#63 The time is now for lab-grown meat

Show notes

In the last couple of decades the global production and consumption of meat have increased rapidly. According to the Worldwatch Institute, worldwide meat production has tripled in the last four decades and increased 20 percent in just the last 10 years – with developed countries eating nearly double the quantity of those in the developing world.

Illtud Dunsford who runs Charcutier, and is also CEO of Cellular Agriculture.

Illtud Dunsford who runs Charcutier, and is also CEO of Cellular Agriculture.

Now, consider the environmental impact of animal farming and production – all of the inputs that go into keeping an animal alive, well and ready for slaughter so that it can be put onto our plates. Large-scale meat production is having serious implications for the world’s climate. Animal waste releases methane and nitrous oxide, greenhouse gases that are 25 and 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, respectively.

About 40% of the world’s land surface is used to keep all of us fed. And the vast majority of that land – about 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface – is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat.

Livestock production, which includes meat, milk and eggs, contributes 40% of global agricultural gross domestic product, provides income for more than 1.3 billion people and uses one-third of the world’s fresh water. There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock.

So, what to do about this situation?

Well, we meet a company this week that plans to use tissue engineering technology developed within the bio-medicine industry, to transform how protein is produced for food consumption.

As you’re about to find out from Illtud Dunsford, founder of Cellular Agriculture, this is a business at an incredible early stage. But it is a venture that will not only turn its back on a way of life for his family farm business that has been in existence for more than 300 years, but something which has the ability turn our food system completely on its head by promoting the concept of lab-grown meats.

Enjoy.

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You can find out more about Illtud Dunsford and Cellular Agriculture by visiting the Clean + Cool website at www.cleanandcool.com where you will also find out more about 19 other amazing companies on the cusp of greatness, including our guests Aceleron from last week.

As ever, please do let me know what you think of the show in the usual way – email me tomidle@narrativematters.co.uk.

#62 Meet the company refusing to accept when a lithium ion battery is ‘dead’

Aceleron co-founders Amrit Chandan and Carlton Cummins

Aceleron co-founders Amrit Chandan and Carlton Cummins

Lithium-ion batteries continue to be the technology of choice for all the major consumer gadget players, including Apple, Samsung and Lenovo – and it is absolutely no wonder that the market is set to explode in the next few years thanks to the inevitable continued growth in consumer electronics, as well as electric cars and home energy systems.

The global lithium-ion battery market is set to jump from almost $30 billion in 2015 to more than $77 billion by 2024.

But what happens to these lithium-ion batteries when they reach the end of their life?

This time, we caught up with Amrit Chandan (below right), co-founder of Aceleron – a business that hopes to revolutionise the way people use and think about low-cost energy storage.

It is a business dreamt up by Amrit and his partner and co-founder Carlton Cummins during their lunch breaks working for a management consultancy. As you’re about to find out, this is a company with a technology that can efficiently test which lithium-ion batteries are good and still have some life, perhaps for use in another application, and which ones are not so good. And it takes the good ones and packages them in a way that is safe, cost effective and useful again.

Amrit and Carlton are on the mission: to find a solid replacement for the traditional 12-volt lead acid battery, something that could truly revolutionise the way people use batteries, particularly in the developing world where 25% of deaths are attributed to industrial gases, including lead poisoning, from lead batteries being burned, according to World Health Organisation statistics.

Enjoy the conversation.


For more on Aceleron (with just the one 'c'), visit the website.  And you can follow Amrit and Carlton on Twitter too.

You can read one of Amrit's articles here.

 

#61 With a little help from friends: How Nestlé plans to solve the global food crisis

 

episode 61, in association with:

 
 
 

This episode of the Better Business Show is bought to you in association with Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, working had to enhance quality of life and contribute to a healthier future for people all around the world. Check out nestle.com for more information.

 
 
 

Show notes

Around 795 million people go to bed hungry every night. 155 million children are stunted, meaning they won't reach their full potential. Two billion people suffer from some sort of micro-nutrient deficiency, meaning they lack in Vitamin A, zinc or iron.

Meanwhile, 2.1 billion people are either overweight or obese.

It is against this backdrop that the Planting Seeds for the Future of Food conference got underway in Vevey, Switzerland, home of the world's biggest food and drink business, Nestlé. And the Better Business Show was given exclusive access to proceedings. Enjoy this week's show.

 

 

Nestlé has been in business for 150 years and it knows that it faces some huge problems, both in terms of the environmental impact of the way it sources its raw materials and the health impacts related to its products (including under nutrition, obesity and diabetes). These are certainly interesting times to be part of a global food system under serious pressure.

As we explored during last week's episode on Hampton Creek, while it's harsh to describe the world’s current food system as being "broken" it is fair to say that the challenges it is already facing are huge.

In a nutshell, it will need to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population which will reach 10 billion by 2050; some say, our farmers will need to double the amount of food being grown by then.

And this food must be healthier, containing more protein and nutrition.

Soils

Then there's the stark reality of the environmental impact of agriculture, a sector responsible for some 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. And then there’s the strain being place on farmers everywhere by climate change which, in case you were in any doubt, is massive – including the pressure on water supplies, the more erratic and hard to predict weather patterns, and the increase instances of drought or heavy rainfall.

And during the first session of the conference the always brilliant Tony Juniper set the scene beautifully, pointing to the soil beneath our feet as being both the problem and potential solution to the world’s impending food crisis.

Take a tablespoon of soil in the East of England, said Tony. There you will will find six billion organisms. "Soil is where we find organic material, it holds water, it stores carbon, keeping it from entering the atmosphere. The organisms working with the organic material means it is recycling nutrients, fostering new plant growth."

