All posts by Ted Barber

Be A Force For Good, Says The Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama Daniel Goleman A Force for GoodLast Monday evening I made my way to Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, MA to hear Daniel Goleman talk about his new book, A Force for Good. I was very much looking forward to an impassioned reading from the celebrated author of Emotional Intelligence.

What I got instead was a surprising peak into who the Dalai Lama is, and his vision for the world.

Rather than promote his book, Daniel Goleman shared stories about Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama – Buddhist monk, spiritual and political leader of Tibet, refugee, Nobel Peace Prize winner, BBC fanatic. A humble man who has traveled the world sharing wisdom seasoned with impish humor.

But the anecdote that really stuck with me was one that spoke of unbound optimism.

No matter how much trauma the media heaps upon us every scaleday, the Dalai Lama notes, such misery in the world is far outweighed by acts of kindness. If one could place both on an old-style scale, compassion would triumph over cruelty and callousness.

That observation forms the foundation of his optimism. Compassion resides within each and every one of us. The challenge is how to harness it, turn it outward, and take action. It is not enough to feel empathy for those less fortunate, he says. We must each become a force for good.

I love that phrase. A force for good. It’s so powerful and forward-moving, applicable to every aspect of your life. The opposite of complacency and self-interest. It speaks of a brighter future for everyone, everywhere.

Halfway through the book you encounter a chapter called “Economics as if People Mattered” that talks about the B Corp movement and using business as a force for good – a particular passion of mine. Solving the world’s social and environmental problems is a daunting task, yet solutions are entirely within our reach. But only if businesses jump in with both feet, led by or leading consumers.

And I don’t mean dipping a toe in the socially responsible pond. That respectable but entirely inadequate time has passed. The world needs individuals, communities, businesses, investors and institutions to hear the Dalai Lama’s clarion call, recognize the need and opportunity, and turn compassion into action.

That is the vision he shares with us, told through stories of people taking bold steps in the right direction. Prosperity Candle is one of the businesses mentioned, alongside Patagonia, Greystone Bakery, Warby Parker and Ben & Jerry’s… which is very cool.

But what really matters is whether this vision will take root and grow. Change will not happen because of decisions made by governments, the Dalai Lama says. Real change can only take place when we allow our compassion and values to guide our decisions and choices.

“As human beings, equipped with marvelous intelligence and the potential for developing a warm heart, each and every one of us can become a force for good.” – Dalai Lama, February 8, 2015.

A resounding YES!FFG-Cover

Join the movement

More about A Force for Good, and the audiobook version

More about the Dalai Lama

More about Daniel Goleman

More about the B Corp movement

Related article about Prosperity Candle as a B Corp and “force for good”

Earth Hour – flick off, power up!

Earth_Hour_PostWhat are you doing Saturday night? Here’s an awesome idea.

Turn off the lights for 60 minutes.

Across the world on March 28th, millions of people will be doing the same at precisely 8:30pm local time. The reason? To celebrate earth and raise awareness about climate change.

Earth Hour was created in 2007 by the World Wildlife Fund in Sydney, Australia and has since grown into a global lights-off event in more than 162 countries and territories. Check out photos online… you’ll be amazed at the beauty of people everywhere gathering, lighting candles, and gazing at starry skies.

So join in! Here’s how:

1. Find an event near you

Near Northampton, MA? We’re co-hosting @ Dobra Tea (186 Main Street). Join us for music, food & amazing artisan teas on March 28th. Lights out, candles lit at 8:30pm!

2. Create your own Earth Hour event

3. Join Prosperity Candle’s “9 fun things to do during Earth Hour” on social media and win one of 9 candles

4. Most importantly, turn off all your non-essential lights at 8:30pm on March 28thEarth Hour candles

Whether you’ll be stargazing, striking a yoga pose, connecting with someone you love, or taking part in a local event… do it by candlelight. And tell the world!

Simply head to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and share one thing you’ll do while the lights are off for a chance to win. We’ll be announcing 9 winners on March 31st. See rules below.

We all recognize that individually, it’s hard to make a significant difference when it comes to climate change. But together, we can. Global problems require global solutions, and Earth Hour shows us how simple it can be unite people across time zones for a worthy cause.

Your power to make change happen is unlimited when you connect and join forces with others. And have a bit of fun along the way.

Earth_Hour_Post_2

Eligibility

No purchase is necessary to enter or win this contest. Only one (1) contest entry per person. Entrants must be over 18 years of age and a legal resident of the United States. Void where prohibited. Entries must have a current e-mail address to be eligible (winners will be contacted for shipping information to send your prize). Prosperity Candle employees are not eligible to enter the contest. Prosperity Candle will not sell your address or personal information.

