Archive for the ‘Member News’ Category

Coming Clean with Creativity

Posted on: September 4th, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Guest post by SVN member Tolulope Ilesanmi, Founder of Zenith Cleaners, @tilesanmi

Creativity is that seemingly elusive and desirable quality associated with the ability to think and act outside the box and bring into existence something new and beneficial. The new thing could be a product, a service, a solution, a work of art or a way of being. We do not necessarily need a survey to tell us we need creativity given the challenges and constraints we are confronted with today. It is obvious we need the ability to adapt, to come up with new ways of being and acting, because our significant challenges are not going away and intuitively, we know nothing is impossible. As Einstein said, “We need new thinking to address the significant challenges we face”. Organizations and institutions need to be innovative and that requires individuals to be creative.Guest Blogger Tolulope Ilesanmi on Bringing Ecosystems Together and the Magic of SVNs Bridge Project 1

Unveiling Creativity

The good news about creativity is that it isn’t a quality we need to create but a quality inherent in each of us, which we are either nurturing or starving. Cleaners go into spaces not to introduce anything new, but to expose inherent beauty by removing dirt.

At Zenith Cleaning, we defined cleaning as “the process of removing dirt from any space, surface, object or subject thereby revealing beauty, potential, truth and sacredness.”

The cleaning mindset works on the premise that the beauty we desire is already here, where we need it. Our task is to unveil it!. Creativity already exists in organizations because it already exists in individuals. Our task is to allow it to thrive, to allow it to flourish by removing what blocks it. Every human being is naturally creative when they have the freedom to express their true selves.

Nurturing creativity within organizations requires identifying and removing whatever impedes creativity in individuals. One impediment to creativity is lack of space-time “oasis” where our minds have the freedom to wander outside of our routine, to observe and ponder, as the actor/comedian John Cleese observed. Organizations like Google provide employees free time and mindfulness training in order to remove this impediment. Another impediment is our tendency to confine ourselves to or define ourselves by our titles, roles and functions, which we need as they provide stability in organizations. Trading places again and again can help to nurture creativity because breaking your regular pattern forces you in a good way to think new thoughts and awaken dormant potentialities. Trading places allows you to experience the beginner’s mind as Deb Nelson, SVN‘s Executive Director experienced when she flew down to Montreal to spend 3 days cleaning in our Cleaning as Practice program.

Cleaning as Practice

At Zenith Cleaning, we decided to step out of the box and introduce light duty cleaning to individuals and organizations as a way to break our regular patterns and step outside of our titles, roles and functions again and again. The idea is simple: invite people far removed from the world of cleaning to participate in cleaning individually or as a team, guided by those who do cleaning more regularly and get everyone from Janitor to CEO reflecting on and sharing their experience. This can be tried in any organization but should be entirely voluntary and can be tried with a few people before making it an ongoing or organization-wide practice.

This approach invites everyone to step out of their comfort zones and set aside their titles, roles and functions which only help to starve creativity and keep us in the box, away from the magic. The Janitor’s role and function changes for a while and the employees’ and managers’ roles are also flipped so everyone has to “think originally” as CEO Julian Giacomelli of Crudessence observed when he participated in our program.

Reflection and sharing are allowed to happen formally or informally before, during and after the experience. Everyone returns to their normal routines but are likely to wear their titles differently. However, just like cleaning needs to happen again and again because dust and dirt do not need our invitation to settle, we need to step out of our roles and set aside our titles again and again to remind ourselves that we are bigger than our titles, roles and functions.

The beauty of this approach is that creativity becomes not an end result but a by-product of a different way of being and functioning. The aim is that cleaning becomes the idea of unveiling beauty and potential in individuals and relationships. Cleaning becomes a mindset and deep metaphor for transformation and not just a chore around which we have created stigmas and put ourselves in boxes that limit our potential as individuals and organizations.

Talk to us

If you would like to try this out or need guidance, feel free to talk to us at Zenith Cleaners. We have been practicing and studying cleaning and its relationship to creativity, mindfulness, culture and many universal principles and subjects for many years. We have invited consultants, lawyers, students, executives and teams to clean and have observed the positive effect. We are also privileged to work with a number of outside-the-box consultants and coaches in mindfulness, applied improvisation and organizational culture.

We’re delighted to announce our 2014 Innovation Award Winners!

