Category Archives: Biodiversity

Video

Infographic shows why Branson’s Virgin formula for branding #biodiversity is so right on

This video by a Vancouver art student group is a good overview of the value of #biodiversity, but seeing it makes me realize how much I like Richard Branson’s method of branding biodiversity.

Richard Branson’s Biodiversity Branding Formula has five elements. Start with A. an at risk animal that’s cute or magnificent (for biodiversity, cute and exotic may trump charismatic megafauna (lions, hippos, etc.) The big animals are usually seen alone; the small animals are believably dependent on context; local habitat, and ecosystem. Then it says B. We are starting to make a difference; we are protecting its habitat, it’s coming back in some places. Next he says C. That it’s safe to give to this country or region; there are fair elections on the way, or some other validator so that people won’t be afraid to give or get involved there. The rule of law is essential for biocultural diversity. That’s why the confluence this September of the UN and International Funders for Indigenous People annual conference and the first ever real time meeting of representatives of indigenous nations and the nation states of the UN is so important and why I plan to be  deeply involved in those September gatherings.

Then there is D. a brief mention of the fact that biodiversity is good for people, too. But you don’t sell that too hard; you don’t lead with it. I’ve learned in seven years of involvement with Fair Trade companies, that the message of linking poverty alleviation is not one you lead with if you want to talk to a broad audience. It doesn’t resonate well with people beyond a core group of justice seekers.

There could be a greater link with faith based people in the U.S. on this, as there is in the UK. The tragic failure of Fair Trade USA to make this a key component of their message has to be overcome. In the UK, 83 % of grocery store buying decisions are positively impacted by fair trade as a factor. In the U.S.  it’s under 10 % largely, I think, in the UK the governing fair trade organization linked faith based people with activists, while in the U.S. the leadership was only about motivating activists. Until the church and the secular justice activists effectively link up, selling justice as a key reason to get important things done will lag behind using environmental motivations.

Finally, when you look the pictures on Branson’s project on Pinterest, E. the money line appears; not in the story. There is no intrusion into the story experience of Branson’s business reasons for being involved in biodiversity (whatever his personal reasons are). That’s the way to sell. Let the cute animals lead the way. Follow with the reassurance that it’s safe to give and that there is reason to hope, mention the people in passing, and leave the money pitch until the story is finished and has gotten its proper reaction.

Image

Richard Branson shows how to sell biodiversity

In this post on the Virgin site savvy marketer Richard Branson outlines what is probably an effective way to reach the masses with the concept of biodiversitylemursmadagascarYou hold a cute animal, talk about the sadness of its loss, then say it’s safe to give and care about the country (in this case, Madagascar) because the next elections will be free and fair, and wind up by saying biodiversity is ALSO good for people. No irony there; there are many more lemur lovers with many more dollars than there are people who take action to care about poor people. There is also a documentary video

Pitches about biodiversity probably need that charismatic fauna appeal to get people to pay attention. Crises and now, with biodiversity as the goal, opportunities focusing on primates and megafauna (rhinos, elephants, lions, etc.) have proven to be effective to get people to take action. Virgin’s autopopulated pinterest  tagline says “biodiversity is vital to development.” Which also brings in business utility.

The post also mentions the upside of ecotourism, which Branson’s airline is obviously in favor of. The pattern of the pitch, from cute animal, to trusted place to give to (part of the Victorian need to only give to the “deserving poor)”, followed by the payoff for the people and closing with the upside for the local people and ecosystem of ecotourism is one that I think could work as a template for other places.

And the hidden message, encapsulated in every pinterest picture from the site, that biodiversity is good for development, is probably situated in the right place within the story’s frame.

Planting Empowerment succeeds at mobilizing crowd-funding for forestry in Panama with Indigenous Peoples

I was inspired today to learn from the company principals of Planting Empowerment, a social enterprise devoted to reforestation in the Darien Province of Panama, that they were the first Kiva project in Panama and met their capital goals within days of launching their campaign! Proceeds are already being put to work to increased production of plantains which will contribute to a long-term investment in building out community reforestation while also providing a source of near term employment.

http://www.kiva.org/partners/306

SOCAP Conference- Sustainability in Fisheries and Oceans using Bio-Cultural Tools

Panel

Bio-cultural tools were the main topic at one of today’s panels at SOCAP. The topic of the panel was Creating an Operating System for the Good Economy with Indigenous People. The main focus was fisheries, the ecosystems of oceans, and the indigenous people whose lives depend on the fishing industry. The excellent panel included Alloysius Attah from Farmerline in Ghana, Dune Lankard from Copper River Wild Salmon Company in Alaska, Lisa Monzon from the Packard Foundation in California, and Shaun Paul as the moderator. 

A shared interest in fostering business practices that foster conservation practices with indigenous people is what brought this panel together. The discussion focused on new collaborative approaches to catalyze business practices and investment that harness pioneering technological and social innovations that build resilience tools in relation to the fisheries industry. 

Alloysius Attah discussed how Farmerline has developed a voice-activated mobile phone tool that gives rural farmers in Ghana the opportunity to enhance access to markets, improves access to financial services, and create a high mobile phone penetration in rural households. According to Alloysius “there are more mobile phones than people in Ghana” which creates an incredible opportunity to reach every rural farmer in Ghana with this important bio-cultural tool that creates social good. Farmeline has been working with the Bio-Cultural Resilience Tool and more information on the partnership can be found here

The other tool that was discussed at the panel was traceability. In relation to the fisheries industry, how can we make sure the fish are coming from a sustainable supply-chain and not from devastated ocean resources or caught in a way that supports over-fishing? Dune Lankard is working on a solution to this problem by labeling the fish shipment boxes with a bar code and number that will bring the customer to a website that tells the story of where the fish came from, and the fishermen that caught it.  This tool will stop the mass mislabeling of fish which in turn will help prevent over-fishing. Lisa Monzon works with the major companies around the world that buy seafood (such as Wal-Mart) and has been working with these companies to change fishing policies in North America, Europe and Japan. She also works with these companies on issues such as traceability, where the focus is on supply-chains creating a sustainable fishing industry worldwide.

