Category Archives: Social Goodness

Social goodness: climbing the ladder of social goodness

Maimonides, a twelfth century scholar, defines eight levels of what we today call “social goodness”.  The top rung on the ladder is to support a person with a gift or loan or by entering into a partnership or finding employment for a person in order to give them the assist they need to become independent.

Global Mamas is a company whose work operates at that top level each and every day. If you want to understand what social goodness is all about, what Fair Trade is about, how worldwide gender inequality depresses economic advancement for all of us and how focusing efforts like Global Mamas on women can benefit us all, or the tremendous power of cooperation, visit their excellent and informative website.

One set of statements that grabbed my attention was the following: “Gender inequality contributes to a cycle of discrimination in both the private and public sphere. Inside the home, women may lack voice in household decision-making and girls are often the first to be denied access to education and good nutrition if the household budget is insufficient to cover expenses. Outside the home, women experience diminished options for work, most often limited to low-paying, low-skill jobs with little opportunity for advancement. In fact, while women’s work represents 66% of the world’s working hours and produces half of the world’s food, women earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. Thus, women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty, a phenomenon termed the “feminization of poverty”. According to some estimates, females represent 70% of the world’s poor….

“Research has shown that men are more likely to spend disposable income on consumables, while women tend to make investments for the longer-term well being of their family. The World Bank found that extra income controlled by women correlates with increased probability that children go to school and maintain good health than if income had been controlled by fathers. Thus, financial resources put into the hands of women can be seen as an investment into the overall nutritional, health and educational status of the family unit.”

The thoughtfulness and expertise behind Global Mamas is impressive on every page of their website, where we are introduced to eight founders, six women producers from Ghana and two consulting on business and management from North America. We learn of their clearly defined mission and how each step they take furthers that mission. We can track the success of the organization, measured both in numbers and in “dreams realized”. That 2003 founding group of eight women is today more than 550 Ghanian producers in eight Ghanian locations and one additional office in the U.S.

Each Ghanian producer earns on average 75% more than the minimum wage. Each of the 116 Mama business owners employs an average of 2 more women. Each woman cares for several family members and purchases goods and services on their behalf in the community. Many women work from home or go into production facilities owned by Global Mamas.

All of this came from the efforts of six strong and enterprising but struggling women in Ghana and two young women who came to their country through the Peace Corps and fell in love with it and with them. This business model demonstrates not only the strength and clarity of purpose of these women of vision but the tremendous power of cooperation.

We congratulate Ghanian founders, Alise Korsah, Elizabeth Ampiah, Emma Myers, Esther Gyiepi Garbrah, Florence Thompson, Hannah Dodor, and American founders, Renae Adam and Kristin Johnson on creating a business that is contributing in such positive ways to the world, one woman at a time.

We are proud to carry Global Mamas products at Green Box Boutique and hope to have more soon. Stop in to check out these delightful boys and girls clothing items and accessories. There’s lots more room up there on the eighth rung of the ladder!

Chocolate: Not always a simple pleasure

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Chocolatl, Aztec for “warm liquid”, takes us back to the origins of a treat that today is a worldwide favorite. The Aztecs learned cultivation of cacao from the Mayans who preceded them. Cacao trees originated in the rainforests of Central America, and chocolate has a 2000 year history with human beings.

The Aztecs maintained huge cacao bean warehouses. The Aztec warrior and ruler, Montezuma, drank 50 cups a day of the “warm liquid” from a golden goblet. When Hernando Cortez, the Spanish general and explorer, arrived in Central America, Montezuma feted him and his troops, introducing them to the Aztecs’ favorite beverage.

Cortez wrote enthusiastically to the Spanish King that “One cup of this precious beverage allows one to walk an entire day without further nourishment”. In this statement are the beginnings of our latter day fascination with the health properties of chocolate. Also thanks to Cortez and the Spanish, we acquired an addictive taste for chocolate combined with sugar, not part of the original Aztec power beverage.

By the late 19th century, the center of cacao bean production moved to the west coast of Africa, which today produces 72% of the beans sold worldwide. By 1980, Côte d’Ivoire/The Ivory Coast took over the lead role in cacao bean production from Ghana. Today the two nations provide 35% and 21% respectively of the world’s supply.

The troubled history and economies of this area, colonized by Europeans, exploited for slaves for the developing United States, and with weak independent states struggling with ethnic diversity, complicate the issues that surround cacao bean production. Corrupt governments tax family farm operations heavily that are already below subsistence level. These governments provide few or no benefits for those tax dollars.

Starving children are lured into or forced into slave labor situations. In some cases, it is simply a reality of the harsh life on family farms in the interior regions of cacao-producing countries that children must work, often tasked with unsafe jobs including handling pesticides and machetes.

Large chocolate companies responding to a worldwide demand for cheap chocolate tended to overlook labor issues until 2002 when public outcry demanded attention to them. In that year, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture investigated the prevalence of child labor in the cocoa industry and found 284,000 children working in hazardous conditions in West Africa. 64% of the children were younger than 14 and 40% of the children were girls. They often began working at 6 AM, worked 12-hour days and were beaten regularly.

An effort Congress initiated in response to that study to apply “slave-free” labels to chocolate that qualified was blocked by lobbyists. Under the Harkin-Engel Protocol, the industry finally agreed to a self-regulating mechanism to reduce or remove the most egregious practices from their supply chain by 2005 and to educate local citizens to the problems inherent in child labor. Some tiny steps resulted, including creation of the ICI, International Chocolate Initiative in 2010, which institutes local social improvement projects. Currently, however, full compliance deadlines are reset (again) for the future, this time, 2020. The bigger problem is that the entire effort is voluntary, and there are no sanctions for non-compliance.

The countries involved with child labor and slavery are:

  • Côte d’Ivoire/The Ivory Coast
  • Ghana
  • Cameroon
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Nigeria
  • Togo

US State Department figures today estimate that 10,000 children in the Ivory Coast are victims of slavery or human trafficking. The numbers for children that are subject to “the worst kinds of child labour” reach up to 109,000 (International Labour Rights Forum).

In the last ten years, the Chocolate industry spent $75 million on “activities related to” the reduction of child labour (Responsible Cocoa). The revenue for the chocolate industry in 2010 was $83.2 billion. This means that the industry has invested a mere 1/1000th of its profit in improving working conditions in the countries on which it relies.

The child labor and slavery issues resist resolution due to ongoing war and corruption in the countries at issue and the terrible poverty in which so many live. Often the owners of family farms that use their own children for labor fear that changes in the status quo like sanctions against cacao bean producing countries will only make their situation worse. Lobbyists for the chocolate industry used a similar argument, that legislation in the industry with teeth in it would hurt not help the labor situation in those countries.

Still, it does seem as though the chocolate industry must be held more accountable by external regulation and enforcement. At the very least, much more of the huge industry profit should bypass corrupt local governments and go directly to improving the living conditions of those who produce it.

In the meantime, we do have Fair Trade labels, and what this means is that you can purchase and enjoy chocolate knowing that it was produced sustainably without using child and slave labor. One of our favorite labels is Wei of Chocolate.

Business is beautiful: thanks social entrepreneurs!

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We live in exciting times. How do we know? Big data tells us!

Sometimes the numbers and tools that seem so mundane and unexciting are just the things that reveal what is so exciting and beautiful. Love is good business — great phrase, stirring and inspirational words, but it’s numbers that make us aware of the power of those words.

As it does everything else in our contemporary world, data not only tracks but drives social entrepreneurship, a phenomenon which is here to stay.

Data, for example, signalled the need for more education, training and programming to prepare young entrepreneurs to enter this rapidly growing sector of the economy. In 2015, 4 million students earned degrees. Of those 4 million, 55% report that a concern for social causes will influence their job decisions. Some describe “an explosion” in social entrepreneurship programming with 148 program centers across 350 countries. Top business schools offer twice as many classes in not-for-profit management as in 2013.

So what is social entrepreneurship, and how does it differ from traditional not-for-profit service organizations and conventional business models? Social entrepreneurship is about producing a good or service to solve social challenges and issues. Conventional businesses measure success based on profit and returns, but social entrepreneurial businesses also consider their social impact. On the other hand, the financial structure of a business directed toward the social good is at least partially based on the business’ own revenues.

Social entrepreneurship, like crowd funding, evolved in an environment of decreased government funding. In The Power of Unreasonable People, John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan describe three types of social entrepreneurs’ business structures:

  1. Closest to the not-for-profit service organization model, this structure relies on available funds like tax dollars, loans and grants, although it tends to use its resources in more innovative ways, developing more innovative solutions.
  2. This hybrid incorporates profit to sustain its activity along with traditional not-for-profit sources of funding and as a result is better able to withstand market downturns and government cutbacks.
  3. The business model generates its own operating funds through profit but has broader goals than a conventional business.

Data provides lots of information about a social need or issue and the number and location of people affected by that issue. It also allows detailed measurements of how a business impacts the identified issue. Analyzing and determining what to do with data, however, isn’t always so easy. DataKind is one of many institutions and initiatives developing around the world to help businesses drive social change through data harvesting and analysis.

The Social Enterprise Alliance in its Tool Belt section identifies thirty sectors with social entrepreneurial enterprises, from microenterprise development to poverty alleviation and income generation to employment creation, to children and youth education and welfare, to health and nutrition, and many more.

The Great Social Enterprise Census provides us with these fascinating statistics:

  • 90% of these businesses work on domestic issues
    *there is an even mix between profit and not-for-profit businesses
  • Social entrepreneurism is a $300 million per year sector employing 14,000 people in 28 states (analysts point out that survey results are incomplete, and the number is closer to $500 billion, employing 10 million people and making up 3.5% of the GDP)
  • 40% of these businesses have fewer than 5 employees and 8% more than 100 employees
  • 20% impact U.S. economic development, 16% workforce development, 12% energy and environment, 11% education, and 7% work internationally

The most interesting data shows that 60% of these businesses were created in 2006 or later and 29%, almost 1/3, in the last five years since 2011. Social entrepreneurship is a recent and very rapidly growing phenomenon. It is a phenomenon which proves that necessity is the mother of invention with its rapid growth paralleling the Great Recession and significant changes in the U.S. economic climate. And it is a phenomenon that demonstrates what Anne Frank declared, that “people are basically good at heart.”

So data drives this powerful phenomenon, one which harnesses the idealism of young people who want to improve their world. It provides them with the hard information they require for their enterprises. It informs concerned consumers where they can shop. It helps investors understand what kind of capital will help the sector in which they are interested grow. Finally, it helps policymakers determine how to harness and support this energy to accomplish the greatest good.

Manufacturing Clothing in a Global Community

Mata Traders in action.
Mata Traders in action.

Some of us are old enough to remember a time when clothing was made in this country and featured “Union Made in the U.S.A.” tags, when it was durable, with things like invisible hems and additional fabric in the seams to allow alterations.

In the 1960s, “mod” designers introduced disposable clothing. It was also a time when the big discount retailers, like Walmart and Target, proliferated around the country.

In the 1970s, massive textile mills began opening around the world so that retailers could relocate or outsource their manufacturing operations, saving millions of dollars.

As of 2011, only 2% of clothing was made in the U.S.A. We probably also remember the campaign to purchase clothing and other items made in the U.S.A. It’s a push that hasn’t worked, and of course, it would take work away from deeply disadvantaged populations in places around the world if we returned the entire industry to the U.S. and closed down all those mills.

Yet every day we are more aware of factories that are really sweatshops, where pay is unlivable, where there are no benefits, where children work alongside adults, where the hours are long and the environment unsafe. “From 1990 to 2012, there were at least 33 major fire incidents at garment facilities in Bangladesh.”

These stories parallel our own history in the garment industry. In the Manhattan Triangle Shirt Factory fire of 1911, one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history, 146 garment workers died, many by falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were Italian and Jewish immigrants, aged 16-23. The youngest victims were 14 years old. The doors to the stairwells and exits had been locked to prevent unauthorized breaks and reduce theft.

In that case, the two owners were prosecuted for manslaughter. Although they were acquitted, they were later sued in a civil suit and forced to pay the families of those who died $75 per person. The owners’ insurance compensation amounted to about $400 per person. New York City’s Fire Chief, John Kenlon, told investigators that his department had identified more than 200 factories where conditions made a fire like what occurred at the Triangle Shirt Factory a possibility.

The fire led to legislation that improved factory safety standards and stimulated the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).

In recent years, social entrepreneurs have taken another approach than trying to persuade everyone to purchase US made clothing. Through the mechanism of their businesses, they address particular problems in the global social environment, particularly working conditions in disadvantaged areas. We featured several of these businesses in our blog, businesses whose clothing lines we proudly carry:

We’ve taken important steps in this country to ensure the safety of workers, to eliminate child labor and to provide adequate compensation for work. We need to do much more. But it’s also important to see ourselves as part of a global community, not only benefiting from its pool of laborers, but helping to improve their work situations. It’s called fair trade, and that’s what we support at Green Box Boutique.

Green Box Boutique: 5 Reasons to Visit Us Today

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Of course you want to stop into Green Box Boutique for a visit because you like us. But there’s more: of course you also want to stop in because we are in the heart of Woodstock On the Square that we all love.

Perhaps most importantly, though, we are at the heart of Woodstock’s sustainability movement, and that’s a big issue in our little town.

Did you know that Woodstock has its own sustainability plan, called the Woodstock Environmental Plan? In its opening paragraphs, the plan’s authors say, “The concept of sustainability holds the promise of long-term economic security, social equity and environmental integrity. It suggests that through increased self-sufficiency and responsibility, the production and consumption of goods and services can be maintained without harming the natural environment. ”

The Plan deals with all the environmental issues we expect in an agricultural area, but it also deals with issues like Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP), “the purchase of products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared to competing products that serve the same purpose.”

The McHenry County Green Guide, published yearly, provides a glimpse of the range of services available to assist those who want to live greener lives. You’ll find Green Box Boutique listed on page 32 of the 2015 edition, by the way, under clothes and accessories. We are proud to join the Woodstock Farmers Market, Environmental Defenders Green Spot and Expressly Leslie Vegetarian Specialties, also on the Square, Habitat for Humanity ReStore Woodstock, the Foodshed Coop, location yet to be announced, the Land Conservancy of McHenry County, and so many other organizations and businesses on and off the Square who are doing their part for sustainability.

And nearby in Crystal Lake, Duke’s Alehouse sponsors a Green Drinks monthly local environmental social networking event with speakers on eco-topics.

Our local community college, McHenry County College, features a Green Campus:

  • Green Campus including physical campus and campus operations
  • Green Education that includes curriculum development for a green economy and training for employees and students about sustainable practices
  • Green Community including how MCC shares with the community resources that improve quality of life

So many ways you can get help and information, and so many ways you can participate in making McHenry County and Woodstock in particular front and center in the movement toward sustainability in the 21st century.

Here are five reasons to stop into the Green Box Boutique today as part of your sustainability commitment in 2016:

  1. We do the research for you. We thoroughly vet all the products we carry to be certain they are part of the solution, not the problem.
  2. We carry products from many local vendors.
  3. We seek out vendors who produce clothing that is not only made with sustainable raw materials and non-toxic dyes but is crafted by workers who do their work in a safe, dignified environment and are pair fairly.
  4. Our products are beautiful and fun, and they grace your home with products that are good for you, good for the environment, and good for the workers who make them.
  5. You can enjoy your Green Box Boutique purchase at home while sipping on that delightful organic wine you picked up from us at the same time or savoring a bite of Wei of Chocolate.

If you’re not already part of the sustainability movement in Woodstock, why not join us today? Feel good inside and out, and help build a world where those who follow can do the same.

We wish you all a sharing, caring Christmas!

Adult and Child Therapy Services Holiday Giving Tree
Adult and Child Therapy Services Holiday Giving Tree

This year we’d like to wish everyone a sharing, caring Christmas and thank you, our customers, and our vendors for partnering with us to build a better world.

As our customers, you care about the people with whom we share our world and care about the environment.  You show your caring in your shopping choices. Every purchase you make at Green Box Boutique is one that shares with others by helping disadvantaged workers all over the world and by saving our beautiful world so future generations can enjoy it as well. We thank you so much for supporting this effort.

And we’d also like to thank our vendors, each of whom cares and shares in such amazing ways. We invite you to read about them in our blog and learn about their contributions, efforts you also support with your purchases at the Green Box Boutique:

And so many more that we haven’t had a chance to write about yet.

Thank you all, and have a wonderful, caring and sharing Christmas.

Pompeii Street Soap Company: Building Community

We're featuring Pompeii Street Soap Co. Peppermint soap, lotion and lip balm at Green Box Boutique, a delightful and thoughtful holiday gift.
We’re featuring Pompeii Street Soap Co. Peppermint soap, lotion and lip balm at Green Box Boutique, a delightful and thoughtful holiday gift.

When is a business more than a business? (No, this isn’t a knock-knock joke). A business is more than a business when it invests in social good, as more and more businesses do today. A business is more than a business when the goal of improving the world in some specific way is inextricably intertwined with the goal of bringing a particular product to the marketplace and selling it for a profit.

Pompeii Street Soap Company is one of these contemporary businesses that gives as much attention to their social goals as to their sales goals.  And Pompeii St. invests in community.

Says Jessica Grill, founder and owner of Pompeii St., “One of the reasons I quit my job and started a business in 2007 was because I felt as a small business owner, I could make more of an impact in my local community.” She spoke those words with reference to successfully completing a fundraising campaign for the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, a group that represents, supports and serves breast cancer survivors and their families in Pennsylvania through educational programming, legislative advocacy and breast cancer research grants. By making and selling Pink Grapefruit Soap in October and donating all proceeds to the organization, they doubled in one year the contribution they were able to make.

When Pompeii St. participated in the “Made in Mifflinburg” Campaign initiated by the Mifflinburg Heritage & Revitalization Association, a blogger for Handmade in PA, a blog from the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, said of the Company: “Not only do I admire Pompeii Street Soap Co. for their high quality natural products but also for their animal welfare efforts. Pompeii Street Soap Co. supports local animal welfare organizations…” with products like Dapper Dog Soap.

Handmade in PA tells Jessica’s story: Her interest in soap began when, frustrated with her own dry skin, she explored aromatherapy, then soaps, products she made in the basement of her home.

Her interest intensified after she read about the discovery of an intact soap factory discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, Italy, destroyed by earthquake in 79 c.e.  This shop is currently the oldest existing organized soap shop in the world. Jessica named her business to reflect her idea, to produce all-natural soaps in the traditional way.

Today her products are hand-made, hand-cut, and hand-labeled by Jessica’s small staff in her small workshop and store in Mifflinburg. If you visit Mifflinburg, you can catch the action. If you can’t visit Mifflinburg just yet, you can still get an idea of what Pompeii Street Soap Co. does and how they work in the video posted above.

So Pompeii Street Soap Co. is a Labor of Love all the way around, from a love of soaps and body products to a love of doing things the “old-fashioned way,” locally and by hand, to a love community and the people and other creatures who inhabit it.

Visit us at Green Box Boutique during this holiday season to see what else we have from Pompeii St. Soap Company.

Deck the halls (and your body with the perfect holiday dress)

Synergy Little Black Dress for the Holidays and Special Moments All Year 'Round
Synergy Little Black Dress for the Holidays and Special Moments All Year ‘Round

Are you looking for the perfect dress to wear through the holiday season? A dress that makes you look and feel good? A gift for yourself and a gift to the world?

At Green Box Boutique, we specialize in items that give in so many directions. Let’s look at two dresses we have for you to help you feel beautiful inside and out during this holiday season.

From Synergy, we have the beautiful Little Black Dress pictured above. Accessorized here with an Angelica Rustici necklace and an Ili World purse, the dress evidences the Synergy style, softly draping, body-hugging fabrics. It shares these other features with Synergy clothing:

  • 95% GOTS certified organic cotton melange fabric, 5% Spandex
  • Dyed with low-impact dyes
  • Cap sleeves
  • Decorative pleating on front
  • Fitted silhouette
  • Hem falls just above the knees
  • Hand wash, line dry
  • Made in Nepal

Stop in soon to pick up this beauty, because as of this writing, we have only three left. Oh, and don’t forget the Oka-b shoes!

Read more about Synergy and the great work they do as social entrepreneurs in our earlier post.

Poetry in Motion from Mata, a perfectly fun but classy and stylish dress for the holidays.
Poetry in Motion from Mata, a perfectly fun but classy and stylish dress for the holidays.

Or imagine yourself in this delightful Poetry in Motion Purple dress from Mata Traders. Mata describes it this way:

A peplum dress in gorgeous prints…be still our hearts! It’s extra fun styled with loafers, but you can also wear it with heels for work or play. Don’t be scared to pile on the jewelry, too!

  • 100% cotton
  • Hand screen printed
  • Deep scoop at back
  • Length of size M is 35″
  • Made at a fair trade women’s cooperative in Nepal

With characteristic Mata handwork, the dress is sure to shine as brightly as any holiday lights when you’re out celebrating. And as they say, don’t be scared to pile on the jewelry! We have so much from which you can choose at Green Box Boutique.

We have just five left of this special creation, Poetry in Motion. Stop in today to check it out.  And if you’d like to know more about this wonderful company and how you’re giving to others while you give to yourself, read our post, Mata Traders: Beautiful on Both Sides.

We love our vendors, their products and their commitment to social goodness. We’d like you to know as much about them as possible.  And we’d like to see you decking out the holiday season in these beautiful clothes!

Adult and Child Therapy Services: A Good Reason to Jump the Season

Adult and Child Therapy Services Holiday Giving Tree
Adult and Child Therapy Services Holiday Giving Tree

If you stop into Green Box Boutique these days, you will see a “Holiday Giving Tree” display from Adult and Child Therapy Services. We are proud to support this McHenry County-centered organization, whose first home was in Woodstock.

The ornaments in the display are all hand-painted by children served by ACTS. Your purchase will beautify your tree or the tree of anyone who receives it as a gift from you. At the same time, the money you spend on your purchase is a donation, in its entirety, to Adult and Child Therapy Services.

We often share information with you about many of our vendors, most of them “social goodness enterprises.” These businesses not only provide beautiful items for you to enjoy or give, but they address some social or environmental issue through their way of doing business.

Adult and Child Therapy Services takes a more traditional route to service. As a not-for-profit, the organization receives most of its support from Program Fees (covered by private and public insurance fees, United Way of McHenry County and Grants. Additional funds come from donations, events and projects like the Holiday Giving Tree.

These funds allow the organization to fulfill its mission, which is “to inspire hope, develop independence and promote well-being in our patients and their families through one-on-one physical, speech and occupational therapy. ACTS Vision is to inspire and develop independence one person, one family at a time.”

With a staff of just 12, the organization relies on volunteer assistance, and they invite you to connect with them. This small staff works out of two locations, one in Woodstock at 708 Washington St. The second location, opened in 2014, is in Huntley at 12189 Regency Parkway.

ACTS began its life in Woodstock in 1949 at the height of the polio epidemic. At that time, it was the McHenry County Chapter of Easter Seals in Woodstock. In 1994, the Board voted not to renew its franchise with Easter Seals, determining they could provide more therapy and nursing care for McHenry County as an independent organization. They became the Child Rehabilitation Center, a name they carried until 2010, when they became ACTS.

Today ACTS is a non-profit out-patient facility offering physical, speech and occupational therapy to men, women and children of all ages and income levels in McHenry County and beyond. These services include free developmental screenings for ages 0-3, and Fall Risk Assessments and Individual Exercise Programs for Seniors. Children in the Early Intervention Program are treated in their own homes.

In 2014, ACTS celebrated its 65th anniversary.  Today, we celebrate ACTS as we sponsor their Holiday Giving Tree.  ACTS says of their Tree, “We know you are planners. And while we don’t want to push Christmas before Thanksgiving, when you need an ornament this year for your tree – check out Green Box Boutique and purchase an ornament from the hands and hearts at Adult & Child.”

Please stop in to visit us in our beautiful new location On the Square, and when you do, be sure to get your beautiful hand-painted ornament. This holiday season, help us support ACTS and the families in McHenry County and beyond who depend on the services they provide.