Fairtrade Chocolate — A Deliciously Rewarding Experience!

While I have restricted myself from indulging in chocolate in more recent times, my partner arrived home the other night from the Fairtrade Fiesta (as part of Fairtrade Fortnight 08) with a gift of 3 blocks of fairtrade, organic chocolate. One was from Cocolo – the Dark Mint Crisp flavour – and the other 2 were from Scarborough Fair — the Dark Orange Chocolate and Fruit and Nut Milk Chocolate flavours.

I was interested to find out more about these companies. Cocolo is a premium Swiss chocolate. The Cocoa and Evaporated Cane Juice are sourced from Fairtrade Co-operatives. The cocoa is produced by El Ceibo in Bolivia and Conocado in the Dominican Republic and the unrefined evaporated cane juice comes from AlterTrade in the Philipines. These communities are able to reinvest in their farms, their schools and their communities by selling the best beans through the Fairtrade market. Cocolo chocolate is also certified by www.bio.inspecta.ch, the leading organic certifier in Switzerland, and is GMO free.

Cocolo has 8 flavours. In addition to Dark Mint Crisp, they offer Dark Almond Chocolate, Dark Bitter Sweet, Dark Orange, Chocolate Milk Hazelnut Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Dark 70% and White with Almond Crunch. To find out about stockists in your area, please contact one of our local distributors — which in NSW is Organic Trader Pty Limited – or ask your favourite store to carry it.

Scarborough Fair was created from a commitment to bring quality Fairtrade certified products to the mainstream market at mainstream prices. They import the fairtrade ingredients and then use local manufacturers to blend the chocolate to support both third world producers and local manufacturers. In addition to their chocolate, which is also also Australian Certified Organic, their product range includes tea and coffee.

Scarborough Fair offers 4 flavours — Dark Orange, Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate and Fruit and Nut Milk Chocolate. They are available through selected Coles in NSW.

On the same night I received these fairtrade, organic chocolates, I had also attended a function where I received a goody bag complete with Lindt chocolates. After indulging in both and reflecting on this, I enjoyed the Cocolo and Scarborough Fair chocolates more. Maybe it was because I found them not only delicious but I felt good knowing that I was supporting a better quality of life for the communities where the products are sourced as well as a lower impact on the environment than other alternatives. So overall a more rewarding experience!

Chocolate: the non-Fair Trade option

Since consuming the chocolate, I have read some of the frightening and appalling statistics compiled by the Edmund Rice Centre about chocolate production:

  • 12,000 children have been trafficked into cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire, Africa – nearly 1/2 of the world’s chocolate is made from cocoa grown there
  • While the minimal age for working on farms is 12, most children are 9 to 16 years of age and have been tricked into travelling with traders and then sold to plantation workers
  • Most of these slaves are not allowed to use the toilet during work hours, are only free for a couple of hours a day and are fed burnt bananas and corn paste
  • Farms barely receive 5% of the profit from chocolate, whereas trading organisations and the chocolate industry receive about 70%
  • The Fairtrade Certifies production criteria guarantee a minimum price, ensure that no child or forced labour is used, farmers’ organisations are democratic and plantation workers can participate in trade unions

One thing is for certain, I will not be buying or consuming non-Fairtrade chocolate again!

Exchange – Goodcompany’s National Volunteering Week Event

As part of this year’s National Volunteer Week (NVW), goodcompany is bringing together Australia’s leading corporates, charities and skilled professionals in a meaningful Exchange of ideas and aspirations.

To celebrate this year’s NVW theme — Volunteers Change Our World — this event will share vital information about the sector, some amazing success stories and open opportunities for linking skilled volunteers and charity organisations.

The event will be held at the Establishment in Sydney on Thursday, 15 May from 6pm-8pm. To registerclick here.

Winner Ethical Arthical Art Prize – Amanda Seddon

For the second year running Australian Ethical sponsored the Australian Ethical Art Prize with all entries exhibited at the TAP Gallery in Darlinghurst, Sydney. The winner of the 2008 Ethical Art Prize was Amanda Seddon.

