The Nature Conservancy - Advancing Sustainable Conservation in Africa

BetterTNC_logo-4e664ce4196a3Reputation Dynamics is excited to work with The Nature Conservancy on corporate marketing and social responsibility development to support awareness, growth and development of their programs in Africa. Since the 2006 launch of the Africa program, TNC has been protecting land, freshwater and marine ecosystems in key African regions including, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and Mozambique.    With the population of Africa expected to double by 2050, there will be greater demands for energy, food and water which will pose challenges that need to be addressed to ensure the resilience of the continent's natural resources, alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life for underserved communities.

For more information - http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/africa/index.htm.


Despite the economic turmoil, invigorating the global economy by advancing sustainable business practices was top of the agenda at last month’s Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Conference.

The conference convened representatives from NGOs, academia, government and global leaders from corporations such as GE Capital, IKEA and Levi Strauss & Co, among others.

In fact, a "BSR/Cone 2008 Corporate Responsibility in a New World Survey" of 424 conference participants uncovered that more than two-thirds of the business leaders say that more responsible business practices could have lessened, or even prevented, the current economic downturn.

In parallel, the historic presidential election comes at a time of change, hope and opportunity for America which can be further embraced via sustainability opportunities.

This, in turn, will cause significant change in the business and policy environment requiring enhanced leadership from government, legislators, consumers and businesses. President-elect Obama recently announced intensifying his work on a stimulus plan that would dole out roughly a half trillion dollars to include ‘green’ projects, from home weatherization to renewable energy.

Water conservation, human rights, access to affordable healthcare, climate change and environmental issues continue to dominate top global concerns. Cause alignment and philanthropy are increasingly being linked to value in the sustainability evolution.

We cannot afford to delay or ignore pressing world issues…

The United Nations estimates that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will face periodic and often severe water shortages.

In the midst of jolting world events, continued cost-cutting and job losses, corporations are taking a renewed approach to sustainability and embracing the opportunities as they consider it the right thing to do.

In particular, they are reaffirming their commitment by ensuring proper integration of their programs and alignment throughout their business and operations, including:

  • Supply chain
  • Transparancy and accountability
  • Community – global to local
  • Public policy/advocacy
  • Employee performance

Back to the People’

Meanwhile, a cultural paradigm shift is also taking place. Companies and the ‘public at large’ are seeking deeper and more meaningful connections, embracing community spirit and giving as a way to demonstrate concern and individual action.

In a low trust environment, driving sustainability and its success is routed in its people, connections and regaining their confidence.

Sustainability is advancing to another level by which to engage deeper connections with key stakeholders and address social problems they most care about - particularly human rights and social justice issues.

Opportunities for America’s Volunteer Sector

In conjunction with this paradigm shift, the role and need for volunteers in America is at an all time high and poised for future growth.

According to the Volunteering in America report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service, nearly 61 million Americans volunteered in their communities in 2007 giving 8.1 billion hours of service worth more than $158 billion to America’s communities.

Community service has never been stronger, as businesses are forced to commit to their sustainability programs, colleges adopt service-learning, and our new political leaders embrace citizen service.

Establishing volunteering programs and opportunities is a powerful way to empower and motivate employees/consumers.

GE Capital: CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, reiterated that ‘while responsibility programs need to be strategic and a long term commitment towards being competitive and generating profit, it is critical to run a company with trust, proper compliance, regulation and transparency. In order to achieve this, it is critical to engage people, align with culture and values.’

Some key conclusions:

  • Regain Trust and Confidence: Restore trust in the private sector by a demonstrated commitment to sustainability and help the business community regain the trust of consumers and investors – for the long term
  • Commitment to Causes: Gain consensus on what causes mean the most to key stakeholders and continued focus on addressing key issues such as energy, human rights and disease
  • Embrace Community Spirit: Above and beyond the trend of matching employee’s charitable giving, embrace volunteering to motivate and empower employees
  • Re-evaluate Philanthropic Activities: As the year-end approaches, assess charitable contributions, accountability and impact in the community. Consider causes that can be supported deep in the communities, beyond ‘giving a check’ and aligned with stakeholders

And most importantly……………..

