Blog Archives: Ethics

Vegetarian: Becoming a part-timer because of the environmental impact

Before you read about my choice to become vegetarian, please think about what really matters to you.  Do you care about environmental sustainability?  Do you care about the rights and suffering of animals?  Do you care about the impact of food on your own health?

Whatever you care about most, I hope, drives your day-to-day decisions about the food you eat.

What impacts my decision to become vegetarian?

What I care about most is environmental sustainability – which has driven my choice about becoming vegetarian. Secondarily, I also care about my personal health, as well as having a concern about the treatment of animals in food production. On a scale of one to ten, this is how much I care about each of these three areas:

8/10 environmental sustainability
6/10 personal health impacts
3/10 treatment of animals

In May this year (2012) I chose to change my eating habits considerably. I chose to be a part-time vegetarian. The most important factor for my choice was my awareness of how much impact meat production has on climate change. I was flummoxed when I saw the evidence.

If you want to make one change to your lifestyle to significantly reduce your environmental impact, it’s to stop eating beef and dairy!

What I learned about meat production

  • Significant amounts of forests are cut down each year to make room for more land to produce more meat and dairy. 70% of the Amazon’s deforestation is used for pasture land.
  • When you cut down trees and burn them (which is the fastest way to clear land), you release all the carbon they captured from the atmosphere right back into the atmosphere as CO (carbon monoxide) and CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), which increases the carbon levels in the atmosphere and raises global temperatures. There is 50% more carbon stored in trees today, than there is in the atmosphere.
  • When you produce meat (especially beef) it takes a lot of water and energy. It takes approximately 16,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of beef. If you just switched from beef to pork, you would use 60% less water per kg of meat you ate.
  • Cows are remarkably bad for greenhouse-gas emissions. When they produce excrement they also produce methane. Methane is more than 20X more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse-gas.
  • Cattle excrement is a extreme pollutant to streams and waterways. It has a high amount of nitrogen in it, and when it gets into the waterways it reduces the oxygen in the water which makes being a fish or water-plant incredibly hard. We know all about this problem in New Zealand.

There are so many factors that just start to add up against consuming meat.

I’m a huge fan of making small changes in lifestyle that make a huge impact. So, when I found out that if I stopped my meat consumption, I could massively reduce my environmental impact, I was all for it.

By the way, I haven’t given up meat entirely, but I have reduced my consumption of meat by 80-85%. Now, as a vegetarian I eat lots more legumes, beans, eggs, tofu and meat substitutes.

I hope after giving you some food for thought, you will consider giving up meat (even, if only part-time), because “if all of us eat half as much meat, it would be like half of us are full time vegetarians.”

If you’re a big fan of videos (especially TED Talks), there’s a wonderful presentation by Graham Hill on why he is a week-day-vegetarian.

P.S. Here’s an infographic by GOOD IS that demonstrates just how much of an impact being vegetarian could have on your water footprint.

Oh, we’re building technology for vegans too. Check out Copono for more info.


A Solution for Women Seeking the Future of Equality

It is both shocking and interesting that the debate around women being treated less than equal is still going on in today’s society. After the huge leaps and bounds we have made as a human race, you would think a problem as small as this would be solved by now.

I hope in reading this blog post you seek to add to the conversation, take action or stand for moving this debate forward. It is time to move on. Specifically, I will be talking about the inequality in women’s salaries, some perspective on the debate, and some actions that will resolve this issue if we all take at least one.

I am a firm believer that people should and will be paid fairly for the value they provide to a business or society. However, to get what you think you are worth, you need to ask for it.

I think a contributory factor to the statistic that women get paid 13% less than men in the same position is that women are not asking for what they are worth. And if they are asking, then they are not standing for it with resilience. If you believe you are worth $78,000 p.a. then why would you accept any less?

There is a natural human tendency to make others feel small and inadequate, this comes from our survival instinct: “If you win, I lose. If I win, you lose.” But, we are no longer animals fighting to survive. So we need to let go of this mindset.

This is mostly in the mindset of the employer. Men have controlled the job market for centuries, and arguably still do “control it”. And, many men get off on the idea that they are powerful and superior to others, women especially. This superiority comes from a difference:

  • I am better because I am white.
  • I am better because I am older and have more experience.
  • I am better because I am a man.
  • I am better because _______.