So, when soils get damaged, eroded, over-farmed, you get a depletion of organic matter and the soils just won’t produce plants, crops, raw materials in the same way. And that, he says, poses a major threat to food security.

Amazingly, one third of all agricultural soils have been degraded around the world.

At a cost

And so that biological recycling process has been replaced with chemicals and fertilisers, helping to keep pace with global food demand. But that has come at a cost.

We are all aware of the decline in bee populations. In fact, two thirds of all pollinators are under threat because of a loss of biodiversity on land everywhere. Agricultural technology and the use of chemicals has managed to damage the underpinning of agriculture. And that needs to change.

But is it possible for farming systems to adapt to become more sustainable while having the productive capacity to match consumer demand for healthy and sustainable diets? We know chemicals work, that’s why farmers use them everywhere.

The need to produce more with less, the need to protect soils, the need to reduce water consumption, the need to treat farmers well and help them to thrive, the need to move from a system based on chemistry to one that is based on biology. These were the dominant themes to emerge from the two day event.

Rice, rice baby

And we heard some really interesting examples of technology and collaboration that is helping to solve some of these challenges.

James Lomax at the UN Environment Programme told us about the Sustainable Rice Platform.

Rice is the daily staple for more than 3.5 billion people, accounting for 19% of dietary energy globally. It is a crop that provides livelihoods for more than 1 billion people and it is produced on 160 million hectares, by 144 million smallholders.

And the most incredible thing is that rice uses 34-43% of the world’s irrigation water for production and its responsible for up to 10% of global methane emissions.

James talked about methods that can save up to 30% of water in the production process, and incentivising those farmers that are taking things seriously. Of course, there’s a need to scale things up so that all big food companies engage in the programme and start finding the same sort of efficiencies. There was certainly a call for Nestlé to follow in the footsteps of Mars which recently committed to ensure all of its Uncle Ben’s rice is produced using some of the methods encouraged by the platform.

There’s also some interesting work being done by the likes of Google, as one might expect. For example, using its GPS and mapping capability to track deforestation by food companies, and how comsummables and swallowables that can aid healthier eating.

Nutrition

The second day kicked off by focusing on the importance of nutrition, not only when it comes to farmers and food companies producing and selling more food that is actually good for us, but also in relieving the pressure on the environmental impact of the entire system on the planet and our ecosystems.

But it is also about considering how our food system actually gets the right nutrition to the people that need it the most. Far too many people just aren’t getting anywhere near the right amount of the good stuff which has so many far reaching problems – from pressure on healthcare systems, education and economic development.

Heiko Schipper, Nestle’s head of nutrition said that the focus on nutrition was how Nestle started 150 years ago when Switzerland was a poor country with high infant mortality rates. Along came pharmacist Henri Nestlé who wanted to use his knowledge to save kids around him. He came up with a solution to help kids that could not be breast fed and developed the first combination of milk from the alps, and cereals and nutrients, an easy to digest solution to save the lives of infants.

He added that Nestlé’s purpose has shifted in recent years – from being the world’s biggest food and drinks company, to being a nutrition, health and wellness company. At the heart of this is a nutrition profiling system which Nestle puts all of its products through to establish just how good or bad they are.

And it has also boosted its investment in R&D – from 1.5% to 1.9% – to find ways to make all of its products more healthy, reducing sugar, salt and saturated fats, while at the same time making each product still taste great. It is no mean feat but an absolute necessity given the huge challenge the world faces.

Consumers

The focus on the consumer is an interesting one. Farmers, producers, retailers are not going to be incentivised to adopt more sustainable approaches to agriculture unless the consumer market is excited by it. We know the new generation are interested in food. They want to know what they are eating, they want to know where its come from, they want to know what’s in it, and they want to feel good about it. They’ll probably snap it and post on Instagram too.

But how do you really change mindets and behaviours at the scale needed to transform the food system?

Courage is needed

This two-day event was filled with numbers; big challenging numbers about the sheer size of the challenge that lies ahead. And it’s scary, and feels so big.

There’s no doubt about it, these types of events are crucial. People need to meet, work together, provide evidence, grab funding and scale projects up.

There is a huge need for courage. When you start to consider the need to feed the world’s 7 billion people, you can’t just turn the system off and reboot it when you’ve figured out the way forward – the wheels must continue to turn. So making the transition just seems that much more difficult.

If the world is still talking about the same numbers and challenges in 5, 10 or 15 years time, we're in trouble.

#60 The company making mayo without an egg, butter without a cow

This week, you get the chance to step inside the most talked about business on the planet right now. Hampton Creek’s CEO Josh Tetrick gives us a flavour of what makes his company tick – from attracting investment to staying true to your mission. Learn how this San Francisco unicorn plans to change the way we eat forever by not appealing to hearts and minds, just making great food.


If you’re like most of us, you grew up on nachos, vending machine cinnamon rolls, and fast food chicken sandwiches. Our parents would give us a few dollars. We’d eat whatever tasted good. And more often than not, if it was cheap and tasty, it was also accelerating chronic disease and climate change. That’s how unjust our food system is.

This is how Hampton Creek, rather brilliantly, introduces itself on its website.

So, meeting this business as part of my recent trip to San Francisco was always going to be a highlight.

From our base in downtown, we pile into a sort of mini bus and we’re driven to the outskirts of the city.

We arrive at a rather nondescript, beige-looking, sign-less warehouse-type building.

And this is the home of Hampton Creek, one of the most exciting and talked about businesses in the world right now – and for good reason.

