Social Enterprise

Transforming the Financial System: Perspectives and Ideas

Monday, December 16, 2013 by

By Don Shaffer, RSF Social Finance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Generational Voice

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

This article continues on Green Money Journal.

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.

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by

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

Causes for Concern 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extreme weather means business disruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what to do?

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

And also:

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

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

 

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

Is Fair Trade Part of the LOHAS Movement?

Monday, June 10, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for the FT label whenever you shop:

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

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

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

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

 

The FT Java Trade  

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

 

FT Handicrafts

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

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

###

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

 

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

In Praise of Telecommuting

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Successful Telecommuting

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

Logistics

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

Mindset

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

Operating procedures

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

Telecommuting and kids

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

So telecommute if you can!

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

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

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

 

 

 

LOHAS: You Had Me at Hello

Monday, April 22, 2013 by

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

A focus on green business

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

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

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

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

The sustainable business view from here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good News

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

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

What do YOU want to hear about?

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

About the Author

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 by

Author: Cissy Bullock, Awesome LOHASIAN and CEO LOHAS Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Trademarks of Conscious Capitalism

Sunday, February 24, 2013 by

Conscious CapitalismWhether you are a LOHAS company or a LOHAS shopper, you need to understand the megatrend of Conscious Capitalism—because it represents the larger economic context in which the critical trend of sustainability continues to unfold. If you are a values-driven consumer, you should learn how to identify a Conscious Capitalist company. Why? These are the firms you’ll most likely choose to patronize since they tend to espouse the same values that you do. As a company, you may want to measure your own standards against those of Conscious Capitalism. In this article, I describe what I call the three “Trademarks” of Conscious Capitalism.

The Stakeholder Model Conscious Capitalists embrace a philosophy of free enterprise that honors all the parties who contribute to the success of the enterprise. So, when leaders formulate corporate policies, they consider the interests of all “stakeholders”—employees, customers, suppliers, investors, communities, and ultimately the environment and the planet at large. By contrast, shareholder (or traditional) capitalists typically place the interests of investors over and above those of other stakeholders.

This is a critical distinction. But how does it play in business? Suppose a company’s sales and profits fall. That will probably displease investors. To make investors happy again, the company may decide to cut costs (aiming to increase profits) by laying off employees. Thus, the interests of investors supersede those of employees. That’s the Shareholder Model of capitalism.

Companies that champion the Stakeholder Model might well make another choice. For example, during the Great Recession, The Container Store (TCS) faced dwindling sales, like many other retailers. Yet the company, a prominent Conscious Capitalist, took a different path from that of traditional capitalism. Specifically, TCS adopted a “no lay-off” policy. But how, you might ask, was the company financially able to endure the continued cost of employee salaries at a time when sales and profits were slumping? The answer is balance. The Container Store found a new way to cut costs: it temporarily suspended matching contributions to employee 401K accounts. This policy proved far more acceptable to TCS staff than losing their jobs. And once sales again picked up, 401K matching benefits were back on.

As this example illustrates, the Stakeholder Model of Conscious Capitalism is neither vague, nor ideological. It holds clear operational implications for how a corporation is managed, how people are treated, and how a corporation can choose to generate economic value.

One might be tempted to assume that the Shareholder Model, i.e. putting investors first, delivers greater financial value to investors. In fact, traditional capitalists frequently make that very argument. But as you’ll see from the research cited in this article’s conclusion, Conscious Capitalists often outperform their traditional counterparts—in strictly financial terms.

A Purpose Higher Than Profit Despite their commitment to humanistic principles, Conscious Capitalists very much aim to earn solid profits. But unlike traditional capitalists, they do not consider profit to be the reason for their existence, or purpose. Instead, they choose a purpose that beyond the necessity of earning money, a “higher” purpose such as to “make a difference,” or “contribute to society” or to “sell products that foster good health and sustain the earth’s resources.” So, this Higher Purpose is the second trademark of Conscious Capitalism.

