Episode #44 - The robots are coming, look busy (or how human values can trump AI in business)

Show notes

Artificial intelligence and robotics are coming into our lives more than ever before. They have the potential to transform healthcare, transport, manufacturing, and even our domestic chores.

It is thought that 60% of kids starting primary school right now will end up in a profession that does not yet exist. And there’s a good chance that, by 2030, there will be a worldwide shortage of roboticists.

AI and robotics are showing up in every part of life – from driving, to the mobile technology we use, how our data is managed in the world, and how our homes are going to be built in the future.

So given its ubiquity, it really is important to start addressing the strengths and limitations of artificial intelligence. And that's what we do on this week's show.

Essentially, AI and robotics are making us smarter because we are able to leverage computers to search databases in ways that we couldn’t before. Take something like healthcare. There’s no doubt we’re going to see machine learning techniques try to get a better understanding of what symptoms might lead to certain diseases. And that’s good news. Progress is good.

However, right now, AI is not nearly as smart as people would like it to be. We’re nowhere near a car that can drive itself under all conditions at all times., for example.

Plus, the use of AI and robots throws up all manner of questions about ethics. There is a very good reason it is a subject being featured prominently on the agenda when the World Economic Forum kicks off in Davos in January.

There is an argument which says we, as humans, need to be sure that the decision logic that we programme into systems is what we perceive to be ethical and then, of course, that the sensors can actually detect the world as it is and what we hope it should be.

There’s a great article WEF published last month (Can we trust robots to make ethical decisions?) which lists a whole bunch of examples where AI has gone wrong.

Driverless cars is on that list and there has been plenty of debate as to how Google has programmed an algorithm to ensure a car will hit a building before it hits a person.

Despite these ongoing ethical, moral, sustainable dilemmas, AI and robots are here to stay.

By 2030, we will see much more technology being used in homes, offices, cars – that understand our behaviour and can change the environment and do various tasks around the home.

And the general assumption is that we will live in an improved world. But it will be one in which there will be less jobs.

And that is something our guest on this week’s show wholeheartedly contests.

Laura Thomson (right) is a workplace learning and development consultant who started up her business Phenomenal Training eight years ago,. She spends her time working with businesses to train teams to maximise their potential, whether in sales, management, leadership or communications. For the last few years, she has been focused on human decision making under pressure too.

And Laura has been closely monitoring the rise of robots in the workplace and is confident that the value of humans – in our creativity, our curiosity, our ability to care and empathise, and the way in which we can collaborate with each other - should not be ignored or underestimated in the face of the smarts and efficiency offered up by robots.

Enjoy the show.

Episode #43 - Meet the business kickstarting a sportswear revolution

Show notes

This week, we're in the company of Rob Webbon, a man who has combined his passion for cycling and sustainability to kickstart a sportswear revolution with Grn Sportswear.

Over the last 50 years, the way companies produce fashion – and the way in which we consume it – has changed dramatically. 

The so-called fast fashion retailers argue that their model has democratised, and made ultimately accessible, fashion. No longer is it the reserve of the rich or elite to be able to afford the latest trends. Now, everyone, everywhere can experience that short-lived thrill of buying new fashion items and have the pleasure of wearing something new on a regular basis.

And it is this model that has driven large fashion retailers for so long, certainly in the UK and the US, and increasingly elsewhere.

To start, fast fashion was all about increasing the speed of production and cutting the time it takes to bring designs to the shop shelves. And rather than having just two collections a year, this speedier production process made it possible for companies to continuously rotate their product lines all year long.

And, of course, the ultimate is to then sell many more products and decrease the trend cycle – to have something new for consumers all the time.

The other big success for fast fashion has been reduced prices. 

In fact, fast fashion is now less about the speed of production and more about sales – shifting more and more products as quickly as possible.

And that means producing a lot of stuff at as low a price as possible, which puts pressure on suppliers to make huge volumes at a low price to tight deadlines.

It’s clearly a model with a big problem. And in the last five years, a real and growing movement has gathered pace against fast fashion as the status quo. 

And this has coincided with a number of the established high street retailers making public commitments to reduce their environmental impacts, as well as get their social and community story straight too, particularly along the supply chain.