Any difference I can find between you and me, is something I can be better at than you. And, that’s the mindset dominating our society.

We really have to start reflecting on our reasons for doing anything. Am I a CEO because I want to dominate and be more powerful than others? Or am I a CEO because I want to further grow and develop this organisation.

Honestly, if your answer was the latter, then this debate would not exist. If a women employee complains to you that she earns less than an equally-placed male staff member, and she is providing equal or greater value than the male member, why not give her the salary for which she asks? An empowered, respected employee will be loyal, hard-working and substantially more productive and value-adding. The cost of disempowering your staff is: (1) higher staff turnover, (2) higher human resource costs, (3) lost brand equity, and (4) lost productivity due to poor morale.

Is 13% really worth all that cost? Or could a 13% increase in salaries for women remove this dilemma, empower your staff and unlock the hidden potential in your organisation?

(I’d bet on the latter!)

On the other hand, women could be using this debate to dominate too. What if there are two employees – one male, one female – both doing the same job, with the same responsibility…and the salaries are different?

Well, it could be bias as we have already talked about. But, it could also be a material difference in performance. The male could actually be outperforming the female, and adding more value to the organisation. If that is the case, and the woman is using the defence of “You’re paying me less because I am a woman!” then that is not fair or just. You can be sure that there are some people playing this card in the real world.

Ultimately, the solution to both these problems is transparency. If everyone knows what everyone is earning, what value they are providing, what objectives they are achieving, and what they are delivering, there can be no argument. A male cannot argue that he should be paid more when all that information is open. A female can argue for equality when something is clearly not equal. Men cannot dominate based on superiority and an empty argument about “children” or “productivity” or risk.

Now, you might argue that being open about salaries can cause a lot of conflict. And, if inequality exists in the organisation, then clearly that will be the case. But if everyone is paid according to the value they create in the organisation, then these conflicts will be irrelevant and not based on evidence. There is nothing wrong with being paid more than another person. And nothing wrong with being paid less than another person.

If you believe you can provide more value, sit down with your boss and plan out how you will do that, demonstrate you have a plan, show how you will measure your value and what you add to the organisation. With a solid proposal you should definitely have cause for an increased salary.

If you don’t get accepted and supported for this, and excuses and reasons come into play…First, listen to the reasons. Are they justified? Are they founded in reality? Do they make sense? Or are they egotistical? If you end up in an organisation or with a boss that doesn’t empower you, you need to make a choice: leave or stay.

If you stay, you will be stuck in that place complaining and fighting forever. You will be unfulfilled, dissatisfied, disempowered and disrespected. Do you want these things for yourself and your life? If not, leave. It’s your choice.

When you leave, you can do one of two things:

  • find an empowering job and boss; OR
  • start a business with an empowering culture.

It’s a sad and problematic world out there, with so few businesswomen and women entrepreneurs. From my perspective, women add significant value with the creativity and empathy they bring to a team. Often, with more women in a team the dynamic is different; personable, trusting and relaxed. I’d love to see more women taking on the lifestyle of running their own business. Starting a business can seem like a risky option, but if you do it with the right people and your team is committed to a purpose, those risks can be significantly reduced. I encourage you to attend events like Startup Weekend or courses that teach you the basics and foundations of business.

From what I can see, every person reading this post (men included) can take one of these three actions:

  1. Be a champion for transparency at your workplace. Stand up for equality, fairness and evidenced-based salaries. Stand for opportunities to demonstrate and grow your value. Will you do this? Join this Facebook page and find others like you.
  2. Find a job and a boss that empowers and enables you. Leave the organisation that doesn’t give you opportunity and respect.
  3. Start a business with others’ like you. Form a culture that empowers and enables other people.

If you won’t do any of these actions, ask yourself why? What are you holding on to?

If everyone does one of these three things:

  • the organisations that are empowering and enabling will get more amazing people and will win.
  • more great businesses will be started, which will create more jobs that are empowering.
  • the businesses that are NOT changing will gradually lose people, and face competition that is powerful and effective, until eventually they wither and die.
I can’t wait for a world of equality to exist. Can you?