After a week of exhibiting the entries at the TAP Gallery, the prize was awarded to Amanda last Saturday, 17 May. Soul Economy had the pleasure of asking Amanda about the meaning behind this wonderful piece of work.

“The work was a large scale cryptic which I like to call a meditative piece! Artists were asked to reflect upon the Australian Ethics Charter. In reflection upon the charter, the work turned out to be a meditative response about the individuals duty upon doing what’s right in everyday life.

As a mother and an artist, I find it so very challenging in maintaining a totally ethical lifestyle. Be it recycling, taking care of the natural environment, buying and sometimes being able to afford Australian produce, the list is endless, and is no easy task to make sure you can always be ethically considerate in everything that you do. We live in a society where things are made to be easier, rather than ethically sustaining.

The work hopefully represents an overwhelming feeling, an individual almost overcome by an indiscriminate sea of unlabelled elements. There should be a feeling of diligence of dealing with the intrepretive issues though, as the depicted charcter takes a deep breath, ready to wade through further, rather than drown.

The work was designed not to confront the viewer with a specific message, but instead, to act as a catalyst to facilitate the state of individual thought within the context of the show.

I was very glad that the work was well received by many at the show, and I was very impressed that the Australian Ethical investment and superannuation company, along with the TAP gallery were so innovative in creating and presenting such an art award. I was also very inspired by many of the other exhibiting artists works at the show.”

To see more of Amanda Seddon’s great work check it out at http://www.myspace.com/ajay180

If Life is a Game – How Will YOU Play?

Last weekend it rained and rained. We were all a little snuffly, cold and listless. So we dragged out the cards and board games and taught the children to play. And in the process they taught us some valuable life lessons. On a rainy Sunday afternoon.

We started with a game of Snap. The cards were tumbling out of our hands in a fast haze of colour and anticipation, Snap! Snap! Snap! Our daughter, five years old, was quick. She soon had a large pile of cards amassed in her hands. More than she could manage. “Gimme some?” pleaded her 3 year old brother, not really playing, but throwing cards on the pile and shouting “snap!” every three seconds. She looked up from her hoardings, and surveyed his hands, then mine, then her dads. Seeing we had only one or two cards each, her look of maniacal glee at winning slowly softened. She said “You can all have some, here you go” and proceeded to share her stash. Her father and I protested, “No it’s OK you keep them; you earned them.” And then she said, “No, we all did, it’s everybody’s cards and I don’t need them all anyway. If I take everything we won’t be able to play anymore.”

BAM! Life lesson No. 1 from a five year old: Only a few of us enjoy the abundance of what many have produced. How can that be fair? To move forward in this way has payoffs no doubt, but at what cost? By leaving others behind? In a world where mothers dig holes in the ground to place their children at night to keep them warm in the absence of blankets and clothes, a few of us hold too much. Open your closet. Am I right?

We moved on to playing Monopoly, our abridged version seeing as there were two players who didn’t know what rent meant. Understandably we were soon in a mess, with a five year old stuck despondently in jail and a three year old who’d lost the entire bank’s money down his pants. “We will have to find another way,” said their dad. “This isn’t working. They’re too young. They don’t understand ….and we don’t have any money anyway….”

BAM! Life lesson No. 2 as taught by children to their parents: In an economically driven world, where money is currency, many people lack the currency to play. They don’t have the knowledge and they don’t have the money. Without the knowledge that comes with education, they don’t even get to proceed to Go; they simply don’t get to play. For those of us who know better, got an education, earned some money, we have the power to say “this is not working, we will have to find another way.” Like a father looking at his children, feeling their distress at being left out, we have to lift our gaze to see our wider family, see their distress, and find another way to play.

This weekend my children taught me how the power of one can serve the collective good. What my daughter gave to us in our game of Snap, in her small five year old way, was freedom. She released us from not having enough by sharing what she had acquired, and in that gesture we got given the freedom to play.Together we learnt the lesson of creating a playing field where everyone gets to play. And we learned that we have the power to create it. It’s up to us. So if games are like life, is life a game? If so, how will you play?