ONE BILLION RISING

One Billion Rising V-Day

We sent an email that said women are not a possession. On Valentine’s Day.

It elicited more responses than usual, mostly “thank you.” But many also questioned our purpose.

Here it is.

“Women are not a possession” is from Tena Clark’s Break The Chain, the anthem for ONE BILLION RISING that has become a global campaign to end violence against women and girls. Founded by Eve Ensler, it is women and men gathering in over 200 countries to express outrage and solidarity – and to dance. It’s incredibly powerful.

When we started Prosperity Candle, supporting women in regions of conflict was our purpose. The founders had traveled around the world for decades helping people escape poverty through entrepreneurship. In the places we worked, this is what we observed:

Men have more access to resources. Women face more obstacles. Men often waste their money. Women typically invest theirs more wisely.

When we launched Prosperity Candle with our own limited funds, we chose to invest wisely, in women. It was March 2009, and I was traveling to meet with our pilot project partner, Women for Women International. On the plane I read about participants in their programs, women who had survived war.

I arrived in tears. The atrocities these women had experienced were beyond comprehension. So was their strength and resilience. A year later Wafa’a, a widow who lost her husband to a mortar landing on their apartment, held up her first pillar candle telling President Obama that Iraqi women are strong and independent.

That is how we started, and who we are. All of our candles are handmade by strong women building a brighter future for themselves and their families, here in the U.S. and overseas. Women who have faced and overcome unspeakable adversity.

February 14th is the worldwide event day for ONE BILLION RISING. We are incredibly inspired by this movement and Eve’s engaging approach to activism. It relates to our own purpose and the women we work with, which is why we sent the Valentine’s Day email.

We encourage you to visit V-Day on facebook and ONE BILLION RISING to discover powerful videos, images and more.

Thank you for asking.

And if you missed our email, here are the links:

Break The Chain, One Billion RisingOne Billion Rising video

Capitalism, savior of the world?

social responsiblity imageSocial responsibility is just good PR.  Markets cannot be leveraged for social good, and should not be hijacked to solve the world’s problems.  Face it, the benefits of capitalism accrue to the few, the smart, the lucky, the connected.  That’s the way the system works.

Much needed reality check, or utter hogwash?

Businesses can better scale solutions to social problems says Michael Porter in his recent TEDTalk, because profit and resources are the magic missing from government and nonprofit work.

Don’t trust markets with our civic life counters Michael Sandel in his TEDTalk because profit shifts values and monetizes social good.

The disparity between the haves and have nots is more extreme than ever, and capitalism as it’s now practiced is not working for the vast majority argues Chrystia Freeland in her TEDTalk, The rise of the new global super-rich.

Yunus Social Biz ImageBanker to the Poor, Muhammad Yunus, says businesses can better solve social problems than NGOs.  This, he argues, is the solution to the world’s problems.  Lots of small social businesses doing good while doing well enough to sustain themselves (but not a penny more).

I’m the co-founder of a business created to help solve a social problem.  I support fair trade and balancing people, planet and profits.  I believe in prioritizing the common good over maximizing personal profit and shareholder value.

But don’t mistake me for a naive do-gooder.  I grew up in a business, have owned three companies myself, and sold one for a profit.  I like building businesses that deliver great products and service.  And I happen to believe that business can and should play a bigger role in solving the world’s problems.  But convincing consumers, investors and even friends of the value of embedding social good in those products and services is a never-ending and often frustrating battle.  You get blank stares and a lefty-socialist-redistribute-the-wealth sticker on your backside.  That’s just not me.

But I do think we need a major update to capitalism.  And so do a lot of other people.  If we don’t, billions will suffer, die, or rise up in protest.  Global business has done more to lift people out of poverty and promote shared prosperity than anything else the world has ever conceived of.  Apologies to the anti-globalization folks – you’ve got strong  and troubling points.  I’ve seen the worst effects up close.  But we need to all acknowledge that trade works – it just needs to work better, more fairly.  Benefiting the many, not the few.

We all understand that capital naturally flows where frictions are lowest, and that as the Economist puts it, “finance has yet to meet a rule it doesn’t want to game.”  But seriously, let’s look beyond bonuses and maximizing shareholder value for a moment, stop blaming policies for risky behavior, and think about the future from a global perspective.  Inject a dose of common good into our decision-making.

What’s really missing are people who actively embrace the idea of shared prosperity as a way of life.  Shoppers, investors, nonprofits, businesses, governments, leaders.  You.  It’s time to shatter traditional notions of for-profit and not-for-profit.  Break down the divide, merge the best of both.  I vote for solutions with real and lasting impact.  Markets that work for everyone.  Charity as a catalyst for change, not the solution itself.  I vote for capitalism as a force for good.

