Do Green or Do Good?

All these articles about green business image — green this and green that. What does green really mean and how do we define being green? Its such a  buzzword. Why do we not question this color more? It has become such a buzzword, as synonymous to environmentally friendly as the ‘green man’ is to ‘walk’. Why it so important is being green?  It is almost like the green makes people forget about actually being good. Good business takes into account more than the green aspect; it deals with the social aspect as well. Am I trying to be green if I sell my products in recycled packaging? Some say yes, but if I look further then say the product is made in china and flew across the globe to reach its end-consumer, and on top of that the people producing the products are very poor immigrants from a developing country who live like sardines in matchboxes with very little salary, and on top of that the factory producing the products have no clue about what environmentally and socially friendly methods are. Do you still call it green business? The Business is saying it is green and that must in the public eye mean they are still doing good because this is what we are brainwashed to associate green with, however let us not be fooled. Businesses strive to follow the legislations of protecting the environment, and use this compliance for future marketing, but how far does the legislations and policies go down the supply chain?. Being a green business should go beyond these legal environmental requirements just like CSR do in the definition of incorporating voluntarism,and also go far beyond deep into the supply chain and its operations. Green should be discussed in more diversified terms because then it builds knowledge, capacity and can become more risk-preventing and more sustainable.  Do green but don’t forget to do good, so I suggest that instead of being just green, be good environmental leader, be good employer, be good citizen, strive for the diverse scope. I urge everyone not to be fooled by the green image – question it, scrutinize it and look for the good image instead!

 

//Eva Alm

Tip for a good and natural adventure and event company

A couple of weeks back I went to a superinspirational 2 day course in ‘Bærekraft’. Bærekraft is a beautiful Norwegian word for Sustainability and it would literally translate into “Power to bear”.  In this course we discussed The power to carry a business forward without leaving negative impacts and to push for a sustainable development of the business and its surroundings. In particular we moved into discussing the different certifications including Miljøfyrtårn, ISO 14001 , Svanen, Blue Flag etc. The course was one large scoop of inspiration and a reminder about what we should not forget when we try to gain competitive advantage in an already competitive environment. The course was held by Høve Støtt, an environmentally friendly experience producer as they call themselves, who strives to achieve excellence through operating in a sustainable manner. A small company however a frontrunner and a very good example of how a business should be run. Their businessmodel is to spread environmental awareness through eco friendly activities for groups and individuals in the Hallingdal valley.They also run presentations and courses like the one I went to, and are so genuinely true to their beliefs on environmental ethics. So if anyone needs a an activityprovider in Norway who takes Sustainability seriously, please take use of Høve Støtt, they deserve the attention!

/Eva Alm

Be ahead by being slow!

I read somewhere that the best way to kill your dreams is to be too busy. Too busy to be able to fulfil certain things in life, too busy to nurture the relationships you have with friends and family, too busy to really think twice about the choices you make, so busy our choices become unsustainable just as our consumptionpatterns, which makes us discount the future in exchange of satisfying ourselves today in our present busyness.  If you are too busy you will also miss so many opportunities that are thrown at you, you are more likely to forget what your real dreams are, and pity you might only realise it when its too late.  Therefore busyness is a threat to ourselves and our surrounding natural and social environment, hence we need to slow down! Something that caught my immediate attention was  the notion of Slow Tourism. Soneva Fushi in the Maldives have a concept called “Slow Life” where their main strategy is to run the Resort in a way that does not have a negative affect on the natural and social environment it is operating in. Then I read about Ron Mader’s philosophy about ‘Think smart, travel Slow’ . It all makes sense and guess what, this is nothing new, it derives from the Italian  Slow food movement but the philosophy has just been applied to a different genre.

Going on a holiday can be more stressful then staying at home sometimes. Limited time and money makes people go mainstream, travel fast, just look at the international bustourists in their freenzie to do and see everything. They have approximately 10 days holiday (correct me if Im wrong) and in those 10 days they often squeeze in many different countries in one tour. Of the money they spend on their holiday back home to their touroperator a very very small amount will actually trickle down to the local communities in which the busses visits. In masstourism like this consumers are separated from the product which masks the social, cultural and environmental consequences of its production. At the same time as you dont know in whos hands your money will end up you neither really get to experience the authenticity of the country and its culture.