Stay on track

In a spiraling economy, companies and their non-profit/NGO partners need stay on the sustainability track, advance responsible business and social practices to protect and make our world a better place.

By Samantha Taylor.

-The BSR/Cone survey fact sheet can be located at

-The Volunteering in America report can be located at www.VolunteeringInAmerica.gov

Africa – The Force of Change

As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.’ Nelson Mandela

The energy and enthusiasm about Africa was running high at the first US-Africa Tourism Seminar on 2/27 developed by The Corporate Council on Africa and Africa Travel Association. While Africa has its fair share of political, economic and humanitarian challenges, the continent is poised to be a major travel destination and location for investment and business exploration.

In conjunction with the ‘Greening’ of the travel industry, Experiential Tourism, a growing sector beyond ‘sun-and-sand tourism,’ is expected to grow to 25% of the world’s travel market within six years - $473.6 billion a year.

As Gregg Truman, vice president of marketing for South African Airways pointed out, Africa commands only 2.4% of global travel market share, with only 64 million people taking trips to Africa.

With a new breed of ‘sustainable tourists’ seeking culturally authentic travel experiences that protect the environment and integrity of the destination, VolunTourism and travel philanthropy opportunities are on the rise. Africa is rich for its natural resources, tourism and wildlife, dancing and music – among others.
Opportunities for ‘Doing Good in Africa’:

Corporations and individuals have abundant opportunities to make a difference by addressing causes in need and making a personal connection with African communities. Some suggestions include:

  • Engage in ongoing education for the public about the realities and opportunities
  • Encourage family and stakeholder visits to see communities with causes in need
  • Align with NGO/non-profits to help mitigate extreme poverty, disease, threats to wildlife and tourism, and infant mortality
  • Provide benefits and incentives for local businesses, workforce, products and services
  • Donate funds and/or volunteer in communities

A special thanks to my fellow panelists’ on Experiential Tourism, their engaging presentations and fascinating work. Sean Barlow - Afropop Worldwide, El Hadji Aziz Gueye – Senegal Tourist Office, Lelei LeLaulu - Counterpart International, Dr. Lawrence Martin - Stony Brook University, Sharr Prohaska - New York University, Kevin J. Wright - World Religious Travel Association.

Give the Future of Green this Holiday Season: Your Investments

As we ponder 2008 resolutions under the shade of our volatile US economy, it might be prudent to consider alternative energy investments as part of re-balancing our portfolios. While the topic of ‘green’ continues to dominate the headlines, it is a good time to put ‘your money where the green is.’

According to a United Nations report in 2006 investors poured in $71 billion into companies in various fields of renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies. Experts predict that it will rise to $85 billion this year.

While there was a rush to alternative energy investments during the oil crisis in the 1970s and tech bubble in the 1990s, the current sentiment is that these are here to stay – owing to the rising demand for power, concerns about oil resources, and climate change. Renewable sources today only produce only 2% of the world’s energy, but account for 18% of world investment in power generation. The rising popularity of alternative energy technologies and capacity will attract venture capital funding, legislative incentives and business support. Developments of note:

  • The European Union is mandating that 20% of energy use comes from solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2020
  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed an energy bill mandating that 15% of electricity from private utilities be generated from renewables by the same time
  • Governments are providing subsidies, incentives and tax breaks to speed up the development of alternative energy technologies
  • General Motors announced that 50% of its vehicles will use alternatives to gasoline within the next five years

You know that when Wall Street rises to the occasion, it is to be taken seriously. Several new exchanged traded funds have been launched to invest in alternative energy companies, as well as a new crop of mutual funds. These include a combination of ‘pure plays’ and ‘market leaders.’

