. Laura is the Co-Founder ‘The Brilliant Leadership Company’.
 
 
  
 

LOHAS Asia Forum set to land in Hong Kong

Friday, January 10, 2014 by

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

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

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

The Growing LOHAS Movement …

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

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

Important Visionaries …

Featured speakers at the LOHAS Asia Forum this year include:

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

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

Background …

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

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

Creativity ≠ Innovation: Building Your System for Reliable Innovation

Friday, January 3, 2014 by

Buyers beware: Creativity alone does not ensure innovation. 

The World Database of Innovation initiative shows that more than half of the world’s 7,000+ innovation consultancies provide a creative process or “Invention Methodology”.  Because of this and some very good PR for processes like Design Thinking, the world has begun to equate the creative process with Innovation Management.  And while the creative process is very important, the initiative has found that it is only one piece of the puzzle; only one part of what it takes for a company to innovate.   

To make innovation or “future top-line growth” repeatable and reliable large companies must build a complete Innovation Management System that supports bringing new things through their organization and to the world. 

Before we get into this, let’s make sure we are on the same page with our preferred definitions:

  • Innovation: a thing that has already changed human behavior on a wide scale.  Usually, an innovation has added to a company’s top line, or has changed a societies belief.  It is distinct from and “Invention”.
  • Innovation Management: a complete system that builds a path through a human organization so that it can repeatedly create innovations and do so more reliably.
  • Why we care about innovation:  Companies care about innovation management for two reasons:  1) Survival – it should allow you to simply keep up with competition 2) The more inspiring goal: it creates an ability to create one’s future and reliably grow.

The World Database of Innovation (the "initiative") began 7 years ago with the mission to uncover an evidence base (statistics) to support or disprove the world’s many innovation practices.  The initiative studied thousands of the highest performing companies and found that they share a handful of processes, structures, people management approaches, belief systems, and cultures.  For companies that are facing growth/innovation problems, or for public organizations that want to more reliably create societal change, below is a overview of five pieces of the Innovation Management puzzle you will need to address to achieve repeatable market successes.  

Structure

The initiative found the highest correlations in this category: companies that had good innovation management structures had some of the highest top line growth.

First, the innovation function reported to the CEO directly and the CEO was found to truly own innovation, not just simply to be on board or bought in. 

Second, the innovation had dedicated (untouchable) funding.  Just as one invests money in funds and typically waits for the investments to mature, a company must invest in longer-term things and wait for maturity or pay the penalty (in several ways).  This is a hard one for public companies who give and rip away budgets sometimes on a quarterly basis.  The vast majority of an average company’s overhead goes into supporting old products, so the most important thing here is to choose what portion of revenue you’re going to invest to create your company’s future.    

Third, the most reliable innovators also treat innovation as a risk management exercise.  These firms tend to build regimented portfolio and pipeline structures than spanned from the birth to the death of market offerings.  The pipeline usually included some sort of stage gate approach with distinct on and off ramps for new and expiring products.  Fourth, we observed that when high performers consider new market opportunities, the first asked whether acquiring or building the solution was the best approach.

Fifth, few firms have a system to at indirect competition but 84% of history’s market upsets came from industry outsiders.  This related closely to arrogance that we talk about below but can be taken care of with a team or service that has a smart way of combing the world for indirect competitors.

Belief Systems

Belief Systems are perhaps the most interesting part of the puzzle and the correlations found were quite strong. 

Amongst fast growing companies, a high percentage shared the believe that the future is not something set in stone; that is something that can be shaped.  Society primarily things the opposite is true.  Companies like General Electric, and Google who actively work on describing the future scenario they want to exist, and then set in place a plan and structure to create it are actually the most successful.      

There is also a surprising commonality amongst growth leaders in their definition of innovation.  Their definitions all shared three things:  1) something about changing human behavior on a wide scale,  2) innovation was defined as transformative,  and 3)  it was stated that innovation does not include incremental improvement.  The study also found that many companies had a higher purpose stated in their innovation definition as well as their mission.

In relation to this last point, there is also strong data to show that companies with a noble mission and those that know themselves very well are the highest performers.  See our piece on Patagonia and look at Medtronic’s performance through the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

And finally, Arrogance: we found loose but very interesting correlations between arrogance of leadership and company failure.  This is hard to identify objectively but there are many many documented cases of publicly displayed arrogance of leadership leading to blindness leading to partial or complete failure of companies.

