Jan 07

Carrotmob: consumer activism happily married to profit-driven companies

CarrotmobLast November, France organized the Week of Responsible Finance to promote the role of finance in sustainability. Around that time, some press articles mentioned the case of Carrotmob, a poowerful new concept that successfully directs a company’s revenue towards sustainability investment. We wanted to know more and got in touch with Anaïs Amazit, who was one of the key organizers of the largest Carrotmob in Paris, and through a few emails she agreed to present Carrotmob and share some of her ideas to develop corporate and citizen social responsibility. Interview: 

 

Hi Anaïs! You’ve been co-organizer of the Carrotmob at the Bellevilloise, on April 6th, 2012 in Paris. Carrotmob is a new way of consuming … can you tell us more?
Carrotmob is about buying goods to create revenue for a company, which then uses the money to increase its sustainability. Indeed, the company where the Carrotmob happens commits to invest a portion or the entire amount of revenue, in his own business, to make it more environmentally friendly (eg, buying more equipment environmentally). This is called the “buycott”, a form of consumer activism that rewards the commitment of a company, thus branding a “carrot” and not the stick!

The concept was born in the United States. Can you tell us how it came to France, and how you joined the movement?
The concept was born precisely in San Francisco, California, around 2008. It  then arrived in France at the initiative of Florian Guillaume from Rennes, now President of the CarrotCommunity association.
As a “consumption activist” I was attracted by the concept, simple and original, this is what led me to join the movement.

The Carrotmob at the Bellevilloise was a huge success, it set the world record for funds raised for a business. What did you like most about the organization of this event?
I particularly appreciated the commitment of the Bellevilloise to dedicate all proceeds from the event to the Carrotmob, which simplified the negotiation phase.
CSR without borders is about educating and training the next generation of professionals and entrepreneurs, also in universities classes. During your studies, did you come across the ideas of sustainable development, and  innovative business models?

After a degree in Applied Foreign Languages ​​at the Sorbonne, I joined the SKEMA business school. It is only in this second phase of my studies that CSR and sustainable development were addressed, in some way.
It seems quite insufficient to me and I think it is important that these concepts, as well as the social and solidarity economy, be fully integrated into the curriculum. By the way, Benoit Hamon, the Deputy Minister for Social and Solidarity Economy, recently committed to make it a reality.
How do you think we could better educate the young generation to think “carrot” rather than “stick” during their studies?

I think we should begin by encouraging cooperation and not competition at an early age, in all spheres of life of the child, and later in his studies. Be open to the world and the various practices (cultural, social, economic) that exist to encourage students to develop their critical thinking, focus on the positive things that exist, without concealing the bad ones either.

What other types of actions, “Carrotmob-like”, do you think could be implemented to accelerate the transition to sustainable business?

 

I know of no other actions like Carrotmob. In order to accelerate the transition from “business as usual” towards more social and environmental responsibility, I think we must have more stringent legal measures.

Finally, when do you organize a new event Carrotmob? Where and when!

 

A Carrotmob in Paris took place at Monsieur Poulet, 06 October. Canal + with Pauline Lefevre team have the honor of their presence (http://vimeo.com/51735316).
There was a digital Carrotmob running until December 20th and another planned in Rennes, January 18th!
All the news on the site are www.carrotcommunity.org and social networks.
Facebook Carrotmob Paris: Carrotmob.Paris
Facebook Carrotmob France: France Carrotmob
Twitter: @ CarrotCommunity

 

Thank you so much Anaïs ! All the best for 2013 to everyone, let’s make it more sustainable than any other year before !

Jan 02

Happy new year!

Hi,

Welcome into 2013.

We wish you a very happy new year. May you live the next 12 months at the fullest, and stay healthy to enjoy it.

 

We’d like this year to mean a few things for you, the very same things that we hope will come, and strive to make happen at CSR without borders :

– evolve your paradigm of sustainable development into a richer, farther-reaching one

– inspire other people around you by setting an example

– let the principles of sustainability pervase into the various dimensionsof your life, professional and personal.

Stay tuned for new content, interviews, analyses, and debates.

Best,

CSR without borders.

Aug 02

International trade and corporate social responsibility in Bolivia

On June 8th 2012 we met with CSR project managers at the Bolivian Institute for International Trade (IBCE in Spanish: Instituto Boliviano de Comercio Exterior).

IBCE was founded in 1986 jointly by five regional chambers of commerce, its primary mission being to bring technical support to exporting companies. Since that date, it has also helped companies to balance their exports and imports, and supported them in their relations with the government.

In more recent years, IBCE has participated in several international trades discussions with foreign governments to provide expertise, and also helped form an ad-hoc project with Switzerland to support Bolivian companies targeting the Swiss market. IBCE works with a number of sector, including but not limited to, sugar cane production, cotton, wood, milk, vegetal oil, and mining.

Bolivia’s economy grew by 6% in 2011, even though the world financial crisis slowed exports to the European Union and the United States. The EU is still the main consumer for a dozen of products that Bolivia exports, including food commodities like coffee or cocoa, and manufactured goods like garment and jewelry. Being cut off from the sea, Bolivia has to pay a high transfer price to get its good to the sea at neighbor countries’ commercial ports. Inside the borders, a significant part of the active population works in the informal sector, especially the youth and women. Overall, corruption is a rampant issue in Bolivia and touches most business sectors. International organizations lending money for infrastructure projects scrutinize the expenditures to fight it and progress was made in the last decade thanks to state laws forcing more transparency on the private sector and foundations.

Sustainability has become a more pressuring issue for Bolivian companies willing to export their goods to demanding markets such as the European Union. Sugar cane producers are regularly concerned, as child labor is an issue in this sector. This is why IBCE started developing dedicated services about corporate social responsibility. IBCE communicates regularly about sustainability in business, responsibility in the value chain and best social practices, through periodical print material and events.  Yet, most companies come to IBCE when they are faced with issues, commonly a conflict with surrounding communities.

Then, IBCE has a portfolio of tools and projects to implement with the company, but the general approach can be summarized in the following steps:

#1 Convince the company that the old habit of looking for a quick-fix or a bribe to the community leader will not work, and instead look for a solution more sustainable for all parties involved in the issue

#2 Fund a change initiative. Company money is often complemented by a grant from IBCE and another Foundation.

#3 Offer the company tools to follow-up on its own work and communicate about its progress, such as certification on national or international standards.

#4 IBCE continues to support companies with technical and imports/exports advice. Certification is an effective tool because it encourages companies to keep up the effort.

These projects started in 2006. Companies’ point of view has changed, and issues such as child or forced labor are less accepted than they used to be. Child labor is the most sensitive topic in Bolivia’s potential trade partners, and that is why specific projects have been developed by IBCE. Overall labor issues are the most common topic concerning CSR projects in Bolivian companies.

Still today, the overall trend is for Bolivian companies to take interest in the concept of CSR only when faced with the business consequences of a social or environmental issue.

Note: Since IBCE *only operates with Bolivian companies, of all sizes, but neither with foreign groups nor their local subsidiaries*, the description of work above applies only to Bolivian companies.

 

Aug 01

Where change goes to work in Belo Horizonte, Brazil: interview with Andre Maciel, HUB co-founder

We went to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to discover the HUB recently opened in the city, thanks to Andre Maciel and his partners. Discover how Andre started the Hub in Belo Horizonte and how this new nest for social entrepreneurs can help.

 

Why create a HUB in BH? And how did you make it possible?

We (the 3 founders) were unhappy with our current jobs and wanted to make something more purposeful with our talents. Then we perceived that we were not the only ones, but lots of people were facing the same situation. Because of that, we decided to create “something” that could inspire and also give support for those who wanted to venture in a career more aligned with their values and the needs of the world. After benchmarking with lots of organizations we found out that the Hub was not only a beautiful space, but a community of people doing exactly that. So, in 2010 we decided – we need to bring the Hub to Belo Horizonte.

Did you already have an interest in social business before creating the Hub?