Posted on: August 19th, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 8, 2014

Social Venture Network Announces 2014 Innovation Award Winners

Meet the Next Generation of World-Changing Entrepreneurs

Deforestation. Pollution. Soil degradation. Poverty. These are just a handful of the critical social and environmental problems Social Venture Network’s 2014 Innovation Award winners are addressing through groundbreaking business practices. From stoves that save 10 tons of firewood each year to a pioneering training program for low-income entrepreneurs, the SVN Innovation Awards program recognizes companies and organizations that are changing the way the world does business.

Now in its 27th year, SVN serves as the leading peer-to-peer network of influential, values-drivenentrepreneurs and investors worldwide. This year’s Innovation Award winners have the unique distinction of being the standouts of the next generation of socially responsible business leaders. Coast to coast, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Bay of Bengal, SVN Innovation Award winners are working in diverse and cutting edge ways to solve the most pressing social and environmental problems. Their backgrounds and approaches may not look the same, but the common thread that binds them is their shared imperative to leverage business to build a more just, humane and sustainable world.

Expert Judges
The 2014 Innovation Award winners were selected by a panel of 16 expert judges, including Leigh Buchanan of Inc. magazine, Neil Grimmer of Plum Organics, Jean Oelwang of Virgin Unite, Jorge Calderon of Impact Strategy Advisors and Ed Dugger of the National Institute for a Sustainable Economy. The entrants were judged on their use of innovation, impact and ability to scale.

The Winners

Jason Bradford and Craig Wichner, Farmland LP: The demand for organic foods continues to grow exponentially, but the availability of organic farmland and raw materials lags far behind. With more than $50 million of acreage under management, Farmland LP demonstrates that sustainable agriculture at scale is economically superior to conventional agriculture, which relies on agrochemicals and commodity crops due to the high cost of land. Farmland LP provides investors with the opportunity to own high quality farmland, while the company’s land management practices increase investor cash flow by using sustainable crop and livestock rotations. By providing access to high quality, organic, sustainable acreage, Farmland LP enables organic farmers and progressive ranchers to focus on the crops and livestock they produce best.

Shannon Dosemagen, Public LabA broken CD, an old VHS case and an inexpensive webcam. These three items usually end up as trash, but the innovators at Public Lab have turned them into a low-cost, do-it-yourself alternative to the traditional spectrometer – a tool used to detect neurotoxins and ordinarily costs thousands of dollars. This innovation is just one example of Public Lab’s unique approach to addressing environmental issues. Public Lab makes inexpensive and accessible do-it-yourself techniques available for underserved communities by applying open-source techniques to the development of tools for environmental exploration and investigation. In addition, Public Lab generates knowledge and shares data about community environmental health, while focusing on locally relevant outcomes that emphasize human capacity and understanding.

Alfa Demmellash, Rising Tide Capital: From poverty and isolation to opportunity and innovation, Rising Tide Capital believes that the best way to revitalize local economies is to support and grow the entrepreneurial energy and talent that exists in every neighborhood. Rising Tide Capital works with a community of emerging entrepreneurs to equip them with the tools, skills and access to funding they need to grow successful businesses. When these entrepreneurs are empowered to succeed, they not only generate income for their families, they create a ripple effect that catalyzes the social and economic development of their local community.

Svati Bhogle, Sustaintech India: Severe respiratory disease, unsustainable CO2 emissions and indoor air pollution are grave concerns facing India as a direct result of traditional cooking stoves. Sustaintech India is a social enterprise that manufactures and sells sustainable energy products, including fuel-efficient commercial cook stoves, designed to improve the health of underserved populations, reduce firewood consumption, slow deforestation and contribute to India’s climate change mitigation efforts. Sustaintech’s smoke-free PYRO stoves provide a path out of poverty for street food vendors along with substantial environmental benefits: each stove in its lifetime conserves two acres of open forests and saves 10 tons of firewood per year.

SVN 2014 Innovation Award Benefits
This year’s award winners were judged based on the innovation and impacttheir businesses demonstrated in solving social, environmental and economicproblems. The winners will be formally recognized at SVN’s 2014 Fall Conference to be held October 23-26 in Greenwich, CT, where they will present their pioneering work to an audience of more than 400 CEOs, investors and social entrepreneurs. They will receive two years of SVN membership, support and advisory services from SVN members and extensive media promotion. Sustaintech India will receive support from both SVN (www.svn.org) and SVN India (www.svnindia.org).

