#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.

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 #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 #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 #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 #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 #27 - Can we create a better world through play and adventure?

Episode 27, supported by:

Show notes

Andy Middleton gives a resounding 'yes' in response to the question posed in today's show – can play help to create a better world?

Through his organisation TYF – an adventure and activities-based business located on the Welsh coast – he believes getting people away from their desks in towns and cities and better connecting them to the natural world is the best way to encourage innovative, creative and sustainable thinking.

Andy shares with us his vision for connecting the rules of nature to the way we design our businesses – and why we need to put our values at the heart of what we do (and why play is so crucial to that process).

Enjoy the show.

And if you'd like to know more about TYF, head over the website.

You can also follow Andy on Twitter @GrinGreen.

Andy Middleton, co-founder of TYF

Andy Middleton, co-founder of TYF

Andy presenting at a recent Do Lectures event.

Andy presenting at a recent Do Lectures event.

TYF's coasteering.

TYF's coasteering.

Coasteerers in action!

Coasteerers in action!


This week's news round-up, with the brilliant Vikki Knowles, featured stories on:

- The company turning beer waste into edible snacks (and the Food Rush magazine running the story
Ann-Christine Duhaime's research into turning the brain green.
- Elon Musk's poor excuse for an apology.
- The newly-launched Natural Capital Protocol.


Don't miss our Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future segment of the show, in association with Terrafiniti to celebrate the launch of a new 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.

This week, in Part 3 in the series, Joss Tantram, a founding partner of Terrafiniti, explores principles for putting sustainable value at the heart of economic price.

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


Episode #26 - The innovators turning cow burps into plastic

Episode 26 supported by:

Show notes

We walk a lot about plastic waste on The Better Business Show and the issue gets lots of attention on this show and in the wider environmental media because, on the whole, it's nasty stuff. The chemical building blocks that make plastics so versatile are the same components that harm people and the environment.

On average, 300 million tons of plastic are produced around the globe each year. Of this, 50% is for disposable applications such as packaging.

And plastics manufacture makes up 4.6% of the annual petroleum consumption in the U.S., using roughly 331 million barrels per year. None of this energy is recovered when plastics are disposed of in landfills, and very little is recovered when plastic waste is incinerated.

In 2008, 34 million tons of plastic was disposed in the United States. Of this, 86% ended up in landfills.

Yes, biodegradable plastics are coming and recycling infrastructure is improving, but there are big problems with plastic - from the way it is made, to the way it is disposed of.

So, what if there was a different way of making plastics.

What if there was a different way of making plastics that used pollution as the raw material. so rather than being something that causes environmental problems, the production of plastic actually helps to take nasty greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

Well, there is. This week I was delighted to speak with the founder and CEO of New Light Technologies Mark Herrema who explained how his company is capturing carbon emissions, combining it with oxygen and creating plastics that are being used everywhere.


This week's news round up featured:

1. The new cardboard and bioplastic tents pitching up at festivals
2. The new Hubbub website, sharing anti-litter campaigns – NeatStreets.co
3. Norton Point's new sunglasses made from ocean waste plastic
4. Daniel Matthews' piece on the West Virginian hemp sector


Last week we kicked off our Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future segment of the show with the good folks at Terrafiniti to celebrate the launch of a new 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.

So, Joss is back this week for Part 2 in the series as Joss Tantram, a founding partner of Terrafiniti, shares with us his best big ideas – all taken from this brilliant series of new books.

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.


Episode #23 - Mid-year snapshot: What's getting the world's green journalists most excited right now?

Show notes

Spening time with my fellow journalists got me thinking. Few people know what's going on in the world of better business better than journalists who spend their days talking to the pioneers making things happen across the globe, week in, week out.

So, this week I called up some of my mates, plying their trade in sustainable business journalism to get a mid-year snapshot of what's happening out there. Which companies are getting them most excited, who are the entrepreneurs impressing them the most and what single piece of government policy would help to stimulate the transition to mainstream better business models.

Maxine Perella

Maxine Perella

Jen Elks

Jen Elks

Mike Scott

Mike Scott

A big thank you to Maxine PerellaJen Elks and Mike Scott this week for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with our audience. And I encourage you all to check out the good work these guys are doing in sustainability storytelling (just click on their links to see their work).