In fact, business always has a purpose beyond making money, specifically to fulfill some sort of unmet need. The heart of any commercial transaction is therefore to generate an exchange that is mutually beneficial. While capitalism celebrates the capacity to earn profit, it is purpose that infuses that profit with the profound mutuality and satisfaction.

A Commitment to Human Values In a world where people and companies alike are tossed about by a variety of intense and conflicting forces, we all need an inner compass to help us make the right choices, those that take us from where we are now to where we want to be in the future. In business as well as personal life, strong values supply the most reliable guidance and direction. The third trademark of Conscious Capitalism is a Commitment to Human Values.

Walk into any shop or store. Almost instantly you can get a very good read on the values practiced there. When values are lacking, you will almost certainly find a poor work environment, one that breeds boredom, gossip, and inattention to customers. On the other hand, when positive values are honored, it’s palpable. You feel and see it in the positive behavior of the staff.

The internet sales giant eBay, for example, is built entirely upon the value of trust. Early on, founder Pierre Omidyar posted this statement on the website: “We believe people are basically good.” Trust became the core of eBay’s policies and eBay technology reinforced that trust, so that considerably less than one percent of eBay transactions result in fraud.

What’s the Bottom Line?

            To the surprise of many, the Trademarks of Conscious Capitalism generate superior financial performance. Raj Sisodia, marketing professor at Bentley College and a co-author of Firms of Endearment with David Wolfe and Jagdish Sheth, studied 28 companies, including Google, Whole Foods, and Honda, whose managements fostered positive relationships with employees, customers, and investors. Over a ten-year period, the stock of these Conscious Capitalists soared 1,025 percent—versus 122 percent for the S&P 500. A second, decade-long study showed that public firms that are “great places to work” outperformed the S&P 500 by a very wide margin.

These studies show that when business possess the values, wisdom, and consciousness to appreciate that employees, customers, suppliers, and not just investors, contribute to the overall success of the enterprise, companies can achieve profound and sustainable success.

 

Patricia Aburdene is one of the world’s leading social forecasters and an internationally-renown speaker. She co-authored the number one New York Times bestseller Megatrends 2000. Her book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism (EMBED Link for Megatrends 2010: http://www.amazon.com/Megatrends-2010-Rise-Conscious-Capitalism/dp/1571745394/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353425143&sr=1-2 ), launched a business revolution. Patricia’s new book, Conscious Money: Living, Creating, and Investing with Your Values for A Sustainable New Prosperity, published in 2012, is a finalist is the Green category for the “Books for a Better Life Award.” Read Chapter one of Conscious Money at http://www.beyondword.com/consciousmoney/index.html. Patricia was named one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Behavior” and serves as an Ambassador of the Conscious Capitalist Institute. Patricia’s journalism career began at Forbes magazine and she was a public policy follow at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA. Her website is patriciaaburdene.com.

 

 

Conscious Money & Conscious Capitalism

Friday, January 25, 2013 by

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

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

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

Monday, December 31, 2012 by

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

The Next 20 Years of Sustainable Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where We Need To Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

For more information go to- www.GreenMoney.com

 

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LOHAS Provides Funding for Start Ups via LOHAS Asia

Thursday, June 21, 2012 by

ArtterroLOHAS Asia, the sister organization to LOHAS USA, is thrilled to announce that the first round of the LOHAS Asia Funding Initiative has resulted in investment in US based LOHAS company, Artterro. Artterro produces eco art kits for children, and following three rigorous rounds of assessment by a funding panel in Singapore, Artterro was selected to receive investment to help it grow to the next level.

What Is The LOHAS Asia Funding Initiative?

The LOHAS Asia Funding Initiative has been created to achieve the following:
1. To fill the gap in traditional funding models to provide a much-needed link between investors and entrepreneurs that meet the demands of the LOHAS consumer in Asia
2. To accelerate the development of small, sustainable businesses that meet the needs of the LOHAS consumer, and who – through their success – have the capacity to drive industry-wide change
3. To demonstrate the viability of triple bottom-line business to the wider investment community
4. To promote sustainable consumption in Asia by supporting the provision of a wider choice of price competitive, sustainable and aspirational LOHAS products.

