31 January 2008

Showing My Hand

I'm sorry that when I was growing up, I didn't always treat Indigenous Australians with the respect they deserved.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is expected to make a full apology to Aboriginal people when Federal Parliament sits next month.

The Body Shop gives kudos to this, a critical step on the journey towards Reconciliation. It's the right thing to do. We also salute Labor's promises to make Indigenous health and education a top priority for the the new Government. Saying 'Sorry' is so simple but so essential to moving on.

The Body Shop has been campaigning for indigenous rights since 1998 when we collected over 100,000 thumb prints in our stores for Reconciliation Week.

Since then we've been involved in a range of practical initiatives with Indigenous communities around Australia, designed to foster greater economic independence. These include setup, maintenance and or the facilitation of the:
Back to the present: It's great the Government is doing the right thing... but we also have a responsibility on a personal level to step up. What have our prejudices and behaviour towards Aborigines been in the past. Can we be kinder, more respectful? We can learn more about our rich indigenous culture and history. We can do more to stand up for their human rights for better health and education.

To start, why not say 'sorry' yourself? Australians for Native Title & Reconciliation (ANTaR) has a fantastic, creative way for you to commit to justice for Indigenous Australians, it's called the Sea Of Hands Online. It also gives you the option to sign up to their newsletter! Once you've completed your hand you can check out other peoples! See my hand above or go fish for it online.

Here are some other great websites you should check out:
Watch Missy Higgin's views on saying sorry and Reconciliation below:



Adam Valvasori - Values Manager

29 January 2008

Fing vs The Dark Side of Cotton

It seems appropriate that this, the first “press release” for fing.com.au should be hosted on The Body Shop Activist. The reason; well frankly without The Body Shop (TBS), Adidem and more particularly the inspiration of Anita Roddick I don’t think Fing would have come about.

My wife Emma works for TBS and over the last few years has learnt so much, not just about retailing but equally as important about how a company can contribute to society, and as many spouses of a TBS employee can testify this will rub off!

Even as I look up for the inspiration to write this piece I am being watched over by Anita, a series of cards celebrating her life looking down from our “inspiration wall”. Fing has grown from Emma’s and my love of t-shirts; I challenge you to think of another product that has achieved such iconic status, is so attainable, has the ability to express so many emotions and yet can look so comfortable in a wide range of environments.

Yep, I love t-shirts!

It became apparent through discussions with friends that we were not alone, everyone it seems has what we have come to call “t-shirt moments”, what also became apparent is that as soon as it came the moment would pass and that flash of inspiration would be lost forever. Then one day last year we had had enough, we decided to somehow create a home for all those lost t-shirt moments. It was then the floodgates opened and the ideas really began to flow.

Personally, I get a kick out of wearing a t-shirt that I designed, but I wanted to give others the opportunity to send their ideas. From there it was a small leap to paying a royalty for other people's designs and donating the royalty to a cause or charity, or designing t-shirts as fundraisers.

We were beginning to see the blueprint for a business which we could truly get passionate about, only one problem we had no way to print t-shirts or no experience in doing so. In Anita’s words:

“To succeed you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality”

So we looked for a how. Whether it was fate or luck I can’t say, but after hours, days and weeks we discovered Direct Digital Printing, a new technology which would let us take any digital image whether it be a photo, text, graphics or any combination and transfer the image to fabric. This meant not only could we create t-shirts but also a host of custom products such as cushions, bags, table runners, wall hangings etc. The business was getting tantalisingly closer, but there was still to be another twist to come. We wanted to offer a quality product to our customers so we started looking into blank T Shirts, what we learned was quite shocking...

Cotton has a truly dark side!

Although cotton only occupies about 3% of agricultural land globally, it takes an amazing 50% of all herbicides, pesticides and a cocktail of other chemicals to produce it!