Process

As we stated at the beginning:  the creative process is an important part of the puzzle.  It is not everything and with out the support structures mentioned throughout, runs the risk of being a pointless investment.  But the things that have been invented have come to be by some surprising common steps and “Invention Methods” as the initiative calls the 152 distinct processes discovered to date.  There are also countless brands of each of these 152 processes that help create market successes more often that unstructured brainstorming. 

Talent and People

There are many aspects of recruiting, managing, resourcing, training, and enabling people that we found at high growth companies but they all seemed to boil down to one thing:  get out of people’s way.  And the opposite side of this same coin: enable people.  Study upon study has shown that people are inherently innovative.  Sometimes we just need a teachable skill, money, time, or the right reward/recognition to express it.

Culture

The initiative found that culture is an important enabler or deterrent for innovation.  But, there was no common culture amongst high growth companies.  This piece of the puzzle is truly a menu ranging from tough cut throat cultures that force innovators towards excellence, to kind, accepting, well resourced innovation teams that cultivate and help inventors throughout the company.   The most interesting commonality is the level of connectedness of employees and division, and knowledge management or we could say “connectedness to the past”.

In conclusion, reliable innovation takes an entire system.  Companies must select and adapt the pieces above to create an Innovation Management System that helps them discover opportunities, invest in a set of potential solutions, test and improve and filter these solutions, socialize the chosen solution, bring it to market, and kill the old solution. 

And to repeatedly control the market you're already in, to invent new markets, and to change human behavior on a wide scale also requires choosing how to tie theses pieces together into an aligned system:  an innovation engine that hums.  

The best of innovation engines do a few things for companies: mitigate risk on of a company’s investments in new things, greatly decrease the cost of innovation, increase the speed, and increase the success rate.  But most importantly for all of the LOHAS brands, they secure and help you shape your future so that you can continue to be there to improve our world.  

The True Santa Is Within Every One Of Us

Monday, December 23, 2013 by

With all the fuss over what color Santa is, we thought it was good to remind ourselves that Santa is neither black nor white, or pink or yellow for that matter, as he is way more than skin tone. Nor is the true Santa just a jolly guy in a red outfit; he is giving, sharing, caring and kindness, and these qualities are not limited to color. Rather, he’s a remarkable example of great wisdom and compassion that we can all learn from:

1.     He makes us do good and feel good. Now that's a big one, as many of us often act selfishly and greedily.

2.     He gives, endlessly, to everyone, all over the world, all at pretty much the same time. This indicates a truly generous heart, one that takes great joy in giving, without needing to receive.

3.     Yet he does not give blindly. Rather he judges what is the most appropriate gift for each. This shows great discernment, as giving needs wisdom in order to be of most benefit.

4.     He encourages rituals and invokes magic in every child's life: letter writing, stocking filling, decorations, parades, milk and cookies. Ritual is an essential part of honoring that which is greater than us, and magic is the beauty of the unknown.

5.     He listens to our pleas and requests and reads our letters. Meaning that he takes the time to hear us and pays attention, which we could all do a lot more of.

6.     He has great psychic powers: he flies in the sky with reindeer, descends chimneys without getting covered in soot, goes by many names and forms, and is extraordinarily elusive. Has anyone actually ever seen him? The lesson here is that we can all do more than we think we can: we can practice random acts of kindness quietly, simply, without bringing attention to ourselves.

7.     He knows where we live. In other words, he is inside every one of us.

8.     Most importantly, he lifts our spirits at the darkest time, bringing us laughter and joy, which is undoubtedly the greatest gift of all. No need to spread doom and gloom, no need to focus on what is wrong with ourselves or the world. By focusing on what is good we not only bring a lightness of spirit to others, but we also get to feel a lot better too.

Through giving to others, a la Santa, we get away from selfishness and neediness, and in the process see our own self-centeredness in greater perspective. It connects us to the basic goodness within, a quality of kindness that is easy to lose touch with. Giving—whether a smile, our time, a listening ear, food or material gifts—is profoundly joyful, both to the one who is receiving and the one who is giving. The essence of this is an open heart, a free mind, and a blissful spirit.

If you haven't any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. Bob Hope

True generosity is giving without any thought of getting or receiving; it is unconditional, unattached, free to land wherever it will. Through giving and sharing in this way, we soon find that we do not lose anything; we do not have any less. Rather, we gain so much.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill

**********

Ed and Deb are the co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com. Join to get our newsletter, free meditation downloads, community support, and learn to balance your nervous system. They are the authors of award winning Be The Change, How Meditation can Transform You and the World. See more at RevolutionaryMindfulness.com and EdandDebShapiro.com

Stumped on gift ideas? How about sending a little Zen?

