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Entries in Robin Cangie (17)

Fearless Brands: Ben & Jerry’s Embraces Business As A Force For Good

Fearless Brands is a column dedicated to identifying and celebrating brands that are taking a stand, challenging the status quo, and working to build a better future. In other words, brands acting fearlessly. This is not a sponsored column, and brands do not pay to appear here. Do you know a fearless brand? Send submissions to rcangie@gmail.com.

When it comes to socially responsible brands, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s has long been a poster-child. They strive for a sustainable supply chain and have found a way to convert dairy waste into energy. In October 2012, they officially became a certified B-corp. During the recent election season, they spoke out for transparency in corporate political donations.
 
Now, they’re joining the GMO fray, with a recent news release stating the company’s support for GMO labeling.

Who They Are
Founded in 1978 by a couple of hippies in Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s sells premium ice cream with milk and cream sourced from family farmers. Due to their progressive corporate mission and emphasis on using business as a force for peace, sustainability, and social good, the company been held up many times as a model for corporate social responsibility.

Why They’re Fearless
Ben & Jerry’s mission is ambitious and far-reaching. It’s so impressive, in fact, that it’s worth publishing in full:

We have a progressive, nonpartisan social mission that seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national and international communities by integrating these concerns into our day-to-day business activities. Our focus is on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.

  • Capitalism and the wealth it produces do not create opportunity for everyone equally. We recognize that the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than at any time since the 1920’s. We strive to create economic opportunities for those who have been denied them and to advance new models of economic justice that are sustainable and replicable.
  • By definition, the manufacturing of products creates waste. We strive to minimize our negative impact on the environment.
  • The growing of food is overly reliant on the use of toxic chemicals and other methods that are unsustainable. We support sustainable and safe methods of food production that reduce environmental degradation, maintain the productivity of the land over time, and support the economic viability of family farms and rural communities.
  • We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.
  • We strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.

The Lesson for Brands
It’s one thing to write a mission statement connecting your business to something greater than itself. Mission statements make employees and customers feel good and are great for brand perception. It’s another thing entirely, however, to take a stand in the name of that mission, especially when it means investing in things (like reducing waste) with no immediate payout, standing up for consumer rights and transparency (even when you benefit from an unfair status quo) or anything else that might affect short-term profits.

Ben & Jerry’s understands that in the 21st-century, we can no longer treat business as a self-enclosed entity, operating according to rules and frameworks that are somehow separate from the rest of society.

Much has been made of corporate America’s propensity for internalizing the fruits of doing business while socializing the costs. Ben & Jerry’s, by contrast, is dedicated to what they call “linked prosperity”, which essentially recognizes the possibility that business can and should be a powerful force for the betterment of society.

On top of it all, they make pretty good ice cream, too.

-Robin Cangie

 

Fearless Brands: Dr. Bronner's and the Purpose-Driven Company

Fearless Brands is a column dedicated to identifying and celebrating brands that are taking a stand, challenging the status quo, and working to build a better future. In other words, brands acting fearlessly. This is not a sponsored column, and brands do not pay to appear here. Do you know a fearless brand? Send submissions to rcangie@gmail.com

Emanuel Bronner was a traveling philosopher and master soapmaker who became a businessman somewhat by accident. A third-generation Jewish soapmaker who fled from Nazi Germany to Milwaukie, WI, in 1929, he consulted for American soap companies and traveled from state to state preaching a solution for world peace known as the Moral ABC, passing out free bottles of soap to the crowds.

Somewhere along the way, he realized that his soaps were a bigger draw than his words, so he began printing messages from the Moral ABC on the labels and selling them. Thus Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps was born.

Who They Are

Dr. Bronner's sells certified organic and fair-trade liquid soaps, lotions, and personal care products. If you haven’t tried them, you’re missing out.

Why They’re Fearless

Dr. Bronner's is deeply committed to their mission and doing things their own way, making them one of the most fearless brands around. Let’s count the ways:

  1. Independently owned. In contrast to many so-called progressive brands - Burt’s Bees (owned by Clorox) and Tom’s of Maine (owned by Colgate-Palmolive) come to mind - Dr. Bronner's is still independently owned by the Bronner family, even though they’ve had multiple offers to sell out.
  2. Fair labor practices. In addition to offering generous benefits, the highest paid worker at Dr. Bronner's makes no more than five times the salary of the lowest paid worker. That means the CEO makes about $200,000 per year.
  3. Sustainable supply chains. It’s not enough to have good practices internally. Dr. Bronner's uses only sustainable, organic, and fair-trade ingredients, and it spreads these standards to its supply chains. They’re so commited to their mission that when they couldn’t find any certified organic and fair-trade farms for some of their ingredients, they started their.
  4. Progressive activism. The company doesn’t shy away from publicly advocating for a better future. Industrial hemp, GMO labeling, organic and fair-trade standards, and helping felons successfully reenter society are among the causes that Dr. Bronner's has taken up.