The nature of this intensive farming has an appalling effect on the quality of the land, water, air and people involved in the production. Many of the chemicals are known carcinogens leading to premature death among workers and their families.The land itself eventually becomes so toxic and polluted that it becomes unusable, and the run off enters rivers, water tables and eventually the oceans causing untold damage to people and wildlife on its journey.

There is however a better way; organic farmed cotton. Not only does this eliminate the use of chemicals totally, the rotation of crops also leads to the establishment of habitat for wildlife and -in a lesson Australia certainly needs to learn- cotton can be grown without irrigation as the greater organic content in the soil retains moisture, sufficient to allow dry growth. Naturally yields are lower and therefore the cost is higher.


At Fing we believe (and hope you will too) that as the planet struggles to cope with the demands we place upon it, we begin to understand and appreciate the true cost of an item and not just the price. As we live in the most fortunate of societies we should be prepared to pay a reasonable price, Fing therefore made a choice to use only organic cotton. This adds as much as $7 to the price of our shirts, to us these seems a fair exchange for the peace of mind of knowing what you wear has done no harm. For this reason all our shirts carry the Fing logo.

In closing I would like to thank Adam and the Body Shop team for this opportunity to showcase our business, I thank-you for taking the time to read the piece and hope you will visit the website, and even recommend it to your circle of friends. Emma and I are proud to have come this far and are excited that the ball is now rolling, where Fing goes from here is now beyond our control, but we hope we have established a home for those lost T Shirt moments and to see great designs and we hope that in some small way we can help to further the uptake of organic cotton products. I would like to leave you with a favourite quote from Anita Roddick:

“Get Informed. Get Inspired. Get Outraged. Get Active”

Cheers!
Emma & Jon.









Know More:

25 January 2008

Inspiration Scheme

Anne McFarlane (Sales, RSC), Laura Zammit (At Home), Amber Taylor (Collins Street VIC), Kelly Savill (Westlakes SA) and Kaye Findlay (At Home) participated in the Inspiration Scheme in Vanuatu in August 2007.

The Inspiration Scheme is a truly exceptional experience. It is not an ordinary workshop; but rather a life changing experience. To know that in one week of your life you can make such a difference to others is quite humbling.

During the week we spent in Vanuatu it did not take long for our TBS staff to realise that the workshop was not about training, but rather about sharing our skills and knowledge. Relishing in the opportunity to help open the minds of the participants and draw out the answers that they each had within. We were there to guide, grow, develop and stretch the participants’ ideas, reassure them, challenge their perceptions and most of all inspire
them to be the best that they can be. Every second, every minute and every interaction was an opportunity for the participants and TBS staff to SHINE!

Although it was very hard to leave, we left feeling tremendously proud and privileged at the opportunity we were given and the new friends we had made! I had the honour of presenting the certificates and speaking on behalf of TBS at the closing ceremony, below is a part of the lasting message, for some of you this will look similar:

“When we leave remember to have supreme confidence in yourself and your abilities. Know you can do anything that you put your mind to. Develop unrelenting determination and commitment to follow through on whatever you desire to do. The certificates presented to you today aren’t about completing this workshop - They are symbolic of your commitment to yourself, your community, your future and the future of Vanuatu! It speaks volumes about the immensely talented and inspirational person that you are!”

This message brought tears to the eyes of many of the participants and us included. I wanted to share this, as it is reflective of the intensity of the friendships this workshop creates. To be immersed in a new culture and to work with local representatives who passionately care about the welfare and future of their people is truly enriching in every aspect.

Without the commitment and vision of The Body Shop, United Nations, and the Commonwealth Youth Program, this workshop would not be possible.


It is however the commitment of the people who make it the true success. Amber, Kelly, Laura & Kaye would have made you proud and were outstanding ambassadors for The Body Shop. We left knowing that every day they & WE have a choice:
  • To be the best that we can be and to help others to do the same.
  • To want to learn and push the boundaries and be the young entrepreneurs of tomorrow – in Bislama “Tumaro’s Ledas” (Tomorrow’s Leaders)
I want to thank personally Graeme, Polly & Isabel for allowing me the opportunity to be a facilitator in the program as it is truly most rewarding. My commitment is to continue to be an ambassador for the Inspiration Scheme encouraging others to apply next year as I want each of you to share the journey and be a part of this incredible experience.