It is a very young company, but with a rich history. You can Google all the stories of coups and customer wobbles; there are plenty of tales doing the rounds, not least the fact that three of the company’s top executives have just been fired by the CEO after he accused them of plotting against him.

Of course, the other huge story is that this is a company that has managed to grab a billion dollars of investment, largely based on a promise.

But what a promise.

This is a business that has promised to make us all eat better by making use of the 400,000 species of plant that the world just hasn't harvested for food so far.

Josh Tetrick:

I don't care about appealing to people’s hearts, I just want to make food taste fucking good

So, I feel so lucky to have entered through the very indiscreet doors of Hampton Creek, past the security guards, to see this place in action.

Much of its cash is currently being spent on laboratory equipment, to find out which of these plant species could be used to 'recreate' the foods that we know and love.

So far, Hampton Creek has about four different products on supermarket shelves – mayo, salad dressings, some cookie dough and cookies – so there is a long, long way to go.

But if you listen to the CEO Josh Tetrick on this week's show, you will understand why we should all be so excited about this business.

Enjoy.


For more on Hampton Creek check out hamptoncreek.com.

As I mention on this week's show, please don't also forget to check out the Better Business Show Pop-Up T-Shirt Store. We have men's and women’s tees emblazoned with fantastic quotes from the great and good of the environmental movemen. All of our lovely organic cotton t-shirts are ethically produced by the wonderful people at Rapanui on the beautiful Isle of Wight.

 

#59 Responding to human rights: Where to start and how to protect your business

 

This episode of the Better Business Show is brought to you in association with KPMG, the global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. KPMG also works with clients to help identify, understand and manage their human rights and social impact.

To find out more head to www.kpmg.com/humanrights

 
 
 

Show notes

This time we’re spending some time with a man at the very heart of the business response to human rights. Richard Boele has spent his entire career fighting the good cause for responsible business practice and remains hopeful that the tide is turning on corporate malpractice.

Perhaps it's too early to make a full assessment as to the effectiveness of measures like the UK's Modern Slavery Act, with the first round of reporting having only just been carried out. But companies certainly need to be encouraged to be as open and transparent as possible.

And it is certainly safe to say that the issue of human rights is one that no company wants to be embroiled in, as well as one subject that every company is most certainly exposed and at risk of.

That’s why we’ve dedicated the bulk of this episode to the subject and we’re super excited to have grabbed Richard Boele to appear on the show.

Richard Boele, KPMG's head of specialist human rights and social impact group

Richard Boele, KPMG's head of specialist human rights and social impact group

In 2015 KPMG Australia raised eyebrows in the business world when it bought a specialist human rights consultancy called Banarra – it was not a move many people expected from an accounting and business consulting firm. But it was a wise move, as you can find out in this week's episode.

Two years on from that acquisition, Richard has firmly established human rights advisory as a service that KPMG member firms now provide to clients around the world.

An absolute goldmine of information, insight and knowledge on the subject of human rights – and the business response – make the most of Richard Boele, KPMG's head of specialist human rights and social impact group.

You can find the KPMG report, 'Addressing human rights in business: Executive perspectives' at www.kpmg.com/human rights.

Follow Richard on Twitter and LinkedIn.


If you fancy getting in touch with me, Tom Idle, then email me or follow me on Twitter.

Oh, and don't forget to grab yourself a t-shirt for the summer at the Better Business Show Pop Up T-Shirt Shop.

#58 What does a 'net positive' printer look like, anyway?

Meet Gareth Dinnage, the man at the helm of Seacourt, an Oxford-based printer that has spent the last 20 years slowly turning the entire dirty business of commercial printing on its head. We’ve all got print jobs we need doing – whether its for corporate reports, or marketing literature. But imagine if your printing activity had a positive impact on the planet rather than a negative one. Gareth gives the hows, whys and wherefores.


Show notes

More often than not we like to bring you stories of young, fresh, raw businesses that are based on an idea, a concept, a realisation that there is a better way. 

But we also like to bring you stories of companies that are on something of a journey, to turn their businesses around. And I think there is as much to learn from both sorts of business; and I get as much pleasure talking, writing and storytelling about both types of organisation.

And we have a bit of a gem for you on this week’s show. It falls into the latter camp. It is a business that has been around for 70 years, and it has managed to do what so many companies are trying to do right now: To change.

A notoriously dirty, toxic and wasteful industry, the commercial printing sector – the UK’s fifth largest manufacturing industry which operates in virtually all aspects of the national economy – has had to grapple with a plethora of environmental issues. From printing plates and ink tins, to pallets and packaging there is plenty of potential for generating waste. Then, high volumes of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) emanate from the printing process as inks dry, sending colourless and odourless gases into the atmosphere, damaging the ozone layer, not to mention the lungs of print workers. The main oils used in non-vegetable based inks are petroleum-based too. All in all, the industry has not been a friend to the planet.

Gareth Dinnage, managing director, Seacourt

Gareth Dinnage, managing director, Seacourt

Recognising these negative attributes and a growing desire for its customers to respond more positively to their environmental responsibility, Seacourt has long found new ways of printing that do not negatively affect the environment. Back in 1997, it became one of the first commercial printers in the UK to make use of waterless printing technology.

Since then, it has continued to evolve its offering as a truly green printer, achieving stringent environmental management standards, becoming carbon neutral, switching to 100% renewable energy and even installing a wormery to make use of the thousands of teabags thrown into the office bins every year.

Seacourt reduced its VOC emissions by more than 98.5% too. And in October 2009, it became the world’s first zero waste printing company; it has no waste bins on site and sends absolutely nothing to landfill.

