Category Archives: sustainability

Skoll World Forum 2017 Fault Lines: Creating Common Ground


The 14th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship took place on April 4-7. This year’s theme was Fault Lines: Creating Common Ground. As boldly described in their welcome message;

Globally, rifts are emerging along cultural, class, and political lines as globalization and the digital revolution have benefited some, and left some behind. The divide grows in how people perceive-and experience-the world which represents a threat to a peaceful and prosperous future. Can we design a world where our common humanity outshines our ideological, cultural, and political differences? Together we’ll rise to new ideas, new perspectives, and ultimately, new relationships built on trust and a mutual desire for human progress. We’ll highlight innovators around the world creating common ground through their drive, creativity and leadership.

It was not only an inspiring forum but a very rich and powerful gathering with bold and innovative ideas and exchanges happening, one of the best that I have attended in the past 11 years.
Highly recommended videos to watch… and if you would like to see more here is the entire playlist.
-Jeff Skoll talks with Jim Kim, President of World Bank Group (29min)

-Jess Search talks to Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani (22min)

-A chilling and fascinating analysis by Michael Porter of HBS on what is the problem in the USA: Porter on Populism (90min)

Meet the Skoll Awardees of 2017 (link includes a 5 min intro to all 4 Awardees)
-Kola Masha: Babban Gona is an investor-owned social enterprise serving networks of smallholder farmers in Nigeria with a model created specifically to attract youth. The first for-profit company to receive the Skoll Award
-Elizabeth Hauser: Build Change trains homeowners, local builders, engineers, and government officials to construct or retrofit disaster-resistant houses and schools in emerging nations vulnerable to earthquakes and typhoons.
-Rajesh Panjabi: Last Mile Health partners with government to deploy, support, and manage networks of community health professionals and to integrate them into the public health system. Working in Liberia.
-Bradley Myles: Polaris systematically disrupts human trafficking networks and restores freedom to survivors. With experience and expertise from direct victim services such as hotlines and resource centers, to policy advocacy, Polaris provides a data backbone for the sector.

A big thanks to Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, Stephan Chambers, the Skoll team and the Saiid Business School for their awesome work.

Takeaways from the seif Impact Investing Congress 2017

IMG_8675The 2nd Impact Investing Congress organized by seif took place in Zurich on Jan 24th.
Some takeaways and highlights
-The space continues to grow rapidly and somewhat chaotically as new players from all segments with different aspirations and products enter and push for mainstreaming impact investment. Growth is great and as a result you can’t avoid some growing pains. Some big banks such as BBVA and Barclays are becoming more active in this field.
-Rod Schwarz, CEO of ClearlySo introduced the recently launched ClearlySo Atlas, an impact assessment solution for private equity investors and venture capital investors. Atlas asseses the impact of portfolio holdings enabling investors to map, track and report on their impact and sustainability. What is great about this tool is that it targets the mainstream investments managers/portfolios (not only the impact investments) to improve on its impact. This goes along with Rod’s and ClearlySo’s belief that we are moving from the two dimensional investment criteria (return vs risk) towards a three dimensional one adding impact as a feature to all investments.
-Antoni Ballabriga , Global Head of Responsible Business at BBVA made an impressive presentation on how this large bank has recently gone through a transformation involving 28,000 of their employees around the globe to (re)define their purpose. The bank’s purpose is now “To bring the age of opportunity to everyone” and thus their new tagline is “Creating Opportunities”. With the WHY being cleared, the WHAT and HOW follows. These opportunities will be offered through: financial products that meet individual customer needs; financial education programs; transparent, clear and responsible communication; commitment with the environment; support to entrepreneurship; and promotion of culture and science, among other initiatives in favor of society. Let’s see how the initiatives of another large financial player reshape the universe – for the time being let’s give them the benefit of doubt.
-Phyllis Costanza, CEO of UBS Optimus Foundation updated us on the positive results so far of their first Development Impact Bond, an innovative instrument which brings in new money and cross sector partnerships for development. They are working on a new DIB and hopefully many other DIBs would be launched by other institutions in the future.
-The closing was a very interesting panel that debated on the now and future of impact investments in Switzerland which gave us much hope but equally cautions as the industry grows and mainstreams with differing views on the extent of the impact (improving some things vs solving the real problems) that the organizations would like to create.
Thanks seif for organizing this productive Congress.

Prime Minister Modi meets the Solar Mamas in Tanzania trained by Barefoot College

On July 10th, Prime Minister Modi of India interacted with 40 Solar Mamas trained by Barefoot College in Tanzania. PM Modi took great interest in all the vocational and entrepreneurial activities that the Solar mamas are conducting such as solar electrification, tailoring, bee keeping and honey making. In fact he was very happy to take home some of the products like robes and honey which are now sold commercially in Zanzibar.
Barefoot College has trained solar mamas in 74 of the least developed countries. This project is done in collaboration with the Indian government. The founder Bunker Roy has lead this organization for 42 years and recently handed over the operational responsibilities to Meagan Fallone, CEO of Barefoot College International. In the last 2 years BCI has started to scale the vocational training activities by building training centers outside of India. The first such training center was launched last year in Zanzibar. 5 more training centers will be launched in Africa and a few in Latin America, Asia and South Pacific.
Congratulations Bunker, Meagan, and the whole Barefoot College team!
(disclaimer: the author is a board member of Barefoot College International)

The First European B Corp Summer Summit

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The European B Corp Summit, a celebration for People Using Business as a Force for Good, took place in Rome on June30 & July1. Two energetic days of learning, sharing, networking amongst the rapidly expanding global B Corp community (currently 1809 companies in 50 countries). The focus was on brainstorming and action planning on how can we continue to accelerate this movement. Powerful messages through numerous inspiring speakers including: Pedro Tarak of Sistema B, Lorna Davis of Danone, Thomas Van Craen of Triodos Bank, Bryan Welch of B the Change Media, Mirella Zuidgeest of thermaflex, Corey Lien of DOMI, Pablo Sepulveda & Eloisa Silva of Birus, and Christoph Barman of Loyco. Thanks to the B Lab Europe team and Nativa for organizing such an impactful event!

