Episode #56 - The bamboo boxers making cotton look pants

Buddha Boxers founder Jason Spitkoski

Buddha Boxers founder Jason Spitkoski

A show title likely to get completely and utterly lost on our North American listeners, we appreciate….this time we’re with Jason Spitkoski, a man that has left his background as a tech developer behind to chase the dream of running a successful underwear business. He is the proud owner of Buddha Boxers, a company that is getting seriously comfortable that its raw material of bamboo is capable of blowing cotton out of the water as a sustainable material of choice in the 21st century.

Show notes

Consider the fashion sector for a moment, and specifically one of the backbones of the industry: cotton.

As the most widely used natural fibre used in clothing today, it is a hugely important crop. And more than 100 million smallholder farmers and their families rely on cotton for a living, with 90% of those farmers living in the developing world.

But cotton faces significant sustainability risks and challenges, not least its reliance on water and the impact of climate change. For every t-shirt made, around 2,700 litres of water is used in the agricultural process – the same amount of water the average human drinks in three years; it is certainly a thirsty crop.

As the World Economic Forum notes, water security is “one of the most tangible and fastest-growing social, political and economic challenges faced today”. The world is likely to face a 40% global shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water in the next 15 years.

It is also worth pointing out that, although cotton uses just 2.4% of the world’s cultivated land, it accounts for 24% of global insecticide use and 11% of global pesticides, making it the most pesticide-intensive crop grown on the planet.

NGOs and non-profits like CottonConnect and the Better Cotton Initiative are working hard to support smallholder farmers, with basic interventions, such as training and education, which can help farmers dramatically save water by adopting more sustainable agricultural practices.

However, many farmers do not have access to basic information when it comes to best practice for water use and conservation. Educating and empowering farmers and helping them gain access to finance are barriers to progress that need to be addressed urgently.

The global textile and garment industry is worth some $3 trillion. But the ephemeral nature of fashion – where what’s hot and what’s not can change in the blink of an eye – poses a series of formidable sustainability challenges, not least in the supply chain of brands everywhere.

So, as we so often pose on the The Better Business Show: what if there was a better way?

Well, this week, we caught up with Jason Spitkoski (top right), founder of Buddha Boxers. He went in search of ultimate comfort for his underwear brand, landing on bamboo as the perfect material of choice. But as he told me during our conversation this week, he got plenty more than he bargained for in setting up a business designed to get people thinking about the clothes they buy.

Enjoy the show.

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


The Better Business Show, in association with Triodos


Show notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Five #1 - 30 September 2016

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

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

This time, we're talking:

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

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

Episode #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.


You can find out more about Honest Tea here.

A selection of Honest Tea products

A selection of Honest Tea products

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

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

Seth and Barry, the founders in cartoon form

Seth and Barry, the founders in cartoon form

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

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

Episode #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 #24 - From ethics campaigner to viable smartphone business, meet the rather brilliant Fairphone

Show notes

This week, we're in the company of Bibi Bleekemolen, impact development manager at Fairphone, the smartphone business with a difference. How did this campaigning organisation go from banging the drum on supply chain ethics, to launching a smart smartphone with a super transparent supply chain – no mean feat of the often murky world of conflict minerals and widespread human rights abuse? We ask Bibi to reveal all.

Subjects explored include:
– Supply chain ethics – and big, fat problem with smartphones;
– The history of Fairphone as a campaigning movement;
– What does conflict-free mineral mining look like?
– How does Fairphone trace its components through the supply chain to ensure full traceability? And what does that mean, anyway?
– Why aren't big players – like Apple and Samsung – being more open in disclosing where their minerals and metals are coming from?
– The Dodd-Frank Act – and why it has been useful?
– Balancing the economic impact and the social impact of encouraging and supporting responsible mining in the developing world;
– How Fairphone's model might be replicated by others across the smartphone and electronics sector.

For more on Fairphone check out the website. And you can follow Bibi on Twitter here.

Bibi Bleekemolen, Fairphone's impact development manager

Bibi Bleekemolen, Fairphone's impact development manager

A semi-industrialised tungsten mine, Rwanda

A semi-industrialised tungsten mine, Rwanda

Mined, and washed, tungsten

Mined, and washed, tungsten

The Fairphone 2

The Fairphone 2

The Fairphone 2, exploded view of modular architecture

The Fairphone 2, exploded view of modular architecture

This week's news round-up features:

- 10 reasons why Glastonbury was greener than ever
Block-Hood, the videograme teaching kids how to design smart cities
– Ludovico Einaudi's solemn Arctic gig
- The GlobeScan/SustainAbility 'Sustainability Leaders Survey', which has Unilever on top, yet again

Enjoy the show. Subscribe. And spread the love.

See you next Monday.



Episode #22 - Meet Cook, the frozen food business employing ex-offenders

Show notes

One of more than 80 Cook stores across the UK

One of more than 80 Cook stores across the UK

Getting the right balance between work and play is something we all think about a lot. And it is tricky.

It is also a subject that is occupying the minds of HR teams everywhere; how can we give employees the best environment and conditions to make them healthier and happier in the workplace so that they thrive and are as productive as possible?

