#63 The time is now for lab-grown meat

Show notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what to do about this situation?

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

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

Enjoy.

CellAgSlide.001.jpeg

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

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

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

 

episode 61, in association with:

 
 
 

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

 
 
 

Show notes

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

Meanwhile, 2.1 billion people are either overweight or obese.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Soils

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

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

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

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

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

At a cost

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

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

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

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

Rice, rice baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutrition

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

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

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

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

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

Consumers

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

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

Courage is needed

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what a promise.

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

Josh Tetrick:

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy.


For more on Hampton Creek check out hamptoncreek.com.

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

 

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

 

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

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

 
 
 

Show notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Richard on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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

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

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

Show notes

Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off today. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divine Chocolate CEO Sophi Tranchell

Divine Chocolate CEO Sophi Tranchell

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

Show notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show notes

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

And it was for good reason. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the LanzaTech gas fermentation process works

How the LanzaTech gas fermentation process works

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

Show notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time you will learn:

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

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

Show notes

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the show.

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

Show notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hermione Taylor, founder of Do Nation.

Hermione Taylor, founder of Do Nation.

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

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

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

Show notes

Now, we all love Ted Talks, don’t we?

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

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

It made you laugh.

Stand up and improv mentor, Belina Raffy

Stand up and improv mentor, Belina Raffy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belina and friends

Belina and friends

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.

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.

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.

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.

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