Anne McFarlane - National Deputy Retail Manager

21 January 2008

Stinky Fish!

If you're anything like me, you grew up listening to the sage advice of muppets. They broke down complex concepts like co-op-er-at-ion into bite sized bits that were easy to understand (Thanks hairy siamese monster twins!) The repetition also helped.

So it makes sense for puppets to be an effective way of getting a campaign message across. The Stinky Fish campaign was launched by the WWF last week and features a fish puppet espousing the benefits of buying fish from accredited sustainable sources!

“We’ve aimed Stinky Fish mainly at fish buyers and eaters with the underlying message that your seafood spread is going to be all the more satisfying if you buy and eat with a conscience” said Sarah Bladen of WWF’s International Marine Program. Or, in the cartoon chatter that Stinky Fish uses: “It's time to slap your appetites into line with your ethics.”

It's a great tactic - watch the Stinky Fish YouTube video below!

Action you can take:

1. Visit the Stinky Fish website and help spread the word!

2. Find out more about Sustainable Fishing from WWF

3. Ask your local fish monger if they're getting their fish from sustainable sources. Ie: Is it Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) approved?

4. Buy MSC approved products. Please see below to find out which packaged products are currently available with the MSC label in Australia:

John West

Canned Pink salmon 105g, 210g, 415g
Canned Pink salmon NAS 105g, 210g
Canned Red salmon 105g, 210g, 415g
Canned Red salmon NAS 210g
Canned Medium red salmon 210g
Salmon tempters 95g (Sweet Chilli and Lime, Natural Smoke Flavour, Chilli, Lemon and Cracked Pepper, Onion and Tomato, Vinaigrette, Lemon and Dill, seeded mustard and capers, basil and oregano)

Talley's

Skin on hoki fillets 1.5kg
Smoked hoki fillets 1kg
Skinless 1kg

Sealord

Hoki in Tempura Batter 425g
Hoki Tasty Bread Crumb 565g
Hoki Lemon Pepper 565g
Hoki Lite 360g
Hoki Fish Fingers 375g
Nuggets Crispy Crumb 520g
Nuggets in a crispy batter
Fish Flips 480g

Birds Eye

‘Steam Fresh’ fish fillets marinated in asian lime 360g
‘Steam Fresh’ fish fillets marinated in lemon and parsley 360g
‘Steam Fresh’ fish fillets with chilli 360g
‘Steam Fresh’ fish fillets with garlic 360g


Adam Valvasori - Values Muppet

17 January 2008

A Dingo Took Our Moral High Ground



Ok, sometimes it's uncomfortable to have a mirror held up to you. You don't like what you see. This happened to me today when I watched the above video (9:56mins) released by the pro-whaling movement in Japan. Although I think the way they've gone about this is totally wrong not to mention downright misleading at times. It made me wonder in a Carrie Bradshaw fashion...

Did a dingo take our moral high ground?

RACISTS?
Some of the accusations the video makes are true. The White Australia policy describe a collection of historical legislation and policies which intentionally restricted non-white immigration to Australia from 1901 to 1973. - Wiki

INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS?
Our treatment of first Australians is maybe even more disgraceful. Indigenous Australians didn't have the right to vote until Commonwealth legislation in 1962. We didn't acknowledge their right to native title of land until 1990! Our federal government has promised to say 'sorry' for a whole generation of children stolen from their families this year! - Wiki

DINGOS?
The video does reveal a disturbing truth about Dingos that I don't think many of us (including yours truly) are aware of. I was ready to disbelieve everything, so, when they claimed Dingos are in the same World Conservation Union (ICUN) status as Humpback whales... I had to investigate. Sadly it's true! In 2004 the ICUN gave Dingos 'Vulnerable' status. However, the video fails to mention that although hunting and killing them as pests is abhorrent, it's not the main reason why they're population size is vulnerable. Both the ICU and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) Dingo Policy Statement site interbreeding with wild or domestic dogs as being the major threat to their species.