Monday, December 16, 2013 by

Holidays and birthdays are a time of gift giving to those special people in your life. 

When selecting your gift, consider sending a little Zen to that special person in your life with a Yuzen Box. Yuzen offers gift and quarterly subscription boxes of luxurious beauty, grooming, and lifestyle products from companies that have LOHAS values. Treat yourself or someone else!

Women’s Yuzen Gift Box (single box)

This stylish box is a perfect gift for anyone who needs some Zen pampering -- especially the “hard-to-buy-for” woman in your life. It contains a mix of nine full-sized and travel-sized products, a card with detailed information about each product, and discount codes. Click here to see what is inside!

Zen for Men Gift Box (single box)

If you are seeking something for that guy who is hard to shop for, look no further. Yuzen offers a smartly packaged men’s gift box filled with functional natural/organic products that are the perfect addition to any gym bag or suitcase. Click here to see what is inside!

Yuzen Seasonal Gift Subscription (1 box/season for a total of 4 boxes)

The lucky recipients of a gift subscriptions are sent a gorgeous Yuzen box four times over the next year. We send a little Zen every season - winter, spring, summer, and fall - 4 boxes in all. Just like our gift boxes, each season’s collection is carefully curated, beautifully packaged, and filled with luxurious products. Click here to see what is inside!

All box pricing includes free shipping. Gift a box or subscription! In today’s stressed out world who doesn’t need a little Zen in their lives?

 

View this video of the opening of the Yuzen 2013 holiday box:

Unique Investment Options: Parnassus Workplace and Asia Funds

Saturday, December 7, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parnassus Asia Fund

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

Continue reading this article on Green Money Journal.

TEDxCopenhagenSalon Green Natives

Saturday, December 7, 2013 by

 

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

 

TEDxCOPENHAGENSALON CLIMATE AND SUSTAINABILITY GREEN NATIVES

Date           Dec 9, 2013

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

Place          UN City, Copenhagen & livestream

 

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

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

 

GREEN NATIVES

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

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

Some of us have already begun.

Photo: eperales. Used by permission

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

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

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

 

 

Conscious Consumerism in the news: Evidence of momentum is piling up

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 by

 

I’ve been blogging about Conscious Consumers for over a year. At first, I had to do a little digging for content. I subscribed to newsletters, read other blogs, followed Conscious Consumer companies on Facebook. Within the month’s span between my posts, I’d usually stumble across something that was timely, relevant and would make a good post. If not, I had plenty of topics scribbled down that I could turn to for ideas.

No more. Topics are now falling into my lap and piling up in the form of starred emails in my inbox. Article links, tidbits, factoids and trend enewsletters causing me to fret about how I’m going to choose from all their juicy nuggets of Conscious Consumer information. The most exciting part? It’s evidence that this area of focus – Conscious Consumerism – is here. It’s real. It’s happening.

I’ve been saying this repeatedly. And with the LOHAS audience, I’m preaching to the choir. But or those who haven’t bought into the hype yet, or even those who haven’t been scanning the media to stay up on trends as much as they wish they had, perhaps this smattering of articles from diverse sources all published in November 2013 will help:

1. “Creating the Committed Consumer, Social Enterprise’s Next Big Mission,” published by Fast Company on November 25 highlights where Conscious Consumers will go next, which they call “committed consumers.” These consumers do not just make conscious decisions, but truly commit to changes and causes through economic pressure (a.k.a. putting your money where your mouth is).

One key quote: “…consumers must begin exerting greater economic pressure if we want to see meaningful change. The more they use their pocketbooks to support socially responsible brands, the more companies will respond.”

2. “’Buy One, Give One’ Spirit Imbues Online Store” in the New York Times on November 4 covers how a top-of-mind Conscious Consumer brand, Toms, has founded a socially responsible marketplace for holiday shopping. Toms is of course known for their “one for one”/buy-one-give-one business practice. Each of the 200 products from 30 companies available in the Toms Marketplace has been vetted by Toms as “[having] a mission of improving people’s lives baked into its business model.”

3. Trendwatching is an enewsletter I’ve been receiving for years. I was so excited when their November briefing featured their newest trend: Guilt-Free Consumption.

Guilt-Free Consumption is explained well by this phrase from the report: “…consumers are now hungry for a new kind of consumption, one that will allow them to continue to enjoy consumption, yet not worry (or at least worry less) about its negative impact.”