Prepared and © by Mihiri Udabage, Generation Wonder for Soul Economy.

Generation Wonder
PO Box 1187
Meadowbank NSW 2114
+61 (0)2 8213 9058

Cooks River Sustainability & Arts Festival

his annual event combines sustainable living, interactive arts, eco-friendly entertainment and diverse foods.

The environmental emphasis of the Cooks River Festival will include a range of workshops, displays and information in the Sustainable Water Showcase, an arts program that will allow visitors the opportunity to work with artists using sustainable material, RiverLife interpretive tours of the Cooks River, Global Warming – Global Warning multi-lingual short films project by students from the Saturday School of Community Languages, the Bug Biodiversity Show and more!

Sustainability workshops and presentations include: Water Sensitive Urban Design; Safe Greywater Reuse; Rainwater Harvesting; Go Solar; Natural Cleaning; Eco-choices: Reducing your Ecological Footprint; Growing Food in Garden Containers; Home Worm Farming; Permaculture Home Garden; and Backyard Biodiversity.

Where: Steel Park, Illawarra Road, Marrickville South, Sydney, NSW

BOKASHI: Innovation by the Bucketload

It’s a sunny morning when I meet Maree at her Marrickville home where she runs her own business selling the Bokashi Bucket, a system she describes as essentially, “an alternative composting system.” The Bokashi Bucket works by harnessing the power of micro organisms. As we take a seat on the couch, an aging maltese terrier lounges at my ankles and Maree explains,

“You put your food-scraps in the bucket (kitchen waste only) and then you sprinkle the Bokashi powder on top. The Bokashi has got the micro organisms in it and the bucket is air-tight. Because of those things the waste ferments… it doesn’t actually break down in the bucket. When the bucket fills you bury the contents and the breakdown then occurs extremely quickly under the soil. It’s very beneficial, not only are you adding food nutrients but you’re adding more life to the soil with the microbes. And then the liquid as well can be used as a fertiliser and natural drain cleaner, the bacteria in the liquid help stop the algae build up.”

She speaks in a clipped accent, the legacy of a good deal of time spent in New Zealand. The accent is not the only thing to come from those shores either.

“I was visiting my family there [New Zealand] and my sister had it [the Bokashi Bucket]. I had never seen it before and thought it would be pretty terrific for Sydney. I was house sharing with people and thought I couldn’t get everyone to compost. I had been used to composting when I was living in New Zealand where I had larger yards and I think anyone who has ever composted and then lives in an environment where they can’t, they don’t feel very good about it. On my return to Sydney I couldn’t find the Bokashi Bucketanywhere. I went to the Watershed in Newtown and rang a few people and said ‘Do you know of this thing called the Bokashi Bucket?’ and no one knew of it.”

From there Maree saw the beinnings of a business venture, and as she explains, “It all just went from there, really.”

It’s something she feels pride in: the evolution of the business. “I’ve started with nothing and have turned it into a business that’s making a profit that I can live off. And I’m getting it out there.” Australia-wide, Maree can now boast twenty retail outlets that stock Bokashi Buckets and Kiama Council have purchased a large number to sell to their residents. “To get Kiama council on board was quite rewarding,” says Maree who feels her greatest success in the business has been it’s constant expansion. With this in mind she has her sights set on continuing to spread the word, making the Bokashi Bucket a viable composting option.

“I would like Bokashi Bucket to be a household name as much as worm farms. When I first started this, no one even knew. Talk to anyone and they didn’t have any idea what a Bokashi Bucket was and of course most people that I talked to would have known what a worm farm was. That’s my big thing – one day people will know, they might not have one or they might not want one but it’ll be something that people know. It’s just a slow process of constantly getting out there and talking about it more and more.”

Although she supports all forms of composting, Maree believes the Bokashi Bucket deserves to be acknowledged as a real option. “It’s quite a convenient system as it’s designed to be kept in the kitchen and it takes every food type: meat, dairy, processed food, you can put anything at all. With other systems they can be a bit more challenging to compost. Also, there is limited smell because the microbes neutralise the smell and it’s not actually rotting.”

