Have you ever wondered why you immediately trust someone you just met? Or why you give to your favorite nonprofit? According to Paul Zak, author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, it’s all because of the hormone oxytocin.
I had the opportunity to speak with Zak recently at the Omidyar Network’s Executive Forum, where he was a presenter, and learn more about oxytocin and how understanding it can help organizations and leaders.
What is oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a reproductive hormone that has long been associated with breastfeeding and sex. Scientists believe it is responsible (in part) for bonding between mothers and babies, and between lovers. Zak, and his team of researchers at Claremont Graduate University, found that it is also responsible for regulating trust, generosity, and empathy. They dubbed oxytocin the “morale molecule,” meaning that it regulates social behavior.
When I first heard about the egg substitute Beyond Eggs, I was skeptical. Without thinking too much about it, I tweeted “Are plant-based eggs and fake meat truly
#sustainablefood?”, referring to an ongoing debate around whether whole foods are more sustainable than food that’s created in a lab. I quickly received a reply from Josh Tetrick, Hampton Creek’s CEO and founder, inviting me to come visit the Beyond Eggs factory and see for myself.
Fast forward to last week. I arrived at the corner of Harrison Street and 10th in San Francisco’s SOMA district, walking by the bright orange door with an egg on it twice before realizing I was at the right place. Tetrick ushered me into a bustling laboratory, kitchen and office space. In addition to the orange couches and golden retriever, a picture of Bill Gates biting into a cupcake made with Beyond Eggs dominated the entryway. Tetrick was quick to point out that Gates said the cupcake was indistinguishable from one made with regular eggs.
Pop music played in the background as Tetrick walked through a presentation on Hampton Creek and the plant based egg replacements, chatted about his history and motivation to work on the egg problem, and introduced me to members of his team.
My previous post on launching social ventures focused on vetting your concept and ensuring that you have a revenue model that will keep you in business and eventually allow you to turn a profit. As promised, here’s a look at some of the strategic questions that will help you to build your team, bring in investment, and ensure that the triple bottom lines of environmental, social, and financial well-being are in balance.
Setting your organizational values
After you’ve examined your concept and done some research, take a step back from the details and look again at the bigger picture. Setting your organizational values early in the evolution of your venture will help you and your team to make both broad strategic and specific day-to-day decisions about how to spend your time and money.
If you create these values thoughtfully and articulate them clearly to advisors, investors, and employees, you’ll be able use them to think through the guiding principles that will help you to stay on track as you iterate your concept.
You’ve probably heard that social entrepreneurship is on the rise, but what does that really mean? Let’s say you have an idea that will make the world a better place. Maybe it’s a new way to bring electricity to underserved villages in South America, or perhaps you want to start an organic, local food delivery service in your hometown. You’ve probably already done some research, at least enough to assure yourself that no one out there is doing exactly what you’re doing. Great start!
In 2012, approximately 10 million people were involved with social enterprises, generating more than $500 billion in revenue. Yet one of the key questions I run into as I work with social entrepreneurs is, how different are social startups from technology ones, or from other ventures in more established areas? Through a series of articles here at TriplePundit, I’m going to explore this question and provide some practical advice and tools to help social entrepreneurs to go from concept phase to launch and beyond.
Interest in sustainable food continued to rise in 2012. Last year, technology and food collided,leading to more startups entering the space, a variety of studies on the impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and even “vat grown” meat. We also delved deeper into what “sustainable” food really means.
Read on for a roundup of highlights in sustainable food 2012!
Food and Technology
It isn’t surprising that Silicon Valley has taken on the next frontier—food! We love local food and technology. What better way to do what we love than to build startups that bring delicious food to our door, connect us with local artisans and craftspeople, and help farmers to connect directly with retailers. Not convinced? Check out Vinod Khosla on why investing in food startups is so important.
On the science fiction end of the spectrum, there were a couple of breakthroughs in the development of “vat grown” meat in 2012. Though it isn’t quite consumer ready yet (one burger costs more than $10,000), scientists have made tasty specimens. Work continues to produce cost effective, reliable options for omnivores that don’t harm the planet or the animals themselves.
GMOs also made headlines in 2012. Here in California, we saw Proposition 37 on the labeling of GMOs fall to an influx of cash from big food companies. A French study on the long-term effects of GMOs suggested that some of them might cause tumors and lead to early deaths in female rats, but came under fire as scientifically unsound. The Food & Drug Administration found differently in a draft report released recently on the safety of GMO salmon, making it likely we’ll see it on supermarket shelves in the next couple of years. Hopefully 2013 will bring more clarity on the long-term impact of GMOs on our health and on the environment.
According to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), fish accounts for 16.6 percent of the world population’s intake of animal protein. And, in 2011, fishermen and women, fish farmers, and those supplying services and goods to them accounted for the livelihoods of almost 820 million people, 12 percent of the global population.
These figures demonstrate that fisheries and aquaculture (essentially fish farming) are an important part of the global economy, and critical to both food security and nutrition. But fisheries are in danger of collapse due to overfishing (80 percent of fisheries are fished beyond sustainable limits), pollution, and overcapacity due to technological advances. Fishery collapse leads not only to food insecurity for billions of people, particularly those in developing nations, but also to economic hardship for the millions working in the industry.