KANGAROOS?
I'm sure the vast majority of people that use or eat animal products don't wish for that animal to have suffered in death. Those images of joeys being killed - make me sick. They are barbaric and awful. However I've heard that eating kangaroo meat is much more sustainable compared to other livestock. According to this Burke's Backyard Fact Sheet on Kangaroo Meat,(I know) Tim Flannery (then) biological scientist at the Australian Museum says:
  • It costs the Australian environment nothing to produce kangaroo meat. In comparison, seven kilograms of soil are used to produce one kilogram of wheat.
  • Farming wild animals is less cruel than raising domesticated animals for meat. Kangaroos do not suffer the stress of live trucking and abattoirs. Instead they live freely in the wild until they are killed instantly by professional shooters.
WHALES?
Australia stopped whaling in 1979. Japan continues to whale for commercial use despite an international ban. I've never tasted it but the Japanese girl towards the end of the video looked like she was trying hard not to spit her whale out (didn't she realise she was on a pro-whaling commercial?).

MEDIA?
This video made me consider how we treat animals in Australia. We see whales being harpooned but kangaroos (and all other animals we eat) happily cruising around. Why? We don't like holding up the mirror do we? Are our killing methods humane?

I just wish the Japanese would understand that it's not just Australia but the entire global community's wish to protect whales from extinction.

I'd like to give a big shout out to the activists on the high seas working or volunteering for Greenpeace and the Sea Shepards. Stay safe! I hope you put aside your differences and support each other out there to defeat a common enemy.

Take Action: The ACF is concerned that in most States/Territories, the dingo is classified as a noxious animal, pest or vermin species and that this status requires its destruction. Write to your State Government to get this changed!

Adam Valvasori - Not a Sex in The City fan

11 January 2008

Nice One Girlfriend!

Delta Goodrem on the February 2008 Girlfriend magazine cover with a zoom-in on the bottom left hand corner.

This is by far the best 4x2cm of a teen-girl magazine cover I've ever read! Seriously, congratulations to the team @ Girlfriend, the last two mags have shown a genuine commitment to bolstering its readers self-esteem. They approached this in a few ways...

1. Small buttons on the cover and throughout the magazine with "perfection is boring" and "mood improving" quotes. The front cover is fantastic -just really refreshing. Now young women reading the magazine know the price and time required for Delta's good looks - they aren't realistic, or attainable. Die beauty myth die!

2. In the January edition the Editor pledged:

"This year our Self -Respect motto is 'perfection is boring!' Self Respect is something we all have to keep working on and this year we are committed to celebrating each person's uniqueness and getting you to love yourself MORE by signing a pledge... 2008 is your time to glow, Girlfriend! Self acceptance and self-love are the starting points for having the year (and the time) of your life" - Sarah Oakes
Nice pledge!

3. Impressive content like the I Delete Bullies MySpace campaign as well as articles like 'Killer Tans' and 'Protest Chic' they seem to be trying to making ethics and activism cool! Awesome!

So yeah - in general - very impressed. Nice one Girlfriend!


Adam Valvasori - Not usually a teenage girl

10 January 2008

Enthusiastic About Ditching Plastic

According to Clean Up Australia, we burn through 784,000 barrels of oil, to produce the 3.76 billion plastic bags that Australians use each year. Sadly, we can pile 'damaging greenhouse gas emissions' on top of all the other environmental reasons why plastic bags are no good.

