Tag Archives: sustainability

Alberghi diffusi, the truest luxury is dictated by finely crafted authenticity

The recent Travel & Leisure article entitled Reviving the Italian Village takes a note of vanity efforts afforded by the enormously wealthy. That might seem a judgmental statement, it isn’t. I am grateful for anyone, for whatever reason, choosing to take on the arduous process of heritage preservation.

When Dr. Giancarlo Dall’Ara originated the concept of alberghi diffusi thirty years ago, long before futurists started speaking of circular economies, I believe he aspired to create a noble legacy which would positively impact rural Italian economies by driving tourism, ensuring the preservation of cultural heritage and providing a path to the continuation of a more connected way of living. As urban life has become more complicated and messy, much like the value proposition offered by Product of Designated Origin (PDO) assignation, the alberghi diffusi now has the potential to fulfill a demand for an authenticity remarkably devoid from most contemporary life. I don’t see alberghi diffusi as a Utopian fantasy but a model of socio-cultural, economic and environmental sustainability, scalable and practical in perfect harmony, and logical extension of what I set out to create with Thistle & Broom back in 2003.

The haemorrhaging of rural communities, and the diaspora of countries alike, is not new. Natural disasters and economic hardships have driven great migrations of people to cities nearer, and very far away from agrarian lifestyles for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The currently running ‘Anno dei borghi’, organised by Italy’s MIBACT (Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism) is designed to entice visitors to explore 18 regions and help manage the impact of the tourism sector growth on Italy’s urban areas – as well as spread the economic impact around.

Creating an alberghi diffusi from a near ruined village without services takes time. Italy’s unemployment hovers around 11%, and is more than three times higher among those under the age of 25. Housing, following the 2016 earthquake, remains at a premium. At the end of a rather long and dark tunnel two emerging trends of isolation as luxury and experiential travel provide a much welcome light. Mind you this isolation is not a minimalistic, silence-only spiritual retreat but one replete with simple but exquisite accommodations, agro-tourism / slow food / gourmet dining, extraordinary privacy and ultra-high speed internet connections – all of which create jobs, and provide economic stability.

It is here that a sweet spot of sustainable development exists, a convergence of yet-to-be alberghi diffusi with a tremendous opportunity to prove systems destined for adoption in Smart Cities. I am not referencing autonomous cars but rather reinvigorating, and making contemporary circular economies which have always existed in communities bound by the ‘butcher, baker and candlestick maker’. The alberghi diffusi model is a solution to any number of pressing contemporary issues worthy of both investment monies and public policies support.

Clean-tech incubated in alberghi diffusi would pull villages off the easily hacked central grid while providing self-sufficiency. What’s more, this model allows those individuals not lured to the bright city lights to continue practicing (or develop) arts, crafts and traditional hand-skills of a region with the market (quite literally) coming to the mountain. Imagine bathing with organic botanical goats’ milk soap and sleeping on crisp linen sheets hand-woven from blue flowered flax grown in the meadows surrounding these villages which a year before was wafting in the breeze and growing tall in the sunlight. That the village is masterfully IoT connected and a set (or two) of those linens can be ordered and paid for with a voice command based upon block-chain technology generates real efficiencies and quality of life for all parties.

The truest luxury is dictated not by fashion, but finely crafted authenticity and the improved efficiencies offered by technology.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

Greenwashing does not make your company a pillar of #CSR or sustainability! – Guest Blog for Ethical Value

ev logo Guest post for Ethical Value, co-published simultaneously

The Coca-Cola Co. ‏@CocaColaCo  “We believe investing in women is the absolute key to economic growth.” Charlotte Oades @USCCFBiz4Good #5by20. #Inspire2Act #IWD2014

cry TweetShortly thereafter came this retweet ‘love’ from a very smart man that I respect (who will remain nameless):

RT @CocaColaCo Fm producers #suppliers #distributors #retailers & recyclers we aim to empower 5M women http://CokeURL.com/l2me8  #Inspire2Act

I saw these Tweets and my stomach convulsed.  Not that empowering women is a bad thing, no, THAT IS A VERY GOOD THING, but, as Collective Evolution (and many other sources) so aptly points out:

“Coke uses “public relations propaganda” to convince consumers and entire nations that it is an “environmental company” when really it is linked to pollution, water shortages, and disease.”