LOHAS Asia’s Funding Initiative combines access to funds of up to US$10 million in growth capital per company with ongoing marketing, technology and strategic planning mentoring and support from a number of the world’s leading corporations. The Initiative is targeted at for-profit LOHAS companies from all over the world who have a clear Asia strategy (supply, production or distribution) and a minimum of one year’s trading revenues.The funding panel, made up of finance, branding, technology, retail experts and entrepreneurs, chose Artterro because it represents a strong example of a for-profit company strongly underpinned by LOHAS values.

“Artterro is exactly the kind of company that we wish to see funded to be able to grow to the next stage of their business. They are a business founded on solid LOHAS values, with adherence to triple bottom line principles. We wish to be able to show that integration of social justice and environmental protection into a company’s operations can yield normal returns to the investor community. Being LOHAS should not be an excuse for poor profitability and sub standard quality of goods and services, but can actually yield greater profits versus business-as-usual and deliver products and services that can compete with any company in the market. Furthermore, profits are then used for the greater good in turn, according to the company values.” said Adam Horler, President of LOHAS Asia.

The LOHAS Asia Funding Initiative represents the future of sustainable innovation. Its breakthrough platform brings together a diverse set of partners (entrepreneurs, industry specialists, and financial institutions) to accelerate the development of new enterprises with responsible business models. I'm proud to be a part of this visionary organization and excited about it supporting Artterro, an energetic firm with real promise to disrupt its industry for good." said funding panel member, Dustin Garis, Global Brand Manager at P&G Futureworks.

The Funding Initiative is focused on companies that have an end consumer for their products or services and an Asia strategy. The investment received by Artterro will be used to increase its marketing and sales capacity and to help the company expand production and distribution in Asia.

"We have always been inspired by the amazing work LOHAS is doing, so this opportunity is both an honor and further inspiration to grow sustainably. We are thrilled that the LOHAS Asia Funding Initiative chose Artterro for investment, and we look forward to working with our new strategic mentors to reach our potential as a truly global brand with LOHAS values." said Forrest Espinoza, Founder and CEO of Artterro.

The second round of the LOHAS Asia Funding Initiative was launched on Friday 15th June. Any interested companies should contact info@lohas-asia.org for more information on how to apply.




LOHAS Asia is a social enterprise based in Singapore seeking to encourage sustainable consumption, particularly across urban Asia. The purchasing decisions of the ever growing population of affluent Asian middle class consumers is critically important - both as a market for companies and for future of the planet as a whole. LOHAS Asia works on both sides of the sustainable consumption equation, seeking to engage with consumers themselves and to support the growing community of LOHAS companies, thereby helping to increase the choice of aspirational yet sustainable products and lifestyles available to consumers. LOHAS Asia has created THE HUB by LOHAS, an online network for LOHAS companies across the world to connect, collaborate and seek opportunities. www.thehub.lohas.com

Artterro is an award winning eco art kit company based in Madison, WI, USA. Helping people tap into their creativity with inspiring, open-ended art projects is at the core of Artterro’s mission, as is their commitment to sustainability. Artterro sources artist-quality, natural materials from ethical suppliers, and people with special needs assemble the kits at Goodwill Industries.  Their kits make art more accessible and bring friends and families together across generations.  www.artterro.com

 

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


 

LOHAS Impact Investing Collaboratory - Bringing Money and Ideas Together

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 by

The time is nearing for our long-anticipated LOHAS Impact Investing Collaboratory on June 12th 9:30-5:30, cohosted with HUB Boulder! This is a special event seperate from the LOHAS Forum and focuses on the subject investment for entrepreneurs and investors relevant to LOHAS.  

If you haven’t yet registered, please do so as soon as possible so we can reserve your spot.  There is a great line-up of speakers and events taking place, so this is not to be missed!  For what to expect and more information, view the original post.