The report is full of valuable examples of companies who provide consumers with a guilt-free consumption experience. I highly encourage you to click through to the Clean Slate Brands briefing from last April while you’re reading, too.

There’s a lot here to chew on. It’s so thrilling to see the energy behind Conscious Consumption, and I look forward to even more momentum in 2014.

Molly Hull is Associate Director of Brand Development at Clarity Coverdale Fury in Minneapolis, MN. To follow the agency’s Insights into the Conscious Consumer blog, click here. To download the agency’s THINK report series on Conscious Consumers, covering findings from a 2013 study with Mintel, click here.

Top 10 Wellness Travel Trends for 2014

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 by

With so much interest in wellness travel, I'm pleased to share the “Top 10 Wellness Travel Trends of 2014”. The forecast is based on year-long research and data collection in which I've consolidated trends across several industries to bring practical knowledge to both individuals and businesses.  

I'd like to encourage consumers and businesses to think of vacation in new ways. Our data shows that consumers view vacations as an important way to improve health, happiness and productivity.  Vacation trips are often a catalyst for transformation and consumers view wellness travel as a personal investment.  Vacations are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity for well-being.

Top 10 Wellness Travel Trends for 2014
Mind Matters: 
Consumers have caught on to mindful vacations that offer mental restoration.  Practices learned on a trip such as meditation, yoga, qi going and journaling can be incorporated at home to help manage stress, improve cognitive capacity and maintain emotional equilibrium. 

The Rise of Wellness Travel Agents
With the growing interest in trips to enhance mind, body and spirit, wellness tourism has created a new niche for travel agents to grow or expand their business while offering a personally and professionally rewarding career specialty. 

La Local Vita: 
Consumers have developed a deeper appreciation for locally relevant and authentic experiences with an emphasis on living  “la local vita” (the local life).  Mindsets have shifted away from tourist behavior to a keen interest in community-based exploration where getting to know the locals in a meaningful way sweetens the experience. 

Breaking Bread With Wellness 
Food tourism is a big trend intersecting with wellness travel. In addition to the physical aspect of sustenance; food tours, cooking classes, agriculture and farm-to-table experiences speak to the emotional, social, intellectual and sustainable aspects of well-being. 

Vacation RX: 
“Take 2 weeks and call me in the morning.” Physicians are now prescribing vacations as an antidote from stress.  Doctor’s orders for physical activity in parks are also being written to help combat obesity and diabetes in children. 

Looking for Personal Enrichment
With the understanding that wellness is more than fitness and nutrition, consumers are choosing trips that either focus solely on personal enrichment or as a part of their travel plans.  In search of fulfillment and meaning, many consumers are viewing vacations, weekend getaways and retreats viewed as a catalyst for change. 

Slow Travel: 
Have you ever felt pressured to run through your vacation checking off sites to see and things to do? Slow travel advocates changing the pace in order to sip, savor and revel in the vacation experience. 

Affluent & Altruistic:
Spurned by personal growth and discovery, affluent travelers value experiences connecting them to charitable causes and local communities. Volunteering on vacation has become increasingly popular and research shows altruism can improve well-being. 

Burgeoning Secondary Wellness Market: There is a large segment of travelers who may not opt for wellness retreats or tours but are committed to maintaining their healthy lifestyle on the road. Air transit and hotels are investing resources to attract these guests that are both business and leisure travelers.

Spas on a Mission:
The spa industry is staking a claim on wellness tourism and on wellness in general. Eager to shake the image of pampering for the affluent, spas are repacking and rebranding as wellness providers to attract a larger market.

To request a free download of the Infographic “Top 10 Wellness Travel Trends for 2014” or for more information on wellness travel, please visit www.wellnesstourismworldwide.com.  

Ethical Economist Hazel Henderson Interview

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Spa Industry Looks Well and Good

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 by

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

Going deeper

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

Evidence and Earth Based

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

Bathing popularity

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

Oil overflowing

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

Wellness Tourism on the Rise

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

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

 

Six Reasons Why I Love the Green Festival

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you at the San Francisco Green Festival!

St Julien Hotel & Spa offers a LOHAS experience and notable sustainable initiatives

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 by

Boulder is definitely a distinctive place with an abundance of green-minded individuals and businesses — the perfect spot for the amazing Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) conference I attended for the first time this year. After shopping at the irresistible eco-conscious stores on Pearl Street, I headed over to St Julien Hotel & Spa to check out the spa. As a spa industry educator, I always feel compelled to do my on-location research — especially after writing a book on Green Spas and Salons: How to Make Your Business Truly Sustainable.