‘The smart man’ I mention, in RTing this particular Tweet, seems to have bought into the green-washing of Coca-Cola courtesy of their marketing team (as do hundreds of millions of people on a global basis), and this not only stuns me because it is so contrary to “his brand” but also makes me sad and angry.  But it is this sentence, from Coca-Cola’s own website, that pushed me over the edge:

“As we move toward our 2020 Vision of doubling our business by 2020, enabling the economic empowerment of women will undoubtedly be an important contributor to our success.”

Let’s be clear, Coca-Cola’s #5X20 initiative isn’t REALLY, altruistically, about lifting women out of poverty it’s about market share, doubling their business, and in doing so, contributing to the health decline of 80% of the worlds’ populations whose average household income is less than $10 (USD) a day! Think about that for a second when the vending machine at your office is likely asking $2 for a single 20 ounce bottle of Coke! So I Tweeted:

#CSR? @CocaColaCo’s #5X20 is actually #causerelatedmarketing NOT #empowerment for #women! #LiesToldOnTwitter

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Artwork by Miranda Coss

Just so we are clear this isn’t a prejudice based in a Coke versus Pepsi (or any of their respective other beverage brands) preference; I am not and have never been a big cola drinker, while I do enjoy the occasional Dr. Brown’s, Izze or Orangina I would be willing to bet that my consumption of these amounts to less than a total of ten 16 ounce servings in any given YEAR. I think you should read this about what drinking Coke and Pepsi actually do to the body, and I can only hope you start to view your habit with a little more caution toward your health (or that of your kids and grandkids.

But I digress; this post is not primarily concerned with our beverage choices but the use of public relations to obfuscate the reality of Coca-Cola (and other multinational corporations) when it comes to legitimate social responsibility practices.  By leveraging social media, optimization of search engine results with technical acumen, strategic thought  and proactive and diligent management Coca-Cola is, to a large degree, successfully controlling its message.  To underscore my point, I just did a Imagesearch on Google “Coca-Cola environmental impact” of the 3.3 million results, (Google is the most popular SE in terms of use – see graph) on the first page of results ‘above the page break’ Coca-Cola has ensured their placement in three of the top five results – Wikipedia comes in at the #2 spot and at #5 is KillerCoke.org. (According to MarketShareHitsLink.com, October 2010, 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results, which is why having a strategic communications plan that includes Web 2.0 for brand enrichment is so critical in our hyper-connected world.)

So what results are you, the consumer or a journalist doing research, going to get when a desire suddenly seizes you to learn more? Unless you are willing to dig deep – you would never discover that despite their “plant based” bottle PR campaigns that the resulting Imagebottles which both Pepsi and Coke are hyping as being eco-friendly are STILL chemically the same, absolutely identical to the polyethylene terepthalate, or PET, and high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, that regular plastic bottles are made of: these carry the same negative human health and environmental impacts as plastic made from fossil fuels. And yet the messaging makes those of you drinking the 14 (yes, fourteen different) billion (USD) brands from Pepsi   or the 108 (yes, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT!) beverage brands from Coca-Cola with all those plastic bottles going into the environment, all those trillions of empty calories being consumed, all the resources used and subsequent negative impact on the planet – in particular water use feel a bit righteous in your consumer choice – my darlings you have absolutely no reason to!

“Drinking” water in Ghana

I am not anti-Capitalism, but I have never, ethically, been able to use my skills and passion to promote an employer or a client whose business I did not fully respect (ie, prostitute myself for a paycheck).  I recently had a conversation with the CEO and founder of a technology firm whose platform is designed to help (genuinely) lift the bottom 3 billion of humankind out of poverty – the same number who also do not have access to clean drinking water or basic sanitation, the identical target market for doubling Coca-Cola’s business by 2020 for whom it will actually be cheaper to drink a cola beverage than to drink clean water! It’s fine to make money, it’s fine to make money in emerging markets, it’s a noble and wonderful thing to give a hand-up (rather than a hand-out), but in my mind’s eye it’s NOT FINE to sugar-coat actual objectives to make them more palatable to your consuming public and distort reality.  If Coca-Cola and Pepsi and the rest of their beverage industry brethren REALLY WANT to help empower women then I suggest taking 8% of their annual profits and fund opportunities for education previously unknown to all but a few of the bottom 3 billion of our neighbours or the various efforts to provide clean water around the world, their philanthropic and CSR departments can one stop shop for worthy projects at Charity Water, Water or in this blog post from Huffington .