We also catch up with Vikki Knowles for a full weekly news round-up, featuring stories on adidas, Marks & Spencer, China's wacky new buses and the UK's Brexit debate. The two pieces I reference on Brexit are here (James Murray) and here (Mike Scott).

And I've also written a piece on Brexit for Ethical Performance, which can be found here.

Episode #18 - The Marxist Capitalist way to do business

Show notes

There’s two brilliant moments during this week’s show featuring the irrepressible Simon Biltcliffe, CEO and founder of Webmart.

The first is when he describes how staff within his business are appraised and assessed. He too is assessed by colleagues on the traditional stuff – how well he leads, how well he problem-solves, etc.

But is also assessed as to how well he can take a joke (something he can do 6.91% better than his colleagues apparently). Who says you can't measure wellbeing in the workplace?

The second moment that really caught my attention is when he describes the process one traditionally goes through when setting up a business – and meeting the so-called professionals who coerce and encourage us to establish a business in the most conventional way because that’s the way it has always been. Accountants, bank managers and financial advisors are never going to suggest the approach to running a business that Simon eventually set upon.

In this brilliant video of one of Simon's presentations (below), he kicks off by explaining to his audience that establishing Webmart back in 1997 set off a 'what if?' moment. What if he didn’t have to run this business in a conventional way? What if he could have fun with it? What if he could turn a profit and share the spoils with not only shareholders, but also his staff and the communities in which it operates?

Well, he’s managed to achieve all of those things and more. It’s such a great story, mainly because the large majority of things Simon is doing with Webmart didn’t cost a thing. And yet he has built a very successful and ultimately sustainable business because he isn’t just interested in creating financial value, but also emotional and intellectual value too.

After all, businesses are just a bunch of people providing a product or service. Yes, those products and services are important - and they must be good, sound and reliable.

But without people, businesses are nothing.

For more on Webmart click here.

Episode #17 - Forget Facebook. Meet the social network for social good

Show notes

Technology has a unique ability to create positive change – and the way in which people are using new software, tools, gadgets and gizmos is really driving the sustainable business agenda right now.

The way in which we interact with our planet, our things, our community and one another is being seriously aided by the advent of brand new, or repurposed technologies which are – hopefully –making it easier to just do the right thing.

This week's guest is Nick Davies, the creator of a social network called Neighbourly. To explain what it does most simply: makes it easier for companies to find community projects and charities to support – and then shout about the fact via it online platform functionality.

But it's so much more than that.

Nick delves into the detail during this week's show to explain how the platform – "the social network for social good" – has morphed and shifted into what it has become: an incredibly powerful tool for creating positive social and environmental change by connecting up the key players that can actually make things happen (business, NGO, charity, individual).

I hope you enjoy it.

Check out Neighbourly.com. It's free to join and free to post a project – and 'free' is how the site will remain forever, says Nick.

Nick Davies, founder, Neighbourly.com

Nick Davies, founder, Neighbourly.com


During this week's news round-up, we talk:

- Ikea's new range of sustainability-focused products
- Sadiq Khan's London mayoral victory 
- Etsy's plan to get its sellers topped with solar panel
- And gender diversity trends

 

Episode #13 - Tumalow, saving you energy like never before

Show notes

Talking about energy efficiency is the least sexy of all sustainable business subjects. And, frankly, its a hard sell.

But then you start talking numbers and suddenly operators of mid-size companies start to pay an interest. That's certainly the case for William Gathright, CEO of Tumalow (right) (I'll let him explain what the name of the company actually means) – a company that is trying to shake up the way it helps companies reduce electricity costs and earn extra revenue for commercial properties through an intelligent battery energy storage system (BESS) software.

With most energy firms billing companies on both their consumption and their load (demand), commercial properties pay hundreds of times more than needed for electricity. In fact, the demand charge can account for 70% of a properties’s electric bill. Gathright and his team want to change all that.

"Commercial solar PV systems alone cannot reliably reduce demand charges, because a property's peak power usage frequently occurs during times the sun isn’t shining," says the company's website. That's where Tumalow’s BESS software comes into play.

You can find out more about Tumalow on the website, or follow the company on Twitter.

This video offers a useful introduction to the business too:


Elsewhere on this week's show, we chat with Jake Backus, the former customer sustainability director at Coca-Cola in Europe – a man who knows a thing or two about how you should talk to Joe Public about sustainability issues. You can find out more about Jake here.

Episode #11 - Half Moon Bay Brewing Co, making beer using waste water

America has had its fair share of resource shocks. In the 1970s, upheaval in the Middle East led to severe oil shortages, forcing Americans to sit in their cars in lines to get gas that stretched for blocks. It actually made people change vehicles for a few years at least - the big gas guzzlers made way for smaller cars. Of course, the trend for SUVs over more economical vehicles has chopped and changed in the decades since then.

But today in California, a new type of resource shock has been unfolding, and it too may come to define an era, a generation on from here.

But its not oil that is getting everybody excited this time.

It’s water.

California has been devastated by a severe drought these past four years or so. Farmers have been ripping out crops, local governments have been ordering restaurants to stop serving glasses of water except to diners who specifically request them and religious believers have been endlessly praying for rain.

And the statistics about the Californian drought are seriously scary.

2014 was the state’s driest since the start of record-keeping in 1895. The state’s snowpack, the source of roughly one-third of the water used by California cities and farms, has been hovering at only about 20 percent of its normal water content. The amount of water in certain crucial reservoirs is lower now than it was in 1977, which was one of the two prior driest years on record. 

The effects of El Nino brought plenty of rain during the winter period, but some water experts predict California’s dry spell will last for decades.

Whether California’s water shortage will lead to lasting change in the way people use this precious resource remains to be seen.

But there has certainly been plenty of action and innovation among the business community. Companies like Driscoll’s - a berry-growing business in California which is one of many that has recently signed up to an advocacy campaign being run by Ceres called Connect the Drops.

Other members of that campaign are Anheuser-Bush – the company behind Stella Artois and Budweiser – which has cut its water usage rate by 23% since 2009 in the US, resulting in water savings of more than 2.5 billion gallons.

It has been reusing its effluent in auxiliary operations to reduce needs from local sources in many breweries such as its Los Angeles brewery, and supplies its effluent to local communities at nearly 40 of its breweries globally for agricultural irrigation, watering public park and in fire-fighting.

Other companies, like Levi Strauss & Co. are making their Water<Less finishing techniques publicly available to spur water conservation across the apparel industry. The techniques reduce water use in garment finishing by up to 96% and have helped the company save more than one billion litres of water since 2011.

And our guest on this week’s show is another such company.

The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, situated just outside San Francisco, is making beer using the water that has already run through sinks, showers and bathrooms – using the technology pioneered by Nasa to recycle water to make it safe to drink while in space.

The trouble is, state legislation declares the beer not fit to sell – a situation the owner of the business, Lenny Mendonca is keen to rectify.

Enjoy the show.

For more on the Half Moon Bay Brewing Co, visit the website.

Here's the links to the various stories mentioned in our news section this week.

The PA Consulting report on EU car manufacturers.

News of Apple's efforts to boost the break-down-ability (is that a word) of its products.

The supply chain survey by the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability

And finally, Coca-Cola Enterprises major investment.

Episode #8 - Rype Office, disrupting how we buy (and throw out) office furniture

Show notes

A central theme in the circular economy conversation is how companies are starting to think differently about how they deliver products and services to market – and whether customers would be happy to share, lease, hire goods and services, rather than buy them outright – giving companies a huge opportunity to save on resources, strip out costs and really find efficiencies.

Have a look at a company like Ricoh and Kyocera, which have completely transformed their businesses in the last ten years. No longer do they sell big bulky photocopiers that are thrown into a skip once they are no longer useable. Now they sell access to large scale printers, photocopiers and office equipment; they charge a monthly fee and now take care of refurbishment, repair and the continued reuse of machines for much longer, rather than simply selling, installing and walking away.

And of course, the FMCG sector or other industries selling food stuffs or high turnover goods, will struggled to adopt similar models.

But one sector that is ripe for disruption and a new model is office furniture.

This week's guest on The Better Business Show is Greg Lavery, the founder of a business called Rype Office. Greg has been a sustainable business consultant for many years, producing numerous white papers and academic research highlighting the untapped potential of remanufacturing. The Next Manufacturing Revolution, co-authored by Greg’s consultancy practice Lavery/Pennell, with the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing, identified huge opportunity for remanufacturing in the UK, as well as barriers to adoption. For example, the profit and social benefits of remanufacturing versus traditional manufacturing using virgin resources – shows a 2.75 times profit margin – purely because of that huge reduction in input costs.