With the Bokashi Bucket you’re also getting the benefits of the micro organisms in the Bokashi powder as well. “You are getting an additional fertiliser for your soil. If you’re a keen gardener that’s a great advantage. You also get the liquid which is, of course, full of micro-organisms. I get more feedback about that than I do about anything else; people are quite amazed at how quickly they notice a result on their plants after using the liquid.”

Over the past year Maree has become somewhat of a Bokashi Bucket evangelist, attending sustainable expos, lectures, markets and sending press releases. “I work hard on the weekends spreading the word,” she says. So far it seems to be yielding results. Within the last year the business has really started to take off and Maree now dedicates herself full-time. The Bokashi Bucket has also recently featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and The West newspaper. “I think people are genuinely wanting to do their bit,” Maree says, accounting for a lot of the interest in the Bokashi Bucket. The sustainable environment has become the ‘it’ thing at the moment…hopefully it’s a not a fad.

The sense of achievement is obvious as Maree shares the anecdotes of particularly grateful customers. “One lady recently said ‘I’ve been trying to get our friend to compost for years…finally we’ve got her to, we bought her a Bokashi Bucket and she’s doing it.’” Another avid gardener swears by the Bokashi liquid as a fertiliser and at market stalls Maree is greeted by repeat customers who profess their love for their buckets. ” It’s quite inspiring to be involved in a business that is doing some good, educating people and helping to improve the environment as well,” she says.

And has the business changed her? Definitely, she’s quick to answer. “As I’m involved in the business I come across more people that work in environmental areas. I learn a lot more about the way waste is damaging to our environment. Before then, I was always interested in the environment but once you start working in it and meet more and more people that do it professionally, you listen to talks from people and you realise it’s really beneficial to compost.”

“I was always aware but now I’m a lot more serious about it. Its just education isn’t it.” And Soul Economyagrees.

Bokashi Composting Australia:
PO Box 467
Marrickville NSW 1475
P: +61 (0)2 9591 1699
F: + 61 (0) 2 9559 2951
W: www.bokashi.com.au
E: sales@bokashi.com.au

Organic Expo Sydney Exposed!

I visited the Organic Expo featuring the Green Show in Sydney on the weekend. I really enjoyed it, not the least of which the little squealing piglet from kiddie’s Farmyard Friends, who did not like being patted. I was pleased to learn that while it was held for 3 days, the first day was for trade. This gives these smaller, responsible companies the opportunity to showcase their products and, if picked up by mainstream retailers, facilitate the growth of ethical consumerism.

My experience started with the opportunity to carbon offset my ticket – and whether you are an advocate, believer or not of carbon offsets, I thought it was great to have the option. Plus, for this you received a $5 gift voucher from Todae. The only pity was that they were not there on the day so the gift could not be claimed. Will I now need to buy more carbon offsets so I can make the purchase and actually use my gift voucher?

There was so much to learn, and EAT and DRINK! Kylie Kwong’s cooking demonstration was great, in particular her yummy pumpkin recipe and asian coleslaw. I must applaud the exhibitors for being so very generous with a ready and plenty supply of goodies to sample. And I did spot a few visitors who I think had simply come for a free meal – but hey if they are being educated at the same time then this is a win! All the food was really delicious and it just reinforces the benefits of buying organic.

There was a good crowd at the expo and the exhibitors I had the opportunity to speak to were pleased with the results by the time Saturday afternoon came around. And there was still Sunday to go. I was impressed to see many kiddies there as well – it is good to have them learn from a young age the benefits of ethical purchasing.

The Green Show enabled companies that are eco-friendly but not certified organic to showcase their goods. This meant that fairtrade companies such as The Dharma Door, could be involved. I met some great people – including the owners of Sassy TreatsBokashi CompostingDoorstep Organics and Natural Origins – and was able to learn more about the benefits of organic purchasing, ethical investing, eco-gardening and very, very old seeds. I just wish I had more time to road test the many organic wines on show, and accompany this with some delicious organic cheeses. I will definitely be going again next year!

Fair Trade – UK Leads the Way!

