On Saturday I attended the Triodos Bank Annual Meeting along with about 600 other people who are committed to a healthy future for our planet and its people.
The quote in the title by Oscar Wilde was cited by the bank’s Head of Business Banking, Rebecca Pritchard, who was sat in the audience herself just a year ago and is now responsible for supporting the growing number of businesses in the UK who want a mindful and conscious bank. Rebecca’s presentation resonated with me when she talked about natural capital and incorporating ESG factors (environmental, social and governance). In today’s world where agriculture is based on mono-cultures and the increasing use of pesticides and herbicides to control nature rather than work with it, we need to start counting the cost of our modern methods.
There are many aspects of our daily lives which are not actually accounted in monetary terms and so we place no value on them. The current plight of the bee population is a good example of this. Most people know that our bee population has reduced dramatically, even more so in Britain than in the rest of Europe where certain harmful pesticides (neonicitonoids) have already been banned in some countries. We cannot underestimate the value of bees to our lives. Without them we would be without large numbers of fruits and vegetables (and chocolate!). I saw on Countryfile on Sunday that one fruit farmer here has even had to import bees from Italy (where I believe neonics are banned) and in China they are pollinating crops by hand. If the agricultural industry had actually incorporated the value of the work done by bees in their cost calculations, not to mention the treatment of water by the water companies caused by pesticide run-off from fields into rivers, then perhaps intensive farming methods would not look so economic.
In the Western World, and particularly in Britain, we measure everything by economic growth and in monetary terms rather than also measuring the environmental and social impact. The good news is that this is changing with big corporations like Puma starting to monitor those very things and banks like Triodos investing in and promoting businesses which have ethical objectives alongside profit-led ones.
As well as attending the Triodos Annual Meeting as a customer, I also took a table in the Ethical Marketplace, which by chance coincided with the first Social Saturday run by Social Enterprise UK (I am an official supporter in my capacity as a freelance marketing director for ethical businesses). I was in the Ethical Marketplace on behalf of my client, Fairliving, who are the UK distributors of Planet Pure, a new certified organic and fairly traded laundry liquid. The marketplace was open before the meeting started and during the lunch break. I took my husband with me to help and we did not stop talking to people! Everyone was so interested and enthusiastic about our products. People were even giving me the details of their local retailer and other stallholders were sharing their trade contacts with me – it just demonstrated the sharing and genuine attitude of Triodos customers! I have come back with a pile of questionnaires and email addresses from interested people. We are literally just about to launch Planet Pure – our first delivery will be arriving at the end of October, our website will be live in mid-October and it is amazing to see the interest already. So watch this space! I will be setting up our social media too very soon and continuing to spread the word.