You can register on the LOHAS Conference Registration Page. The Investing Collaboratory is $225, which includes the day, plus lunch, and the opening evening of the LOHAS Forum.  HUB Boulder Members and LOHAS Forum attendees pay $150 (HUB Members contact Emily Higgins — emily [[at]] hubboulder [[dot]] com to get your discount code, or find it in your Members Newsletter).

To get you excited about the event, here is the agenda!
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LOHAS Impact Investing Collaboratory
Working together to increase impact enterprise funding.

Theme : What’s the deal?  People with real-world experience talk about making and raising investments that balance financial returns with positive impact, on the regional economy, on the environment, and on social equity.

9:30 – 10:00 amNETWORKING and COFFEE

10:00 – 11:00 amOPENING
Introductions, welcome and frame-up.
Interview:  Kimbal Musk is one of the more successful entrepreneurs in Boulder.  The interview provides attendees with a rare insight into his world view, and perspective on impact, entrepreneurship and investing.

  • Kimbal Musk, Board Director, The Kitchen, Tesla, SpaceX
  • Bill Shutkin, President, Presidio School of Graduate Management (Moderator)

11 – 12:30 pm - CONCURRENT DISCUSSIONS – Thematic Issues
A. THE EXIT: What does it mean to cash-out of an impact deal?   Investors expect to make a financial return, and entrepreneurs seek to create the most impact possible, presumably over the long term.  How do we provide both outcomes, and leave all parties satisfied?  What does this mean for structuring the investments from the beginning?

  • Greg Berry, Managing Director, HUB Boulder (Moderator)
  • Rich Hoops, Board Member, HUB Boulder, SVP Boulder County, Center for Education in Social Responsibility, Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado
  • Zenia Tata, Owner, Zenia Tata, Inc.
  • Lopa Brunjes, Managing Director, The Biochar Company

B. THE LONG RUN: What does it take to last in the impact field? Where are the jobs?  What values make people successful? Why have some people stood the test of time, while others have washed out?

  • Steve Schueth, President, First Affirmative Network (Moderator)
  • Kathy Leonard, Vice President, Investments, UBS
  • Al Doerksen, CEO, iDE

12:30 – 2:00 pmLUNCH & NETWORKING

  • By discussion topics at multiple local restaurants.  Topics to include:
  • Impact Investing In The Public Markets (Kathy Leonard)
  • Move Your Money: Localize Your Banking
  • State of Crowdfunding Today
  • Foundations & Investing: PRI & MRI (Caryn Capriccioso)
  • The 25% Food Shift: Local Food System Infrastructure Investing
  • HUB Ventures — Program Overview (Evan Steiner)
  • Impact Investing Fund on The Front Range (Elizabeth Kraus)

2:00 – 3:30 pm - CONCURRENT WORKSHOPS – Practical Balance of Impact and Return
A. DUE DILIGENCE Workshop (accredited investors only)
Over the past year, the Toniic investor network has gathered, cataloged, and synthesized best practices in due diligence in impact investing from their members, who include some of the most sophisticated impact investors in the world.  George will present some of the findings in that process, and will lead an interactive discussion to help improve the quality of due diligence in our community.

  • George Deriso, Director, Toniic Network (Moderator)
  • Robert Fenwick-Smith, Managing Director, Aravaipa

B. PITCH PRACTICE Workshop
We will conduct a review of multiple pitches which have each been used successfully in raising money in the past year.  The session will include a round of critical feedback from people who have seen hundreds of pitches, and an open round of questions from the:

  • Ian Fisk, Executive Director, William James Foundation (Moderator)
  • Elizabeth Kraus, local investor (Panelist)
  • Gregg Bagni, Managing Director, White Road Investments (Panelist)
  • Evan Steiner, Director, HUB Ventures (Panelist)
  • Zubaida Bai, CEO, Ayzh (Presenter)
  • Ali Cherry, CEO, Snack Packers (Presenter)

3:30 — 4:15 pm - CLOSING CIRCLE: Building An Impact EcoSystem
Attendees shares the one action they are going to take forward to help build the impact entrepreneurship economy in their home – whether it’s Boulder, Denver, Tokyo or Des Moines.