The question is whether fast fashion can ever become sustainable – something the Ethical Fashion Forum defines as "fashion that maximises benefits to people, and minimises impact on the environment". If the high street brands are able to use their weight and influence – and put as much effort into dealing with things like water use in agriculture, human rights abuse, poor factory conditions and pollution as they have into developing fast and efficient production process – then there is hope.

But the industry must first address the big elephant in the room - that fast fashion as has grown up during the last decade is inherently unsustainable. The commercial drivers of the businesses that work within the current system are in conflict with reducing environmental impact, and looking after workers and farmers further down the supply chain. Something’s got to give.

A wealth of great new businesses have sprung up in the last decade, to hold a mirror up to fast fashion, to make it realise what a mess the model is creating.

And we meet one of those businesses this week.

Grn Sportswear, operates in a rather niche market, producing cycling gear for corporate and team events and clubs. But it is a great example of a company keen to rip up the rulebook when it comes to fashion and apparel.

And there’s loads of great takeaways from the founder of CEO of the business, Rob Webbon –from the materials used in the products, to the local manufacturing, to the ethics behind Rob’s model – that sportswear is to be loved, kept and cared for, rather than thrown away – something the sector he is operating in has been notoriously bad it.

Enjoy the show.

You can find out more about Grn Sportswear here.

Rob (left) with Peter Littie, Grn's chief peddler.

Rob (left) with Peter Littie, Grn's chief peddler.

Friday Five - 4 November - Free donuts for voting, Tesla's bet on solar roof tiles and the Paris Deal enters force

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:

  • The Paris Agreement, which has finally come into force
  • The fitness gear made from used coffee grounds
  • Tesla and its new solar roof tiles
  • Crispy Creme - giving free donuts to encourage people to vote in the US.
  • Millennials - those pesky youngsters that will soon make up 50% of our global workforce

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

Episode #42 - Put your money where your mouth is


 

The Better Business Show, in association with Triodos

 
 
 

Show notes

To Mark Good Money Week, Triodos has carried out a new survey into ethical and social investment. And the good news is that more than 60% of UK investors would like their money to make a positive contribution to society and the environment.

However, according to the survey, many people struggle to find options for socially responsible investments (SRI).

  • 62% say they would like their money to support companies which are both profitable and make a positive contribution to society and the environment.
  • More than half (58%) think that people should invest their money where it can support companies that make a positive contribution to the planet and society.
  • 47% believe that companies trying to make a positive contribution to society and the environment are likely to succeed in the long term.

But here’s the rub. 51% have never been offered the option of investing in SRI funds.

The SRI retail market is now worth over £15 billion in the UK – up from £12.2 billion three years ago; the demand for more responsible and impactful investments is clearly there.

But most investors have not been offered sustainable and ethical investment opportunities, and 46% would not know where to go to find out more about them.

The survey findings also challenge a perception that ethical funds are less profitable than mainstream investments, as survey respondents see investing in sustainable and ethical funds as ‘smart investment’ and nearly half (47%) believe that companies trying to make a positive contribution to society and the environment are more likely to succeed in the long term.

Indeed, over the last three and five years, the FTSE All World (which excludes fossil fuel companies) has outperformed the FTSE All World index. And this year, the MSCI SRI index has outperformed the MSCI World index (YTD).

It's a point we made during Episode #7 of the Better Business Show when we spoke to Ian Monroe at Etho Capital. And it's clearly a trend that shows not sign of slowing down.

The purpose of Good Money Week (which kicked off yesterday and runs until 5 November) is to raise awareness of sustainable, responsible and ethical finance – and to point people in the right direction.

This week, I caught up with Simon Howard – the chief executive of the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF), the organisation behind Good Money Week – to find out more.

Enjoy the show.

You can find out more about Good Money Week here: www.goodmoneyweek.com. And the website for UKSIF is here.

 


 
 

As part of Good Money Week, Triodos is really demonstrating the positive impact of socially responsible investing. There are plenty of options for you to put your money where your mouth is. If you like the idea of your cash playing a truly positive role in society and in supporting environmental change, then take a look at the Triodos offering – go to the website triodos.co.uk/goodinvestments for more information.


Episode #41 - The East London start-up space with a difference


 

The Better Business Show, in association with Triodos

 
 
 

Show notes

If you’ve been to the East End of London lately, you’ll know what has become of the place.