I’ll let Gareth, the company's managing director, tell you more about his business, which as you will hear, he does with plenty of vim and vigour.

 

 

#57 Green Banana Paper: ’I learned everything I needed to know about running my business from YouTube’

This time, we’re with Matt Simpson, the man behind Green Banana Paper, a company developed purely as a way to give local employment to a demographic of island dwellers in Micronesia who would most likely have left for jobs in the city. Making wallets from banana trees, learn how this unique company’s process has been a labour of love for Matt, and a great example of alternative materials playing their role in building products of the future.


Show notes

So, Matt Simpson (below right) from Connecticut, arrives in Kosrae, Micronesia in 2008. He is a young volunteer teacher and picks up some work at one of the local high schools on the island.

He falls in love. With the people, with the island, with the work-life balance he encounters. Who wouldn’t? After work every day, he is merely a hop, skip and jump from the ocean where he spends hours surfing and lapping up the waves.

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When his teaching contract came to an end, Matt, understandably, was reluctant to leave.

His time on Kosrae had taught him many things, including the fact that very few businesses existed on the island. And hardly anything was exported out of Kosrae. His former students who had now left school were either unemployed, or had already shipped out to find work in the US, most probably on minimum wage.

Matt decided to do something about it. And Green Banana Paper was born.

A bit lost in high school, Matt originally went into teaching because he felt an urge to help kids who, much like him, needed a helping hand to tread their own path in life.

Taking that philosophy into his business, he has built a business NOT to serve his own interests as a budding entrepreneur, but to satisfy and serve the needs of his team of workers and the Kosrae community in which his business sits.

As he explains to me during our conversation this week, Matt had absolutely no previous experience doing what his company now does. He learned everything from Google and YouTube. 

As his latest Kickstarter campaign came to an end last week, Matt’s business is ready and rearing to go. Yes, it has taken a good few years to get to this point. But Matt’s story is one of passion, belief and creating a business for the good of the many, rather than just the few.

Enjoy.

 
 
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Episode #56 - The bamboo boxers making cotton look pants

Buddha Boxers founder Jason Spitkoski

Buddha Boxers founder Jason Spitkoski

A show title likely to get completely and utterly lost on our North American listeners, we appreciate….this time we’re with Jason Spitkoski, a man that has left his background as a tech developer behind to chase the dream of running a successful underwear business. He is the proud owner of Buddha Boxers, a company that is getting seriously comfortable that its raw material of bamboo is capable of blowing cotton out of the water as a sustainable material of choice in the 21st century.


Show notes

Consider the fashion sector for a moment, and specifically one of the backbones of the industry: cotton.

As the most widely used natural fibre used in clothing today, it is a hugely important crop. And more than 100 million smallholder farmers and their families rely on cotton for a living, with 90% of those farmers living in the developing world.

But cotton faces significant sustainability risks and challenges, not least its reliance on water and the impact of climate change. For every t-shirt made, around 2,700 litres of water is used in the agricultural process – the same amount of water the average human drinks in three years; it is certainly a thirsty crop.

As the World Economic Forum notes, water security is “one of the most tangible and fastest-growing social, political and economic challenges faced today”. The world is likely to face a 40% global shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water in the next 15 years.

It is also worth pointing out that, although cotton uses just 2.4% of the world’s cultivated land, it accounts for 24% of global insecticide use and 11% of global pesticides, making it the most pesticide-intensive crop grown on the planet.

NGOs and non-profits like CottonConnect and the Better Cotton Initiative are working hard to support smallholder farmers, with basic interventions, such as training and education, which can help farmers dramatically save water by adopting more sustainable agricultural practices.

However, many farmers do not have access to basic information when it comes to best practice for water use and conservation. Educating and empowering farmers and helping them gain access to finance are barriers to progress that need to be addressed urgently.

The global textile and garment industry is worth some $3 trillion. But the ephemeral nature of fashion – where what’s hot and what’s not can change in the blink of an eye – poses a series of formidable sustainability challenges, not least in the supply chain of brands everywhere.

So, as we so often pose on the The Better Business Show: what if there was a better way?

Well, this week, we caught up with Jason Spitkoski (top right), founder of Buddha Boxers. He went in search of ultimate comfort for his underwear brand, landing on bamboo as the perfect material of choice. But as he told me during our conversation this week, he got plenty more than he bargained for in setting up a business designed to get people thinking about the clothes they buy.

Enjoy the show.

Episode #55 - Meet the chocolate company leading the charge for Fairtrade

Show notes

Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off today. 

It’s a UK initiative, led by the Fairtrade Foundation, that runs until 12 March in a bid to bring more awareness to shoppers about where the produce they are buying comes from.

Fairtrade simply means offering fair prices for farmers in the developing world. This enables them to get a sustainable price on the produce they grow and a premium incentive to invest in their own communities.

When organisations sell their products through Fairtrade, they are paid the Fairtrade minimum price. The organisations will receive what’s known as the Fairtrade premium, and it’s up to the farmers and workers to decide how to use the premium.

Options include building wells and hospitals, buying better farming equipment and investing in a switch to organic farming.

By letting farmers and workers decide for themselves what is most important to invest in for their community, they are given vital control towards developing their overall futures as well as their livelihoods.

The Fairtrade movement has achieved so much, but there is a reason that Fairtrade Fortnight – this being the 23rd – is still such a big deal. And that’s because buying Fairtrade is still not front of mind when shoppers make their purchasing decisions.

