Attention: The New Currency

Many would agree that Western societies are immersed in cycles of production and consumption. There is no end to what can be marketed and sold; products, food or even intangible items such as information or ideas – contemporary society demands that everything is a commodity and as such must have a certain value assigned to it. The fact that we’re living in a digital age, coupled with an economy that thrives based on these cycles, the possibilities of what one can buy, eat, hear, see and so on is endless and in many ways exhaustive. The messages we choose to ‘download’ and focus our attention on has pegged human attention as a valuable resource. As businesses compete for visibility in an overcrowded marketplace, the value of collective attention can be considered almost priceless.

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If we consider attention in terms of scarcity, it is perhaps the most valuable market resource of the 21st century. Personally, it’s not often that I find a billboard that I pass on the train, or an obligatory 30-second advert on a YouTube video will resonate with me. I’m sure a lot of people have experienced similar feelings of ‘tuning out’, a perfectly normal response to avoiding sensory overload. While there seems to be no limit to the number of things that can demand our attention, on the flip side we only have so much to give – attention spans decreasing as humans get better and better at filtering the unimportant.

In a marketplace saturated by advertising, it is interesting to watch how profitability and sustainability begin to intersect. Businesses can no longer simply demand consumer attention, but now they must also earn it. A plus side of living in the information era is that there is now increased awareness across environmental and social issues, which has guided consumers to become smarter, more informed and more selective than ever before.

In fact, a study by Nielsen in 2016 showed 66% of respondents were willing to pay more for sustainable goods; a figure that has risen steadily for the past 5 years.

As supply chain transparency increases and brands with questionable practices come under fire, consumer attention is turning to those who are actively working to change their business functions to create positive social impact. Prevalent issues regarding animal cruelty or child labour within industries such as food manufacturing or textiles are being driven through multiple platforms and forums, exposing ethical concerns and bad business practices. This use of technology continues to increase, intuitively interacting with its users and highlighting information, so much so, that it could soon be used to hold people and businesses accountable if they are not adhering to sustainable and nurturing practices.

Perhaps the most empowering realisation is that choice can lie with the individual consumer. As a society, we are moving into a unique position where we can use our collective attention to support brands that are tripling the bottom line. By saving our most valuable resource, our attention, for the companies who are addressing environmental or social issues, we can play our part in pushing for positive systemic change. Digital expert Kevin Kelly states, “when there are millions of options out there, most of which can be found for free, choosing something you really want or better still “being found” is extremely valuable”.

Collaborative Consumption: Are we living in a Shareconomy?

Have you ever used a car-sharing service like Uber or Car Next Door? What about an experience with house swapping by staying in a stranger’s home through sites like Airbnb? Perhaps you have rented a bike to explore a new city, or hired a surfboard to test out your skills on the waves?

These are all common examples of how our economy is shifting towards sharing, as people find it financially beneficial to rent out their idle assets and others see no point in purchasing when it proves inexpensive to hire items as needed.

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Rachel Botsman notes that this form of collaborative consumption is the ‘reinvention of traditional market behaviours.’ The Share Economy fosters relationships between people for the purpose of exchange, powered by new technologies and online platforms. The ‘Peer-to-peer’ model of sharing goods and services is steadily gaining momentum, as individuals realise the benefits of increased flexibility and the opportunity for self-governance.

So, what does this have to do with the sustainability sector? An economy based around sharing decreases negative consumption habits. It paves the way for more sustainable use of underutilised resources with an emphasis placed on access rather than personal ownership. If we take the example of car-sharing, it has been estimated that for every car-share vehicle, car ownership is reduced by 9-13 vehicles*. Just a few benefits of this to our environment include lower production rates, less pollution, less congestion on the roads, lower petrol costs and positive shared experiences.

By allowing people access to ‘more’ while minimising waste, there is a real potential for a shared economy to become a tool for ecological transition.