This panel showed that bio-cultural tools are being used at every level to build economic, social, cultural, and ecological resilience benefiting priority conservation areas with indigenous people. 

Putting Oceans & Fisheries on the Agenda: Accelerating Sustainability in Business for Nature in Crisis

It’s been an energizing and intense week working with project partners around the world to articulate a vision for building the Operating System for the Good Economy that begins with….building biocultural resilience for oceans and fisheries. I am sharing a summary here.

Fisheries Resilience Project Summary

Fisheries industry in Beruwela

Fisheries industry in Beruwela (Photo credit: Dhammika Heenpella / Images of Sri Lanka)

Examples of biocultural resilience in food

I need a place to capture the endless and provocative examples that I am learning about of biocultural business – commerce that builds environmental and social resilience drawing from traditional ecological knowledge.

Stevia is taking the natural foods industry by storm purporting a healthy alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. Stevia is a small shrub native to the region of South America. The scientific name for stevia is Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni and it is a member of the largest family of plants, Asteraceae which is also called the “sunflower family”. There are 240 close relatives of stevia and they are all herbs or shrubs originating from the tropical and semi-tropical areas. Indigenous Peoples used the leaves of this herb to counteract the bitter taste of the popular drink ‘’mate’ (a tea-like beverage), and also as an herbal remedy for various ailments. Dry stevia leaves are about 40-60 times sweeter than sugar, steviol glycosides extracts are about 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia leaves contain sweet tasting components called steviol glycosides.

Real Stevia is one company brought to my attention today sourcing from Paraguay and China.

Earlier this month, I watch an inspiring pitch for a start up by Love Grain offering ancient grains for modern diets tapping into the Ethiopian grain teff.  It’s definitely an African superfood. You gotta love being around the start-up energy and determination people like the founders of Love Grain.

Why biocultural resilience matters and what it can look like

It’s great to have this blog up as I am on a quest with Kevin Jones and others to accelerate business practices that restore and regenerate nature. Resilience offers a powerful frame to harness a convergence of new opportunities that I believe can allow us to greatly accelerate global sustainability and well-being.

http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/research/what-is-resilience.html introduces what we mean by resilience. We are building from Stockholm Resilience Centre’s system’s approach to socio-ecological systems. We affirm a core value that human and environmental well-being are inter-dependent and inextricably linked.  We are working to consider the role of culture that binds people to one another, and manifests deeply in human’s material, social, and spiritual relationships with nature. Culture remains a poorly understood  dimension to well-being.

One manifestation of why this matters is the high correlation between regions with high concentrations of biodiversity and cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples. While I am not suggesting there are ‘noble savages’, indigenous cultures have sustained biodiversity in contrast to western culture that has driven the consumption of nature to a point of planetary crisis.

In this context, we are looking at how business can be a lever for systems change with positive social and conservation outcomes. This can mean companies incorporate ecological restoration into their cost of doing business extending beyond payment for environmental services which are good but remain insufficient.

Among my most inspiring examples are companies that restore and regenerate nature. Will Raap’s work with Earth Partners removing invasive species that permits range land restoration while creating wood chips fueling an energy substitute to coal.

I am also inspired by Terracycle growing rapidly with a business proposition to eliminate the concept of waste. They have taken plastics recycling, upcycling and product redesign to a completely new level. They are delightfully disruptive but perhaps don’t best embody biocultural resilience.

I hope this blog can build upon a rather lively conversation we have been having on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BioCulturalResilienceTool providing a basis for a free flowing exchange uncovering a range of interesting resources and perspectives.

Biosphere Entrepreneurship – An Approach To Supporting Human Well-being and Ecological Resilience” reflects the work of one of our project partners that manages the Lake Vanern Biosphere Reserve in Sweden who has been diligently developing and applying a strategy to foster local business activity that contribute to the Biosphere’s conservation objectives which encompass natural, cultural, and economic dimensions.  As a non-profit, this project has also become a source of funding and constituency building. Thus, there are many benefits for non-profit conservation practitioners to adopt this approach, but it first requires value alignment which can unleash very powerful possibilities.

What can investing in biocultural resilience look like? Sweden’s Lake Vanern was restored from a highly polluted place to a healthy place for people and planet. This included identifying cultural assets and traditional knowledge that can be leveraged to build well-being for people and planet. And, this involved the non-profit biosphere manager together with local public officials convening public-private partnerships that supported actively expanding high value fish products with ancient native fishing communities – caviar for the planet!

Our project partner, Johanna MacTaggart, who is the Lake Vanern Biosphere Manager offers a translated VIP visit with native fisherfolk that offers a glimpse of what building biocultural resilience can look like.

Together, we are building innovative approaches to catalyze a way of thinking and analytical framework that uncovers poorly understood business risk and opportunity. However, we also need many others to join us including donors, protected area managers, public agencies and academia. Systems change requires many actors and we believe harnessing business can be a very powerful driver…to build the world we want.

We are building an open platform to support and encourage broad participation and engagement. We welcome ideas, learnings, and collaborations from all sectors. We welcome you to join us especially if you are committed to learning, using your voice and influence, as well as taking action.

Stay tuned for more as we turn our attention most immediately to fish, oceans and the blue economy.

Shaun Paul