And it was this research and learning which prompted Greg to set up Rype Office – a company hoping to shake up the way companies buy – and get rid of – office furniture in the future.

Enjoy the show.

Below, you'll find some pics of Greg and the various products he sells via Rype Office, as well as some of the office installation he has carried out. You can find out more about Rype Office at the website.


IKEA's rug-making video, mentioned during Vikki Knowles' segment of the show, can be found here.

A more detailed explanation of EasyJet's hybrid plane, have a look at this graphic:

And The Guardian's take on Italy's attempt to get people on their bikes can be found here.

Don't forget: you can follow Vikki @_VikkiKnowles.

And you can subscribe to the show via iTunes here.

 

Episode #6 - Ecovative, the mushroom packaging guys

The thing you notice when you’ve got kids is the amount of packaging that comes with their toys – and the amount of waste created at Christmas and birthday time.

The proliferation of deliveries and goods being shipped around now that we all use the internet to buy stuff, is exacerbating the problem.

But packaging is big business. A recent report says that the demand for protective packaging in America is set to grow by almost 5% a year to a $6.8 billion industry by 2019 thanks to internet shopping.

Packaging is a necessity but its clearly something that needs to be tackled.

Right now, the trend within the FMCG sector is for the light-weighting of packaging. However, making plastics and films thinner and thinner is not necessarily the answer. For one thing, it makes the packaging harder and harder to recycle, creating increasingly non-circular systems.

There’s an interesting report by Use Less Stuff says that, in fact, larger product packaging sizes are significantly more efficient than their smaller counterparts, regardless of material type.

The Body Shop’s new commitment to become the most sustainable business on the planet has an interesting specific target on packaging – to reduce the use of oil based plastic packaging by 70% by 2020. The cosmetics brand will explore a number of new academic, technology and research partnerships to pioneer new product packaging solutions, covering packaging, product design and product life extension strategies.

To kick things off it has announced a partnership with California-based Newlight Technologies to introduce AirCarbon in The Body Shop products - a thermoplastic material that behaves the same as the plastics, but rather than using oil as a carbon source for plastic, this innovation uses methane and carbon dioxide.

Packaging: it's a bit of a minefield.

The subject of this week's show – Ecovative – proves there is an environmentally sound way to create an alternative to plastic or styrofoam packaging material? It has also found a viable alternative to formaldehyde materials used in the construction industry.

Check out Eben Bayer's story – the co-founder of the business which has been slowing transforming the packaging and building materials sectors with its biomaterials – and, most notably, its mushroom materials.

Here's some pics of Eben, his co-founder partner Gavin McIntyre, and a range of products and applications (including the GYI kit Eben mentions during this week's show).

You can check out Ecovative's website here. And follow the business on Twitter, and Facebook.

A big thank you to Vikki Knowles' contribution this week...more from Viks next week. The report on predictions for the luxury sector that she mentions in her piece is here. And the Asda wonky vegs story is here.

Episode #4 – Süga: California dreaming by turning old wetsuits into yoga mats

Show notes

This week, we are in conversation with Brian Shields, founder and CEO of Süga, a Californian business turning wetsuits into yoga mats.

If you listen closely to this episode, you can just about make out the sound of the surf and sea in the background (not really) as Brian explains how his company is going from strength to strength. With everything manufactured in the US, Süga is taking something that is heavy, cumbersome and inherently pretty bad for the planet (wetsuits cannot be recycled easily) and turning it into something cool. And the surfing and yoga community – which has a distinct affinity with the ocean and the environment – are really buying into Brian's brand and offering (which also includes a circular take back option for the excessive yogis who have worn their mats out).

Here's the Süga yoga mat:

You can jump onto the Süga website now for more information or to buy your own mat or beer cooler.

You can follow Brian on Twitter too.

I mention Elvis and Kresse in this episode - the UK business turning fire hoses into luxury goods. You can find out more about E+K here.

Elsewhere, the blog by Ben Vivian on failure that I mention can be found here.

Check out Interface's fishing net programme here and Econyl's partnership with the Healthy Seas initiative here.

Don't forget, you can subscribe to the show via iTunes too