4:15 – 5:30 pmFOCUSED NETWORKING & DEAL MAKING
Get people connecting with new contacts, and create opportunities for prospective deals to break out and have private discussions.
One on One Networking
Speed Dating?

— END OF INVESTING PROGRAM —
Your ticket to the collaboratory also includes:

5:30 — 7:00 pmLOHAS RECEPTION, Boulderado
Maybe the best night of networking in Boulder all year.  400 company CEOs, 50 thought leaders, beautiful people, kindred spirits.

7:00 — 8:45 pmLOHAS OPENING PLENARY PANEL
The Redeming Power of Capitalism

In an age of increasing cynicism, more people are recognizing that we can’t change outcomes unless we change the rules of the game.  How do consumers, investors, and workers find companies they want to support? Learn how a growing community of leading LOHAS businesses and investors is passing legislation across the country to create a new kind of corporation that meets the needs of the LOHAS community. We welcome you to share your own thoughts and experiences during this interactive audience roundtable.
Jay Coen-Gilbert – Co Founder, B Lab
Bryan Welch – Publisher, Ogden Publications
Kim Coupanas – CEO, GoLite
Blake Jones – President, Namaste Solar

9:00 pmLOHAS AFTER HOURS – Spotlight on Boulder

 

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

Checking in with the 2011 LOHAS Prize Winner: Maternova

Monday, June 4, 2012 by

maternovaThe 2011 audience voted Maternova the favorite in the 5 minute pitches for social enterprise business ideas and the LOHAS Prize.  Turns out they picked well!!  The social enterprise went on the be a part of the MassChallenge summer business accelerator and to be chosen this spring as 'one of th 50 best ideas for women' globally by the esteemed Women Deliver competition!

But Maternova is not about winning prizes, unless it helps us meet our mission:  getting innovations to the field to more rapidly save the lives of mothers and newborns.  We began last summer with a single product offering:  an obstetric backpack with a few carefully selected life-saving tools, including a solar powered headlamp and a rotary mobile phone charger as well as the lowest cost hemoglobinometer on the market.

We have now moved, in response to customer suggetions, to carry 11 products and soon will expand from 11 to 20 and then 30 products.  The thing about childbirth in a low-resource setting, is that it is unpredictable.  The majority of births will be natural, complication-free events.  But a subset of births will be terribly complicated--we just don't know which ones.  Fortunately, a growing number of scientists, engineers, physicians and enterpreneurs are working on faster, better and cheaper ways to save lives.  Our pioneering innovation index makes it easy for those in the field to stay tuned to these innovations--and our marketplace makes it easy to purchase the technologies when they become available.

This little company has come a long way though we are on the lookout for strategic partners who can help us move to the next level!

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOHAS Trends 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 by

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

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

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

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

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

The Private Sector Has a Broader Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

While the Nonprofit Sector is Adopting Business Principles

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

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

Language Is Powerful

Nothing captures an emerging trend like a name.

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

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

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

A New Operating System: The Common Good Enterprise

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

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

Why “common good enterprise”?

Its power is its clarity.

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Jim Epstein

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

Alicia Epstein Korten  Be Your Brand

"Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast" Peter Drucker

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

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

 

 

Top LOHAS-ish Fall Conferences for 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011 by

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Interview with Marc Barasch: Let's Just Save the World Already, Dammit.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 by

elephant journal is proud to be the official new media partner with LOHAS Forum. Click here for our ongoing LOHAS coverage, and be sure to follow our live coverage on Twitter. [Our editor Waylon Lewis is honored to serve on two panels during this event.]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDkT3fPRn3U[/youtube]

elephant journal:  Tell me about your experience with LOHAS.