What did you take from this post? What would you like to add? Please share in the comments below.


Education Occupies Wall Street

Decision Making in the Protests for OccupyWallSt

For many years people have been living their lives according to “the norms”. They grow up with the expectations that this is the route to follow:

  1. Go to school
  2. Go to university
  3. Get a Job
  4. Get a mortgage and buy a house
  5. Have a family and kids
  6. Send kids to school
  7. Retire (and travel)

The problem is that when following “the norm” they are discontented with the path, their lives and their choices. A “job” is not an enjoyable, fulfilling or purposeful use of our time. And, yet, we spend almost  30% of our adult lives working in a “job”.

How can we expect to enjoy our lives when a large portion of it we dedicate to an activity we do not enjoy?

So, first, I ask you to think about – and challenge – “the norm”. Is there another way to live your life and make it meaningful that would allow you to survive (financially) in our society?

Education – going to school and university – has been touted as the “road to success” by millions of people – including (my) parents. But the educational system has been built to be systematic and standardised. We are expected to “learn” content with a large group of people and with little personal attention from our teachers. This is not the teachers’ fault, they are locked into a system which they cannot change on their own. But, the result of our educational system is that we have millions (billions) of kids that know exactly the same things as each other, to exactly the same level of detail or depth.

So what’s the problem with that? To put it simply, you have no power if you are not substantially unique. When you apply to a job and you have very similar qualifications to the other 100 people applying to the job, you have no power in asking for the job. You are not unique.

Another thing to realise is that schools and universities are charging us a sh*tload for something that is freely available to every single one of us! The internet and what Google has done with it has turned the world into a knowledge and information paradise.

The education system is just simply the “internet spoken to you” through a teacher with a $XXX,XXX price tag attached to it.

You have a choice, pay for the same information by going to schools and university. Or, get it for free online. Just check out the Khan Academy for a great example.

Now, I am not suggesting that everyone should drop out of schools and university in favour of learning through the web. There are universities (and schools) out there that educate differently. They not only use content, but they focus on applied knowledge. Giving you the skills to use information, to solve problems, to think for yourself and apply all that learning to the real world is what has made the top universities in the world, the top universities in the world - Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton, MIT…. These educational institutions are worth paying to go to because they actually give you valuable skills. These are skills that make you unique, allow you to demand a better income and pay off the loan you took to get there.

So, if you are going to a school or university now that is taught in massive classes, where content is shoved down your throat for $000′s of dollars. Check out google and see what you can get for free. Otherwise, start demanding more from your schools and universities.

Finally, I have been watching with anticipation the recent protesting around the world – the occupywallst movement. I believe it is the start of something indicative of everything I have already outlined above. The intersection of society’s discontent with their lives, their jobs, their education and the world.

They want justice, because they feel like they have been thwarted by a biased system. And, to be honest, they have reason to believe that.

However, the “uprising” seems to have no point, no obvious demands, no expectations, no goal…is that going to result in change?

I think we need to turn this hostility into positive action. For that we need informed leaders to stipulate the changes needed in the world, to identify solutions that require big shifts in the way the world works, and then to empower the people of this movement to achieve the new vision. This will turn a meaningless protest into a valuable change our society desperately needs.

If you want to talk about some of the required changes and how we might action them, please get in touch via email or twitter. Otherwise, let’s talk in the comments below.

Living Below the Line. A story…

On Monday this week I started living below the line.

This is (usually) a five day challenge where people spend only $2.25 per day on food and drink. That means no coffee, no meat, no soft drinks, no takeaways, no biscuits, and certainly smaller meals…to start the list.

I’m doing the Challenge for 14 days and would love your support. In fact, a $60 donation will give one person in Kalimpong, India access to education, medicine, clean water and toilets.

So what am I doing during this campaign?

Writing stories.

The great thing about Live Below is that it’s all about the story. Vijay has a story. Esha has a story. Everyone has a story.

In the next few days, you will find out a bit about my journey. But, that’s not what gets me excited.

If you hadn’t guessed already, I am very passionate about stories. But, in particular, I am passionate about you and your story.

Great people, great businesses, great causes have great stories. You are a great person – so my dedication to you during this Challenge is to tell your story.

Please make a donation to the cause and send me a short story about anything. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • I really want to be a ______ because ______…
  • I love doing _______ with ______ because ______…
  • I have a great friend, ______, and they are special because _____…
  • I want to change the world like this ______ because ______…
  • My company is great because _____…

My last coffee for 2 weeks #livebelow

When I started writing this post I already began to feel the effects of coffee deprivation – having finished my coffee 30 minutes before.

It’s all, of course, a mental game. A game I expect to be playing many times over the next two weeks.

Tomorrow, marks the first day of my Live Below the Line Challenge.

P3 Foundation, an organisation I volunteer for, are helping raise funds to help build infrastructure for villages in Kalimpong, India. The Challenge for all of you, is to live on NZ$2.25 worth of food every day, for five days.

I’m doing a personal Challenge. A two-week Challenge.

This first week, I will experiment with the Challenge – what food I buy, how often I eat…what I do to control myself and bear with the lack of food (coffee! etc).

The second week, I will be doing the Challenge completely seriously, and I expect it will be a serious challenge. For those who know me, they know I love my food :(

Please stay in touch with what I learn through all this, so that when you are doing the Challenge between 22-26 August, it’s just that little bit easier.

If you aren’t doing the challenge please DO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT by giving me a donation. $60 is enough money for one person in Kalimpong to get access to schooling, toilets, clean water and medicine.

Donate here, now.

Bakers vs. Eaters

An eater is a person who sees a pie, and says “I want to eat as much of that pie as possible”. The pie is a finite thing, so “what I eat, someone else doesn’t eat. What someone else eats, I don’t eat. I need to eat as much as possible.”

A baker, on the other hand, see the world as a potential for baking MORE pies and baking BIGGER pies. A baker believes that a rising tide floats all boats.

Bakers are more trustworthy. They make it so that everybody can win.

What do you do: bake or eat? Tell us in the comments below, we want to know why!

Big thanks to Guy Kawasaki for this analogy, and for helping enchant the world. Guy is the author of Enchantment: The art of changing Hearts, Minds and Actions. I have read this book, courtesy of Sam Dalton (thanks!) and it has been my favourite book this year – let me know if you would like to borrow it before you buy it.

Excitement for Sunday? #TEDxAKL of course!

Boy, am I excited for Sunday. TEDxAKL is brought to us courtesy of Richard Hollinghum. It will be an amazing day filled with ideas from motivated and engaging speakers. Of course, as with every TED talk, there is so much more than just the talk going on; people who attend TED events are change-makers, so get your networking on.

If you haven’t already heard of TED, I urge you to check it out at and you must watch this talk by Hans Rosling (my favourite speaker ever) on how to think about poverty. If you are not entertained and informed, I’m at a loss for words :P

Check out the TEDxAKL line up here. All amazing speakers and of course they will be blowing us away with ideas we might not have heard about, should know more about, and should be supporting.

So, why am I excited? Well, I am speaking too. I get three minute with which to strut my stuff, and get my idea across. It is a simple idea, but one which is an integral one for the future of our world, our earth and for billions of people worldwide.

Here is the preview: “Problems faced by our world today, by all of us, are gradually approaching D-Day. We need to act on all the issues that will impact us and our earth. But how can we act, if we aren’t educated and we don’t think about the issues? Justin’s idea – think about the issues, act on the problems, choose to make a difference. He tells us the story of the Tabaka Tribe in Kenya and how Fair Trade has given them real opportunities and made a difference. Think about the issues facing us today – poverty affects billions, environmental change affects us all. Take action – talk about the issues, make the changes in your life. Choose to make a difference. Without you, we have no chance.”

Hope to see you there. For tickets visit

If you can’t make it in person, there is always the opportunity to check out the livestream visit I will be on at 11.30am. See you all there.

Fair trade and Facebook

I did the following guest blog post for the Fair Trade Futures conference – the largest fair trade event in North America. Find out more about them here.

What is the goal for fair trade?

My thoughts: Fair trade wants to make ethical consumption an everyday, every-purchase occurrence. I relish the day when fair trade is no longer needed.