###

Social Venture Network’s 2014 Fall Conference
SVN’s Fall Conference unites these emerging innovators with pioneers like Linda Mason of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Nikki Silvestri of Green for All, Daniel Lubetzky of KIND Healthy Snacks and Baratunde Thurston of Cultivated Wit. The conference will be held October 23-26 in Greenwich, CT, and focuses on building valuable connections and collaborations among high-impact, innovative business leaders. More information on guest speakers and registration is available at www.svn.org/fall2014.

About SVN
Since 1987, Social Venture Network (SVN, www.svn.org) has been the leading network of entrepreneurs who are transforming the way the world does business. SVN connects the leaders of socially responsible enterprises to share wisdom and resources, form strategic alliances and explore new solutions that build a more just and sustainable economy.

Contact

Donna Daniels
Social Venture Network
203-453-5693
donnad@svn.org
//
Isaac Graves
Social Venture Network
415-561-6501 x 11
isaacg@svn.org
//
Leslie Campisi
Hotwire PR
415-840-2790
SVN@hotwirepr.com
//

Prospering in Common

Posted on: March 12th, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Written by G. Benjamin Bingham, 3Sisters Sustainable Management, @GBBingham

Stuart Williams is back on the international conference scene and instead of his very successful SRI firm, Strategic Research Institute, that created conferences for 300,000 global corporate executives, he is bringing together environmentalists, corporate sustainability experts, indigenous leaders, social change architects and financial managers to reinvent the new SRI, Socially Responsible Investing, from the bottom up. As an international environmental consultant now focused on creating green financing for a sustainable transportation system in Paraguay, Stuart is a practical visionary who understands that mutual prosperity is a necessity. In other words, when all the cells of the planet are healthy, the whole planet will be healthy. This includes surprising interrelationships from the fate of grizzly bears in North America to the emergence of eco-farmers in the virgin forests of Rumania; and from the call of indigenous people for control of sacred lands to the call of investors for a new definition of fiduciary responsibility that includes the protection of our shared natural resources.

The first of a series of conferences designed by Williams and friends called Beyond Sustainability was held on the beautiful Kiawah Island, SC, which in itself is a microcosm of the global struggle to marry ecological necessity in the form of a conservancy, holding together the extraordinary lush forests and wildlife, with the desires for material comfort in the form of ever more and bigger condos and PGA standard golf courses. The purpose ostensibly was to reframe the interests of the various contingencies represented in some universal language which might then affect change globally. What could one say or write that would spark change universally and bring about health, enlightened education and prosperity? Obviously, this was a daunting task, which was not taken lightly nor belabored.

Many players in the room have been at this for decades and have heard slogans for change many times before. “Yes We Can!” for example, has done a great deal of damage in terms of sound bite credibility. That said, we all can testify to the power of language in fostering change and surely we sit at an unprecedented turning point with more people, more natural degradation, more technology for change and more information at our fingertips than ever. Reframing language is a worthy effort that may, at a time like this, spark dramatic change. This is why I write.

The verbal link between conservatism and conservation was not to be missed. Ultra-high net worth networks were represented whose conservative side could easily see that conservation of the wildlife and conservation of wealth are extremely interrelated. No one laughed when I told the joke about the two trustees looking down on a burning earth and the one says: “ At least we did our fiduciary duty.” And the other replies: “ Yeah, but dammit, look at all that oil going to waste!” They know that the Arctic ice cap is almost gone and understand the dire situation of the bears described by Chris Morgan.

Prospering in Common

On the other hand, as value investors the advisors for these family offices have sat and watched any number of times when the next big thing promised to change everything only to fizzle. So we may be wary of saying that this time it is different. And yet the message of the conference was that we are at a unique point in history and that our investments in aggregate may just be enough to stave off the worst of a critical transition. At the same time there is much opportunity for profit through innovation to meet the problems of our time.

There were many refreshing initiatives presented and new possibilities showed up:

  • What if The Willow School  in New Jersey expanded its ethical, place based model moved on to guide and grow other sister schools globally?
  • What if Vital Systems became a network connector to all things local and down to earth?
  • What if a network of ultra high net worth investors decided to “put care first” in all their investments?