Yes. I’ve got more aware of social businesses during my period working with AIESEC. When living in India, I created a social business myself. It was called MyChoice and the objective is to build consciousness about sustainability on young students (10 – 16 years old) in Bangalore in the South of India. The project work it out very well and Kurt (one of the co-creators) took it forward to Canada and Pakistan – the name now is MyWorld MyChoice.

How many entrepreneurs are currently staying in the Hub? What kind of activities are they developing?

We opened our doors in May and so far we have 40 entrepreneurs working with us. They activities vary from sustainability consultants, to education programs for children on social danger, fair trading with low income handcrafts communities, and so on.

Can you describe a few examples of projects in which the HUB is currently involved?

We were involved on the Global Dialogues for the Rio+20 UN Conference. We facilitated an open dialogue event on a public square in Belo Horizonte to gather the vision of the city
inhabitants over “The future we want”. The harvest of this dialogue was combined with other dozens of dialogues that happened around the globe previously to the congress and presented on the conference plenary. Right now, we are co-creating a multi-sided program to empower a low income community in a city near Belo Horizonte so they can build by themselves something they dream about. Also, we have just launched the Hub Winter School, an open platform were people can learn a variety of techniques through 30 different workshops that will take place at the Hub BH on the lasts two weeks of August. The workshops themes vary from community entrepreneurship and design thinking for social change to circular dancing and “how to build a homemade composter”.

Brazil just hosted the Rio+20 summit. Do you think your country is the next source of growth and development for sustainability & social business?

The results of the Rio+20 summit itself didn’t satisfy me. But the movement created by the “civil society” – as a parallel gathering – was great and showed that more and more people are aware that we need to change our habits if we want to still be present on Earth. I believe Brazil must play a very strong role under the sustainability theme, but there’s still a long way to go – mostly in education.

How do you picture the Hub BH to be like in ten years?

I see us having more than one space in the city, a huge community of practice and being recognized as THE place to create innovative businesses that can solve the needs of society. Most likely the world will be a completely different place – things are changing faster and faster – and hopefully it will be for the better.

Jul 12

Peruventures and micro-entrepreneurship against poverty in Peru

Peruventures is a Peruvian non-profit organization helping local communities to develop entrepreneurship. The NGO was created in 2008 and believes entrepreneurship is a solution to poverty. Six professional consultants with experience in business and management work for Peruventures, as well as volunteers.

Entrepreneurship is popular among Peruvians, but they often lack skills and training to know how to run a business. From an administrative point of view, the entrepreneurship process is quite easy in Peru, the company can be legally created within a few days – though it can take longer outside main cities. Most entrepreneurs run their companies to survive on a daily basis. This is where Peruventures can help.

Local governments call Peruventures to organize entrepreneurship seminars for locals. Programs last for about 6 months, and are open to the public. Anyone interested in creating his/her own company can attend. Once the seminar is over Peruventures implements a monitoring & evaluation system, including a social balanced score card. All indicators are adapted to the local context.

Among other tools to develop entrepreneurship, Peruventures is developing microfranchises. They develop the product, the brand, and then help microentrepreneurs become franchisee.

There are often more women entrepreneurs than male among Peruventures attendees. The reason is that most men already have a job and do not need to create their own company. Peruventures mostly works outside Lima, and especially in the North of the country.

Jul 12

Delizia and milk producers in the Altiplano: a new value chain for local development

How can the situation of Bolivian farmers improve in the Altiplano? We met with the company Delizia in La Paz, and they told us how they had changed the milk market, and contributed to better the lives of hundreds of small farms.

 

 

The farming poverty trap in the Altiplano

The Altiplano is a rural plateau in West Bolivia, at the border with Chile and Peru. This is one of the poorest regions in the country, where economic opportunities are very limited. Agriculture is the main source of revenue, but its financial returns are limited and families earn very little. Many farmers produce milk and cheese, but produce only small quantities with high seasonality. There are only small, low productivity farms.

These families miss basic farming infrastructures, such as cowsheds and mangers, and lack technical skills. This affects productivity and makes farms more sensitive to seasons. In winter (July-August), productivity drops by 30 to 40%.

Farmers are not able to produce more to meet the market’s demand and earn more:

  • Lack of technical skills and basic infrastructure is responsible for low productivity. Investments would be necessary to produce more. But farmers have no investment capacity.
  • To produce more, farmers should buy more productive cows. But they cannot afford such an investment. No financial institution would be willing to give a farmer a loan without hard collateral or a guaranteed market. This is a vicious circle, a poverty trap.

A market that could be conquered by local farmers

Bolivia produces 287 million liters of milk per year[1], but consumes 460 million liters – what is not produced locally is imported from Argentina and Chile. This would be an opportunity for farmers, if they could raise the level of production. Altiplano farmers also have a competitive edge: the cold temperatures make their milk richer, and an interesting supply for food processing industries.

Delizia’s supply issues

Delizia is a Bolivian milk processor company started in october 1988. It produces ice creams, milk, yogurts and deserts. The company buys from local suppliers. 670 employees now work for Delizia in Bolivia.

Delizia was facing supply issues for fresh milk with small Altiplano farmers. The company had trouble establishing long term relationships with its milk suppliers, and because of their high seasonality the company was looking for other suppliers.

The establishment of a new value chain

Farmers first received technical, agricultural and management trainings from the NGO Save the children. The microfinance part of the project was set up later on.

The microloan must be used to buy a more productive cow. Delizia helped the farmers buy Peruvian livestock for this project. Farmers buy a first co, then a second when the first microloan has been paid back and their revenue have increased. Delizia buys milk at market prices and pays back the loan to the MFI with a deduction on the price of the milk. This is used as collateral to the microfinance institution.

Two strategic partnerships were establishd for this project:

  • Save the Children + microfinance institution + farmers: Save the children trained the farmers, and helped the MFI developing a financial product suitable for farmers.
  • Microfinance institution + Delizia + farmers: The MFI manages financial products (loan and microinsurance) for farmers to buy livestock. Farmers sell their milk to Delizia, which keeps a deduction to pay back the loans.

The farmers’ organization negotiates prizes with Delizia, helps its members and makes sure the loans are paid back. But individual farmers remain responsible for their own financial and commercial contracts.

The loan

Each loan is associated to a microinsurance product for the farmer. Farmers can also subscribe to microinsurance for each cow: if it dies, the insurance will be another one. Microinsurance guarantees loans will be paid back.

Once the loan has been accepted, the farmer has to sell the milk produced to Delizia. But once the loan is paid back, farmers are free to sell their milk to other buyers. But most farmers actually keep selling their milk to Delizia.

Results

402 families benefited from a loan between 2008 and 2012. The following effects can be underlined:

  • Milk production as well as productivity have increased.
  • The average revenue for a family has increased by 42% in six months.
  • The relationship between farmers and Delizia has strengthened, thanks to a climate of trust.
  • All farmers were able to pay back their loans.

Farmers are out of the poverty trap: they have become qualified agri-entrepreneurs, and active part of a sustainable value chain, thanks to which they can now access financial products and commercial relationships.

For Delizia:

  • The monthly collection of milk has increased, as well as the number of suppliers.
  • The milk collected is of better quality, which also means better quality products.
  • The relationship between the company and its suppliers has changed: this is now a win-win partnership that creates trust.
  • The company now enjoys a better strategic positioning compared to its competitors.

What we can learn from this example

  • A win-win partnership: This project is related to each actor’s core business, and that is what makes this new value chain sustainable. Each one directly benefits from the project: farmers have become richer, and Delizia has solved its supplying issues.
  • local go-between is necessary to facilitate the encounter between two different universes and make partnerships possible. In this example Save the children helped Delizia and its suppliers work together, and build between them a relationship based on mutual trust.
  • The new value chain could be developed thanks to an empowerment strategy. Technical trainings were essential, microfinance alone would not have been enough.
  • The goals, the functioning and the development of this new value chain are adapted to the local context.
  • Relationships based on trust between each member have made this value chain possible. Each one needs the other on this new milk market, and this is what makes the value chain sustainable.

 

[1] Source : Save the children

Jun 05

Proudly introducing our new partner: AgendaRSE, in Argentina!

We are very glad to announce that we just started a partnership with AgendaRSE from Argentina. Agenda RSE was created by Maria Florencia Segura (read her interview about CSR in Argentina here), an Argentinian CSR professional.

Maria Florencia Segura just launched a CSR program for professionals in partnership with AgendaRSE.

Together we will exchange best CSR practices between Europe and South America and publish articles and interviews to help you discover the most interesting corporate responsibility developments on both sides of the Atlantic!

 

Jun 05

Brazil: a sustainable future?

Being the fifth most populated country in the world, with around 200 million people, Brazil is a vast and highly diverse subject when it comes to social and environmental issues.

But when I asked a doctor in environmental sustainability what were today’s priorities for Brazil regarding environment protection, he provided a very interesting response:

You may ask this question, but you will get a range of different answers from anyone. Journalists will tell you about the Amazon forest being felled every day, and about the giant dam projects in the South. Everyone has a different opinion.

But what you should really look at is the dramatic change in the Brazilian society’s structure over the past 25 years: the emergence of a middle class. Brazil’s society is divided into 5 major “social” classes, from A to E, A being wealthiest. Class “C” is the one considered as middle-class. (1)

In the past 25 years, the C class exploded from 20 million to 80 million, and at the same time Brazil became democratic again and followed the North-American model of consumerism.

Now that causes a major challenge: how do you answer all the “new” needs of that middle class? Do you make “more of the same”, more TVs, cars, and wasteful lifestyle?  Or do you try to address those needs in a new and different way, which is more respectful of the environment and tries to contain the explosion of the total carbon footprint of the country?

I was quite taken aback by this perspective, but the more I thought about it, and the more I asked other professors, professionals, and even students, the more it seemed to contain in itself the key to Brazil’s future.

Population growth is concentrated in the cities, both because of rural exodus, and because cities are already very populated. Traffic, waste, energy consumption, are growing very fast, and the public services barely keep up. From my own friends and acquaintances, a few have actually moved cities or neighborhoods primarily to escape from traffic jams or get closer to their work place.

More than anything, political decisions, at all levels of the country, will decide how the economy and society will evolve. Existing schemes of tax exemption for investors have been proved to cause social dumping and environmental damage. The increasing interest, and therefore scrutiny, of an international community of investors, as well as the constant auditing of international cooperation organizations, may serve as a guidance towards a more sustainable path.

The statistics on corruption, child labor, and discrimination are improving, although a lot remains to be done:

– Current president Dilma Roussef has ousted already several ministers from her own government that were proved guilty of corruption, showing a stronger hand at actually tackling the issue than her predecessor. Brazil went up two ranks from 75th in the Transparency International yearly corruption index (http://www.transparency.org/) since 2009.

Children's right image

Child Labor was addressed in recent year, among other things, through the Bolsa Familia scheme: a conditional cash transfer policy implemented at national level. The poorest families receive a monthly stipend of about 12US$, and those who have children must keep them in school to benefit the program. The free meals given at school act as a further incentive for parents to send their children to school.

Bolsa Familia

- In 2011 an “affirmative action” implemented by universities raised a hot national debate, culminating in a Supreme Court judgment that confirmed the right for universities to use quotas for students from minorities. That is not a solution in itself, but a demonstration that the question is being addressed after decades of ignoring it.

Crime rates have somewhat fallen in the past five years:

– On the highly exposed in the media side, the military occupation of the Rio de Janeiro favelas removed drug traffickers from those areas.

– On the less advertised side, public policies combined with corporate philanthropy and the work of NGOs have statistically decrease inequalities, by putting the distribution of economic opportunities and wealth on a more egalitarian trend.

– At a very local level, the involvement of drug traffickers with daily life and security is still quite palpable, and a sustained change in habits will take years to secure. For example, dealers ensure security of their “operating” neighborhood because they do not want anyone to call the police there.

As a perspective, the general movement up in the economy is uplifting for the Brazilians’ mood, and the upcoming Soccer world cup and Olympics are bound to bring more business investment and tourism interests in the next half-decade.

Olympics_2016

(1) households with monthly income between $450 and $745.

Sources:

– United Nations’ “What’s going on? Child Labor in Brazil

Transparency International – Country Profiles

FACTBOX: Brazil’s new middle class | Reuters

– “The world guide to CSR”, by Dr. Wayne Visser (2010)

Jun 05

CSR without borders was at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Our latest workshop was in Porto Alegre, in Brazil, in Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, with the help of the local committee of AIESEC.

Students spent two hours trying to solve an environmental and social challenge related to recycling. This workshop was inspired by Tetra Pak Brazil strategy.

We would like to thank the university’s staff for their precious help during our stay, and especially Pr. César Augusto Tejera De Ré, Director of the management research center, Pr. Luis Felipe Nascimento, and Pr. Rosinha Machado Carrion.

 

May 28

“CSR is beginning to prevail in Argentina” Interview of Florencia Segura, Director of CSR program at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella

Maria Florencia Segura is a passionate corporate social responsibility specialist in Argentina. She just launched a new program dedicated to executives to develop CSR in Argentinian companies. She told us how corporate social responsibility is growing in Argentina.

 

Culturally speaking, what do Argentinians expect from business? Are companies supposed to contribute to society?

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, people expect business to be a catalyst of change and a leader for change in subjects such as putting customers beyond profit, taking care of the environment and providing good job conditions to workers. They also expect that companies do not only focus on operational drivers, but also on societal ones.

 

How would you describe the current state of corporate social responsibility in Argentina?

CSR in Argentina is beginning to prevail, as reporting is gradually becoming more important. Although mostly American companies and some SMEs are developing such initiatives, the number of organizations and initiatives in CSR is growing, as well as interest for the issue.

This year Di Tella University asked me to launch a 24-hour CSR Program, which includes the basic issues regarding CSR. The university is also doing research in issues such as social inclusive business with BiD Challenge for example.

This was a big step in Argentina, because this is one of the most important business universities and it means a big step for business as well.  My vision as an academic is to promote entrepreneurship in CSR through leadership education in the field of sustainability.

The government is now less reluctant, they have understood that public policies must foster social change in this field as well. There are three bills in the Argentinian Parliament regarding CSR at the moment, and one of them will make it compulsory for companies with more than 300 employees to publish a social balance. Although many items are related to accountability, this is an important step.

Avina Foundation is working very hard in Argentina to finance journalism in this field. It also promotes publications and partnerships with organizations.

 

In your opinion which companies could be considered as CSR pioneers in Argentina?

The British company Nobleza Picardo is one of the pioneers in Argentina in the field of the value chain of tobacco. Another one is Arcor, which is an Argentinian company that promotes health in nutrition, and Los Grobo which won in 2009 the Best “Corporate Citizenship” in “Large Company Category” for Sustainable Management prize delivered by the American Chamber of commerce in Argentina for their reporting and contribution to sustainability in their business.

Natura has been doing a great job for diversity, giving access to adult women to qualified jobs.

 

Do you consider the current state of CSR in Argentina is much different from its neighbors? What are the Argentinian specificities?

I think CSR in Argentina is different from its neighbors because its development started after the 2001 crisis. Other countries as Chile with Accion RSE, and Fundacion Prohumana, had been doing research and programs years before. Brazil has been doing much more work with Instituto Ethos, and Uruguay is comparable to Argentina.

The 2001 crisis accelerated the process producing a change in the way people considered companies, when the collapse of banks provoked the loss of thousands of jobs and savings. The civil society was shocked. The social contract was broken and people started to protest and ask for their rights to the private sector. That was a first change. The second change was the nationalization of Repsol YPF in April 2012 as a claim from Argentinians for rights over international investments.

 

What is the toughest challenge CSR has to face today in Argentina?

The main challenge is education of values to the private sector and human rights.  Killing corruption is another big challenge, as well as poverty. The biggest challenge in the last decade has been the struggle against drugs, informal jobs and immigration.

 

You just launched a CSR program with the collaboration by Agenda RSE. What can executives expect from such a program?

They can expect another way of seeing the world and life thanks to sustainability. They will be prepared to be corporate social entrepreneurs.

 

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