While there is still undoubtedly many kinks to be ironed out in terms of maximising the positive impact of peer-to-peer lending, the core vision of this system surrounds disrupting the traditional social and economic structures around consumption, which could create a new and exciting pathway towards sustainability.

 

* Reference: Owyang, J Tran, C & Silva, C 2013 ‘A Market Definition Report: The Collaborative Economy,’ Altimeter Research

How to Make Difficult Decisions with Empathy

Life is full of difficult decisions and a career in recruitment certainly provides no exception. As an organisation that maintains focus on specialist areas where we can maximise our positive impact, Talent Nation is often dealing with decisions that are particularly hard to make. Defining who we are and who we want to be has allowed us to develop a framework on how we can act empathetically and stay true to our values when it comes to the crunch.

A common dilemma we find ourselves in is deciding which organisations we can work with. We take pride in having strong moral and ethical standpoints and we look to engage with clients that reflect this in their own business and people as we do. It may also be that by recruiting the best person for the role they require, we will aid their sustainability journey by helping them to build impact from within their organisation.

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There is a wonderful quote by Marie Poulin that says,

“You will be defined more by the clients you turn down than those you work with.”

This rings particularly true in the ‘for purpose’ space, as every role undertaken is done so with our B Corp certification commitments in mind. This means we must consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of our actions. It is unfortunately too easy in the recruitment industry and especially in a small business, to get weighed down by ‘short-termism’; in other words, making decisions based on the general short-term profits of a business. After all, there is a need to generate enough revenue to pay salaries, overheads, continue to do pro bono work and invest more into the progression of the business. While it can be stressful at times, it is important to have the ability to maintain a long-term view of profit which includes building a sustainable business with sustainable relationships and if need be, sacrificing the short-term comforts for long-term value.

A general framework we practice at Talent Nation emerged from our Managing Directors involvement with the Centre for Sustainability Leadership’s Future Leaders Program. We acknowledge the need to consider how we generate revenue for the business, but also reflect upon what positive interactions can take place between us, our clients and candidates. How the work we do affects our reputation is very important to us and we want to leave a lasting impact from the work we commit to for all the business’, the people involved and of course the planet.

As an industry that is all about people, it’s extremely valuable to be able to run a hiring process that is, at its core, human.

For us, this means having mutual respect and acting with empathy when dealing with candidates – putting ourselves in the shoes of those who will be affected by our decisions. If a candidate is not quite the right fit for our client then no one wins. When dealing with high impact and for-purpose roles, we are mindful of how we can maximise our efforts toward positive impact by placing someone with the skillset, cultural awareness and impressive history so they are fit to go above and beyond what is expected.

At Talent Nation, our core values underpin everything we do. We have had to walk away from taking on roles that compromise these values and this has taken much consideration and been particularly difficult for us. We are often having hard conversations with candidates who may have just missed the mark, as we try to support them through their disappointment. Overall, our goal is to communicate and have meaningful interactions whilst staying true to our values. Our mission, despite the industry’s hardships, is to make the recruitment process as positive as we can so that amazing possibilities are fulfilled for the good of our future planet.

Biofuel the Forgotten Renewable Energy, Report Says

Australia’s biofuel industry has the potential to add more than 8000 jobs and $1 billion a year in revenue to the economy despite being neglected for more than a decade.

Queensland University of Technology economists have outlined how Australia could lift its energy security by increasing the levels of locally-produced biofuels and bioproducts.  The first step was to grow our bioethanol and other biofuel industries, lead author Ian O’Hara said.

“Biofuels are the gateway to creating a bioeconomy, and biofuels production and consumption in Australia lags behind benchmark countries such as the United States and Brazil,” said Professor O’Hara, the principal research scientist at QUT’s Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities.

Professor O’Hara said ethanol-blended (E10) petrol accounted for only 1.1 per cent of Australia’s  total petrol sales in 2015-16. Increasing that figure to 10 per cent could create more than 8600 direct and indirect jobs, attract $1.56 billion in investment and generate more than $1.1 billion in additional revenue a year in regional areas.