Skoll World Forum 2016: Fierce Compassion


The 13th Skoll World Forum on social entrepreneurship took place on April 13-15. It was my 10th Skoll and it was one of my favourite forums so far. There are many sessions that can be seen on video. This year the theme was Fierce compassion and the topics most highlighted were “climate change” and “refugee crisis”.
Highly recommended videos to watch:
Al Gore: A Climate of Change: Fueling a new future
Alexander Betts: Refugees as a Resource
Profile of the 2016 Skoll Award Recipients:
-Mallika Dutt and Sonali Khan (Breakthrough)
-Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Initiative)
-Chuck Slaughter (Living Goods)
-Vivek Maru (Namati)
-Oren Yakobovich (Videre)
Sessions:
-Refugee Crisis: Roots and Remedies
-Getting Beyond Business as Usual: Paving the way for social progress

The musical performances during the Forum were just awesome and inspiring starting with Malek Jandali, Syrian-American Composer and Pianist, Juanes, and Sonita Alizadeth.

The most moving performance was of Sonita, rapper and child marriage activist. The two videos Sonita’s performance and the interview that followed are the must sees of this year’s Skoll.

I would like to thank Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, the whole Skoll team and the University of Oxford for hosting again such an inspiring and powerful rich content forum.

Change is coming- launch of B Lab UK

IMG_4340bcorp
On Sept 24 B Lab UK hosted the event “Change is coming” the official launch of 62 certified UK B Corps at Proud Galleries in Camden, London. The B Corp movement is gaining momentum and now there are over 1400 companies across 42 countries that are B Corp certified and a number that is growing by the day. In this event it was inspiring to hear the founders of Bridges Ventures, COOK, Fairphone, and Streetlife talk about their businesses and their road to become B Corps. It was also a great gathering to network with the B Corp global community as many leaders were present such as Bart Houlahan, (B Lab Co-Founder), Marcello Palazzi (B Lab Europe Co-founder), and Pedro Tarak (Co-founder of Sistema B, B Corp South America).
There was also a big announcement made by Bart that B Lab is establishing a Multinationals and Public Markets (MPM) Advisory Council as of January 2016 as a strong response for the growing number of multinationals and publicly listed companies that are interested in joining the B Corp movement. In a video message delivered by Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, he announced that Unilever will participate in the MPM Advisory Council and invited others to join them to achieve a collective vision of a global economy where all businesses work to create a more shared and durable prosperity for all. Yes, change is coming!

The Blue Economy – an action plan on improving the world through sustainable development

I had the greatest pleasure to meet on May 19th Dr. Ashok Khosla, a visionary & social entrepreneur at a private event (thanks Nina!) Dr. Khosla founded Development Alternatives in 1982 to purse his dream for sustainable development. Since then he has been innovating, demonstrating, and fostering the delivery of environmentally friendly and commercially viable technologies. He is also the Chairman of TARA (Technologies and Actions for Rural Advancement). He also presented the just launched 2 new books “To Choose Our Future” which he authored and “The Blue Economy Version 2.0″ by Gunther Pauli, for which he is a contributing author. Both books will soon be available to buy online. The Blue Economy is the sequel to “The Blue Economy: 10 years 100 innovations 100 million jobs” and it is a powerful movement that has only started. I recommend you to see the TED talk of Gunter Pauli and the simple intro on the concept and to find about the 100 innovations.

Swiss Sustainable Finance a new platform promoting sustainability in the Swiss Financial Center

detailed illustration of a compass with sustainable text, eps10Swiss Financial Finance (SSF) is a new platform that aims to promote Switzerland as the leading centre for sustainable finance. This platform brings together financial service providers, investors, research organizations, public sector entities, and universities to foster social and environmental aspects in investment and financial solutions. SSF was launched at the beginning of July 2014. See the press release.

The Future of Investing -Towards an 100% impact portfolio

charly and lisaCharly and Lisa Kleissner, pioneers in impact investment and deploying 100% of their assets in impact through their KL Felicitas Foundation, were the keynotes for the event “Inspire to Action- The Future of Investing” hosted by The Impact Hub Zurich on June 16th. Charly and Lisa are one of the most persuasive and effective advocates for impact investing as they “walk the talk” and they SHARE their experiences and findings of their 100% Impact portfolio. For the past 10 years they have been creating a variety of tools to empower and educate both impact enterprises and impact investors. The report Evolution of an Impact Portfolio: From Implementation to Results written by Sonen Capital is a detailed report that you can download from their website that is highly recommended for anyone who would like to learn about investing with impact. Thank you Charly and Lisa!

Unilever and Ikea: all in for sustainability

We have seen a movement towards sustainability in different circles for the past 10 years. There is progress but you need many players including the big corporates. That is why it is so significant to see two great examples Unilever and Ikea going in fully for sustainability. Unilever’s COO Harish Manwani passionately argues in his TED talk, “Profit’s not always the point”, that the only way to run a 21st century business responsibly is by including value, purpose and sustainability in top-level decision-making. Steve Howard, the chief sustainability officer at IKEA is making the low-price-furniture giant to bring sustainable products to millions of people, as he puts it “Sustainability has gone from a nice-to-do to a must-do”. Watch the two positive and inspiring TED talks!

http://new.ted.com/talks/harish_manwani_profit_s_not_always_the_point

http://new.ted.com/talks/steve_howard_let_s_go_all_in_on_selling_sustainability