Many blocks east of Old Street station have been utterly transformed over the last 15 years – much like places like Brooklyn, in New York - with a new, gentrified community of hipsters, marketing agencies, tech start-ups and entrepreneurs having moved in, renting out converted houses, warehouses and old office blocks. It has become a really buzzing place, and whenever I’m in the area for meetings, I love just wandering around and soaking up the unique atmosphere of this little pocket of London.

Auro Foxcroft, owner of Village Underground, sitting in one of the venue's train carriage start-up spaces.

Auro Foxcroft, owner of Village Underground, sitting in one of the venue's train carriage start-up spaces.

Well, if you wander along Great Eastern Street, you'll get an even more unique experience. For on top of the row of buildings, almost jutting out into the street, are a series of graffiti-ed tube carriages and a bunch of shipping containers.

And this is the home of Village Underground, a cultural and creative hub in the heart of East London. Part creative community, part arts venue, Village Underground is housed in a renovated turn-of-the-century warehouse primed for everything from concerts and club nights to exhibitions, theatre, live art and other performances. And it’s also a place where start-ups can rent space to work from.

But there’s more to it than that – from the way it was developed, to the way it is run. This week, the owner of the venue, Auro Foxcroft, gives us the inside story.

Check out the VU website for more details.

Oh, and the Better World Podcast Collective I mention in this week's show is here.

Friday Five #4 - The Disney-Dole deal to get kids healthy; the big HFC agreement; and why Tyson is buying into the vegan market

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 time, we're talking:

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

Episode #40 - Here's what a supermarket SHOULD look like


 

The Better Business Show, in association with Triodos

 
 
 

Show notes

A couple of years ago, the Transition Towns movement carried out a piece of research called the Economic Blueprint to explore how and where people were spending their money in the town of Totnes, in Devon.

It found that £20 million was spent in the town’s two supermarkets on food and drink every year.

In comparison, people spent £10m in the more than 60 independent food shops in and around the town.

The research showed that relative to retail spend, the local food outlets actually support three times more jobs than supermarkets. This trend is mirrored down the food chain, with those producers that provide for local markets employing on average 3.4 full-time jobs compared to the regional average of 2.3 per farm.

Staggeringly, it said that if people could be encouraged to shift just 10% of their food spend away from the supermarkets, it would bring £2m into the local economy.

Supermarkets are no good for local communities. According to this week's guest, around 95p of every £1 spent in a big supermarket leaves the local community.

The spat last week between Tesco and Unilever, which saw the former refusing to stock the range of well known products of the latter due to a price dispute, reminded us once again what a complex, difficult and – let’s face it – brutal market supermarket retailing can be.

From the way supermarkets treat their suppliers, to the wages being paid, to the interaction and engagement with local communities.

And against this backdrop, it makes the subject of this week’s show all the more fascinating.

Imagine taking on the supermarket fraternity at their own well-trodden game. And then taking a completely different approach to the supplier-customer relationship - one that is built on transparency, openness and fairness.

Ruth Anslow, one of 3 directors of HiSbe – which stands for How it Should Be – including her sister Amy – spent 15 years working for suppliers to the big supermarkets in the UK. She saw the problem first hand. But she also saw a great big opportunity to create a new model for supermarket retailing, fit for the 21st century.

Enjoy the show.

Co-founding sisters Amy and Ruth Anslow, with head of supply, Jack Simmonds

Co-founding sisters Amy and Ruth Anslow, with head of supply, Jack Simmonds


Triodos Bank is our partner on the show for the month of October. 

As part of that, we thought it would be a great idea to check in with an organisation of which Triodos is a member: the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). It is an independent network of banks and banking cooperatives from all around the world, who share the same values – the values we have been discussing with Triodos – that shared mission to use finance to support positive economic, social and environmental impact.

To find out more, have a listen to Marcos Eguiguren, the GABV's executive director.

And get involved in the conversation via social media using #BankingOnValues.


Friday Five #3 - Clooney's South Sudan mission continues, H&M shaking up TV ads, a boom in EV sales

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 time, we're talking:

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

 

Episode #39 - What's the point of banking, anyway?


 

The Better Business Show, in association with Triodos

 
 
 

Show notes

Since the economic crash of 2008, the world’s financial institutions have been desperately rallying to regain public trust and restore their licence to operate.