Such as causing landfill, being made from polluting petrochemicals and being deadly to our wildlife. So I was surprised when I found this on the Woolworths website:
"Woolworths Limited is conscious of its environmental footprint and is taking steps to reduce it."
and:
"Woolworths Limited are actively pursuing a reduction in plastic bags and are a member of a group that includes Australia's largest retailers."
Over at the Coles website:
"Coles Cares for Landcare Australia... To help reduce the 7 billion plastic check-out bags that Australians use every year, Coles has joined forces with Landcare Australia to help set a new industry benchmark in responsible packaging. Landcare Australia receives funding from Coles out of the ‘Go Green Environment fund’. Landcare utilises these funds to support a wide variety of environmental projects."

Confusion over the number of bags aside... can you really consider yourself a good corporate citizen by saying you care about your carbon footprint or by giving money to environmental organisations? Even when, at the same time, you are lobbying through the Australian Retailers Association to keep plastic bags?

Today the Environment Minister he wants to ban plastic bags within 12 months. According to The Age the move has been applauded by green groups, but retailers — including major supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths — remain opposed a ban.

In addition to our 'No Animal Testing' policy, 'Protecting our Planet' is a core The Body Shop value that we take very seriously. If other retailers want to do more than just green wash the environmental issue they have to start doing more than talking the talk.

The Body Shop Australia is proud to have been 100% plastic bag free in all our stores since 1999.


We give our customers Australian made paper bags that use 50% recycled paper which includes up to 50% post-consumer waste. We're not perfect. In some countries around the world we're still trying to let go of our dependency on plastic bags, but we're trying. This is in addition to some other environmental achievements like:
  • not using PVC in our packaging
  • most of our bottles containing 30% recycled content (which allows us to save more than 10 million virgin bottles a year)
  • Less than 3% of our products are packaged in separate cartons
  • When legislation requires us to have secondary packaging we use cardboard made from recycled or sustainable forest materials.

We can all do something to reduce our environmental impact - to preserve our planet for future generations. We applaud the Minister for his intention to ban plastic bags and we strongly encourage other retailers to eradicate their usage of plastic bags. We know it's hard to balance economic with social and environmental imperatives but you have to start trying - somehow.

As consumers we can help by always re-using boxes or bags. Don't get lazy about ditching the plastic - get enthusiastic!


Adam Valvasori - Not wrapped in plastic

09 January 2008

Indian Child Labour: Also Not Cricket!






























LITTLE HELP? In this photograph, Nurba Kahtun, a seven-year-old girl, breaks stones on the bank of India's Balason river. (Strdel/AFP/Getty Images)

Maybe I'm the only guy in Australia who's sick of all this India vs Australia cricket controversy. But I just feel like shouting:
It's only a game for crying out loud!


It's all the media is interested in at the moment - furious Indian cricket fans, burning effigies of umpires. This just seems to be an utterly ridiculous waste of rage to me so I thought I'd share some other things Indians could get passionate about besides cricket.

Poverty is still a massive problem effecting human rights in India. Even though their economy is booming - the wealth is not trickling down to the millions of people living in poverty:
  • 47% of Indian kids under five (1996-2005) are suffering from being moderately to severely underweight.
  • The flip side to the boom in India's economy has been an over 10% increase in the number of child labourers in the decade since the opening up of the market, according to a study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The Indian Government says there are 12 million child laborers in India although activists say the real number is closer to 60 million!!
  • UNICEF statistics show that 46% of children are still being forced into child marriages in India.
Surely these are some issues more worthy of everyone's passion and outrage? Child labour is something that I'm particularly angry about. It's an abhorrent yet still mainly invisible and accepted form of slavery. It should be outlawed! If you're interested in helping rescue children around the world from child labour, child trafficking and sexual exploitation, World Vision has a special Child Rescue pledge program for $15 a month.