Olazul (translated as “blue wave”) seeks to address both the social and environmental impact of fishery collapse by building community-scale aquaculture systems that innovate new alternatives to conventional large-scale industrial farming systems while providing local fishing communities with an economically viable product and business model.
In the midst of calls to support striking Target and Wal-Mart employees as Black Friday expanded to take over Thanksgiving, a few hundred workers at fast food chain stores in New York City planned their own strike for November 29, with leadership from Fast Food Forward. For businesses built on keeping costs low by paying laborers as little as possible, this was a historic protest for living wages in a non-unionized industry.
Ever since the popularity of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed more than ten years ago, the difficulty of supporting a family (or even a single person) on minimum wage jobs has been more than evident. Ehrenreich wrote compellingly of her first person experience taking some of the lowest paid occupations in the U.S., including waitress and Walmart salesperson—and of how she often couldn’t eat and pay her rent from these jobs.
With rich examples and inspiring details, Everyday Heroes celebrates nonprofit leaders and impactful social entrepreneurs. Portraits by Paul Mobley (see slide show after the jump) accompany first person narratives created by Katrina Fried through interviews with the individuals profiled. Katrina’s introduction also lays out quotable rules for social entrepreneurs:
1. Out with charity, in with partnership.
2. You’re never too young.
3. You’re never too old.
4. Crazy is good.
5. Entrepreneurs are born, not made.
6. You can’t rely on the kindness of strangers.
7. Go big or go home.
8. True heroes never consider themselves heroes.
I had the opportunity to ask Katrina some questions about her research process and perspective on social entrepreneurship:
Every few weeks, my shopping list gets cluttered with cleaning supplies, shampoo, and other necessary staples. And even though I’m a supporter of local businesses in both my work and professional lives, I find my mouse creeping towards my Amazon bookmark.
As much as I believe main street businesses are a fundamental driver of our well-being, and that there’s nothing better than talking to the farmer who grew the most delicious strawberries I’ve ever had (moss berries at the Occidental farmers market on a warm Friday afternoon last June), I can’t quite break free of my Amazon addiction.
So needless to say, I was pretty excited to hear about Vine.com, an online shopping site for green products. My favorite part of Vine.com was the functionality for sorting and filtering. You can choose to filter products by B Corp, Fair Trade, Made in the USA, and cruelty-free at the site level, and then within categories by specific certifications and even by values. This degree of customization bodes well for consumers who are interested in a wide variety of sustainability issues. I was also excited to see that you can opt to look only at products made within 100 miles of your selected city. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite tell if they are also warehoused and shipped from within 100 miles, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.
Without a doubt, U.S. consumers want sustainable food, and demand is growing quickly. According to the Organic Trade Association, the market for organics alone has gone from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010.
Interest in local food is also on the rise. According to the USDA, as of mid-2011, there were 7,175 farmers markets in the U.S, a 17 percent increase from 2010. Restaurants like Lyfe, a new fast casual chain launched by former McDonalds‘ execs and Mission Local Eatery in San Francisco are leading the charge towards more sustainable restaurant options. But as the market continues to grow, these restaurants and others like them struggle to define sustainability for their customers and suppliers. Restaurateurs and consumers often don’t know how to weigh the various attributes that fall into the sustainability bucket.
McDonald’s launched a new campaign recently, joining large brands like Starbucks and Barnes & Noble in the battle against actual local enterprises over the locavore market. New billboards in Seattle proclaim that fries served in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood are made from spuds grown in Richland, a farming region about 200 miles from Seattle. But the fine print tells the real story: “Participation and duration may vary.”
Until about a hundred years ago, most of the products we used on a daily basis were manufactured close to our homes, including personal care, food, and machines. Jobs and money flowed out of local communities as manufacturing and sourcing moved further towards an industrial global system in the mid twentieth century. Small manufacturers were pushed out of business, destroying communities that depended on these factories. These businesses must be rebuilt for local economies to grow and flourish.
Local Economies in the Age of Globalization
Fast food chains have been trying to convince customers that they’re responsible corporate citizens for the last thirty years or so. In their public relations efforts, they’ve tended to focus on operational efficiency, healthy options, and corporate philanthropy. But a new crop of eco-fast food restaurants are integrating green practices into their business models and day-to-day operations and once again calling into question what it means for fast food to be sustainable.
Recipients of this week’s Webby Awards took the opportunity to speak out against BP. Acceptance speeches were limited to five words, making for some pithy yet cutting commentary.
“I say, plug the hole.”
-Isabella Rossellini, Best Individual Performance–Green Porno
“Kids think oil spills suck.”
-National Geographic Kids, Best Youth Web Site
“Oil and waterlife don’t mix.”
-Waterlife.nfb.ca, Best Documentary: Individual Episode
A recent study on consumer perception and purchasing behavior shows an increasing interest in purchasing from environmentally sustainable companies. However, “green” consumers are concerned about a variety of sustainability issues. Climate change ranked high globally, but respondents from various countries cited deforestation, energy use, toxic waste reduction, and water management as priorities.
These diffuse interests make it difficult for businesses to effectively develop and communicate their environmental strategies. According to Dan Esty, chairman of Esty Environmental Partners, “[C]ompanies must not only develop environmental strategies to address their most important global impacts, but they also need to be able to connect with consumers in a compelling and relevant way on a market-by-market basis.”