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The QUT study said other benefits of growing Australia’s bioeconomy included: a potential increase in farmers’ revenue from biomass-based industries to $11.4 billion a year by 2050, from $7.8 billion now; reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 8.9 million tonnes annually by increasing the use of biofuels by up to 10 per cent in both petrol and diesel; and improving the balance of trade by about $1 billion annually through substituting 10 per cent of our petrol imports with ethanol produced domestically.

Bioenergy Australia director Heather Bone said the industry in Australia had lagged other jurisdictions for a number of years, despite global consumption of biofuels as a proportion of all energy sitting at 10.4 per cent.

“Biofuels have been the forgotten renewable, it has been the ignored cousin of solar and wind,” Ms Bone told Fairfax Media. “The last 10 to 15 years, the industry in Australia has suffered from a lack of supportive policies or frameworks and risks emerged from policies that flip-flopped and moving goalposts.”

She said it could play a greater role in the current energy debate. “Biofuel should be front and centre under the National Energy Guarantee and the dispatchable energy debate as it is a renewable and dispatchable, which is unique compared to wind and solar,” Ms Bone said.

She added that Australia’s biofuel industry differed significantly from both the US and Europe’s industries and did not present a threat to food security like biofuel production in those regions.

“Our energy feedstock comes from waste streams, like from tallow and waste cooking oil instead of using corn – we’ve avoided the fuel versus food issues.”

There are currently only three commercial producers of bioethanol fuel in Australia.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) research forecasts the global demand for biofuels to triple by 2050 and expects it to reach around $US1.13 trillion in value by 2022, with the majority of this demand to be met through ethanol.

In January, Qantas carried out the world’s first biofuel-powered flight between the US and Australia, running on about 24 tonnes of blended biofuel made from non-food mustard seed oil.

Late last year, ARENA announced $11.9 million in funding for Ethanol Technologies (Ethtec) to build a biofuel demonstration facility to commercialise their technology. The facility, in Muswellbrook in the NSW Hunter Valley, is expected to produce about 270,000 litres of biofuel annually.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Trends for the Future: The Circular Economy

Keeping on top of your organisation’s sustainability goals means being in the loop when it comes to the emerging trends of the sector. As our most utilised resources start becoming scarce and current consumer preferences highlight the demand for transparency, there is a sense of urgency to dramatically alter the ways in which we produce and consume.

The term Circular Economy discusses a system that is regenerative in nature, shifting away from the traditional product cycle of ‘Take, Make Dispose,’ to a more environmental and economically beneficial model. Essentially, this model represents the changing perceptions around waste and, if done right, has the potential to provide endless resources.

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The World Bank has estimated that municipal waste will rise at an alarming rate over the next 7 years, increasing from 1.3 to 2.2 billion tonnes annually. There are a variety of models in use currently that companies can consider to assist with their sustainability agendas, while generating revenue and increasing customer satisfaction. These span circular supplies, resource recovery, product life extension, sharing platforms and using products as a service.

Whether it’s turning waste into Biofuels or creating sharing platforms to decrease the need for personal ownership of common goods, these new approaches to consumption are helping companies to not only maintain a market advantage but protect our precious resources.

CSR, On-Demand

It’s a millennial’s world, and with the generation comes a revolutionary wave of drive to contribute to something larger than the individual self.

So how does that position CSR in the current day? It’s no longer just another organisational requirement, but something representative of a workplace’s unique values. It’s a motivator to unite a workplace team, bringing a sense of purpose and morale to the work environment. Gone may be the days of spending a Friday in hairnets at the local soup kitchen, but ever-present is the dominant desire in young people to make a difference and deliver aid to the causes they resonate with.

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Though the era of social media has welcomed phenomena like “hashtag activism”, young people are still turning up to rallies, raising funds and finding tangible ways to engage with their communities.