Be empowered, watch this Child Rescue video:







Adam Valvasori - Values Manager

07 January 2008

Our 2008 East Timor Playscheme Volunteers


View Larger Map

"No man stands as tall as when he bends down to help a child." James Baldwin

Five volunteers are standing tall right now - they've been selected from a heap of The Body Shop staff applications to head to the remote, southern village of Viqueque in East Timor (Zoom in on the green marker in the above map).

They will be helping to run a fantastic scheme by Children On The Edge that starts in early March. Children in the community will be able to come to a safe space, to learn, play and just be normal kids - an opportunity we take for granted here in Australia.

A normal childhood is one of the first things stolen by poverty. When all hands are forced to be on deck in order to find enough food to feed the family; human rights to education and for children not to have to work - simply aren't a priority.

Children on the Edge's vision is a world without suffering, where all children are able to grow-up in a loving and stable environment; a world in which all children regardless of their race, nationality or parentage have equal access to their rights and the opportunities that will allow them to fulfill their potential wherever they may be in the world. Here are our volunteers that share that vision - I'm sure we'll hear more from in the coming months:

Kerry Robinson - Team Leader, Retail Support Centre
Amber Taylor - Collins Street, Melbourne Store
Mandy Glassey - Epping Store
Katie Phillips - The Glen Store
Lauren Mair - The Body Shop Children's Centre.


Here are some alarming stats about East Timor - the poorest country in Asia and remember just an hour's flight from Darwin:
  • Only 27.3 % of East Timorese live in urban areas (2005) and roads which have been destroyed in war or fallen into disrepair mean it’s extremely difficult for the majority of everyone to access essential services.
  • Average life expectancy = 56 years of age (2004) (Australia = 80.5)
  • Infant Mortality = 52 for every 1,000 births (Australia = 5 per 1,000 births) (2005)
  • Child Mortality (Deaths before the age of 5): 61 children die for every 1,000. (Australia = 6) (2005)
  • Births Attended by skilled personnel = 18% (1996-2004) (Australia = 100%)
  • Human Development Index = 142nd (Australia = 3rd)
  • Percentage of children under weight for age (under age 5) = 46% (Australia = not available) (1996-2005)
  • Percentage of undernourished population = 9% (Australia = under 2.5%) (2002-2004 average)
  • Population with access to improved water = 58% (Australia = 100%) (2004)
  • Population with access to improved sanitation = 36% (Australia = 100%) (2004)
  • Literacy average = 58.6% (Australia = 99%) (2003).
  • Only 41.6 % of the population under 15 years of age is enrolled in education (2004)
  • Physicians = 10 per 100,000 people (Australia = 247 per 100,000 people) (1990-2004)
  • GNI per capita = US$600 -that’s only about US$2.3 a day! (Australia = US$3,3120) (2005)

Good Luck Viqueque '08 Team! And thanks to everyone who applied for a volunteer position or helped raise money for the centre throughout the year by selling or buying our uber cool Community Trade Tri-Massagers!


Adam Valvasori - Values Manager

02 January 2008

Cool NASA Scientists Prove: It's Getting Hot In Here!



I don't care what you say, those NASA scientists *cough* nerds *cough* can be useful for more than just collecting Martian rocks. Joking aside, they make a convincing and frightening case to get off our behinds and do something about climate change! Who can argue with what you can see with your own eyes? NASA are also developing satellites that can detect your apathy, so if you want to avoid their prying eyes quickly:
  • make the switch to green energy.
  • buy energy efficient light globes.
  • switch everything off at the wall when you're not using it.
  • write your local MP a note telling them you think it's urgent they continue to lead the climate change action agenda at the international level!
Watch the below Tour of the Cryospehere NASA video to learn more about the damage being done by global warming to our polar icecaps.



The Body Shop is continuing to look for ways to reduce our environmental footprint. For example last year we switched all our stores and offices to 100% accredited wind energy - it was a breeze! (pardon the pun). Read more about our environmental policies.


More: Read Grist's Top Green Stories from 2007


Adam Valvasori - Values Manager
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