As we know, the recklessness of some banks triggered a disastrous string of events – many of which have been played out, illustrated and re-enacted by books, articles, plays and films during the last 8 years.

The practices of those institutions in which we put our trust, our faith – and our money – to use it wisely, has, quite rightly, been put under a microscope like never before and has encouraged more and more of us to question the purpose of banking.

I bank with HSBC. I have done all my adult life. I remember going into my local branch (it was called The Midland Bank back in the 1990s) when I was 16 having started my first Saturday job, filling in some forms and waiting for my cheque book and bank card to arrive in the post the following week. It was such an exciting moment in my young life. 

But never did I once question whether I could trust that bank to take care of my money. Never did I ask where that money would be spent while I entrusted the bank with it.

As I say, I’m still an HSBC customer, for both my personal and business accounts; the rigamarole of switching accounts has always put me off. I’m not disgusted by what HSBC stands for – in fact, in some areas, like its investment in climate research, it is showing leadership – and so I have remained as a loyal customer.

But perhaps where we keep our money needs to be challenged once in a while.

And, this month on the Better Business Show we have a perfect opportunity to do just that. 

What’s the point of banking? What can financial institutions, with all their power and influence, do to help create a better, fairer and more sustainable world?

This week, we spend some time with Bevis Watts, the UK managing director for Triodos Bank, a company which believes that banking can be a powerful force for good: serving individuals and communities as well as building a more sustainable society. 

The businesses uses its €12 billion of customer deposits to generate social, environmental and cultural value in a transparent and sustainable way. Triodos isn't just a bank: its changing the way banking is done. And its customers – some of which we are going to be meeting in the next few weeks on the show – are helping to build a movement that’s cultivating positive social, environmental and cultural change.

You can find out more about Triodos and the way it conducts its business, at triodos.co.uk – where you can also find out just what sort of companies, organisations and projects it is supporting right now.

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

Friday Five #2 - Leo's new doc, shameful steel, palm oil abuse and mental health silence

7 October 2016

Tom and Viks here. Welcome to this week's Better Business Show Friday Five, our brand new show coming to you at the end of every week. This is your dedicated 10-minute news round-up, digesting the very best stories from across the world of sustainable business in the last 7 days.

This time, we're talking:

- the new scorecard to check out how well companies are tackling palm oil abuse
- Paris Agreement finally enters into force
- Leonardo DiCaprio's smart new documentary
- the shameful steel sector's limp response to climate change
- the deafening silence about mental health in the workplace


Sign up to our weekly newsletter to make sure you don't miss an episode of the Better Business Show, now broadcast twice a week.


Episode #38 - Takestock, the business using the principles of eBay to solve food waste

Show notes

New research released by LoveMoney.com suggests that over a lifetime, the average British person will throw away £12,350-worth of food.

By analysing figures from the food waste charity WRAP, it found that each person spends around £196 a year on food that goes straight in the bin. Extrapolate that from the age of 18 until the average life expectancy of 81 – and that's £12,350 over a lifetime.

For a typical family with children, that is an annual waste of £700 per year – and a depressing £44,100 worth of food over the same 63-year period.

The average household buys around 27kg of food a week, of which almost a fifth (19%) isn’t consumed. This amounts to almost six meals per week, with the most common food items wasted are bread, milk, potatoes and meat, fish and poultry.

But the problem of food waste stretches along the value chain; it’s not just about the food we scrape off our plates at home. It's also about the retailers who order too much food, and the farmers and food manufacturers that produce too much, or not to the quality expected of supermarkets. It's a big problem.

And many businesses in large distributed industries have a problem with stock being unwanted in one location and being in demand some place else.

So, step forward Takestock, the subject of our show this week. It was created to be an online trading platform to make it easy for owners of stock to sell their unwanted items and to find a buyer efficiently rather than turning to scrap as an option.

Thankfully, Takestock is initially focussing on the food manufacturing & agricultural sectors where 600,000 tonnes of food are wasted each year in the UK alone.

I caught up with the founder and CEO of the business, Campbell Murray (right), to find out how the system works and how he plans to deal with food waste - said to cost the UK £1bn ever year - for good.

Enjoy the show.