L. Moffat’s 2011 research shows three distinct motives behind young people looking to volunteer – the first consisting of youths looking outward, wanting to make a difference and connect with others. Secondly, born out of a desire to improve their own skillsets or pursue a personal interest, and thirdly a combination of the two. These motives help us to understand the millennial mindset, and clearly show that any lack of activism from young people is not for lack of appeal. So what’s stopping them?

It’s no secret that much of how a workplace operates now is via a digitised, synchronised system – offices play collectively-managed Sonos playlists while they work, use a company Uber account to get to and from meetings, or send requests via Gmail calendars to schedule in calls. Our lunch breaks are filled with chatter about the latest release on Netflix. So why can’t CSR be a part of that world, too?

Collectively managing teams in the CSR space doesn’t need to be any more complicated than ordering a meal to your door via an app. Time restraints, commitments and geographical distances can make in-person volunteer work a lot less accessible to a large demographic – enter online volunteering.

By focusing on projects that can be completed in front of a computer or remotely, more and more individuals are exposed to the opportunity to give back to a not for profit in new and interesting ways.

With nearly 200 countries already engaged in online volunteering, the success of the venture speaks for itself with one study showing an impressive 94 percent of both organisations and volunteers reporting satisfaction. Whether it’s copywriting, data entry, research, video creation or admin work, the scope of opportunities grows as far as the imagination can reach –  and no matter the skillset or skill level of the volunteer, the likelihood of finding a project match is undeniably high.

Being that the nature of virtual volunteering is not location-specific, international opportunities to work with meaningful causes across the globe easily transforms from possibility to reality.

A 2016 study by researchers at Leeds University also notes that a significant number of their participants were motivated by “a desire for learning”, showing that online volunteering provides individuals not only with the incentive to contribute positively to important causes, but also the opportunity to learn or enhance their skills.

The future of volunteering is changing, and the ways we can give back to our communities are becoming more and more diverse by the day – as are the benefits to each of us as individuals.

It’s important that Australian not for profits don’t get left behind.

Written by Ellie Nikakis

Source: Pro Bono News

Online tool aims to make sourcing sustainable seafood easier

Businesses that trade in wild caught seafood can now access an online tool to help them determine the stock, environmental and management risks associated with the seafood they buy and sell.

Whichfish.com.au is a new website launched by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) specifically to assist seafood buyers make better informed decisions.

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“Whichfish will make it easier for businesses to determine which seafood to source by providing them an independent assessment of the risks associated with wild caught Australian seafood,” says FRDC’s Managing Director Patrick Hone.

Each assessment includes an outlook section to indicate whether risks are likely to lessen, remain stable or worsen. Risk assessment reports are available online or the entire list can be downloaded at the site for future reference.

Whichfish.com.au currently features the first twenty-six Australian species including Saddletail Snapper, Eastern King Prawn, Balmain bugs and Deepwater Flathead; with more species due to be added throughout the year.

“Coles recognises well-managed and responsible fishing is essential for future sustainability of our marine ecosystems which is why since 2015 all our Coles Brand Fresh, Frozen, Thawed and Canned Seafood has been responsibly sourced. We are delighted with the FRDC initiative which will help continue the sustainability journey in our industry,” said James Whittaker – Head of Quality and Responsible Sourcing, Coles.

Whichfish uses elements from the GSSI Benchmarked Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Standard version 2.0, but is neither a duplicate of it nor a substitute for it. The site does show seafood products (from fisheries) that have been third party certified by a scheme benchmarked to the Global Seafood Sustainable Initiative Criteria.

The FRDC are working to add more species throughout the year and welcomes feedback on the site as well as suggestions for additional species for inclusion.

 

Source: Food Mag

Announcing our B Corp Re-certification

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In February 2014, Talent Nation became the first recruitment company to achieve Certified B Corporation status as one of the 42 Founding B Corps in Australia and New Zealand.