With Slow Tourism we do not always slow down the pace but what it does is that is promotes to a large extent local inclusiveness and promotes etchical initiatives. It goes hand in hand with Ecotourism and Pro-poor tourism and it aims to benefit local communities and limit the environmental pressure. I am not saying it does not have ecological footprints because it has, I mean the dilemma and contradictions involved in modern travels must also be acknowledged, however Slow Tourism is not close to the extent to that of what negative impacts masstourism creates.  Slow tours enhances the unique and educational experience for the traveller and it colours the travels in ways you could never imagine. We need a shift from old destructive travelpatterns and embrace the slow travels for a more sustainable future in tourism.

For more infoirmation about Slow Tourism visit Slow Tourism Travel for a Lower Carbon Future and The case for slow tourism. These two essays have both food for thought.

/ Eva Alm

Understanding Shared Value

FSG  created a quick video to demonstrate the meaning of shared value conceived by bringing in the interaction of business and society for collective social impact. It isn’t just enough to “greenwash” your business but to change the mindsets of the  individuals leading the organization and ultimately diffuse to all employees that business and society are not mutually exclusive.

See here

Protecting Children’s Rights is everyones business

UNICEF, The UN Global Compact and Save the Children recently launched a set of ten business principles established to support and protect children’s rights.

What I find interesting is that these principles go beyond only focusing on the issue of child labor. The principles take a holistic approach to how the business community can support children’s rights and wellbeing. For example principle #6 focus on responsible marketing towards children. Principle #9 focus on how companies can contribute to help children in emergency situations. Principle #3 focus on providing decent working conditions for young people, parents and caregivers. This initiative clearly demonstrate that companies can take more responsibility for children in the communities and countries they operate in.

Read about the Children’s Right’s and business principles in detail at www.unglobalcompact.org

Equality means Business

Fast forward five minutes into this youtube clip and listen to UN Secretary General speak about the UN Global Compact Women’s Empowerment principles.

Happy International Women’s Day!

My cup of tea…

Stumbled upon these lovely packages of Fair Trade and organic tea by Pukka. The brand is inspired by the ancient indian health philosophy of ayurveda and  is founded on principles of sustainability and equitable sourcing.

Read more about the story behind Pukka  at www.pukkaherbs.com.

Costa Rica, Convergence, and CSR

Public-private partnerships have not earned itself a popular approval in many communities around the world as a means to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods, and surely the process to converge NGOs and private business firms and government is a complex one. Nonetheless, I believe the idea of a convergence economy proposed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has some bright opportunities, including NGOs who recognize the resources they can leverage by seeking out dedicated businesses for support and businesses who recognize the long term benefits they can leverage by engaging NGOs who are aligned with public welfare issues and the protection of natural environments. Governments, therefore would accordingly need to facilitate and act as an umbrella actor to help foster the accommodating policy fora so that such a convergence can take place.

Take Costa Rica for example, in a recent article by Robert Blasiak ( a former LUMIDER!), the country has independently “self-imposed” this idea of convergence first in regard to environmental protectionism and economic development, recognizing the diverse societal gains of their biodiversity of lush tropical forests (more hectares of forests:carbon neutrality; ecotourism: local employment). Because as Robert so nicely summarizes:

“Costa Rica’s success in slowing and ultimately reversing the deforestation trend is due to recognition by policymakers of the value of the country’s ecosystems.”

For Costa Rica, and it may be a unique case given the country’s natural environment endowments, the lesson is drawn from a seemingly nonchalant, yet out-of-the-box epiphany by the government: constitutionally justifying  “a healthy and ecologically balanced environment” for all people and operating without a standing army for the last 64 years! But nonetheless, Costa Rica drew my attention and certainly speaks to what the WBCSD  envisions, a future  of a “convergent value chain” or:

“…a flexible model in which different participants play different roles at different times, according to the recipients’ needs and according to which entity has the necessary mix of skills and resources.”