A still taken from Takestock's explainer video

A still taken from Takestock's explainer video

Takestock uses the principles of eBay to efficiently help food manufactuers find a market for unwanted goods.

Takestock uses the principles of eBay to efficiently help food manufactuers find a market for unwanted goods.

Friday Five #1 - 30 September 2016

Tom and Viks here. Welcome to the very first Better Business Show Friday Five, our brand new show coming to you at the end of every week.

This is your dedicated 10-minute news round-up, digesting the very best stories from across the world of sustainable business in the last 7 days.

This time, we're talking:

- Palm oil giant IOI and a tough new campaign from Greenpeace
- Brooklyn's new rooftop winery, Rooftop Reds
- BMW's new energy storage facility built from used EV batteries
- How the most sustainable dress in fashion was created
- And why Patagonia is getting involved in the US election


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


Episode #37 - Jonathon Porritt interview: Despair, frustration and hope from the world's most famous sustainability activist

Show notes

The crash of 2008 was supposed to be a great opportunity for the Left. Radicals talked about the collapse of capitalism; the more realistic among us believed that a focus on efficiency and belt-tightening would at least offer solid ground for a sustainable world to now flourish.

It hasn’t quite turned out that way, as this week’s guest knows only too well.

He may not like to describe himself as a ‘greenie’ – not least because his work over the past 40 years has been as much about tackled economic, social and corporate strategic issues as anything else – but he is entrenched in the community – but Jonathon Porritt (pictured right) continues to bang the drum for progressive thinking, in politics, business and beyond.

And, as you’re about to find out during our extensive and wide-ranging interview this week, he continues to despair at the lack of government intervention in supporting companies of all shapes and sizes to get on the right path towards sustainability – describing as utterly pathetic, the UK government’s insistence that letting companies make voluntary commitments is enough to transform the economy.

Of course, his work at Forum for the Future – which he set up in 1996 – has seen him work directly with some of the world’s most progressive companies, like Marks & Spencer, O2 and Unilever. And today, with a focus on brining companies together to work in collaboration on a range of project, he is also helping small, agile and technologically brilliant companies to flourish too.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Reference links:

- Forum for the Future
- Jonathon's personal blog
- Forum's collaborative system change work
- the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- Unilever's approach to the SDGs
- Neal Lawson's Compass
- the More United initiative
- the Living Grid project
Open Energi
- Pukka Herbs

Episode #36 - Why I left my €100k CEO job aged 26 to launch a start-up to save the planet

Show notes

What makes somebody give up their 100k euro salary and CEO position to launch a start up at the age of 26?

Well, that’s what our guest this week has done. His company is HomeTree, a UK based tech start-up focused on alleviating the hassle too often associated with purchasing boilers and other energy saving home improvement categories once and for all. 

The ambition: to be the go-to place for homeowners looking to install and finance a range of products which drastically reduce their reliance on the grid and to live more comfortably, cheaper and in a more sustainable way.

At just 20, Simon was given an incredible opportunity when he was selected by the New Entrepreneurs Foundation as one of the top young potential entrepreneurs in the UK in its inaugural program. The programme placed him with Jon Moulton, the famous private equity investor, on a one-year contract, which ultimately turned into a permanent role. 

By the age of 23, Simon had been sent to his home town of Dublin, Ireland to set up a €100m joint venture fund with the Irish Government. 

By 25 he had made Simon CEO of one of his major investments.

However, inspired by the likes of Elon Musk, Simon felt increasingly compelled to work on what he believes is “my generation's greatest problem”: climate change. Aware of Musk's mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable transportation with Tesla, Simon wanted to do something similar. But as an environmental engineer by training, he was keen to concern himself with the fact that the largest greenhouse gas contributor by far – electricity generation in residential buildings – was not seeing the same type of innovation. 

HomeTree is his response.

Enjoy the show.

Simon Phelan and Andreu Tobella (chief product officer), Hometree's co-founders

Simon Phelan and Andreu Tobella (chief product officer), Hometree's co-founders


This week's news round-up with Vikki Knowles (aka Susty Girl) features:

1. Nike's distribution centre that uses sheep instead of lawnmowers for maintenance
2. Vogue's take on sustainable wool
3. The Union of Concerned Scientists new scorecard on the 13 biggest good companies – most of which aren't doing enough to safeguard tropical forests
4. Management Today's exploration of the impact of executive pay on corporate reputation.