If you’re unfamiliar with what exactly a B Corporation is, it defines an emerging movement of companies who are using the power of business to create positive social and environmental impact. In doing so, they make a commitment to hold themselves to a high level of accountability, transparency and performance. The rigorous B Impact Assessment requires a score of at least 80, measuring a company’s impact across a variety of categories. The purpose of this is to work towards redefining what success means within the business sector, allowing organisations to shift from competing to simply be the best, instead being the best for the world.

The re-certification process continues to become more comprehensive and detailed every year. It involved the resubmission of our B Impact Assessment, an onsite review by the U.S Standards team and regular communication with the International and Australian B Lab teams. While it can be difficult and time-consuming, this serves as further re-assurance that only those dedicated to creating real positive impact are successful. We found the process rewarding, as it confirmed for us that our commitment to operating as a sustainable and ethical business over the last 5 years has paid off.

We are very proud to be members of the B Corp community. It has allowed us to meet so many individuals whose long-term, sustainable visions for the future align with ours, as well be at the forefront of a global movement highlighting our responsibility to the community and the planet. Today, there are over 2400 B Corporations in over 50 countries and 130 industries working towards 1 unifying goal; to redefine success in business.

About B Lab

B Lab is a non-profit organisation that serves a worldwide movement of people using business as a force for good. Its vision is that one day all companies will compete to be Best for the World and as a result society enjoys a shared and durable prosperity. B Lab drives this systemic change through a number of interrelated initiatives: 1) Building a global community of Certified B Corporations who meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability. They make it easier for all of us to tell the difference between “good companies” and “good marketing”; 2) promoting mission alignment, using innovative corporate structures to align the interests of business with those of society and to help high impact businesses be built to last; 3) helping tens of thousands of businesses, investors and institutions ‘Measure What Matters’, by using the B Impact Assessment and B Analytics to manage their impact and the impact of the businesses with whom they work—with as much rigor as their profits; 4) inspiring millions to join the movement through storytelling on B the Change.

Check out our feature ‘Better Know a B’ article on the B Lab website to learn more about how we incorporate B Corp principles into our organisation.

For more advice on becoming a B Corp, click here.

RMIT Develops Heat-Blocking Coating For Smart Windows

RMIT University has developed a self-modifying coating 1000 times thinner than a human hair that automatically lets in heat when it’s cold and blocks heat when it’s hot. The researchers behind the breakthrough say it could lead to the creation of self-regulating smart windows and “temperature-responsive buildings”.

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The coating is created with vanadium dioxide, which at 67°C transforms from an insulator to a metal, staying transparent but becoming opaque to infrared radiation.

The RMIT researchers developed a way to create and deposit the coating directly to materials like glass without the need for the creation of specialised layers, or platforms, as had previously been needed

Lead investigator Associate Professor Madhu Bhaskaran said the breakthrough could help the built environment sector become more sustainable.

“We lose most of our energy in buildings through windows,” Dr Bhaskaran said.

“This makes maintaining buildings at a certain temperature a very wasteful and unavoidable process. Our technology will potentially cut the rising costs of airconditioning and heating, as well as dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of buildings of all sizes.”

The researchers said smart windows were 70 per cent more efficient than dual-pane glass in summer and 45 per cent more efficient in winter, though current technology generally requires electrical input to change the glass’s infrared opacity.

“Our coating doesn’t require energy and responds directly to changes in temperature.”

Co-researcher and PhD student Mohammad Taha said the coating’s automatic switching ability could also be overridden by a simple switch.

“This switch is similar to a dimmer and can be used to control the level of transparency on the window and therefore the intensity of lighting in a room,” Mr Taha said.

“This means users have total freedom to operate the smart windows on demand.”

The technology could also find applications in medical and security imaging, and controlling radiation that can penetrate plastics and fabrics.

The research team has filed to patent the technology in Australia and the US, and is looking to roll out the technology as soon as possible.