How do we make that happen?

Kudos to PAX World Investments

Pax World, customer gift, client gift, business gift, corporate giftThis morning we picked up the new labels for an event gift PAX World will give this month.  The design is great.  PAX’s logo, colors, image and message – on a useful and desirable product that supports social good – deliver a message of real impact.

PAX is not alone in recognizing that giving the opposite kind of gift… something of low value with your logo on it… is a really bad idea.  Those cheap promotional gifts that flood inboxes, jam mailboxes, and ultimately fill waste bins do nothing more than undermine your brand.  That stuff – that junk – is the butt of jokes.  Who hasn’t received a corporate or event gift that deserves to be made fun of?  We call it bad swag.

But here’s the thing about PAX World.  They didn’t just make a better choice once.  This is the third year in a row this company has aligned its gifts with its values.  That is impressive.

Sometimes we find ourselves in conversation with good people who love our mission and impact, love that a gift can be more than a mug, flashlight pen or the perennial box of sweets to be added to the pile.  Then they do what we all do.  Look for a lower price.  We get it, everyone has a budget.  We do, too.corporate gift, event gift, swag, customer gift, employee gift, client gift

The thing is, low prices decimate positive impact.  It’s like looking for social good at a discount.  And often it doesn’t even make sense!  We’ll pay $8 for cookies but not $7 for a handmade, fair trade, fully customized candle that provides living wages for refugees.  A gift basket stuffed with little treats for $40 is great, but the same basket with several quality products that make a difference in people’s lives somehow seems expensive.

Not so with PAX.  Or Scholastic.  Or eBay, Harvard, U.S. Trust, CARE and a host of others.  These organizations get it.  They align their gifts with their values, allowing no gap between words and action.  It’s very cool.

So kudos to all of them, and to every company and nonprofit that understands that giving out cheap gifts is a terrible way to build your brand, win customers or thank donors.

You have to gift differently to do that.

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Prosperity Candle’s Environmental Impact

While our mission is focused on social impact – empowering women entrepreneurs in regions affected by conflict and natural disaster – we also recognize that sustainability issues are critical to our ability to run an efficient and environmentally sound business. With ever increasing greenhouse gases being emitted into the world, we want to be a responsible business that minimizes its environmental impact in every way possible.

Soy vs. Paraffin

This was one of the earliest questions we asked. At first glance, soy wax or beeswax seem like the obvious raw materials to use when thinking about environmental sustainability. Surprisingly, this is not always the case!

After much research, we have concluded that our custom paraffin-soy blend is the most sustainable choice we can make today. Paraffin is a material that is available regionally in large quantity, so using it means a much lower carbon footprint than with other waxes that must be shipped in.

Paraffin is also a by-product, which if not used would go into the waste stream. Further, we have found that most soy wax is sourced from agribusiness where large amounts of petrochemicals are used in carbon-intensive cultivation methods. Thus, as others have argued, paraffin can sometimes be a more sustainable option than soy when you compare total environment impacts.

Healthwise, food-quality paraffin burns as cleanly as other high quality waxes. At Prosperity Candle, we use only the highest grade candle waxes with natural cotton wicks (no lead or zinc) for a long-lasting, clean burning candle.

Sustainable Business

Our team consists of locavores in both spirit and practice. We eat produce from New England farms shares, buy local dairy products, and support artisans in our neighborhoods. But we also recognize that not everything we use can be made locally – and that there are people living in distant places who can greatly benefit from trade.


We’d also like to mention that Prosperity Candle is now a Bronze Member of Green America. Green America’s mission is to “harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” We have gone through their certification process to demonstrate our commitment to operating our business in a way that promotes fair trade, social justice, and environmentally sound business practices.

While working to improve the lives of women in places of conflict and disaster, we strive to minimize our carbon footprint wherever possible. We consolidate shipments, select routes with the smallest carbon footprint (we are a strong advocate of ships using wind power to reduce fuel use), minimize packaging and waste, recycle & reuse everything we can, and regularly purchase carbon offsets.

Most importantly, we are committed to tracking and continually reducing Prosperity Candle’s carbon footprint over time.

Rachel’s candles – kindness is contagious

I was just catching up on weekend emails when I saw this story sent from my dear friend Forest:

One Candle at a Time

Take a moment, tune out all the noise, and read about an act of kindness.

Rachel has made my day, and I don’t even know her.  Thank “CF” for writing this and posting it on

HelpOthers

 

And thank you, Forest, for sending it!

Prosperity Candle’s Social Impact

Prosperity Candle is committed to having a positive and sustainable social impact. The company was created for this purpose, and we know that the narratives are as important as the numbers.