Episode #35 - Be more flamingo. The business empowering women through high heel sales

Show notes

You don't need me to tell you, but there's a problem with gender.

It’s something the likes of Jeremy Corbyn – the man still battling to win his place as leader of the Labour opposition party here in the UK – is keen to address. He has called for small businesses to report their gender pay gaps, claiming that women were overrepresented in the lowest paying jobs.

Not long after Corbyn made the point, The Times published figures revealing that it is men that occupy all the senior roles in his team while women were relegated to the lowest paid positions. Even those are the far-left of the debate are failing to take appropriate steps to redress the balance.

The situation is worse in business. Take our supposedly enlightened cousins in Silicon Valley. Facebook and Twitter are happy to talk about the importance of diversity, but only 16% and 13% of their tech roles respectively are occupied by women.

As Gabriel Phillips writes in Management Today last week, “Many seem to work under the false assumption that there aren’t enough qualified women to work or even talk about the lack of gender diversity in the sector.

"A recent panel on ‘Gender Equality and Inclusion at the workplace’ hosted by PayPal failed to include a single woman speaker while Michael Moritz, the CEO of Sequoia Capital, said that the company was not willing to ‘lower their standards’ for the sake of diversity."

Outside of the developed world, millions of female workers worldwide continue to be deprived of basic rights such as schooling, a rest day or minimum wage. And our guest business this week is campaigning to support the wellbeing of women and girls through its own commercial venture.

Shoes by Shaherazad is a "for purpose" company and since launching earlier this year has already empowered many women in Kenya, Peru, Pakistan and Palestine through its 18-hour heels.

Enjoy. And, as ever, let me know what you think of Shaz and her story.

You can find out more about the business here.

Key quotes, points and takeaways from this week's show:

  • "Nobody should have to work an 18 hour day, but it happens."
  • "Empowered women buy my shoes, to empower women living in poverty."
  • "I've always worked with big UK retailers – and even there there's an imbalance in opportunities for women."
  • "I wanted to do something for women who don't have access to education and opportunity."
  • "I'm head of customer marketing for the Co-operative. But I wanted to do something for other people. I'm not capable of running a marathon, but thought if I can use my business skills to raise money for other people, that's what I will do."
  • "Our products are made in the UK. We don't use sweatshops and we make sure everyone is paid a fair wage."
  • "You can wear our heels for 18 hours and they won't hurt your feet."
  • "Women working in boardrooms shouldn't be hobbling; it's not a good look."
  • "I went to the London College of Fashion on weekends and learned the principles of design, found a factory to hep me and launched earlier this year."
  • "We work in 5 countries and aim to give 3 months of education for every pair of shoes sold."
  • "I didn't want to just give money to a cause. By supporting education, women can go on to make their own living and take control of their own futures."
  • "I want us all to be flamingoes. They believe in equal rights; the male and female share in child rearing and live in harmony."
  • "You do need to invest in good marketing and PR. Also, trust the people around you to get more done."
  • "Having more faith at the beginning would have been good; hold your nerve."
Real women modelling Shaz's shoes

Real women modelling Shaz's shoes

Episode #34 - Honest Tea: Is it possible to run a mission-driven business once you've sold it to a corporate giant?

Show notes

Last week, I was invited to London, to the home of Coca-Cola Great Britain. And I was asked to moderate a breakfast roundtable with a group of great businesses and NGOs.

The event was hosted by Honest Tea - not a company I’d come across before. But I'm sure many of listeners in the US will know of the business very well. It is an organic, low-calorie bottled drink sold all over the US in very large numbers.

And it began life as a start-up. The founder, Seth Goldman, had a moment when he’d been running in central Park and he was thirsty. But there was nothing really on the market to quench his first. So, he decided to do something about it. And in his kitchen, he, along with Barry Nalebuff, Seth’s teacher at the Yale School of Management, played around with some ingredients and Honest Tea was born.

The good news is, Honest Tea is coming to the UK this week in fact, and will soon be available all over Europe.

And that’s the reason why Seth was in London, to launch his business in the UK.

The breakfast session was titled: Can brands be a force for good? And, of course, there’s a very simple answer: Yes, of course they can, and there are many good examples out there to prove the point.