The LOHAS frame of mind is central to the spa and wellness industry as it shifts into a more natural and organic world.  I have tried at least 50 product lines over 25 years through my esthetics practice, teaching, and research.  At the Spa at St Julien I received an excellent customized facial and definitely noticed a difference in my skin with Naturopathica and Luzurn products. 

The most notable part of the spa experience was that the entire spa staff gave exceptional customer service. They were present and mindful of their guests so one did not feel like they were just a “tourist.” Spa at St Julien carries thoughtfully chosen products, including clothing, gifts, and aromatherapy candles. Skin care products include Naturopathica, Luzern, Organic Male, Zents, Farm House Fresh, Body Bliss, and Soleil Organique. The makeup lines are Jane Iredale and La Bella Donna.

Boulder’s natural environment inspires the hand-made spa treatments that incorporate indigenous ingredients of plants, seeds, stones and extracts. Fresh herbs (organic mint and rosemary) for treatments such as the Mountain Mojito Scrub are harvested from the on-site herb garden.

St Julien Hotel & Spa works closely with Boulder-based UHG Consulting to reduce the Hotel's footprint on the community. Impressively, the property has decreased energy use by 17% from 2009-2012; reduced natural gas use by 30%; and water use decreased 11% (all decreases are per occupied room). The facility has also reduced waste by 85% since 2007.

Some specific green practices include carrying local products in the gift shop, switching from paper towels to washable hand towels, composting food waste, using an Ozone laundry system, and using compostable disposable cups. St Julien Hotel & Spa also donates opened amenities, linens, and supports other charities. Sustainable events and education are part of their culture and business practices.

Check out the St Julien Spa next time you are in Boulder. To grow the LOHAS mindset, let businesses know you appreciate their eco-conscious efforts and practices. Find more on spa sustainability from Shelley Lotz at www.greenspasandsalons.com.  

 

17 Ecofriendly Ways to Clean With Baking Soda

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 by

baking sodaAlthough all of us probably have a bright yellow box of this common baking ingredient in our panty most of us do not know the wide variety of uses baking soda has. From keeping your refrigerator smelling fresh to scrubbing away tough stains this multi-purpose powder is a great addition to your arsenal of eco-friendly cleaning products. Here are some ways you can get your home smelling and looking great with baking soda:

  1. Remove grime from pet toys and bowls! To get off dirt, mud, leftover food or just drool baking soda works great. Make a paste with four tablespoons of baking soda and one tablespoon of water and then scrub away with a small brush or just your fingers. Rinse well for smooth and clean bowls and toys for your pet without any harmful chemical residue.
  2. Deodorize baby bottles safely by filling the bottle with warm water and adding a teaspoon of baking soda. Swish the combo around and let it sit for a minute or too. Then rinse well and it is ready to use.
  3. Cleaner hair is just a step away with the addition of baking soda. Sprinkle a dash or two into your daily shampoo to remove residue build up and keep your hair smelling fresh longer.
  4. Clean stuffed animals without water! Dust a handful of baking soda onto the animals and let it sit for fifteen minutes. Then dust or vacuum it off. The animals will look and smell better!
  5. Short on denture or retainer cleaner? Use backing soda as a natural alternative. Fill a glass with warm water and mix in two teaspoons of baking soda. Let the dentures or retainer sit for a few hours or overnight to get clean.
  6. Stinky shoes? Sprinkle the inside of your shoes with baking soda to remove odor and wetness. Let it sit overnight and then knock out the extra powder for fresh smelling shoes.
  7. Oily hairbrushes and combs? Let them soak overnight in a solution of warm water and baking soda. Fill the sink with warm water and add a teaspoon or two of baking soda. In the morning let them dry and they will be as good as new. Make sure you remove the hair before you let them soak!
  8. All over natural car cleaner. Clean your whole car, inside and out, without a scratch or scum build up. Mix a quarter cup of baking soda with a quart of warm water and wash chrome rims, vinyl seats, floor mats, upholstery, tires, windows and everything else!
  9. Oil or grease stains on cement, such as in the garage or on the drive way, can easily be cleaned up with baking soda. Cover the stain with a thick layer and scrub with a wet brush. The stain should come right up.
  10. Too tired to give your dog a bath? Use baking soda instead. Sprinkle a bit of baking soda and then brush it in. This will help your dog smell great and stay looking freshly washed.
  11. Too late to take a shower? Keep your hair looking great with baking soda too! Sprinkle a bit on the crown of your head and work in as you comb or brush your hair. Helps to keep away the oily look and deodorizes.
  12. Keep outdoor furniture looking great with baking soda. Use a damp brush and sprinkle on some baking soda to remove stains and keep your furniture looking great. Add a bit of vinegar to this scrub before storing for the season and you will have mildew free, new looking furniture when the warm days roll around again.
  13. Remove scum from pool and bath toys with baking soda. A quarter cup of baking soda in a quart of warm water can scrub away slime and gunk and keep your pool toys ready for next year. Use for baby’s bath toys too to keep them naturally squeaky clean.
  14. Cleaning grills is a pain. However a great solution is baking soda. Create a paste of four pats baking soda to one part water and scrub the grill with a wire brush. The gunk should fall off easily. Rinse well before firing it up again.
  15. Keep clothes brighter and softer with baking soda. Add a cup to your wash to keep your clothes looking, smelling and feeling great, no chemicals required!
  16. Remove stains from coffee and tea pots. Soak the pot in a solution of a quarter cup of baking soda in a quart of warm water overnight. The stain should be gone by morning. Also works great for stained coffee mugs!
  17. Want sparkling dishes without added chemicals? Add two tablespoons of baking soda to your dishwashing soap and it will cut through tough grease and food with no problems.