Listening to the women share their stories, give voice to their visions, and express candid opinions about how Prosperity Candle is affecting their lives will be the first measure of our work. We pair careful analysis with these stories and opinions to better understand the whole picture, because looking at whether the women are able to increase their incomes is only part of our work.

We also want to see whether or not nutrition is improving, if women’s safety is enhanced, if more of their children are in school and receiving medical care, and how the women feel about their futures – are they hopeful? Are they taking leadership roles in their communities? Are their voices heard?


 

Our approach to measuring social impact must take into account all of these factors. And as a business that cares deeply about its environmental impact, we will be vigilant in assessing this area as well to minimize as much as possible our carbon footprint. We are committed to tracking and evaluating triple-bottom-line progress in ways that allow us to make better decisions and continually improve our model for broad and sustainable impact.

If we train a thousand women in candle-making to earn a supplemental income, we fail in our mission.

Why? Because we seek to empower as many as possible to build thriving businesses that can offer employment to others in their communities. This is the impact we seek to have. The diagram below illustrates the path we hope many women entrepreneurs will choose with ongoing support from us and other organizations.

growing-enterprises3

Questions about our mission & model? Please get in touch!

Opportunity is the change we seek

Haiti earthquake rebuildingAs the third anniversary of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake passes, many are questioning the progress that has been made with billions of international aid.  With so much money and goodwill, why do 350,000 people continue to live in makeshift tents with poor sanitation and little to eat?  What has become of the promise to “build back better”?

The news stories over the past few days are heart wrenching, and paint a picture of misused resources and donor fatigue that threaten to leave Haitians no better off than before the earthquake.  The criticism is understandable given the lofty goals set and our expectations of what could be accomplished.  And the criticism is justified – after three years and with that much money, there should be far more tangible progress in the form of housing, schools, and improved infrastructure.

But such assessments tend to shortchange the value of a greater tragedy avoided.  The 2010 earthquake killed 200,000 people, made 1.5 million more homeless, and left the capital strewn with rubble.  It was among the top five deadliest in recorded history, and without the international community’s help and donations pouring in from around the world, it could have been the deadliest.  A much greater tragedy was avoided.

It must also be said – and we should constantly remind ourselves – that international development is hard work.  It is challenging anywhere in the world, and Haiti can be a particularly difficult place to implement projects with lasting impact.  Over the past year, Prosperity Candle has met with government officials, international NGOs and aid groups, businesses, faith-based missions, and local organizations.  We’ve spoken with Haitians, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, local leaders and senior members of Hillary Clinton’s staff.  Everyone wants more progress.  Everyone is trying to figure out how to build back better.  It’s hard work.

A recent article in the Economist entitled “Still waiting for recovery” describes Haiti as the Republic of NGOs that has become the country of the unemployed.  In many ways this is true, though unemployment was high before the earthquake as well.  What is now needed most, says Haitian president Michel Martelly, is jobs.  The opportunity to earn a living wage so that a family can live in a decent home, put food on the table, and pay for schooling and healthcare.

That is what Prosperity Candle is going there to do.  We focus on supporting women entrepreneurs, but what Haiti needs most right now is opportunity for everyone.  As Belo, Haiti’s most popular musician, said on a recent visit to our town, charity is helpful and appreciated, but opportunity is what will create the change we all seek.

Malala

On Thursday, this brave 15-year old Afghan girl walked out of the hospital three months after being shot for saying that girls should receive an education. Amazing and still, sobering. We are inspired and at the same time reminded of the very different world she has grown up in.

At Prosperity Candle we try not to take a stance on issues relating to politics, faith, and questions like how we should be engaged in Afghanistan. It’s not that we don’t have strong opinions – we do – it’s simply that we believe our mission and work transcend different perspectives. Helping women rebuild their lives, war widows learn a trade to earn a living wage, and families escape poverty is universal. We’re not trying to change the world.  We’re working to change lives for the better.

We imagine most people would agree. But there are those who do not, as stories like Malala’s make clear. When a girl is attacked for wanting an education – something that should be a shared human right – we should all speak up. There are times when cultural context and religious differences need to be considered, but not here, not with Malala’s cause. It transcends everything.

It’s hard to believe, but not too long ago women were denied voting rights in this country. They could not pursue most professional careers, let alone expect equal pay. In education, we have fared better, but it has taken a long time to ensure equal access. Today, as a father of two young girls, I can’t imagine living in a community that didn’t provide the same opportunities for girls as for boys.

Malala’s story is a sobering reminder that in too many places and for billions of girls and women, opportunity is little more than a word. Denied to them are education, choosing to marry, pursuing a career, friendships. Self determination. Happiness.

We should all speak up.