Small World….BEAUTIFUL BUSINESS

The Way Business should be…

ALTER ECO: Fair Food Business Activists

Image:Alter Eco

Image:Alter Eco

Alter Eco: Activists in Business. I want to tell you a story about Quinoa. You know Quinoa… like whole grain but actually a seed. Grown and cultivated in South America since the Incas, it has now found increasing popularity with consumers in the developed world.

Image:Alter Eco

Image:Alter Eco

However, this popularity has seen it gain some interesting press. The upsurge in its culinary use comes at an inevitable cost, which has seen its market price increase which in turn has impacted upon poorer consumers in the very countries it is produced in and been eaten for centuries. A report in the UK Guardian newspaper spoke of “the unpalatable truth about quinoa,” which is that “poor Bolivians can no longer afford their staple grain.” But as Doug Sanders from the Globe and Mail responded, the quinoa price rise is the greatest thing that has happened to them and is part of a deliberate strategy: Quinoa had all but died out as a staple in Bolivia, replaced by beans and potatoes, until farmers began planting it in the 1980s with exports to North America in mind. With this in mind, farmers in these countries are more interested in fair prices, avoiding the attentions of unscrupulous middle men and growing a crop which can help enhance the sustainability of their land and support the lives of people in their communities. Coincidentally, 2013 is the United Nations Year of Quinoa. Edouard Rollet a co-founder of our featured business, said his company deals with 1,500 families in about 200 Bolivian villages and has witnessed the changes over a long period of time and commented that the farmers are still eating quinoa. He said that over the years he’s watched how the extra income from rising prices has allowed the families he works with to diversify their diets dramatically, adding foods like fresh vegetables.

Image:Alter Eco

Image:Alter Eco

The Quinoa issue is close to the hearts of this beautiful business called Alter Eco. Developed by Edouard and his fellow co-founders, Tristan Lecomte, Mathieu Senard and Ilse Keijzer their post-corporate world vision reflected their activist and socially dynamic aspirations for businesses. Working in the Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions, Alter Eco works with farmers and communities to distribute, promote and sell a range of foodstuffs such as chocolate, rice, sugar as well as quinoa, in their stores across North America. Alter Eco is, as the co-founders say, business by activists concerned with humanitarian and social issues as much as ‘doing business’

But why is Alter Eco a beautiful business? Well, it would be hard to ignore their credentials. We could point out the fact that they won the 2012 Acterra Business Environmental Award for Small Business because of its commitment to small-scale farmers and to sustainable and fair trade practices. We could also point to their fair trade principles, their GMO free commitments and USDA organic production accreditation (they are partners of Fair Trade USA and the Fair-trade Labelling Organisation (FLO) and all their products are Fair Trade Certified). Oh, and if that wasn’t beautiful enough for you, they are also a GHG Protocol 3 Carbon Zero business, meaning they offset more carbon than they emit.

Image:Alter Eco

Image:Alter Eco

If credentials don’t impress you, their work on the ground certainly will. Alter Eco is interested in delivering more than the bottom line. They have created a set on deep, rich and meaningful relationships which connects, producer, consumer and environment in a fair and equitable way, delivering sustainable healthy foods to consumers. This is not just an economic exercise, this is a social enterprise working with farmers and their communities to ensure their lives and livelihoods.

Image:Alter Eco

Image:Alter Eco

They say, ” the achievement we’re most proud of is the family we’ve created. Together with our farmers, employees, investors and customers, we’re taking an adventure through food, and creating a vision of the future that’s fair, prosperous, healthy and mouth-watering” this includes supporting cooperatives in Thailand, Philippines, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia . Support for farmers comes in the form of above market prices for their produce and additional premiums, living wages and community support in education and social welfare. Alter Eco is a platform to market for cooperative farmers and a link to farming communities through social, not just economic ties. This is, as Beautiful Business says, ‘how business should be’.

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This entry was posted on 19/03/2013 by and tagged , , , .
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