Hazel Henderson with her mini-multi-national: Ethical Markets Media conglomerate, described the good news that nature has already solved whatever problems we seem to have dreamed up. The amount of solar energy available to us dwarfs any other resource if we would but focus on it. Alisa Gravitz, founder and CEO of Green America shared the good news that solar production has grown exponentially in the last two years dwarfing nuclear production. She also described the power of opinion on big corporations and how Cheerios was the first of a number of cereal producers who have recently sworn off GMO’s. A kind of tide seems to be turning.

Behind all this is an inherent human love for Nature and our intimate feeling of oneness with it. Katherine Collins was the former head of Equity Research at Fidelity, and continues independently, centered on investing as service. She posed the question: “What if we invested not in nature but as nature?”  Her forthcoming book The Nature of Investing will tell all.

Lessons Learned from Enterprise Opportunity Trip to Cuba

Posted on: March 11th, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Erin Roach, Social Venture Network

Cuba rockface

Mural de la Prehistoria, painted by Leovigildo Gonzalez Morillo, 1961

Stately old movie houses from the ‘40s dot Havana. Films are everywhere, but the titles I see advertised are mostly Italian, Cuban, French. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the only American film I see on the marquee is Elysium, a story about a dystopian universe where the rich enjoy one perfect planet and the rest of the living beings in existence are relegated to virtual slavery in service of it. Matt Damon and a few brave others see through the guise and vow to break out and take it down. And so it goes with the Cuban revolution, a promise that all Cubans may enjoy the same privileges, the same access to resources no matter what their vocation.

But has it worked? That’s what I and a group of Social Venture Network (SVN) members spanning decades and a breadth of experience related to socially responsible business were there to find out.

The trip to Cuba was organized by SVN member Eric Leenson of Sol Economies, who for half a century has been committed to social justice and the economic development of Latin America. We were there to learn how Cuba is opening up its economy and how this once great hope for an ideal system of human coexistence can jibe politically with private interests and environmental welfare. A new economic system that Eric and his partners economist Rafael Betancourt and lawyer Gregory Biniowski envision as the “social and solidarity economy” driven by socially responsible business.

Our group of 17 consisted of eight SVN members (Ariane Van Buren, Erin Roach, Garry Spanner, Judy Wicks, Claudia Viek, Mecca Franklin, Matt Patsky, Omer Rains) and three of their family members, a Googler, two sets of philanthropists and an academic.

BarberiaCuban FarmersEric planned an itinerary packed with thought-provoking lectures and cultural highlights. On the six-day trip, we met with sustainable farmers and workers from all types of cooperatives; we witnessed burgeoning social enterprises where profits made from services like cutting hair restored vitality to an entire neighborhood in Old Havana. We toured a tobacco farm, took in excellent live theatre and music, soaked up mojitos and salsa-danced at an adult day care center (Cuba has a notoriously aging population). We cruised the coastline in vintage convertibles from the 1950’s. Overall, the trip was a great mix of camaraderie, fun and enrichment.

As much as I wanted to witness the dream of a consumer-less society with wealth equally distributed to all, my observation was that it hasn’t worked. People are hungry, buildings are crumbling, resources are scarce and spread unevenly. There is virtually no manufacturing and 75% of their food is imported. Nobody is rich and there is not abject poverty, but there is still the problem of haves and have-nots, if not the problem of rich and poor. There are certainly many poor, but no more pronounced than the country itself. It’s totally broke – there’s no money at all for infrastructure or to support a decent standard of living. In fact, for a country that produces more doctors per-capita than any other, it is noteworthy that one cannot reliably wash ones hands after using the lavatory.

Is this to say that I am anti-socialism? Absolutely not. It is only to say that Fidel Castro’s vision seems to be unrealizable in the context of a society that aspires to be beyond a subsistence level of sustainability.

I’ve seen successful villages that actualize what the Cubans call solidarity. An equal sharing of resources—the young taking care of the old and visa-versa. No one having more than they need—or their fair share—to get by. Surpluses stored away for when needed and never hoarded by any one individual. But this was in the most rural areas of the Amazon, where most people had never been exposed to the excess of the outside world, and therefore knew no different. Most people there had no more than a primary education, if that.