Marc Barasch:  I’ve been around since almost the beginning.  New age business had been bifurcated, and suddenly people were beginning to figure out how to put their spiritual ideas into business.  It started with good ol’ tofu companies, small granola businesses just beginning to advertise and act like real businesses.

elej: How have you seen it change over the years?

MB: It’s been a mixed blessing. You lose some of the authenticity of the core intent as companies sell to larger conglomerates.  It’s wonderful thatit propagates the meme and distributes the products at a scale that a small company never could have done.  There are tremendous benefits to that.  But from my somewhat outside observation, you also lose some of the integrity. For example, if you look at Ben and Jerry’s, when they were acquired by Unilever, I believe they intended to keep a very progressive business model, including a fixed ratio of how much top executives were paid. However, that model was not kept.

So the LOHAS community needs to ask:  how can LOHAS not replicate some of the disparities and discontinuities of the prevailing system that are collectively driving us off a cliff?  I think it’s time for companies to not just look at the sustainability and humanity of their organizational development, not just as a CSR add-on or a laudable afterthought, but something that’s included in the raison d’être of the company itself?  I think that’s the question that we need to be asking. What does the company do?  What is the product?  How can we ensure that it’s not increasing consumerism?

How does this push forward a new emergent model, without pushing forward the parameters of a dysfunctional system?  How does it value and push forward what needs to be done in the world?  And quickly?  We need to step out of the matrix and look at this from some zero point and reverse engineer it.  What does the world need, and how do these entities—businesses and corporations—directly serve that need?

In an era where money is de-realized into nothing but bits and bites, a fictive system based on number magic, the priests of the numerate have always worked abstract magic on the masses, and become the elite through magical hand gestures—in this case, tapping on keyboards.

I’m very personally interested in complementary currencies.  Look at Switzerland, for example.  One reason that they’ve been so stable economically is not just because they are neutral, but because they have some very sophisticated complementary currencies to meet social needs, as well.

elej: What do you think we need now?

MB: I think it’s time for radical experimentation, we need hybrid or fusion companies, with nonprofits using the profit system and businesses founded with a social mission first, such as Patagonia.

How do we take on the really large social mission of true transformation, and not just nibble around the edges of real change?  I think that’s not just grandiosity.  It’s necessity.

How do we model as organizations that meet emergent civilization?

elej:  How are you modeling an organization that meets the emergent civilization?

MB: This might sound pretentious, but I really took a cue from something Thomas Keating once said, something to the effect of, “I get up every morning, and I decide what will do the most good.  This simplifies things tremendously.”

6 years ago, when Field Notes on the Compassionate Life came out, I thought, “If I’m talking about compassion, I need to enact it.”  So I stopped my entire career trajectory from that point forward, and asked how I could do the most good and accept whatever answer I was given.  I asked myself, "what does the universe want?" And I’ve followed that question pretty loyally for these last 5 years.

That lead to a lot of coincidences, that eventually led me to planting trees in Ethiopia, to start.  I started the Green World Campaign, and watched it grow into a mostly volunteer-driven organization that’s now operating in 5 countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Mexico, Philippines, India).  We’ve planted close to 500,000 trees.  We’re involved in regenerating communities.  We’re restoring the economy and ecology of the world’s poorest places, doing work that serves people and planet.  In the model of agroforestry that humans and nature have been co-creating since the beginning.

The idea that our relationship to the natural world is to avoid keeping our own destructive hands off it, is inadequate, completely. We’re supposed to work in an integral way together. Renew communities as we renew the environment.

How do we take the holistic model that we all ascribe to philosophically and apply it in the real world, particularly at the bottom of the pyramid, with the people and places that our collective fate is inextricably entwined?  Collective enactment of the global village.

As a critique, we’re very good at created “enlightened, green-gated communities”.  But how does this affect the poorest of the poor?  Trickle down economics.  Everything is connected.  Everything should be seen as interactive parts of a whole.

Reforestation is a quantifiable healing strategy.  We are using interactive new media and new technologies.  It’s part of the DNA of GWC.  We have an alliance with Digital Globe, the largest satellite imaging company, to be able to show donors over time degraded areas turning green.