Corporate Social Responsibility and the companion sustainability protocols are not ’cause related marketing’ (which is what Coca-Cola’s #5X20 actually is), what CSR ‘should be’ truly is the heart and soul, conscience and character of doing the right thing within a corporate environment.

If you enjoy my blog please share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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What do their families eat? Arsenic and GMO in the food chain – guest blog for Ethical Value

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Concurrently published with Ethical Value

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Highland cows at Ardalanish Farms, Isle of Mull

A decade ago, on the Isle of Mull located off the western coast of mainland Scotland I had the very great pleasure to meet Minty and Aeneas Mackay at their, then, Ardalanish Farm (now owned by Andrew and Anne Smith). A ruggedly beautiful sweep of pristine earth where handsome Angus and Highland beef and rare breed sheep happily co-mingled and grazed on land that ran from a natural bay highlighted by a white sand beach with stunning purple accents (caused by indigenous mineral deposits) to heightened elevations with unobstructed views to Ireland on a clear day. Marked by Soil Association signs Ardalanish is certified to be thoroughly organic. Brambles run down to the sea and yielded abundant fruit for jam and cobblers, milk thick with cream from another local farm made our breakfast tea white, it was idyllic in a way that few places can claim to be.  I think of this place in its perfection and in wonder that the simplicity and reverence for living in harmony with every beast, the land and sea isn’t widely held as the standard – it is, in my opinion, simply common sense we should all be embracing. It is also what David Abram wrote in his Spell of the Sensuous of ecological philosophy living in close observance to the land and giving more than we take.

Food Map

The multi-nationals that control almost everything about our food chain.

We SHOULD BE having a global crisis of conscience but it is still a very small minority that would, or could, live this way; those who might choose to hoard heirloom seeds from year-to-year to ensure their independence and sustainability. A slightly larger percentage of the population understands GMO stands for ‘genetically modified organisms’ and these are essentially ‘designed’ to control world food supplies for the benefit of shareholder stock values but are having horrible effects on the genetic makeup of all living things. (Not all companies shown on the map are nefarious; the image is provided to illustrate the control of our food chain.  Consider – not represented on map – Rishi Tea and Tchibo which serve as beyond exemplary models for sustainability and transparency.)  Those that understand that cultivating our own food supply as well as knowing what is actually “in” the food we purchase – anywhere – is swelling but it is a finding-a-needle-in-the-haystack quest for food integrity unlike any time in human history.  Have we moved so far away from our hunter-gatherer and early agricultural history as to leave us numb as well as stupid?

Of late we discover that, in the United States, the Federal Drug Administration has been rather lax about the inclusion (or rather enforcing the exclusion) of arsenic in our pork and poultry (and what else?)  – don’t we already have sufficient poisons in our environment to create an epidemic of cancer globally?

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Join the movement! Click to learn more about GMO foods and labeling!

A piece of legislation that would be the equivalent of the universal bottle bill for labelling is in the centre of a smack down of laundered money and secret slush funds, with a list of big agra-business spending $22 million USD to defeat legislation in the state of Washington alone that should make every person on the planet be outraged out of their state of perpetual complacency and immediately (at minimum) start reading labels of their pre-packaged food purchases and clean out their portfolios and retirement plans of the violators.

I cook from scratch.  I shop at farmer’s markets which are vetted to be organic and I don’t purchase food with ingredients I can’t pronounce at the grocery store but without GMO labelling, and as a result of genetic contamination, that broad term that means that the buffer zones designed to keep GMO foodstuffs within bounds don’t work, I am fighting the same battle that we all seem destined to lose. I have to ask – what are the employees and executives and shareholders of these companies feeding their own families? Why are they NOT fostering change from within to achieve value and profit in conjunction with transparency and integrity around their product offerings? What kind of people put profit above the protection of our food supply and water? What kind of people carry this kind of ethical wasteland around inside their being and, god-forbid, is it contagious?

Witness, and by all means actively participate in, the rise of  the ancient wisdom of indigenous people such as the Iroquois Nations Great Binding Law in the form of Seven Generation Sustainability and have hope but a groundswell is needed – desperately. YOU!, reading this, foster positive change by making small choices based upon your own family – what will the planet be like for the children of your children’s children?  In the world of social media it’s easy enough to find critical influencers to ‘follow’ and begin your own education and then, choose some organisation to support even if you aren’t the ‘activist’ type yourself. 