As such, more and more companies are paying a keen interest in how their staff live their lives – from where they live, to the sort of charity work they might do at the weekends.

There is an interesting debate going on right now about the role of business in and how much companies should get involved in people’s lives. Is it the role of companies to provide housing for staff, for example – a practice that has been going on for 100 hundred years.

We touch on some of these issues with this week's guest. Charlotte Sewell (right), the social impact manager at Cook, a company based on the South East of England that produces frozen food meals.

There’s no doubt about it: this is a company that is taking its social responsibility very seriously indeed – it has a hardship fund (in case staff need to borrow some cash to pay for a new washing machine), it helps people realise their dreams (they might want to start their own business, or build better relationships with their kids).

It even employs ex-offenders. In fact, 2% of its workforce is made up of people coming out of prison as Cook looks to give them a fresh start.

It certainly makes for an interesting story, as you’re about to find out. Enjoy the show and, as ever, let us know what you think of what you've heard (email or Tweet tomidle@narrativematters.co.uk, @TomIdle).

You can find out more about Cook's values here.

Here's some snaps I took during my visit to Cook's Sittingbourne kitchen.

Team assessments with a difference: Cook's 'Team Selfie'

Team assessments with a difference: Cook's 'Team Selfie'

Got a dream? Cook will help you achieve it

Got a dream? Cook will help you achieve it

Where dreams are made: The Sittingbourne Cook HQ

Where dreams are made: The Sittingbourne Cook HQ

Episode #21 - The world's first zero carbon brewery

Show notes

This week, we are in the mountains of Austria with global beer maker Heineken, to meet the team behind the world's first zero carbon brewery.

Reducing the pollution associated with its more than 160 breweries worldwide is a key priority for the business. In fact, by 2020 carbon emissions coming from its beer production will be cut by 40% should it meet internal goals. Michael Dickstein, the company's global director for sustainable development, explains how the impressive project at the Goss brewery in Austria sets the bar for what is to come as the business continues to prove its worth as a responsible company, fit for the 21st century.

Enjoy the show.

And don't forget to sign up to our weekly newsletter and pick up this month's Better Business Show Cheat Sheet, presenting all of the great insight, advice and tips garnered from our show guests thus far. Just head to the home page at betterbusiness.show and give us your email.

Michael Dickstein, Heineken's global director for sustainable development

Michael Dickstein, Heineken's global director for sustainable development

The Gosser brewery in the heart of the Austrian town

The Gosser brewery in the heart of the Austrian town

Heineken's range of #BrewedByTheSun brands

Heineken's range of #BrewedByTheSun brands

Episode #10 - Tom Cridland, selling t-shirts with a 30-year guarantee

Show notes

In 2011, the outdoor clothing company Patagonia did something brilliant. In a unique ad campaign designed to flatter consumers into thinking they don’t care about material goods, it ran page ads featuring one of the company’s beautiful winter fleece jackets with the slogan 'DON’T BUY THIS JACKET'.

It did something that few ad campaigns had done before: it asked – or rather instructed – consumers to restrain themselves. It presented a photo of one of its fantastic products and then told you to refrain from buying it impulsively, or lustfully, or to otherwise buy something you just don’t need.

Of course, it was hugely clever. The campaign did its utmost to explain that shopping is bad because the garment industry is wasteful. But if you HAVE to buy something, you’re probably best off buying the least-sinful option: a beautiful Patagonia fleece.

The anti-shopping movement has grown exponentially in recent years – largely in a backlash to the annual retail events like Black Friday, which encourages consumers to buy as much as they can at reduced rates.

The upscale-fleece-company REI decided to close its doors on Black Friday. Instead, it runs a social media campaign #OptOutside, to promote the fact, inviting its band of loyal customers to share the fact that rather than going shopping on a day when stuff’s on sale, you’re going to be scaling a mountain, or paddling down a creek.

Of course, Black Friday events have surfaced on this side of the Atlantic too here int he UK.

But even Asda - part of the Walmart Group – took a stand last year to not partake in flash sales which have in the past led to full scale riots in stores as people try to get their hands on cut price flat screen TVs.

Patagonia’s ad campaign was less about anti-shopping though, and more about encouraging people to think before they buy. And if they are going to be, to choose something that lasts.

Fashion and apparel has a big problem - particularly fast-fashion. the sort of stuff sold by the high street chains, like Primark, Topshop and H&M. According to Wrap, around £140m (350,000 tonnes) worth of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year – that’s around 30% of our unwanted clothing.

People like to stay on top of the latest fashion trends, but clearly it comes at a price.

But there are a growing band of businesses that promote a ‘built to last’ mentality, encouraging people to only buy something that they will use again and again – that has legs, that is sustainable.

Our guest this week has built his business on this very concept. Tom Cridland is a luxury fashion designer with a range of clothing for which he offers a 30-year guarantee.

I hope you enjoy our chat this week.

You can check out Tom's creations on his website. He's also on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


News update

During my chat with Vikki Knowles this week, we mentioned the Budget (a good round up of which can be found here); the B Corps uniting to bring rooftop solar to the masses; the Wings on Waste plastic trash-powered plane journey championed by Sir David Attenborough; and Unilever's Indiegogo innovation campaign.