It’s not clear to me that the vision of equally shared resources is scalable when any one person or group of individuals is aware that another person, or another group has more. Inject aspiration into the mix, and the house of cards collapses. Why? There are so many reasons:

FidelHavana

1. Human nature
2. A great surplus of any one thing, even education, requires a larger market to absorb it.
3. An economy doesn’t have to rely on consumption, but scalability requires demand from somewhere.

Therein lies the difficulty with the United States. Because we won’t trade with Cuba on any level, we are greatly resented by many people there. We will not absorb its goods or allow even our philanthropic support. But I don’t believe that we are Cuba’s problem.

I liken Cuba’s situation to a parent that doesn’t believe in vaccination: They won’t take the health risk involved with inoculating their own child, but it’s okay as long as everyone else is inoculated. This is a fundamentally self-centered approach and it is similar to what is going on in Cuba: All their problems are blamed on the US’ refusal to trade with them.

But what if the US adopted the same standards for our own society and also became a socialist economy? What if we, too, chose not to inoculate? Who would buy our goods if not ourselves? As it stands, the US has been made out by itself and every other country to be the consumers to the world, and as we at SVN know too well, that vision is also not sustainable.

What the US and Cuba have in common is a need to find a better balance between collective and individual interests, an aim central to the work of SVN for the better part of three decades. The Cubans have a unique opportunity to find a way out of their economic quagmire by thoughtfully constructing a new economic model that equally serves the needs of people, profit and planet. And so many SVN member organizations show that it can be done successfully.

Eric is planning future trips to Cuba for SVN members and Cubans to continue dialoguing about the possibilities of socially responsible business. It’s a rare moment in time for Cuba and I highly recommend the opportunity to take part.

 

Heather White is Keeping Fast Fashion in Check with Her Boots on the Ground

Posted on: December 5th, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Evan Coller, Social Venture Network, @SVNetwork

Photo credit Luigi Casentini

Photo credit Luigi Casentini

Another garment factory fire, this time at a Chinese-owned clothing factory in the town of Prato, Italy, has cost the lives of 7 workers trapped in a dormitory built onsite.

The New York Times reported this week that Prato is a town with one of the highest concentrations of Chinese immigrants in Italy, a town with more than 4,000 Chinese-owned businesses. Many of these immigrants are believed to be living in the city illegally, working for a network of wholesalers and workshops turning out cheap clothing for the export market as well as well-known retail chains.

SVN member Heather White has been doing extensive research on global working conditions and has spent two years focusing on the city of Prato. She happened to be in Prato at the time of the fire and reported on her experience.

“I originally came here on the weekend to scout fast fashion brands for an Al Jazeera show – and it just happened the fire had occurred Saturday night. I was at a special meeting of the Prato city council last night to address the fire and what can be done to prevent future disasters like this.”

In a recent study through the Harvard Center for Ethics, Heather states that dangerous working conditions for Chinese immigrants have been present for over a decade.

Our favorite U.S. brands are engaged in a new business model called Fast Fashion that was first pioneered by Chinese factory owners operating outside of Florence, Italy 10 years ago. Using illegal trafficked workers from China who had been snuck into the country (they paid $13,000 to scary middlemen called snakeheads who guided them step by step overland from Central China). Chinese factory owners would accept an order from local Italian garment firms and not stop production until the order was completed. Most factories employed 50 workers or less, which meant there were no shift replacements. Workers put in 30+ hours at a time and people literally died at their sewing machines…there’s a saying in Italy, “No one from China ever dies here.” Meaning if a Chinese worker dies in Italy, someone else immediately appears to take their identity papers and their name, and if they die, someone else appears, and so on.”

This vicious cycle isn’t unique to Italy. Extreme working conditions due to fast fashion and pressure from large American companies are a global issue. Recently, Heather has reported on the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 workers, the forced silence of working women in India and the unregulated use of student interns in China at Apple manufacturer Foxconn.

We can count on new technologies like Indigenous Design’s Fair Trace Tool and grassroots movements like Greenpeace’s new Detox campaign to keep the pressure on companies from the consumer side, but it’s encouraging to know that women like Heather White are traveling around the globe to hold companies to higher standard.

You can learn more about Heather in this interview with SVN. Look out for her upcoming film exposing global working conditions from her research in the field.

Bigger Than You Think: The Economic Impact of Microbusiness in the United States

Posted on: November 22nd, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

SVN member Connie Evans is the President and CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), a national membership organization and leading voice of microbusiness development in the United States. Connie recently spoke at SVN’s Fall Conference about Tilt Forward, a marketplace to address the current gap between demand for and supply of capital and services to Main Street businesses.

Bigger Than You Think Cover Website

 

With the generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, AEO embarked on a two-year study to build the data and the evidence base that documents the economic impact of microbusiness in the United States. This report, Bigger than You Think: The Economic Impact of Microbusiness in the United States, is one of a series from that research.

The evidence gathered through AEO’s efforts goes far in filling the gap in the paucity of data on microbusinesses and paints a compelling portrait of a remarkably vigorous microbusiness community that plays an essential role in American economic productivity. Furthermore, in the current economic slump, microbusinesses have demonstrated a surprising resilience that contains lessons for accelerating the national economic recovery. And not least, microbusinesses demonstrate great success in spreading business participation and productivity across the economic spectrum, nurturing opportunity across gender and race barriers.

How great an impact can microbusinesses have in our new economy? A lot greater than many previously thought! As summarized in AEO’s earlier report, The Power of One in Three, “if one in three Main Street microbusinesses hired a single employee, the United States would be at full employment.”   This statement has taken the nation by storm, yet many did not fully recognize the transformative nature of U.S. microbusiness. AEO’s current research details the potential of microbusiness by examining the characteristics of microbusiness types and exploring the ways in which microbusinesses can take advantage of non-standard work arrangements and recent technological advances.

As the U.S. economy evolves, microbusinesses are well-poised to capitalize on these changes in our labor markets and broader economy. While individually small in scale, as a whole, microbusinesses play a significant role. Ninety-two percent of all businesses are microbusinesses, and in 2011, the direct, indirect, and induced effects of microbusinesses on employment amounted to 41.3 million jobs, or 31 percent of all private sector employment. Direct sales and receipts and indirect and induced economic output of microbusinesses combined to result in an almost $5 trillion economic impact. Correspondingly, microbusinesses contributed $135.5 billion in tax and fee revenues to federal, state, and local governments.

Read the full report, Bigger than You Think: The Economic Impact of Microbusiness in the United States.

Child Labor Practices Still in Question at Apple Manufacturer

Posted on: November 5th, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

SVN Member Heather White is an expert on the current state of labor in China’s factories.

Via Financial Times

“Foxconn cuts number of student interns from assembly lines”
By Sarah Mishkin in Taipei

Foxconn has said it has more than halved the number of  student interns working in its factories over the past year, a fortnight after admitting that some had worked overtime and night shifts at one of its factories in China.

The manufacturer of iPads and PlayStation consoles said that in 2012 an average of 2.7 per cent of its 1.2m employees – or 32,400 students – were interns. That proportion had fallen to an average of less than 1.3 per cent over the 12 months to October, while Foxconn’s overall workforce remained stagnant.

Those figures could not be independently verified by the Financial Times.

Labour activists and some Foxconn customers have called on the world’s largest electronics manufacturer by revenues to monitor more closely the use of student labour on its assembly lines, as Foxconn earlier this month admitted that interns in a factory in northeastern China worked overtime and night shifts in violation of company policy.

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industries, attributed the decrease to changes that we have implemented in our manufacturing systems and processes which reduced the number of placements that are available for interns. Manufacturers suggest that students gain experience as interns and are sometimes hired after graduation. However, the use of such interns has come under fire following student complaints that in order to receive their diplomas, they are sometimes pushed to work long hours in manufacturing jobs with little relevance to their studies.

Labour activist groups say that local governments sometimes require schools to provide workers for local factories, who may need temporary workers during peak production periods.

Last year, students as young as 14 were found working in that factory in the city of Yantai, after which Foxconn, the world’s biggest contract electronics manufacturer, pledged an internal investigation.

Apple, in a report this year on its supply chain, said it would require its suppliers to report the number of interns and their school affiliations. Some elements of these programmes are poorly run, and the cyclical nature of internship work makes it difficult to catch problems, Apple said in the report. Hewlett-Packard, another Foxconn customer, earlier this year issued new guidelines regulating the use of temporary workers, including students. The work must be done voluntarily and must complement the primary area of study of the young workers, the guidelines said.

Labour activists and researchers cautioned, however, that they have not seen a marked decline in the overall use of student interns and workers under the age of 18 in China over the past year.

Activists said that consumer unease over child labour had pushed most western companies to ensure that suppliers do not employ children.

Compliance with relevant regulations on workers aged between 16 and 18 is more weakly enforced, said Heather White, a long-time consultant on China supply chains and factory audits. Young workers, below the age of 18, have special protection under Chinese labour laws and for the most part factories are either oblivious to those regulations or they just flat out ignore them, Ms. White said.

ABC Carpet & Home Expands Their Slow Food Vision With ABC Cocina

Posted on: October 29th, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

Sister restaurant to ABC Kitchen, ABC’s newest culinary adventure from Paulette Cole, CEO and Creative Director of ABC, Chef Jean-Georges, and Restaurateur, Phil Suarez, ABC Cocina expands upon the founders’ original mission to steward conscious dining in the heart of NYC. In a continual commitment to supporting local farmers and purveyors, ABC Cocina also integrates a global palate, featuring small plate Spanish and Latin-inspired fare.

Eager to explore the vital flavors from the other side of the hemisphere, Jean-Georges has created and interpreted traditional recipes in a highly personal way. Dedicated to pioneering the farm-to-table movement, the highest quality of local fare is enhanced by Cocina’s wood burning grill in JG’s signature flair, alongside fresh and explosive dishes with house-made corn tortillas, and slowly stewed heritage meats and rice.

ABC Cocina

Mirroring the ethos of ABC Home and ABC Kitchen, Cocina is also committed to cultivating a healthy relationship on the table, as well as for the planet. To that end, the entity sourced from boutique producers world-wide, aiming to raise that bar on what it means for a restaurant to participate in the slow food movement. “Forever inspired to preserve the indigenous DNA of a culture – an intelligence which we feel is lost to globalization,” said Paulette Cole, “with Cocina, we are taking the leap not only to support our local community, but passionately carry that torch to embrace local communities on a global scale with the same consciousness.”

Designed with environmental awareness, Cocina aesthetically expressed the cumulative zenith of ABC’s evolutionary oeuvre to date. Designed, conceptualized, and built internally by the ABC Carpet & Home’s senior creative team, the atmosphere – refreshing and romantic – features misty tones of grey ignited with signature ABC pops of pink, and gallery-esque lighting – juxtaposing vintage antiques with modern, statement pieces utilizing LED eco-technology as 21st century functional art. A contemporary global exchange, Cocina’s vibe is both mystical and alluring – a destination for nurturing oneself, one’s spirit, and the planet.

Back to the Roots Hustle to be the Next Agricultural Disrupter

Posted on: October 4th, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

Guest Post by Nikhil Arora, Co-Founder, Back to the Roots

Back to the Roots was founded during our last semester in college when my co-founder Alex and I heard in a lecture a random, crazy fact that intrigued the both of us – you could possibly grow gourmet mushrooms on entirely used coffee grounds.

What started off as an urban mushroom farm growing gourmet oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds has since transitioned into a company with a far greater vision – to help every family across the country connect with their food again, through fun and easy to use products. Our first product was the Mushroom Kit, a small brown box that yields fresh, edible mushrooms in just 10 days! We launched our 2nd product, the AquaFarm, just a few months ago. It’s a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food – concentrating all the amazing features of aquaponics into a tank small enough to inspire anyone to become an urban farmer – green thumb or not!
We currently sell the Mushroom Kit throughout the country in Whole Foods, Nordstrom, and Home Depot.  We launched the AquaFarm this summer into Whole Foods & Nordstrom, and it will be sold nationally in Petco starting October 27th.

It’s been an incredibly fun, challenging, and exciting time for the company recently – a new product, our biggest distribution opportunity to date, and the chance to really elevate our brand from “the mushroom guys” to “Back to the Roots.”

Amongst all this change this past year, what hasn’t changed is the core values this company lives and grows by – Hustle, Passion, Family, and Universal Happiness.  We believe in our vision to our core, and are willing to give it everything we’ve got – through all the ups and downs.

And that’s why Trep Life is amazing and we were so excited to be part of the series. They’re capturing the true spirit of entrepreneurship and they’re showing that there’s really no secret to success  – it’s as simple as “are you willing to give everything you have to create something you absolutely believe needs to exist in the world?” If the answer is yes, you’ll be just fine. We hope you enjoy our episode and get inspired to launch your own business!

Feeling inspired, delighted, or learned something new? Please share with a friend! And also be sure to check out new episodes airing every other Tuesday on Inc.com/TrepLife. For more behind the scenes footage of entrepreneur life follow Trep Life on Facebook and Twitter!

 

 

Joel Solomon: The Missing Ingredient From Your Portfolio

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

Guest blogpost written by David Laskarzewski for Impact Driven

Joel SolomonJoel Solomon is up to something.

Sitting on a stool in front of a room of 100+ like-minded people at the LOHAS Collaboratory, his thick grey-black hair soaking in the morning Boulder sunshine that’s filtering through the windows, Mr. Solomon smiles patiently — make that sublimely — at the minds and hearts settling in to feed on his words.

“I came from money,” begins Mr. Solomon, president of Canada’s largest social venture capital firm, Renewal Partners. “My father was a successful developer who became a pioneer at purchasing land and building strip malls.

“I didn’t think twice about how my dad put food on the table until Joni Mitchell’s song, ‘Big Yellow Taxi,’ hit the airwaves. Suddenly, the idea that my family business was paving over paradise didn’t sit very well with me.

“And so,” continues Mr. Solomon, “I began to question where money comes from, where it goes, and the effects it has on people and the planet. All while growing out both the hair on my face and on my head … I came of age in the 60s after all.

“About this same time, I was diagnosed with something called polycystic kidney disease. It’s in my family history and, when I learned I had it at 22, there was no cure. Only a dialysis machine. Bottom line: the doctors didn’t really know how long I had to live. Believe me, there’s nothing like coming face-to-face with your own mortality to really clarify what’s important to you.

“Fast-forward to today,” quips Mr. Solomon, “and through the miracle of organ donation and organ transplant, I’m happy to report that I’m healthy, well and very grateful and blessed. The thing is, facing the possibility of death was actually very important, very beneficial. Because in short order it became clear what mattered most to me.

“The questions that we ask regularly at our office in Vancouver are: ‘What can we do in the next 50 years that will impact the next 500?’ ‘How can we leverage capital to create competent, collaborative and resilient communities?’ ‘How can we activate the holistic philosophy that has taken over the organic food industry — people care about where their food comes from and how healthy it is — and apply these ideals to investing?’ And ‘How do we ensure that ethical, sustainable and responsible investment goes mainstream?’”

Mr. Solomon paused to take a drink of water, allowing his audience a moment to reflect.

Water bottle down, Mr. Solomon’s next words were akin to a poker player showing a winning hand on a card table: “To continue to build the ‘movement’ and prove that a respectable return can be made alongside social good,” says Mr. Solomon, “we are launching Renewal3. With a target rate of returns of 15% over the next 10 years.

“Renewal Funds,” continues Mr. Solomon,” is managed by Paul Richardson, Carol Newell, our cofounder, myself, and Nicole Bradbury and Kate Storey. Roughly two-thirds of our investments are made here in the States with the remaining third in Canada.”

Joel Solomon reaches for his water bottle once more, enjoys the cool refreshment, and recaps both the empty container and his message to his Boulder audience.

“We all can choose where we shop. We can choose what we buy, who we buy it from, who made it, where they made it, and what the impact was of how it was made. That’s the power of your hard-earned dollar. No matter how much or how little money each of us has, what we do with it is an expression of what we care about and our beliefs about the world.

“So,” Mr. Solomon asks rhetorically, “why not have money be more life-giving?

“Let’s use our money to create conditions for more hope, inspiration and love. Because, beneath it all, love is the true nutrient.”

Joel Solomon is Chairman of Renewal Funds, Canada’s largest social venture capital firm.  Launching in 2013, Renewal3 and the Instinct Fund now build upon the legacy of aligning money with values established by Renewal2and Renewal Partners.

Joel serves as a Senior Advisor with RSF Social Finance and speaks frequently throughout North America, including a recent TEDxVancouver talk.  He is a founding member of Social Venture Network (SVN), Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the Tides Canada Foundation, and is board chair of Hollyhock.