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 #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 #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 #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 #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 #29 - ByFusion: Building the blocks to eliminate ocean waste

Episode 29 supported by:

Show notes

On the right is a picture of RePlast, an exciting new building block made entirely from plastic recovered from the ocean where it has been continuously dumped for generations.

While its viable applications are yet to be fully determined, the man behind the business bringing RePlast to life believes his company has a chance to take advantage of the 'perfect storm' brewing as the world wakes up to a huge problem which sees between 4 and 12 million tonnes of plastic spewed into our oceans every year.

By 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

So, this week we explore RePlast, the company behind it, ByFusion, and its CEO Gregor Gomory, to discuss how RePlast is made, how it is being used (it has similar thermal characteristics to straw bales), and how to stay upbeat in the face of such a mammoth hill to climb in solving the issue of ocean plastic waste.

For more on ByFusion, check out the website. I also wrote this piece on the business for Sustainable Brands a few weeks back.

You can also find Gregor on Twitter and LinkedIn too.


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

- The 8 pieces of tech PwC thinks you cannot ignore right now;
- The solar-powered plane that has just circumnavigated the globe;
- The company turning China's smog into diamonds. Yes, diamonds!; and
- High street fashion chain Zara's alleged plagiarism.


Our 'Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future' segment of the show, in association with Terrafiniti, concludes this week. We launched it to celebrate the launch of Terrafiniti's brand new series of e-books which offer thoughts, provocations and big ideas for how we might create a sustainable future on a planet of 9 billion people.

The Towards 9 Billion ebook series is out now and can be downloaded for free at the Terrafiniti website.

Episode #25 - The fashion house shaking up the industry by paying interns and ensuring models actually eat

Episode 25 supported by:


Show notes

This week, we're in the company of Heidy Rehman, the Founder and Managing Director of Rose & Willard, an ethical and feminist British womenswear brand based in London.

This is a company which has made pieces for Jennifer Aniston, Pippa Middleton, Gemma Arterton, Michelle Dockery, Naomie Harris and Elisabeth Moss and aims to lead a trend towards a more transparent, fairer womenswear and fashion industry in general.

Heidy Rehman, founder and managing director of Rose & Willard.

Heidy Rehman, founder and managing director of Rose & Willard.

This is a company with the lowest carbon footprint in the fashion Industry on account of the fact that it designs, cuts patterns, makes samples, manufactures and distributes all of its products from one location in South London.

This is one of the only fashion houses in London that pays its interns.

This is a company that is pioneering positive body image - making use of non-model models, despite pressure from the industry to use thinner models and to supply samples in a size 6.

This is a company that is always looking to source materials that are different, such as its fish leather.

“I was working as a top-ranked stock broker and unable to find clothing choices for women that could convey professionalism, femininity and individuality simultaneously,” says Heidy. “What I found on the high street was either too frumpy, desperately chasing trends or ludicrously expensive. 

“I created Rose & Willard to solve this problem. Just before I quit the corporate world, to focus on what is a labour of love for me, I released this report on Saudi Oil, which caused quite a stir. I hope to do the same in fashion industry.”

For more on Rose & Willard visit the website. You can also find the business on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


This week, we kick off a brand new segment of the show which will play out over the next few weeks.

We’ve been working with the team at Terrafiniti, an international consultancy that works with companies to help them develop leadership in ecological, social and business value. And part of that work culminates today in the launch of a brand new series of e-books which offer thoughts, provocations and big ideas for how we might create a sustainable future on a planet of 9 billion people.

In the face of scarce resources, a warming climate, erratic weather patterns, forced migration, hunger, poverty and a widening gap between those that have and those that do not, fostering the conditions that would enable everybody to thrive is a challenge that requires audacious new thinking.

So, we asked Joss Tantram, a founding partner of Terrafiniti, to share with us his best big ideas – and that’s what he’s going to do this week and for the next four weeks.

This week is Part 1: Discounting the discount rate.

The Towards 9 Billion ebook series is out now and can be downloaded for free at the Terrafiniti website.