So, this time around, the Fairtrade Foundation has been working with a new London creative agency to shift its marketing strategy as it looks to engage with consumers emotionally by communicating the “human element” of its work – and what unfair trade looks like.

As Cheryl McGechie, director of public engagement at the organisation told Marketing Week: "Faitrade is often a rational purchase decision; something people feel positive about but in a passive way. We want it to be emotionally engaging."

She highlights, for example, that the smaller farmers it represents are responsible for providing the vast majority of tea and coffee sold in the UK but that they still live in “very impoverished conditions”. 

And that cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast, for example, have to survive on just 40p a day.

Earlier today, the Fairtreade Foundation campaign kicked off. You can check out the video that has been doing the rounds on social media all day that promotes the idea that “no one deserves to be short-changed for a hard day’s work and that with the help of supporters Faitrade can help make it right".

The big boys are certainly ramping up their efforts. In stores and supermarkets you will no doubt see the likes of Cadbury’s owner Mondelez doing more than ever to push the Fairtrade story as it invests $400m in sourcing fives times as much of its chocolate sustainably.

Fairtrade is not an idea many people reject but we want them to increase the frequency that they decide to go to a different café because it is Fairtrade, that they switch chocolate bars, that they decide to buy Fairtrade bananas. "It is about nudging people to change behaviour,” says Cheryl

To mark the kicking off of Fairtrade Fortnight, we thought we’d check in with one of the brands that has been at the leading edge of the Fairtrade movement for the last 20 years. 

Divine Chocolate is a business with a clear social mission and a unique model in that the farmers’ co-operative supplying the cocoa from Ghana is a majority shareholder in the company, with a clear say over how it invests its money and drives the organisation on.

I caught up with the company’s CEO Sophi Tranchell to find out more.

For more information about Divine, about Sophie about the Divine story, just head to the website: www.divinechocolate.com; it's a perfect example of how the Fairtrade movement works and how much it has matured in the last few years.

Divine Chocolate CEO Sophi Tranchell

Divine Chocolate CEO Sophi Tranchell

Episode #54 - What's up with Ivanka Trump's clothing line?

Show notes

Take a look down at the shirt, or top, or t-shirt you’re wearing RIGHT now.

Do you know where it was made? Or by whom?

Can you tell me if it was made safely, and by workers who were paid fairly? And that its production doesn't harm the environment?

No, didn’t think so.

But these are some of the questions our guest this week desperately wants people like you – and your friends and family members – to start asking themselves, and of the businesses that sell and make our clothing.

There has been a plethora of reports and analysis done into the changing consumer habits of the new generation of shoppers.

One of the most compelling is Forum for the Future’s consumer futures 2020 report which imaginess four plausible scenarios for tomorrow’s consumers: ‘my way’, ‘sell it to me’, ‘from me to you’ and ‘I’m in your hands’. These are based on two trends – whether society will be prosperous or not, and whether consumers will take the initiative, or expect brands to do it for them.

The ‘my way’ mainstream consumers of 2020 are keeping it local, in a climate where vertical farming is the norm and personal energy micro-managers make sustainable living high tech and easy. If you open the fridge, you’ll find packaging that refrigerates and changes colour if the food has gone off. Brands and businesses are the ones making it easy in ‘sell it to me’, where smart products and services replace unsustainable products. 

Hyper local is the name of the game for ‘from me to you’, with products sought as directly as possible. Good exchanges, recycling and re-use are common place, as is selling surplus food and growing your own hemp. Say goodbye to brand loyalty. The leasing model champions in ‘I’m in your hands’; retailers and brands not only lease goods, but also provide heat, water and nutrition. You won’t own your washing machine; you’ll lease it.

Yes, the four scenarios look quite different. But there is one common theme running throughout: sustainable consumption is mainstream.

This week, I’m in conversation with Natalie Grillon, co-founder and co-CEO of Project JUST, an online community looking to help consumers change the way they shop for clothing by raising awareness of a number of key issues that leave the fashion sector on the verge of straying into territory a new generation of shoppers just won’t tolerate

And Project JUST will also call companies out that are just not doing enough to be transparent about how their clothes make it from farm, factory, store and into people’s wardrobes. The big investigation Natalie and her team have been working on to shine a light on Ivanka Trump's clothing line is testament to that spirit.

As ever, let me know what you think of the show.

Natalie Grillon, co-founder and co-CEO of Project JUST

Natalie Grillon, co-founder and co-CEO of Project JUST

Episode #53 - Ridding the world of dirty kerosene, one slum at a time

Show notes

Globally, there are more than 1.3 billion people that do not have access to electricity – 300 million of those people are in India, a country so often talked about as being in the midst of rapid economic development. Yet, 25% of people there still cannot get on to the electricity grid.

As a result, kerosene fuel still dominates, particularly across slum communities. A breakthrough discovery when it was invented by Canadian physician and geologist, Abraham Pineo Gesner, Kerosene was cheaper and cleaner burning than its existing counterparts and far easier to source. That was in 1846, almost 170 years ago.

Today kerosene has been rightly displaced by modern energy services, which provide far superior heating and lighting. However, hundreds of millions of people across India still rely on kerosene as their primary source of light.

Burning kerosene for light, particularly in the poorly ventilated confines of a tent home, contributes to indoor air pollution. This pollution causes respiratory illness, which is the second largest cause of premature death in women and young children in Indian slums.

When kerosene is burnt, it releases particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and various nitrogen oxides – seriously bad news for our health and wellbeing.

It is not just the fuel source, but also the quality of light which is important to a person’s well-being. Quality of light greatly effects the type of activities that can be performed with the available light.

