Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scott Leonard, Exit Strategies, and Why I’m Going to SOCAP09

Scott Leonard

Scott Leonard is the CEO of Indigenous Designs, a pioneer in the field of fair trade organic apparel.

1) Where do you see your organization fitting into the capital market spectrum?

I see Indigenous Designs having a two-part mission within the social capital markets. First is to educate people/partners about the entire value chain around organic and fair trade progress and certifications, from the organic farmer to the final consumer.

The second is to serve as a beacon on some of this progress and issues, from our place on the entrepreneurial, wholesale and manufacturing side. SOCAP is an incredible opportunity to convene and build relationships with a lot of our existing funding partners. Further, because SOCAP truly is a place where innovative social financial institutions are coming to work and share ideas, Indigenous Designs is part of a large community working to change the way the world works with money.

2) What do you hope to get out of SOCAP09?

Our conference goal is to bring together social capital players into project-related investments to validate the product chain from field to consumer. My personal goal is to serve the SOCAP conference community as a connective spirit.

3) What questions do you hope to raise at SOCAP09?

In the questions I raise at SOCAP, I hope to bring in the entrepreneurial spirit and perspective. One question I want to raise is about exit strategies. When financial institutions think about asking entrepreneurs about exit strategies, I want them to ponder the question, where do they truly want the entrepreneurs — or themselves — to exit to? Can we take a more mindful and sustainable approach to growth and exit strategies?

The reason I want people to be mindful of exit strategies is because for the last decade, the economy has been built on a house of cards and somewhat slash and burn. Many examples of financial models — even existing ones — are dinosaur and defunct. The past is not the vision of sustainable commerce in which we intend to forge. If the social capital market wants to create an ROI sweet spot, then can we please all be sure not to bring old school matrix and valuations as examples to the table to gauge success? What kind of rate of return do we really need? What do we really want to build?

Overall, I hope to raise questions that surround the importance of voting with our investment money, just as we ask consumers to do with their dollars when they go into a store. I would like for the community to look at the entire model that exists today, and how we can appropriately deconstruct it to create a more sustainable economy. It is possible to deconstruct and retrofit a large bridge while it is still being used? Can we think about the new economy we are building with this as a metaphor?

To me, right now, there are prime examples of this starting to surface and support the building blocks of long term sustainable growth - for example, the whole Slow Food movement, which has set the course for the “Slow Money” movement, which is a close friend of the B.A.L.L.E. and Go Local movements. I think it would be invaluable for us to truly get folks in the investment community to see that the equivalent of a slow-cooked organic meal is the best way to build forward our business intentions.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered

08/27/09 Woody Tasch: Slow Money, Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered
Hear a bold new approach to investing in the very land of our communities
Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility MatteredWoody Tasch, Chair and President, Slow Money; AuthorTasch has three decades of experience working along the boundaries of venture capital, social investing and philanthropy. The chairman and president of Slow Money, a new nonprofit intermediary dedicated to catalyzing the flow of capital to enterprises that support the values that underline slow money, Tasch explains how we can "slow down" the flow of money to support soil fertility and local communities.

MLF: Environment & Natural ResourcesLocation: SF Club Office Time: 5:30 p.m. networking, 6 p.m. programCost: $8 members, $15 non-membersNEW: Buy the Book: Order Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money, by Woody Tasch, from The Club's eBay store (link takes you to new site). If you order the book fewer than five business days before the event, it will be available for pick up at the event. If you order more than five days before the event, the book will be sent to you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

