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

Keeping Earth in Business

This  inspiring video shows how small and large businesses are acting as catalysts of change.  Through the project 1% for the Planet – Keep Earth in Business,  companies are contributing with 1% of their revenue to an environmental cause. Enjoy the lovely video!

2011 Net Impact Conference – Lessons Learned | Future Leaders in Philanthropy

2011 Net Impact Conference – Lessons Learned | Future Leaders in Philanthropy.

10 facts learned from the conference, though some a bit depressing, hopefully motivates change by American consumers, businesses, and corporate leaders…I a flabbergasted by #5, I especially like # 7,  I can see how the occupy movement had grown more steam day after day based on # 3; and I hope that the firm noted in # 8 can do something more sustainable about # 2

Social Inventions require audacity, vision, and everything else in between

I recently sent an article to a few of my dear Lumid alumni and previous project management team members (you lucky souls know who you are) reminding them of the great times we had devising a mock organization and project on Ugandan women’s development and feminine hygiene. And it’s true as one of my team members commented that I just cannot get of the subject…of the Period that is…because this story is simply too innovative to resist.  It helps me to reflect on some simple rules about social entrepreneurship, filling a need in society while simultaneously creating a business model.

Where 70% of women in India simply are not able to afford sanitary napkins a study by AC Nielsen highlighted the poor sanitation and hygiene conditions of women, especially in rural India. On top of the taboo of speaking about menstrual health, often the opportunity cost of buying sanitary napkins could mean daily necessities such as milk. And the other methods used by women for their periods involve rags, newspapers, leaves that may be unhygienic and ascend to infections such as RTIs or potentially cervical cancer (Sinha, 2011)

The Audacity:

In 2006, an Indian man and high school drop-out took a risk and made a disruption in order to transform lives and improve women’s access to more affordable sanitary napkins. He began to investigate the composition of sanitary pads. Arunachalam Muruganantham (i’ll call him Murug for short) began to wear women’s panties and created a “menstruating uterus by filling a bladder with goat’s blood…occasionally squeezing the contraption to test out his latest iteration.” Deemed a pervert by his wife, mother, and ostracized by others in his community, he continued his research and even created his own millionaire’s alter ego (one that Donald Trump would be proud of) in an attempt to obtain testing materials from U.S. firms to support his investigation.

Finally, murug was able to fashion an electricity generated sanitary napkin machine that de-fibers cellulose (from tree bark), compresses and seals it into a napkin and sterilized by ultraviolet light (the kind only a Starwars hero could appreciate). Each machine under the control of four woman can produce about 1,000 napkins sold at retail price for about $.25 per package (8 per package).

What’s the gain? Well, according to Murug’s research, U.S. consumer giants like P&G and J&J burn their corporate pockets (think P&G commercial, “in a small village in Africa” Nia has a happy period because she has tampax) of half a million dollars(!) on a machine that does the same as Murug’s machine which costs $2,500. Although the number of napkins produced are not comparable to the numbers produced by P&G, a unique business model was born out of his invention that will assist in reaching his vision of a “100% napkin-using country”.

The Vision:

Rather than becoming a commercial enterprise, Murug spreads an idea and tries to fill a need. His company, Jayaashree Industries, helps rural Indian women and self-help groups buy a machine (via govt loans, NGO), teach them how to operate it (about three hours of instruction), and ultimately creates jobs that allow the women themselves to make an income. Although currently there are only 600 machines in use by women across 23 states in India and abroad, Murug envisions 1 million jobs to be created as his invention and the business model becomes more viral and expands in other developing countries.

Everything in between:

What’s equally important as access to affordable sanitary health is creating an awareness, and in this case an awareness especially relevant among half the population of India. Although I cannot begin to say I understand the lifestyles of Indian women in some parts of the country, the immediacy  of one woman’s response to a cautioning against reproductive infections: ‘So what? How long are we going to live anyway?’ really hits home the need for more social innovators like Murug and responsible businesses like Jayasshree Industries to jump start development and raise awareness.

So Team Papy, B, S, I, and E, don’t be too bummed about not getting our mythical funding for the project, there are social entrepreneurs and changemakers out there who are!

Interested in Jayasshree Industries and How’s the de-fibering done? You can watch a series of short videos here, the first without voices complemented with Chinese elevator style music in the background

Lets talk Failures


Being my first post here I would first like to say thank you Sannasu and Ratatanny for inspiring me with your thoughts and words of Sustainability and Development. Based on the topic of this post I am pretty sure both of you have failed or made mistakes of different kinds in your life, and I am just as sure that you learned from them……so that brings me to talking a little bit about how important it is to admit your mistakes and failures being an individual, a group, a company or an organisation or to simplify…….this is for everyone.

I will start with a quote by the industrialist Henry Ford:

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”

Failure and Intelligence belongs together and these two words can create amazing Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR is for me a three letter abbreviation that has become a trend almost, people today make careers and amazing profits from working with CSR, and they show how great work they have done with aspects at the triple bottom line. It is fantastic to see the engagement around the worlds business leaders on the topic, however I am missing one aspect. This is the failure aspect.

Businesses are praised for sending in their sustainability reports showing the good work they have done in the past years focusing on the positive things that have been done, however no one is asking them to reveal the things they failed with. This brings me to my urge for Failure reports, this as a responsibility that should be compulsory for all companies and organisations around the world. If you show me what you did wrong I wont do the same mistake, this is probably one of the greatest responsibilities you can do, to share your mistakes without being afraid to be shot.

We all know the best school is learning from failure, as no one wants to make the same failure twice, but why do then companies try to put all their failures in the wardrobe? Are they scared to lose face, reputation and short-term profits? There needs to be a mindset change here as when it comes down to it there is nothing greater than admitting your mistakes, it can give you a longterm respect and trust from your target group. Just look at it on personal level. Lets say you hurt someone, then you will grow so much more in this persons eyes if you admits your mistake and say you are sorry rather than ignoring it and not talking about it, who will learn from that?……..okay maybe we can’t compare everything to relationship-psychology but to one extent I do believe it goes through all lines of life and relationships from personal to business. We all will become greater by admitting our mistakes as if my company would make a mistake that can have detrimental effect on my surroundings I would be a sustainability-criminal not sharing this mistake to the rest of the worlds companies and organisations. Maybe they all wont listen but at least I have made my effort to share and I have given the opportunity for others to learn from my mistake.

If a company is responsible for sharing its failures it will minimise the risk that others make the same mistake, which would be a first stepping-stone to prevent large failures for the world in the future. Hence sharing your failures should be one of the first stepping-stones to good CSR so Bring on failure reports and share it, and we will all gain from it in the end.

Thank you failure!

/ Eva Alm

Sustainable Consumption

Hopefully in the future Sustainability and Social Awareness will be an integral part of the entire supply chain of ALL companies. Today that is sadly not the case. Mass production continues to put its toll on the environment and unsafe working conditions, low wages and child labor are still major issues in many developing countries.

There is no quick fix to eliminate these problems. However, we as consumers can contribute to drive the demand for more sustainable and ethically sourced products by choosing the environmentally friendly and fair trade options available.

Below I share a couple of my own sustainable favorites; 

  •  Certified FAIR TRADE or ECO coffee, tea, chocolate and bananas! Read more about Fair Trade certified products on; Max Havelaar
  • Textile; Swedish clothing company Lindex recently launched its Sustainable-Choice collection, and H&M have created the Conscious and Sustainable Style collection, both collections including garments made with organic cotton
  • Beauty and Wellness; The Body Shops new Eco-Conscious Rainforest Hair Care is 100% biodegradable. Origins and Yves Rocher also have good environmentally friendly products.

Rainforest Shine Shampoo - Shampoo   Dark Chocolate with Fruit and Nut

Wishing you all a happy and green 2012! 

First ever stakeholder-based certification system for the oil and gas industry

If the world can’t completely convert from oil and gas to electric*, then why not make oil and gas operations more responsible?

It’s the called the the EO100 Standard and it allows for a 3rd party verification process by independent stakeholders, outside the actual operating managment, including the companies, academics, governments, and NGOs and indigenous communities, to qualify and evaluate oil and gas company’s environmental, social, and sustainability impact and performance.

Previously EO100 Standard v. 0.5 was established for oil and gas operators in the Amazon and Andean regions of South America, but it appears that the renewed EO100 Standard v 1 will allow its application to more global oil and gas operators. Operators will be held accountable under the EO metrics and performance standards in areas such as corporate governance, human rights, fair labour, climate change effects, and project life cycle management. Essentially, the aim is to make more transparent the entire process from contract to implementation and in any post-completion and remediation.The standard is implemented by the organization, Equitable Origins, which started in 2009, with the vision of bringing greater transparency and credibility to CSR activities.

*Although Israel is on the move motivated by Shai Agassi’s Better Place organization to build electric energy infrastructure around the world to promote the electric vehicle switch: