In Episode 54 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on March 17, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons continues his conversations with attendees of Natural Products Expo West 2012 in Anaheim.  The show sees nearly 60,000 attendees and more than 2,000 exhibitors showcasing their products, including a wide range of natural living products, specialty foods, natural ingredients, supplements, and health and beauty aids.  In addition there are numerous seminars and presentation, as well as informal discussions on topics from fair trade and supply chain issues to organic labeling and greenwashing. 

Photo of Arran Stephens, President & Founder of Nature's Path

Arran Stephens, President & Founder of Nature's Path, talks GMOs

In this episode, Dick talks with Arran Stephens, President and Founder of Nature’s Path, an organic cereal manufacturer in North America. The two discuss Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, and their impact on our ecosystem and food supplies. In California, there is currently a signature campaign to put a proposition on the ballot that, if passed, would require product labeling so consumers will know whether their food has been made with genetically modified organisms. 

 

What’s a GMO?

To genetically modify plants, bacterial DNA is spliced into the DNA of the plant.  The bacterial DNA then may make the plant produce its own bacterial pesticide, thereby reducing the need for chemical pesticides (at least in theory), or make it more resistant to herbicide.  The modified plant becomes a transgenic organism because it has had the genes of another organism spliced into its genome.

Whether humans consume GMOs directly by eating transgenic plants or indirectly through animals that have been fed GMO feed, GMOs are common in our supermarkets.  In fact, Arran claims that about 85% of all foods consumed from our supermarkets contain GMO ingredients. There is little known about whether there may be long term consequences.

Since labeling is not currently required in the U.S. or Canada, it’s hard for consumers to know whether their food contains GMOs. Around 50 other countries in the world currently require labeling, from Japan to Germany and Brazil to Saudi Arabia.

 

How can you avoid GMOs?

U.S. consumers can avoid eating transgenic food by choosing to eat certified organic food. If a food wears the USDA Organic Seal, the product can be traced back to the source. However, even that doesn’t account for “drift” in our agricultural system.  A field of corn or soy that is grown organically may still get some amount of background or trace contamination from naturally occurring cross-pollination with neighboring fields that have been planted with GMO plants. 

Nature’s Path and many other concerned food manufacturers participate in a voluntary program, the Non-GMO Project, which was started in 2005. It’s a non-profit organization that puts products through lab testing to determine if there are trace amounts of GMOs. The testing is expensive, but many food producers, especially those who operate on a high-volume scale, find that it is worth the expense.

For Arran and others in the non-GMO movement, the first big battle is to require labeling that will allow consumers to freely choose.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Arran Stephens:  Episode 54 of The Wendel Forum (27:51 mins; mp3)

Nature’s Path website: www.naturespath.com

Non-GMO Project website: www.nongmoproject.org

Natural Products Expo West 2012 website: http://www.expowest.com/ew12/public/enter.aspx

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

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In Episode 53 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on March 10, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons visits Natural Products Expo West 2012 in Anaheim.  The show sees 60,000 attendees and more than 2,000 exhibitors showcasing their products including a wide range of natural living products, specialty foods, natural ingredients, supplements, and health and beauty aids.  In addition there are numerous seminars and presentation, as well as informal discussions on topics from fair trade and supply chain issues to organic labeling and greenwashing. 

While attending the Expo, Dick had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Roquemore, Outreach Coordinator with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), on the topic of palm oil, a product that appears in nearly 50% of the food on your grocer’s shelves and in products as diverse as toothpaste and laundry detergent.

Although palm oil is a widely-used product, most people have no idea how prevalent it is in our food stream. Nor do they realize the environmental impact its cultivation has on our planet.  In recent years, the high demand for palm oil has contributed to the deforestation of many tropical regions.  UCS claims that 15% of emissions that cause global warming come from tropical deforestation (more than all cars, planes, trucks and ships combined).  The connection between deforestation and emissions is not obvious. However, trees can be viewed as big carbon storage devices.  They absorb carbon dioxide out of the air as they grow.  When trees are cut down and burned or left to rot, the carbon they have stored is released back into the atmosphere.  In addition, deforestation has destroyed habitat for numerous animals and leads to loss of biodiversity.

Of course balancing the needs of the supply chain, the environment and local economies in (often) poor regions of the world is a challenging proposition.  But there are some bright spots.  Sarah suggests that there is movement on multiple fronts to address this problem, including promoting changes to the way we grow and produce vegetable oil, local jurisdictional controls on farming practices, and consumer campaigns that have changed the practices of companies who use the oil.

A relatively recent example of a successful consumer-driven corporate shift on palm oil sourcing happened in 2010 with Nestlé.  After being targeted for their use of palm oil from sources of deforestation in a public campaign, led largely by Greenpeace, Nestle has adopted Responsible Sourcing Guidelines. The company has committed to “ensuring that its products do not have a deforestation footprint,” according to its website.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is another growing resource in the fight to produce palm oil in a more responsible way. This group actively looks to improve the sourcing options, simplify the distribution channels and verify the supply chain for palm oil.  But it’s a complex problem, and some feel that the group has not gone far enough in establishing guidelines and certifications. 

In the meantime, the Union of Concerned Scientists will continue their program to publicize the issue, taking knowledge to product manufacturers and the public. 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Sarah Roquemore:  Episode 53 of The Wendel Forum(27:53 mins; mp3)

UCS Report “Recipes for Success: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Vegetable Oils”: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/forest_solutions/deforestation-free-vegetable-oils.html

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil website: http://www.rspo.org/

Greenpeace follow up story on Nestle campaign (dated 5/23/2011): http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/One-year-after-Nestle-committed-to-giving-rainforests-a-break–what-has-been-achieved/

Nestlé Responsible Souring Guidelines: http://www.nestle.com/Common/NestleDocuments/Documents/Media/Statements/2011-Nestle_Responsible_Sourcing_Guidelines.pdf 

Natural Products Expo West 2012 website: http://www.expowest.com/ew12/public/enter.aspx

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

In Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on February 2, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons welcomes Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors, LLC, a San Francisco Bay Area-based private equity fund focused on investments in natural food and product companies and technology that supports healthy lifestyles.

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart has been committed to investing in these types of companies for more than 30 years. His interest in companies with a focus on sustainability and healthy lifestyles emerged from his personal development as a yoga practitioner and vegetarian.  As healthy living became more important to him, he also moved toward investing in sustainably-minded companies.

In the early days, he found himself involved in companies in areas ranging from wind power to rice growers who had developed a closed-loop system that used the stalks for rice paper, rather than burning them.

Dick and Stuart discuss the investing trends they have observed during the past couple of decades and the rise of the natural food and organic products marketplace.  Stuart had a front row seat to the evolution of some of today’s well-known companies, such as Whole Foods Market, Seventh Generation and Odwalla.

Mindful Investors’ current interests focus on consumer facing companies in areas such as food and beverage, healthcare and technology platforms that support healthy lifestyles. Not surprising, there is a lot of activity in web and mobile development that supports functionality for applications such as bar codes to track the carbon footprint of a product, rich media like video to promote products, and platforms for distributing coupons and discounts.

Stuart shares the Mindful Investors approach to investing, including insights into time horizons and exit expectations related to investments in their portfolio.  He also acknowledges some of the challenges and strategies related to ensuring that when a company is sold, the parent company keeps the integrity of the product post-sale. 

As one of the early B Corps, he’s also a fan of the recently enacted legislation in California for Benefit Corporations (AB 361 – Huffman), which Wendel Rosen attorney Donald Simon had a hand in drafting.

So what is Stuart’s advice for young businesses? 

  • Realize from the start that you will need to raise capital, and a lot more than you think you’ll need. 
  • Bring in like-minded investors who are connected to your values in order to build trust. 
  • Bring in experienced senior level people to advise and guide you through your growth to better avoid errors and accelerate the growth of your company.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Stuart Rudick:  Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(27:37 mins; mp3)

Mindful Investors website:  www.mindfulinvestors.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

What does the Iberian Lynx have to do with a bottle of wine?  The Cork Forest Conservation Alliance. 

In Episode 48 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on January 28, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo welcomes Patrick Spencer, Executive Director of Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA).

Originally founded in 2008 as Cork ReHarvest, the Oregon-based CFCA is a nonprofit that campaigns globally for the protection and preservation of the Mediterranean cork forests, its inhabitants (including the Iberian Lynx) and biodiversity, through education, direct action, and partnerships with communities, businesses and governments. In addition to the group’s educational campaigns, a major piece of their work is to collect and recycle cork before it reaches a landfill. Bill and Patrick discuss the group’s four main areas of focus, and the new “Real Cork Inside” program.

Recycling

CFCA has developed a distribution network to collect used wine natural corks and recycle them close to where they are collected, thereby reducing the carbon footprint in the recycling circle.  Whole Foods Markets, with drop off locations in their 300 stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., is by far their largest partner.  There are many other locations in the network with drop-off locations from Surry, British Columbia to Austin, Texas.  Once collected, the cork is recycled into products including cork floor tiles and numerous industrial and consumer products.

Education

A primary mission of the organization is to educate the wine community, various manufacturers and consumers regarding the sustainability of cork.  The group frequently participates in outreach, sustainability seminars and conferences, and hospitality industry programs to correct some common misperceptions about the harvesting of cork. Cork is actually the bark of certain oak trees.  Patrick explains that, contrary to popular belief, the trees are not cut down in order to harvest the cork. It is harvested by hand by individual family farmers working the 6.6 million acres in the Mediterranean cork forest region. The bark re-grows and is harvested about every 9 years from trees that can live up to 300 years.

Stewardship

CFCA works with local governments and with other nonprofit organizations throughout the world to become a central hub for information, education and advocacy related the harvest of cork.

Environmental business development

To further the mission of the organization, CFCA actively works with companies looking to up-cycling spent wine cork. Using natural cork in other products diverts large quantities of waste from landfills and offers many businesses a more sustainable alternative in the production of goods and products. By working with business leaders in a variety of industries, the group is able to identify new opportunities to create all kinds of environmentally favorable applications – from flooring in schoolyard playgrounds to bobbers for fishing.

The “Real Cork Inside” programLook for the Acorn - Real Cork Inside logo

The “Real Cork Inside” ™ certification program was developed to help wineries let consumers know that they have committed to using natural cork in bottling their wines. Because most wineries put foil or plastic capsule over the top of the bottle, a consumer often can’t see if the bottle uses natural or synthetic cork. Now consumers can look for an acorn symbol on the bottle that indicates the winery is committed to using natural cork closures. This trademark logo is licensed by CFCA to certified wineries in the program and gives the consumer the power of choice.

 

Post Links:

Listen to the interviews with Patrick Spencer:  Episode 48 of The Wendel Forum (27:41 mins; mp3)

Cork Forest Conservation Alliance website: www.corkforest.org

Whole Foods Market cork program press release: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/pressroom/blog/2010/04/06/whole-foods-market%c2%ae-partners-with-cork-reharvest-to-recycle-wine-corks-help-save-mediterranean-cork-forests/

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

Photo of Zem Joaquin

Zem Joaquin, founder and editor of ecofabulous®

In Episode 46 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on January 14, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo chats with Zem Joaquin, founder and editor of ecofabulous®, a trusted online resource for stylish sustainable living.

In her conversation with Bill, Zem discusses her journey of self discovery that led to the founding of the company.  Through her personal experiences with products ranging from cleaning supplies to toys that contributed to her own children’s health problems, she started her exploration to identify more sustainable products to create a healthier home for her family.  Immersing herself in this research for her own life, she soon realized that most families would not have the time to dedicate to the level of research she was able to perform.  Out of this idea, ecofabulous® was born. 

She delved deeply into all things a greener home might require, from building materials and interior design elements to the products found in the home’s walls.  With her knowledge and passion she created an online space where she could share what she learned, offering mothers and fathers everywhere reliable and trusted information on products that would be healthier alternatives for their families.  She shares her tips and inspiration in areas ranging from home décor and fashion to tech products.

Zem understands that sifting through the product choices leading to healthier living can be overwhelming to someone who doesn’t have the bandwidth to dedicate to extensive research, so she strives to make greener choices accessible, easy and fun. 

As she says in the interview:

“Eco-inspiration mobilizes.

Eco-guilt paralyzes.”

Listen to the episode to hear more about what inspires Zem, big projects in the works at ecofabulous®, and Zem’s picks for top eco-trends in 2012. 

What’s your greener style secret?  We’d love to hear about your great green finds for a healthy home. 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Zem Joaquin: Episode 46 of The Wendel Forum (27:16 mines; mp3)

Ecofabulous® website: www.ecofabulous.com 

960 KNEW AM Radio (formerly GREEN 960 AM) website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 31 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on September 10, 2011, on Green 960 AM radio) Danny Ronen and Jean-Francois Daniel of The Fair Trade Spirits Company sit down with show host Bill Acevedo to explain how what you drink can make a difference. 

Quinoa vodka?  That’s right.  This company brings together French distillers and Bolivian farmers for an award winning product (nominated Best Tasting Vodka 2009 at the New York Spirits Awards and Gold Medal at the Chicago Beverage Testing Institute 2009).  Their other products include such Fair Trade ingrediants as goji fruit (the fruit that contains most antioxidants in the world) and coffee.
 
Photo of Products from Fair Trade Spirits Company

Fair Trade Spirits Company products sold under the FAIR label

With plants and production facilities in France, they are using their commitment to sustainability and Fair Trade to ensure a direct relationship between farmers and consumers.  They discuss the importance of creating a sustainable product without compromising taste and quality. 
 
 

Did you know that September 19 – 25 is the Fifth Annual San Francisco Cocktail Week

 

Show note:

Tune in Saturday, September 17, 2011 at 11:30 am when Bill interviews Ashok Kamal of Bennu and Dean LaTourrette of Save the Waves to discuss our environment through the lens of our world’s oceans.

 

Post links:

Listen to the interview with Fair Trade Spirits Company: Episode 31 of The Wendel Forum(27:48 mins, mp3)

Fair Trade Spirits company website:  http://www.fairtradespirits.com/

Green 960 AM radio: www.green960.com

Bill Acevedo website bio: www.wendel.com/wacevedo

Fifth Annual San FranciscoCocktail Week:  http://sfcocktailweek.com/about.html

 

In Episode 28 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on August 20, 2011, on Green 960 AM radio), guest Thomas Simone, President and CEO of Simone & Associates,  shares with show host Dick Lyons  his perspective on the investment landscape for health and natural products.  He’s got a long history in the business, having work with companies including United Natural Foods (distributor for Whole Foods) and Spectrum Organics (oils and supplements), among many others.  His early involvement in this industry started around 20 years ago, after watching his daughter’s interest in natural products.

Tom Simone of Simone & Associates

Tom Simone, CEO of Simone & Associates

Over the years, he’s seen this industry as one of the highest growth areas in the economy.  What common denominators for success does he see?  The successful companies all start with a great team. Products don’t build a company, the people do.  An operating action plan is critical.  Tom is able to bring infrastructure and practical advice to start up company teams to help them turn their visions into sustainable enterprises.

He discusses the triple bottom line and its impact on investment decisions. He offers insight into how investors might go about valuing a business, how profits and prospects affect the valuation, and what kind of return investors might expect out of a business opportunity.

This is a man who knows the natural food and product landscape; in fact he’s been instrumental in shaping it.  We hope you enjoy what he has to say.  

SHOW NOTES:

Tune in to Green 960 AM radio tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. (Pacific) to hear an interview with Nick Flores of Investor’s Circle. 

 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Tom Simone:  Episode 28 of The Wendel Forum  (mp3, 27 min 48 sec)

About show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

 

Jose Corona of Inner City Advisors

Jose Corona of Inner City Advisors

In Episode 27 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on August 13, 2011), Jose Corona, Cheif Executive Officer of Inner City Advisors (ICA), shares with show host Dick Lyons how the organization promotes the competitive advantages of locating a business in an inner city neighborhood.

Founded in 1996 in Oakland, the nonprofit group was born out of a Harvard Business School initiative.  Its mission is to help both companies and communities by promoting the advantages of locating in inner city neighborhoods and by providing companies with the advice and resources to grow their businesses.

Currently, they use a three-pronged approach:

1) They offer portfolio companies a network of experienced advisors that can provide both strategic and tactical, real-world advice to address the company’s business problems.

2) They provide an advanced entrepreneur program, modeled after a Stanford business course, to provide company leaders with the education they need.

3) They are developing a network of capital sources, including an ICA fund, to help portfolio companies grow when they’re ready.

Among their portfolio are several familiar names in the green community.  Who have they helped?  Well, here are a few names that you may recognize:

ICA is doing some great work.  And the proof is in the numbers.  Jose shares some inspiring statistics in his interview.  The companies in their portfolio are creating jobs and infusing wages and wealth into inner city neighborhoods. 

Let us know what other innovative business growth programs you see out there!

SHOW NOTE: Tune in to The Wendel Forum on Green 960 AM radio tomorrow, August 20, at 11:30 a.m. for an interview with health and natural product investment expert Thomas Simone.

Post Links:

Listen to interview with Jose Corona: Episode 27 of The Wendel Forum (mp3, 27.47 min.)

Inner City Advisors website: http://innercityadvisors.org/

ICA Case Study about Premier Organics: http://innercityadvisors.org/companies/portfolio/premier-organics/

Dick Lyons bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

You’ve got to love a sustainable business whose slogan is “Change Starts With Your Underwear.” 

PACT is a Berkeley, California-based company that makes organic underwear with a social mission.  Listen to PACT co-founder and CEO Jason Kibbey in a discussion that traces this company’s path from a business school idea to a thriving company with a national distribution on the internet and in boutique retail outlets. 

In Episode 26 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on August 6, 2011, on Green 960 AM radio), Jason shares with show host Dick Lyons  how the company’s values for sustainability and social impact affect all aspects of the supply chain, including sourcing the organic cotton, product manufacturing, distribution and packaging. 

The company initially launched as an e-commerce product and is now found in about 50 stores, including boutiques and Nordstrom’s.  Not only do they make a sustainable product (even the shipping bags are 100% compostable), in addition their social impact mission includes incorporating business solutions such as working with a third-party logistics service that offers employment training and paid work opportunities to adults with developmental disabilities. 

Other discussion topics include the PACT model for impact giving, what the company did as a start up to tap into early funding sources, and the desire to add fun to environmental activism.

Want to know what the name PACT represents?  You’ll have to listen to the show to find out.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Jason Kibbey:  Episode 26 of The Wendel Forum  (27 min 36 sec)

PACT company website: http://www.wearpact.com/

About show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

In the second part of our two part series, show host Dick Lyons chats with three more finalist companies from this year’s San Francisco Business Times Cleantech & Sustainability Awards, held on June 16, 2011.  In Episode 22 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on July 2, 2011), Dick learns more about the following companies:
 

Winner: Cleaire (interview with Brad Edgar, President and CTO, and Gale Plummer, CEO)
Category: Transportation

Description: Based in San Leandro, Cleaire designs and manufactures diesel engine filtration systems that could be used to remove particulate matter from exhaust in one million diesel engines in California –- and an estimated potential universe of 40-50 million vehicles already in service world wide.  They distribute and service the technology through a qualified dealer network whose customers include fleets of buses, construction equipment and trucks.

Winner: Solazyme (interview with Harrison Dillon, Co-Founder, President and Chief Technology Officer)
Category: Sustainable Fuels/Chemicals

Description: Solazyme makes oil – all kinds.  Their renewable oils are used in applications ranging from jet fuel to food products.  Dillon and his partner, CEO Jonathan Wolfson, started the company eight years ago in a garage in Palo Alto (where have we heard a story like that before?), originally setting  out  to make a diesel oil substitute from algae.  Since then, they’ve expanded to be able to custom design oils that can be used in a multitude of products.  Their oil can even be found in natural products carried by retailers such as Whole Foods and GNC.  By putting these healthy oils into food products, they are able to take out the saturated fat and keep the products both low fat and satisfying.

Winner: Driptech (interview with Peter Frykman, CEO)
Category: Water

Description:  Driptech makes affordable drip irrigation systems that allow small-plot famers in developing countries to have access to the same water-efficient irrigation that large plot farmers have used for decades.   The key to the technology (which includes some nifty precision laser manufacturing technology) is distributed local manufacturing.  Amazing what a class project at Stanford might turn into!

Coming up this week:

Tune in Saturday morning (July 9) to hear from a company that gives collective buying power to individual employees in organizations for home energy improvements (such as solar panels, insulation and water heaters).   If you’re out of radio signal range, remember you can always click the “Listen Live” button on the station’s website at www.green960.com

Post Links:

Listen to the Interviews: Episode 22 of The Wendel Forum(22.17 mins)

Cleaire website: http://www.cleaire.com

Solazyme website: http://www.solazyme.com/

Driptech website: http://driptech.com/

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

About show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons