Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Forward-thinking Fashion

12 June 2012

Tonight’s excellent Inspiring Entrepreneurs event looked at different approaches to ethical, environmentally-friendly and sustainable fashion.

Rather than seeing ethical fashion as an add-on, our speakers are taking advantage of new technology and practical innovative business models to make them more creative and also sustainable in the long-term.

Tonight was run in partnership with  London College of Fashion’s Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE) and Designer-Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre (DISC).


Christian Smith is Corporate Responsibility Manager at ASOS, and has an MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development from UCL. His work at ASOS includes measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, helping the company to understand its impacts and opportunities for improvement.

Annegret Affolderbach is designer and founder of Choolips, who revive  ancient textile traditions. She is passionate about sustainable fashion, and the exciting and potent future it presents for global fashion. Her range is now sold through the ASOS Green Room.

Annegret spent a year and a half after graduating collecting ideas on Post-It notes trying to work out how she could use her talent to make a positive difference to fashion in the world. She also felt the need to be inspired for her whole business career, rather than a short term goal.

Annegret spent another year travelling and listening, visiting the Gambia to learn about Batik, and how the local producers thought about their lives and impact on their local environment.

She was determined to create a product that would be harmonious to both the producers and consumers of the products, and started with just two simple dresses.

Electrobloom flowerMark Bloomfield with a background experience of designing wearable accessories for brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Williamson and Asprey, talked about developing his own jewellery business, Electrobloom.

This has been inspired by how the worlds of nature, art, technology and science collide, he produces unique jewellery designs using 3D printing technology.

Eleanor Dorrien-Smith is the founder of PARTIMI, and graduated from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Fashion and Print. She has worked for Mary Katrantzou, Tata Naka, John Galliano and Eley Kishimoto before setting up PARTIMI. After creating a capsule collection for US retailer Anthropologie, the PARTIMI ready-to-wear collection was launched in 2010. The PARTIMI collections are defined by striking prints, a distinctive personal narrative and an environmental edge.

The evening was chaired by Melanie Frame, Sustainability Manufacturing Developer at London College of Fashion (DISC). Melanie is part of the DISC project to support fashion manufacturers and designers to innovate their production process. Melanie has been involved in various sustainability projects helping small businesses to set up sustainable and ethical practices.

A question about the concentration on sustainable supply lines led to a fascinating discussion about the speaker’s views on what sustainable fashion means to them.

For Mark it was about recreating a made-to-order type of personalised shopping experience, which gives a more engaged experience for customers.

For Christian improving the welfare of the environment and fashion producers are an important new additional part of the business model, from the traditional success measures of company share price and market share.

He talked about how the Green Room at ASOS helps breakdown the enormous challenges of sustainable fashion into bite sized chunks, making it more manageable. Also telling the story behind the product is another way of engaging customers and staff.

He gave several examples of innovation and change:

The discussion ended with a transparent discussion of producer pricing and markups that are common in sustainable fashion.

My colleague Fran Taylor who organised the event has written an excellent review of the evening on her Creative Industries blog .

Dee Dee’s Vintage, another Business & IP Centre Success Story

27 September 2011

Dee_Dees_Vintage_logoI received a lovely surprise tweet recently. ” Hi Neil! I had a one-to-one with you  couple of years ago. Still implementing your advice – it was great!

It was from Dee Dee O’Connell, the founder of Dee Dee’s Vintage.  And after my blushes died down, I recalled the information advice clinic where we met. In particular I remember being impressed about how much thought Dee Dee had already given to her business idea, and how resourceful she had been.

Dee Dee didn’t have the delightful logo above at the time, or her partner Ian White.  But I was confident she would be successful, with her enthusiasm and expert knowledge of the vintage clothing market place, and her entrepreneurial spirit.

I get a lovely warm glow from being a small part of our success stories.

Below is the blurb from their website

Dee Dee’s Vintage is a brand new online shop, specialising in Americana and classic British vintage clothing. We began life back in June ‘09 as a stall at the Vintage Pop-Up Market at Brick Lane, East London. We can now be found at selected vintage fairs, markets and festivals all over the UK. Check out our blog for the latest updates on our events.

We’re based at The Print House in Dalston, East London – home of Dalston Roof Park and Café Oto.

They are also on Facebook and Twitter:

Dee Dee O'Connell and Ian White

Dee Dee's Vintage with Dee Dee O'Connell and Ian White

How to revive a brand

5 September 2011

On the way home from a recent road trip to Scotland, I made a ‘pit-stop’ at a McDonalds restaurant near Birmingham.

I’m not a regular customer at the ‘golden arches’, so was very surprised to discover a waterless urinal
with a sticker on it saying it saved 100,000 litres of water a year.


Copyright Sorven Media ltd

This is all part of McDonalds’ efforts to combat the negative press that has built up over the years. In particular the reaction to ‘McLibel’ case and reaction to the 1994 documentary film Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock.

McDonalds have created a website to allow you to Make up your own mind, which currently contains 24,000 questions and answers:

Your Questions
A dedicated Make Up Your Own Mind team from across McDonald’s is working hard to answer your questions. You can ask whatever you want, and we aim to answer even the toughest question within two weeks in an honest and straight-talking fashion. The ‘Questions & Answers’ can be searched either by keyword or by sub-sections – this should help you find the information you’re looking for.

The website also includes reports from their Quality Scouts.

What is a Quality Scout?
Quality Scouts are members of the general public from around the UK who are curious about McDonald’s business. They are not paid, and have no ties to the company. All they do is take an honest, behind the scenes look at McDonald’s and report back. And they’ll tell you exactly what they hear and see.

I have to say I am impressed by their efforts, but wonder what it will take to change public opinion.

Two examples spring to mind:

Fiat cars of the 1970’s, which became notorious for their rust problems.

In response they built the Tipo in the 1980’s (a car I owned), and gave it a fully galvanised body, giving it better rust protection than almost any other car on the market. However, it took many years for their ‘rust bucket’ reputation to disappear.

A more recent (if fictitious) example is from The Archers radio show where an outbreak of E. coli,  has resulted in regular customers deserting Ambridge Organics, despite having been given the all clear several weeks ago.

Green Metropolis – a million books to read again and again

21 March 2011

greenMetropolisThanks once again to for this inspiring business start-up story, this time featuring books (a subject close to my heart).

They have interviewed Barry Crow the founder of Green Metropolis about  how he came to develop the site using his redundancy pay.

What’s your background and how did you come up with the idea for the site? I’m originally from Newcastle and worked for British Airways as an IT developer. I moved to London for my job and went from a 4 bedroom house to a one bedroom flat. I’m an avid reader and had loads of paperbacks. If people have space, their books go under the bed or on the shelf. I had no space and had to de-clutter everything. So I started giving them away to charity shops. 

I went through pretty much the same process; I would buy a new book every month, read it and then drop it off in a charity shop.  But I could never find books there I wanted to buy. If I had just finished a James Patterson, then I would want to read another one. But if the charity shop didn’t have it I would have to go to Waterstones and buy a new one.

After a while I just thought: this is crazy; there must be a better way to do this. That was the beginnings of the idea but I didn’t look at it properly until I lost my job.

How many people use the site?

We have about 100,000 members.

We started with 1,000 books in stock which were mostly mine, and a few of my friends. We have about a million second-hand books in stock now. Some members still buy books brand new, because they have to have it, but within a week they’ve read it and will post it on the site

What sets you aside from sites like Amazon or even eBay?

Our site is more like a book club; it’s a community doing it to benefit each other. It’s for people who want to share their books with each other and at the same time raise money for a good cause. It adds to the whole feel-good factor of the site.

When you join us, you get an online account and every time you sell, you can either have the money refunded to you or use it buy new books.

Everyone should benefit, whether buying or selling, and ideally, we want our sellers to have enough credit from sales to buy their next one on the site without ever needing to use a credit card.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I think probably promoting the site. I have no experience with the marketing side of things. My background is computers and IT, so I didn’t have a problem with the technical side of the site. But I suppose I naively thought after 6 months that once we had a great website, people would naturally come to it.

Like I said, we’ve never advertised it, and it’s been a very slow process. I started off and it was just me and I massively underestimated the time it takes to do everything.

Where do you see the site in five years time?

I would like to be the main ethical alternative to Amazon for second hand and charity books. For myself, I would like to work a little less, so that I can read a little more.

Climbing the stairway to heaven

9 March 2011


Now that I am in the final stages of planning my once in a life-time trip to the top of Kilimanjaro. I need to get my legs in shape for the 5,882 metres or 19,298 ft climb to the snow-capped peak of Kibo.

For some time now I have been using the stairs at work instead of the lift whenever possible. Although this sometimes gets me to high-up meetings a little out of breath, I can feel the good it is doing me. Even better, I am saving electricity each time I avoid going into the lift. In addition, I gain a sense of control, or at least avoid the frustration of waiting, what can seem like an age, for the lift to arrive.

There is even scientific evidence to prove that taking the stairs instead of the lift at work could save your life.

Banning the use of lifts and escalators led to better fitness, less body fat, trimmer waistlines and a drop in blood pressure, a study of 69 people found. This translates to a 15% cut in the risk of dying prematurely from any cause, calculate the University of Geneva team.

However, that won’t be enough to get me through seven days of equatorial trekking in July, so I am increasing my visits to the stairwell. Initially I was doing a full eight flights to the top of the building at the beginning of each day. but have now increased to twice a day. However, I’m not sure how much I will need to ‘raise my game’ in order to be fully fit for the rigours of the big mountain.

What is nice is that I’m not alone in my use of the stairs as a fitness aid. I now recognise some regulars as I pant my way up and down the floors.

In common with many mundane activities, there is often an extreme approach taken up by those I would consider to be somewhat more eccentric than the rest of us.

The Telegraph newspaper has published a couple of stories about the ‘sport’ of stair running, Stair running: Towers of torment and Could you run a vertical marathon?

And of course the highest building representing the pinnacle of achievement. For these indoor athletes, taking anything less than two steps at a time is for amateurs. And I assume the inside line is fiercely fought over for the advantage it gives. You can read about the buildings, runners and their times here:;;; Stairclimbing Sport;

Somehow I don’t think I will ever make it running to the top of the erotic gherkin or the Shard. But as someone who is allergic to gyms, using this stair climbing workout regime is a free and handy alternative.

My attitude to the mindset that leads to fitness seekers to drive their cars to their local exercise centres is nicely summed up by this photo from the USA below.

To the moon and back on a bike made for Londoners

2 February 2011

Boris-BikeHaving tried My first ride on a ‘Boris Bike’ last October, I am now a confirmed fan of the Barclays Cycle Hire service from Transport for London, and have purchased an annual subscription.

According to yesterday’s Evening Standard, cyclists using the Mayor’s “Boris bikes” have travelled the equivalent of 13 times to the moon and back in the scheme’s first six months.

Apparently more than 2.5 million trips had been undertaken on the hire bikes since they were introduced on 30 July last year. Transport for London has calculated that cyclists would have ridden 6.2 million miles on the bikes – assuming they travelled at an average speed of 10mph. On the busiest day, the 4,800 bikes were used a total of 27,500 times.

It is good to hear that the scheme will be expanding to reach 6,000 bikes and 400 docking stations by the Spring of 2011.

However, it is still some way behind the Vélib scheme in Paris introduced in 2007,  which has grown to 17,000 bicycles and docking 1,202 stations.

My first ride on a ‘Boris Bike’

Looking forward to a greener New Year with my Keep Cup

30 December 2010

Just before the holidays our intranet announced that we could ‘buy a reusable cup and receive 10 free hot drinks’. This was part of the Library’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.

I was keen to try it out, and have been using my Keep Cup for a couple of weeks now, and am very happy with it. According to their blog, Pret have also recently trialled the Keep Cup.

The cups, available in a range of colours, cost £6.00 but customers receive 10 free hot drinks as an incentive.  The disposable cups that the Library uses for its takeaway hot drinks have a waterproof waxed coating that means that they cannot be recycled. As part of the Library’s on-going initiative to reduce waste, Peyton & Byrne have identified a product that will reduce the amount of takeaway cups used and provide staff with a better quality takeaway hot drink.

The KeepCup is a high quality reusable cup manufactured from the safest food grade plastic. It is for use with either hot or cold drinks. It has a sealable lid and sipper hole and is pleasing to drink from with the lid either on or off.

It is thermally insulated, keeping coffee hot for 30-40 minutes longer than a disposable cup. Each cup also has a thermal silicone band to ensure the cup can be carried comfortably and safely.

More consumer trends from Insider Trends

3 December 2010

My colleague Frances Taylor recently attended an Insider Trends workshop in the Business & IP Centre.

Although I wrote a report on a similar workshop, How to become a cutting-edge retailer, Francis has noted some additional useful points.

Predictions from Insider Trends

Key trend 1: The recession

§        With the new government, spending cuts and changes in policy, it’s entering a new phase.

§        Food and energy costs are rising.

§        There is worry amongst consumers about the recession, even if it does not affect them personally.

§        Consumers are making more considered choices and buying budget brands.

§        Premium or ‘added-value’ products are still doing well, but only if they have real benefits, e.g. helping the environment or offering customised services.

§        Consumers are spending more time at home on activities such as baking and gardening.  Now 1 in 5 consumers grow their own fruit and vegetables.

§        The community is important: consumers are buying locally and supporting green initiatives. There is concern about pesticides and additives in food, and distrust of large corporates.

Tips for marketing:

§        Be clear and transparent in your messages.

§        Avoid hidden costs.

§        Offer free trials, 30 day guarantees and testimonials.

§        Focus on benefits not features.

§        Create new benefits to stand out, e.g. same day delivery.

Key trend 2: Genuine individuals

§        By 2020 there will be more single people than married people in the UK.

§        By 2018, 18% of households will be ‘single person households’.

§        This is affecting buying habits, e.g. people are buying smaller portions of food such as smaller loaves of bread.

§        Living in urban areas and single-person households means that interior design has become more compact.

§        Co-creation has taken off i.e. consumers helping to shape the products they buy, such as the Nike ID trainers.

Key trend 3: Technology

§        The mobile internet is really taking off.

§        Mobile apps are a growth industry which will be worth over 50 billion by 2020.

§        Smart phone owners are buying on average one app per month.

§        Location-based apps are becoming popular such as Foursquare.

§        The ‘perpetual beta’ has become the norm.

§        There is more experimentation e.g. retail trucks and pop-up shops, secret restaurants, etc.

§        Consumers feel like there is too much choice which can be overwhelming.

§        There is a movement of consumers that are ‘unplugging’, which is also called ‘the slow movement’.  For example slow cooking, gardening, home brewing, etc.

§        Some technology solutions have hidden complexity, e.g. the iphone.  It can perform a lot of functions, but is very simple and intuitive to use.

§        QR codes are being used on products for more information, for example, to show the ingredients on McDonald’s products.

My first ride on a ‘Boris Bike’

13 October 2010

My shiny new Barclays Cycle Hire key arrived last night, so today at lunch time I rushed out to give it a try.

The experience was a mixed one, but mainly positive. The thrill of whizzing along quiet London back-streets, and arriving at my destination far quicker than walking were the main benefits.

The downsides are other traffic and pedestrians. Within minutes of setting off, I had been nudged by an impatient taxi driver, and nearly run over a couple of pedestrians who stepped out in front of me (a case of saved by the bell). Also the three gears are a bit limiting. First is fine for a quick get away from the traffic lights, but it could really do with another couple further up to slow down the legs on the flat or downhill sections. Probably the biggest disappointment was the poor state of repair our roads are in. I had to swerve around a couple of enormous potholes, and was glad the bikes are such a sturdy construction.

The other current snag is the lack of locations to pick up and leave the bikes. My nearest docking station is a good five minutes walk away, and I had the same problem at my Holborn destination. Although thanks to the computerised system I was able to ensure the parked bikes were properly registered (Boris warns of teething problems).

Despite all of the above, I’m already looking forward to my next adventure on a Boris Bike.

Londoners pedaling into a greener future

20 July 2010

Thanks to yet another failed journey into work, courtesy of my First Capital Connect Thameslink ‘service’, I ended up walking from Holborn to The British Library this morning (Severe delays on First Capital Connect’s Thameslink route).

This the first time I have walked this route (along the delightful Lamb’s Conduit Street) for a year or so. Immediately I was struck by the number of bicycles parked along the pavement attached to a variety of secure street furniture, including of course Anthony Lau’s Cyclehoops. Even more impressive was the number and variety of bikes on the road. As well as the range of cyclists. I saw young men on speedy racing bikes and retired folk on the amazing Brompton folding bikes.

And all this before the rather delayed‎ introduction of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme for London. I wonder if Londoners will take to the idea with the same enthusiasm as the Parisians who love their Vélib’ scheme.

Green Britain Day and my lunch-time Prêt bag

28 June 2010

I’m a bit late in covering Green Britain Day, but like to feel I have been doing my bit over the last few months.

In particular I am somewhat proud of my recycling (re-using to be more accurate) of my daily lunch-time Prêt A Manger bag. I’ve just retired the bag on the left which I have been using since early March. I estimate the saving is approximately 75 bags so far, which isn’t bad going. In doing so I have also gained something of a reputation at my local Prêt as the ‘bag man’. And on occasion my efforts have been rewarded with a free coffee from one of their lovely staff.

Some of the them have said they think Prêt should offer some kind of incentive for regular customers to re-use their bags.

As is so often the way, Britain lags behind the rest of Europe in ‘greenness’, so I have included a link to how the Dutch recycle, and what we can learn from them.

Free broker research reports on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues

28 June 2010
Having worked in the City of London for many years, I was somewhat surprised to discover that financial institutions are now giving away their highly valued stockbrokers reports.
Needless to say they aren’t giving everything out, but through the The London Accord, you can get access to nearly 100 reports on a range of green and ethical related topics.
Welcome to the London Accord
The London Accord presents a compendium of reports, written by a range of financial services firms, providing insight into issues ranging from renewable energy to the price of carbon.

The financial services industry produces pertinent and valuable research which could, and should, be used by policy makers and NGOs who are shaping society’s response to long-term issues such as climate change and global pandemics. However, much of this research only sees the desks of a select few and all too soon disappears into the filing systems and cupboards of the commercial sector.

The London Accord allows access to this research free of charge – offering policy makers an insight which they may not otherwise access and giving the financial services industry a way of engaging with society on long-term issues. The London Accord is simple, get more recognition and value from research by sharing what you are about to archive.

My free Coffee from Prêt in exchange for taking the One Pot Pledge

1 June 2010

One Pot PledgeAs I am sure you’ll have spotted, I’m always on the lookout for novel marketing ideas. The healthy marketing goes bananas is one of my favourites to date.

So imagine my pleasure, when popping out for my lunch-time sandwich, to be offered a free coffee in exchange for promising to nurture a Basil plant.

I did feel a bit of a fraud as I already have a small organic vegetable plot at home, but the attitude today seemed to be ‘the more thee merrier’. Maybe it was my good karma for spending an hour last night digging out my compost heap.

I think congratulations are also due to Prêt A Manger for allowing some of their most popular outlets to host the One Pot Pledge volunteers and to give away tea and coffee to pledgers.

The One Pot Pledge® is an exciting new grow your own campaign from leading gardening charity Garden Organic. Our aim is to get 30,000 people who have never grown anything before to give growing a go.

Growing your own food can be fun, it tastes great and you don’t even need a garden – one pot on a window ledge is all you need to get started.

Garden Organic is the UK’s leading organic growing charity and we can help you by providing useful information to get you growing, with handy tips along the way.

So why not ‘give it a grow’ and make your One Pot Pledge® today to grow something tasty you can eat.

If you already grow your own then we still need your help to inspire non-growers to make the One Pot Pledge®. You can join the campaign as a Gardening Guru and use your skills to help teach others to grow.

Green and ethical month in the Business & IP Centre

6 May 2010

May is Green and ethical month in the Business & IP Centre.

We have been inspired by our very successful Web in Feb month of activities to produce a Green in May month (except that it doesn’t rhyme).

As we know from our customers coming in to the Centre, Green and ethical business is growing fast.

Surveys show that 79 per cent of consumers would rather buy from companies that limit their environmental impact.

Throughout May we’re holding special events that explore green and ethical business: the opportunities, the practicalities and the reasons to get involved. Hear from eco-experts and meet entrepreneurs who are making a difference with their businesses.

We have also updated our guide to useful information sources for starting a green or ethical business.

Week one

Get more local
Get More Local
Tuesday 6, 18.00 – 20.00, free

Week two

Green money – beginner’s guide to business finance
Johnny Martin
Monday 10, 16.45 – 19.45, £9 – a special price for social enterprises

The cutting edge of green
Insider Trends
Tuesday 11, 18.00 – 20.00, £10 when booking with discount code “BritishLibrary”

Make the trade
London Community Resource Network
Wednesday 12, 10.00 – 13.00, free

Legal milestones for green business
Keystone Law
Thursday 13, 18.00 – 21.00, £25 – with a 50% discount for British Library contacts, quote “BL2010”

Week three

Raising money for green and ethical businesses
MessageLab and the Funding Game
Monday 17, 13.00 – 17.00, £25 +VAT

Managing an ethical business
Red Ochre
Thursday 20, 14.00 – 17.00, £25 Inc VAT

Social entrepreneurs without limits
Unltd World
Thursday 20, 18.00 – 20.00, free

Week four

Developing organic and ethical skincare products
She’s Ingenious!
Tuesday 25, 11.00 – 13.00, £25

Starting a social enterprise
Red Ochre
Thursday 27, 10.00 – 16.00, £50 inc VAT

Our ‘Green and ethical month’ events
Week oneGet more local
Get More Local
Tuesday 6, 18.00 – 20.00, free
Week two

Green money – beginner’s guide to business finance
Johnny Martin
Monday 10, 16.45 – 19.45, £9 – a special price for social enterprises

The cutting edge of green
Insider Trends
Tuesday 11, 18.00 – 20.00, £10 when booking with discount code “BritishLibrary”

Make the trade
London Community Resource Network
Wednesday 12, 10.00 – 13.00, free

Legal milestones for green business
Keystone Law
Thursday 13, 18.00 – 21.00, £25 – with a 50% discount for British Library contacts, quote “BL2010”
Week three

Raising money for green and ethical businesses
MessageLab and the Funding Game
Monday 17, 13.00 – 17.00, £25 +VAT

Managing an ethical business
Red Ochre
Thursday 20, 14.00 – 17.00, £25 Inc VAT

Social entrepreneurs without limits
Unltd World
Thursday 20, 18.00 – 20.00, free
Week four

Developing organic and ethical skincare products
She’s Ingenious!
Tuesday 25, 11.00 – 13.00, £25

Starting a social enterprise
Red Ochre
Thursday 27, 10.00 – 16.00, £50 inc VAT

Marks & Spencer wants your green idea

24 March 2010

I was somewhat surprised to see a full page advert in the Evening Standard the other night offering a £100,000 prize for the best green idea.

Your Green Idea is all part of Marks and Spencer’s commitment to be the ‘world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015’. They have already made a start with Fairtrade, organic and recycled products, and a 5p charge for plastic bags (with the money going to Groundwork charity).

I like the idea that the £100,000 for the winning idea goes to the winner’s nominated green charity, rather than into their own bank account.

Sustainable Supply Chains workshop

20 November 2009

Today I attended an excellent workshop on Sustainable Supply Chains. It was presented by Stephen Taiwo, who was the sustainable policy adviser and architect of the Government Office for London and Defra’s Sustainable Food Procurement project. He now works for Supply London – an LDA and European funded initiative, provides advice and support.

Here are my notes from the workshop:

Definition of sustainability – Bruntland 1987 – “Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” 

  1. Resources consumed in line with nature’s patterns
  2. Consider long term impact
  3. Minimise risk and cost
  4. Not just about environmental impacts, includes social and economic.

Current practice

Figures from One World – currently consume the equivalent of 1.3 planets to provide the resource we use and absorb our waste. 

At current trends UN predicts 2030 will require equivalent of 2 earths.

Supply Chain

A linked set of resources and processes that begins with the sourcing of raw materials and extends through to delivery of end items to the consumer. 

Cradle to grave for products.

Development – identification & buying – manufacturing – sale & dist – consumption – end of life & disposal

Sustainability Issues

  • impact on air quality
  • water consumption & pollution
  • loss of biodiversity e.g. land clearance – mono-crops
  • impact on limited resources – is it resource intensive
  • impact on greenhouse gases – climate
  • waste production
  • health & safety
  • quality of life – wages for producers

 Examples of cotton production in India with negative impact on the soil and water supply. Intensive tomato production in southern Portugal.

 Why a sustainable Supply Chain

  • reduce costs and improve productivity
  • reduce risk – includes brand damage resulting from negative press
  • reduce absenteeism through better staff welfare
  • creates healthier environments
  • to be a market leader – public sector suppliers now ask questions related to sustainability

Drawbacks to Sustainable Supply Chains (less true than in the past)

  • no motivation other than complying with the law.
  • Consumers often go for cheapest option rather than sustainable products.
  • Short term focus of government, business and consumers – relates to 12 month business budgeting – government departments have individual targets which weren’t linked up.

Help from:

Soil association –

Sustain –

Ten Ten Campaign –

Greenworks –

How to implement a sustainable supply chain

  1. Analyse your internal process & impacts
  2. Identify your supply chain and at which point you sit. Also the suppliers of your suppliers.
  3. Make sustainability part of your organisational strategy – must have top level buy-in – need to develop KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) – develop an action plan for delivery.
  4. Implement practical measures suited to your organisation – SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely).
    1. Written policies
    2. Communication materials
    3. Evaluate suppliers.
    4. Purchasing guidelines
    5. Supplier partnerships
  5. Get all internal and external stakeholders involved
    1. Driven from the top, but must involve everyone.
    2. Supplier engagement
    3. Use relationships with customer.

Support from Supply London

–          ISO 9001 help and support which can save consultants fees.

The workshop ended first with the quote below from Mahatma Gandhi, and then a screening of the Story of Stuff (a 20-minute animation of the consumerist society, narrated by Anne Leonard).

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” Mahatma Gandhi

A role model for sustainable business

4 June 2009

As mentioned in a previous post, more and more new business are setting up with various shades of green when it comes to their impact on the environment.

However the real challenge, and the real scope and need for change, is with existing traditional firms. For example carpet tile manufacturing. Well, having just watched an inspiring TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) video, I think I may have seen the answer. Ray Anderson the CEO of global carpet company Interface outlines his vision for sustainable commerce, with their Mission Zero commitment to eliminate any negative impact Interface has on the environment by 2020.

He shows how they have increased sales and doubled profits while turning the traditional “take / make / waste” industrial system on its head.

Not only are they acting as a role model by proving how this can be done successfully, they are helping other corporates by developing a business model for them to follow.

The Interface model for sustainable business has emerged, one that guides our journey and from which other businesses can draw inspiration and design their own journeys. As we put the model to work within Interface, we set forth our vision and, imagining all it would take to realize it, developed the Seven Fronts™. We then put in place measurements, called Ecometrics™, to monitor our progress and keep us on our journey’s path. Learn more about the 7 Fronts of Sustainability.

Follow the risers and fallers on the FairTrade 100

11 May 2009

Having spent much of my working life working in the investment world of the City of London, the various share indices were bread and butter to me. My key one was actually the FTSE All Share, but the FTSE 100 was a regular feature in my working day.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see that the good people at World Fair Trade Day have developed their own take on the indices by introducing the FT100 for organisations that are “100% committed to Fair Trade”.

You may recognize some familiar names on the list such as Oxfam, Traidcraft, and one of our recent Inspiring Entrepreneurs speakers – People Tree.

Fairtrade coffee, tea and hot chocolate drinks from Cafedirect, bringing quality to lifeHowever, the nicest surprise, was to see the only company I have ever directly bought shares in sitting in the list. I bought 1,000 shares in Cafédirect over five years ago, and since then the company has gone from strength to strength.

Cafédirect is the UK’s largest Fairtrade hot drinks company. Our brands, Cafédirect, Teadirect and Cocodirect are sold through most of the major supermarkets. We buy from 39 producer organisations in 13 countries, ensuring that over a quarter of a million growers receive a decent income from trade. We are proud to be working with farmers who have the expertise to provide the exceptional quality we require. This ensures that you enjoy the finest selection of coffees, teas and chocolate drinks. As part of our Gold Standard Fairtrade policy, over the past three years we have invested on average 60% of our profits in the businesses and communities of our grower partners.

Light green is the new black

1 February 2009

I can’t claim to have been in the forefront of the environmental movement, although I have just installed a hyper-efficient condensing boiler at great expense (the old one was done for).

So it has come as something of a surprise to discover that various tones of ‘greenness’ have been catagorised and documented.

Light_greenThis knowledge was triggered by a reference to Light Green  – The Eco-chic Emporium.

According to Wikipedia, light greens are just one of three shades of green.

Dark greens, light greens and bright greens

Alex Steffen describes contemporary environmentalists as being split into three groups, “dark”, “light”, and “bright” greens.[7]

Light greens” see protecting the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility. They fall in on the transformational activist end of the spectrum, but light greens do not emphasize environmentalism as a distinct political ideology, or even seek fundamental political reform. Instead they often focus on environmentalism as a lifestyle choice. The motto “Green is the new black” sums up this way of thinking, for many.[8] Though many environmentalists of all stripes use “lite green” to describe products or practices they believe are greenwashing.

In contrast, “dark greens” believe that environmental problems are an inherent part of industrialized capitalism, and seek radical political change. Dark greens tend to believe that dominant political ideologies (sometimes referred to as industrialism) are corrupt and inevitably lead to consumerism, alienation from nature and resource depletion. Dark greens claim that this is caused by the emphasis on economic growth that exists within all existing ideologies, a tendency referred to as “growth mania”. The dark green brand of environmentalism is associated with ideas of deep ecology, post-materialism, holism, the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock and the work of Fritjof Capra as well as support for a reduction in human numbers and/or a relinquishment of technology to reduce humanity’s impact on the biosphere.

More recently, “bright greens” emerged as a group of environmentalists who believe that radical changes are needed in the economic and political operation of society in order to make it sustainable, but that better designs, new technologies and more widely distributed social innovations are the means to make those changes – and that society can neither shop nor protest its way to sustainability.[9] As Ross Robertson writes, “[B]right green environmentalism is less about the problems and limitations we need to overcome than the “tools, models, and ideas” that already exist for overcoming them. It forgoes the bleakness of protest and dissent for the energizing confidence of constructive solutions.”[10]

Ecofont As well as being light green, you can also be light black, by adopting an Ecofont.  As reported on SpringWise, Dutch creative agency Spranq has developed a font called the Ecofont that’s designed to extend the life of ink cartridges and toner. This new font has lots of tiny blank circles resulting in a saving of up to 20 percent less ink than standard fonts.

The Wattson goes global

21 November 2008

wattsonIt was great to hear from Richard Woods (one of the co-founders of DIY Kyoto) last night at our Going Global event on the continuing success of the Wattson energy monitor. I first mentioned their product back in February of this year, soon after it had beaten the iPod nano into 10th place in the Stuff Magazine cool gadgets of the year awards.

They are now moving into the global market place with the help of ethically manufactured Wattsons from China. This has enabled them to reduce the price to a very attractive £99.95, which means they now have a three week waiting list.

It was interesting to hear how some of their customers have become addicted to the product with a couple of weeks, and become devoted to getting a blue glow (indicating a less than average use of electricity). Some use it to check to see if they have left any unnecessary appliances switched on as they leave the house.

One surprising change they had to introduce to their marketing was to include a light bulb in their photos for scale. It seems some some customers wanted to order a Wattson to replace their coffee table. Perhaps this could be a niche expansion of their product line.

Although Richard explained that the key to their success was to design a product that would be so desirable people would want to buy it, and then find out what it would be used for (the Apple iPod approach), I like the way they have very simply spelt out what this new product has to offer for the customer.

* I can save you up to 25% on your electricity bill
* I’m good for the environment
* I’m quick and easy to install
* I measure electricity in the whole house
* I can go anywhere in the home
* I use up to four watts and cost £4 a year to run