BGI, environmental responsibility Interview

At long last, check out this link to read an awesome interview conducted between Bainbridge Institute Founder, Gifford Pinchot and Sustainability Across America Tour Ambassabor, Laura Jones.
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Gifford Pinchot, President of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, sat down with me to talk about academics, BGI, and the dilemma that sustainability faces in the world today. We sat in BGI’s Seattle office on a rainy Thursday afternoon and I set about asking him about their MBA in Sustainable Business and the future of the movement in academia. Our conversation started out by delving into BGI’s roots, the humble beginnings before accreditation, and what it is that makes this institution what it is today: the number one graduate school in socially responsible business.
Just five minutes into our talk, Gifford made a statement that struck a chord about the split state of the sustainability movement today.
He said, “What existing traditional schools can’t do is integrate sustainability into the curriculum.”
In researching BGI, I encountered a number of other schools jumping on the so-called “green MBA” bandwagon, both Ivy League and otherwise. It seems as though our academic institutions would be the best tool for indoctrinating the youth with a new way of life, and if we lacked participation in that crucial realm, how would the movement progress? I pressed on, and he responded with this anecdote, a little story about an investment banker who doubled as a yoga master.
“Back in my consulting days I wanted to move my consulting practice a little bit in the direction of spiritual evolution and the like. I had a friend who was an investment banker and a very advanced yoga teacher and a spiritual type guy. So I hired him, and what I discovered is that I had hired two guys. He could be an investment banker, ruthless, heartless, ripping the heart out of the competition kind of guy, or he could be a yoga master and sweetness and light with no connection to finance or market share or any of those sorts of things. But he had no way to bring those two parts of his personality together because they had been educated separately and so they existed as separate domains of thought and probably in separate parts of his brain.”
And so, the plight of the movement today.
Society, it seems, may be experiencing the same kind of split-personality disorder. Our industrial and socio-environmental minds have evolved separately, and have existed in separate realms so that we sit today in a dilemma: We cannot continue operating as one mind who neglects to acknowledge that the other exists. Further, we cannot simply integrate elements of one mind into tenets of the other. Instead, we must embark on a complete restructuring of the way we think, the way we live in conjunction with our environment, and the way we do business. And that is exactly what BGI endeavors to do, “To change business by changing business education” by essentially wiping the slate clean, and educating with the triple bottom line in mind.
In many ways, BGI is a far cry from your typical academic institution; a place “where the assumption that the faculty know more than the students is neither made nor true,” and Pinchot comments on how the culture they have created lends to the success of the institution. As it turns out, culture and community play the lead role, a neat little theme we’re continuing to see throughout our journey into the movement.
Gifford delves into his story.
“What happens is when [faculty] come to BGI, they are allowed to teach with their full values and expression and obviously we’ve selected them because they have values that fit the movement. And once the genie is out of the bottle, they can’t get it back in. We also give them the opportunity to teach a different kind of student. So, in their home universities, there’s a pretty wide variation as to whether people believe in climate change and whatever. Here you’ve got an entire group of people who have been dealing with at least one of the two issues- sustainability or social justice- rather environmental responsibility and social responsibility- for a very long time with very few exceptions. Occasionally, we get the corporate executive who reads some book on sustainability and has that sort of road to Damascus experience where a lightning bolt comes down and the arrow in their heart, they can’t go on doing what they are doing and they come to our school. But they are rare compared to the folks who have been involved in the movement and the discovery they make when they come to BGI is “Wait a second, you can do this through business? You don’t just have to do it through government or non-profits?” or whatever, when, in fact, business is an essential part of putting sustainability into practice.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sustainability Across America Tour & Bainbridge Graduate Institute

Check out the BGI Twitter from our Sustainability Across America Tour! Bainbridge Graduate Institute has been working with Indigenous on some cool measurable social return models. I am excited to see the pending interview with our fabulous SAAT host, Laura, and founder Gifford Pinchot!

The morning circle at BGI. Just had a phenomenal interview wi... on Twitpic
This is so great! BGI has worked with Indigenous on some
Indigenous Sustainability Across America Tour stops by REI, as well. We've has been selling to REI Since 2007. So I am stoked we have an opportunity to interview Kevin Hagen, their Sustainability Officer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Organic exhibitors at Outdoor Retailer: Elemental Herbs, Indigenous Designs, Locals Have More Fun

Exhibitors at Outdoor Retailer (OR), which ended on July 25th, are getting hip to the green thing. In all fairness, they have been for the last couple of years, but the green campaign did not receive much press until about five years ago, until the Outdoor Retailer started promoting its Green Steps initiative. Which rewards companies for being environmentally conscious. It just makes sense you should have as little impact on the earth as possible, but it’s just plain silly for an industry whose bread and butter and not to mention bottom line, lies in the wild places of the world.

The story of Indigenous Designs and its co-founders is too long and involved to tell in this medium. They are a fascinating, progressive, revolutionary company. They make fair-trade, simple and timeless clothing in Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala and India. All of their pieces are made in South American and Indian knitting co-ops using including alpaca, Merino wool and organic cotton. They have a rigorous inspection regimen and, once again, an extremely transparent supply chain. With clean lines and not over built, these items are beautiful while having a minimalist quality about them. Co-founded by Scott Leonard and Matt Reynolds, a soft spoken, intelligent and articulate man in his late 30's in 1994. Both Scott and Matt were way ahead of their time. Indigenous is a pioneer in bringing organic and fair-trade practices to the forefront of the World's consciousness, even before the 'Go Green' movement was in its infancy in Al Gore's brain.

Read the full article here!