#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 #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 #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 #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 #15 - Matthew Turner on leveraging business mistakes to succeed

Show notes

It's a slight departure from our traditional format for you this week as we jump into conversation with Matthew Turner, the author of a new book called Successful Mistake.

Matthew (right) got in touch with the show after hearing our episode from a few weeks back – the one we did with Tom Cridland. Matthew has spent the last couple of years in the throes of writing the book, meeting and interviewing 163 different business entrepreneurs and innovators to find out how and why so many great people in business are able to overcome failure and succeed in building brilliant businesses.

Fear is something that makes people procrastinate. I had the original idea for this podcast at least 12 months before I launched the first episode. It took me me so long to do it because I was worried that a 1.0 version of the Better Business Show would not be good enough.

The journey from where the world finds itself (with unsustainable business models, poorly designed products, old fashioned service models), to where we need to get to (new business models, new ideas, great new products) demands risks being taken. There will be failure. But its how companies take that failure and spin it into a positive to succeed in this new emerging economy of sustainable business.

And that's what we're talking about this week.


You can find out more about Matthew and his book at turndog.co.

Elsewhere this week, our news round up features:

– Marks & Spencers' new responsible fishing certification
– The various companies and initiatives to mark last Friday's Earth Day
– All you need to know about last week's Fashion Revolution campaign, including Lucy Siegle's Guardian column
– The story about Bakeys edible cutlery (and its Kickstarter campaign)

Oh, and here's a link to Vikki's new blog, Susty Girl.