But there are more nuances involved in answering it. And of course, there are many challenges and obstacles in the way. What does good even mean in this context? What if that being ‘good’ is at odds with what your various stakeholders want you to be and do? What happens when your business morphs and transitions in times of economic or social pressure? Is it possible to hold on to those founding principles – and stay true to your mission?

Creating and running a so-called mission-driven business, is not easy. But it is exciting and there are some serious opportunities, as we’ve been finding out on the show since we launched in February.

But what happens when you sell your mission-driven business to a global corporate beast like Coca-Cola, which is what Seth and Barry did in 2011? Is it possible to maintain your integrity and keep your entrepreneurial spirit alive and well, under the pressure of quarterly reporting and keeping shareholders happy?

Seth’s insight and experiences which he shares with us this week are second to none.

Enjoy.

You can find out more about Honest Tea here.

A selection of Honest Tea products

A selection of Honest Tea products

Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, and now Tea-EO of the business

Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, and now Tea-EO of the business

Seth and Barry, the founders in cartoon form

Seth and Barry, the founders in cartoon form


This week's news round-up with Vikki Knowles (aka Susty Girl), features:

- Apple's tax avoidance scandal;
- China's new green skyscraper;
- two new start-ups, CarbFix and Tiger Air Ink - sucking carbon out of the air, and putting it to good use; and
- the cost of cleaning up the Notting Hill Carnival


Episode #33 - Turning waste bread into beer with Toast Ale

Show notes

This week's show is all about my conversation with Andrew Schein, one of the guys running Toast Ale. And we explore a whole range of food waste issues during our chat – not least the fact that around 25% of any loaf of bread is thrown away and wasted.

It’s something the business is trying to tackle, grabbing surplus bread that would normally be thrown away, toasting it and then using it as one of the key ingredients in its brewing process to make great-tasting ale.

It’s a great story and the company is going from strength to strength, with stockists across London.

But Toast Ale’s story raised an interesting question. When does a campaign become a business? And can that even happen successfully?

Andrew Schein from Toast Ale

Andrew Schein from Toast Ale

A growing number of organisations – and we’ve featured a number on the show in recent weeks (from Hubbub, to Fairphone) are starting life as a campaign and then, at some point, have transitioned to become commercial entities. As you will hear, Andrew (pictured right) is fairly philosophical about that transition – that the separation that they have created between the enterprise that founded Toast Ale (a campaign group called Feedback) and the actual business gives them a clearly defined path to growth.

Of course, we’ve talked lots about how companies are increasingly thinking about why they exist – and the need to move beyond existing purely to keep shareholders happy. But what if you exist, in part, to provide funds for sustaining a charitable enterprise? It’s a really interesting concept and certainly left me with food for thought.

As ever, let me know what you think of Toast Ale and what they are trying to do.

You can find out more about the business here. And you can follow Andrew and the team at Toast across social media, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Grab a bottle now: There are plenty of stockists of Toast's Pale Ale across London

Grab a bottle now: There are plenty of stockists of Toast's Pale Ale across London

Perfect bedfellows: Toasted bread and beer

Perfect bedfellows: Toasted bread and beer


This week's news round with Vikki Knowles featured:

- Airbus's new flying taxi plans
- The Cool Effect collection of carbon-reducing projects that need cash
- Why buy stuff when you have the Library of Things
- The Too Good To Go app to tackle food waste

 
 

Episode #32 - Adaptavate: Creating healthy buildings with a new set of lungs

Show notes

Now, the construction sector has it's problems, certainly when it comes to the negative impact it can have on our dear planet.

In the UK, the energy from fossil fuels used to build and run buildings accounts for about half of our carbon dioxide emissions. Half of that pollution comes from domestic properties and half from commercial buildings, like offices, schools, leisure centres and hotels.

And there is a direct correlation between non-green buildings and climate change. Unsurprisingly, 98 per cent of the world’s megacities – many of which are jam-packed with inefficient properties – are already experiencing climate risks, such as flooding and dramatic weather events. If developers continue to create buildings in the way that they have done for decades, the planet is heading for a 6°C of global warming. That is certainly the view of the World Green Building Council, which has been looking into these things.