If you enjoy my blog please share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Rubber Meets the Road – guest blog for Ethical Value

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Please consider visiting Ethical Value for consulting on CSR best practices!

Publishing simultaneously with Ethical Value – http://bit.ly/174hNas

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Let me be clear I am not an eco-warrior, or a war protester. I have the utmost respect for NGO workers but there is something terribly flawed in the pervasive hand-out, not hand-up mindset of so much of what is called ‘aid’ coming from the private sector or governments.  Create jobs with all that money for goodness sake! Image

Since the 1970s (in the tender bloom of my teenage years) I have maintained that doing right by the world around us, ethically, in terms of product development, green i.e. sustainability and its net results in recycling, reclaiming, up-cycling, stewardship of the planet as well as solving the Earth’s ‘pressing problems’ need not be mutually exclusive to creating jobs and building economies which scale and have positive impact. Making money out of ‘doing good’ is not a horrible thing! What is horrible, in my humble opinion, is leveraging ‘feel good’ marketing and communications to increase profit with only nominal re-investment in society or none at all (while fat, dumb and happy Joe or Jane consumer thinks they are making a difference in voting with their wallet).

My personal efforts with Thistle & Broom were driven by the belief that to sustain the cultural heritage of a specific country whilst positively impacting the lives of the actual artisans creating bespoke luxury products by their earning 66% of the retail price was a noble and ideal business model. Honestly, given my own elimination of the brick and mortar storefront a decade ago, T&B should have served as a paradigm shift for the luxury goods space and made me a key-note speaker at the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit at least once.  Alas, I suppose I must content myself with having been quoted in The Economist!

There are plenty of other like-minded individuals with deeper pockets, outside investment, and, far cooler products than, say, an authentic hand-knit Fair Isle jumper. People who understand that doing good and having positive impact can only be sustainable with innovation and, yes, volume sales.  It’s why, as the driver of an 1989 Turbo-charged Saab convertible and someone who once sold luxury automobiles while simultaneously serving as the Finance Director for a United States Congressional campaign, who looks at the Bentley Continental GT and gets a total head rush, I am VERY EXCITED about the various vehicles of Croatia-based RIMAC Automobili and United States based BRAMMO.

ImageImageThe products of these companies fire on all possible cylinders for me (pun intended) even as I am not a motorcycle rider, nor likely to ever spend $1m USD on a limited edition car, or ride an electric drive bicycle. They are based in sustainable practices and if they only eliminated the consumption of petroleum based fuel they’d rock; but what both the RIMAC and BRAMMO marques offer are exquisitely designed, breathtakingly engineered and (mostly) practical transportation solutions.

As a modest car geek, you’ll forgive me if I get ridiculously excited about the tire shredding capability of the RIMAC Concept One car, 1088HP, 0-100kmp (0-60mph) in 2.8 seconds, a Bulgarian leather interior that is so gorgeous it belongs in MOMA and the Tate Modern, the coolest placement of engines ever – one at each wheel; something that RIMAC CEO Mate Rimac calls All-Wheel Torque Vectoring (AWTV) – the car is first and foremost a super car that just happens to out-perform combustion engines. Did I need to mention it’s also urbane and sexy?

Equally but differently so, Craig Bramscher of BRAMMO has taken his eco-consciousness and early adopter mind-set to create world class motorcycles that cherry picked engineering from precision racing brought such down to street level for law enforcement as well as commuters. PS, I LOVE that Craig has staff to teach an all-female riding school!

The men behind these machines certainly embrace the mantra of “I feel the need, the need for speed”, Vrrroom, and their teams excel at meeting their objectives.  It is only a matter of time before the Top Gear guys are begging for the opportunity to drive (or ride) any of these machines, very likely bumping into the top 10 episodes of all time in the process!  From an outsiders view, both companies successfully leverage the passion of their founders and best in class commitment to their portfolios while providing real value to employees, customers, their respective economies and the world at large.  It’s an exciting possibility to consider that in our near future that technical innovation and sustainability will be “where the rubber meets the road” fostering dynamic system changes across all aspects of our global economy.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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