The Lesson for Brands

Two words - possibility and integrity. Through a relentless commitment to upholding their mission, Dr. Bronner's demonstrates what is possible when brands refuse to compromise their integrity. And just what is possible? 

Happier employees (both theirs and those of their suppliers), a better environment, healthy human beings, and even strong profits - Dr. Bronner's raked in about $50 million in revenue last year and continues to grow.

The larger possibility presented by Dr. Bronner’s, however, is for business to reimagine its own raison d’être and exist for something more than growth, profit, expansion, and eventual exit strategies.

Dr. Bronner’s is a purpose-driven company. and the fact that it sells soap seems almost an accident. Unlike the vast majority of even the most progressive brands, Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t exist purely to sell soap. The soap, instead, becomes a vehicle for a higher purpose - to promote peace, love, and sustainability on Spaceship Earth.

-Robin Cangie

Image source: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

Fearless Brands: 37signals

Fearless Brands is a new column dedicated to identifying and celebrating brands that are taking a stand, challenging the status quo, and working to build a better future. In other words, brands acting fearlessly. This is not a sponsored column, and brands do not pay to appear here. Do you know a fearless brand? Send submissions to rcangie@gmail.com.

Jason Fried isn’t your average tech CEO. Unlike many of his peers, this best-selling author and TEDx alum (check out his talk above - it's worth watching) doesn’t worry too much about things like venture funding, IPOs, and exit strategies.

But then, 37signals, the firm he co-founded in 1999, isn’t your average tech company, either. Its CEO espouses slow business rather than rapid growth. The company has just 35 employees, though its revenue could support far more. And every summer, the entire company works only four days per week. Fried’s reasoning? “There are very few things that can’t wait till Monday.”

When was the last time you heard a CEO say that? Enter this week’s fearless brand.

Who They Are
37signals creates web-based collaboration apps to help entrepreneurs, small businesses, and large businesses share files, manage projects, and work together more effectively. Their product line includes Basecamp for project management, High Rise for contact management, and Campfire for real-time group chats.

Why They’re Fearless
37signals is one of very few brands that are bold enough to challenge the conventional wisdom that growth is always good, and the more of it the better.

In a recent interview with Fast Company, Fried goes so far as to call rapid growth a sign of "sickness":

I’m a fan of growing slowly, carefully, methodically, of not getting big just for the sake of getting big. I think that rapid growth is typically of symptom of... there’s a sickness there. There’s a great quote by a guy named Ricardo Semler, author of the book Maverick. He said that only two things grow for the sake of growth: businesses and tumors.

Needless to say, Fried is taking a highly unpopular position on the subject of growth, and it takes an enormous amount of fearlessness to uphold this ideal for slow growth in the midst of a business culture that espouses just the opposite.

The Lesson for Brands
37signals' philosophy of slow growth flies in the face of everything we think we know about running a successful business, and yet the company is highly profitable. What gives?

Their products aren’t flashy. The problems they solve aren’t sexy. But in an industry obsessed with stories of rapid growth, venture capital, and top-dollar acquisitions, 37signals remains deeply committed to more meaningful metrics of success: building a great product, making their customers happy, and helping their employees flourish.

We live in a business climate where everyone is trying to do more with less. 37signals sends a radically different message, and one we desperately need to hear: Do less with less. And do it really, really well.

-Robin Cangie

Fearless Brands: Patagonia

Fearless Brands is a new column dedicated to identifying and celebrating brands that are taking a stand, challenging the status quo, and working to build a better future. In other words, brands acting fearlessly. This is not a sponsored column, and brands do not pay to appear here. Do you know a fearless brand? Send submissions to rcangie@gmail.com. 

Last holiday season, Patagonia made waves with a campaign that encouraged consumers to buy less. That’s right, a company actually spent precious marketing dollars to convince you not to buy its products, including an ad in the New York Times on Black Friday 2011 instructing consumers, "Don't buy this jacket."

This year, they're following it up with the Common Threads Initiative, described by Patagonia as "a partnership between Patagonia and our customers to reduce consumption and give our planet's vital resources a rest." Reverse psychology? Perhaps. Patagonia’s financials are looking pretty good these days, but maybe it just goes to show that you can build a strong brand and a healthy company around something bigger than a profit motive.

That’s why Patagonia is this week’s Fearless Brand.

Who They Are

Patagonia is one of the world’s best-known manufacturers of high-end outdoor gear. They’ve built a devoted following around the globe through their commitment to quality, durability, and environmental sustainability. We hear they’re a pretty great place to work, too. 