Since the start of the year, this small but growing pool of funds have posted solid returns, and in many cases outperforming the S&P 500. Of note:

  • New Alternatives Fund (NALFX)
  • Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy Fund (GAAEX)

Some resources for homework and due diligence - www.energytechstocks.com - www.altenergystocks.com - www.greenchipstocks.com.

There’s still time for a green shopping spree………………….

Sustainable Business Growing in Importance and so is the Link to Reputation – Do You Know Yours?

The 'Call to Action' messages and marketplace research continues to echo in the growing corporate responsibility community – corporate – academia – non-profit - NGOs……..

At a Social Enterprise Conference at Columbia Business School last Friday, a headline message presented at a keynote address by Patrick Cescau - President Group Chief Executive of Unilever - following a special tribute to Anita Roddick of The Body Shop:

“Corporations of the future will not survive unless they adopt and support social innovation and sustainable development objectives”

An advocate of ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’ and Recipient of the 2007 Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics, Unilever has demonstrated commitment to its social and environmental sustainability initiatives via its alliances with The Rain Forest Alliance and World Food Programme – http://www.unilever.com/.

That same week, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) announced the results of a survey in conjunction with their annual conference in San Francisco where more than 330 participants were polled out of 1350 leaders from 50 countries in attendance - www.bsr.org/conference. Key highlights included:

  • 82 percent – private sector executives, NGOs and policymakers around the world say they will make corporate social responsibility a core business strategy in the next five years
  • 47 percent said a core reason for focusing on sustainable business is consumer behavior and concerns about reputation
  • 31 percent said energy efficiency and renewable energy are at the heart of their corporate climate change effort
  • 69 percent said China is the country that will most influence the evolution of corporate responsibility in the next five years

Corporate responsibility is climbing higher and higher on the business and public agenda…..

So, what is the fundamental next step to properly create the CR road map?

We, at Reputation Dynamics, suggest a brand reputation analysis and stakeholder evaluation to provide the strategic foundation for the development of a sustainable, long-term program.

Protect thy Land, Protect thy Rights

In keeping with Aveda’s commitment to environmentally and socially responsible business practices, the company is pioneering the way - on what is often overlooked or taken for granted – protecting the land rights and natural resources of the local indigenous peoples. This is termed - Indigenous Entrepreneurship.

Indigenous representation at the UN event on May 23, ‘A Dialogue for the Future,’ included the environmental, economic and social interests of the Brazilian rainforest, the aboriginal peoples of Western Australia, family coffee growers in Mexico and the Maasai Shompole from Kenya.

David Hircock, advisor to Aveda’s President, is deeply ‘in the trenches’ with their indigenous partners, around the world, working on equitable trade and conservation, guiding the company’s use and integrity of ingredients. Through his work, he has facilitated preservation and access to natural resources of over one million hectares of land, among other things. Initiatives underway include:
  • In Brazil, the Yawanawa tribe began efforts to protect 125,000 acres of rainforest land from loggers.
  • In Australia, the aboriginal peoples have gained land rights and access to natural sandalwood resources enabling them to increase earnings seven-fold.

While progress is being made, there are still diverse issues facing these indigenous entrepreneurs as they tackle opportunities and challenges partnering with corporations, donors, lending institutions and business development agencies. These include access to markets, funding, education, business acumen, political, legal and social issues.

Concluding the panel discussion, President of Aveda, Dominique Conseil, provided the following comments:

  • Doing good for community should be a key part of business purpose.
  • Need for greater collaborative effort to help reduce poverty, eliminate infant mortality, have access to education, healthcare and food.
  • Communities that bring people together will enable a healthier living environment and ultimately gain economic benefit.
  • This is not, nor ever should be, a commodity-driven business and requires a selective strategy, supported by selective investment.
  • Social disintegration doesn’t need big business approach and needs value-based partnerships.

Time for business leaders to embrace their indigenous wisdom. There is a lot more work to be done ‘in the trenches’ conducting their business operations in a socially and environmentally conscious manner.

And, as for those Maasai, allow me a childhood memory indulgence that is well deserving of a separate blog - to follow shortly.