A tree is a deeply embedded meme in the human psyche.  We’re a tree-planting species.  We always have been.

We’re operating in many domains, whether it’s carbon credits for eco-stoves, creating social enterprises by sourcing commodities like herbs and teas, non-timber forest products, how to partner with indigenous communities in a way that empowers them and also introduces appropriate technology and new agronomic strategies that are harmonious with their traditional agricultural practices.

We are not only providing environmental education, but also working on linking that up with schools in the US, so kids can get a sense of the global village.  I’m big on creating positive feedback loops in a way that empowers global citizens. Doing good doesn’t have to be only through large corporations and large environmental groups.  How do we self-aggregate and do something that we can see that benefits all of us?

How do we all learn from each other?  I’m taking pains to pick and search partners that are mission-aligned and have a real global citizen mindset.  Some sort of understanding of the spiritual underpinnings of human existence, if you will. We’re not aiming to be USAID.  We want to work with the LOHAS community.  We’re propagating ideals in the context of the developing world that are really building global community that includes the poorest of the poor.

Our model is infinitely scalable.  With proper funding, we could scale this up almost immediately.

I call this work Green Compassion.  And the movie “I Am” also relates to this.

elej: Tell me about I Am.

MB: I got a call from Tom Shadyac, who wanted to make a film about the book.  A large part of the film is based on the book.  Here’s a guy who had earned about $2.1B dollars gross for the studios thru his Jim Carey and Eddie Murphy movies.  As much as possible, I want Green World Campaign to be congruent with the ideals presented in the movie and the book. Everything I do is informed by my own healing work and experience, and my background in Buddhism.  It all stems out from that.

Interviewer's note:  And that's what it's all about.

Marc Barasch rockin' a slanted beret FTW.

How the Content of the LOHAS Forum is Developed

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 by

If you know me you are well aware that I have a bit of a hectic travel schedule and go to a variety of conferences oriented around green business, social enterprises, health and wellness and everything in between. Yes I am an admitted conference junkie. But there is a reason for my addiction and I will try to explain them rationally as any junkie in denial will do. For me, my reasons are to keep on the edge of what is happening in the various spaces that comprise LOHAS. I enjoy attending conferences not so much to hear about what someone is saying on stage but rather what is being said in the hallways. I feel that getting into the candid conversations at dinners or over drinks really gives me an up close and personal view point into various market sectors with various market leaders. The presentations on stage are an added bonus and if I am lucky they are indeed worth listening to. But I am a critique on a variety of levels. My preference is someone who not only provides a picture of the problem but also presents a vision and solutions to it. If I want gloom and doom I can just watch the news. No need to tell me more about it. I think we are all aware that we are all in deep s#!@ and in it for a long while. I want inspiration and something that speaks to me at a deeper level. I also don’t want a sales pitch. I know that corporate presentations tend to have specific parameters on what they can and cannot say. But getting those people off the stage and into a conversation in the hall is great. That is when you can get to the heart of burning questions and have them give you more in depth answers that they can’t when in front of an audience. I also need imagery. I’m a visual person and a visual learner. If someone presents something with multiple bullet points and is reading them off – that immediately sends me to checking my email on my smartphone. Yawn! But is someone has a well thought out presentation and integrates examples and lead ins using images it is magic. Presenters don’t always need to have images behind them on a large screen. They can take the audience on a wild ride just with a compelling story that has colorful detail and elements that the audience can relate to. After all we are a society of storytellers. They also must have that connection with the audience that a few have and others do not. Hard one to teach but when it is there you can feel it. I also run into some of the most interesting people I would not expect and allow myself to do so by being open to whomever or whatever manifests in front of me. By attending various conferences and hearing different thoughts and ideas both on stage and off I begin to weave together trends and similarities I hear repeated in various LOHAS sectors. I also try to integrate new ideas and concepts that may be fresh to LOHAS. This process constantly reminds me of the fable of Stone Soup. The fable goes like this:
Some travellers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travellers. The travellers fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire in the village square. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travellers answer that they are making "stone soup", which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which they are missing. The villager does not mind parting with just a little bit of carrot to help them out, so it gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travellers again mention their stone soup which has not reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.
This is in essence how the core content of the LOHAS Forum is developed. We then add additional speaker applications into it from those who submit presentations and we adjust a bit here and there but that is how it is contrived. It may not be perfect but the mix is a work in progress and I hope that you are able to enjoy some of the nourishment that the LOHAS soup provides by attending the LOHAS Forum, attending LOHAS regional events, subscribing to our e-newsletter or our various social media groups such as Facebook, Twiiter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