Why They’re Fearless

Patagonia has long fit the mold of a fearless brand committed to environmental activism and fair labor practices, but Common Threads stands out. Consider the initiative's five pillars:

  1. Reduce what you buy.
  2. Repair what you can.
  3. Reuse what you have.
  4. Recycle everything else.
  5. Reimagine a sustainable world.

Note the emphasis on reducing, repairing, and reusing what you have, with recycling as the final option. Common Threads is unique because it asks us - not to buy organic, sustainable, fair trade, insert environmentalist buzzword here - no, Common Threads asks us to buy less.

The Lesson for Brands

Building a brand around buying less is revolutionary, not to mention controversial. The notion that we can buy our way to a sustainable future is a fantasy, yet even the most progressive brands are often reluctant to acknowledge that to truly live within our planet's means, we must not merely consume better, but also consume far less.

The fact that Patagonia can ask us to buy less and still turn a healthy profit offers us a glimpse into the future, not only of our relationship with brands, but of our relationship with stuff.

At present, most of our stuff in the first world is cheap, mass-produced, and disposable. Because our stuff is not made with care, we treat it carelessly, throwing away what we could reuse and buying things we do not truly need. Our stuff is made for the wants of today and does not consider the costs of tomorrow.

On the contrary, Patagonia's vision for the future of stuff is filled with care - care for the employees who manufacture it, care for its impact on the environment, care for the customers who will use it for years to come.

Patagonia also asks that we, as consumers, reciprocate that care. It's a role to which we're unaccustomed, which is why the Common Threads Initiative is so remarkable. Through it, Patagonia is laying the groundwork for a new relationship between brands and consumers - one that is rooted in care, care not only for the things we buy now, but just as importantly, care for the sake of our common future.

-Robin Cangie

Video source: Common Threads Initiative from Patagonia on Vimeo.

Meatless Monday: Broccoli and Parmesan Soup

FearLess editor Robin Cangie submitted today's Meatless Monday recipe via Stone Soup:

This would also work well with frozen broccoli. For a vegan version, skip the cheese and serve with a sprinkling of lightly toasted pinenuts or almonds.

If you don’t have a stick blender, feel free to serve as a chunky soup. Or use a regular blender of food processor – just be very careful when pureeing the hot soup.

Click to read more ...

Resolutions to Live Fearlessly

In honor of the new year, we've asked several FearLess contributors to share their thoughts on resolutions, New Year's or otherwise, and especially as they relate to helping others, living fearlessly and being your authentic self. They responded with wisdom, tenderness and compassion. Enjoy!

"Love Without Props"

I'd torn my rotator cuff and had the surgery to repair it and done the rehab. Compared to the knee surgeries I'd had, the rehab for my shoulder seemed, well, too easy. Small movements with what are basically big rubber bands. Some pain and no sweating involved. As a former college athlete, this just felt wrong.

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How Can You Serve in 2012?

2011 was a hell of a year. At both the macro and the micro levels, the year lived and breathed disruption. And as we stare down the prospect of an equally uncertain and tumultuous 2012, I imagine that many of us are feeling the weight of this uncertainty and wondering what to do in the face of it.

For a full year now, I've been asking myself, "What should I do?" The particulars don't matter - they seem to change frequently. What's striking, though, is that everyone around me seems to be doing the same. It’s like we’re all stuck in an existential feedback loop, making decisions that strive to answer this question or at least help us finally identify a path that makes sense… but ultimately to no avail.

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Meatless Monday: Mixed Beans in Broth with Parsley and Parmesan

This week's Meatless Monday recipe was submitted by FearLess editor Robin Cangie. It comes from her favorite vegetarian cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

This soup is simple but satisfying. It's a great way to use up any dried beans you have left from other recipes. Enjoy!

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How (and Why) to Give Up Your iPhone

I love my iPhone. I love using it, holding it, looking at it. I get a little thrill every time I turn it on. But I don’t love the fact that both AT&T and Verizon have donated substantial sums to support the Tea Party. I wanted my money to do better. So this past weekend, I left my long-time wireless provider AT&T and switched to CREDO Mobile.

CREDO openly supports progressive nonprofits (you can view the list of this year’s recipients, selected with the help of CREDO members, on their website).They’re committed to protecting the environment and will even buy out your existing mobile contract. Easy decision, right? Except there’s just one problem - CREDO doesn’t offer iPhones.

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Meatless Monday: Gnocchi with Vegan Vodka Cream Sauce

Today's recipe was submitted by FearLess editor Robin Cangie and invented by her husband.

This simple, satisfying recipe is one of my favorites and is very easy to make. Coconut milk and vodka make a delicious tomato cream sauce - you'd never know it's vegan. Pair the main dish with a green salad and your favorite red wine for a delicious and well-rounded winter meal.

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