 

Source: The Fifth Estate

B Corp of the Week: Whole Kids

Following a passion and creating an alignment of career and purpose is no easy feat, particularly when there’s a lot at stake. It’s often said you’ve got to ‘risk it to get the biscuit,’ which is exactly what Monica and James Meldrum have done (biscuit and all…)

Monica and James are the couple behind Whole Kids; an Australian owned organic food company, specialising in healthy snacks for kids.

Tired of mislabelled and misleading food products, the pair decided to bite the bullet – spending their entire savings on the startup of their now widely successful food production business Whole Kids – dedicated to “unjunking” food and kids’ lives.

The first food business in Australia to become a registered B Corp, James says that from the get go they wanted to create a socially responsible company that reflected their personal values.

It’s almost impossible to begin to cover all the areas that Whole Kids is working to create positive impact. From their ethical sourcing policies, to the incredible charitable efforts they are undertaking to feed kids in Cambodia – the sky is the limit when it comes to the ways in which this small business seeks to give back to people and the planet. Their philosophy that business needs to exist for a purpose beyond profit is exactly why they’re our ‘B Corp of the Week.’

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What does positive impact mean to you? How does Whole Kids encapsulate this?

“Positive impact to us means that everything we do as a business brings us closer to fulfilling our purpose which is to help mums and dads create a happy, healthy life for their children. What we do at Whole Kids is stand up for what we believe in and tell people about it. If you agree with our values and beliefs, then try our products and, in effect, cast your vote for us rather than the other food brand. For us, that’s the heart of what makes our community so deeply connected to our purpose and values. And it’s also the power that can drive meaningful change. For example, working with one of our community partners (Plan Australia), we’re aiming to deliver 500,000 nourishing meals to school children in Cambodia. A nutritious start to the day can often mean the difference between staying in school or dropping out, and this have can have life-changing consequences for a child.”

You mention that you spent your house savings the start-up of Whole Kids. What pushed you to make this decision?

“That’s correct! Almost all our savings was eaten up with our first production run so there was a great incentive from the start to make a Whole Kids a success. But Monica and I are not from the food industry and the more we delved into the problems and frustrations that families were experiencing in trying to find healthy food for their kids, the more incensed we became with the ethics, motives and conventions of many parts of the food industry. Issues like junk food to kids, misleading health claims, not disclosing all ingredients in a product on the packaging, and so on. It really got our goat up. Something needed to change.

Also, we didn’t want to create a business just like all the ones we had worked for where profit and revenue were the primary focus. We wanted Whole Kids to make a real impact on these issues. And that commitment led us to become the first food company in Australia to become a B Corp and one of the founding BCorps.”

What differentiates Whole Kids from other organisations doing similar things? What lasting impacts are you hoping to achieve?

“We can’t think of many food companies that would lobby for tighter restrictions for their own industry, yet that’s exactly what we advocate for. The food industry has many structural and regulatory problems that need to be fixed, and more and more health professionals are believing that many chronic health issues are linked to the food we eat and the way food is produced. Our aim is to bring about wholesale change to the industry, so we can help families and reduce the rates of chronic health problems. Some of the things we do are:

  • Advocate for tighter regulations around junk food marketing to kids;
  • Partner with an environmental company to fully recycle and upcycle our packaging waste;
  • Work with school parent groups to create additive-free canteens;
  • Involve our customers in developing new and better products;
  • Lobby for a ban on harmful food additives to kids;
  • Work with NGOs to distribute food to families in need;
  • Encourage kids to reconnect with nature and promote mental health; and
  • Commit at least 1% of our gross revenue, regardless of our profitability, to community projects.”

 

As a founding B Corp Talent Nation shares Whole Kids commitment to using the power of business to create a happier, healthier, more sustainable world. We love our B Corp community and want to showcase the incredible people that are working to do truly incredible things.

Got questions about any of the above? We’re keen to chat to more B Corps about what their certification means to them, and how their organisation is living out these values. Connect with us here.