 

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

CSR today is derivative

Sunday, May 1, 2011 by

by Scott James

This month we took in a conversation with David Batstone, whose current job titles include Professor of Business & Entrepreneurship at University of San Francisco, President and Co-Founder of the Not For Sale Campaign, and Managing Partner of Just Business Fund. Let’s hear what David had to say:

telenorScott: What country should serve as a model for the U.S. community of CSR professionals and why?

David: Norway. I’ve been impressed with both their government and private sector initiatives. Their largest telecom company – TeleNor – was the 51% investor to bring launch Grameen Phone, the very successful mobile telephone company in Bangladesh. I wish our own country’s administration could begin encouraging business models and investments like this. We’re missing the boat in the U.S. to create local enterprises in other countries which offer both better return and a better chance of success because they are locally embedded. There are real business opportunities for – and with – the bottom billion. Let’s not lament the troubles involved; we must rethink who our market is and expand it to include this group.

Scott: Where are we (the US-based CSR community) succeeding?

David: Our private sector green protocols and investments are working. They represent cost savings, but also bring alternative energy and waste reduction to Corporate America in ways that you are not finding in other regions of the world. For example, last year Intel bought 1.4 billion kilowatts of renewable energy. Think of what that does for both new and existing renewable energy companies in terms of capital flow and attraction of investment dollars.

Intel is just one company; imagine if we were to see 10% of the Global 500 match Intel’s commitment! This is much more encouraging to me than any type of government compliance work around climate change. The private initiatives coming out of a strong CSR commitment are making much more headway than is our government.

Scott: How about our failures, where we are not succeeding as much as we could?

David: There is a real sense of ambivalence about CSR right now. It’s like a trip to the dentist; you know you have to do it but it’s not a pleasant experience. It does not provide inspiration and vision for most companies. But there is hope.

There are a selected few companies that are taking CSR to the very core of their business and corporate identity. It’s beyond starting a soup kitchen here or a HIV clinic there, although those are very important things. It’s about how our employees care and engage with this on a daily basis. They’re not just making widgets but tied to something bigger.

Stonyfield Farms (now owned by Dannon) used to do a lot of diverse philanthropy, but they’ve focused their CSR investments now to help farmers transform their dairy businesses from hormone-based to organic farming. And the small farmers are core to Stonyfield’s supply of high quality healthy products and brand identity.

Scott: Tell me about a company doing something in CSR that is a model for our future.

David: The G-III Apparel Group, which owns the U.S. license for Levi’s jackets and other name brands. As they are converting their supply chain, they’re thinking well beyond just CYA to create a story behind their product. They are reshaping what it means to be a retail brand by enhancing the lives of everyone who comes in contact with their product. G-III is sourcing organic cotton from an area in the Amazon heavily afflicted by human trafficking.

They are working with the Not For Sale Campaign to source from that region specifically to benefit the producers and communities, bringing the material to a Cambodian manufacturer also committed to a fully transparent supply chain. This enables retailers to communicate an authentic supply chain story, creating an emotional link for the end purchaser of the apparel. The new driver is consumer experience, not just price point and distribution.

Scott: What question are we not asking ourselves that we should?

David: Most of CSR today is derivative. We look for the easiest path, the plug-and-play CSR solution for our companies. Instead, we should be asking ourselves, “How do we become the Apple of social innovation?”