A typical kerosene lamp delivers between 1 and 6 lux of light (lux is measured as 1 lumen per meter square). In contrast, typical western standards suggest a minimum of 300 lux for tasks such as reading.

To make matters worse, the flickering quality of a kerosene lamp affects the ability to read by such light, and over time, blacking of the outside of the lamp’s plastic container further reduces the effective light output.

With hundreds of millions of people across the globe relying on kerosene as a fuel source, many millions of tonnes of carbon are emitted into the atmosphere every year. As with any combustable fuel, the efficiency with which they are burnt largely dictates their emissions intensity. The typical kerosene lamp found in a community is inefficient, which means that for every litre of kerosene burnt, around 2.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide is produced.

Kerosene is also somewhat unique in that a relatively large percentage of emissions, around 7 to 9%, is in the form of black carbon. Green house gases (GHGs) are often described in terms of their forcing effect, which relates to their ability to trap heat when suspended in our atmosphere. The higher the forcing, the more potent the GHG. Black carbon has a significantly higher forcing than regular carbon, and it is estimated that 1kg of black carbon in the atmosphere for a month contributes as much warming as 700kg of CO2 in the atmosphere for 100 years.

So, what can be done to turn the tide on the use of kerosene and dirty cookstoves in slums across the world. Our guest this week believes she has at least part of the answer.

Pollinate Energy’s mission is simple – to improve the lives of India’s urban poor by giving them access to life-changing affordable products. With a focus on sustainable solutions, such as solar lights, water filters and improved cookstoves, people are able to reduce indoor smoke, have better quality light, use less fuel and save money.

Of course, it is no walk in the park, as co-founder and CEO of the organisation Alexie Seller tells me.

Episode #52 - Be more toddler: Ella’s Kitchen founder on the key to business success

Show notes

The organic baby food market is about to explode even further.

While the global market is expected to account for $5.6 billion by 2020, representing an annual growth rate of more than 10%, the market in the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) is projected to reach $3.5 billion, a growth rate of a staggering 19.5% between now and 2020.

And that is because of a number of factors, including: Rapid urbanisation; rising parental concern to feed their child with healthy and chemical free products; health awareness programmes by regional governments; and a real emphasis on natural nourishment.

In the BRIC countries, the market is being fuelled by an increase in working mothers, a boost in organic commodities being produced, and government subsidies helping to support what still constitutes a fairly immature segment of the food market.

For centuries, a band of parents have poured over the labels of supermarket products, obsessively looking to give their kids the very best. And why not.

Right here, right now, that band of parents is now a giant flock of more informed, conscious, ethically-minded Mums, Dads and carers who not only want great tasty products for their kids, but are looking for help, support and inspiration to make healthy eat the norm a world saturated by high-sugar, high-salt and high fat kids foods. 

Ella’s Kitchen is one of an incredibly strong growing market of organic, ethically-sourced and healthy kids food taking the supermarket shelves by storm.

Founded by Paul Lindley back in 2006, and named after his first born, the business has not only worked hard to create good food that parents will keep reaching to put into their trolleys every week, but it has done so with a passionate belief in promoting healthy eating and giving Mums and Dads the tools to make the best choices for their children.

I caught up with Paul – who, having sold the business three years ago, is now chairman and “guardian of the mission” –  to find out all about Ella’s Kitchen and how he has taken his business from tiny start-up and turned it into a global phenomenon.

Episode #51 - This technology business is revolutionising the way we think about waste carbon

Show notes

Jennifer Holmgren, the CEO of pioneering green fuels business LanzaTech has been hunkering down at the beautiful Cedar Lakes Estate, some 70 miles outside of new york city. For two weeks of limited access to the outside world, she, along with 11 other business leaders have been put through some serious mentoring and business strategising as part of the Unreasonable Impact programme in the US – an initiative orchestrated by Barclays and the Unreasonable Group.

And it was for good reason. 

LanzaTech was selected as one of just 12 businesses from, let’s face it, a gargantuan list of innovative companies out there, because it is on the cusp of greatness, demonstrating through its unique business model that it can scale up marvellously, creating some 500 new jobs in the emerging green economy within the next five years.

Founded in 2005, LanzaTech has found a way to commercialize carbon capture and reuse technology.

Sean Simpson, chief scientific officer and co-founder, LanzaTech

It converts carbon-rich waste gases (which contain carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen) and turns them into high-quality biofuels and chemicals. So, taking the waste carbon in gases and residues coming out of steel manufacturing plants, for example, and sequestering them into a new product – fuels that can power our cars, our planes – and the future. “Everybody knows about the fermentation process used in beer-making, where microbes turn sugar into alcohol,” says co-founder of the business and chief scientific officer, Sean Simpson (pictured). “Well, in our process, the microbes turn gases into alcohol.”

In this week’s Better Business Show, Simpson explains how the business plans to shake up the renewable energy sector with its fuels which reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% compared to conventional gasoline – and by using waste as a feedstock, LanzaTech is operating wholly outside the food value chain, with no impact on land or water.

Enjoy. And, as ever, let us know what you think.

How the LanzaTech gas fermentation process works

How the LanzaTech gas fermentation process works

Episode #50 - How to solve a problem like the promotional products market

Show notes

I wrote a piece for Virgin.com just before Christmas; a sort of 2016 round up piece. And I used it to have a bit of a rant about the UK version of The Apprentice, the very popular TV show that plays out in the run up to Christmas every year.

"As it reaches fever pitch for the interview stage in the final week of the show, the candidates, at last, reveal their business plans," I wrote. "And we are so often given a cold, stark reality check as to the state of business here in the early part of the 21st century."

What annoyed me the most was not the eventual winner Alana and her cake-making business.

It was more her fellow finalist, Courtney who needed Lord Sugar £250,000 money to kick start his novelty gift company. 

"In the place of innovative, creative, smart, circular, low carbon, or social enterprise models, is a collection of drab and dreary, business-as-usual ideas all vying for Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment.

"In fact, if you trawl through the list of past winners – from Ricky Martin’s recruitment agency and Mark Wright’s SEO firm, to Joseph Valente’s plumbing business and Leah Totton’s cosmetic clinic – evidence of sustainable business thinking is very thin on the ground."

I put the novelty products business in the same category as promotional items and marketing merchandise – essentially, mass produced stuff that people don’t really need.

When I was a kid, I would visit the NEC in Birmingham every year with my Dad for the national Motor Show exhibition: a chance for all the big car manufacturers to get together to show off the new models that would be dominating the car show rooms and forecourts for the next 12 months.

My Dad loved it. We’d spend hours trawling between the hundreds of different stands. While he’d pour over the latest models, my brother and I would busy ourselves by grabbing as much free merchandise that was being given out on each stand as our free plastic carrier bags would hold. T-shirts, bags, posters, badges, pens – you name it, car companies would give away an endless amount of stuff emblazoned with their logos in the hope that their brands would ingrain themselves on the memories of anybody that had swung by their stand during the three-day event.

This was back in the 1980s and 1990s. Of course, it is a practice that still goes on today. At your office, on your desk, there is probably some promotional pens, mugs and business card holders. The purpose of these items is to remind you of the company whose name or logo they bear.

But do you actually use these things? Probably not. On average, we get rid of most promotional products within six months, even the ones that we find interesting at first.

As more and more consumers consider the social and environmental costs associated with manufacturing and disposal of products, the promotional items and novelty goods market is one that is changing quickly.

Recognising that it is a market that is not going away any time soon, our guest business this week is determined to find a way to use the industry as communications tool, to get people excited about sustainability, and to create products that are useful, even after their traditional lifecycle.

Meet Michael Stausholm (below), the founder and CEO of Sprout, a promotional products business with a difference.

For more on Sprout, visit the wesbite: sproutworld.com.

This time you will learn:

  1. how Sprout has grown from a €700,000 business to a €2.5 million one in the space of just two years
  2. how Michael wants to make sustainability easier to understand using pencils
  3. how three young MIT students came up with the idea for Sprout pencils
  4. why the pencil is designed to slow people down (and why that's a good thing)
  5. why 80% of Sprout's revenues come from corporates looking to send messages about sustainability to their customers and staff
  6. about Sprout's other product offerings, like paper
  7. why people are the most important contributor to Sprout's success
  8. why grabbing just 1% of the global pencil market would be good news for the planet
  9. why and how Sprout can call companies like Disney, Ikea and Toyota its loyal customers

Episode #49 - End of year review: Why Trump might be good for the planet, not bad

Show notes

These past 12 months have seen very strong progress by the business community in making the transition to being more resilient, robust, sustainable and responsible citizens. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, since I started writing about the business of sustainability 12 years ago, 2016 – even with all its Trump- and Brexit-shaped obstacles thrown in the way – has been one of the most exciting and uplifting of years working in this field.

This week, we are joined by five of our previous guests who give us their personal highlights from the past 12 months, an assessment of the most significant moments from 2016 (not least the shock victory of The Donald) and their hopes for the year to come.

Plus, I give you my top 9 highlights from 2016.

Thanks to everybody for listening to the show this year and being a part of such a fantastic community of better business makers. Happy Christmas and here's top an excellent 2017 one and all.

Enjoy the show.

Episode #48 - The donation platform that isn't after your cash. It wants to change the world

Show notes

A few weeks ago during our Friday Five podcast that went out live on Black Friday, we bemoaned the whole idea. Consumers rampantly chasing out to high street retailers or jumping online trying to bag a bargain, or something that they probably don’t need: It’s a phenomenon that has come to symbolise everything that is wrong with consumerism here in the 21st century.

What we didn’t mention was that just three days later, Giving Tuesday (the perfect antidote to Black Friday designed to encourage online charitable giving) produced record-shattering donations.

New York-based 92nd Street Y, which is credited for launching the event in 2012, said that contributions reported by organisations in the US and abroad for a 24-hour period total $168 million – up from about $117 million in 2015. 

It said there were roughly 1.6 million donations, coming from people in nearly 100 countries.

Blackbaud, a software company that serves many nonprofits, reported that it processed $47.7 million in online donations Tuesday for more than 6,700 organizations – a 20% increase in giving over last year.

It’s clear there is a real appetite for charitable giving. Not a week goes by when one of my friends on Facebook, or connections on LinkedIn, is not taking part in a marathon or triathlon and trying to drum up donations.

But as my guest on this week’s show quite rightly says, there is more to giving than just cash donations.

Hermione Taylor is the founder of Do Nation, an online platform which encourages people to give by changing their lifestyles and behaviours to help ease the burden on our beloved planet.

Enjoy the show and, as ever, let me know what you think.

You can find out more about Do Nation at the website, wearedonation.com.

Hermione Taylor, founder of Do Nation.

Hermione Taylor, founder of Do Nation.

Donate by Doing: Any individual or company can start a campaign and ask people to pledge an action.

Donate by Doing: Any individual or company can start a campaign and ask people to pledge an action.

Episode #47 - The fashion brand run by knitting grandmothers

Show notes

In the US, where the number of senior citizens in the workforce has nearly tripled since the 1970s, older workers are also increasingly working full-time instead of part-time. Seniors now working full-time are more common than those working part-time.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of those working who are older than 65 will reach 23% by 2022. In the last decade, the average age of the US labour force has increased by about five years.

Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with this; working lives are being extended as life expectancy rises and public health improves.

And employers are starting to value older workers more.

In the UK, Barclays and National Express have both recently announced apprenticeship schemes designed to cater for older workers and to broaden the age diversity of their workforces.

The National Express scheme aims to recruit people for whom age and extended career breaks can pose a barrier to finding employment, including the over-50s and women coming back to work after having kids.

Company’s are starting to realise the value of having a diverse workforce, reflecting as it does their broad customer base and the wide range of skills and experience on offer.

No better is that being realised than at the DIY store B&Q, which has long championed employing older staff that have the real knowledge about doing stuff round the house that the new generation just can’t be bothered with.

Fast food chain McDonald's and pub chain JD Wetherspoons are two other notable companies now getting in on the act in encouraging older people to apply for jobs.

But imagine a company whose sole reason for existing is to give jobs to older people.

This week, Vikki Knowles meets Faustine Badrichani, the co-founder of Wooln, a New York-based business making high-end beanie hats and other knitted goods, entirely handmade by older ladies in the community.

If you want to find out more, head to www.wooln-ny.com.

Faustine Badrichani and Margaux Rousseau, co-founders of Wooln (Credi: Aude Adrien)

Faustine Badrichani and Margaux Rousseau, co-founders of Wooln (Credi: Aude Adrien)

Faustine and Margaux with the grandmas (Credit: La Femme Collective)

Faustine and Margaux with the grandmas (Credit: La Femme Collective)

Wooln's grandmas working on a new pattern together

Wooln's grandmas working on a new pattern together

From the new Wooln collection (Credit: eakphoto)

From the new Wooln collection (Credit: eakphoto)


Also, this week...

Gareth Kane

Gareth Kane

I know we have many sustainability practitioners listening to the show – those working within businesses whose task it is to rally the troops, set goals, make improvements, sell the concept of sustainability to the board, and so on.

Well, we have a special segment of the show just for you this week.

Gareth Kane gives you his 10 Worst Sustainability Ideas – and how you can learn from them.

Episode #46 - The car we'll all be driving one day

Show notes

Of course, the large majority of our cars, lorries, buses and taxis are reliant on the combustion engine which of course burns fossil fuels, which of course contributes significantly to our green house gas emissions and local air pollution problems.

In London, some 9,500 people die from long-term exposure to air pollution every year and tackling toxic air is widely regarded as one of the biggest health emergencies facing our capital city – and many like it around the world.

And that is purely because people are having to breathe in toxic fumes coming from our transport.

Riversimple founder, Hugo Spowers

Riversimple founder, Hugo Spowers

Yes, you can charge people to enter city centres – and the new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is keen to introduce a new 'T-charge' of £10 a day for the worst-polluting vehicles, including older cars and diesel vans.

But is that any better than putting lipstick on a pig?

The game needs changing. And as my guest on this week’s show says: Sometimes you need to rip things up and start again.

Hugo Spowers (above right) is the owner of Riversimple, a new car manufacturer, who has spent the last 16 years developing not only a product designed to rid the planet of polluting vehicles, but also a business model he hopes will incentivise and smooth the transition that is required if we’re going to get people out of their dirty, 20th century cars and into vehicles fit for the here and now.

Enjoy the show.

Oh, and if you want to know more – or put your name down to be one of the first to take the plunge in leasing a Rasa – head over to riversimple.com.

Episode #45 - Got something serious to say? Make it funny

Show notes

Now, we all love Ted Talks, don’t we?

Have a think about the ones you like the most. Yes, they probably contain the most thought provoking content. Maybe it's the personality of the speaker. Perhaps it's all about the topic. Or the tone.

But there’s probably something else your favourite Ted Talk almost certainly did.

It made you laugh.

Stand up and improv mentor, Belina Raffy

Stand up and improv mentor, Belina Raffy

In our information age full of ideas, concepts, stories and imaginings – brought to you in a plethora of ways, mediums and formats – how do you make your ideas stick?

Well, according to this week's guest on the show, comedy doesn’t just make people laugh. It makes them think.

Belinda Raffy works with people with a passion for something – a need to communicate that passion – to help them be funny, to use comedy or improvisation to circumvent ingrained perspectives and challenge business as usual thinking. It is something that, let’s face it, we all need to do in our quest to tell people that there is a better way of doing things – whether that’s running a business, or living your life.

Have a listen to our chat this week, which is interspersed with comedy snippets from Adam Woodhall, Hilary Woof and Mark Dilworth, people that have taken part in Belina’s Sustainable Stand Up course.

And if you're interested in working on your funny, check out sustainablestandup.com.

At the end of Belina's six week show, participants must take to the stage.

At the end of Belina's six week show, participants must take to the stage.

Belina and friends

Belina and friends

Friday Five - 18 November - Your perfect antidote to Black Friday

This is the Better Business Show Friday Five, our brand new show coming to you at the end of every week – digesting the very best stories from across the world of sustainable business in the last 7 days.

This week, we’re talking:

  • Palm oil pragmatism, at last
  • The new Veg Curious social movement
  • Investors waking up to climate change
  • Green Friday, a perfect antidote to Black Friday
  • Alaskan Airlines timber-powered flight

Don't miss our two Better Business Show episodes a week by signing up to our weekly newsletter: www.betterbusiness.show