And to stick to within a 2°C rise in average global temperatures – a target most scientists believe is our best chance of avoiding catastrophe – the buildings sector will have to reduce 84 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050 – the equivalent of eliminating 22,000 coal-fired power plants.

It is only when you start looking at the individual facets that make up our built environment that you begin to realise just how big a task lies ahead.

Our subject this week is plasterboard. Of course, it is only a small part of the larger constituent, but improving the performance of this ubiquitous material that can be found in properties everywhere could make a big difference. That’s certainly the view of our guest this week. Tom Robinson is the founder of Adaptavate, a company that has created a bio-composite alternative to traditional plaster and plasterboard, giving buildings everywhere a new set of lungs, as he puts it.

Enjoy the show.

You can find out more about Tom and the Adaptavate team on their website.

Tom Robinson, founder of Adaptavate

Tom Robinson, founder of Adaptavate

Tom has won many awards and plaudits for his Breathaboard product

Tom has won many awards and plaudits for his Breathaboard product

The Breathaboard up close

The Breathaboard up close


This week's news round up with Vikki Knowles featured:

- Management Today's piece on whether it is right governments are naming and shaming non-compliance
- The edie.net Premier League sustainability quiz
- Rio's environmental Olympic legacy
- Waitrose's new pasta packaging


Episode #31 - Meet a man who knows how to get your customers excited about environmental issues

Don't forget to check out our new Better Business Show t-shirt shop @ betterbusinessshow.teemill.co.uk.

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Show notes

Want to inspire people to change their behaviours for the good of society or the planet? Of course you do.

Whether you’re working on an internal project that demands your colleagues give a damn about it, or maybe you’re trying to win over your customers, encouraging them to care about environmental or social issues.

There's no doubt about it, it's a tough nut to crack.

But this week we meet a man who knows exactly how to do it. And he’s been doing it for decades.

As the founder of the charity Global Action Plan, Trewin Restorick build widespread recognition for his work at the leading edge of employee engagement and behaviour change within business and public sector organisations.

Today, he heads up the fairly new venture Hubbub - a consultancy-cum-marketing-agency-cum-changemaker-extraordinaire. From food waste and fast fashion, to litter and home energy use - if your brand has a problem it wants consumers to take control of, Hubbub has the answers you're looking for.

Enjoy the show.

Part of the Neat Streets campaign to tackle street litter.

Part of the Neat Streets campaign to tackle street litter.

The now infamous cigarette voting bins, championed (and stolen) by cities all over the world following Hubbub's pilot project in Villiers Street, London.

The now infamous cigarette voting bins, championed (and stolen) by cities all over the world following Hubbub's pilot project in Villiers Street, London.

This week's news round-up with Vikki Knowles features:

WWFs report into the global timber supply crunch
- Toyota's new partnership with WWF
- The nanofarm by Replantable
- Impossible Foods' new burger hitting New York

Episode #30 - We bought an off-the-shelf ethical supply chain

Show notes

I was delighted to have Rob Drake-Knight on the show this week.

He is one of the two brother co-founders (along with Martin, pictured together on the right) of Rapanui, an ethical clothing business taking supply chain traceability to another level. You can read more about the story here.

With a few hundred quid in their pocket, a garden shed as premises and a box of t-shirts, Rob and Martin set about creating a new brand whose power could influence customers to think more carefully about where the clothes they wear come from.

Eight years later and that is exactly what Rapanui is doing – and much much more.

As well as exploring the intricacies of running the business from the Isle of Wight, we also talk extensively about Teemill, a new feature of the business which allows anybody, anywhere to tap into the Rapanui factory, supply chain and back-end operations and start their own t-shirt business – with matching ethical, organic and fully traceable product credentials.

And as I rather excitedly explain at the end of this week's show, we decided to play around with Teemill ourselves and ended up setting up our very own t-shirt business. You can visit it here.

This is what the home page looks like....

 

This blog explains a bit more about the premise of the store and the range of products we have created. But essentially, if you’re a green geek and get excited about the words and wisdom of environmentalists, pioneers and innovators across the world of sustainable business, then you will hopefully love the t-shirts I have in the store.

Each is emblazoned with a great quote from the great and good of environmentalism – from the late great Ray Anderson and Jonathon Porritt, to Nick Stern and Peter Drucker.

Happy (ethical, conscious) shopping!