Through good news, bad news, or a friend - you have heard about fair trade, right? That is what gave you the passion to support it. So that is how we get more people to support it. We have to tell them about it, and talk to them about it.

Social networks play a huge role in this goal, because they connect the people in the movement. Remember, people are vital; fair trade needs the support of everyone for it to work.

How can you use Facebook and Twitter?
  1. Talk about fair trade with your friends on Facebook - send them links to your favorite articles, videos and stories.
  2. Educate yourself about fair trade - read blogs, articles, watch videos and talk to people.
  3. Buy fair trade, when you go shopping, when you are online.

Tell your friends, tell your family, tell a stranger - the more the merrier. Use your social networks.

By doing so you can make a difference to the billions of people in poverty.

About the author: Justin is co-founder and CEO of Vital Link Group, a company giving you the power to support fair trade on your social networks. To find out more about Vital Link, follow @vitallinkgroup and @justinvitallink or become a fan on Facebook.

People are the key

I did the following guest blog post for the Fair Trade Futures conference – the largest fair trade event in North America. Find out more about them here.

How did fair trade become a global name, brand and label?

It didn’t just jump out one day into our vocabulary. No. It started because of a movement, a movement that a group of people saw a need for, and decided to lead.

People, worldwide, were being exploited because they had no options; they were paid very little and treated poorly. All because they were living in poverty - in suffering - already. I mean, how could it be any worse for them?

But, we found out. We didn’t like it. We decided to stop it. And a movement was born.

Today, fair trade stands for ethics: a belief that products should be produced and manufactured fairly and ethically. This belief is what empowers the fair trade movement. This belief is the passion that drives millions of peoples’ choices every day.

This is your belief, your passion. You make the choices, you have the money.

On behalf of the billions of people worldwide living in poverty, thank you.

Thanks for being part of a tribe of people that believe in ethics and fairness. Thanks for caring.

People are the key, people with passion – people like you.

About the author: Justin is co-founder and CEO of Vital Link Group, a company giving people the power to choose and be recognised for it. To find out more about Vital Link, follow @vitallinkgroup and @justinvitallink or become a fan on Facebook.

Fair trade is more

I did the following guest blog post for the Fair Trade Futures conference – the largest fair trade event in North America. Find out more about them here.

Fair trade is losing its power as a brand and a label. Why is that?

Fair trade has become so strong in the western world, particularly when we think about coffee, that cafés that do not use fair trade beans, are losing business. This means they need to do one of two things: (1) buy fair trade beans and become a fair trade organisation, or (2) create their own ethical label and grab some customers back. Many are taking option (2) because it is cheaper and more personal to the customer.

A friend of mine owns his own café, and does just that. He can tell me how much he paid for the coffee, who produced it, the working conditions and progress in the community. Find out more by looking at the comments here. This adds a lot of value to the customer, which (at this stage) fair trade cannot.

This is not a BAD thing! Why? Because the producer is better off (and wins when the café wins), the customer feels closer to their coffee (they know more than the fair trade system could ever tell them), and ethical consumption is better off overall.

So fair trade is losing its power, but ethical consumption is up, and the public recognises it more-and-more. This is great news for people in poverty everywhere, and for the fair trade movement.

So what was fair trade’s purpose? Fair trade was the stepping stone to point us in the right direction. Fair trade brought attention to the issue. Fair trade made the people aware of the problem. Fair trade was a movement, because of a belief.

People are the driving force behind ethical consumption. Fair trade will end one-day, but that day will be the day when we no longer need fair trade. That day will be the day that every company produces and manufactures ethically and fairly. That will be the day to rejoice, because we have succeeded in changing the world – for the better of billions of people who were suffering.

That day may be far away. One thing that will bring it closer is if people talk about fair trade more, consume fair trade more, and invest in fair trade. All these things will accelerate us toward that goal. Social networks, like Facebook and Twitter play a huge role, you can read more about that on the next post.

About the author: Justin is co-founder and CEO of Vital Link Group, a company giving people the power to be part of the movement. To find out more about Vital Link, follow @vitallinkgroup and @justinvitallink or become a fan on Facebook.