And it looks somewhat like this in Costa Rica. Because as the Costa Rica works towards carbon neutrality (independent of the international finance and institutional support might I add), big businesses in the country such as Florida Bebidas (aka Florida Ice & Farm Co.) are integrating more sustainable and environmental conscious efforts into their operations as a beverage brewery company. It appears to me that the model represents a convergence of stakeholders in this regard using a mix of financial and program development resources and local on-the-ground labour input. For example, Florida Bebidas’ (financial resources) pay for environmental services such as watershed conservation, coordinated by state agencies and national foundations such as the Foundation for the Development of the Volcanic Mountain Chain or the Costa Rica National Forestry Fund (program development and implementation) who then train and pay landowners and community producers for the services their land is used to provide for water users. (See one 2003 watershed program here)

Since my digging has not yet discovered local NGOs’ collaboration with business and government, this could mean several things, including: whether there are still gaps in seeing the effects of a fully multi-sector oriented scheme, the fact that the different stakeholders are still not seeing eye to eye and maybe there hasn’t been an active request to NGOs for support, or possibly even a lack of interest or hesitancy by these organizations themselves to be involved. However, what seems more probable is the potential for new value captured in the overall value chain model where not only has a company committed to CSR campaign for waste reduction and responsible consumption behaviors, but it has committed to working with people and stakeholders outside of its direct industry, and for the main reason recognizing that its long term growth depends on it. Ultimately it is such a convergence of stakeholders that the social and environmental impacts have equated to training landowners, employment generation, water resources management, social network development, and ultimately the conservation of Costa Rica’s precious ecosystem.

Gender perspectives on CSR

The popular tv show Mad Men set in New York’s emerging advertizing industry of the 1960′s, underlines the challenges and difficulties women were faced with when entering the workplace at the time.  Sexual harassment, being ignored by their leaders, and thick glass ceilings, just to mention a few.  Since then, women have moved far in the workplace (at least in some countries).

Yet, in 2012 for performing the same work women still (statistically) receive lower salaries than male colleagues,  both within the public and private sector. Women are absent from top management,  leadership positions and boardrooms across the corporate world. Furthermore, issues such as sexual harassment, abuse and low wages are problems with a gender dimension to it.

In 2010 the UN Global Compact placed gender equality on the CSR agenda through the launch of the Women’s_Empowerment_Principles. These principles address the issue of gender equality in all areas of business, including  leadership, supply chains and entrepreneurship in communities. The principles create awareness and give practical examples of what corporations can do to empower women’s role in the workplace. There is a huge potential for business to make a difference.

That said, it is not only the business community that bear the responsibility for correcting inequalities. There is a need for policies that promote women’s agency, opportunities and rights in the workplace. Policies that empower and enable the entire workforce, both men and women,  to participate and contribute with their capacity.

This part of CSR is up to all of us, in the businesses and organisations we participate in daily. If the  workplace of the 21st century was of the Mad Men, why not let the 22nd be of the Sane Men and Women?

On the note of leadership…

Speaking of leadership, if you are interested what some of the most influential people in business are up to these last couple of days and the state of global economic development, keep an eye on the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland!

A notable quote mentioned in AI, Africa Investor, from Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank:

“We have to generate the political will to do things that have to be done. We need a framework of regulations, public-private partnerships that help create investor confidence, and standardisation in our financial and services industries. These are things that are lacking, but with storm clouds in the rest of the world, we must turn to ourselves for growth.”

What struck me the most about what he said is right on target, but presents a definite challenge for many SSA countries:

1) political will

2) standardisation

3) ownership and leveraging individual (country and local) growth–all without the sugar daddies of WB or IMF among other institutions…

Follow someone at Davos! Here are some suggestions!: Tweeting from Davos

Emotional Intelligence 4 CSR

Just a quicky about EQ, We all talk about CSR and how it contributes to development, but there is an important ingredient that needs to be highlighted. In the world of the private sector there is a need to supplement the existing profit intelligence with a more Emotional Intelligence mindset. CSR isn’t just about the responsibility for its surrounding environment (nor only about marketing), but it should be first built on the people in the organisation where strategy is built with both brain and heart, where top talent is committed for its own sake and is willing to do their best for the purpose of the company. Research has also shown that emotional intelligence is two times more important in contributing to excellence than intellect and expertise alone. We need more diversity and “personal without being private”- leaderships, to build the business from within to make everyone wanting the same goal. Therefore corporate decisionmaking should alter and restructure its current businessmodels to a more humane nature where emotional intelligence replaces greed at the roundtable, pronto!

/ Eva Alm

Impact Investing at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Chinese Style

Last week, I found myself sitting in a conference room among a majority of suit-clad business executives listening to a panel of state commerce officials and legal experts discuss the current international trade in Arizona. A lot of numbers were thrown around about import and export goals met and jobs created, but my attention was most jolted when the discussion centered in on China and more so, China in Africa. What is China doing in the African marketplace, one of growing opportunities and that has recently appeared on investors’ radars? The discussion inevitably shifted from international trade to trade with China [read: why haven't the Americans sought out Africa and how can we compete with China to capture the lion's share of investment?]

It seems to me that Chinese investors are taking more risks these days and more of these risks appear in the form of privately held businesses across Accra, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, and even in Juba. But much to the big dogs of media’s surprise, some Chinese entrepreneurs have not followed in the footsteps of what many Chinese companies have rampantly invested in the past decade across developing regions of the world–everything in between Presidential mansions, shaky buildings, and hoards of Chinese labour that is. Instead, on the minds of a new wave of Chinese investors are heralding the way for increased social entrepreneurship where wealth and charitableness are starting to go hand-in-hand as opposed to the common belief “为富不仁” -wéi fù bù rén.

In a recent Q&A session with Tao Zhang, Chief Operating Officer of New Ventures, WRI’s center for environmental entrepreneurship, the key message emphasized that the Chinese are certainly commercially motivated but it does not mean their commercial returns cannot also create social and environmental benefits. Unprepared to make an impact in the social sense of the word, the  way the Chinese see fit (for now) is to team up with interested partners, investors, and thinkers across different developing and emerging economies, such as in India and Africa. Investors are now collaborating with centers like New Ventures of the World Resources Institute, where its Chinese office helps entrepreneurs to better conceptualize and quantify the social and environment impacts of their new start-up.

So rather than trying to push more American companies to invest in Africa, I think it’s high time to push for a renewed type of investing..from the bottom-up that is, and more awareness on the social and environmental impacts. And this is as much a priority for entrepreneurs as it is for policy-makers to foster the kinds of environments to best accommodate impact investing.

An example of a Chinese firm working with impact investment in Asia: Avantage Ventures seeks to create a marketplace for social capital by advising social entrepreneurs and investors on strategic impact investing!

100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics-2011

The list is out! Ethisphere has just published its newest list for the 100 most influential people in business ethics: HERE

Among the 2011 list include those from various sectors both public and private, academic and corporate, government and Non-government.

Excited to see a professor from my alma mater–Arizona State University–on the list!

#89 Marianne Jennings – Professor, Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business

Some other notable business ethics extraordinaires include:

#1 Anna Hazare – Indian Anti-Corruption Activist, Independent
Category: Thought Leadership

#17 Ai Weiwei – Chinese artist and activist, Independent
Category: Media and Whistle-blower

#37 Panthep Klanarongran – President, National Anti-Corruption Commission of Thailand
Category: Government and Regulatory

#49 John Githongo – Activist, Kenya
Category: Media and Whistleblower

#54 Azim Premji – Chairman, Wipro
Category: Business Leadership

#58 Michelle Obama – First Lady, United States
Category: Government and Regulatory

Ethisphere Institute is a leading international think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability. The Ethisphere Council and Business Ethics Leadership Alliance are forums for business ethics that includes the membership of over 200 leading corporations, universities and institutions