Author Byline:

Blogging for was a natural progression for Allison once she graduated from college, as it allowed her to combine her two passions: writing and children. She has enjoyed furthering her writing career with www.nannyclassifieds.com. She can be in touch through e-mail allisonDOTnannyclassifiedsATgmail rest you know.

Growth from Culture: Patagonia's Innovation

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

 

 

4 Keys to Creating Successful Social Media Content

Saturday, September 21, 2013 by

 

Social Media offers many free tools to connect with and engage your various target audiences of interest, however, it can be an expensive investment considering the time it can take to write content, answer questions & comments, build followers and so forth - especially if those efforts are not generating results.

It takes forethought, understanding and time to use these tools in a manner, which brings you return on your investment. I want to help you save your resources, because I know how important each dollar is in a start-up business. Therefore, I am sharing with you four key considerations to create successful & engaging social media content.

 

  1. Think about ‘what can I give’, and not ’what can I get.’

It is an old, well-known law of attraction that when we give from an authentic place, considering what the person or people in front of us need or feel inspired about, we connect with people on a deeper level. Over time if we keep this behavior consisten, we develop trust and loyalty. And, that’s what you need – loyal customers, who come back again and again, and, who also act as your ambassadors telling their friends about you.

 

  1. Focus more on ’social’ than ’media.’

Social media works because it taps into the basic human need of socializing and belonging, being part of a group of shared beliefs and values.  Talk about why you do what you do, what you believe, your passions and what you are all about – then you will attract the kind of people, who understand you, and will support you. A source of inspiration for me on this topic is Simon Sinek – watch his TEDtalk here.

 

  1. Be engaging in your content, not pushy.

Nothing turns off your audience quicker than when you continue to post pushy sales content. That’s a surefire way to NOT get people interested and engaged in your brand.  Consider, what does it take to engage your target audience? What about you and your business would your customer find interesting, share-worthy, response-worthy?  Keep in mind the 80/20 rule of thumb on content. Maximum 20% sales & self-promotional content, the remaining 80% needs to be focused on them, not you.

 

  1. Courage to lead & stand out.

What is unique about your business? Be courageous and share how you do things in a totally different way - perhaps a way, which has never been done before.  Dare to be yourself, and share your uniqueness. It can be the founder’s story and way of life; how the business came to be (inspired by nature’s own architecture); how the business began (in your mom’s garage on a $100 start-up budget); the products themselves, the ingredient sourcing, the humor you mix into a difficult health topic, the way you do business, your business values etc.  Be sure not to force a unique way of being in the social media space, just to be different. It will appear forced, and it will not work. Authenticity is something people pick up on quickly. Know that you are unique, so just be yourself.

Think big, but start small and be realistic - & lastly, have fun with the process, experiment, and remember that what works – also in this digital world – is to be human.

 

Sandja Brügmann is founding partner & chief creative strategist at Refresh Agency, a leading specialist PR, communications and Social Media agency focusing on the sustainable and social business lifestyle markets in the USA and Europe.  Sandja was born and raised in sustainability-minded Denmark. A grounded island girl, who grew up on the beautiful island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. She is a certified yoga instructor, a Danish National Team Archery champion and former Olympic hopeful, and a mom to her worldly-minded daughter of 14.