In 2006 I embarked on a London working holiday (like most Aussies do) however had the fair trade encounter that inspired the direction I have taken today.

The first encounter was when my partner and I wandered into Progresso cafe (in need of a caffeine kick after browsing Portobello Markets). This place had a menu offering as strong as that of a Starbucks with unique layout & great branding but best of all it was in the name of fair trade.

An everyday type of business with a fair trade supportive edge, I liked that idea so much that down the track I would apply it to my business. I later found out that Progresso is a chain of coffee bars launched by Oxfam, they plan to expand throughout the UK and hopefully one day they will give Oz a go!

After visiting Progresso fair trade became more prominent, it was impressive to see the vast range of fair trade products available in UK supermarkets not just coffee, but bananas, flowers, peanuts, water and wine! Check out http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/products/retail_products to view the array of products available. It seems as though most products have a fair trade alternative.

Australia is slowing catching up; today if you go to the tea and coffee aisle of Woolworths or Coles you will find some Fair Trade options which is the start of something wonderful! Just be sure to support the fair trade items and brands available here today so it will continue to build for the marketplace of tomorrow!

Prepared and © by Carinda, Hamper Hut for Soul Economy.

The Hamper Hut

PO Box 363
Gladesville NSW 1675 Australia
P: +61 (0)434 460 650
E: sales@hamperhut.com.au
W: www.hamperhut.com.au

So You Want to Work for a Socially Responsible Company?

I recently came across some interesting research from the US, conducted by Cone Inc in 2006, which reinforces by thoughts that the younger generation has high expectations of their employers. 79% of Millennials, those born between 1979-2001, want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. 64% say that their company’s social/environmental activities make them feel loyal to the company and more than 50% would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation.

This supports the results from an 11-year research poll also undertaken by Cone Inc in 2004 in which 75% of respondents said they would refuse to work at a company that behaved illegally or unethically and 67% would be less loyal to their job. A company’s commitment to a social cause was important for 81% of respondents when deciding on where to work in 2004, increasing from 77% 2 years earlier.

In the latest 2007 survey, 72% of employees wanted their employers to do more to support a social issue, an increase of 38% in the 2004 survey by Cone In. What is even more interesting is not just that a company contributes but in what way with 9 out of 10 Americans saying that companies should support causes that are consistent with their responsible business practices.

The recent McKinsey & Company survey of CEOs and top executives of companies participating in the UN Global Compact (July 2007) Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa the Middle East and Australasia revealed that these business leaders see that a socially responsible company has an edge in recruiting and keeping staff. This will become increasingly important in recruiting the younger generation who are prepared to “reject an organisation if it doesn’t fit with their lifestyle and values.” One company survey identified that employees demand a sabbatical option to undertake nonprofit or volunteer work.

This view is reinforced by some Australian companies who also see the benefits of CSR programs in attracting and retaining staff, especially Gen Y. Chairman of Macquarie Bank in Australia, Simon McKeon, views CSR as ‘entirely complementary with good business sense’ and ‘actually just a way of doing business in the year 2007’ (AFR, 7 Feb 2007). Also, the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs report found that companies are allocating more resources to volunteer and charity work in and effort to recruit Gen Y staff. This supports comments by Michael Trail, chief executive of Social Ventures Australia recently that “giving employees the opportunity to work in the not-for profit sector is becoming a point of competitive advantage” as the “current generation of new workers are telling employers they wish to engage meaningfully in the not-for-profit sector” (SMH, 28-29 July).

However, this is not just limited to Gen Y with many seeking to “give back”. Research results from Volunteering Australia found that 68% of respondents surveyed indicated that an Employee Volunteering (EV) program was either a moderately important (50%) or very important (18%) factor when deciding between two similar roles. 29% even nominated that they were prepared to take a lower salary if the company could offer an EV program (March 2007). One high profile example is the previous brand director of the famous UK chain store Topshop, Jane Shepherdson, leaving to take an upaid consultancy role advising Oxfam’s retail stores. More locally, it is evident in the large number of volunteers who attend the Good Company events in Sydney.